Dear Signor Ziavelli,
Thankyou for the first payment and for not involving the police. However, due to an unforeseen development, I will be returning your money, but will not be returning your son. Rest assured, though, that he is threatened with no harm - quite the opposite. I have come to feel a deep regard for him over these past weeks. While I am sorry for any distress that has been caused to you, I cannot say I regret kidnapping Roberto, for then we might never have met.
The fact is, we are in love with each other and intend to set up home together. I no longer want your money as it will be my everlasting joy to provide for us myself. I hope when some time has passed you will give us your blessing.
Could you possibly send his ear back to me via the dead-drop? If we cannot have it grafted back on I can at least keep it in my wallet to kiss when we are apart.
Solly Green Promotions
This to confirm tentatively that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second will be available to open the new annex of Watford Town Hall at 2.00pm on September 23rd if and I repeat if you can satisfy me that her conditions will be met.
Frankly, sunshine, Her Majesty does not have fond memories of your wretched little skank-hole and nor will I forget how you tried to shaft us over the opening of the community centre last year. First off, we want the money ready in a brown paper bag up front and she doesn't go on until it's in my hand.
Second, the backstage rider, get it right this time. It consists of:
1 bowl of jelly beans, green only.
12 Mars Ice Creams
144 Maltesers with the chocolate peeled off
8 bottles Newcastle Brown Ale
Subbuteo game, West Brom versus Wolves, and someone to play against
Professional commentator to comment on above (see if Motson is available)
Dressing room to be decorated entirely in lilac and furniture arranged according to principles of feng shui as detailed in previous mail
NO black cats in the building
NO left handed people, identical twins, or people with squints, to come within a 200 yard radius of the building from two days before. If this is disobeyed SHE WILL FEEL THE VIBES and she WILL PULL OUT
She should win at Subbuteo but not too easily
Moreover last time you didn't come through with the boy scouts. It's not enough to shake hands with them and dib-dib-dab, she's gotta meet them in the dressing room afterwards, get to know them better, capeesh?
I am authorized to say that if things aren't done right this time the Grenadier Guards will be paying you a visit after-hours, and your lovely new annex isn't fireproof, know what I mean?
Some quick points in reply to your memo
1. Helium-filled footwear for the older person who feels difficulty getting about the house is a definite gap in the market.
2. We have spent a great deal of time and money developing this product. A multi-million pound marketing campaign based around the slogan 'Feel lighter than air' is ready to go.
3. We have successfully tested designs for helium-filled shoes, slippers, and zip-up furry boots.
4. We feel confident that not only could this invention garner us a commanding position in the comfortable footwear market, it may in time come to replace the stairlift and other devices enabling elderly people to get about more easily.
Skillful manipulation of the helium valve, easily learnable by the brighter old people, would enable them to float gently upstairs. In an outdoor situation, it would enable them to leap with one mighty bound over high walls, small buildings, etc., which would make shopping easier and allow them to escape if menaced by young thugs - something to stress in the advertising.
5. However, it would be foolish to ignore the teething problems. Many of the test subjects experienced difficulty either in adjusting the valve or learning to move in the shoes and ended up either bobbing helplessly about the ceiling or walking around their house upside down.
6. Possible solutions:
a) A tether attached to the floor, to be worn by all users of the shoe, with which they could reel themselves down if they floated off.
b) A preset timer on the shoe which would automatically deflate the helium sac every few hours, thus precipitating them to the floor, albeit with a bump.
c) Some sort of long boathook to be provided free with which members of the shoe-wearer's family or concerned neighbours could fish them down from the ceiling at need.
7. In an outdoor scenario, overfilling of the helium sac can lead to greater problems. In one trial a Mrs. Rose Cudlip of Chorley and her shopping-trolley ascended to a height of 22,000 feet and were reported by 2 RAF pilots as a UFO.
