AS I look back on it now, the dust of time has only managed to add an extra veneer of wonder to this whole kaleidoscopic conundrum that I could easily call a friendship. In truth, my recollection was more a shot-glass memorandum of a bygone time.
The focal point of this gin and wine-soaked affair? A one-time school chum, and erstwhile brother in arms: Skylon. By the end of this short introduction you will see how our paths once again crossed, and how I found a golden ticket to allow you into a world of weirdness and fun.
The time and date's irrelevant, it would merely serve to hinder your freedom of thought. Suffice to say, I was stumbling out of the cratered remains of another Fleet Street meeting and into a matt-paint finished London afternoon. I could easily have been forgiven for getting carried away with the oddity of the situation that befell me, were my daily meanderings as a proud member of the fourth estate, not so generally off kilter.
As I sheltered from what seemed to be the perpetual rain of British spring and summer time I was approached by a man. This rakish chap, sported a full-length coat, black hat and sunglasses despite the weather. Grunting something indecipherable, he jammed a piece of paper into the palm of my hand. He then appeared to melt against the sodden throng of pedestrians and traffic from whence he had appeared.
Opening the note, I instantly recognised the meaning of the solitary typed word: Castelnau. ‘Something wicked this way comes’, I thought, knowing exactly the destination it alluded to and who it was from.
As the better half of me quickly agreed, the note was handed to me by mistake and said contact was surely dead and gone. I drifted towards a hostelry to imbibe a series of fully loaded French 75s. After the fourth or fifth drink my curiosity got the better of me. Within a minute of reaching the West London bolt-hole, I had removed the front door key, still hidden under the rear wheel of the unmoved and ticket-laden Jaguar 420.
From here I entered the decaying old mews and headed straight to the basement.
It was a world of dust, books, stuffed animal heads and weird and wonderful weaponry. All of it smacked of only one thing, my old chum and his family lineage.
I was also greeted by the staccato ‘tap tap, tap tap tap’ of an IBM Selectric typewriter, attached via a ham-fisted series of clips and wires to a Lorenz SZ40.
I was always amazed at how far the fingers of influence stretched from young Skylon’s family into the very arteries of the controlling world.
I could not help wondering how his family had persuaded the Bletchley Park hierarchy to smuggle out such an historic piece of encrypting machinery in the Lorenz. From Turing’s Teutonic-trouncing the machine was now being used to capture the missives of the old desperado himself. Doing so I imagined, as he blazed another trail of destruction on some ungodly corner of the globe.
Piecing together the footsteps of a crazed individual is never easy. So, as I slugged back a fabulous glass of 1961 Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux, fished from a desk drawer, I pondered the words hammered across ticker tape:
Myanmar, Aquascutum, Money… And of course, the final word in capitals - BOOZE.
So, Burma way was where to find my old chum, presumably holed-up in the forests hence the need for the trench coat to shield from the torrential downpours.
All of this made sense, but why draw me back into his world? As the third glass of parafino slipped down, I dug out a humidor and removed a Cohiba. I deduced contact was simply down to my ability to work the ageing encryption machine.
As I began replying, to confirm my involvement in his latest escapade and to ask for a contact address, the corner of a well-worn leather manuscript caught my eye.
Flicking through the pages I realised the treasure that lay within. Out of any form of running order and in many cases completely illegible, the pages contained the hither to adventures of Skylon – or to use his full name, Horatio-Gilbey Skylon III.
Some typed, some handwritten this was a dark and debauched history that now sat in my hands. A box of booze and some trinkets seemed a fair trade I thought.
As the old cad himself would say: 'I’ll drink to that.'
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