The Prologue: The Man of Rags and Patches.


"I say!" expostulated Vernon, with no little reproach in his tone, "That's uncalled for, my friend, entirely uncalled for!"
The impassive Bouncer gave him a glare of singular malevolence.
"On second thoughts," continued Vernon, speedily rectifying his opinion, "Capital job, keep it up, beautiful arch in which you threw me. Splendid."
Imperceptibly, Harverd slipped into position, or the position in which Vernon was most accustomed to finding him.
“I trust you had a pleasant evening sir?� he inquired with all the tact he had acquired in the years of his servitudinous studies.
“Indeed,� answered Vernon, hastily regaining his composure and clambering upright, from his recumbent position on the ground. They were, at the moment, situated outside the Club de Bolshevisti, a club of well-deserved ill repute. The building was a remnant of the late Victorian Gothic Revival, now plagued with chewing gum (A vile and abhorrent substance, in Vernon’s eyes) and Communist graffiti. The graffiti in question, mostly consisted of Marxist slogans and was inscribed upon the walls of the Club by the drunken regalers as they marched, ingloriously down the high street, bottle of questionable alcohol in hand, singing boisterously. Still, occasionally, some bright spark might write something worth reading, such as the latest addition of the odd phrase: �Pass not the man in Black and White for he is not the man in Rags and Patches.’ An unusual thing to carve into a wall with a penknife, especially when �Down with the Monstrous Capital Regime!’ or �Worker of the world unite,’ and indeed, in conjunction with the latter phrase, �We have nothing to lose but our chains’, just begged to be used.

Vernon, swaying slightly, due in part to the large amount of intoxicant consumed and in part to a light breeze that had swept down the empty street, turned to his Valet, Harverd and murmured:
“Car?�
“Just here, sir,�

Vernon giggled slightly, and walking forward with a rolling gait, most often associated with Mariners, contrived to trip, landing, face-first in a puddle of cold water. Harverd, with arms of resolute steel, picked his insobrious master off the floor and helped him to stagger the last few paces to the car. Ignoring, with all the moral strength of one well used to these physical and mental travails, Harverd placed his employer into the car with the utmost care, and strode round to enter the driver’s seat.
As the car sped through the chill, deserted London streets, Vernon sighed. Headaches could go hang! As could his Aunt! And his other Aunt! And his Uncle Thomas! And the lot of his godforsaken relations, who all took such an interest in his life. All of whom resembled a dead corpse, six years in to the decomposition cycle. His head fell forward into his chest. He slept. And, after a few moments, he snored. Loudly.

Vernon awoke, to discover a cup of piping hot tea, located adjacent to his elbow. His mouth, it seemed, had been glued to his tongue. His head, had obviously been removed from his body, and was now being used as a tribal drum by some obscure indigenous tribe of creatures, native to his wardrobe. As his eyes, blurred by a combination of sleep and cheap alcohol, grew focused, he saw Harverd standing by his bed, with an earnest and portentous expression fixed upon his usual reserved visage.
“WhatisitHarverd?� he mumbled, his larynx rendered ineffective by the fact he was in the process of eating his pillow.
“You have a visitor, sir,� replied Harverd, effortlessly translating the garbled attempts at communication. Vernon dragged himself into a sitting position, placing his stiff back and sore neck against the soft, comforting embrace of his pillow. He took an invigorating draught of the steaming beverage and immediately found himself somewhat revived.
“Who is it, Harverd?� he asked, perniciously, unused and unhappy about this rude and unwelcome awakening.
“A Mr. Sartre, sir. He has asked for you by your full title, sir…� said Harverd, in a voice filled with significance.
“Good lord!� exclaimed the Third Earl of Winbury, “My full name and title. Did he go on for the full half an hour,�
“I must state that the proceedings did seem to take an inordinately long time, sir.�
“Oh, I can imagine. So what did the blighter want?�
“I am uncertain about his exact intentions, sir, save to say, he related to me that it was �About the Graffiti,’ and that you would understand when told, sir,�

A thought, cut instantaneously through the blank void of Vernon’s brain. �Pass not the man in Black and White for he is not the man in Rags and Patches.’ Those strange words on the wall. Indeed, these few words were all that had remained in his memory after the vicious assault of the inexpensive, unidentifiable, ethanolic substance. Though, truth be told, it bore only a passing resemblance to those liquids brewed from the fermentations of fruit or barley. Those words. They rang a deep, internal bell. A bell, buried so cavernously deep within his mind that it eluded his grasp. A bell, that once rung would peal eternally, lighting up the dark, complex facets of Vernon’s underused mind. Revealing secrets long buried. Exploring the nocturnal portions of the brain, allowing Vernon, some great destiny that he could not, within his merest parameters understand let alone contemplate with any degree of certainty. He was bemused and terrified. And what was worse, he did not know why.
“Send him in Harverd,�
“Very good, sir,�

Harverd left the room and, after a moment’s silent interlude, a tall, elegant figure moved through the open door. He was at least seven feet tall, possessed of a great inner beauty, though his features were coarse. The word �vulgar’ demanded to be used, Vernon did not know why. Despite the explicit lack of physical beauty, there was a latent perfection, contained within the harsh shell of a body. The hands were soft, delicate almost. The hair a soft, lustrous black, the eyes azure, yet luminescent and delightfully savage. On the back of his left hand he bore an odd symbol. Though, despite his most assiduous efforts, Vernon was at a loss to say what it was.
“Who are you?� he stammered, feeling unaccountably nervous.
“I, Lord Alexander Julius Arnold Vernon Judas Simon Hardtwhaite, the Third of Winbury, am the man in Rags and Patches. I am come to speak to you. And to make you a proposition, my masters find you most and your servant,�
“Butler,� interjected Vernon stubbornly,
“Servant,� repeated Sartre with obstinacy to equal Vernon’s own (Counted legendary amongst his peers) “My masters an I find you and your servant most…interesting…