R. Chetwynd-Hayes – Cold Terror (Tandem, 1973: Pyramid, 1975))
Never Take Drinks From A Strange Woman
Great-Grandad Walks Again
Who Is Mr. Smith?
Birds Of A Feather
The Ninth Removal
The Day Father Brought Something Home
In Media Res
The Fourth Side Of The Triangle
An Act Of Kindness
A Matter Of Life And Death
The Door: William and Rosemary Seaton, “two young, beautiful people as modern as Carnaby Street”, are happily going about their lives until William buys an antique door from the recently demolished Clavering Grange and fits it to his cupboard. William, an author, obsesses over his purchase to the detriment of everything else. Soon enough, in his waking nightmares he’s visiting the vast blue chamber it once opened upon and learns that the door was prepared by black magician Sir Michael Sinclair during the reign of Charles II and before long Sinclair is making regular incursions into the house. The door requires blood and Sir Michael has decided that Rosemary’s will keep it in operation as his portal on the world for some time to come …
One of several Chetwynd-Hayes stories featuring Kent’s much haunted Clavering Grange, this and An Act Of Kindness were filmed by Amicus for From Beyond The Grave.
An Act Of Kindness: Christopher Lowe makes a small donation to Underwood, a fellow ex-serviceman forced to begging and, flattered by the man’s servile attitude – “with your permission I’ll call you the major” – allows himself to be drawn deeper and deeper into the life of the matchstick seller and his pretty young daughter Emily who live above a Tobacconist Shop in Poplar. Between them, they draw his life story from him, all the fears and frustrations which he blames on his domineering wife, Mabel. After Emily seduces him (with Underwood’s full approval), promising him “I will do anything you ask me, anything at all”, she shows Christopher a black wax image of Mabel. Confused, he gives her the nod to drive a pin through it. He returns home to find his wife dead and his little boy in a state of some excitement.
“Mum … bath … scream … scream. Ran downstairs .. all wet. Black lady came out of the bathroom with long pin … tried to open the front door naked, tried to open the front door …”
As the child finishes its recital (there’s more of it than I’ve quoted), somebody climbs in the back window.
Excellent pay off line and a definite candidate for any RCH Best Of … collection.
The Ninth Removal: Darker than the usual with a neat sting in the tail. London. Brolley-wielding embittered spinster Miss Amelia Sidgwick, 52, does daily battle with rush hour commuters, snarling, lashing out at MEN who accidentally brush against her, fantasising about chastising short-skirted young women who flaunt themselves at same. Other than her late father, the only man she has any respect for is the Brigadier, her frightfully proper boss at the tea importing company where she is employed in the typing pool. All is well until the Brigadier breaks the evil news that there will be an addition to staff – Miss Anne Franklin.
Anne doesn’t stand a chance. Miss Amelia has her card marked as a “hussy” from the first, what with her long hair, excuse for a skirt, long legs and provocative wiggle, and is soon complaining to Sir.
“You do not see, sir. Blinded by your goodness, you do not see. She bares her flesh and parts her lips in the smile of a harlot. She mocks the godly, inflames mans lusts, paints her face and cannot type.”
The Brigadier makes all the right sympathetic noises. He bemoans the lax morals of the younger generation. He calls her his “strong right arm.” He asks her to infiltrate the enemy ranks, get to know them and report back to him. He asks her to send in Miss Franklin.
Imagine Miss Amelia’s joy when, one evening shortly afterward, having forgotten her umbrella she returns to the office to discover the old hypocrite having it off with her enemy! Back on the tube, a newspaper headline, screaming about the latest murder by a sex-killer, finally pushes her over the edge. She stalks Anne and nudges her under a train at Green Park tube station. Then she heads for the office with a brand new carving knife …
Great-Grandad Walks Again: A vampire with false teeth, one of whose arms is permanently set in a gesture akin to a fascist salute. Oh, and he sleeps in a bath-tub full of whiskey.
Grandma refuses to bury her dead husband so, rather than risk disinheritance, the rest of the family decide to pickle him. He rampages around the house at night, looking for someone to suck, but he’s been rendered helpless since his first attack when he left his dentures in Uncle George’s neck and wasn’t able to retrieve them. All ends happily when granddad lands the lead role in the movie [i]I was a Nazi Vampire.
“You’ll notice the neighbours all look a bit anaemic, which is to be expected, and there was no dialogue worth mentioning. Also, the leading lady screams a lot. That’s only to be expected, too.”
