Act 1, Scene 1. Time : Thursday 3.30AM . Inside William Huxley's Bedroom.

[A small child, WILLIAM HUXLEY, is sleeping peacefully, a MAN, a hooded figure, moves toward him]

William : [Waking] Who's there?

Man : [Leans over, so William can see his face]

William : [Breathlessly, and almost silently] Stay away from me!

Man : [Places his hand on William's candle. The room falls into darkness]

[Enter LAURA, WILLIAM's mother, holding a candle]

Laura : William? Where are you? William? [Dramatic scream]

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 2. Time : Friday 2.00pm. Inside the Mayors house.

[The mayor, AUBREY HARDING, HARVEY, SR. IMMACULATA, ALICE, AUSTIN and CLINT are here. They are all sitting around a table, discussing something earnestly. The mayor has a very anxious look. AUSTIN is looking at his reflection in a highly polished tea pot]

Mayor : And so, the town council decided that we should recruit the five of you to try and discover the mystery of William Huxley's disappearance.

Harvey : Curious. I remember an almost identical situation back in '37, an old friend of mine, Ufafu, and I were hired to track down a missing hamster.

Sr. Immaculata : If I may ask, how was it decided that the party consist of these [looks around disdainfully at party] people.

Aubrey : It was decided that each person would be useful, especially if the party has to venture out into the cloud. Sr. Immaculata is learned in all things religious, Col. Kingston-Short is well experienced in military matters, Ms. Bassett-Short has the broadest education, Mr. Scar is an experienced swordsman, while Counsellor Sleaze has his own, particular talents to add to the proceedings.

Harvey : It was most rum and uncanny - as the hamster disappeared, and [looks around at the others in a mysterious fashion] the cage was locked.

Austin : So the kid's gone? What's the problem? Isn't it true that police records would reveal that his parents have been arrested no fewer than seven times for child abuse? That he has a history of running away? That his aunt up in Phoenix is actually hiding him?

Aubrey : No.

Alice : I bet the little tyke is holed up somewhere, cold and scared, and will soon be back for his parcel.

Aubrey : Since he disappeared, no parcels have arrived for him.

[The room is suddenly lit up by a timely flash of lightening]

Alice : Can we not share our parcels with the little scoundrel? Why, I bet there are more parcels in this town than in all the world put together!

Clint : I bet there's not.

Aubrey : The entire town has been searched, to no avail. We are absolutely certain that he didn't leave the town, and are hoping that you five will interview the townspeople and find out where he is.

Austin : Just how much are we going to be paid?

Sr. Immaculata : Helping is payment enough.

Clint : I've heard there's a child slavery ring in Hillsfar, maybe he was smuggled out of the town.

Aubrey : The child's parents are in the next room, I will send them in.

[AUBREY leaves the room, with the five party members left sitting around the table]

Alice : What a dashed fine mystery! Just what we need to break the monotony of this dreadful town. When we find young William, we'll be famous, The Famous Five!

Sr. Immaculata: [Turning to Alice] Oh fie child! Famous five indeed! Have you already forgotten the sixth member of the party, the most powerful member of our party? You may not see him, or hear him, but I can assure you, he's with us every step of the way, guiding our footsteps and cleansing our impure thoughts. And no, I'm not talking about the odd vegetably, meaty odour which seems to follow Harvey around [gestures vaguely at Harvey], but the great spirit Phili godblessusandsaveusandkeepuspure! [Immaculata clasps her hands together and says a silent prayer]

Alice : [Visibly shaken at this outburst] Well, I'm sorry, I'm sure. [Mumbles under her breath] How can we be guided by someone we can't even hear? [Then, to all the others] If The Famous Five is too profane, how about the Party of Queens? That would let everyone know who we are, and shouldn't offend any spirits.

Clint: [Pushes back his chair, in three fluid strides he is at the Fireplace.] I agwee with Ms Bassett-Showt, action is needed. Find the Boy, kill the Kidnapper and have a hooley at the 'Philandewers Pwizzle' in Hillsfar, with the reward the Mayor failed to mention. Complicated plans are always best! Sister Immaculata the pot sits by you. Perhaps if Counsellor Sleaze has finished admiwing it, you could pour me a dwop. Plans always dwy me out!

Harvey : I remember when Ufafu and I were on the Winter campaign of '59 and it wasn't as simple as slaughtering [pauses for effect] blackguards and shindigs till the sun came up. Deuced bad work... and hard campaigning it was too.[Stands by a small chair strumming his thigh boot irritably with his cane as he glowers at Clint]. Some time in the fine old 47th would soon cure you of that speech impediment, my boy. Can't have non-coms barking out girlish orders.

Austin: [Comforting Alice] I am glad to see that Sister Immaculata, not only needs `guidance', but also succumbs to impure thoughts [quick sly wink in Sr. Immaculata's direction, over the head of Alice]. Nonetheless Maplin and myself petition that we keep the name of Famous Five, as Immaculata is in effect a personification of the holy Phili [another wink, this time without the smirk]. Veritable point, dear weputable Scar, no mention was made of the monetary remuneration, of the retrieval of this 'wapscallion'. I would propose that an agreement is drawn up, which I would be willing to forward a copy of to each party involved. [Rolling up his left sleeve he casually reaches out for the teapot, offering it round the table. Sauntering over to Scar, he refills his cup, and bows]. Alice, the `Party of Queens' would no doubt be suitable for a lady of your calibre, however, I would suggest to Scar that he refrain from blowing smoke in your direction, merely because he was incensed that it was subtly indicated that he may be attracted to me. Nonetheless, I agree, once a final draft of the agreement has been made, action is required, and what better than a romp through the country.

Alice : [Nodding in agreement with Austin's words] Perhaps ``The Party of The Queens'' isn't such a good name after all. It might suggest that our numbers are made up of foppish dandies who thpeak thrangely and are limp of writh - a thad mithconthepthon! All this talk of action [makes that annoying inverted comma sign with her fingers] worries me. Who on earth are we going to take action against? Its the same with this talk of romping through the countryside - who knows what's outside that cloud? It could be full of dangers, perhaps smugglers or strange men with beards!

Clint: [Strikes a match against the side of the fireplace. The match flares and briefly sizzles as it meets the damp end of the Corona. The relaxing smoke is drawn deeply and then sent sharply away.] My thanks for the cuppa, counsellor Sleaze, you have the way of it! Your comments aw vewy, em, perhaps we could go oveh the payment bit again? Sister Immaculata, would your spiwit fwend be of the same fwame of mind as yourself concerning payment? [Clint deducts two shares less on his fingers behind his back]

Sr. Immaculata: Why Alice! [Immaculata forcibly slams the palm of her hand onto the table and stares coldly at Alice] I'd expect the mockery of a speech impediment to cause merriment and hilarity for the pagan likes of Mr. Sleaze, [her stern glare rests for a moment on Austin, before returning to Alice] but I certainly find it very unbecoming in a young lady of your standing, a young lady, I might add, who should...know...better! I hope you're satisfied with what you let yourself become, young madam. [With that, Immaculata rises from the table and stands by the window with her back to the party, leaving her eyes rest on the familiar surroundings of Queens View]

Alice : [Sticks her tongue out at Sr. Immaculata's back] Some fun this is going to be! Sr. Goody-Two Shoes attacking us over a bit of harmless fun and ranting on about spirits, we can't understand what Clint is talking about, Uncle Harvey doesn't seem to realise what anybody is talking about [Gestures at Harvey, who's still making that annoying tapping sound]. I don't know. Austin? Explain this agweement to me, and surely the mayor's budget extends to something stronger than tea.

Austin: Clint, has it barely left my mouth, that Sr. Immaculata is indeed a personification of the all-powerful Phili? I myself, stand in awe of your lack of comprehension that the sixth member needs no more payment than the price of your soul. [Strides quickly and silently to position himself directly behind Sr. Immaculata, and places a consoling hand upon her shoulder]. Not only that, but the reverend sister has also indicated that being given the opportunity to help is payment enough for her...unless, of course, Sr. Immaculata has changed her mind under the guidance of the good lord Phili. My good Harvey, do stop that irritable thrumming. The participation factor of the dear Colonel is profoundly lowly. Sir, [with disdain] it is time that you indicated your priorities - do they lie with action, payment, and romping, or with that of feigning Alzheimer's? I must indicate at this juncture however, that it will be a jolly good pleasure, working with you on the same side of the cell, [then whispers to Alice, but loud enough for all to hear, with the typical Sleaze arrogance] instead of your past carry on - that of selling yourself to work me on the inside. I wish the mayor would hurry back, I'm in dire of need of my skin-replacement rest and the thorough nail buffing that Alice promised me. But mainly because he is the only party that can sign these adventure-application [in one smooth motion, from some apparently hidden pocket, he whips out a 1/2' thick wad of forms] and insurance coverage forms in triplicate. [Makes a dramatic return to his seat].

[Enter AUBREY, LAURA HUXLEY and ALDOUS HUXLEY, WILLIAM's parents]

Aubrey : Mr. and Mrs. Huxley, these are the people who have been chosen to help find young William. There is Austin Sleaze, who you may have read about in the papers after his arrest, Mr. Clint Scar, a gentleman who was staying in Queens View when the cloud landed, and Ms. Alice Bassett-Short, niece of the Colonel. Of course, you already know Sr. Immaculata and the Colonel [turning to Harvey] I say sir, I fear you may hurt yourself with all that flagellation!

Laura : [Red-eyed and clutching a soaking tissue] Wuh - wuh - wuh

Aldous :[Angrily] For Phili's sake woman, behave yourself. [Turning to the party] Please forgive my wife, like all women she is given to wanton outbursts of emotion. To business, where's my son?

Austin: [Glaring at Aldous, leaps erect from his seat, and pulls Laura to him, comforting her, and shushing her with `There now' and such like]. Indeed sir, [turning to face Aldous], to business - I have upon my person, a standard V327AC-7.C form which upon your signing will allow us to discuss the whereabouts of your son. It will also grant us the wherewithal to simplify the ease of such discussion and all matters pertaining thereto, not least that of monetary remuneration. Thereafter it will allow us to participate in an adventure of unprecedented danger, for which I have life-insurance policies for each party member, whose premiums shall also be forwarded to you, which you may pay at your leisure, but must distinctly be paid in full, before we may partake in such an undertaking. Any questions pertaining to this preliminary discussion may be forward to my PO Box 13172. Admittedly, it is much simpler if you just sign on the 'X'. [Slams the white and pink forms on the table in front of Aldous, before turning to Aubrey] Most respected mayor, I assume you will be assisting the bereaved Huxley parents in any financial respects in which they may be showing difficulties. Let it be noted for the record, however, I am of the opinion that certain expenses should obviously be recompensed, and a fixed priced negotiation should be instantiated - these matters, I will willingly leave open for discussion. I would appeal to the good lady Huxley, in showing such emotion, which obviously belies her underlying common sense, that the greater the reward, the better and quicker will be the determination of the current location of the madams beloved offspring.

Sr. Immaculata: [Walks over to Laura, and bends down beside her, grasping her two hands in her own] Oh you poor thing, you must be sick with the worry. But shed not another tear of anguish, for the good lord Phili is guiding our footsteps, and has supplied the best and most competent people for the job. Hush now child, sure, your little cherub will be back, coddled in your arms in no time. But a little prayer or two would not go amiss at a time such as this. [So saying, she clasps her hands gently around those of Laura] GoodlordPhiliweprayforthesafereturnofthiswomanschildamen. Stands up and places herself behind Laura's chair, with her right hand on the woman's shoulder and looking coldly at Aldous.]

Laura : [Turning to Austin and then to Sr. Immaculata] Oh thank you, thank you, you're so kind. [Sniff]

Aldous : [Looking at the pile of forms in front of him] Um, you said you have a standard V329CDEFGH? Uh...I um..

Aubrey : [Aghast, turning to Austin] Good lord, man! Is it not payment enough that you have been released from jail? Do these people not have enough worry without people waving V327AC-7.Cs about the place? I have a C34-Release 5A with your name on it, any more of your extortion from the Huxleys and you'll find yourself back behind bars quicker than you can say Quadraph, I mean Quahog, I mean Qudup, well, [getting flustered] pretty damned quick!

[All the while the party can hear a strange strumming sound coming from the direction of HARVEY, who is staring at a damp patch on the wall, with a tiny drool escaping from the corner of his mouth]

Clint : I want to hear what the boy's pawents have to say, before I autogwaph anything [looks pointedly at Sleaze]. Until then we can't decide anything, but when we do - well, men with beards had better watch out. [Turns to Laura] Allow me to introduwce myself, madam. I'm Clint Scaw the finest swordsman in these pawts. [Reaches across the table and firmly takes her hand] No doubt we'll have the boy back to you in no time. [Turning to Mr Huxley] I wouldn't advise ordewing the Scaw! I wouldn't advise it a bit. [Turning slowly, gaze lingering on the man, he strides back to the fire] I have a plan to track down the Boy! [Fires up a huge King Edward and looks smug]

Aldous : [Looking bewildered] Ordering who? D'Scaw? Is that the sixth member of the party? I didn't order anybody! [Looks around the room for a possible ally.]

Aubrey : [Exasperated] When everyone is finishing attacking Aldous, perhaps you would like to ask these poor distressed people some questions? For God's sake Harvey! You're driving me crazy with that damned noise! [Slams his fist down on the table. Then, in a quiet, almost resigned voice] What's this plan, Clint?

Sr Immaculata: [Tuts loudly at Aubrey's outburst] Heaven save us, Mr Mayor, but there's no need to fill the air with your ill timed profanities. For shame, [Immaculata wags a finger at Aubrey] you naughty man.

Austin: [Turns to William's father]. My dear Mr. Huxley, apologies for that sudden outburst, but when I see a husband treat his wife so, in her time of need, it leads me to believe, that he might treat her even more indifferently when she is not so bereaved. I will humbly defer the requisite signing of those documents to Mayor Aubrey's better judgement naturally reinforced with such a persuasive argument. [Moves towards Mr Huxley, with his right hand extended, there is however a noticeable glint in his eye]. Clint, I would graciously ask that you pour Madam Huxley, a shot of your fine spirits, and perhaps that will settle her enough to enable her to answer some questions coherently. And perhaps, Sr. Immaculata would partake of a wee nip as well - it would at least persuade her to act more like a Sister than a Mother.

Sr Immaculata: You surprise me, Mr Sleaze. I thought you'd be the last of people to recognise motherly concern.

Clint: Thank you Mayor Austin! [Waits for Sleaze to finish waltzing about the room with a handful of forms] My plan is simple - Follow the boy's scent from the Huxley house. My howse Kamwikazie could do it easily, is used to following scents in fact and would soon take us to where ever the boy is being held. Unfortunately we would have to go through the cloud to get to where she's stabled, but it's not far. Less than a day - there and back. With this formidable party, we shouldn't have much trouble. Nothing that can't be handled anyway! [Tucks both thumbs behind his sword belt and gazes about the room to judge the reaction.

Austin:[Snaps]Sr. Immaculata, I am above such petty bickering. I thought one of your stature and standing would have more consideration for the feelings of others, especially in the light of recent events, not to mention the delicacy of the current situation. I am sure that the last thing that these desolate parents would wish to see is two members of the search party for the vanished child constantly hampering each other with such needless and degrading, and indeed I may go so far as to say that it is shameless and petty, taunting. The priority is, and shall remain, to find the whelp, and [turning towards the parents, his demeanour becomes suddenly very deferential] to ensure his safe return. [Suddenly quiet, moves to stand beside Alice, and waits, as if expecting some applause].

Alice : [Turning and looking incredulously at Austin, as though she hasn't understood one word of the previous conversation] Perhaps, Austin, it is you who needs a wee nip - it seemed to me that Sr. Immaculata was congratulating you, not attacking you.

Harvey : [Stamps his foot to get everyone's attention] Enough of this bureaucratic foolishness! [Turns from the damp patch to face the others, apparently unaware of the ongoing conversation, but mercifully stopping that strumming] Action it can only be, let us sally forth to do battle with these wrong-doers. We will bring back your son Mr and Mrs Huxley, [looks at them before pointing his cane at the door] remuneration can wait, for justice must prevail. Isn't that right, private? [Jerking the cane in Austin's direction] Between such squabbling and unwarranted familiarity [tuts aloud as his cheeks redden] what can be done. Amateurs, all! .... Save Sr. Immaculata and her practical nature, of course. To battle now! [Motions toward the door, before quickly wiping his face.]

Alice : Battle who? What are you talking about? [Then, under her breath, but loud enough for all to hear] Good lord, those stories cousin Gerard tells are true after all!

Aubrey : [Looking worried, as though wondering if this party was such a good idea at all] Perhaps we should get Mr. and Mrs. Huxley to wait outside until you get yourselves, ah, organised? [Glares at Harvey before turning to Sr. Immaculata] Sister?

Sr Immaculata: You are quite right, Mr Sleaze. Forgive my sinful ways. It pleases me to note that you have seen you are as much in the wrong as I, that we were constantly hampering each other from the true purpose which brings us here, that of finding the lost child. Perhaps you'll join me in a silent prayer to Phili, to help rid us of our pettiness, Austin? [Immaculata closes her eyes and mumbles a quick prayer]

Austin: There should be no need for the Huxley's to leave the room... If certain people could merely keep their ranting and praying under control perhaps a unified effort could be made to establish a method for finding this child. My congratulations to the revered and feared Mr. Scar, who's perception of the situation belies his superficial naivete. A plan indeed, but I would deem it best to only venture into the cloud with specific reason, and with only utmost necessity. And no I'm not afraid to admit that I'm afraid of the cloud's mystique, in fact I am not the least intimidated by it - I merely do not wish to strain myself in such unnecessary exercise, when there is surely some canine whelp about town that could do much the same as Clint's infamous horse. [Leaves Alice's side, and stalks cautiously about the room, suddenly side stepping in front of Aldous, peering piercingly into his eyes] But to matters at hand, I am given the impression that Mr. Huxley is hiding something. What have you to say of your son's disappearance, my good fellow? Have you sold your son to the dark side? Is immortality such a temptation that you would stop only short of selling your own soul, but not that of your son? Is your wife next on the list, for the next bargaining chip with the feared powers of evil? Answer me, for I have Maplin's itch and twitch, which indicates that something is afoot, and believe me sir, it is not my hand, to which the cards have been dealt.

Aldous : Good God sir! Do you think I could have kidnapped my only child? My beloved son Trevor, through who's life I have helped and striven to make more palatable? How dare you!

Aubrey : [Quietly, to Aldous] It's William that was kidnapped, Trevor is your other son.

Aldous : Oh, that guy. Well, how dare you suggest I am involved in this. I was in bed with my wife and was sound asleep all night and never made a move until she found that William was missing.

Laura : [Nodding] 'Tis true. He was in bed with me and was sound asleep all night and never made a move until I found that William was missing.

Alice : [Singing] A horse is a horse of course of course and nothing is strange about a horse of course unless of course the horse is the famous mister Kamwikaze. [Then, speaking] I for one am afraid of going out into the cloud - anything could be outside there. What happened to all the others who went out there? Maybe we're all going to go slowly mad? And the cloud is going to creep [starts moving slowly about the room] and sneak [whispers] into our minds and souls [drifts in and around Clint and Austin] until our thoughts are not our own [gets louder] and the very fabric of our lives is [shouting] torn asunder and ripped from shred to bloody shred! [Her head drops]

[Silence descends for a few seconds after ALICE'S outburst, and everyone finds themselves strangely drawn to the peculiar sight of HARVEY, still pointing his cane at the door, perspiring slightly and breathing heavily. The silence is broken by AUBREY.]

Aubrey : Er- yes. Now, those who ventured into the cloud [picking up a list of names] let's see, Harald `Two Feet' Murphy - disappeared. Jeremiah Hogsbottom - disappeared. Kim Kenver - disappeared. Ogolby Hogsbottom - disappeared. Harvey Kingston-Short III - not yet gone... unfortunately. Nobody knows what lies beyond the clouds, and nobody knows where the food parcels are coming from. Also, surely there is some connection with young William's disappearance and the cessation of his food deliveries?

Aldous : [Standing up, appearing to have recovered from his earlier treatment, and shouting at Austin] I suppose that's my fault too? I guess I'm responsible for the food parcels? For the cloud landing? For [shooting a look at Sr. Immaculata] breaking into the convent and trying to steal a chalice?

Sr Immaculata: [Who had been looking incredulously at Alice, with her mouth slightly open, snaps her head around at the mention of the chalice. Her eyes sweep over Austin, till they finally settle on those of Aldous] No one is blaming you for anything, Mr Huxley. It is not our place to lay the blame upon anyone's head. That privilege is Phili's. [She pauses for a moment] And Phili has a special place for anyone wicked enough to steal from Holy ground. [She looks pointedly at Austin, before seeking out Laura] Mrs Huxley, please be so good as to describe the events leading up to the discovery that your child was missing. Any odd noises, strangers you might have noticed in town. Was your child unduly worried, or anxious before he left for bed? That sort of thing.

Laura : Well, Sister. William went to bed at about, oh...

Aldous : 8.30. As he always does.

