The Slemnec Stone

The Slemnec Stone (Episode 4)


Many people (friends, colleagues and family included) considered him to be a big-headed, self-centred, arrogant pig, they were so wrong he thought: his own well considered opinion was that he may be the most modest person in the world. Dr Jeremiah Chandos ,contented smile spread across his face, peered out of the 747’s porthole at the dense carpet of fluffy cloud below. He was returning to England, having spent three months summer vacation in his native New Zealand. Dr Jeremiah Chandos was a renowned geologist, who specialised in igneous petrology. He was affectionately referred to as J.C. by his students at Blackdale University, and extremely popular, particularly with the female students; and the female staff for that matter.

Dr Chandos started teaching at Blackdale University in October 1992, the year it had opened. Blackdale is a small town located on the Lake Serpentine in the Lake District, quite close to Keswick. The university consisted of two main buildings; a science block, and an arts block. Each building had been designed for about five hundred students. The science building had been built last, and it had turned out to be a bit of an eyesore to say the least, what we might call a ‘carbuncle’. In stark contrast the arts and humanities building was attractive, some might even have said enchanting. To reflect the theme of the building (supposedly one of culture), the education department of Cumbria County Council had decided to give the building a Gothic feel. The main entrance featured a pointed arch about twenty feet high, and inside transverse arches supported the ceiling of the entrance hall. The exterior of the building was dominated by tal windows ornamented by decorative stonework all the way around. These tall windows resembled a translucent wall set in a framework of meshed stone. Anyway, the cost of this building had proved so great, and the schedule of completion had been so far behind, that not enough money or time were available to complete the science building, so the council in their infinite wisdom decided to hastily erect the science building out of grey breeze blocks.

Again Dr Chandos looked out of the 747’s porthole, the layer of cloud cover had now disappeared. Beneath, the Mediterranean Sea sparkled a sapphire blue, interlocked with white crests that shimmered and then vanished. A flotilla of sailing vessels wove in-between a myriad of small islands.

I guess we’re flying over the Greek Islands”, Dr Chandos said, as a young blonde airhostess refilled his glass with port.

Er, I’m not quite sure….”

At that moment there was a crackle.

Ladies and gentlemen we will be landing to refuel in Athens in approximately ten minutes time. If you look out of your porthole you will see Cyclades one of the numerous Greek Island groups. Once we have landed in Athens you may disembark the plane, but please be back within an hour. Thank you”.

Well that confirms my surmise”, Dr Chandos said.

The Slemnec Stone

The Slemnec Stone (Episode 3)

He started to sweat. Had the temperature risen or was he imagining it? but suddenly he felt claustrophobic. He loosened his shirt collar. The air now felt sticky as well as hot, almost tropical. The first floor lights were extinguished, the security men were now on their way. Professor Heinkel rose from his chair and flashed his torch towards the door. Horrified he froze at what he saw he froze on the spot.

Every square inch of the door was covered with wasps, literally thousands of wasps. Bringing himself under some kind of control he moved the beam of the torch slowly to the right and then to the left. Wasps filled both sides of the entire wall. Panic swelled up inside him as he circled the beam around the room and saw that there was not a gap of paint or glass showing, no way out. The quiet humming became a loud buzzing, and then quickly intensified to a deafening cacophony. He clutched his ears astounded at the sight around him. At first the wasps left the wall one at a time and he grabbed the nearest magazine or journal and swatted the wasps wildly. Some wasps were killed but not enough. Then millions of wasps took flight peeling off the wall like old wallpaper. They began to encircle Professor Heinkel limiting his room and airspace. A wasp flew into his mouth and he quickly spat it out. He screamed as the wasps landed on him and stared to pierce his skin injecting their poison. The pain became unbearable and he fell to the floor. The torch dropped from the loose grip of his hands now riddled in sores that dripped yellow pus. It slid across the floor becoming wedged on a slab of granite pointing a pointless beam towards the ceiling. The last thing he felt was a stabbing sensation as fifty wasps covered each eye, and then nothing.

Five minutes later Paul Foreman opened the door of Dr Chandos’ office, “My God! Hey Dave, look at this”.

The other security man rushed in to see what the trouble was. Professor Heinkel lay dead, sprawled across the floor covered in sores and red lumps, his clothes in tatters. Not a single wasp remained in the room.

The Slemnec Stone

The Slemnec Stone (Episode 2)

Panic struck him when the key jammed in its hole. Forcing himself to relax a little he tried again. A sigh of relief escaped him as the door creaked open. The key must have been slightly imperfect due to heat deformation of the plaster cast or something. That was one answer to the hindrance but now was not the time for theorising he thought as he glanced at his watch. Fifty minutes left before they made their down and caught him in flagrante delicto. The situation was too risky to chance turning the light on, if the security men caught a glimpse of a light from one of the opposite long corridors on the higher floors, they would be down in no time. With three months to plan this little jaunt Professor Heinkel was primed good and ready. He rummaged in the deep pockets of his long black trench coat and withdrew a small torch.

