Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Gal's 2017 Halloween Frivolities Day 11: Bradshaw's Character Has Spoken


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Detective Norton, welcome to The Gal in the Blue Mask.  Some of my readers have yet to read your story.  What should they know about you?

Detective Norton:
My dear, it is prudent that the reader knows as little about me as is possible, else the miscreants and villains of dear England would be aware of my identity and location, which could pose a problem.  Say if I were back home enjoying a post-dinner gin, at my local hostelry, and someone approached me, bellowing forth that they knew that I was previously one of the foremost detectives in the entire Empire.  I am positive that both them and I would be ejected from the warm sanctuary, onto the foul smelling streets beyond.  Trust me, given that many a part of London town still has open sewers, that would not be a pleasant evening.  Not pleasant at all.  But still, I am the fellow who discovered the true identify of Leather Apron, or as you may know them, Jack the Ripper.  I brought it to the attention of the Inspector in charge of the case, prior to leaving for India.  Alas, my tale fell on deaf ears, and I now spend my days dodging mosquitoes and practicing backgammon.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you believe in?

Detective Norton:
One thing, justice.  And not at the end of a billy club, or administered around the back of the gaol.  No!  I believe in honest investigation, accruing leads, pursuing every last morsel of information unit the perpetrator, or perpetrators, are in irons.  I must admit, in my advancing years, I have fallen out of love somewhat with my chosen profession.  Indeed, this contributed greatly to my retirement.  But that is down to my superiors and their lackadaisical approach to policing.  I tire of bringing them bushels of paperwork, overflowing with written reports, sketches of crime scenes and forensic evidence, only for them to dismiss it without a second thought.  Nothing maddens me more than bureaucracy and the intransigent nature of man.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What haunts you?

Detective Norton:
Honestly?  Promise me you will not tell another soul of this confession.  Say it, or these words will not pass my lips.
            Good.  There was a case a few years back now, of a fellow in rural Somerset who would wait until the depths of night, before stalking farmsteads across the country.  After binding the drunken yokels who tended the animals, they would steal livestock, but never the same kind.  It was as if they were stocking a petting zoo.  I spent many a night lying in wait for the thief, but never got close to apprehending him.  I heard from an ex-colleague of mine a few years back that the rustling stopped abruptly.  To my eternal shame, I regret not having discovered the identity of this fiend before their plan had met fruition or their demise.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any phobias?

Detective Norton:
Not that I would disclose such things to you!  But, given that you have plied me with good quality port, I am prepared to admit that arachnids possess a certain... terror to them.  It's their gangly legs, you see.  By the time you feel the tickling on your skin, and look down to see their bulbous bodies skittering across your now catatonic limb... why... I'll tell you this.  I have engaged many a man in fisticuffs, been under fire for Queen and country, but those eight legged beasties put the willies up me, even now.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

Detective Norton:
In my younger days, I was an officer in the Light Brigade, the finest cavalry unit in the British Empire.  At Balaclava, we were ordered to charge headlong into Russian artillery.  It was a fool's errand, and the order undoubtedly given by someone who has as tight a grip on military tactics as I do on flower arranging.  The thunder of hooves as they thudded against the dry bed of that valley was deafening, muting the roar we all bellowed as we charged the entrenched positions.  With sabres raised, we flew through shrapnel and shot, managing to engage artillery crews at the far end.  It seemed we had been there but minutes before the order to retreat was sounded.  As we plucky few survivors beat a hasty path back to our own lines, we were raked by grapeshot and our numbers thinned still further.  I still awake, from time to time, coated in perspiration, tremoring at the sound of ghostly cannon, and the screaming of my comrades, as they lay dying in the mud.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you lying about anything?

Detective Norton:
How dare you!  I took an oath, dear lady, an oath!  Some things a man is judged upon, whether in his life or the next, and his honesty and integrity are undoubtedly two of them.  I can only recall one instance where I may have embellished the truth a little, and that will go with me to my grave.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What was your childhood like?