Laura : Then, I suppose, at around 11, or maybe earlier, at 10, no it wasn't that early, about quarter to, or maybe half-past, or wait, maybe it wasn't until 12 or so, because it was quite bright even though -

Aldous : [Has been grinding his teeth since Laura started trying to figure out what time they went to bed at] 11.10

Laura : Oh yes, it was 11.10. Then at about 4.30 we felt a, I don't know how to describe it, it was like flames, flames, but not flames, you know?

Aldous : It got cold. It was freezing. Laura went to check on Trev- William, and noticed he was gone. His window was shut from the inside, but his candle had been put out, and William would never sleep in the dark.

Laura : Cold flames, that's it. Cold flames creeping about our house and burning into it. Evil, I tell you, it was evil!

[LAURA'S eyes roam the room unnervingly, with her gaunt face and tired eyes every one (except AUSTIN, who's admiring his arm) feels a slight unease. She looks as though any second now she's going to have a nervous break down]

Harvey : The question of Aldous' complicity in this moon-light raid is certainly preposterous. The thought of a parent conspiring with brigands is almost rum beyond belief [regarding Alice with affection]. This much we can assure ourselves of [turning to Sleaze], in spite of the Privates' overzealousness in the matter. There's hope for the boy yet [chortling himself into a fit of wheezing]...what! Intelligence is the key and although the Civilian...ahem[coughing]...Citizen cannot furnish us with more information, we must steel ourselves to enter the cloud, for he who [becoming increasingly oratorical] He who hesitates is lost! The Morusians knew it as did the Tayffidae as indeed did my Batman Efugu when we rode down the host of the Lapidii in '59. Action it must be [standing erect and disdainfully curling his moustache in Scars' general direction]. As Sr Immaculata has said we must place our faith in Phili [nodding agreeably in her direction] and the strength of our arms and set our faces firmly into this so called mysterious cloud. As for those who have gone before, who can tell what befell them? But it is idle to suggest that it was in some way the malevolency of this vaporous substance. Without any evidence either way it can only be superstition and we can certainly place that against our trust in Phili who is watches over us and favours our cause. Let us not hesitate then but let us embark on this glorious campaign.

Alice : [Rolls her eyes upon hearing Harvey's speech, before adopting a sweet tone] Dearest Uncle, Uncie Har Har, we have already embarked on our glorious campaign - but what is this obsession yourself and Clint have with going into the cloud? No one has even suggested that the young lad is outside the town. I bet if we search through the town we'll find young Billy, and then Mrs. Huxley will cook us all a slap up feast of cake and smashing Ambrosia cream! We'll have ginger beer and muffins and apple pie and -

CDD - Missing post from Immac

Aldous : [Interrupting Alice, and glaring at Sr. Immaculata] If you would just stop interrupting people for one moment, sister. Then my wife would have been able to tell you that it was us who retired to bed at 11.10, William at 8.30, Trevor at 10.20, Johnny The Horseshoe Man at 12.40, Ivan Jenkins at 1.15 and that at 4.30 we noticed that peculiar chill in the air. I suggest you stop treating my wife so badly. [Puts his arms on her shoulders] There there, Laura.

Laura : Oh thank you Aldous, you're so forceful!

Harvey : Mr Huxley while I have said that I didn't believe that you had any hand in this affair and while your command of the times of the dormant patterns in your household is certainly to be commended, there is no need to take out your obvious distress and anger on Sr Immaculata for merely being diligent in tending to your bereavement...ahem [coughing]...temporary loss. [Turning to Alice] Also dearest niece while it is possible, though unlikely that the young man may well turn up, it has been over 48 hours since the incident it is probable that these blackguards are even as we speak, distancing themselves from this place, hence my concern with action.[Turning to Austin] Soldier, given the average foot speed of 20 miles per day over unbroken ground what is the maximum radius that we must search ? Remember [looking at the pocket-watch he just pulled from his jacket] this is a test and the marks are factored into your Corporal's exam.

Laura : [Bursts into tears as Harvey says how unlikely it is that William is in the town] Oh my poor baby!

Alice : [Putting her hand up and shouting enthusiastically] I know! I know! It's forty miles! Golly, if the little tyke is gone out of the town we'll never find him, forty miles? And PI r squared? Five thousand and twenty six square miles? [Concentrating hard] Just how big is Liam? Would we spot him if he climbed a very tall tree?

Austin: Oh, Seth take me and abuse me. Why is it so arduous to get a description of that night's events? I am given the impression that both Mr and Mrs Huxley have firm alibi's, [then mutters, under his breath] but it could almost certainly be a conspiracy, [once again addresses the room in general] and therefore that they would have no reason to tell us falsehoods. But it also seems to me, that they know no more than they have already detailed. Mr. Huxley, am I correct? No matter. There is little more to learn here - we should creep into the night, like death night-lizards, and fade into the gloom of the city streets, stalking potential suspects and interrogating them at will. Perchance we shall meet upon some badly-disguised foreigner that can pass at will through the cloud, and hence can give us safe passage to Mr. Scar's reputable horse. If this is not some despicable plot of the Southerner's then Maplin is as ugly as Sr. Immaculata's right calf. Again, the question arises, why, in particular, Master William. Madam or Mister Huxley, why do you suspect that your son William was taken - why not Trevor? The thought occurs to me, horrifying as it may seem, that the boy, obviously of untainted blood, was used as a sarcrifice by the Southerners to appease some unnameable evil being. [Dramatically turns towards the window, staring blankly at the cloud, continues his soliloquy, with a sudden mournful tone] Gone are the beautiful vistas through which I used to traipse, waving Maplin about like a glowing King's sceptre, beautiful as unswept leaves blowing through my tousled hair, singing 'Following, following, I seek my heart's desire, my voice so beautiful, my arm doth souls inspire'. [Sheds a tear, that slowly trickles down his cheek, and turns slowly to face Sr. Immaculata] Sister, has the power of Seth increased?

[LAURA cries even more loudly with all this talk of sacrifices]

Aldous : I'll thank you not to upset my wife sir [then, seeing Austin's tear] Oh, um, sorry. I don't know why William was taken and not Trevor. They have separate rooms, but both at the same side of the house.

Sr Immaculata: [Turns to face Austin, a strange melancholic look on her face] Sadly, yes. [She sighs] It's far easier to be nasty than to be nice, easier to sin than it is to abstain. I think as the followers of Phili become less and less, the hordes of Seth gain power and wield it in abominable ways. That is why we must find this young child, and quickly. Even if it does mean going outside the [she pauses, and glances quickly but fearfully out the window, and finishes in a low voice] cloud. Mr and Mrs Huxley [she turns to face them] Is there anything else you can think of? Anything that would help in the safe return of your child?

Alice : [Whipping out a silken hanky and drying Austin's face] Oh poor Austin, you must care so much. There there...

Austin: [Pulls himself, with an Herculean effort, together] I am in your debt dear Alice, and I beseech you to forgive my moment of weakness. [Turns towards Laura] Forgive me Madam, but pull yourself together - your son is not yet lost without hope of return. It will be necessary on your part to provide us with any clue as may facilitate the determination of the whereabouts of your son. Lacking that, perhaps you have some item upon you that belongs to him. Do not yet forsake all hope - because I am led to the conclusion that the cloud is not impassable. Whence come those parcels of sustenance - surely it is the Southerners that beleaguer us with such items that are tainted with the horrible plaque aptly named SoulGrinders Twist. And if it is indeed from the vile spawn of Seth, then how is it that they may pass unhindered through the filthy fog that surrounds us? What know we of this cloud, save that none have returned? Rumours...merely speculation that the mass of vapour drives a man's soul outside his body, causing irreparable madness. Perhaps all that have ventured through the cloud are merely prisoners on the other side. It is inconclusive, I admit. But one final clue remains - William's food packages no longer appear, therefore it could be determined that whoever delivers the parcels knows exactly which persons have left the town. [Attempting to put Laura Huxley at ease, Sleaze continues smoothly] Hope still remains - your child has been abducted, obviously for a reason. Why after such an escapade, would they harm him? [Pauses, then recalls his earlier mentioning of `sacrifice', and then continues quickly hoping that the last question was taken as rhetorical]. Hmmm, in conclusion, and from all the facts that I have described to you, for what it's worth, and in the eyes of my peers back in law school it usually goes undisputed, I am of the opinion that your son will soon make his own way home. Mr. Huxley, tell me in this time of peril and strife, what with the cloud and war and whatnot, that you lock your doors. Who then might have a key to your dwelling, that may have so cowardly and successfully silently crept into your abode? Or are there signs of forced entry. By Phili's left arm, I warrant I could have the kidnapper up on multiple charges and tried within weeks, if we had but proof. [Austin taps his foot on the ground, waiting expectantly].

Aldous : [As though it pains him to admit it] You are right, sir. Our outside door has been bolted since the cloud descended, and his window was bolted shut also. William had taken to opening the bolt to let air in at night, so we had to affix a lock, which I locked myself that night. When we went into the room, the lock was open, and the window ajar. The only person who has a key is me.

Harvey: The fact that the boy's parcels have been discontinued only confirms me in my earlier assessment that the cloud poses no more of a threat to us than a vigorous dawn bath...good for the constitution and purifying to boot! Alas as my good niece has pointed out the variations in distance and direction does complicate matters [shaking his head ruefully at Austin] as any good soldier should know [shoving the watch firmly back into his pocket]. Sympathy will serve the Huxleys' not a jot [pursing his lips towards Austin] if as long as they remain ignorant of the boy's whereabouts. I'm sure the good citizen would only oblige us should we wish to make a further inspection of the Household in order to discern possible overlooked clues? As after all we are trying to narrow the parameters of our search!

Sr Immaculata: [Nods in agreement] I also think it may be prudent to make enquiries in that despicable den of iniquity, Moe's. Some after hours drinking sinner might have seen young William, or perhaps a stranger lurking about the Huxley house. [Turning to Aldous] Mr Huxley, you mentioned you recently bought the lock for your house. Where did you buy the lock? Is it not possible, that the locksmith has a spare key for each lock he, or she, sells? Maybe we should try there also. Oh Phili, guide our footsteps and lead us quickly to William Huxley. [Immaculata returns to the window, and gazes out]

Harvey: Perhaps as the Military man here it would be helpful if I made a detailed list of all the lines of enquiry we intend to pursue. Lets' see now...[drawing a note-pad from his trouser pocket]... Private Sleaze; zero marks for orientation practical [scribbles further and then draws a line with his pencil]. Now the principals Mr and Mr Huxley...the Victims, the Troop.. [addresses everyone]... that's us and the unknown assailants... Hmmm...I'll mark those as X. Now we want to search the house, check for spare keys and/or lock-smiths...got those [without looking up]. Now anything else anybody?

Austin: [Facing Harvey with a stern facial expression] Distinguished Colonel, I am not, nor ever will be a member of your troop. I would beg you to desist implicating that I am indeed a Private in your make believe platoon. Maplin and myself, are much too delicate and well-formed to risk the trials, ordeals and scars of battle, not to mention, that I have not the least intention of putting myself at risk, when we have such a fine would-be Don Quixote as Mr. Scar. I concur with your plan of action, however, but at the behest of some inner motivation, I would ask Mr. Huxley to show me the key for the lock. [Looks expectantly towards Aldous].

Harvey: [Continuing to stare at his note-book, pencil hovering] It is the troop and what is a platoon...what!..but the constituent of its parts...what! And [looking around] as there are [musing] at least.. one..two...three.[counting] five of us...well then in my book then [waving the note-book], that's a platoon. As for this delicate condition of yours ...well my word...we didn't have that in my day. Smacks too much of thinking m'boy and we can't [added sternly] we can't have that. Is it the way that you're afraid of the cloud [laughing]; simply can't have soldiers afraid of clouds now can we! As for Don Quixote.. well all that muddled Gentleman ever did was chase windmills! Now back to this key I presume you do have it on you Mr Huxley? [Searchingly brings his gaze back towards Aldous].

Aldous : [Producing a large gold key] This is the key - the lock was made by ``Honest'' Jo Thiever, the local blacksmith. He said that it is the only key in existence that would fit this lock. Would you like to come back to my house, to see the room?

Alice : [Petulantly, to Harvey] I did not say the cloud had nothing to do with the disappearance, I said it probably did! [Stamps her foot in frustration] Austin knows - tell him Austin!

[There is a knock on the door, enter GERALD, Aubrey's butler. He whispers something to AUBREY, who looks shocked]

Aubrey : [Pale faced] Excuse me, I'll be right back.

[GERALD and AUBREY leave the room]

Harvey: [Soothingly] Now my sweet don't you worry your pretty little head about nasty things as clouds or other such meteorological phenomena. As for this ``Honest'' Jo Thiever it seems to me that any person that should require such a dubious sobriquet must almost certainly have a wanton past to hide. I think we'll certainly have to question him on the matter. But first [jotting down something in the note-pad] let us take up the Huxleys' generous offer and make a thorough search of the house. [Striking the cane off his boot] You can't substitute good martial method and practice for anything...What! By gad we have a plan sir and all by the book...by the book!

Sr Immaculata: [Turning from the window, looking sharply at Harvey] How dare you bark orders at us! For once I agree with Austin Sleaze. We are not your troops to order. It was bad enough the sound of you strumming your foot, but I find the sound of your voice far more odious. I take orders from one person only. [She crosses the intervening space between herself and Harvey, all too quickly] And you are not He! My apologies Mr and Mrs Huxley. We are on the case and we will find your son, as Phili [blesses herself] is my witness.

Alice : [Squeezing between Immaculata and Harvey] You big sillies! Stop all this naughtiness, we have a job to do! Uncie Har Har, don't forget we're not in the '59th anymore, and you, sister, stop being such a big sissy! It's the smugglers and kidnappers and beardies that we're fighting, not each other.

[Exit ALL]

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 3. Time : Friday 2.45. Inside William Huxley's bedroom.

[ALDOUS, LAURA, HARVEY, IMMACULATA, AUSTIN and ALICEare here. The room is incredibly tidy, except the bed is unmade. The windows are open and there is a large padlock near the window, unlocked.]

Aldous : [Pointing at the bed, that has ``BED'' painted on it] That's the bed. [Pointing at the window, that was ``WINDOW'' painted above it] That's the window. [Pointing at the chest that has ``CHEST''] That's the chest.

Alice : [Pointing at the chest] Sorry, what did you say this was again?

Aldous : The chest.

Alice : [Excitedly] Maybe he's in the chest?

[ALDOUS hands the key over to AUSTIN , who then goes to the window. The window doesn't have any glass, just shutters which used to be locked. The window (upstairs, by the way) looks out onto the local stables, owned by ONAN ONANOFF. ONAN lets the village idiot, FREDERICK, sleep there.]

Sr Immaculata: Yes! It's most likely Frederick may have seen something. I saw him fighting with Moe [sign of the cross] outside that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Moe's Tavern, while we were in with Aubrey. We'll search the room for clues, and then, have a little chat with Frederick. Yes indeed!

CDD - Missing post from Austin

Alice : [Lands a hefty kick on the chest] Ow! Help, that hurt! [Then, looking startled] Good lord, does that mean we've found him?

Austin: [Exclaims, upon receiving the key] My, oh my, what a shiny object. Alice, you torture me with your simplistic view of things. I did not say that if one heard a cry for help upon the kicking of the chest, that we had found the child, I merely indicated that it would save us from opening the chest. I admit I was a bit unclear as to the motivation of persuading you to kick the chest, but I was under the impression that you were strong and sturdy enough that upon kicking the chest it would have caused it to open. I see that, in that respect, my judgement has failed me. [Kneels down, to examine the padlock closely, but does not yet touch it].

Harvey: Indications indeed Private Sleaze ...poppycock!!!, it is just because there are no indications to the contrary, indicates quite clearly that certainly we must enter the cloud. Your lacking mastery of both simple tactics and logic at this stage is deuced disappointing I have to say. However as always my Niece has been entirely practical on these matters we can't all be big sissies and the good Sister's contribution on the subject of young Frederick is certainly most helpful to the troop of which we [emphasising]...despite some baffling remarks...are all members [inscribing upon the cover of the note-pad ``TROOP NOTE-PAD''].And anyway if Frederick can shed no further light on this affair, the Onanoff establishment would be an excellent premises from which to hire horses for the pursuit of these felons! [Folds his arms in satisfaction at this practical contribution]

Alice : Surely there is a simpler way to open this cursed chest than to continuously kick it? I do declare with all this kicking my toes will be more misshapen than an arthritic nu - [looks guiltily at Sr. Immaculata] - uh, will be sore.

Laura : You can just lift the lid, that will open the chest.

Alice : Gosh, dashed clever these things! [Opens the chest, revealing it to be full of children's toys and clothes] No Austin, you were wrong, Billy isn't here.

Austin: Jiminy Cricket [frowns momentarily, as if wondering where he picked up that expression], Alice, what is your obsession with entering this cloud? Eagerness in such an extreme manner is upsetting, to say the least. And again, I must stress, that I am not wrong pertaining to the current presence of young Master William. I, not once, said he might be in the chest - I had suggested that upon kicking the chest if one heard a little cry for help it would save us the apparently and now obviously unnecessary task of opening it. In fact, once again my insight has proven trustworthy - we did not hear that cry for help, and as you have just proven, there was no need to open the chest, it is merely filled with toys. [Harrumphs condescendingly, as if this should have been common knowledge. Slicks back his hair from his forehead, then leans closer and peers intently at the lock]. As I figured, no tampering has been done with this lock, which strongly indicates it was opened either by a key, or......or, it wasn't locked at all. [Stands up again hand on chin, with head tilted to one side, apparently thinking, but subtly admiring his arm]. Cold, and evil at 4:30 - Sister, what make you of those facts. Does it strike any inner cord, with your spirit that is so tuned to all things metaphysical. Perhaps you should examine this lock, and feel it's aura - determine whether or not an ethereal being has been here and spirited off young Will. [Starts sniggering, quietly and out of earshot].

Alice : [Through clenched teeth] I don't want to enter the cloud. Good God Austin, how many times must I say it? Its as hard to get through to you as Harvey! [Sits heavily onto the bed with a petulant look]

Aldous : [Irritably] Sir, I said that I always locked the lock myself. The night William disappeared was no different. Anyway, if someone did come in through the window, they wouldn't have tampered with the lock - for the lock was on the inside. It couldn't be reached from outside.

Austin: [Facing Huxley, and jabbing a finger in his general direction] Sir, I would advise you not to take that tone with me. As it is, I not once had suggested that tampering was done to the lock, to gain access to this establishment, but perhaps to leave it. I do understand that the lock was on the inside, and therefore could not be accessed from outside, yet it is undeniable that the lock, lies here, opened. Would you suggest that the intruder has opened that padlock, merely to misdirect us? Or have you yourself opened it - I doubt it. So I put the questions to you - how did the intruder originally gain access to this room? Obviously not via the window. And secondly how did he or she leave? Perhaps, and most likely, through this window. My suggestion would be that the kidnapper somehow managed to enter here, by a means which that person could not use to leave - hence the open window. What say you now, noble Mister Huxley?

Aldous : I can't speak for the criminal. Perhaps my wife left a window open downstairs and he used that to come in, and closed it after him. Then came upstairs to William's room, somehow unlocked the window and departed that way. It is not so high that one couldn't jump out the window, and any tracks would have long been obscured by passing traffic.

Harvey: Well that rules that particular line of arguing null and void doesn't it Private Sleaze, unless the assailants were graduates of the Great Zimbali's School for Contortionists...bit of a bind what! [A wonderfully full smile comes to his lips which he unashamedly doesn't try to disguise] However let us check the upstairs window as I believe that particular entrance wasn't shuttered. ...Hmmm [musing aloud] perhaps it would do to check all the locks in the House to determine if an outside one, should there be one, could give the access that this one is [shaking his head in Churchillian fashion at Austin] clearly incapable of. As for this cloud business I'm somewhat worried that it, the pursuit, might be too strenuous for my charge...so my dear should you not wish to come, well that's perfectly natural isn't it [ lowering his voice as if conversing with a baby, though without the nauseating chuci-cooing that usually accompanies it] for the land beyond the cloud might well be filled with danger and occupied by treacherous and desperate individuals. A place I [nodding his head in agreement in the belief that he knows why she is reluctant] that is not really suited [ soothingly] for a Lady, one especially of your standing!

Alice : I'll have you know, Uncle, that for two years running I won the Lillisham Young Survivor Medal! [Rummages through her bag, and produces a large knife] I have been trained in all manner of activities [Fires the knife across the room into the chest, narrowly missing Sr. Immaculata]

Aldous : [To Harvey] This is the upstairs window you buffoon! As for the downstairs locks, I am 97% certain that they were all locked.

[Enter AUBREY, looking very excited]

Aubrey : May I speak with the party alone for a few minutes?

[Exit ALDOUS and LAURA, looking even more worried than normal]

Aubrey : I believe we may have found the boy! Frederick, a local lad who lives in the stable [Gestures at the stable that the window overlooks] he says he knows who kidnapped William, and where he is holding him. Frederick is in my house at the moment, when you are finished looking here, you can talk to him.