8. Leakage from the helium sac reported in a small number of cases is less of a drawback, as old people tend to have high-pitched voices anyway.
9. In reply to your concerns about the pricing of the product, despite its cheaper cost hydrogen might not prove feasible as a replacement for helium. Old people as a demographic smoke more than other groups and in our tests with hydrogen slippers we noted a number of explosions caused by accidents involving cigarette embers, causing testees to be blasted head-first through the ceiling or fly around the house like a rocket.
10. Let's do squash and a dry-hump at the weekend, yeah?
Get back to me,
FROM: DOCTOR N'BUKO ALAJUGWA
RE: I WANT TO GIVE YOU $150 MILLION
YOUR NAME HAS BEEN GIVEN ME AS AN HONOURABLE MAN, FOUR YEARS AGO THE ASSETS OF ONE RICHARD SMITH WERE SEIZED WHEN HE AND HIS FAMILY WERE LIQUIDATED, I AM HEAD OF ETHICAL REPARATIONS COMMITTEE AND no but seriously, I'm a police agent trapped in a Nigerian conmail boiler room, I've infiltrated them but they're watching me every moment IF YOU CAN PROVIDE FULL DOCUMENTATION AND BANK ACCOUNT looking over my shoulder damn them, I don't have much time, you have to get a message to Pieter Vanderveer of Interpol as soon as DEPOSIT THE SUM OF $150,000,0000 US BUT YOU MUST FIRST AS A GESTURE OF GOODWILL phew that was a close one, listen my life is in danger you have to help me tell them to go to the old abandoned BLESSINGS OF CHRIST BE UPON YOU, I AM THE REVEREND SOLOMON UMGAWA MD, IN 1998 A PLANE CARRYING OVER $2000,0000 IN UNMARKED GOLD BULLION LANDED ON MY CHURCH that's right you filthy swine I'm typing in capitals, move along, nothing to see here, now quick listen tell them we're in the Oh God God no they caught me oh Jesus oh mother oh please god no not the weasels anything but the weasels aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrgggggghhhh
I'm dying, dying, urk.
Your plan to rub out Big Vinny's mob, although commendably ambitious, betrays a lamentable ignorance of Game Theory and indeed the Second Law of Thermodynamics. What you fail to take into account is that any action we take against our competitors will invariably result in them responding in kind. Homo homini lupus and all that, but there must be some accomodation that can be reached that, while preserving a certain healthy competition between our rival outfits, will avoid a descent into entropy and the horrible necessity of having to carry a gun at all times, which tends to ruin the line of one's suit.
Cannot it be arranged that he shall take the south side of the territory and we the north? Of course should Dutch make any move against us you are empowered to retaliate - it has long been established that Tit-for-Tat is the most sensible modus operandi in any Commons situation - but you are not repeat not to unsettle the status quo on your own initiative.
I have no plans to return to the States just now - it is quite impossible at the moment as not only are exams approaching but I am taking the part of Charlie's Aunt at the Cambridge Footlights - and as you know it distresses me to visit the nightclub anyway due to the poor grammar and casual loutishness of certain members of the gang.
Nevertheless I wish it to be understood that even at my present remove I take as keen an interest in the running of this mob as did my father before me, and will no more brook the slightest disobedience than he did. Although it is true that my father's wealth and his insistence I receive the best education money could buy has enabled me to live a somewhat sheltered life, I am still his son and by no means soft or nancified. Anyone who dares hint otherwise will be forced to construe Horace until his face turns blue. (I have just cackled evilly to myself as I imagine your pallor now.)
In due course I will be returning to take a more hands-on approach. I already have a few new ideas which I am looking forward to implementing and I think you as my consigliere will be excited by them. For one thing, we will no longer be running numbers or peddling drugs. Instead, I propose we sell encyclopaedias door to door, with menaces. Gambling and heroin are all well and good, but I don't think there's anything quite so addictive as learning, is there?
