With the spring melting of the sea-ice the Arctic coleyfish trawler Lord Ancaster was able to extract our heroes from the little harbour at Banff and restore them to the secure comfort of their penthouse bedsit in Limehousesailortown. Aunty Stella had returned to Surrey after rounding up the scattered Kittens of Chaos from music halls and gaols across the North East. She deposited The Vicecream van and Kittens at Bozzy’s Catnip Den. The van is matte black with its Vicecream logo along the sides in a jagged, Hammer Horror font. It is the outreach vehicle for Bozzy’s Catnip Franchise and began operating in London’s dockland, emerging at dusk from dark alleys and not so much reaching out as lurking. With putrid green cones strobing, and a roof mounted megaphone blasting out a medley of jingles from the score of Hitchcock’s Psycho it rarely attracted children. A trio, hand picked from amongst the Kittens of Chaos, with tattoos and piercings in places that stretched credulity, spiked Day-Glo fur and tattered fishnets, dispensed catnip ice cream to those castoffs and groundunders that, having fallen through life’s coarse meshed safety net, aimlessly wandered the cobbled ways of nocturnal Limehousesailortown.
For a while things were quiet… perhaps a little too quiet.
The back room was windowless, untidy and dimly lit by a single tungsten bulb that hung from the ceiling beneath a conical tin shade. A massive, antiquated, cast-iron printing press dominated the space, bottles of ink and turpentine, sheaves of fresh paper and tied bundles of newly printed pamphlets littered shelves and benches that were situated around the slightly grubby walls; wallpaper lifted at its edges, moss green paint cracked and pealed. Inkblots stained the bare boards and wads of cotton waste lay undisturbed where they had been dropped. The short and balding Neapolitan owner of the establishment, the frayed cuffs of his faded flannelette shirt turned back, had been discussing a layout for the latest Broadside when Slasher McGoogs’ ears pricked to a sharp scraping sound that may have come from the street. He gave no other indication that his concentration had been disturbed.
“Your toilet through here?” he asked as he picked up his homburg and moved to a door at the rear. Without switching on the light in the cramped cubicle he removed his highly polished brogues, knotted the laces and hung the shoes round his neck. Balancing on the stained walnut seat of an ageing Thomas Crapper lavatory pan he opened a small window, screwed his hat firmly on his head, turned up the collar of his pinstriped drape jacket and slipped effortlessly out onto a conveniently situated drainpipe. He was ascending towards the roof as the print-shop door burst in.
The startled proprietor had barely had time to kill the lights and wonder why he had never preplanned an escape strategy when he was transfixed in the beams of several flashlights. The room filled with black uniformed officers in body armour.
Peering over the roof ridge, close to a chimney stack so as not to present a silhouette against the night sky McGoogs could see the unlucky printer being bundled into the back of a dark van. Policemen followed carrying clear bin-bags containing large quantities of impounded printed material, a desktop pc and back-up hard drive. He moved cautiously over half a dozen of the roofs that capped the rundown buildings of a once noble Georgian terrace and slipped through an open skylight. Moments later he emerged from a shop door down the street. Weaving through the shadows between the pools of jaundiced street lighting he crossed the road and turned sharply towards the police van, striding out briskly. Passing close to one of the burly characters who were playfully abusing their hapless, handcuffed prisoner he tipped his hat, innocently obscuring his face with an arm as he spoke.
“Good evening constable, nice night for it.” and he was gone.