Harvey: Fudge ...pudge ..Man, can you never be plain [frowning at Austin]. Why of course we know the window was open ..it [in impatience] has already been pointed out many times. That is why I mentioned the possibility of the other window be it upstairs or down [pointing wildly to clarify the geography in his own mind]. Now once access had been gained via another entrance, certainly a copy could have been used to then open the window from the inside. That is indeed one particular possible scenario. However such finer points of criminology can be perused at more leisure later. All that matters now is that the deed has been done, so to speak ...so let's take this and any other variables that Pte. Sleaze can concoct up with Frederick shall we! [adding] Careful questioning if it is handled right should be able to confirm or deny any of these hypothesis. Again [turning to Alice] my gentle dear Niece you astound my by the perfection of your character. I have sorely been ignorant of your excellent education.. a task I must certainly remedy! No minor vapour would pose any barrier to you.

Austin: Colonel, I am taken aback at your sudden conceited outburst - I am trying to determine the possible conditions under which the child was kidnapped, and all that one hears from you is unhelpful criticism and forgetfulness. Goodness me, the Alzheimer's is definitely kicking in if you cannot even remember that arduous climb of stairs. [Muses to himself] If the perpetrator managed to gain access downstairs through an open window that perhaps, we find out now there is a 3% chance Mrs. Huxley left open, again the question remains, why bother spending time opening the lock, and attempting a hazardous jump from this storey, when it would be simpler again to merely leave by means of the intruders entrance? I tell you it makes no sense. [Aloud once again] Anyway, no matter, onwards to young Master Frederick, I would suggest.

Harvey: Ah the impetuosity of youth, questions...questions...questions. You remind me of Ufugu, though he were ne'er so brazen, Pte. Sleaze. Just like you he'd like to ferret out every situation whether it needed it or not. It was rum luck that day though when in taking cover from a particular tight melee we were in, we retired back through the cave mouth but poor Ufugu got separated and hid in the one place he felt was secure, an old cauldron left he thought innocuously enough by some kindling and fire-wood. Oh those brutes they had him that day, the next and the next... a fine feed indeed was young Ufugu. But don't worry I've only lost seven men ever under my command and I'll keep a watch out for you. Percentages, conundrums and the rum, the lad's got spark I'll give him that!

Sr Immaculata: [Starts, as if awaking from something] Let us remember, there is a lost little boy that needs our help. [She looks at the chest and appears to notice the knife protruding from it for the first time] Oh, he must be in terrible danger! What kind of evil devil may care scallywag would willingly fire a knife in the direction of another. Oh what's the world coming to? Now, who is coming with me to talk to Frederick?

[Exit ALL]

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 4. Time : Friday 3.15 : Inside the mayor's house.

[AUBREY, FREDERICK, ONAN ONANOFF, HARVEY, SR. IMMACULATA, ALICE, and AUSTIN are here]

Aubrey : [Gesturing to Frederick, who's aged around 23, is six foot six but has a slightly vacant look] This is young Frederick, who says he knows who took the boy.

Onan : Go on, Fred, tell them.

Frederick : [Looking very nervous] I didn't want to tell! But I couldn't stand it, couldn't stand it, you hear? [Shouting]

Onan : Take it easy, Freddy. Just say what happened.

Frederick : I was down in the cellar, stacking bottles, as I do every Friday, and I could hear him, crying and screaming - ``Help me, Freddy'' he was saying, ``I'm trapped in here''. I tried to block my ears, but he kept crying and crying, I tried to tell Moe, but he shouted at me, and hit me, he said I was stupid, and that stupid is as stupid does, and that life is like a box of choc-o-lates, would you like a choc-o-late? M - O - O - N, that spells choc-o-late. [Sits back with a satisfied look]

Onan : [Prompting softly] Fred, tell them in who's cellar you stack bottles.

Fred : In the cellar of Moe's Tavern.

Sr Immaculata: [Waits for Frederick to finish his speech] Why thank you Frederick, you're most helpful. Now don't forget to keep practising your spelling, there's a good boy. [She turns to the others] I just knew that despicable devil worshipping slug would have something to do with this! [She gestures in the direction of Moe's Tavern] I think we should march over there this minute and set up an inquisition! With Phili's blessing, we'll find out what has happened to little William.

Harvey: Salutary suggestion Sr Immaculata, entirely practical. With such co-operation from such good citizens [gesturing in Onan's and Frederick's direction]. I'm sure we're well on the way to solving this dastardly crime. Moe's Tavern it is and who knows what we'll unearth in this den of inequity, this home of the drunken and debauched. Oh in my day liquor was the scourge of the armed forces and still it stalks the land like a pestilence I should have known it would be involved in this dreadful affair. Well lance it we shall ...like a boil what! [Face glowering with conviction and clearly moved by Immaculata's reference to the inquisition]. Indeed Frederick should accompany us to this Ali Baba's cave in order to confront Moe more directly and give him no chance to fabricate lies.

Alice : Perhaps I hold the unfashionable view - but Moe always seemed a thoroughly nice chap, well dressed, well mannered and a keeper of select wines and beverages. Before we dress up in our scarlet robes and begin torturing every bar worker in the land, perhaps we should think of an approach to Moe, something other than - ``Kick the door down, tie the bastard down and dip him in boiling oil until he confesses to the kidnapping of Billy, the shooting of John F. Kennedy and the stealing of Shergar'' - which the meek Sr. Immaculata and Uncle Harvey seem to be suggesting.

Frederick : Shergar. M - O - O - N. That spells Shergar.

Alice : As trustworthy and learned as Frederick clearly is, why are we so prepared to take the word of a man who lives in a stable directly across from the scene of the crime that a man who is a licensed proprietor of a respectable business is guilty of such a heinous crime.

[Everyone's attention is suddenly drawn to the sight of FREDERICK eating a cardboard beer mat with Moe's Tavern - Bestest Beer in Town'' written on it.]

Frederick : Life is [munch] like a box of choc-o-lates. [munch]

Harvey; Now, Niece, I think you exaggerate the noble qualities of the proprietor Moe, for it is his sole concern to line his own pockets by maximising the inebriation of the good folk [flinching at the use of this egalitarian and unmilitary phrase] of this town. No wonder he can afford to attire himself so brilliantly [spewing sputum disapprovingly] living like a parasite off his ill-gotten gains and Phili knows what else!..A plumed peacock indeed!!! When you were young Eranu and I spent many spring nights ejecting countless potential and actual perpetrators from the town after a merry evening with ``nice chap Moe''. As for dipping the man in boiling oil well certainly not ...we're civilised after all. But kicking down his door and tying him up may well be necessary if he fails to disclose information or tries to impede this investigation.

Alice : [Shocked] ``Fails to disclose information''? What if he doesn't have any information? What if this whole story is the product of the imagination of Frederick here?

Frederick : [Whispers to Onan, but loudly enough so all can hear] I don't think she likes me....

Austin: [Seemingly from a distance] I do not understand such prejudiced views - I must agree with sweet Alice, in this case. Never in all my years of drinking, debauchery and deflowering have I had cause to suspect Moe of anything improper. Many is the time where he has put me up in one of his rooms, where I could sleep the night, although now that I think of it, I would wake with somewhat of a brutal headache, and a tangy throbbing pain somewhere in my lower abdomen, with a faint smell in the air reminding me of ether. My goodness that StripRocker beer was good. [A nostalgic sigh escapes him] Nonetheless, Moe I would consider a friend, and if what this young overeducated man says is true I will be sorely let down. Frederick, you said that you heard a cry for help whilst you were in the cellar, but you ne'er said whence those cries came. Did they come from Moe's cellar or a room or a chest or from inside your head, young man?

Harvey: Now Niece I know you are concerned that the innocent should not be indicted for crimes they may not have committed, but in my experience people of Moe's calibre by virtue of their occupations either have knowledge of or come to know of certain incidents, individuals or events. So far we have a witness [gesturing to Frederick] who in plain, chmmmmm, [coughs]...fashion told us what he saw. With this I'm sure, with careful questioning, the Troop has the good sense to determine Moe's innocence or guilt thereof in these proceedings. Moe need not fear us or our questions, he need only fear his answers if they betray him.

Frederick : M - O - O - N. That spells cellar. I was in the cellar when I heard him cry - I think he was under the floor, screaming and crying like nothing I've ever heard - if we don't hurry he could be dead!

Harvey: Then on to Moe's, tally-ho!

Austin: [Rounding on Harvey] My good man, speak some sense. One instance you speak of down bedcovers, and the next you speak of a man that should be afraid of his own answers. I have heard say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but [tilting his head in a respectful manner, towards Clint] words spoken from one's own mouth are nothing to fear. What you seem to imply is that Moe will have something to fear from us if his answers do indeed implicate him in some treacherous act, yet previous to that you mentioned that he had nothing to fear from us. Good Colonel, I am confused. Nice chandeliers, Aubrey.

[Exit ALL]

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 5. Time : Friday 3.25 : Moe's Tavern. [The bar is very dingy, with a lot of noisy neon signs around, the air is heavy with the smell of stale smoke and beer. MOE, the owner is here, dressed in a blue apron and dickey bow. There are only two customers, HOMER and BARNEY. HARVEY, AUSTIN, SR. IMMACULATA, ALICE, AUBREY, ONAN and FREDERICK enter]

Moe : Well well. What have we here? The good sister and the respected Colonel, gracing my establishment. [Turning to Frederick] You! I told you to keep away - if you told them that I have that Huxley kid buried in my cellar I'll kick your butt! [Nods to Austin and Alice, and begins pouring out two glasses of StripRocker]

Barney : [Buuuurp]

Homer : Doh! Nuns in the bar! It must be a sign from God! [Leaps off his chair]

[Exit HOMER]

Barney : Yay! Free beer! [Grabs Homer's quarter full pint]

Harvey: Now Moe this is exactly what we have come to ask you, Do you have the Huxley boy on the premises, buried or not? And if not, why should young Frederick here make a statement to this fact? [Opening the note-pad, pen in hand] For what possible reason would he lie?

Austin: [Looks longingly at one of the pints that Moe is now pouring, then nods agreeably towards Moe] Would you oblige me, friend Moe, in pouring me a pint of the same. I have a thirst that cannot be quenched by mere water. How about you Alice, would you join me, in a small celebration of what life was like before the cloud? [Studiously examines his facial features in the mirror behind the bar, before winking at himself, and gracefully falling onto the seat beside Barney]. Aubrey, I do believe it is your round...and I'm sure Barney may have some stories to tell, if only with a minute amount of persuasion.

Moe : [Placing the two glasses on the counter] There y'go Austin, and one for you too, Alice. I always know what my customers want. [To Aubrey] Four silver pieces, Mr. Mayor. [Wipes his mouth with his hand and turns to Harvey] What reason could Frederick have to lie? Perhaps because he's a total brain dead moron? M - O - O - N, that spells ungrateful slob who should have been drowned at birth. Of course there's no boy on these premises.

Aubrey : [Looking taken aback, but handing over the money] Uh - there you go.

Barney : Boy, [buurp] do I have a story for you! Hey, my glass is empty.

Alice : Mmm, beer. [Drinks half the glass in one go, and is left with an untidy beer moustache]

Harvey: [Completely unperturbed by the rising smell of hops, yeast and barley and Aubrey's generosity] But why should the boy lie? Being in your words ``an ungrateful slob who should have been drowned at birth'' or this [twitches] irritable colloquial M-O-O-N for short, hardly accounts for his evidently [hesitates as if now unsure] sound hearing and sight! To be sure Mr. Moe we would of course have to search your cellar in order to settle the matter once and for all! Niece..[suddenly noticing her quaffing her drink and clearly annoyed if not embarrassed] .. I mean Alice draining that glass so quickly...well [fidgeting with the note-pad] it's not becoming in a young lady and cannot be good for your general health. Better all round if you stuck to nice herbal teas like [offering hopefully] Camomile, peppermint and so on.

Austin: Thanks Moe. Cheers Alice, down the hatch. [Skulls the beer, and slams the empty glass on the counter with an air of finality. Then turns towards Barney] What? The mayor of the town visits an establishment like this, and does not offer to buy one of the most respected patrons a drink. Have you nothing to say to such a mayor, fellow beverage consumer? [Starts to rub his head as if with the beginnings of a headache]. Moe, Frederick mentioned to me that you're just after receiving a delivery that I've waited eagerly for - M - O - O - N, spells StripRocker OktoberFest SpecialBrew. Would it be possible to snatch a taster? If it's too heavy for you to bring the keg up, perhaps I could run downstairs, and take a quick-nip sip.

Moe : [To Harvey] Sound hearing and sight, my butt. All I know is Fred comes running out of the cellar telling me that the Huxley brat is buried underneath it. What now? Has he seen the kid too? [Turning to Austin] Never heard of StripRocker OktoberFest SpecialBrew, is it new?

Alice : [Drains the second half of her glass] Lighten up Uncie Har Har, a few beers does no one any harm. Back at Ms. Lillisham-Courtneys, ``Pounder'' Bassett always had a few snifters before a game of hockey, and she was the best left I ever did see.

Barney : Hey! Mister Mayor! I'll vote for you if you give me some beer!

Aubrey : [To Harvey and Sr. Immaculata] This is ridiculous, I came here to find a lost child, not to be insulted by drunks.

Austin: [Mutters in an acidic tone] Hmmm, subtlety is indeed wasted. [In a broad loud voice continues] Moe, now that I've once again sampled the nectar of trauma-inducing fermented hops, I would ask that you oblige me and show me your much-respected wine cellar. It has been a while since I've sipped from a bottle of '782 GrinGripper. I would gladly follow you downstairs if you would, as I'm sure my colleagues might also be inclined in sampling from your precious winery. I assure you that if you oblige us in this, I would be willing to represent you should you be in need of an excellent defence lawyer. [Whispers to Alice] Might be pretty soon, depending upon what one finds around here. [Glances towards Barney] Last chance to recount that story Barney. [Rises from his chair and looks about for the most obvious exit that would lead downstairs].

Sr Immaculata: Oh Mr Sleaze, how can you think of that drink at a time such as this. I'm sure if Mr Moe [gestures towards the barman] had a bottle 782 GrinGripper, he certainly wouldn't keep it in his cellar, would you, Mr Moe. Sure, bottles of 782 GrinGripper, due to their extreme rarity are commanding such high price around town, Mr Moe would keep it in full view of everyone, bless him. Why, [looking slyly at Moe] knowing the naughty man, he might even covetously keep such a bottle in his own room, for his eyes only. Which is a pity, don't you agree, Mr Sleaze, as you were willing to pay such a high price for a bottle. Well over the odds. [She sighs sadly] But, alas, if Mr Moe did indeed have such a bottle...in his room...despite the huge and ridiculous amount of money you were willing to pay for it....he still wouldn't get it....from his room. Would you, Mr Moe? [Immaculata turns to face Austin] Mr Moe doesn't care about money, Mr Sleaze, not even the amount you were willing to offer for the bottle. Mr Moe is a good Philite, and doesn't care about such things. [She looks around the pub, a delighted look on her face] In fact, Mr Moe, this is the perfect place for myself and my sisters from the convent to hold our nightly prayer meetings. What with our little chapel full of drafts and spiders. And we'd all be delighted for Mr Moe to join in, perhaps to sing a hymn, or read a parable? Sure, I'm sure his patrons would be delighted! Oh Mr Moe, I've misjudged you all these years! Forgive me! I'd always thought you'd sell anything for a big sum of money.

Moe : [Snorts] Hah! Shows what nuns know about the beer trade! The 782 GrinGripper is a very popular drink, I have some bottles under the counter.

Alice : [Happily] Yay! 782 GrinGrippers all round - put it on Aubies tab.

Moe : [Sternly] Now, is this delegation here to sample my beer, or [looking coldly at Frederick] because they believe the frantic ravings of a madman? That's seven 782s, right?

Aubrey : [Opens and closes his mouth several times] Ee-ouk!

Harvey: Now [flabbergasted] we can't sit here all day, I mean is this a judicial investigation and pursuit or a ``Tilsdale Bakers'' drunken day out? Crime is afoot [posturing] and all we're doing is propping up a second rate boozer [squirms again for his use of yet another loose term], comparing the commodity price of the numeric GrinGripper, a name more associated with the hanging trade than the subtleties of classic vintage! It would indeed be heaven-sent Sister if you could bring just a little of Phili to this forsaken place [regards the tavern]. But the good Phili can command miracles only so much of the time and I fear even his good graces could not mend such ways. Let's not trouble the Mayor any further with this junketing but let us steel our nerves and will to descend into the cellar in case a grim find there awaits us. Perhaps Sr you could recite a short prayer so that Phili may indeed guide us well [gesturing to Sr Immaculata with an outstretched hand to the chair he pulls from beneath the closest table]. Perhaps [generally] in doing this together it will help us in the task below! I also seem to remember [sitting down on another chair] Alice that ``Pounder'' was a large digeted, big boned, pastoral girl...a little too disposed to the so called crunching tackle and not really an ideal role-model surely. Now on the other hand Louisa Beacham was a charming girl whose firm conviction it was that, the starching of white cotton sheets [head tilting as if he was floating on the image] was a sport in itself. Hockey it seems, only serves to [ruminating] to attract the wrong crowd entirely!

Alice : Hah! [Grabbing a bottle of 782] Louisa Beachtowel you mean. Anyway, I think Moe is right - what right do we have to come in here searching his bar on the say of, and I mean this in the nicest possible sense, the most stupid person in Queens View. Austin, you're the lawyer - is our ``judicial investigation'' going too far?

Fred : M - O - O - N. That spells judicial investigation.

Aubrey : [Pushing his bottle away] This is ridiculous! I agree with Harvey - this is an investigation, not some drunken night out - I will not subsidise any more carousing!

Austin: Alice, speaking from a personal point of view, I myself feel obligated to search the cellar. We are after all hired for the purpose of finding the young child. Little does that matter though, as I could not imagine a person searching my abode, merely because some thug hired them to do so. No indeed, we need proper authorisation, and that we do have, as one of the few parties that may grant such privilege, is currently escorting our party, to ensure that little will stand in the way. This person is the revered Mayor Aubrey, that upon a whim could summon his breath to ask Mr. Moe to allow us to search these premises. Failing that however, I have a copy of a green/light blue double standard search-warrant post-search application form, which Moe may sign after this establishment has been thoroughly searched. [Leans over to Alice so that she may view the form]. Moe, young Frederick has not the intelligence to fabricate a lie. Indeed I would go so far as to say he has not the intelligence to think of lying. Perhaps if you are so adamant that he is spreading falsehoods, you would have nothing against our taking a peek in your cellar, to put this potential customer-relationship destroying rumour to rest? And believe me it would not look the best were you to refuse us this privilege.

Alice : [Reading from Austin's form] ``The party of the first part herewith undergoes all foregoing parts subject to above-mentioned and here-to-fore-mentioned treaties regarding such parts as the second, fourth and ninth parts henceforth, previous to, and all thoughts there of'' - What? What on earth does that mean? I bet there's no more complicated form in all of Queen's View!

Moe : [Clearly irritated with Austin] All right, all right, you can search the cellar, on one condition. When you find that there's absolutely no sign whatsoever that the Huxley brat was ever in this bar - you agree to put that clown [gestures to Frederick] in jail for at least a month for lying, fabricating evidence, character assassination, wasting my time and for being a general pain in the butt. Agreed?

Fred : [Despondently] Life is like a box of choc-o-lates, I guess I just picked the ``Shit Centre'' choc-o-late. M - O - O - N, that spells one month in jail for telling the truth.

Harvey: Look! [Springing from his seat and knocking it backwards] Mr. Moe will you cease these delaying tactics! We have been here a good ten minutes and yet you haven't allowed us to view the cellar. Really it is quite insupportable. We have in attendance the good presence of the Mayor, myself a Town Guard and former Custodian of the Penal Service, a validated search warrant coupled with the sum legal knowledge of Private Sleaze [rolls his eye-balls] and the Moral sanction of Phili [heaves as he is out of breath]. What more authority could you possibly demand? The demand that we should commit ourselves to the incarceration of Frederick here a priori our search is simply incredible. Should we not find the young boy following such an examination, well then, it will be a matter for the courts to decide whether Frederick prejudiced himself or not. We cannot undermine the whole fabric of the Judicial system, the authority and independence of the Courts, the Separation of Powers and the Constitution just to view a subterranean storage area. Enough of this Mr. Moe I am warning you that you are obstructing an official investigation so quite simply sir We are here to see whether the glove fits or not so step aside! [moves towards the cellar door].

Austin: Moe, I will leave the judgement of Frederick's guilt to the guileless Colonel Harvey. In which case it obviously must first be proven that the strapster has indeed caused some character defamation, before any such promise may be made. [Delicately removing the form from Alice's hand] You misread the second line - it should read 'fourth or ninth parts henceforth'. Tsk, tsk, otherwise you would be incriminating good Onan for misconceiving that Frederick had hidden the child in Moe's cellar. No matter, such legalese is petty in the face of such a moving speech by the authoritative Colonel. Frederick, will you lead the way to the cellar?

Harvey: Guile...Guile...Guile. How [running his hand along the side of his head, calming his temples] can one remain unmoved [although clearly annoyed that he was, as his hand rubs his scalp over where once he had hair] by the find that could lay beyond that door? Guile matters when things are distant and far removed. We could be at journey's end here and not the time to shy away...what! I'll call a spade a spade when it is a spade and speaking of which, has anyone brought one [looking imploringly at Austin and noticing only a warrant] in case you know...you know!

