”Merry John Mock” sees St. Cyprian and Gallowglass dealing with ghostly swine and malevolent mummers during a Winter Solstice in the Channel Islands in 1919. It was first published as the Third Annual Free Advent Day Story in 2011 via the old HUNTING MONSTERS blog, and then reprinted in the Pulpwork Press Christmas Special in 2011, which is available via Amazon.
“Yes, well, being nosy has its advantages. Speaking of which,” St. Cyprian said, looking at Gallowglass. “Feeling sneaky?” he asked her.
“Depends,” she said, her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
St. Cyprian grinned. “I need you to take the car after we reach the church and go keep an eye on our garish friends on the beach. There’s rhythm to these things…if we don’t find Ms. Craye, I’d wager they’ll bring her to us.”
“Why not just confront them?” Gallowglass said.
“And give the game away before we know the rules? Have you been paying any sort of attention this past year?” St. Cyprian shook his head. “Why I took you on as my apprentice, I’ll never know.”
“You wanted to keep an eye on me, remember?” she said snidely. St. Cyprian chuckled and took the Crossley down the cobbled street. Lecach passed swiftly, there being little of it to travel. The church crouched off to the side, huddling just out of sight like a beaten dog. The doors were open, and candles were in the windows. Despite this, no feeling of welcome emanated from the little building.
Gallowglass hopped into the driver’s seat as St. Cyprian and Jessop climbed out. “Your Bulldog is in the boot,” she said. St. Cyprian retrieved the stubby Webley revolver and thrust it into the pocket of his coat. As soon as he slammed the boot shut, the Crossley was moving.
“Do you believe that will be necessary, Charles?” Jessop said.
“Better to ask, do I believe it will be effective. And I won’t bother to answer because it would only depress you,” St. Cyprian said, looking up at the darkening sky. Lights were coming on throughout Lecach and the smell of woodstoves being kindled was thick on the chilly air. “Let’s go.”
“I wasted days searching the hills and shore,” Jessop muttered as they entered the church. “I thought…I don’t know what I thought.”
“We’re all sleuths in hindsight, Jessop,” St. Cyprian said, slapping the other man on the shoulder. “When did you first begin to suspect that someone had taken Georgie?”
“Her letters,” Jessop said at once. They had paused in the entrance. The church, despite being lit, looked unused. There was dust on the pews and a smell of damp clinging to the stones. “The things she wrote about…” He shook his head. “And when they stopped, I knew that something had gone wrong.”
“What did she write about?” St. Cyprian said as they moved down the aisle. He wondered who had lit the candles, and considered calling out, but then thought better of it. He fancied he could feel the rumble of the sea beneath his feet, vibrating up through the stones in the floor. Then he thought of what he’d felt in the pub, and shuddered slightly. If Jessop noticed, he gave no sign.
“The usual thing,” Jessop said, pausing near a pew and swiping at the patina of dust. “Old stories and folk tales; Christmas is a funny thing, she used to say. It’s an umbrella for a number of other older, little holidays that have gotten all jumbled up.” He shook his head. “You can see for yourself, look there,” he continued.
St. Cyprian sank to his haunches and traced the old, rough carvings that marked the end of the pew. He peered close, barely able to make out the image in the flickering candle light. Pudgy shapes crouched on all fours in the waves beneath the watchful gaze of a bulky figure that possessed only the barest resemblance to a man. “What in the name of heaven,” he said, rubbing at the dust with a thumb.
“I think that’s John Mock,” Jessop said.
“And who is that?” St. Cyprian said, trying to clear away enough grime to reveal the face of the figure.
“Merry John Mock,” Jessop said. “You heard the singers, the ones in the pub?”
“I did, more’s the pity.”
“John Mock is the local Father Christmas, or so Georgie said…a sort of friendly swineherd. Lecach was famous for its pigs, once. Its name, in fact, is a corruption of the French for ‘pig’.”
“John Mock, John Mock,” St. Cyprian murmured. The name struck a chord, but he couldn’t say why. “A daemon swineherd, by any other name, I suppose.”
“What?” Jessop said.
“Nothing, old fellow…just something I once heard. What happened to them? The pigs I mean?” St. Cyprian said, sitting back on his haunches. No matter how much he rubbed, the face remained indistinct. Perhaps age had worn it smooth. Or maybe there was no face to see.
“John Mock took them,” someone said. The click of a revolver being cocked was loud in the quiet church. St. Cyprian froze…