Detective Norton:
It was very jolly indeed.  Mother and Father sent me to some of the finest academical establishments this country has to offer, though it will always be the summers that I recall fondly.  Father, for we would hardly see him, would take us all down to Brighton, on the hottest day of the year.  My sister, Catherine, a full three years younger than I, would be propped upon the back of a mule, and would ride the animal up and down the beach until tears filled her eyes, and screams bellowed from her lungs.  We would then retreat to the pier, where we would eat food purchased from market stalls.  There is nothing finer as a child, then chewing on a saveloy, dodging those retched gulls, who seek to liberate food from your very fingers.  As I said, Father was a distant man, with many ills and troubles.  For those few hours, one day a year, it was as if he had been freed from them, and allowed to enjoy the family that loved him so.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Were your actions the result of freedom of choice or of destiny?

Detective Norton:
I'll wager you've been on the other side of the law, young lady?  Mmm?  Something to confess perhaps?  For if you were a man of honour, such as I, then you would know that my actions were borne of doing the right thing.  It is not the easy path that I walked.  Many a time I would be encouraged, through money or violence, to cease an investigation.  Each and every time, despite the riches or bruises and broken bones on offer, I chose to pursue what I believed was right.  I find destiny to be a rather fanciful notion, fit for those who seek a rational explanation for something as simple as mere coincidence.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could go back in time and change anything, would you?

Detective Norton:
I have little time to consider changing anything which has already transpired.  If I were pushed into providing an answer, I suppose I would quite like the opportunity to have spent the last hours with my dying father before he passed away.  It was a time in my life when I was still dealing with the morass of war, and had thrown myself fully into the quagmire of Police work.  I was too blinkered to allow myself time to do anything other than to chase down the array of ne'er do wells that I was charged with arresting.  Alas, I received the telegram too late, and arrived to find that his body has already been removed from the house.  Catherine castigated me for my lack of appearance, and it was this admonishment that brought me to my senses.  Too late for father.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does your name mean to you?

Detective Norton:
A name is nought but a label.  Our family has had its surname altered throughout the last few centuries, following various... altercations with pompous families who wished us ill.  My Christian name is that which was bestowed to my father, and his father before him.  I prefer the title of husband or papa, for they have far greater meaning than any other.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What scars, birthmarks, tattoos, or other identifying marks do you have?  What stories lie behind them?

Detective Norton:
Aside from my moustache, which, despite the advancing years, still looks as plump and bushy as a stuffed squirrel, the only scars I possess are from the ruffians I have apprehended throughout my time on the streets.  A knife wound on the shoulder, a fleshy welt on my chin from a knuckle duster, nothing of consequence.  Indeed, it is quite the conundrum that I made my way out of that damn valley in Balaclava with no physical injuries at all.  The wounds I have from that engagement are the scars upon my very soul, and there is no salv that can soothe the myriad of unpleasantness that was created that day.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What was unique about the setting of your books and how did it enhance or take away from your story?

Detective Norton:
My story, like the ones afore and aft it, is a mere footnote in the grand scheme of a master plan, of sorts.  Indeed, I did little except investigate a series of brutal murders, where the bodies were hallowed out and their viscera pounded and squeezed for every last fleck of its stardust.  I suppose one might say that due to the infamy of the killer it turned out to be, that I am inexorably linked to things, but my name is interchangeable with anyone else who came into contact with that woman.  For I never clapped eyes on her.  She was nothing but a trail of bread crumbs, which lead to a phantom.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How do you see yourself?

Detective Norton:
These days, my midriff has swelled, and my appetite for energetic pursuits has been sated.  As I sit on this veranda, overlooking the imposing city of Calcutta, I look back on my time as a whirlwind adventurer, the kind that is written down in books of tall tales and hijinks.  One day, hopefully before they removed me form this house in my own wooden box, I would like to transcribe some of my... stranger cases.  I have seen things that even I struggle to explain adequately, and would early love other people to muse on them, as I have.  Ultimately, I am a servant to her Majesty, and I would gladly do her bidding until the very end.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How does your enemy see you?