Moe : [Looking from Harvey to Austin and back again] I'll tell you what is insupportable, that a group of bullies can come in and torture an innocent man who is only trying to do his job [madly scrambles about the bar grabbing the bottles] You're all barred! Y'hear? Barred! [Turning on Fred] And as for you.... [Leaps on top of him]

Austin: [Looks on in shocked horror, and retreats a couple of steps, rubbing his left arm at a furious pace]. Moe, good fellow, please desist. You bring ill fortune upon yourself. My goodness, Frederick hasn't even signed his personal insurance form yet [searches in his inner pockets, obviously for another form]. [Mutters] If I could just get Frederick to spell M-O-O-N on this form, he would have a personal injury claim. Oh, my, where has it got to?

Sr Immaculata: [Shouts at Moe] Stop that at once, you bully, in the name of Phili! [As if by magic, a set of rulers appear in Sr Immaculata's hand with which she lets fly at the barkeepers backside]

Harvey : [Grabs Moe from behind] That man there, hold the line.. hold the line.

Moe : Ow! [Struggles against Harvey] Ow! [As Sr. Immaculata strikes him for the fifth time with the rulers] All right, all right! [Lets go of Fred as Harvey pulls him back and holds him]

Onan : Poor Fred, are you okay?

Fred : Please don't put me in jail, please!

Moe : You're all going to regret this, y'hear? All of you!

Barney : Hey! No fair! [Buuurp] I didn't do nothin', I'm going home.

[Exit BARNEY]

Aubrey : [Climbing out from under a table] Hah, that showed him. You can't mess with the forces of law and order, my lad. Isn't that right, people?

Alice : Phew, after that excitement, I bet we could all do with a stiff drink. Seeing as Moe is [regards the sight of Harvey holding onto Moe with Sr. Immaculata giving him the odd slap with the rulers] ah, indisposed at the moment, shall I be Mother? [Steps in behind the bar, and gives the others an inquiring look]

Harvey: By gad Sir [still holding him] control yourself for Phili's sake! There's no need whatsoever to be rude and threaten us. More and more I'm convinced that something awaits us in that cellar and by jove we're the Troop, to find it out. Now sir if you attempt to resist us again you'll find yourself quick smart on a charge... arrested...I mean. Now lets finally check this cellar shall we? [Peers past a ruler wielding Sr. Immaculata to the cellar door].

[Exit ALL]

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 6. Time : Friday 3.40 : The Cellar of Moe's Tavern.. [AUSTIN, AUBREY, SR. IMMACULATA, ALICE, HARVEY (holding onto the struggling MOE), ONAN and FRED are present. The cellar is down a short flight of stairs, and is littered with broken bottles. The floor is made of huge flagstones, and around the walls are loads of (mostly full) shelves for holding bottles. There are a number of chests in the room, two of which are locked shut.]

Moe : [Grumbling] This is ridiculous... Where could I possibly have hidden the brat?

Fred : [Looking worried] Uh oh! I can't hear him crying anymore - maybe he's dead!

Alice : [Assertively] Austin, if you want to check those chests you can kick them yourself. I do declare my foot is swollen larger than the melon that ``Pounder'' Bassett ate during the great melon eating competition of '77. [Limps a bit to prove her injury].

Austin: Moe, indeed a fine cellar, with nothing here. Bit of a musty smell, though. By my lovely left arm, Maplin's pit would ne'er reek so pungently even upon a sweltering mid-summer's day. May I inquire as to what might be stored in each of those chests? Perhaps Fred may enlighten us somewhat if you are not so obliging? [Peers intently at the lock on the chest no. 2, muttering to himself, 'Shoddy, shoddy workmanship', then raises his head as if listening intently. He fumbles in his pocket and removes a sleek black case about three inches in length then leans somewhat covetously over chest no.2 and starts playing with the lock].

Moe : Hey! That's [struggles against Harvey] erk, private property - you've no right to...

Austin: [Exclaims unsurprised] As I said, damned shoddy workmanship. [Then raises the lid].

Alice : [In a rather cheeky tone] It seems, ``Mr.'' Moe, we have the right do as we please.

[AUSTIN steps back from the chest showing it to contain several canvas bags, some of which have gold spilling out of them]

Moe : That's my money!

Fred : No - he wasn't in that chest - he was there [points at the floor beneath Immaculata's feet] under there, a-screamin' and a-cryin'. M -O - O - N, that spells buried alive.

Moe : [Nodding at the flagstone that Immaculata is standing on, which, everyone notices, has as much dust around it as all the others] Yeah! That's right, the brat is under the penguin - dig it up, and I bet you'll find him!

Alice : Gosh, that's real square of Moe - helping us like this! [Smiles broadly at Moe] I guess we better get some help to lift that flagstone. [Frowning slightly as though thinking] Perhaps, Sr. Immaculata, if you were to stand somewhere else, we might need less help?

[SR IMMACULATA obligingly moves away from the flagstones]

Alice : [Tapping her foot impatiently] Well? Are some of our big, strong men going lift the flagstone that Sr. Immaculata has so kindly vacated? Or is poor old Billy destined to lie forever, trapped beneath this stony door, his spirit doomed to wander the corridors of Moe's Tavern for all eternity? Wailing and crying forever, ``If only Fred had helped me...'' and exacting his revenge on every cellar boy who gains employ here, reducing them to a crying, gibbering wreck who's [gets excited] every living moment is haunted by thoughts of the grisly body that lies forever, trapped, and rotting beneath the stone and who are terrified to sleep at night for fear that ``Headless Huxley'', the decapitated minor will appear to them and kill them in their sleep. [pauses, out of breath] This is all too horrible!

[Exit ALICE, running up the stairs, crying]

Fred : M - O - O - N. That spells scary. I think I just wet my pants.

Onan : [Stepping away from Fred] Hmm, don't worry about it Fred.

Moe : [Still wriggling against Harvey] Hey! Don't you go spilling any urine on my cellar floor, that's all kept in the '782 GrinGripper bottles. [Nods to some complex pipe arrangement that appears to lead to somewhere upstairs, but ends at a tank on one side. There are a row of empty '782 gringripper bottles in front of the tank. To one side are a number of full bottles, with that tangy, fizzy yellow beer in them. Mm-mm.]

Harvey: Well look smart Private Sleaze find something to prise that ``orrible'' little flagstone up will you! Can't do everything myself can I [becoming irritated at Moe's futile struggles] and stop that infernal gazing at that arm will you...you're not in any beauty contest now you know. Now get a move on and look sharpish can't have bodies lying in the earth all day now can we? [Turning to Onan, Frederick and Aubrey] Perhaps Gentlemen you could give the lad a hand... show him how its done and that sort of thing. Sister, you might tend to my Niece if you don't mind, [frowning] she's a plucky young thing but hasn't, thankfully, been exposed to the harrows that can occur in the real world...murders, slayings, garrottings and the like that happen from time to time you know! [Continuing and speaking directly into Moe's left ear] And if this GrinGripper proves to be largely composed of extracted urine I have to remind you that you're in clear violation of the Liquors and Intoxications Act of '81 and completely at odds with the spirit of the ``Reinheitsgebot'' which stipulates nothing but malted barley, hops, yeast and water and will almost certainly have to be taken up by the relevant authorities.

Austin: Harvey, I am no work horse, and Maplin today is not feeling the best, for such exertion. Not that I would lower him to such an extreme, if he were anyway inclined to do so. No, my knowledge of such situations would lead me to believe that one of these chests will provide access to a lower layer of the cellar. I remember Karplin Sticksticker in one of my primary defence trials used to hide the drastically dismembered victims in a lower basement, the sole means of entrance to which was through a false coffin, which actually opened into a spiral staircase. I actually won that trial, but merely because the prosecution were brutally murdered after I personally put up Karplin's bail. But the point is, not that I'm not proud of my victory, that there seems to be no obvious entrance through that slab. [Ventures over to the other chest that is wrapped in chains]

Harvey: Well then [peering from beyond Moe's left ear] apply your talents to that chest with whatever implements you have in that sleek black case and quick smart my lad.

[ONAN, FREDERICK and AUBREY give a quick heave to the flagstone, it moves a small bit.]

Moe : ``Dismembered Bodies''? What the-

Aubrey : [Looking up as though suddenly having a brilliant idea] Hey, wait a minute. Why the hell don't one of you help? [Angrily] You lot are supposed to be the party, I'm your boss - I'm not here to do this donkey work.

[Enter ALICE]

Alice : Guess what's outside...[looking around the party] A lynch mob! They want to hang Moe for the rape, murder and subsequent dismemberment of Billy-Boy, not to mention the use of urine in the '782 GrinGripper!

Austin: [Kneels down in front of the chest and peers keenly at the lock]. Harvey, kindly step out of the light, in order that I might continue my work. [Attempts to gain access to the chest]

Moe : [Struggles even harder against Harvey] Hey! Not that one, that's private! Check the flagstone, that's where he said the kid is, under the flagstone! [Breaks free from Harvey and runs toward Austin]

Austin: Hmmm, leads one to believe that this chest contains something worth hiding. Better quality lock than I've previously encountered. [Mutters] The final alternative is to ask Moe for the key.

Moe : [Stops dead at Austin's words] Um, the key is lost, yeah, I lost it years ago. That's me, head like a sieve! [Starts some limbering up exercises] Okay, lets lift some flagstones! [Manoeuvres himself between Austin and the chest]

[The sounds of an angry mob can be heard from upstairs]

Sr Immaculata: [Staring angrily at Aubrey] You most certainly are not my boss, and I most definitely am not your donkey. And lest you forget, Mr Mayor, you have not hired me in any shape or form, so do yourself a justice and attempt to hide your lack of intelligence!

Austin: Moe, you start to irritate me. Kindly move out of the way. That chest will be opened somehow or another. If the slab does indeed lead to an alternative route to exit this establishment, I would recommend that you assist the party that is currently attempting to do so, for if the mob, that at this stage must smell your sickly blood, detects your presence, you would be better off behind bars. I, myself, would not believe that the slab actually conceals the child, as seemingly by the so far wasted effort in trying to remove it from it's current resting place is beyond three men, then it would be wise to deduce that you, by yourself, could not have moved it. Hence, if it was done without assistance, the child could not be concealed thereunder. Also you seem determined to direct the party towards the slab, yet wish to prevent me from opening the chest - this forces me to ask myself, if I were the third party in such a situation, would I act to conceal what I wished to conceal by redirecting such thought thereof to a possible, yet speculative alternative, thus protecting the true concealment until such a time where it might safely reconcealed. I answer myself from the third party's point of view, a resounding `Yes'. Therefore I am lead to believe, once again with myself as the first party, that the third party is in fact misdirecting our search, which obviously only I have detected, and that search would be of that chest [points theatrically at the remaining locked chest]. Now, I implore you for your own safety, as much to my personal satisfaction, to either open that chest or determine another exit route. [Folds his arms, left obviously over right, with a barely concealed glint in his eye].

Moe : [Looking panic-stricken at Austin's words] Wi-bu-me-tu- [then, regaining his composure] Look, Sleaze, the only reason you're in the cellar is because that fool [waves at Fred] said the boy was here. Now that you're down here, you're ignoring him - and are insisting on searching that chest, which I already said I had lost the key for. Fred - where was the child hidden?

Fred : [Starts to cry] I'm sorry I said anything now! He was under the flagstone!

Aubrey : [To Sr. Immaculata] Good sister, I was not speaking to you at all, only to those who are under my direct order [gestures to Harvey and Austin] I apologise if I in anyway suggested your face resembled that of a donkey - its quite the opposite in fact.

Harvey: Amateurs all! My Phili the solution is simple and lies within in these very walls. The Mayor, Mr. Mayor [perplexed by his mention of equestrian matters] should go above and use all the dignity of his office to disperse the menacing citizens outside... perhaps...by telling them that Moe is helping us with our inquiries or some such comparable phrase. The Urine matter can wait and be bottled and stored for another day. as for Mr. Moe all we have had from you are dissuasions coupled with assault followed by admonishments and then admissions. Grim and dim it is sir! As Pte. Sleaze has clearly stated despite the gibberish is that we mean to open this chest, lift flagstones and whatever else is necessary to find the boy unless of course you wish now to co-operate and produce this key and detail that passage. Remember [wagging his finger] it will go easier for you if you do! [Casts a look at Sr. Immaculata] Not least upon [gravely] his soul will it not.

Austin: Aubrey, my good mayor, your tongue ties you up in verbal knots. When you insult someone, it should be done without such subtlety - it seems when you say that Sr. Immaculata's face resembles the opposite of a donkey's face - one is lead to believe you're trying to give the impression that the reverend Sister's face is the ass of an ass. As for you Moe, [spins on his heel] you severely try my patience. I am not fit for construction work - my body is a vessel like a priceless vase. It is well sculpted, fragile, filled with water, and may contain things of beauty that are surpassingly pleasing to the eye. I can not lower myself to break such form upon the rock of hard work. [Moves away from Moe, towards chest no. 3 to inspect it's contents].

Moe : [To Harvey] Admission? I've admitted to nothing! What I'd like you to admit to, corporal Harvey, is that the only reason you came into my bar is that moron [points at Fred] and now, because it suits you, you've suddenly stopped listening to him.

Aubrey : [Ignoring Austin] Yes, I'll go upstairs and calm the mob. Give them a few reassuring words.

[Exit AUBREY]

Alice : [Who has chest no. 1 open] Hey look! A bottle of ``Doc Hartnetts Cure-All'', and it can even get rid of unsightly hair, sister! [Looks up inquiringly at Sr. Immaculata] Maybe it'll stop people mistaking you for an animal?

[From without is heard AUBREY'S calm and soothing voice : ``Moe killed the kid, he murdered him and I found him, and there's an election in six months. He killed the kid and we're about to beat the truth out of him''. The crowd are subdued, as though content to let the forces of law and order take their course. ``And'', continues Aubrey. ``His beer is made of piss!'' From above comes the sound of a riotous mob tearing a bar apart]

[Enter AUBREY]

Aubrey : Well, that'll take care of them. Now, lets find a body!

Alice : [After applying some of ``Doc Hartnetts Lip-Glo'' and pursing her lips.] We can rule out Chester no. 1, No body here, but, Moe, when all this is finished, I might be interested in getting some of these wonderful products.

[AUSTIN opens chest no. 3 revealing it to be full of packets of party treats routinely given out free by MOE. All of them are well out of date.]

Sr Immaculata: [Looks at the bottle in Cure-All. Then looks slowly from the bottle to Alice, back to the bottle and back slowly to Alice. Her face becomes sterner than usual, far sterner] Oh do shut up, you silly child! Phili gave the gift of speech as a benefit to humankind, not as a suppository, as you seem to think. [She stops, a surprised look on her face.] Oh bless us, sure what am I saying. Oh Phili, rid me of these feelings of anger and intolerance, amen.

[Exit SR. IMMACULATA]

Alice : [Clearly taken aback at Immaculata's outburst] Well, excuse me! I don't know, one tries to help and suddenly the focus of one's attention questions whether or not one is entitled to the faculty of speech. [Sticks her tongue out at Immaculata's back and mutters under her breath] Sister Immaculata, the big fat tomata. I try to be friendly [sniff] and offer her help and assistance [tears begin welling in her eyes] to better herself and [on the verge of tears] all she does is - [breaks off and her face lights up] Look everyone! A jar of ``Doc Hartnetts Anti-Water Retention Cream''!

[From without is heard SR. IMMACULATA'S voice, shouting very sternly: ``All of you go home, immediately! I mean this minute! No one is accusing Moe of anything, not murder, not kidnapping nothing, understand. You should all be ashamed of yourselves, good Philites that you are. Phili is the only judiciary among us, and Phili is among us. And he is not impressed with the actions of his flock. If its not bad enough that the convent collection has mysteriously been less and less, you all decide to take the law into your own hands. Get out now! For I feel the anger of Phili fill my very being, lashing at my core to be released.'' The sound of the crowd subsides, and the only voice that can be heard is that of BARNEY :``Aw, no riot means no free beer, [buurp]'']

Moe : [Shouting] Hey Barney! I'm going to charge you for all the beer that's gone missing!

[Again from without comes SR. IMMACULATA'S voice, sounding very different to usual, much deeper : ``leave this place now, lest ye feel my Wrath!'' There is much mumbling from above, and some movement, but it is very quiet]

Aubrey : Well, I guess you've either got it or you don't.

Austin: I would ask the good colonel and Moe to please assist in lifting the flagstone. There is no point leaving that stone unturned. [Turning towards Moe] It seems that one has done you a favour, by alleviating the damage that may have been done to not only your personal health, but your property and also your reputation. [Suddenly commanding... well, at least an attempt] Show not your ungratefulness, but demonstrate to us your gratitude by proving your innocence, by either moving that flagstone or opening that chest [waves his hand towards chest no. 4]. Failing that, I would request you fill out this form [whips out a splendid brown pin-striped sheet of paper] admitting your guilt of withholding federal tax contributions. Upon which, we as employees of the state, albeit temporary, will be empowered to seize your possessions by force if necessary. Now I ask you, Moe, do you wish to keep your gold, or do you wish to open that chest, and perhaps keep everything you own? If not that chest will be seized and forcibly opened. I am sure that the good Mayor will back up all claims that will have been issued in the near future. [Slightly chuffed at this attempt at blackmail, stuffs the form into Moe's hand, then saunters over to chest 5, and takes a peek].

Alice : Good idea Austin, we shouldn't leave any stone unturned.

Moe : [Goes over to the flagstone] In the name of Phili! This is what I've been trying to do for the last ten minutes, but the corporal wouldn't let me. Now, is Harvey going to help? [Looks to Harvey]

[AUSTIN opens chest 5, revealing it to be empty]

Harvey: Well damn your laziness Pte. Sleaze, you and your left arm, you and your voluminous memoranda! Certainly I'll help [starts to take off his waist-coat and roll up his sleeve] we cannot do all things at once for Phili's sake. [Striding over to those heaving at the flagstone] It would have been simpler and more efficient to check each in turn. A ``Hierarchy of needs and demands'' matching our exertions and wills, a fundamental tactic for the modern Soldier. A text I should have placed in your backpack before we left the Mayor's residence. First [helping Onan] lets move some paving and if this yields nothing, then we can peruse the chests and then if necessary check for hidden mechanisms in the wall [jerking his head towards the shelves] behind the assembled bottles perhaps...or...by some enabling lever...or some such method. Economy of purpose that's what's required here. Everything else only saps our strength and dissipates our energies, that's what General Roughhead said on that particular subject. [Continuing to aid Onan] It's like that time we were trapped in the Black Hole of Dawjan, caught like rats with only our wits to help us. The heathens thronged outside ready to rush us if we got out alive and make short shift of us they would. But we outfoxed them we did, too sly by half we were because we stuck together, worked together and got free from that spot we did [chortles]. Now lads [to Onan and the rest] heave!!!

[ONAN, FRED, HARVEY, AUBREY and MOE lift the flagstone. With great effort it comes up, and the room is filled with an overpowering smell of decay. They drop the flagstone to one side. Beneath the flagstone is the body of a young child, which is quite decayed, looking as though it has been here for the best part of a year]

Aubrey : [Blessing himself] In the name of Phili! I'd swear that's William Huxley.

[A dull thud is heard as MOE faints]

Fred : M - O - O - N, that spells holy shit!

[Everyone backs away from the body, as the stench is almost overpowering]

Alice : [Looking a bit green] Urgh, I knew I shouldn't have had that last 782!

Harvey: [Drawing two immaculately pressed kerchiefs from his waist-coat pocket, proffering one to Alice and placing the second to his mouth and nose]. I don't like the [gravely and booming through the fabric] smell of this at all...no sir not at all!

Alice: Thanks Uncie Har Har [Then, upon opening the item] Pwoargh! Pressed it may be, clean it certainly is not!

Austin: [Writhes in disgust, whilst lurching towards the wall furthest from the grave, spluttering] Well I hope you're proud, I hope you're proud of what you've done. Who has committed such a blood-curdling deed? It cannot be Moe, that would be so foul-hearted. [Pushes himself away from the wall, and kneels beside Moe, then grabs him by the lapels furiously attempting to shake him awake].

Moe : [Waking up, and looking around in panic] I didn't do it! I swear to Phili I never saw the kid! I swear! I never saw him!

Harvey: Well [almost cheerfully] its certainly damming I'd have to say! No doubt about that [shaking his head as he begins to inscribe on the note-pad] certainly damn... damn...damning. Odd though this body is wasted away to nothing. Surely it can't be the same Huxley boy that was abducted Thursday last. Still on the bright side it leaves us with a corpse in a cellar, Mr. Moe's cellar, with him most likely the culprit!

[From without comes the sound of ALDOUS arguing with SR. IMMACULATA about coming in.]

