April 0005



Krak des Scharfs, on the Isle Phantasmes. X shows the north tower, where Alphonsine Jared Pimbleman was imprisoned, and Z the cove where 'Ti Pierre left Gorman. In the background can be seen the foothills of the Montagnes des Revenantes. Below the castle is the valley of the Rio Asco.


We left Rex Gorman in deep trouble in the previous episode of the thriller (see November 0003)

Gorman looked up. Somehow Oleg Petrovsky had managed to sneak up on him. Evidently the Spesnaz really were as good as they said.

“So then, you no good Anglik amator. Do I kill you now, or do we co-operate?”

Gorman calculated. With his relatively sure footing on the ground Petrovsky evidently had the upper hand.

“We’re both in the same hole. We need to work together”

“Sometimes you anglitsy are not so stupid as you look. Which way do we go?”

“The way I see it, there’s no point trying to go up. Those rocks, and the stones on the castle – there’s no point trying to climb them. We can’t go along the coast either way, and going back out to sea looks suicidal. It looks like we’re buggered anyway, but there’s another problem.

“Whats that Anglik?”

“My foot’s trapped inside this giant clam”.

“You really ex-SAS?” An enormous wave crashed against the bottom of the cliff, just as Petrovsky stooped to inspect Gorman’s ankle. Blackness engulfed both of them. Permanently.


In the North Tower of the Krak des Scharfes, Alphonsine Jared Pimbleman sighed. Were these tough guys ever going to turn up to rescue her? She had cooked chicken gumbo every night for a month. Every morning she had thrown it all away uneaten. Maybe she should find a way of escaping by herself……………………….


Elsewhere, Ropkind Scharf permitted himself a thin smile.


The end.







In a couple of weeks time, an important but little known ceremony will take place in front of Buckingham Palace in London. This is the burning of the unwanted presents.


Every year, the royal family receives a vast number of gifts from loyal and grateful subjects. Many of these get used, played with, eaten, drunk, smoked or worn throughout the year. However, there is always a large number left which cannot be used by a family which already has several of everything it could possibly want.


In a rare public statement, Princess Anne elucidated further:

“My grandfather, George Vl started this custom in 1948. The problem had been brewing for some time. It was during Queen Victoria's reign that people started sending gifts to the monarch, and for quite a while most of the ones that were sent could either be used, or given to the poor. Around the turn of the century, the numbers of presents increased, and the basement of BuckinghamPalace had to be used to store the unwanted ones. This soon became full, so the cellars in Balmoral, Sandringham and Osborne House were also pressed into service. Again, these also rapidly filled up, and a few years later, Queen Mary ordered a compactor which helped a little.


People often ask why we don't simply send the unwanted gifts back, or foreward them to someone that can use them. I'm afraid it isn't as easy as that. We have to open the parcels they come in to decide if we want them obviously. This means that we'd have to pay the postage on them again if we did one of these things. So they just have to be burned. There's no other choice.”


I attended last year’s ceremony, and it was a remarkable spectacle. The pile of unwanted presents appeared to consist mostly of hand knitted jumpers, teddy bears in garish colours, and souvenirs from seaside towns. It formed a majestic pyramid five metres high. With the band of the Coldstream Guards playing in the background, the Duke of Edinburgh marched across the parade ground in front of Buckingham Palace, and mounted the state podium. After giving a short speech, he advanced, ceremonial taper in hand, towards the pile of unwanted presents while volunteers from the Boys Brigade sprinkled it with petrol. The Duke halted and applied the taper, igniting the pile.


If you want to see the ceremony, you’re probably too late for this years show, but tickets for next year are available from the box office at Buckingham Palace, and should cost about £35, plus VAT, plus booking fee.