Summary: Angel’s looking to move forward, but events
and an old enemy conspire to get under his feet. Can our team stay out of trouble?
stretched out his long legs, easing the kinks a little, as he waited. It was early September, but the ground was
still warm and dry. He was glad of
that, especially since he didn’t have a change of clothes with him. His departure had been too hasty to snatch
up so much as a toothbrush. He shifted
again, trying to get away from the stones that were hard lumps on certain
sensitive parts of his anatomy, and hoped he wouldn’t have much longer to wait.
A leaf fell
from the sycamore that sheltered him, tickling his neck as it ghosted down, not
yet a harbinger of the greater denudation to come, but a symptom of the
sapsuckers and tar spot that had made this such a miserable specimen. Unfortunately, it had been the only real
cover that allowed him to watch the new grave in this back garden. As a much tinier sensation touched his
cheek, he wondered whether the honeydew from the myriad of sapsuckers above him
would ever wash out of his clothes and hair.
He scrubbed at the spot with a damp finger, and then licked at what he’d
rubbed off. He knew that it should be
sweet, the processed remains of the tree’s sap, but he could taste
nothing. There was just his finger. He
didn’t know why he’d ever thought it might be different, although he remembered
a time when it had been.
A pair of
sycamore keys helicoptered down, their two wings spinning, but there was no
breeze to give them lift, and they dropped with an audible – to him – click,
onto the book that lay beside him, splitting apart as they did so. He stared at the scission, and felt a shiver
run through him. Roughly, he swept the
keys away, and stared at the book instead.
It was a privately published, abridged edition of The Vampire – His
Kith and Kin, by Montague Summers.
It had been given to him, and he had no idea who by. Or why.
Those were problems that he’d been wrestling with while he waited.
He’d be glad
to get away from here. Fortunately for
him, although the front garden was small, leaving the house uncomfortably close
to the road, the back garden was long, giving him privacy for what he needed to
do. The garden – and the tree –
belonged to a house in Bolton. It was
an old house, although perhaps not old by his standards, a terraced house built
when Victoria had ruled an empire, and Bolton, like some of its neighbours, had
ruled cotton. He’d passed the remains
of mills on his way here. All things
changed. Well, most things,
He picked the
book up. Montague Summers. He’d come across references to him in Giles’
library, and although he hadn’t asked, he was sure that Giles would have known
all about the man. Angel hadn’t. He’d been thousands of miles away, trying to
make a new life for himself, when Summers had been investigating the occult and
the supernatural, and writing about it.
He didn’t think that Buffy had noticed the books and references,
either. She would have been bound to
make a joke about it.
He turned the
slim volume over and over. Montague
Summers. He’d generally been held to be
kind, courteous, generous and outrageously witty, but with an underlying
mystery, and Angel smiled at the thought of how that perfectly described
another Summers. Montague had been
ordained a Catholic priest, and then elevated as a Bishop, but above all, he
had hunted vampires. Not physically, at
least not that Angel could find, but in stories and anecdotes. Whenever he met someone, his greeting was,
‘Tell me strange things’. And then
Angel had discovered that Summers came from Clifton, near Bristol, only a hop
and a step from Westbury. He’d been
elevated by the Archbishop of Glastonbury, only an hour’s drive away. Odd, really
And so, he’d
started to do some research into Montague Summers. He’d discovered the man’s grave in Richmond Cemetery, with a
small plain headstone recording that the man’s long-time friend had been buried
there, too. From all Angel had
discovered, the man had left no children when he died in 1948 – even Catholic
priests did that, sometimes – but he’d wondered if there could be some family
mentioned what he was doing to either Giles or Buffy. He’d wanted to surprise Buffy with some findings of his own, if
there were anything to find. And he wanted to keep it to himself if there were
nothing. And then, last night, he’d
been handed the book, and he’d started to worry about who could possibly have
known what he was up to.
It might, of
course, all be one of those wonderful coincidences that illuminate life on Earth,
but Angel had come to distrust coincidence.
When you got right down to it, you could always see the hand of the
Powers That Be. It was often a cold,
dead, or taloned hand, of course, and in his experience, the best thing was
usually to hack it off. He slipped the
book into his pocket. Of itself, it was
blameless, and there was no sense getting it covered in greenfly poop. Or worse.
been going smoothly. Perhaps too
smoothly. Oh, there had been the odd
apocalypse or two, and he’d barely escaped possession by the Devil himself only
a few weeks ago. What an apocalypse that
would have made – the mind that had housed Angelus, given over to the Devil in
truth. He shuddered again, despite the
lingering warmth in the air. But, all
in all, there had been an air of normality for some time now. Normality, that is, between and about
himself and Buffy. That had lulled him
into a false sense of security, and he really should have known better. But, he’d got above himself, and here had
been the reminder, the flick of the whip.