Aubrey : [Holding his nose] Phew! I agree with the Colonel, this body has been here for months. But, and herein lies the strangeness - the boy is wearing the same clothes as William Huxley was reported wearing the night he disappeared [Pokes the clothes with a stick. The clothes are in a similar state of decay to the body] Also, and this I cannot understand - how can this boy have a bear of the same description as William [gestures at a teddy bear]

Harvey: It would appear that dark forces bestride this whole affair and Phili help us if that is indeed the case. But we have undertaken this task and can't make light of it. Moe has certainly a case to answer for if this is the Huxley boy, how was he got into his cellar without his knowledge? And how has it come to be in the state he is in? [Drawing breath] Similarly if it not the boy who is it? And why is he apparently wearing William's clothes and gripping Horace the bear so? [Calling to Immaculata] Leave Mr. Huxley in and perhaps recite the last rites for this poor young Tyke!

[Enter ALDOUS]

Aldous : What's going on here? [Jerking as the smell strikes his nostrils] Oh! What's that? [Looks at the corpse] In the name of Phili! Who is that? Why is he wearing William's clothes? [Looks around the group]

Austin: [Turns his head towards Colonel Harvey] Harvey, it may be appropriate that whilst Sr. Immaculata performs the last rites upon that body [waves his left arm vaguely in that direction], you read Moe here, his last rights. Perhaps then he will tell us what he knows with little coercion. I am dumbfounded as to what has caused the body to rot so quickly - it would seem that covered by such a slab, apparently airtight, that it would have preserved it to a certain extent. Not so, leading to me to believe that there might be a hidden air duct in that shallow grave.

Moe : [Turning aghast to Austin] Austin! Mr. Sleaze! Surely you don't think I could be behind this? The kid only disappeared a few days ago - this one has been here for months, maybe even years, why, it wouldn't surprise me if the body was here before the tavern was built!

[Enter SR. IMMACULATA, running down the stairs with a very worried look on her face. This is quickly replaced by one of shocked horror, as she spies the body of the child. Immaculata drops to both knees]

Sr Immaculata: Oh Phili, let it not be so! [She gags once on the stench, but begins praying over the decayed corpse]

Aldous : [In a shaky voice] Will someone please tell me what's going on? Is there a suggestion that this ... this ... unfortunate [gestures at the body] is in some way connected to the disappearance of my boy?

Harvey: The plain truth Mr. Huxley is that we do not know what to think. Is it the boy, your boy well I don't think so! But it is a boy who befell a fate which may soon be young William's. Pte. Sleaze is half right, this place is at the centre of what ever is going on and as the establishment was built fully five years ago and unfortunately Mr. Moe has been its only proprietor his denials of everything and anything ring singularly hollow. He must know more and for his sake and the Boy's he should disclose it now [balefully regards Moe, lower lip shuddering].

Alice : [Waving a finger at Moe] You horrid man! What have you done to that poor child? I can assure you, Mr. Moe, that I am forthwith withdrawing my custom from your bar and will never again darken the door. And furthermore, I shall be writing to ``Barwatchers Monthly'' informing them that instead of storing beer and tasty pub snacks in your cellar as is the norm, you have the place stock full of bodies! I shudder to think what was in your ``Meat Surprise'' pie. Chicken? I think not.

Moe : [Looking around the party] Please, you have to believe me! I never saw the boy, and I never knew of any bodies in the cellar - why would I kill a child?

Aubrey : It seems to me that there are a number of questions to be answered. First, is this boy William Huxley or no? If he is - then how could he possibly be in this state? If not, then who is he? And did Mr. Moe put the body here? And, perhaps most importantly of all, is there really any difference between Stork and butter?

Moe : [Wailing] Why won't anyone believe me? I never saw this boy in my life! [Starts snuffling as though he is about to cry] I don't know anything about this, please believe me... I've told you nothing but the truth. Mr. Sleaze, you know me better than anyone here, I was the one who extended you credit when everyone else said you were a thieving lowlife scum who lived off the misery of others - you know I'm not capable of such an act.

Harvey: Look Moe [unimpressed by this emotionalism] do not try to ingratiate yourself with the troop, by buttering up Sleaze like this. Answers are what are required, not tears. My niece is quite right your reputation lies in tatters, all that remains is your skin and the truth, so out with it!

Moe : [Bursting into tears] I don't know what I'm supposed to say! The first I heard of this was when Fred told me he could hear voices coming from the floor - being the raving lunatic he is, I ignored him - I never thought this would happen, that there'd be a .. a.. oh God! [Bawls crying again]

Alice : Look [impressed by this emotionalism] maybe there is something to this, maybe there is a third party involved? Anyway, how can we establish who this poor unfortunate is?

Harvey: Perhaps we are putting the milk in before the sugar my dear niece [perturbed by all of Moe's bawling]. In establishing the identity of this... this body we could begin in noting the comings and goings of all visitors to the town by consulting the town register which as you know demands a compulsory signature as well as stated business before residence is permitted. [Drawing again his note-book] Also we could view the crime journals of the Constabulary of which I was once a member in order to establish whether any disappearances, abductions or such like incidences were recorded in the last twelve months. I'm sure the good Mayor would only be too glad to allow us to consult such documentation to try to determine such a match [waves his pencil in the direction of Aubrey and looks up]. However to do this Moe should accompany us to the station for more questioning away from these dark surroundings and for his own safety should the citizens again become agitated. Lastly, we should also arrange the transport of these bones to the Morgue for closer inspection in a proper medical environment to see what else can be discovered about his death. [Scribbling and intoning] Yes, that should do it for now [and glancing at his timepiece] and will probably take the rest of the day. [Slapping his gut and foraging deep in his waistcoat pockets] Dinner at 19:00 hours then!

Alice : Town register? Are you suggesting that the culprit, assuming Moe either didn't act alone or is the subject of some elaborate conspiracy, signed this register and stated their business, that of ``kidnapping and burying a child''?

Aubrey : I could arrange to have the body removed to the local hospital, where Dr. Proctor could examine it, and perhaps, uh, [avoiding Aldous' glare] help identify the child.

Aldous : Why is the child wearing William's clothes? Why? And why does he have William's toy?

Harvey: It is precisely that we do not know anything that I am offering possibilities dearest niece. Moreover the town register is far more than a calligraphic compendium of the spindly scrawl or the broad-stroked flourish. Far more, for it has a section on physical description, faith or heathen, attire and possessions and more besides. All I'm suggesting is that we consult this veritable fountain of knowledge to add hopefully some facts to our case. Should it be too voluminous, I'm sure as we partake of a much deserved dinner the good constabulary could undertake the cross-referencing for us. Anyway we must wait on Dr. Proctor's report and I see no earthly reason why we should starve ourselves. An army does march on its stomach after all!

Aldous : [His face turning a dark shade of purple as he turns to face Harvey, shouting] In the name of Phili! [Pauses as Harvey wipes the spit off his face] Colonel Kingston-Short, far be it from me to interrupt your dinner plans - but what is the connection between this child and mine?

Aubrey : [Looking around the party, then speaking loudly enough to be heard above Moe's crying] Well Mr. Huxley, we have assembled here the most adept investigators in Queen's View - what is their opinion? Austin? Sister? Alice?

Alice : I think we should figure out a way to identify the child - unless of course Uncie Har Har's register contains an entry saying ``Johnny Child, distinguishing marks : entire body is a decaying and fetid mess'', in which case our job will be all the easier.

[AUBREY looks inquisitively to the other party members, as SR IMMACULATA rises from her knees, and blesses the child, one last time. She turns to MOE, a barely concealed look of contempt on her face.]

Sr Immaculata: The two, [gestures towards the body] must be inextricably linked. The only people who could know the identity of the body, are the ones whom put him there. The very fact that the body is wearing the little Huxley boys clothes and grasping the boys toy, shows that the body has not being here since before the pub. The body has not laid here untouched for five years and the Inn keeper can not be ignorant of young William's present whereabouts! Phili roast your soul, you diseased creature! [Pointing at Moe] Your tears are nothing to those shed by the missing child, or the ones you will shed burning for eternity in Hell! Speak now, tricky little man, or suffer the consequences!

Austin: [Rises from his knees, glowering at Sr. Immaculata] Pluck my itchy moustache hairs, but I cannot believe such belligerence. Did you not perceive that the toy and clothes are in the same state of decay as the body. I would suggest that there might be, although I am ignorant in such situations and would gladly defer the privilege to the knowledgeable Colonel, a list of missing children since the cloud has descended. Perhaps this body is in fact that of another child which may have suffered the same fate as young Master Huxley except at a previous time. [Turning his head slightly so that he catches Moe's eye] Final chance to try to vindicate yourself Moe, and it would ease my curiosity immensely were you to open that chest. Promptly and without attempts at dissuasion would convince me all the more that you are indeed innocent of such an heinous act.

Moe : [Trying to choke back the tears] I don't want to burn in hell! I didn't do anything!

Aubrey : [Looking taken aback at Immaculata] Good Sister, vent not your ire on me, I am here merely as a representative of the people, and ask your opinion only that you may help track down the missing child, and not in anyway to argue with you. All I wish to know is what is the next step.

Aldous : Well, if its worth anything, young William used to have two moles on his left thigh, that's why our pet name for him was ``snake eyes''.

Alice : What a jolly name! But who is going to check if the poor unfortunate youngster is worthy of such a title?

Sr Immaculata: [Looking enquiringly at Harvey] Well Harvey, I'm sure your time in the fields of battle have prepared you for any eventuality. Pray, good sir, do the deed.

Moe : [Roars crying again, before regaining his composure] Thank God! You'll see now that this child is not ``Snake Eyes'' Huxley, but some other, poor unfortunate, that I know nothing about.

Austin: [Blinks furiously as if waking from a reverie] By Phili, Sister, look at the state of this child. Little would I doubt that such markings, if they were indeed at one stage present on this child, would be visible, even to the discerning eye. My suggestion would be to fetch a seeker hound, allow him to smell the clothes of the Huxley boy, and see if the canine path-follower would lead us to this body. It also occurs to me that this body may be a decoy, to prevent us from searching towards the correct goal, and causing us to uselessly flaunt the passing of time. I urge you all to hasten, and persuade Moe to reveal to us that nothing is concealed in yon chest.

Alice : [As though this is the most ridiculous thing she has ever heard] Seeker hound? That's just like Clint's suggestion to use Kamwikaze the Wonder Horse to find the child, clear up the cloud and finish off the war between the north and south once and for all, and get it all done in time for tea! Speaking of which, where is Clint? I thought I remembered him coming into the bar, but he has disappeared in as mysterious circumstances as Billy Snake Eyes...

[If the party weren't in a cellar, then the room would surely have been lit up by another timely flash of lightening.]

Aubrey : [Wrinkling up his face as he looks at the body] Well Harvey? Are you going to check?

[One by one, the party slowly turn to HARVEY, who is staring vacantly into space. In his right hand he clutches his cane which begins strumming his thigh boot]

Alice : Oh no! First Clint disappears, now Uncie Har Har is catatonic again! What evil is afoot here? [Grabs two tubes of ``Doc Hartnetts Acme Vampire Repellent'' and makes a cross out of them. She turns to Moe and waves the cross in front of him] Leave him alone, you horrid man!

Moe : [Who has now stopped snuffling] Look, if no one else will check, then I will, for no reason than to show that this kid isn't the Huxley boy, and that the fact he is wearing the same clothes is all due to some horrible coincidence. Well? [Looks to the other party members]

Harvey: ``Snake eyes''...``seeker dogs''...indeed! Have ye all not been listening? The body will be taken to Dr. Proctor who will examine it thoroughly. That however you spell it M-o-o-n or otherwise means thoroughly. The body here being badly decomposed would not reveal much to the unlearned eye and we are not doctors. So shall we leave it to the Doctor instead of rooting around with evidence that is central to our case and should not be tampered with.

Sr Immaculata: Both ideas sound fine to me, as both will work in conjunction with each other. [She looks at Alice] Conjunction, Alice, it means we can do both at the same time. When the child's body [blesses herself] is brought to the doctors, we can use an item of clothing for the sniffer dogs. However, there are still a few outstanding problems, which, with Phili's help, Philiblessusandguardusallfromdfukheds, we will solve. How did the villain enter the house, and what is in the locked chest. I suggest we also visit the towns locksmith. One for the purpose of opening the chest, and second, to inquire if any one [gesturing towards Moe] has asked him to copy a key in the last few days. The key to the Huxley house, for instance.

Austin: [Paces furiously back and forth, muttering] Rank and fetid groupings of sores. What brought such unwarranted turmoil to this, an innocent man. [Looks up, focusing on the ceiling] Yes, onwards, but I will not touch that body, nor aid in it's removal. Maplin would never deign to be at arm's length of such malevolent corruption of perhaps what was innocent and near perfect flesh. What I may do is examine that chest once more, and retain the details to aid the locksmith in it's prompt unlocking. Unless of course, Moe has in the meantime miraculously remembered the whereabouts of the key. [Looks questioningly at Moe].

Alice : [Looks blankly at Immaculata, as though not entirely sure whether or not she has just been insulted] So it's not a disease of the eye?

Aubrey : Well then, we shall leave it to Doctor Proctor to investigate the body. Can't say I'm sorry its not us who have to do it. [Looks at his timepiece] Good lord, it is already 4.30. I will arrange for Doctor Proctor and Nurse Terse to remove the body, perhaps the party would like to visit ``Honest'' Jo Thiever to ask about the lock?

Moe : [Rolls his eyes] I told you already, I don't have the key to that chest, that the dog ate it. [Pauses a second] I mean, the dog lost it, I lost it. Yes. I lost it. Well, if you're all about to head off I guess I better start tidying up the bar, you know what a mess these riots leave!

[MOE moves slowly towards the stairs, nodding and smiling at the party. In the background, ALICE can be seen mouthing the word ``con-junc-tion'' over and over again]

Harvey: At this junction the only con is you Mr. Moe [Arm outstretched and finger following the progress of Moe up the stairs]. Hold your ground! Your part in this affair has by no means been settled. While we visit the lock-smith,``honest'' or no, you will have to accompany the town guards to the station to await further questioning...isn't that right Mayor Aubrey? Dinner aside [intones] if the lock-smith cannot help us in unlocking the chest, I presume he has the instruments to force it? [Drawing the note-book] Now page two, Incarcerate Moe...question lock-smith...open or force chest...Coroner's report... Constabulary journals. This is certainly turning out to be a busy day!

[SR IMMACULATA suddenly springs into action, a ruler almost magically appearing in her right hand. She takes careful aim at MOE'S behind and lets swing]

Sr Immaculata: Don't you dare, you dirty little article! We're not letting you out of our sight. [Immaculata stands, arms folded, but ruler in clear sight, blocking the exit out of the room]

Moe : Ow! [Rubs his backside] Tut! Only it was only a suggestion!

Aubrey : [Looking somewhat uncomfortable] Incarcerate him? I suppose that could be arranged...[avoids Moe's glance]

Alice : Good golly! The suspense is killing me! [Looks to Aldous] No offence meant, but I can't wait to find out if its Billy One Eye or some other child.

Aldous : [A pained look on his face] I would certainly hope that fiend is put into jail immediately. I shall return to my no doubt mad with grief and ranting wife, and I expect to be told the results of the good Doctor Proctor's examination.

[Exit ALDOUS]

Aubrey : [Unhappily] Jail for Moe, I guess....

Alice : [Excitedly] Does this mean we get to run the bar? [Turning to Austin] What do you think Aussie? Alice's Restaurant? We might even be able to cook up something for Uncie Har Har's seven o'clock.

Harvey: While I am famished and would welcome some of your special caramelised jelly slices Niece, this establishment isn't on the open market yet...but [pauses]it would make a fine eaterie. The Last Post or some such nomenclature would do rather nicely ...I think. However this is all for the future. Let us fetch the lock-smith to examine this chest, depositing Mr. Moe in the station along the way. Mr. Mayor [turns to Aldous] will you send one of the Guards to seal off the crime scene until we return?

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 7. Time : Friday 5.00 : ``Honest'' Joe Thiever's Locksmiths.

[``HONEST'' JOE THIEVER, HARVEY, SR. IMMACULATA, ALICEand AUSTIN are here. In one corner, glowering at the party, is CLINT]

Clint : [Angrily] About time. Harding said you'd be here ages ago. Typical, you can't do anything right without me, [looking at Austin] couldn't even get the chest open.

Honest Joe : [In a pleasant voice] May I be of assistance?

Alice : [Holding up a beer mat from Moe's Tavern as though it were a policeman's badge] Bassett-Short, homicide. These are my associates, we're here to search through all your private things, and if necessary, beat the truth out of you.

Honest Joe : [A tad surprised] The truth about what?

Alice : Whatever we want. [Turning to Austin and Harvey] You two take care of him in con-junc-tion. [To Clint] You, young fellow, explain yourself, or by crikey you'll find yourself doing twenty five to life!

Austin: [Frowns in Clint's direction] Mock and jeer me not, fah I shall stwike you down with the powa of my own hand. You skulk off, in such a cowardly fashion, obviously afraid of what may be discovered. Maplin and I on the other hand, needless to say Maplin's hand, grimaced and bore such ungodly sights that should have scarred my soul and destroyed my ever so frail being. Have you nothing to say in your defence? Little does it matter [continues on, but swings around to face ``Honest'' Joe], but I will pursue it when matters have given us some time to spare. But Joe, your life is in our hands, much as the Huxley boy's was in yours. And do not attempt to feign either ignorance or innocence, for that will only irk my ire. I will have an ``Honest'' answer...you know that free trial promotion they were advertising in Karpet square, would you have any spare lock picks?

Honest Joe : [Gasping in disbelief] My life in your hands!? I do not think it is fair to say that the Huxley boy's life was in mine, all I did was sell a lock to his father, and at a very fair price, I might add, I am, after all, very honest. As for spare lock picks, I most certainly do not have any. The only lock picks in this shop are my own, and they are only used in dire situations, and after I am satisfied that I am not the unwitting accomplice to some dishonest deed.

Alice : [Turning up her collar, to make herself look tough] Whaddya say, Officer Sleaze, this guy a bit too squeaky clean? Should we bring him downtown?

Clint : [To Austin] If you really wanted to get it out of him [pointing to Honest Joe], I'd be happy to help. I seriously don't think it would do any good, though. He just made a lock which none of you can open. Big Deal.

Honest Joe : If there is something that you want to get out of me, information or some such, all you need do is ask, being an honest man all I can tell is the truth. If there is some problem with you not being able to break into one of my locks, well, that's just the result of good, honest labour. [Reading from a brochure] ``The Thiever 2000 series, as tough and honest as the business you want to protect. Secure, safe and simple. You can rely on the Thiever 2000.'' Care to have a look? [Proffers a number of glossy brochures to the party] There's even a voucher for a 10

Clint : [Looking through a brochure] ``Secure, safe, and simple'' hmmm? These locks aren't too simple, considering no one could open them. And the way you're acting, it doesn't look like you're going to either. So, Honest Joe, are you going to help us nice people or...

Honest Joe : [Snatching the brochure back from Clint] Simple to operate! The inner workings of the lock are complex beyond the understanding of most ordinary folk, and are the product of years of training, skill and ingenuity. This is no mere boast, it is simply the honest truth. Now, I quite honestly do not know what you are talking about - you say that no one could open my lock, but I was under the impression that the reason for your visit was precisely the opposite, that some kidnapper had somehow overcome one of my locks. Perhaps you would at least do me the courtesy of telling me what you want?

Harvey: What we want are honest answers to our questions, though admittedly my associates have been rather...vague[frowns] in their line of questioning. And no we are not representatives of GrinGripper brewery [eyebrows knotted and twitching in Alice's direction]. We are here on a criminal matter and would welcome any information concerning the disappearance of Frederick Huxley; like for example ...oh I don't know...where were you on Thursday night last? Where do you store your master keys? Had you any of them with you on that night or was one of them missing the following morning? If not, how do you account for some one opening a lock that would be [reading from the note-pad] in your words ``beyond the understanding of most ordinary folk''? Also what make of lock has Moe fastened to the chest in the cellar and can you open it, as he is I presume a client of yours!

Alice : [Under her breath to Harvey] God almighty uncle, its William Huxley who has disappeared. Perhaps you are more attached to the GrinGripper brewery that you have us believe! M - O - O - N, that spells William, not Frederick.

Honest Joe : On Wednesday night I was at home all night, with my wife, Honest Josephine. [Pauses as he tries to remember all the questions just thrown at him] I do not posses master keys, for fear that they might come into the possession of a less honest person than I. As for accounting for someone opening a lock that is ``beyond the understanding of most ordinary folk'', why Colonel, I put it to you that it is simply the case that the lock was opened by someone is not one of the ordinary folk. Finally, [glancing into Harvey's notebook to see the last question] Mr. Moe is indeed a client of mine, and he has purchased a number of locks in the past. Of course, I would be able to open any lock, providing it was proved to me that it is for some honest endeavour, and not some strong armed tactic which you seem to be employing.

Harvey: [Crossing off deceased next to Frederick's name]. William that's it...I tell you the young of today have strange names, hard to keep up what! [Ticks off all the questions as Joe answers them, showing him the pad] Well that seems satisfactory and your help would be welcome in such a lawful search of Moe's chest though some exertion and physical labour might be required...if that is what you mean by strong-armed tactics?