Now. As to the matter of Frankie Doughnuts skimming off the top. (What colourful names you all have, by the way! You must explain the etymology of that one to me one day). I agree that embezzling must be discouraged and that he must be made an example of. However your mooted punishment does not go far enough. I have another suggestion. In the course of my researches into 15th-century Florentine art I have just been reading about a splendid jape Brunelleschi played on one of his workmen, in which he arranged for everyone to pretend not only that they no longer recognised this chap, but that someone else was him. The poor fellow was reduced to a state of existential panic and ended by being afraid to go to his own house lest he should meet himself there. Isn't that the most horrible thing you have ever heard? I propose we do the same to Frankie - do you not think it would be much crueller than your simple meat-hook idea?
Finally. I don't know how closely you've been following the controversy in biological circles over traditional Linnaean versus Phylogenetic classification of species, but Lippbaum of Harvard has recently poured scorn on the position of my beloved old tutor Biffo Blenkinsop, who is a thoroughly good egg and taught me everything I know about butterfly collecting. This displeases me. I wish you to pay this oaf a visit and explain to him in no uncertain terms that a cladistic redefinition of taxa is inherently absurd and that in rejecting the use of categorical ranks in nomenclature he is pursuing lexicographic stability at the expense of taxonomic utility. If he will not listen to reason, kindly cut his bollocks off.
Toodle-pip for now,
Your partner in crime,
Dear Miss Mountains,
I am sorry to inform you that after due discussion we have decided not to select you as our prospective Member of Parliament for Little Waldron. While it is true that the Conservative Party is liberalising in some ways and looking out for a new type of candidate, we feel that many in the consituency are not yet ready to be represented by an MP who currently earns her living as a porn star. We are a staid and traditional county and you may have better luck finding a seat in faster places such as Shropshire or Devon.
I am all for people improving themselves, and it is true that skills learned in one area of endeavour can often be applied to another. However if you intend to apply again elsewhere I would advise you to read up on parliamentary procedure and gain some experience of the basics of modern political campaigning first. While you struck us as a personable and eager-to-please young woman, you disappointed at the interview by repeatedly giving the same answer to questions as disparate as 'How would you go about getting the attention of a minister to discuss the concerns of your constituency?', 'How would you endeavour to help constituents whose livelihood has been adversely affected by rural economic decline?' and 'How would you persuade newspaper editors about the unfairness of the fox-hunting ban?' - namely, 'Give them a blowjob.' It is true that politics often involves a number of trade-offs and under-the-table deals but to take it to such a degree would be unethical.
Thankyou for the blowjob but my decision is final
To His Holiness 'Pope Benedict the Sixteenth' (snigger),
Oy Benny lad it's me Sid. So the plan's going good eh you're in cushty now I seen you on the telly with all them nuns and that you really look the part. I always knew as how you was a bright lad and could learn all them prayers and Latin and that. Well I don't know about you but I think enogh times past and they'll be lulled into a false sense of security now. Isnt it about time we made off with the artworks? I'm in Rome now, tip me the wink and I'll bring the van round the back.
I don't really know how to begin this. I feel as if I know you - but of course I don't. And nor do you know me, and you might be slightly unnerved to get a mail like this from someone you don't know. And -
It's probably best if I begin at the beginning. I'm an intelligence agent for Alpha-7 - we're a deniable black-ops outfit covertly funded by MI5 and the CIA - and for the past six months I've been reading your e-mail and tracking your internet usage. It turned out to be one of those really aggravating mix-ups - it was a completely different B. Turner we were after - luckily I was able to correct the mistake before you were taken out. But it was within my discretion to keep the file open, and - well, I find you a really interesting person.
I think it was noticing you spent £20 on the rare Bulgakov book that did it. I spent thirty on the same one last year! He's ace, isn't he? And then you ordered the Abbey Lincoln CD. I love Abbey Lincoln! Really, you have excellent taste - I started buying all the books and music you do and I've loved them all. In particular you got me hooked on Bangladeshi rock - in fact I'm afraid I have to tell you it was me that pipped you on e-bay for the Watson Brothers bootleg.