Neighbours: Curtain twitcher June Blandford drags her husband Cyril along to meet Gothic Road’s new residents, the Browns. The Browns are extra-terrestrials and they’re looking for host bodies. The Blandsfords will do nicely. I was going to say Invasion Of The Body-snatchers meets a comfy seventies middle-class sit-com like Terry & June, but that would be making the story seem far more interesting than it is.
Could be I’m reading too much into this, but I came away from this story thinking perhaps RCH had put plenty of himself into it.
Never Take Drinks From A Strange Lady: The hero, Peter Chalfinch is a bachelor at 52, a creature of habit who’s just lost his domineering mother and revels in his anonymity when he visits the pub on Boxing Day for his customary two hours. When he’s picked up by Mildred, an attractive widow twelve years his junior, he falls madly in love with her and races into marriage. Mildred moves into the house his mother left him, and their first night as man and wife fills him with dread.
“Peter gave the marriage bed an anxious glance and prayed he might live up to expectations. A prolonged bachelorhood spent mostly in a non-permissive age was not conducive to a passionate marriage, and he began to recall with some nostalgia the lonely evenings before the television set. A few necking sessions on the sitting room sofa were one thing, a bedroom orgy was another.”
Mildred proves to be something of a sexual juggernaut and he’s quite enjoying himself … until her late husband, Thomas, manifests as a giant black and white spider and takes over the bedroom duties. Mildred is, of course, utterly devious. She thinks Peter is a pathetic fool and only married him because she needed a body for Tom the stud to occupy.
Peter locks himself in the lavatory overnight and calls on “Mumsie” to help him as the six foot arachnid waits outside to claim him body and soul. Her ghost duly appears and contemptuously tells him to quit snivelling and be a man like his father for once in his life.
“What is a man? an animal on two legs with hair on its chin and beer in its belly? What must I do, Mumsie, seduce the barmaid and play football on Saturday afternoon?”
Mrs. Chalfinch’s face became a mask of hate. “Kick, spit, punch with your fists, leer, learn some dirty jokes. Be a man, my son.”
Peter has his Siege Of Trenchers Farm moment and opens the door, but even I’m not spoilsport enough to tell you who wins in case you ever want to read it yourself.
The Shadow: “Now listen, ducky. Listen good. Don’t go making nasty names. A dirty old sod who can’t keep his trousers buttoned up has no right to call anybody nasty names. You’ll pay up, ducky, and you’ll pay up respectable like. You’ll say, please, sir, please take my money, or, so help me, them photo’s will go the rounds.”
London, SW7. Having been photographed romping with “a blonde piece of nonsense”, Bruce Harley is blackmailed by the deliciously creepy Charles Garret and is obliged to beat his brains out with an umbrella. After rifling the dead man’s pockets, he dumps his body in the river and lets himself into Garret’s flat where he destroys the photographs, negatives and files pertaining to himself and several other victims. But that’s when things begin to get on top of him, and Bruce imagines himself to be persecuted by Garret’s shadow. Now he must train his own to better it in a fight. With this in mind, he orders a blow-up doll, dresses it up as the late blackmailer, drags it out onto the common and goads his shadow into attacking it …
The Day Father Brought Something Home: Seven year old Alexander is forever being scolded by his mother for “always talking about things that aren’t there” while his father prefers to think the boy just has a great imagination like himself. Alex is actually psychic, alert to all the ghosts about the house and he’s also away that his faithful mutt Tobias is only pretending to be a dog – in reality, he’s a dog in a man’s body. One day father comes home in a jittery mood, and Alexander is shocked to see that a fierce, bear-like creature has followed him through the door. His parents have a dreadful row about something. Soon it’s all over the neighborhood that a young woman has been murdered on the common by a sex maniac. The police conduct house to house enquiries and it’s soon apparent that they’re very interested in father’s statement….
In Media Res: Richard John Masters dies at 55 … and wakes up reborn, a baby with all the memory and experience of his former life. If only he could communicate with his new mother! As she pushes him along the Kings Road in his pram, baby Richard catches the attention of his widow …
A Matter Of Life And Death: Charles, bored with his life after thirty years marriage, decides on May 26th as the date of his next death. He phones Wilkinson – who he’s not seen in all that time – to “take care of things for me”. When he’s had his self-induced fatal heart attack, Wilkinson duly visits his vault to do the necessary. It’s a routine they’ve been through countless times.