Sr Immaculata: [Glancing briefly at the glossy brochure, before fixing her eyes on Austin] I seem to remember purchasing such a lock a few months ago, for our little holy chapel. I also seem to remember our little holy chapel being broken into not long after. Isn't that curious, Mr Sleaze. Very curious indeed. It would seem that the lock itself may be ``beyond the understanding of most ordinary folk'', but, the picking of it is not beyond the understanding of the lowliest, slimiest creature found under a rock. [She looks at Joe] Well, can you open the chest, Mr Thiever? I pray that Phili will aid in the guidance of your lock pick.

Austin: [Sneers disdainfully, then waves his left arm extravagantly above his head] By my nimble fingers, I shall not have you accuse me of strong-arming anyone. There has been a death, of an innocent child, no less, and here you stand touting your honesty. But all the truth in all the world, will not save your soul if you persist in not displaying your potential helpfulness. There is a chest residing in Moe's cellar, which he adamantly refuses to open, claiming that his dog ate the key, then that the dog lost it, and thereafter claiming that he lost it. Now, one with such experience with the truth as yourself, must recognise when the truth is not at hand, more so in such a blatant case. The final point is that the body was found in Moe's cellar, and the chest that could not be opened, even by one so talented in the art of Houdinism as myself, may contain a clue as to how or even why, the body is hidden in such a place. My request to you is that you open the lock upon that chest, and I shall waive the required form filling, until our return from the capture of one so callous as to murder so young a rascal. I bow also to your superior workmanship, in the Thiever 2000 series, especially on the Thiever 2050 GTi model. Perhaps you would discuss with me in the future the mechanism you have used to slide the lock pick away from the crucial twin-side cog? [Turns to Sr. Immaculata] Sister, would you kindly vouch for the truth of what I have said here, to further entice ``Truthful'' Thiever to our cause.

Clint : Well, now that we're hopefully done ``strong arming'' one another, perhaps we could continue this in-depth conversation of tumblers and cogs in a more suitable place, with a suitable demonstration to follow? Say, at Moe's place?

Honest Joe : [Turning to Sr. Immaculata] Good sister, I thank you for your manners. Now [turning to Austin] kindly restrain your hysterics sir, if it is the case that there is a chest that the party wishes open, all you need have done was be open and honest, and asked straight out. My defensive posture was adopted because of the aggressive slant certain people took [looks to Alice who is frowning heavily at him, waving her badge around] and the tirade of questions fired at me. [Glances at Harvey] If I can be of assistance in some lawful matter, then I will be more than happy to help.

Harvey: Right then as honesty and help have finally met let us return to the cellar and try our luck with that lock.

Sr Immaculata: [Acknowledges, with a slight bow of her head and a smile Honest Joe] I thank you for your understanding of the seriousness of the situation, and regret the sincere, but sadly ill mannered approach taken so far. There is a chest in Moe's cellar we need unlocked. The gravity of the request is beyond doubt, but the result of opening this chest may be beyond words. Please, in the name of Phili [blesses herself], open this chest. [Immaculata turns around to Alice]. Alice, I just asked the nice man to open the big box in the room under Mr Moe's tavern...pub. So wipe that po frown from your face and remember your manners...[looks Alice up and down] Inspector! [Immaculata steps towards the door] Will you come with us to unlock the chest then, Mr Thiever?

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 8. Time : Friday 5.45 : Moe's Cellar..

[HONEST JOE, AUSTIN, HARVEY, CLINT, ALICE AND SISTER IMMACULATAare here. Also present are two town guards, GERRY DINKLEand DERRY GINKLE.]

[The cellar is as the party left it, but the body has now been removed. GERRY and DERRY are sitting on the floor discussing how the war against the south should be fought. There are a number of empty bottles of '782 GrinGripper Extra Bitter scattered around]

Gerry : Colonel! We're surprished to see you here so soon.

Alice : [Going to chest no. 1 and removing a bottle from it] Hey Clinty, there' s a bottle of Doc Hartnetts Patented Anti-Lisp Mixture here, did you take some earlier?

Harvey: Well, constables, when you are hotfooting it on a case time waits for no man. And what is this [picking up a GrinGripper, clearly annoyed] Surprised... no more so than I constables. The consumption of alcohol while on duty and in loose formation, quite literally ``at ease'' indeed, completely contrary to the code of the ``Uniformed Officers Regulations, Dress code and Manners''. I am appalled gentlemen... consorting like common soldiers, the scum of the earth, your district inspector shall hear of this...most definitely!

Austin: [Pauses on sight of the two guards, and then peers shiftily about, as if searching for a possible quick escape route]. Even'n, gentlemen. Bit of a rumpus upstairs earlier, what? [Suddenly seems to grow in stature] Now that we're on the same side of the cell, I would ask you [nods at the two guards] to formally apologise for spitting in my food, whilst I was wrongly, unjustly, and through a malpractice of bureaucracy, falsely imprisoned. Upon receipt of this apology, I would reveal something of importance to both of you, and our score will be settled. [Suspiciously smoothly, slides his right hand under his cloak, balancing himself on the balls of his feet, as if preparing to spring in any direction].

Clint : Uhhh... No! [Taking the bottle from Alice] I overcame the problem through mental expertise and willpower. [Measuring the amount in the bottle] Now don't we have more important things to get to?

Harvey: My Phili Clint...do not be a complete buffoon, this is important. [Recalling from memory]...Section five, paragraph six. The posture of an officer is central to not only the efficient execution of one's duties but also can serve to avoid future back problems. Deportment while on duty should meet the needs of the situation. And sirs is this not guard detail and therefore not a rigid forbearance demanded. You simply would not do in the old regiment, rum fellows will not do at all. I'll see that the inspector will have you both brought up short for this. [Turning to Austin] What ever your view of the past, and we both know its truth quite well, you would do well not to follow too closely the example of these two or again the path of ruin and damnation you will be treading.

Alice: [Placing a large, hard cover book on her head, and walking slowly, the book balancing precariously] Good golly Uncle, that's exactly what they always told us at Ms Lillisham-Courtneys school for young ladies! That deportment and posture are not only important in landing one a suitable husband, but increase one's ladylike qualities twofold. Perhaps, Clint, [turns slowly to face him, making sure not to drop the book] with mental expertise and willpower you might want to become more ladylike?

Gerry: [Glaring at Austin] Shleazhe! So this is where you got to! Apology my ass! [Aside] Begging your pardon good sister. [Then, back to Sleaze] We might be on the same side of the cell now, but just wait till you're back in there, you arrogant, shleazy ..... am I right Derry?

Derry: [Shouting] You're right Gerry! Bashtard shleashsnore [Drops off to sleep]

Austin: [Stalks in a circular path about Derry] I shall not be returned to that jail. If I hadn't misread that JS-88C4, I would never have signed it. I learnt a valuable lesson that day - ``the third party's third party forfeit's his or her right to forfeit the third party's rights, whereupon the third party'', in this case Sister Immaculata [sneers in her direction], ``may at his or her will cause the forfeit of the first party's rights in accordance with Chapter 4.7 Section 6.6 on the Rights of Third Party's to Allow the Forfeit of Right's by the First Party.'' Such simple legalise, and I mistook myself for the third party's third party. Never again shall that occur, whilst I am of sober mind and sound judgement. [Suddenly stops skulking about, and faces Colonel Harvey] Good Colonel, I would suggest to you that these slovenly ``watchmen'' receive more than a simple reprimand - a sound admonishment would not suffice, but I would be grateful to see these men fastened in the stocks, where I may pour them my own private flavour of GrinGripper.

Harvey: Pte Sleaze [becoming defensive] The Constabulary has its own methods in dealing with lapses in discipline and these cads will, you can be assured, be properly dealt with. There is no need to bandy so liberally your own methods of correction, being after all a practitioner of legal argument and jurisprudence. I wonder if the correctional facility of which you were once an inmate has had the enlightening effect that you claim. It should be enough that their infringement has been noted [produces the note-pad] and will be acted upon. Now [ignoring the snoring] Joseph will you kindly inspect the lock and its complex mysteries.

Gerry: Well, excushe me, Colonel [emphasises the last word so much he almost spits it out] but while you might be in charge of us in the jail, you have no authority about us, on, over. Over us. You have no authority over us in other matters. [Looks to Austin] Just shows how stupid you are, not knowing what ``the third party's party third forfeits his party's third right to first party third party uh...''. Yeah, well, just shows how stupid you are, isn't that right Derry?

Derry: [Snort!]

Honest Joe : [Stepping to one side to avoid Alice who is dashing about the room madly trying to keep the book balanced] Excuse me? Joseph? [Looks enquiringly at Harvey] I honestly know no Joseph.

Clint : Joseph? That's you, Honest Jo...seph! [Turning to Harvey] Your observation is correct, these men are under the influence of some ungodly concoction. You can persecute them to the nth degree of the letter of the law...later. Now if no one else has any objecti- [addressing Alice who just bumped into him, while continuing her balancing act] Put down that book! [Trying to compose himself] Let's continue.

Sr Immaculata: How dare you shout at a young lady, you big uneducated lug! Carriage and deportment are very important in a young lass, especially [quietly, as if talking to herself, but looking at Alice] if the young lady in question has nothing much of anything else to fall back on. [She raises her voice again, to normal pitch] Bravo, Alice, may Phili keep your back straight and your book balanced, and pay no attention to a mere Neanderthal savage who [she sniffs and makes a face] bathes once a year, whether he thinks he needs it or not! [Turns to Austin] You sneer at me one more time, Sleaze, and Phili [blesses herself] Himself won't recognise your soul!

Alice : [Her eyes filling with tears at Clint's unkind words] Thank you sister, [whispering to Immaculata, but loudly enough for everyone to hear] I think I preferred him when he was gay.

Honest Joe : [Looking down his nose at Clint] Correct, my name is Honest Joe. ``Seph'' does not come into it, nor does Joseph. Perhaps in your ire you confuse me with someone of an admittedly similar, but quite different name. My name is Honest Joe, and I expect to be addressed as such, Clunt.

Austin: [Turning to Sr. Immaculata, and simultaneously comforting Alice] How dare you, suggest even remotely that Alice has nothing to fall back on - her looks are appreciable, her intelligence above that of most town guards, and her sense of humour leaves nothing to be desired. But that is not what irritates my rump, it's the fact that previously you preach all are equal in the eyes of Phili, and suddenly you bring mortal attributes to the fore, where you should be claiming that she is a kindly soul and of sound character. I should have you arraigned for hypocrisy and malpractice of the privileged position of vassal of Phili's will. [Cupping a hand under Alice's chin] Deportment and carriage are in your case merely icing upon a sweet cake. [Winks at Alice, before turning to Joe] Sir, would you kindly examine that lock and attempt it's unlocking?

Sr Immaculata: [Looks at Austin, a questioning look on her face.] Mr Sleaze, whatever are you on going on about. You chastise me for claiming Alice has ``nothing to fall back on'' when clearly I said no such thing. You should try some ointment for the rash you claim to have on your, ahem, derriere, and not take out its discomfort on me, or my God. And sanctimonious sentiment, although laudable in most, sounds the most evil of hypocrisy, coming from one who attempted only recently to thieve from our orders chapel. [To Alice] One cannot even pray quietly to their God these days, without being ridiculed by the unwashed. [Immaculata walks slowly to the corner of the cellar, shaking her head sadly, while whispering a prayer]

Harvey: I was wondering all right good sister what that dammed smell was! I had merely put it down to the accumulated dearth of this dark cavernous place or indeed the piquant latrinel odour of the opened GrinGripper... but who would have thought it could manifest itself so foully [turning from Clint, shading a smile]. Oh odious indeed, and this what's in a name well, why are you called ``Honest'' Joe? I mean what's wrong with Joseph? Didn't you belong to it at some point prior to this unnecessary parting of the ways. I cannot see the need for these appellations at all, at all. It's use almost suggests, as I've said before, that there is a past to hide.

Clint : [Calm now] Personally, I agree with Austin. Shouldn't all people be viewed as equals in the eyes of Phili? The unwashed, the pompous, the arrogant, the drunks, the anal retentive, and the overly presumptuous. Isn't that right, Sister? And you, [turning to Harvey] O Great and Glorious Leader of Men Big and Small, don't you agree?

Sr Immaculata: [Tuts loudly] My God does not bear fools gladly, Mr Scar. And nor, for that matter, do I. [Immaculata resumes her praying]

Harvey: Equality... what bunk, sir. Sinners are sinners while the good are virtuous and are Phili's chosen and never the twain shall meet. Phili judges all and those that have erred, pay for it. It is the same here in this life whether in the armed forces or in the penal system. There are rules, structure and order and jolly well necessary it proves to be, for we have to set out our own rules in this life, while we wait for the final verdict in the next. Also Mr. Scar I do not at all care for your facetiousness, for any command I have exercised has been gained by endeavour, my wits and a constant moral code. All in all a dedicated ardour which I would stand against the dissoluteness of some any day. [paces away from Clint irately, muttering] Phili save us from the parasitic flotsam of society. No respect, no grasp of organised religion, unremitting rake and bereft of wits...Phili save us!

Alice : [Blushing at Austin's words] Oh Aussie! Don't be so mean to Sr. Immaculata, I think you misunderstood her words. You must have thought she was being unkind to me, but it takes a special kind of intelligence, like mine, to see that she was standing up for me against Clunt's mean and somewhat unnecessary remarks.

Honest Joe : [Smiling ruefully at Clint's remarks to Harvey] Perhaps, as that man there [waves at Harvey] says, there is no need for appellations, but I must wonder why the Glorious Leader insists on using the curious appellation ``Harvey'' - does that suggest he has something to hide? Could it be that on one of his campaigns in some mysterious and exotic land he happened upon a tribe of wise people in who's language the word harvey means ``One who is bombastic, overbearing and just a tad irritating'', [pauses for a moment, as though trying to remember something] Harvem, Harveu, Harvet, Harvette, Harves, Harvee, Harvey. Perhaps I am wrong - but its use may suggest something along those lines. As for my name, well, I come from a long line of thieves, villains and murderers, hence the surname ``Thiever''. When my mother gave birth, she gave birth to twins, and decided that at least one should break the cycle of villainous behaviour. In her wisdom, she saw fit to name both children Joe, so that none of my father's cut throat family could do away with the virtuous twin. As my twin and I grew up, we grew further apart, and decided we no longer wished to be indistinguishable - I took the name Honest Joe Thiever, for I am very honest, while my twin took the name Lying Joe Thiever, for he is a liar, a cad and an utter blackguard, and quite proud of the fact. [Looks around the party] So there you go, I'm sure its not such an unusual story.

Alice : [Placing the book on her head again] Well Clunt, why don't you make some unkind remark to him, like you did to poor Uncie Har Har?

Gerry : [Reeling slightly as he tries take in all that's going on. Puts his arm around Sr. Immaculata] You tell that shleazy bashtard sister - he always does that, twishts your words into something you didn't say. It got so as a man couldn't even say he wanted to go for a pish - begging your pardon sister - without having to sign four different forms and then wait four days for them to be processed!!

Austin: [Peers intently at Honest Joe] Sir, you arouse suspicion with your story. How then are we to know that you are indeed the honest and virtuous twin, when you may in fact be the cheat, swindler and liar that you claim your brother is. Indeed, the manner in which you describe your other half, if my instinct is right on the mark, could describe exactly what and who you are - trying to swindle, cheat and misdirect us with falsehoods, whilst your brother is locked up, for some unforgivable deed that you may have committed, and as you are indistinguishable, do not deny that it is a possibility. This may all be some elaborate ploy to deviate us from resolving the existing conundrum - that is, where the Huxley boy is, and how was he taken there, with you in cahoots with the evil forces of darkness. Prove to us that you are the truthful Thiever - or at least a two-faced schizophrenic that is currently in 'honest' mode - by answering the following question - if I were to ask your brother what you would say his name is, what would he answer? Failing that you could open the chest, and not only prove your honesty, by doing something noble for a worthy cause, but also demonstrate your skill as a master craftsman.

Honest Joe : What? You speak in riddles sir, I have no idea what my brother would say. Lying Joe Thiever tells the truth when it suits him and lies when he sees fit. I, on the other hand, am an honest man. Now, shall I set about opening this chest, O Great Leader?

Harvey: You riddle yourself entirely sir. Harvey is my name for that is what I was christened. Being the preferred choice of my father I have never felt the inclination to change it. You on the other hand cannot distance yourself far enough from yours and I wonder though the surface polishes well, the core may still be rotten. Anyway no matter Pte. Sleaze is correct whether you are ``Honest'' or ``Lying'' cannot be easily be proved, though your actions would speak volumes. The chest there awaits you!

Honest Joe : [Looking in a very superior manner at Harvey] Sir, it is my policy to be up front and honest about everything - and to this end I put it to you that you are a most obnoxious, arrogant and officious little man. You entered my shop demanding to know my whereabouts on Thursday night, you continue to suggest that my name is only some means of deceiving people, yet you still expect me to help you. Sir, your behaviour to me has been beneath contempt - for this reason I am withdrawing my services. If that chest is to opened it shall be without my aid, and, quite frankly, it would surprise me if you find someone who can open it. That is not a boast, it is merely fact. Good day. [Nods to Clint, Austin and Sr. Immaculata before heading to the stairs].

Alice : Why don't you arrest him Uncle?

[Everybody's attention is suddenly grabbed a quick shriek from GERRY, who leaps away from SR. IMMACULATA. SR. IMMACULATA stands glaring at him]

Clint : [Soothingly] Gerry, Gerry, Gerry.... He didn't mean you, [under his breath] or, at least I don't think he did. [Normally] Besides, if he throws you in the same cell as Honest Joe then I'm sure that Joe could spring you in a matter of seconds. He's just showing his modest side right now. Any lock in his hands is like an prisoner under the light... er, bad metaphor.

Gerry : [Looks at Clint as though he has seen him for the first time] But what about her? What about her? [Pointing wildly about the room, making it difficult to see who he means] She threatened to rip my [voice drops] balls [rises again] off and ... and ... and eat them!

Honest Joe : [Pauses a second, and turns to face Clint] It would not surprise me if that oaf were to try and throw me into jail - however, justice shall prevail, and an honest man will always triumph. [Continues his ascent of the stairs]

Alice : [Stamping her foot impatiently on the ground] Uncle! Stop him, don't let him go! Sister Immaculata, why don't you threaten to eat him too? That might stop him.

[All males present involuntarily cross their legs]

Harvey: Civilians [knowingly]...excitable and always unreliable. Forever offering and withdrawing services. Confiscate and blast the lot of them. A boy is missing and time is a factor [glances at his wrist in mock fashion to emphasise] and what does he do but twitter on about a name. Such ego's would not have been tolerated in the old regiment. Horse-whipped and made come to heel he would...so he would. Civilians though, what can be done. And what constable are you doing, and what is the need for all this lurid language? Can't you see that my young Niece is present?

Gerry : [Almost, but not quite under his breath] Fuck off.

[Exit HONEST JOE]

Alice : [With an extremely irritating whine] Un-cle. What are we going to do now?

Harvey: [Soothingly] Now, now, niece, a soldier is never short of options, and a number present themselves. As this is a criminal investigation and we are duly deputised officers of the town, we could legally force the lock ourselves, with the help of both constables. Or we could go to the courts and get a writ of compliance that would ensure that the civilian locksmith would assist us. Time though is pressing and if we are going to make any further headway today the first may be more expedient [nodding rhetorically] than the latter.

Alice : [Sighs deeply] So? So what are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? Who among you is strong enough to break the lock?

Gerry : [Drawing his sword and charging across the room] Heeyargh! [Swings his sword at the chest and misses completely. His sword strikes the ground and breaks in two, with the pointed end flying off and landing dangerously close to Sr. Immaculata] Oops!

Clint : [Grabbing the remains of the sword from Gerry, and smashing it several times against the lock, breaking some of the chains around it] There, now was that so hard? [Opens chest and starts to rummage around] My my, look what we have here. [Steps back from the chest so the rest of the party can see it]

Gerry : [Not quite realising that Clint succeeded in taking the sword, and still holding his hand as though he were grasping the sword] How dare you shir! En garde! [Starts waving his imaginary sword around in a threatening fashion]

[The party all look into the chest, the contents of which appear to be women's clothing of all description, mainly silken and frilly]

Alice : [Ducking to avoid a swipe of Gerry's sword and leaning over to the chest to toss some of the contents onto the floor, before holding a large wedding dress up in front of her] What beautiful clothing! So feminine! Such a pity they're all too big for me, but, from the size of them I'd wager they would be a perfect fit for .... [wrinkles her face as though deep in thought] for ... Moe! [Then, with a look of disgust on her face she throws the dress across the room to Austin] Moe? Yeuach! Killing and torturing forty innocent youngsters is one thing, but this?

Austin: [Snatches the dress out of the air, and presses it to his nose] Bit of a musty smell, and if I didn't know better I would say that it has a faint tinge of JuniperSwagger 646 to it, Moe's favourite eau de cologne. [Mutters to Alice] It sickens me less that Moe tends a bit towards the feminine side, than it does to see how masculine the good sister is. [Aloud again] Nonetheless, I am still convinced that Honest Joe Thiever is still involved somehow in this intricate plot, as his lack of willingness to open the chest clearly demonstrates. And already we have let our only suspect slip through our fingers.