But... maybe we could listen to it together one day...
I realise this is an unusual sort of approach, but I was just wondering if you'd like to meet up for coffee or dinner some time? I don't know, I just feel like we're on the same wavelength.
I see from your last mail to Tom that you've given up on love and you never want anything to do with women again. Please, don't be so hasty. Jill wasn't right for you anyway. In fact, and I hate to be the one to break this to you, she was cheating on you with her ex Simon. That's why she vanished so suddenly - I planted Sarin in her flat and had her Disappeared. (If you still have your key you might want to feed her cat some time.) I tortured Simon with electro-shocks and dumped him in a male brothel in Tangiers with his memory erased.
Zoe that your sister set you up with was no good either. I ran a background check on her and she's too unstable and has lousy taste in music. She never turned up for the second date because I had her name put on a suspect register. She's in a stealth interrogation facility in Serbia now - you'll thank me when you see her Amazon list.
While I'm owning up... it was me who took care of your horrible boss for you as well. He wasn't fit to polish your shoes and for him to chew you out for forgetting to order bloody paperclips was the last straw. You'll be glad to know he died slowly and begging for his life - I shot him in the kneecaps and then made him eat a whole box of paperclips before I finished him off. You've noticed his replacement Mr. Lowther is much more respectful to you - I dangled him off Tower Bridge for a while to ensure that - but you damn well deserved your promotion anyway and I'm sure he gave it to you entirely on your own merits.
In case you're getting alarmed I hasten to say that what happened to the mechanic who overcharged for your new gearbox was a genuine accident; I only meant to cripple him.
Oh and by the way I engineered the attempted coup in Sardinia that closed down the airports so you weren't able to get home from your holiday - thought you might appreciate the extra week!
Anyway - how about it? OK, I suppose I should tell you a bit about me first. I'm 5'7, brunette, Pisces, like long walks in the rain, and I can disarm a warhead with my hairclip. Go on - take a chance. Any day's good except Saturday as I'm killing a man in Guatemala.
I went through with it. I agreed to go out with him. And...you remember we joked about me doing a kiss-and-tell for the News of the World? Well I got a story all right. Only no-one would ever believe it. I'm not sure I believe it myself.
He was funny and charming at dinner. I'd heard the rumours, of course, the harem of women, the orgies; and the stuff about the things that happen to the people who cross him. But he seemed so nice, just like he is on TV. The only thing was... he brought the puppet with him. And the puppet talked all the way through dinner.
It wasn't really as embarrassing as it sounds; we had a discreet corner booth, and besides he was so funny I didn't really care if anyone saw. Still... it was odd. The puppet didn't just crack jokes. The puppet did all the talking for him. It ordered dinner for me. It asked me about myself. It flirted with me. It made some really risque remarks. It was as if the puppet said all the things he didn't dare.
And I liked it.
And at the end of the evening, I went home with him. With them.
I'll tell you about his house another time. I'll just say the rumours were right, it's gothic and brooding, on a lonely hilltop in the middle of nowhere.
We had drinks in the lounge. And it started again. The flirtation, the charm. But, always via the puppet. Eventually I started to get annoyed.
'Keith,' I said, 'can't we be alone for a minute?'
'Alone?' he replied nervously. Instantly he seemed alarmed. 'What do you mean?'
I laid a hand on his arm. 'Just you and me,' I said huskily, 'without the duck.'
'Without the duck?' There was terror in his eyes. He rose and paced the room, downing another scotch. 'I knew you shouldn't have come,' he muttered.
The duck rolled its eyes. 'He mustn't leave me,' it said.
I rose too. I said, 'I'm going upstairs. To your bedroom. To wait for you. But I want only one of you to follow me. I think you can leave the duck, for one night.'
