The dying rays of a perfect May sunset streamed through the bow window, silhouetting the pensive figure who gazed out across the lawns of the great castle. As Bock, deep in thought, scanned the horizon of his vast estate, the light caressed his face, illuminating his fine features and revealing the faintest flicker of secret anxiety on his manly brow. His magnificent physique suggested an almost feral strength and yet his deep clear gaze spoke of a fine intellect and deep sensitivity. As he followed the sun’s declining disc, he gently tapped out a tune on the marimba- a primitive African xylophone. Then suddenly and with great force, he flung the marimba to the floor, smashing it in a thousand shards.
Where is he? Bock murmured. Where the devil can he be?
With a discreet knock, a wizened butler entered. It was Scrotum, a wrinkled old retainer.
Pardon me for interrupting, Sir. Despite his 183 years, Scrotum’s voice was strong and confident. That- he paused and began again, That person is at the door.
Bock spun around to face him. The devil you say! So he came after all, did he?
Scrotum, with barely-hidden distaste, raised an eyebrow. I take it you do not wish me to eject this person, Sir?
Bock laughed a great hearty bellow. Oh my dearest Scrotum. What ever should I do without you? No indeed: show the rascal up, will you? There’s a good chap.
Very good Sir.
As Scrotum silently withdrew, Bock took a leather-bound volume from his escritoire. It was a first edition of his celebrated research into the Titius-Bode Law of Planetary distances in which he proved that both Newton and Einstein were totally wrong. On some matters, Bock cared not a jot, but on others his enthusiasm knew no containment, and as always, when he pondered the unbounded universe, Bock became lost. But still, even as he read, he became aware of a presence behind him, and by the stench of cheap scent mingled with the tang of armpit sweat, he knew at once who it was.
So, he said without turning, have you brought them, Limehouse Dick?
The man he addressed was a great hairy shuffling brute, with a shifty sideways glance and an evil-looking scar from the corner of his eye to the base of his ape-like chin. His cauliflower ears told of many an angry struggle and his ham-like fists hinted at a life spent fighting in the mud.
Brought them, Guv? echoed Limehouse Dick. I brought one for yourself, Guv, and it cost me deep in purse.
Bock wheeled to confront him. One? he demanded. One is no use, you fool. I said two and I meant two, dammit. D’you understand me, Sir?
Limehouse Dick recoiled as if struck.
Steady on Bock, me old mate. No need to get all shirty on me. With a sly grin, he tapped his breast pocket. Maybe a little persuasion might be –
But he got no further, as Bock sprang forward and caught him by the throat. By God, Sir, Bock hissed, do not trifle with me, or I’ll thrash you within a metric inch of your life. You mistake me for another if you fancy I will stand for it.
Limehouse Dick did not know it, but Bock held him in a secret grip, learned long ago from a dying Porroh man on the lagoon river behind the Turner Peninsula. The slightest pressure could kill a buffalo. Though he was unable to move a single muscle, the fear in Limehouse Dick’s eyes told Bock he was a defeated man, and he pushed the unfortunate fellow away, with a soft sigh of regret. He took down a didgeridoo and began to play a soft, haunting monotone melody in time with Limehouse Dick’s sobbing. Only two men have ever mastered the art of playing the didgeridoo and talking at the same time. One is long dead and the other is Bock.
Don’t take it to heart, my dear fellow, he chuckled, expertly kicking a bottle of fine brandy to Dick. Have a drink and compose yourself. Now, come show me what you’ve brought.
A trembling Limehouse Dick fumbled inside his grubby jerkin and pulled out two tattered pieces of light cardboard. One for yourself, Guv, he muttered resentfully.
And the other? prompted Bock.
Dick shifted uneasily. The other ticket for young Master Bullet.
Bock snatched the two tickets from Dick’s hand and quickly secreted them between the covers of the leather-bound book.
Get on with you, Limehouse Dick, he laughed, and have Scrotum give you fifty guineas on your way out. You old rascal! Oh, and tell him to ready the Bentley. We’re going to Cardiff for the week-end.