Gerry : [Attempting to prod the pile of clothes on the floor with his imaginary sword] Get up, wenches, get up and fight!

Harvey: Oh something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Oh there's nothing quite [becoming misty eyed] like a wedding. It's so like the dress Mrs Harvey Kingston-Short the third wore at her wedding, same size and everything. The happiest day of my life, that is after passing out parade at the officers' academy of course. Your day will come too one day good niece and it will make your Uncle Harvey most proud to see you married to some upstanding member of the community. A good lawyer or doctor or even an officer. [Snapping from this wistfulness] Constable will you stop pointing towards the dress for yes, yes...yes we can all see it!

Alice : [Whispers to Austin, but loudly enough for all to hear] Perhaps, Aussie, we should offer it to Sr. Immac? I know there will be a smell of after shave from her, which may seem a bit odd for such a hirsute person, but, well, it might put some ideas into her head! [Makes a kind of shaving motion]

Sr Immaculata: [Staring at the piece of sword wedged in the wall, not three inches from her head] Well, that was a close shave, wasn't it?

Alice : [Continuing with her shaving motion] Apparently, not quite close enough.

Gerry : [Kicking the pile of clothes around the room] They're gone! Is this magic of some sort? What do all these clothes mean?

Clint : It means that there are a few more naked women in town, or Moe has a nasty habit that isn't very socially acceptable.

Alice : At least it is slightly more socially acceptable than killing children, have we discovered any evidence to tie Moe to the killing, or [glaring at Harvey and Sr. Immaculata] is it reason enough to jail him because he wears peculiar clothing?

Harvey: But niece, it still doesn't explain the body and while this material would seem immaterial he did not account for it. Perhaps the chest is the proverbial red herring [musing while moving towards the shelving of the wall] and maybe a closer examination of the walls will reveal something!

Alice : [Watching as Harvey checks the wall] Aussie? You claimed that Honest Joe Thiever is involved - perhaps these clothes are not red herring, perhaps Honest Joe tried to cover them up? Maybe they're the clothes of all the hundreds of innocent women who Moe murdered and served as his meat pie? Perhaps [pauses for breath] this whole cellar is littered with the tattered remains of those innocent victims, [raises her voice] cast aside like the unwanted remains of dinner, who's souls will be trapped beneath this citadel of death, terror and dubious cooking for all eternity! [Shouts] My God! Am I standing on someone's grave? [Leaps off the flagstone she's standing on, landing on another] Doh! Another grave! [Leaps onto another one] Ye Gods! Is this another grave I stand upon! [Jumps so she's hanging onto some of the overhead pipes, and turns her head glaring at the party] Have you no respect?

Clint : [After shutting his gaping mouth] Umm... I don't think hanging from the pipes will really solve anything. It would also put a damper on the speed of the investigation. Don't you think it would be a trifle bothersome investigating -anything- while not being able to touch the ground? I mean, I don't mean to rude or inconsiderate to the dead, but we've got to draw the line somewhere. [Crossing to Harvey] How's the wall looking?

Alice : [Shouting at Clint, with tears streaming down her face] You uncaring bastard! Do you have to draw the line across the sacred ground that contains the pathetic remains of horribly murdered people?

[The party all shift uneasily as the pipes ALICEis clinging to make a peculiar creaking noise]

Austin: [Peers at the ground intently, then grinds at his peers with intent] Clint, do stop haranguing Alice. And tread carefully, for a valid point has been raised - one never knows where one stands, less so in such a suspicious place as this. Perhaps, we may verify some of Alice's fears, and attempt to lift another slab. It may ease her mind, and perhaps uncover some missing clue, as to why the boy, although it may not have been the Huxley whelp, was buried here in the first instance. [Reaches over and fondly tickles Alice's feet].

Clint : [Cautiously moving as far from the pipes as possible] I was not ``haranguing'' her. I was merely being practical. Right now we are in a situation where she and I are acting as polar opposites. She is over reacting emotionally, whilst I am thinking levelly and clearly. She is entitled to think what she will, but we don't have to listen. Then again, you don't have to listen to what I say either. [Frustratedly yelling] Oh, what's the point?!? Why don't we just go run through the Murky Mist in the nude?!? Hell, it'll probably solve all of our problems at once! How, you say? Let's go find out, shall we! [Takes a deep breath and searches his pockets for something, all the while mumbling something about ``side effects'']

Sr Immaculata: Yes Clint, why don't you go and do that right now. [Looks up at Alice] And come down from those pipes this instant, foolish girl. There may or may not be more bodies under the cellar, but one things for certain, there shall be five additional bodies in the cellar, if you pull the ceiling down upon us. If it would make you feel better, I'll say a prayer to apologise for standing on any graves. [Sr Immaculata starts murmuring a prayer]

Alice : [Her face dropping] Well, okay sister - just make sure that Phili knows that I didn't want to have any part of this stamping on graves. [Lets go of the pipes and lands on Harvey's foot] Oops! And another thing - I wish to categorically state that I have no desire to be part of the Clunt Scar Naked Mist Running Society, however ``overemotional'' I am. Overemotional, me? Me? Me? I don't think so. [Slips a Valium into her mouth, followed by some Librium, topped off with a healthy dosage of Prozac] Hmm, dead kid? Graves? Pff, lets just sit here for the next 48 hours. Reminds me of a story I heard, I was in a bar and .... [Drifts off somewhere]

Gerry : [Grabs a bottle of GrinGripper and drinks half it in one go] I don't know, they claim alcohol is unhealthy?

Sr Immaculata: We seem to have come to an impasse. I wonder. Did we check outside the Huxley boys window for footprints? We should also follow up the sniffer dog idea, which I believe Mr Sleaze suggested some time ago. That way, with the grace of Phili, we'll at least know if the Huxley boy was in this horrible place.

Harvey: Well, the wall's not revealing a lot, but if we are going to check the floor, we'll have to stand on the flagstones and get our feet wet so to speak. So [aloud] if we can have the men here and Constable Derry if he is conscious to lend a hand lets prise the one next to where we found the body.

Clint : [With a happily glazed look] Sure. [Shakes the Constable] Hello, yoo-hoo, wake up.

Austin: [Scratches his head, then examines the tips of his fingers for any sign of flakes, then smiles to himself with a satisfied air. He then paces back and forth for a short time, when he realises that Maplin has remained covered and unflaunted for much too long. Reaches into his pocket and removes a purple silk kerchief, with which he then proceeds to polish his forearm, until it gleams with a sheen similar to that of a golden Buddha. Pauses, then looks about to see who is admiring his finest feature, then declares, as if he is expecting everyone present to have been waiting with baited breath...] Impasse, hogwash. [Aside to Alice] Which reminds me, I must tell the dear Sister, that is exactly what she is in need of. [Aloud again] My first suggestion is to waste no further time, and spend some of it productively stalking Honest Joe. Monitor his movements and perhaps then with Phili's guidance as well as the providence of the soothsayers, we shall uncover how he is involved in this most sinister of plots. We must also pay a visit to the good Doctor Proctor, and determine the results of his post-mortem examination.

Derry: [Upon being slapped about a bit too roughly by Clint] What - hey! All right, I'm awake, I'm awake! [Eventually, Clint stops slapping him]

Alice : [Looking around the party in amazement] Gosh! We must be onto the coke now! Lift all the rest of the flagstones, train a group of Alaskan performing dogs to find a body, visit Doctor Proctor and trace Honest Joe's movements for the past two years, and all in time for tea with Aubie. It seems we have enough big strong men to lift them - Aussie, Uncle Harvey, Clunt and Gerry and Derry, perhaps you'll all oblige?

Clint : Do I detect a note of sarcasm? Truly, O Great Mistress of Verbal Irony, I think we should ignore the Alaskan performing dogs, since we don't have any, and deal with this problem as intelligently and... soberly as possible. The floor, I would think, would be the best way to start. Gentlemen?

Alice : [Looking at Clint] Sarcasm? Moi? I wouldn't dream of it, Cluntie, why, I bet I'm more well mannered than the winner of the Manuel Manner's Memorial Manner plaque of Ms. Manner's Manner Alma Mater. Okay boys, heave!

[GERRY and DERRY position themselves to lift the flagstone nearest the one just lifted.]

Austin: [Places his kerchief once again in some innermost pocket, then frowns as the two guards place themselves to lift the flagstone]. By Phili's left arm, plague me not by asking me to assist in such a superficially vain display of strength. Strength comes from within, and besides there is nobody here to impress, my young men [smirks at Gerry], except dear Alice, but she is wise enough to see that neither brain nor brawn makes a well-developed character, but good judgement of when those faculties should be used. I again resist the temptation of such a vulgar display of brute force, but would be glad to assist in the chanting of ``heave ho''. [Audibly mumbles, 'Heave Ho, Heave Ho', as if it were some kind of mantra].

Alice : [With an excruciating whine] Auuuuuuuuuus-tin! I know that you're not given to displays of physical strength, not that you need to, with your arm being so beautiful and all, but this isn't some contest to show off in front of the handsome female judge. We need to lift the stone to see if there are other bodies - or do you just suggest we ask the stone? [Turns to a large flagstone] Hello? Mr. Stone? Do you have a body hidden under you? [Pauses as though listening] No answer! Does this mean he is with holding information? Should we arrest him?

Harvey: Laziness, that's all it is niece, laziness. The modern soldier today only interested in all this inner beauty malarkey...ah for the services of a ranker from the old school, all toil and no thought. Now come along Pte. Sleaze don't be difficult, Flagstones have got to be shifted so lend a hand now like a good soldier. Oh [intoning] the afflictions of the modern officer, more nurse-maid than disciplinarian.

[Frustrated at the lack of action in the past few minutes, CLINT and HARVEY join GERRY and DERRYat the flagstone. With an almighty heave the flagstone flips up on its side and over - landing on AUSTIN'S foot. Curiously enough, AUSTIN doesn't even flinch. There is nothing but dirt below this flagstone, and it looks like it hasn't been disturbed in years.]

Austin: [Snarls, with a murderous undertone] Oafs. What charlatans I am forced to work with. Not a mite do they care what harm their actions may cause. Note that were this investigation not such a pressing engagement, I would have each and all of you brought up on charges of reckless and needless endangerment of life, and also for grievous bodily harm. [Wrenches his foot out from beneath the flagstone, then wriggles his toes about inside his boot, attempting to restore it to it's original shape and form. He then flails his cape about him, and stomps towards the foot of the stairs. Then turns, and addresses the party once more]. Take caution and heed, for I shall see to it that those that are careless once again, shall not live to regret it. [Climbs the stairs, two steps at a time.]

Clint : [After catching his breath] Hey, Captain Pompous, I think that the endangering of life [yelling after Austin], at least, in your case, wasn't needless! [Going up the stairs] I also think that we know exactly what our actions are doing - and have done! Next to nothing! [Rounding on the rest of the party] Maybe it would help if we tried to condense our efforts towards more than searching under random rocks. [Towards the door] Oh Captain... [Exits]

[Exit AUSTIN, followed by CLINT]

Alice : [Looking around blankly] Captain? You mean Aussie isn't actually Austin Sleaze the lawyer, but is instead the famed Captain Pompous of the 53rd Undercover Riflemen? That he has been here under false guise the whole time? Furthermore, does this mean that the real Austin Sleaze is also missing? Shriek! [Tries vainly to lift another flagstone] Come on, help me! Maybe Austin is under here!

Harvey: Now Niece [places hands on her shoulders] do not hurt yourself, Clint got it wrong, Austin is no captain. The fool can't distinguish rank and doesn't realise the gulf that lies between the two. He probablyy thinks a sergeant is someone who controls an army and a Field-marshal the cooks attendant. No no don't distress yourself, Austin is only too here I'm afraid, though even he would make a very poor cooks attendant! Come now let us go from this place and have some respite. We can return tomorrow! Who knows maybe the Mayor will sanction the mobilisation of the townsfolk to aide us in fully excavating the entire cellar. [Ruminating] A Plan of campaign is presenting itself in my mind. Yes indeed...a plan...yes indeed [drawing the note-pad]. Come now, let us go!

[Exit HARVEY, ALICE and SR. IMMACULATA]

Derry: [Turning to Gerry] Let me get this straight, they've left us alone at the crime scene, possibly surrounded by hundreds of corpses?

Gerry: Not exactly, [tossing a bottle of Gringripper across to Derry] there's still the matter of the nine hundred bottles of Gringripper that must be taken care of.

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 9. Time : Friday 6.30PM : Moe's Tavern.

[The tavern is in quite a state after the earlier riot. There are six of the town guards here, including DEREK ALERT, a sergeant. CLINT and AUSTIN are here, talking to them. Enter HARVEY, ALICE and SR. IMMACULATA]

[ALICE grabs a broken bottle from a table and starts waving it threateningly at AUSTIN]

Alice : Okay, mister whoever-you-are! We know that you killed Austin, now spill it!

[The guards all look at each other uncomfortably, as though not entirely sure how to react]

Clint : Alice? What are you talking about? This is Austin... I think. Now, we were just discussing with this nice gentleman here [points to Derek] our next plan of investigation. So why don't you put down the bottle and have a nice, relaxing drink?

Alice : [Dismissively] That's exactly what he wants you to think. We have a witness who claims that this impersonator is someone else entirely. [To Austin] Take that ridiculous rubber mask off!

Harvey: [Flabbergasted] What witness is this! Clint are you trying to throw my Niece off the track by plying her with alcohol. A witness indeed. [Looking Austin up and down] An impersonator surely, but by his actions and words he seems [sighing] the same Mr. Sleaze that I have always known. Is it really possible Alice?

Alice: [Even more flabbergasted] What witness?!? Why, its none other than Clunt! You were there yourself Uncle when he said it, and you sister, do you deny knowledge of Clunt's information?

Sr Immaculata: [Looks at Alice, and then at the others.] I heard Mr Scar, but as usual when Mr Scar is speaking, I didn't really listen. But I feel we're getting a tad side tracked with all this talk of impersonators. [Looks enquiringly at Austin] Mr Sleaze, would you like some ointments or such like for your foot? It must hurt like a devil worshipper on Judgement Day! Or I could say a quick healing prayer. Quick now, remove your boot so I can judge if any toes have been broken.

Alice : [To Immaculata, but loudly enough for all to hear] Good golly, sister, that's a cunning plan! Trick the impersonator into removing his boot so you can identify the toe that you saw when he broke barefoot into the convent! Good stuff sister!

Austin: [Bows in Alice's direction, than pauses as if in thought] Alice, you are too wise for your age, and your beauty belies the sharpness of your mind. I am indeed guilty of impersonating Austin, to the best of my ability, for if I did not, I would not be he that has fallen for so perfect a lady. I would add that the deed of acting as myself, has allowed me to take an external view of the character that I impersonate, needless to say who is myself, and opened many doors that I had not realised were closed, verily should I say have remained undetected. They have caused me to view my perfection in a different light, that of how others perceive me, and I declare I am impressed with what I have discovered. But if anyone should be accused of the most foul impersonation, it is that schizoid identity-thiever Honest Joe Thiever, and his impersonating thieving brother. So believe me now, I am who I am, and if you accuse me of impersonation, I am he then that impersonates, but will always be, Councillor Austin Sleaze.

Alice : [Pauses as she tries to comprehend all this] So, let me get this straight, you are admitting that you are not Austin Sleaze, but in actual fact are Lying Joe Thiever? [To the others] Off with the boot! And on with the process of identification! Wait a minute, if he is Lying Joe Thiever, then maybe he is lying about this too - maybe he isn't Lying Joe Thiever, and is actually Austin Sleaze...[Turning triumphantly to Austin] I put it to you sir, that you are Austin Sleaze, what say you know?

Austin: [Mutters] Buggery and Bestiality. [Intones aloud again] Enough of this silliness. My dear Sister, when you do manage to get a close view of my toe, it will only be accompanied by a loud cracking sound coming from your nose. Leave me be, and believe me he that I am. [Flicks his hair from his face, and smoothly turns towards Derek] For what do you wait, debutante? Relay the message to the Colonel, and speedily done will reward you in your dues of grave-digging sooner than it ought.

Alice : So what you're saying is that you're both? That you're in actual fact suffering from a neo-classical episodic subjectively objective schizoid self-deferential submembrane distress syndrome? Well, that explains a lot.

Derek : [To Austin] Excuse me, sir, but I thought it better to wait until your innocence was proven - however, I shall proceed. [Addressing Harvey] Colonel, we have been ordered to search the cellar for any more bodies, to allow you and your companions to proceed. Shall we begin? Or will I arrest this man first? [Nods to Austin]

Austin: [Points his finger at Alice] Incorrect my dear, if I were indeed suffering from such an, in this day and age, archaic syndrome, it would have been a partial self-deferential holistic beatific Creolean submembrane distress syndrome, but then I am not entirely sure if I am in the right in such a dubious analysis. Nonetheless, I remain innocent of all misdirected accusations, which indeed seem to be floating about my person with greater frequency. [To Derek] Continue with your orders my good man, so that we may proceed with what haste remains in our spirits to solve such a heinous crime. Where is the facetious mayor Aubrey, at the present time? Answer swiftly for time presses upon us with such force, that we may bend and fail to save the innocent, again I must emphasise of whom I am one.

Derek : [Looks enquiringly to Harvey] Colonel? [Tuts out loud, before turning and whisperings to his men] No wonder the mayor asked us to check up on these guys - makes you kind of wonder what qualification it takes to become an investigator. [Back to Austin] Well sir, as you appear to be the leader, you should know that mayor Aubrey is in his house, expecting you and your .. the others to meet him for dinner in quarter of an hour.

[Exit DEREK and the other guards into the cellar]

Harvey: [Rubbing his temples] So plainly is he or isn't he Austin Sleaze? And this neo-classical episodic subjectivity obj [counting the words on his fingers]....thingy, is that [scratching his head]...well that is....[staring at his index finger] that he is mad! I vaguely recall some messenger while I was eh hem... following these deductions niece and it seems that you have absorbed too much of those Psychology lectures for comfort at that school of yours. Natural ignorance in young ladies is a blessed thing. A pity it is that modern education is spoiling it. On the other hand our travelling companion Mr. Sleaze is not only a poor soldier but also seems bereft of any external nor internal sense that I can see. Utterly incomprehensible. As long as he does not get in the way of the current investigation, he can call himself Austin Sleaze if he likes though I would have thought any rum chap would try to keep as much distance from that name as possible. Now the one thing that was clear was that dinner is being served in the Mayor's house and that is tangible enough for me. No rations since lunch is a psychology I can understand! An army cannot but march on its stomach and my stomach is empty.

---oOo---

End Of Scene

Act 1, Scene 10. Time : Friday 7.00 : Aubrey Harding's dining room . [AUBREY, DOCTOR PROCTOR, NURSE TERSE, HARVEY, CLINT, AUSTIN, SR. IMMACULATAand ALICE are here, sitting around a table.]

Aubrey : Perhaps, Doctor, you and your lovely assistant might inform us of your findings?

Proctor : Yes - we proceeded in the normal Kangolian-Petrarchan post-mortem fashion, with removal of spleen, upper intestine, main glands, inner aorta, sub-haemota, arterial metoribus and cranial coslips. From the information we gathered it is clear that carcassical carrion that the ossuary you discovered has been interred in its cadaverous state for some ``Labuntur ani'', as my old professor used to say. Furthermore, identification of this unfortunate who obviously suffered immense cruciations and lacerations was hampered by the clear decay suffered by external tissue but did reveal a pair of dull pustulations clearly consistent with the adornments of identification. Is that clear?

Aubrey : Well ... not exactly...

Nurse Terse : Kid's been dead for over three months. It's the Huxley boy.

Alice : Three months?!? How can this be? Young snakie boy only disappeared the other night!

Proctor : Clearly, some chronologically-oriented disinternment technique or advanced shrivelling of endo- and exo-skeletal material pre-internment was caused.

Nurse Terse : Yes.

Aubrey : So, it would appear that the body is young Huxley, and, even though he was only kidnapped two days ago, it has been decaying for over three months?

Proctor : Good lord man! Can you not speak plain English? I just said that the cadaver in question is clearly a client of the constabulary, taken two nights thence.

Sr Immaculata: Heavens to Betsy! Tell me Doctor Proctor, Nurse Terse, could this high level of cellular decay, something in all my years of healing have never once come across, could this...evil have been caused by certain chemical compounds placed in the Huxley boys food parcel? Or could the poor child, who now sits with Phili, have been kidnapped by devil worshippers, the type who'd threaten to break an old nuns nose for offering to help, you know the sort...could he have been taken as a live host and experimented on by the mysterious ones who feed us with these food parcels? Perhaps the next parcels will all contain this terrible compound! Let us all pray that this is not so. [Joins her hands together and murmurs a short prayer].

Clint : Maybe the boy that was found wasn't actually the Huxley boy, even though the esteemed members of the medical community have identified him. [To Nurse Terse] Good Nurse, what techniques did you use to identify the body, other than by physical appearance? Could it be possible that the body we now have is just some poor sucker off the street that happened to look like the boy?

Nurse Terse : Moles.