Detective Norton:
As an implacable foe.  I am an automaton, powered by gin and sandwiches, who will stop at nothing to get to the truth.  Woe betide any acquaintance of theirs who feels it necessary to get in my way, of they too shall incur my displeasure.  Sometimes it would be with a witty barb, other times with balled fist, and a firm kick, placing them back in the gutter where they dwell.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How does the author see you?

Detective Norton:
He has confessed, after late night games of rummy, and several bottles of sherry, that he finds me to be a trifle queer.  Tis true, I possess a stiff upper lip, resolve, determination, which some may write off as arrogance, but to one such as he, who grew up on rough estates, I am from another world entirely.  Throughout our dealings, though, he has always positioned me as a man of scruples, and of reasoning and logic.  I could not ask for more.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why do you think the author chose to write about your story?  Do you think they did a good job?

Detective Norton:
I'll admit this much now - move closer, in case he overhears.  Good.  You see, my dear, I haven't actually read his report of my actions.  Do not scoff!  Perhaps you should enquire why first.  Yes.  Manners maketh the man, you see.  I was present at the events that he transcribed.  Much like a game of Chinese whispers, I have no doubt that he had added a little of his own tongue with my words.  Why read about something, when I can reply the events a thousand times over in my own mind, and without any directorial changes, I should add.  Some people, particularly artists, think themselves terribly clever.  They treat many things as banal, when in fact the details which they think trivial are the most important.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think about the ending?

Detective Norton:
From memory, I said my piece to that dreadful man, Swanson, and bid him farewell.  I had a carriage to board, ready to whisk me to my new life in India.  I was not going to wait around for anything which would stop that from being so.  In hindsight, I fear I may have browbeaten the poor man.  Maybe I had expected something more?  Regardless, I did my duty, some would say I went above and beyond, bringing my findings to him, when my service was at an end.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?  Would you change anything about the story told? Did they miss anything?

Detective Norton:
I am confident that he portrayed me as I am.  I am not a person of wild excesses or fractured personality, so there is little he could interpret incorrectly.  Besides, the story I told, is but one of many, and as mentioned previously, I may invite him over to my new house to recant other stories.  This time, I may even bother to read it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Have you read any of your authors' other works?  Any good?

Detective Norton:
Only one, and it was a troublesome story.  You see, whilst he was interviewing me, he made the mistake of imbibing too much elderberry wine, which, as anyone can testify to, is a powerful diuretic.  Upon one of his many trips to the lavatory, I noticed a clutch of pages within his leather holdall.  Now, I should say in my defence that it is in my nature to be inquisitive, but it does not excuse what I did.  You see, when he ventured once more unto the water closet, I took a peek at the manuscript.  Its name escapes me, but it told of a group of cannibalistic nuns, who lived in the stars, and made landfall on earth.  Can you imagine such a thing!  Why, I skimmed a number of sections, and though there were many scenes of blood, gore and fey creatures, I do admit, that I found it rather jolly.  When he returned to his seat, I asked him of his future publications, and he informed me that his latest work, Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space! - the exclamation mark an intrinsic part, apparently - would be available sometime in the new year.  I would say this, though... from what I read, it did seem a very silly book indeed.  Now, if you don't mind, I must excuse myself.  Miriam returns from tennis shortly, and if I do not prepare for the poor woman some squeezed fruit juice, then I shall not hear the end of it.  Good day, fair lady.  Until we meet again.


About the author:
Open the fridge, root around the back by the two week old bacon and the jars of Dijon mustard that have turned into yellow slurry.  Wait a moment.  What the hell is that?  Why, it's indie comedy/horror author, Duncan P. Bradshaw!  That cheeky scamp, always getting into the strangest of places.  But... that's odd, isn't it?  What the hell is he doing inside of your refrigerator?  I wager he's doing what he always does, shedding his corporeal form, walking through walls, unannounced into people's homes and stealing their luncheon meat.  Shoo him away, ideally by wafting one of his books at him.  They can be found online in both digital and physical editions.  Why his zombie collection, Chump, was even nominated for a Saboteur Award.  Yegads!  You best be quick, as he's realised you're looking at him funny, and might steal that jar of jam that you've been saving for a rainy day.

About the book:
We are all made of stars.
            When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history.  Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.
            Yet... the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed.


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