'You don't understand,' he said. The duck stared at me with its huge eyes as I left.
I found his room, undressed and got into bed. I waited. Presently there were footsteps. The door opened.
And the puppet came into the room on its own.
Keith was nowhere in sight.
That was when I realised, Carol. He didn't control Orville. Orville controlled him.
Keith Harris and Orville
As for what happened next... I prefer not to talk about it. I was drowning. I was drowning in the duck's eyes. It mesmerised me. It made me do terrible things. And I wanted it to. It was a force beyond my control. I was Orville's puppet, as Keith had been before me.
I was enslaved, and there was pleasure in the enslavement, along with the unholy horror. I would be there yet, except -
Suddenly there was a sound of helicopters, sirens, barking dogs from outside. A voice from a bullhorn cried, 'This is the Vatican Tactical Exorcism Unit, you're surrounded, come out with your wings up.'
'They found me, those bastards,' snarled the duck in an unearthly voice.
Keith dashed into the room. 'Quick, Master, get in the trunk and play dead, I'll get rid of the girl.'
I scrambled into my clothes and he bundled me out of a back door. 'He won't get you too,' he muttered as he locked it behind me. 'It ends tonight.'
Shivering in the cold, I went round to the front of the house. And -
Nothing. No police, no helicopters, no bishops, just the empty driveway.
Suddenly I saw the harsh lick of flames from an upstairs window, and a high-pitched quack of pain pierced the night sky.
Then I understood, what he had done. What he had done to save me, his magnificent final performance. The poor tormented man must really have been a ventriloquist once, and a ventriloquist of genius. The bullhorns and sirens had been nothing but his projected voice, a ruse to distract his dark fluffy master while I escaped.
I watched, numbly, as the mansion burned down to the ground. I waited a long time in case Keith emerged, but I knew it was in vain.
I will remember. I will remember his heroism and his sacrifice. And I will go on, somehow.
But ever since then, I've had an empty feeling, as though I am a puppet without a puppetmaster.
And I miss the feel of feathers caressing my cheek, and a savage plastic bill nibbling at my breasts.
Anyway, enough about me, what have you been up to?
Dr. E. Pardell
British Journal of Archaeology
Dear Professor Kessler,
On behalf of the board I thank you for your article. You will appreciate that with a potential discovery of this magnitude the peer review process before publication must be a rigorous one. If you have indeed, as you claim, discovered the last resting place of the vanished Ninth Roman Legion, it would certainly be the biggest archaeological sensation of the past half century.
I must inform you that your colleagues to whom we have submitted your findings have raised the following objections to your conclusion.
1. The last known station of the 9th before its disappearance was at York and they are thought to have been heading north to deal with unruly tribes in Scotland. It is generally believed that some disaster befell them there, although some maintain they were simply redeployed to the continent and disbanded or defeated at a later date. The location where you made the discovery, in Cornwall, has never been associated with the Ninth and has no known historical significance, apart from the fact that it is in the back garden of your holiday home there.
2. Some doubts have been raised as to the dating of the helmets found at the burial site. Doctor Jones of Cardiff informs us that some dozen or more bear the modified chinstrap which only came into use in the reign of the Emperor Severus. Professor Hart of Cambridge points out that several hundred others have the words 'Universal Studios, Spartacus, Do Not Remove From Set' written on the inside.
3. There are certainly 6000 skeletons at the site, which as you point out tallies with the strength of a Roman legion. However, many bear the traces of modern dental work, and all appear to be have been shot in the back of the head with a Luger 9mm - a weapon which most authorities agree did not appear until the 20th Century.
Coincidentally, 6,000 archaeology students registered to your course have disappeared without trace over the past 30 years - at least, we hope this is a coincidence.
Inviting you to address our concerns,
14th December 2005
PS, I may be self-publishing a book or books some time in the new year - watch front page for details