Doctor Proctor : [Leaping up from his chair dramatically] Good question, Sister! However, this advanced corrosive cellular decay occurred in uniform fashion, from the extreme phalangical areas back into internal cavities and organs, making the ingestion of a chemical highly unlikely. As for your question about the possible parasitic behaviour of the food suppliers - I'm afraid to say that question is beyond the scope of my field of excellence, that question will have to be answered by another source.

Aubrey : [Musing] So, there is no medical explanation for what happened to the boy [turning to the party in general] - what say you now? Who is responsible for this vile deed? How did the boy get from his bedroom to the cellar of Moe's tavern? Is this likely to happen again? And [leaning over to the party, speaking in a hushed tone] who would like some more creme broulee?

Alice : Why don't we get the famed Agent Sully and Dr. Mouldy from Kings Reach to look at the body? They seem to be dashed good at this kind of thing.

Aubrey : Good idea, young Alice. However, nobody has been to Kings Reach since the fog descended, also, Sully and Mouldy are in the employ of the secret service of the high king, and serve only him directly. Finally, and perhaps the most damning reason we can't use them, is that they are only characters in some trashy second rate children's comic.

Alice : [With a look of disappointment] Oh, and I always thought they were factual accounts.

Clint : Entertaining, but not quite factual. [To Nurse Terse] Moles?

Nurse Terse : [Rolling her eyes as though exhausted from her contribution to the discussion] On the child's leg.

Alice : Don't you remember Cluntie? Aldous said that Billy had two moles on his leg. In fact, it reminds me of that story when Sully and Mouldy discovered that moles were like little mole hills left by tiny aliens who burrow intricate patterns of tunnels beneath the skin of their victim, and that these aliens would lay millions of eggs that would then hatch and - well, of course, it is only some trashy comic, and I wouldn't take it seriously of course.

Aubrey : Alice is correct - at least as far as William's moles were concerned, the child had two on his left thigh. It was said at the time you disappeared, Clint, if memory serves me right.

Harvey: Perhaps [finishing chewing his dinner] we are reading too much into this moles busines. It probably has nothing at all to do with any x or y paranormal gibberish [bemused] in that maybe the moles did not kill him but got him killed. Much more plausible is that some bizarre and ferocious sect, [waving his fork around animatedly] in some weird sacrificial ceremony, murdered him because to their beliefs a double mole on the left thigh, somehow demanded it. [Tapping the empty plate with his fork] Example...in '62 while patrolling the grey ridges in the south, which at that time was the front line and border, my company and I discovered a mad bunch who thought the sight of beards was impure. The blighters had done in a fair number of our boys before and had the beards as trophies. Perfectly peaceable in every way except when it came to beards [stroking his handle-bar moustache]. No reasoning with them at all that when soldiering far afield, beards are inevitable! Eventually had to teach them and sharpish they got it too when they wouldn't listen. So its probably something like that again here that we will just have to stamp out [stops tapping]. Now some creme brulee would be lovely Mayor.

Alice : Beards were impure? Gosh sister, just as well people don't think it about moustaches!

Doctor Proctor: Gentle and wise colonel - you misunderstand my good nurse and I. The moles were used merely to identify the corpse as that of the young William Huxley - we simply cross referenced all distinguishing marks known to be present on the child with all those obvious on the cadaver. The moles were the most visible and, I would imagine, are a more socially acceptable dinner time conversation topic than that of the curious nature of William Huxley's over-generous testicular endowment and associated striae on both inner thighs.

Nurse Terse :[Holding up her fingers for all to see] Three balls.

Proctor : Furthermore, I make no claim to knowing how the child met his death. There are no obvious bruises or wounds on the body - he was not strangled and he did not suffocate. Frankly, I am at a loss. Perhaps he was abducted by some mole worshipping cult, but I really could not say, however, I will admit that my initial reaction to that hypothesis is a large degree of doubt.

Austin: What is this idle banter? The child need fear no more whether or not he may ever have a beard, for his peculiar endowment obviously did not hasten his rise to manhood. I am given the impression, that something suspect is about. [Pauses, and stares at his food, casually stroking his still clean-shaven chin, musing. Then exclaims] By Phili's holy dugout, I have it - the boy was living in the past, which obviously was transfused momentarily by the future when the cloud descended, and who knows how it may have affected persons with such peculiar markings upon their thigh. Unknown to him, the child was simultaneously a being of multiple existences, and in one instant may have been split time-wise asunder. Hence the child died previous to his actual kidnap, but the cloud descended prior to that. So I may conclude that the time between when the cloud descended and the child was buried under that flagstone - of course that is the `past' child - may be equal or less to the amount of time that the present 'child' has spent living his double life. I would find it needless to point out, but I will for Clint's benefit, that once either of the two halves of the child, that both appear to be whole, expire, then the other shall disappear. This then explains that when the child found under Moe's tavern, died, so too did his future doppelganger, and hence the mysterious and secretive disappearance. There was no intruder - the child just simply ceased to exist. And for those sceptics among you, I shall prove that my theory is indeed law, when we find a person with similar markings upon their thigh.

Clint : Wow! I think that is a devastatingly astute concept! Whether it's true or not remains to be seen, but it does have a certain flair. In all modesty, and the fact that my idea was so quickly whisked away, I would have to side with Austin on this point. I always love a good underdog.

Alice : Well said Cluntie! [Taking out a brown crayon from her bag] Now, who's going to roll up their trouser leg so I can draw a pair of moles on their thigh? We can watch them closely and see what happens. This is better than Sully and Mouldy any day!

Aubrey : [Under his breath] But just a little bit less believable.

Harvey: All right then Striae and law aside [staring at the double oak doors leading to the kitchen, willing the chef to bring that creme brulee] just for argument sake Soldier, just how would you prove that particular [eye-brow arches, wondering did one of the doors move a little, followed by a darting gaze to his own dessert bowl, prominent though impatient] theory?

Austin: [Stares the Colonel coldly in the eye, then tilts his head upwards, and leans backwards in his chair]. It bemuses me not that your lackadaisical attitude is so prominent, in such a vital discussion. Have I not just described how my theory would be proven - find a person with similar markings upon their thigh, and determine if any kind of temporal disturbance has interfered with their lives. Most difficult and improbable problems, have the simplest solution, I have found. You, sir, have a simple problem with no possible solution, and that is your lack of comprehension of everyday matters.

Doctor Proctor: Mr. Sleaze - I put it to you that your argument is but a nonsense, calculated to amuse the masses. If, as you claim, there is such a thing as a temporal disturbance which is linked to the brown lesions on the child's leg - which, I hasten to add we used only as a means of identification - why then were the child's clothes also affected by this disturbance? Why did his toy also disappear? And do you, in all practicality, expect to find another person in this town possessing similar markings?

Austin: [Shakes his head, as if feeling pity, yet somehow unsympathetic with the Doctor's words] And I put it to you good Doctor, that it is easier to prove my theory, by finding another similar case, than to disprove it. As for the details they may be, forgive the pun, fleshed out. Can you not grasp the simplest of time/matter distortion concepts? The child's clothes were obviously in the state they were in, because the 'past' child was the child discovered, hence the decay. Admittedly you have a valid point in reference to the two moles, but then who knows what effect such imperfections would have on a child's body when a force of such power may interfere with the order of time. Yes, they may be used as a form of identification, but they are not unique and may have been placed there with a purpose - perhaps some secret conspiracy by the Conspiracy to Overthrow the Phili Enablists. [Folds his hands across his chest, as if daring the Doctor to counter this final point].

Sr Immaculata: Yes, I agree with the Doctor, we have found the Huxley boy. Sadly, far too late to save his life, and to that end, we have failed in our task. [Immaculata rises from her seat, anger in her eyes.] By all rights, we could now drift our own separate ways, our duty done...[Immaculata slams her fist down on the table] But by my Gods oath, I will find the ones who destroyed his young life! I will find those who raped his young soul and rent his innocence into shreds. [Immaculata sits back down, and says very softly] Yes, I will find them. [Her fierce stare sweeps around the room] Will I have any company?

Clint : Ummm... sure! But where exactly were you planning on looking for [ominous pause] them? Maybe we could all go running around town pulling down the trousers and skirts of the inhabitants looking for moles? Or should we just pop back in time and see first-hand? Anybody else?

Sr Immaculata: [Snappily] Oh do not be such a fool, Mr Scar. Of course I'm not going to run around the town, looking for moles...or travel through time! The victim had moles, not the assailants! And I do wish we could travel back in time to prevent this heinous murder, but we can't do the impossible! So perhaps if you tried using your head in a positive manner, instead of formulating replies of third rate sarcasm, we might all get a little closer to solving this evil!

Aubrey : Good Sister, it gladdens my heart to hear your determination. I would appreciate if you would all help in this matter - Mr. Scar, I'm sure we can organise some remuneration for your time, as we will also do for Ms Bassett Short. Harvey? I presume you will also be involved. [Looks to Austin but says nothing] Now, it seems to me that we will not discover how the child died until we discover who is responsible for the deed. I know we have Moe in the jailhouse, but could he really be guilty of such a crime? Furthermore, there still seems to be some doubt as to how the crime was committed - any comments?

Harvey: Well, of course, mayor we cannot let the matter rest here! So gladly I will stay on the case if only to assuage my mind that everything humanly possible is being done to bring the boy's killer or killers to account. Now as for what is possible. Time travel would as yet appear to be outside our capability and even if we could find another boy with the moles, all it would tell us was that he was not yet taken if the moles did indeed have anything to do with it. So what I would suggest is that we should concentrate on the trail of the murderers which logically means that we should question Moe again! While that is going on should there happen to be a person or persons with two moles living in the town, then under the subterfuge of a medical emergency Dr. Procter and Nurse terse should quarantine them safely under armed guard.

Doctor Proctor : Kind and vexed colonel, while medical records in this modern era catalogue all manner of disease, disfigurements, dismemberments and often favourite colour, our questioning is not so fine grained as to individually isolate and described each and every benign growth on each personage in this town. Moreover, I would be adverse to the ``Crying Wolf'', as it were, in the case of a medical emergency - I'm sure we all remember the recriminations from the great Freckle Scare of '72.

Alice : Oh Goody! Lets question Moe again, another 3 hours of more questions that were asked by the arch questioner Quentin Question on ``Questioners Questionable Quest.''

Aubrey : If Moe doesn't have any information, then who does?

Harvey: Yes Doctor, we certainly should not have any repetition of that most distressing incident. Why even the skinning of poor red headed Tommy Fowler, that was forcibly exacted by the superstitious mob even today makes me, an old and hardened Soldier, shudder. But if the whole matter were handled in a swift and professional manner I'm sure it could be affected smoothly enough without bringing the merest ripple of panic to the townspeople. As for the questioning of Moe...well in the absence of any other firm leads...he is our only lead so far! And anyway [picking up the knife again, as he wistfully sighs in resignation of obtaining any dessert] while ``Questioners Questionable Quest'' was a inane and derisable show and therefore absurdly popular, Quentin Question did manage if I recall literally to eke blood from the proverbial stone. [Droning on] Now while the Troop and I are questioning Moe, good Doctor and Mayor, [waves knife in addressing motion] these internees, should there be any, will have to be housed comfortably and securely. Therefore, imagine this dessert-bowl to be the internee camp [pushes bowl in on the table where everyone can see], then I suggest the Doctors' surgery as the best possible site. The jail could prove too be too small, too central and too obvious a target; while the surgery is both airy and already has all the medical equipment needed to sustain a large number of people. Furthermore being on the outskirts of town, it is less built up [pointing to the by now rough star-shaped arrangement, of dessert bowl and camp (the head), salt and jail (left arm), pepper and church (right arm), butter-cooler and Moe's tavern finger-dips and main housing area occupying the empty centre] and consequently difficult to approach without being observed. Finally it backs onto the river and cannot be assailed from that direction. Now [replacing knife with fork] the constabulary could not barricade and man this redoubt while policing the town. So our ``mailed fist'' must come from the militia. Notification of mobilisation could begin immediately under the pretext of routine manoeuvres and war games, preceded by fitness concentrate the Constabulary on both wings in skirmishing order hugging the jail and church for protection those approaches would be screened and tactical surprise denied to the enemy. Lastly on the strategic level our greatest weapon could be the very towns-people themselves. Unwittingly by though unawares they occupy the middle ground and should the enemy try either to filter or push through it, we would be immediately alerted. Thus [rising and placing the fruit-bowl by the dessert bowl] we could mass our militia in decisive numbers at the crucial front at the critical time to beat off any assault with complete confidence. [Plucks an apple and draws a large bite as he sits down].

Doctor Proctor : [Turning to Aubrey] Mr. Mayor, I must protest in the strongest possible fashion - my surgery is a place of extraordinary cleanliness and purity, a result of constant vigilance with the antiseptic and the disinfectant. It is most certainly not some kind of concentration camp where those with unsightly skin blemishes can be held.

Aubrey : I must agree with the doctor, Harvey. We simply cannot round up all the ``Molies'' and incarcerate them, I think the only reason the good doctor even mentioned moles was because that was how he identified the body, and I think you are digressing slightly with all this Mole-talk. As for getting the town militia involved, I'm sure you will remember that the militia number only 12, their numbers having been decimated after a certain, and unknown, [shoots a glance at Austin] stranger joined under 372 different names, all of which were anagrams of ``Austin Sleaze'', and used the democratic structure of the militia to pay those 372 people 10 gold pieces each, thus reducing the militia to near bankruptcy. By all means question Moe further, and if there are any others you wish to question, I shall arrange for them to be brought to you, but please desist with your Molist line of inquiry.

Alice : [With a sudden look of excitement] Hey! Has anyone else noticed the similarity between ``Mole'' and ``Moe''? Why, its practically the same word! Surely this means something.

Harvey: Well [reluctantly restoring the objects to their former places] as a military option it is sound...though the diminutive size of the militia is a blow I'll grant you. While the capital outlay of 3,372 gold pieces on Pte. Sleaze has certainly yielded only very meagre rewards. It is perhaps as well that you feel that the situation does not necessitate the Militia [giving in gracefully] for I could not guarantee that his performance, as yet, would even be adequate. However I will break him and make him a good soldier despite himself.

Clint : [Warily guarding the remains of his food] Perhaps we should follow up on a different track. Perhaps the Huxley boy's rather peculiar endowment is the reason for his abduction and death. His third ball, as it were, might have had some paranormal effect in conjunction with the cloud. Or, perhaps the killers were merely trying to purify the town's bloodlines, for some unknown reason. I think that we should search for other peculiarities of a physical nature throughout the population. The good doctor and his ever efficient nurse could insist that the entire town should have a physical, under the guise of looking for nearly undetectable side-effects of the cloud on the skin. If any other peculiarities are found then they will be marked and followed, not incarcerated, so that if the killers do strike again then we will know where to look.

Austin: [Stands with mouth agape] Colonel, you are an imbecile. I would hate to stand in Sr. Immaculata's shoes, with the firm knowledge that the poor whelp's soul, from where it now rests safe in Phili's hands, watches your pathetic manoeuvres that make a complete mockery of this search. Whereas Clint has some strange ideas - ``If any other peculiarities are found then they will be marked and followed, not incarcerated''. Do you suggest then that those townspeople that have the child's particular endowment should have that third ball marked and followed, not incarcerated. I would believe the townspeople would be grateful for not incarcerating the only means by which they could have offspring. I suppose then that you would check upon all the ladies as well, Clint, in order to verify that they are women indeed and not merely eunuchs who were ashamed by the extra weight in that sacred area, by forcing yourself upon them and discounting those that eventually bear fruit? Try your hand then on sweet Sr. Immaculata and see how little endowment shall remain to you.

Clint : I wasn't implying that they should be physically ``marked'', merely taken note. Name, address, occupation, that sort of thing. And, while I've seen some women in town that I wouldn't mind examining personally, the nurse could examine the women while the doctor could examine the men.

Doctor Proctor : An interesting suggestion sir, however, while not widely known about, young Huxley's generous testicular endowment has been evident since birth. Any people who would be concerned with such nonsense as purification of bloodlines to such an extent they are prepared to kill a child would surely have known before the cloud appeared. Furthermore, there have been no noticeable changes in behaviour of the townspeople since the cloud appeared - except an understandable anxiety about what is happening beyond the cloud. As for those with peculiar physical traits, I can think of only two - Harold ``No Feet'' Murphy and Berek Halfhand, I presume you can guess their abnormalities from their titles.

Nurse Terse : No one's sick.

Doctor Proctor : Yes, that is one unusual thing. Since the cloud has descended, not one person has been ill, save for those who's food parcels contained poisonous food.

Sr Immaculata: So far, the only hard evidence we have is finding the body in Moe's cellar. Perhaps we should search Moe's private residence, with, of course the proper court or constabulary representative. It is quite possible there is a clue to the reason the boys body was dumped there. Secondly, we may find a key which fits the Huxleys lock.

Aubrey : [Standing at a sideboard from which he takes a large bowl of creme broulee] Perhaps Harvey, you need some more props for your town map? Sister, while I have no great love for Moe Moe, I find it hard to believe he has the wish or the ability to create such a crime. However, if you wish to search his house, I'm sure Mr. Sleaze has the appropriate forms which I will sign.

Harvey: No thank you Mayor. The fruit has satisfied my palate and anyway there is no space on the mock battlefield simulation for the creme brulee unless it is to represent the enemy and we do not as yet know from which direction they will come. [Drawing the note-pad and inscribing] Again many thanks, maybe next time like ``Militia Interior Cordon Defence Exercise One'' warrants pending, if Austin is a better advocate than soldier, the good Sister's suggestion is laudable. For should we find incriminating evidence in Moe's house before questioning him so much the better will we be armed. To be fore-armed is to be fore-warned that's what we learned at officer school! [Eyes the Brulee again pondering, whether by now he would have worked up the merest appetite that would allow for it].

Alice : Shriek! Four arms! That's hardly a physical abnormality that one could hide easily! Such a person would hardly need much marking.

Doctor Proctor : [To Austin] Your facetiousness shocks and astounds me, sir, as does your lack of professionalism. As I already described [Turning to Clint] it is unlikely that there are people in this town possessing abnormalities that I am not aware of. I realise, however, that before the cloud descended we had a large transient population - among which many of yourselves would count - and as such, there are many people in this town that I have not come across.

Aubrey : Perhaps they would be the best ones to start examining - I suggest you get started tomorrow Doctor. [Glancing at his watch] Well, its now 9.00, and seeing as how nobody seems to want any creme brulee, despite all the fuss caused earlier, I suggest some coffee.

Harvey: Well I can't speak for the rest of the Troop but I have a full physical every six months and at present I enjoy the best of health, while I have never been afflicted by any deformity or abnormality. And if you insist [now resolved] two more dollops of creme brulee, just to be hospitable. As for the coffee, very thoughtful Mayor, very thoughtful indeed. Black with a spoon and half of brown sugar.

Doctor Proctor : While it gladdens my heart that the Colonel has overcome his inner turmoil on the creme brulee decision, I cannot afford the time to watch further momentous decisions being made. If I am not needed further, I shall bid you all a good night, thank the good mayor for a fine meal and, if you so wish, arrange a meeting sometime in the future to discuss if and how we should proceed with the examination of the general populace.

Nurse Terse : Bye.

Harvey : Yhmmm...yhmmmm...well [downing both dollops and penning the note-pad] why not discuss it after the Troops' medical in the morning? Then we can...say 10:00, reconnoitre Moe's abode before questioning him say at ...let me see [fidgeting with the pad and doing some mental mathematics]...11:00. Though I wonder [looking up] if my niece here would need to be examined, her parents are after all very conscientious about illness and have kept certificates on Whooping cough, glandular fever and the measles, both the common and German varieties. Our family has a fine history of having no truck at all with illness. And anyway [to Alice] my dear in that excellent finishing school of your they must regularly, I suppose, prod and poke you with all manner of medical instruments, just to be sure?

[Exit NURSE TERSE and DOCTOR PROCTOR]

Alice : Uncle - Despite what you and my parents seem to believe, I am no longer four years old. If I possessed any physical abnormalities, lumps or extraneous bodily hair [shoots a barely perceptible glance toward Sr. Immaculata] I'm sure I would have noticed them myself - I do not think I will be attending your troop medical.

Clint : Aww, come on. It'll be fun. [Leeringly] I'm sure you haven't been poked or prodded for a while. As you said yourself, Alice, you're no longer four years old.

Alice : [Mischievously] Well, when I was four a lot of poking and prodding used to go on when Uncle Harvey came to visit - so perhaps he's trying to regain that!

Sr Immaculata: [A puzzled frown on her face] Why, did you have an open fire or something? I know, I know, those log fires take an awful lot of maintenance, don't they?

Alice : [Ruefully] Well, it was something to do with logs...

Aubrey : [Yawning] While I'm sure all these family reminiscences might be of interest to someone, I have other affairs to attend to. I shall get the butler to fetch your clothes.

Sr Immaculata: Yes, do that. [Looks at the members of the party] Well, I think our next stop should be Moe's dwelling. Mr Mayor, if you would be so good as to find us a way of gaining entry, I'd be most appreciative. Hopefully, we'll find something there to point us in the right direction.

[Exit ALL]



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2001-06-01