There were so many pot plants scattered around that for a second Professor Heinkel had the surreal feeling of being thousands of miles away, not in Blackdale, but in a tropical jungle or a rain forest. Some of the plants were seven feet high and just about touched the ceiling. The windowsills were so full of plants that it was difficult to actually see out of the windows. He contemplated turning a light on, but decided that was not such a bright idea. Between the plant pots there was a potpourri of different types of rocks spread at random. Rocks covered the floor as well as the window sill basalts, granites, gabbros, komatiites and various other exotic types. The surreal feeling soon passed and he wondered where to start looking.

The filing cabinets, which surely held the vital information he was seeking stood against a wall to the right hand side of Dr Chandos’ desk facing the door. Forty five minutes to go before the security men started to check the ground floor. Ten minutes just to get here and look around. Good going. He started flicking thorough the first filing cabinet. Another fifteen minutes passed and he was still none the wiser. Each filing cabinet had three drawers, five minutes per drawer. Must speed up. Forty minutes passed by and he had just about finished going through the last drawer of the third cabinet when his flashlight threw a beam upon a red file. This was the one; the others had been black. He remembered Dr. Chandos boasting the previous term, in the staffroom, the work in this file was going to revolutionise the field of geology. That day Professor Heinkel seethed with jealousy as Dr. Chandos danced from the room waving a red file above his head.

Professor Heinkel began to read the file which had ‘Plans for October 2015’ scrawled across its plastic front in black marker pen. His attention was interrupted when he saw the second floor lights go out, and a few seconds later the first floor lights came on. They were slow this evening, at least another ten minutes at least before I need to get my skates on. There was a reclining padded leather chair tucked under Dr Chandos’ desk. Chuckling to himself he pulled the chair out, sat down, reclined the chair rested his feet on the desk, and started to read.

Half way down the first page a quiet humming disturbed him from his reading. The sound came from directly behind him. He abruptly turned around. The noise stopped. A wasp was resting on a gigantic leaf of one of the tropical plants which filled the office. I’m getting jumpy in my old age, he thought and laughed out loud. Two pages into the file he frowned at what he was reading. “Just what the hell is this? It certainly isn’t geology”.

The Slemnec Stone

The Slemnec Stone (Episode 1)

This is a novel I started to write some 20 years ago after leaving Manchester University. A few samples of the opening chapters will be published on this blog and the rest will be available on amazon kindle soon.


Professor Heinkel watched the lit university as he shivered hiding in the bushes flanking the small lane leading up to its entrance. It was a cold October evening and he’d been waiting three quarters of an hour for the two security men occupying the booth next to the main doorway to start their rounds. From his dank hiding place he could see the two security men clearly, but they could not see him. He knew they started their routine check on the top floor, the fifth; this would give him about an hour to find what he wanted; plenty of time for his purpose. An owl hooted close by giving Professor Heinkel a fright. Jesus. About to give up and head back to the warmth of his apartment the two security men folded their newspapers almost simultaneously, got up and headed through the inner entrance doors towards the lift. He waited for another five minutes, just in case the lift was already on the top floor and had to descend. Then he crept out of his hiding place certain no-one was watching him, and walked quickly to the main entrance of the geology department. Just dreary old glass doors, nothing so fancy like the arts building. When he reached the double glass door he glanced around checking again nobody was watching, convinced he was safe he quietly let himself in.

The plan of the building was an empty rectangle with the main entrance facing the shortest corridor, and the long arm to the right about ten feet away. Outside in the centre there was some shrubbery and a small waterfall. During the hotter weather some of the lecturers could be seen from inside eating their pack lunches and smoking in the quadrangle. His intended destination was the office at the end of this nearest long corridor. Professor Heinkel hesitated and started down the pitch-black of the passage. This was it. Before the end of the academic year in the staffroom he’d manage to pinch Dr. Chandos’ key to his office from his patched tweed jacket and quickly had a plaster cast made of it before returning the key under pretence that he had found it under the coffee table near to where his younger colleague had been drinking his morning glass of port. Soon he would discover the secrets of Dr Chandos’ new project, and why he was so unwilling to discuss his work with any of his fellow lecturers. He’d come so close to finding out last term just why Chandos was so keen to guard the content of his work, but the telephone had rung the same evening he had had the key made. The petrochemical industrial giants sponsoring his research requested his presence in Germany for three months so he put his investigation on hold and booked a flight for first thing the following morning. He’d cursed his luck but Dr. Chandos would keep. Now he was about to know his secrets. Oh yes he was going to know alright.

Saliva dribbled down his chin, he was drooling as he began to make his way to Dr Chandos’ office. In the darkness he crashed in to something superficially hurting his knee. The sound seemed to echo through the building, he knew it just seemed that way in his heightened sense of awareness, the security men were on the top floor. He quickly realised he’d toppled over a small table students used to pile their work on during term time. He picked the table up. Muttering something obscene, he carried on with his furtive sortie towards the office. Why the hell didn’t the others make use of the pigeon holes they were given. At the end of the corridor he stopped and cocked his ear to Dr Chandos’ office door. All quiet, good, stop being silly, of course it was quiet. Dr Chandos was in new Zealand and wouldn’t be returning until tomorrow.