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Monkey Nuts (standard:mystery, 9117 words)
Author: Peter EbsworthAdded: Nov 07 2003Views/Reads: 1953/1539Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Sir Edmund is enjoying a quiet evening at his London club when he receives an unexpected visit from a stranger recently returned from Africa. The man claims to know the fate of Edmund's parents who were lost on an expedition sixty years before. A fate tha
 



It was a bitterly cold night. So when Sir Edmund arrived at his London
club he selected one of the red-leather wing chairs close to the fire. 
The Royal Society Club had recently installed a central heating system 
that had been intended to remove the need for open fires. Young blood 
on the committee had argued that it was 1932 and not 1532, things had 
moved on since Henry VIII so there was no reason for the place to 
continue to feel like one of his drafty palaces. Older members had been 
sceptical, not believing that circulating hot water around the building 
would make much difference and that it was a misguided invention that 
would never catch on. Tonight’s cold weather seemed to be proving them 
right. Caste-iron radiators generated an ineffectual, tepid heat that 
left the enormous oak-panelled lounge uncomfortably chill in spite of 
the gargantuan efforts of the coal furnace in the basement. However, 
the inefficient heating system was of little concern to Sir Edmund who 
was being warmed by the seasoned apple-wood logs burning in the wide 
Georgian hearth. Opposite to where he sat was a vacant chair identical 
to his own. Although it was a quiet night, Tuesdays always were, he was 
still surprised that none of the scatter of other members sharing the 
lounge had been lured to occupy it. Perhaps they were avoiding him. 
Margaret, his wife of forty years, had told him on many occasions that 
he was an old grouch. Perhaps she was right, for he never would have 
built his tea empire if he had been prepared to suffer fools gladly. 

On his lap lay a half read copy of the Times. One more sip of his
brandy, then he placed the glass carefully on the knee-high occasional 
table beside him, intending to spend the next hour ingesting the 
remaining half. Now that he had retired, there was the time available 
to read practically the entire paper every day. Except, of course, the 
advertisements that covered the front and back pages. If he ever became 
bored enough to read those, it would truly be a sad day. Raising the 
paper, he turned to a fresh page, angling the journal to best catch the 
light from the standing lamp behind him. Although he still refused to 
become dependent on spectacles, his eyes were not what they used to be. 
Immediately, his attention was caught by an article headed ‘Ship’s 
passengers eaten by giant apes’. A keen amateur naturalist since 
boyhood, he was fascinated by the grainy photograph which showed two 
pure white gorillas, huddled together in a iron-barred cage standing on 
Greenwich dock. 

‘Suspicions were aroused,’ the feature began, ‘when an unnamed Lady and
her Gentleman companion failed to disembark from the ‘Chelsea Lady’ 
after completion of her ten day voyage from the West African 
protectorate of Gabon. On receiving the report that not only had they 
failed to appear on deck but that the Purser could elicit no response 
from their quarters, Captain Charles Laker instigated a search of the 
ship. Crewmembers found the two white apes roaming the corridors in the 
accommodation section. Both how the apes came to be onboard and the 
whereabouts of the missing passengers still remains a mystery. Although 
some discarded clothing was discovered nearby, police constables 
attending reported that there were no signs of foul play. 

Nevertheless, First Mate Jim Gibbons, told this reporter that in his
opinion it was “bloody obvious that the monkeys ate ‘em, how else do 
you explain”...’ 

Just then he was distracted by the sound of a raised voice emanating
from the reception lobby, where Charles, one of the Society’s longest 
serving stewards, was on duty. 

‘...BUT I TELL YOU THAT IT’S A LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP...HOW CAN IT
BLOODYWELL EXPIRE!’ Lowering his paper, he cocked his head to listen. 
On the edge of his hearing were Charles’ cotton wool tones in response, 
the actual words indistinguishable. ‘OFF COURSE I CAN PROVE WHO I 
AM...THERE...DOES THAT SATISFY YOU.’ 

Following this outburst, there were more conciliatory sounding murmurs
from the steward then an extended silence, long enough for Edmund to 
wonder whether the troublemaker may have given up and left. A few more 
moments, then satisfied that even if he hadn’t left he must have gone 
through to the bar, he returned to the article. Before he had time to 
continue reading, the rattle of the heavy metal handle to the lounge 
door made him look across the room to see who he assumed to be the 
culprit, enter in an energetic, slightly bewildered manner. The 
disruptive fellow was dressed in a style that immediately singled him 
out from any normal member. Completely out of context for both the Club 


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