It had started
normally, and happily. He’d taken Buffy
to the Boar’s Head for dinner…
Head was on the edge of the village closest to Trowbridge, and it was a pub
with pretensions, but not enough cash to realise those pretensions. Or, at least, not all at once. It was a long, low building, rendered in
pale salmon pink and with a rag-stone roof that, in deference to age, bowed a
little at the hips. It sat in a pretty
garden, with tables and benches on the lawn.
Roses, sweet peas and clematis clambered over arches and trelliswork,
and the borders glowed with the autumnal colours of the late-flowering daisies.
As the Porsche
pulled to a halt in the car park, the drinkers at the tables on the lawn spared
it barely a glance. Most of them were
locals, and they’d seen this car around the village. If they had looked, they would have seen that the way the man
climbed out of the driver’s seat was far too graceful to be human. Angel walked around the car and opened the
passenger door for Buffy, offering his hand to her to help her from the
low-slung car. She smiled impishly, and
took the proffered hand. He could tell
from her grip that she was contemplating whether to pull him over for his
cheek. She changed her mind, though,
and allowed him to escort her into the inn.
particularly beautiful tonight, although her dress was casual – a moss green
halter-top and tight white jeans – and heads turned as they walked into the
lounge bar. He liked that feeling. Buffy felt a slight pressure on her arm, and
allowed her path to veer to the right, towards the end of the long mahogany
counter, with its array of pumps, and its glittering, lying mirror behind. Smiling his thanks – you just couldn’t be
too careful – Angel settled her onto a bar stool and stood next to her, just
out of reflection-range.
dark-haired man behind the bar finished serving his customer and then turned to
the new arrivals.
“What will it
on a white wine spritzer for Buffy and a pint of Black Sheep ale for
Angel. And a menu.
you like to sit?”
“No, there are
a couple of free tables. I’ll get Grace
to clean one up for you and come and take your order.”
his thanks, and led Buffy through to the Conservatory. This was where pretensions and money parted
company. The Conservatory was a pretty
annexe, but it wasn’t the restaurant that Angel knew Tony would like. So would his colleague, the chef, Andy. But, he’d done what he could with the money
he had. The rest would come later.
been here before, although she’d passed the outside many times, and she looked around
with interest at the pale but solid bamboo conservatory furniture, and the
bright chintz upholstery and curtains, so different to the dark wood and dark
red leather of the main bars. There
were perhaps eight round, glass-topped tables, most of which were occupied by
people enjoying a night out with a drink.
Only one other table had customers here for a meal. She had things to quiz Angel about, but
before she could start her interrogation, Grace arrived, and busied herself
clearing a table close to the window, and then wiping it clean of spilled and
sticky beer. They sat, drinking their
drinks and talking of the day’s events, until she reappeared to take their
order. Buffy hadn’t even looked at the
menu yet. When she did, she saw that
there wasn’t much of it, but what there was made her stomach growl.
While she was
scanning the piece of stiff card, Angel had a quiet word with Grace, who nodded
brightly and said “Sure, Angel. I’ll go
and see if Andy can do that.”
Buffy gave him
an old-fashioned look, but held her peace, and Angel merely smiled
triumphant, and then Buffy gave her order for a warm salad of breast of pigeon
with bacon and wild mushrooms, and a side order of chips. She’d at last got used to the idea that
French fries were chips, here. She’d
toyed with the idea of a starter, but Angel wouldn’t have joined her, so she
decided to keep herself for dessert, afterwards. Angel ordered a good Australian Shiraz-Cabernet, and then Grace
left for the kitchen.
carefully pasted a puzzled look onto his face, but he knew what she meant. He was teasing.
“You will be,
pitched her voice low, below the background hum, knowing that he would hear
her. She reached forward to a small jar
on the table and lifted out a wooden toothpick, which she carefully placed
across the back of her right hand, over the forefinger and ring finger. Then she brought her middle finger down onto
it, and snapped the sliver of wood into two tiny stakes.
He was saved
from answering immediately when Grace brought the wine, and poured a little for
him to taste. The barmaid-cum-waitress
saw the teasing look in his eye.
practicing, Angel. You never know when
I might get my break in the big city…”
He took a
mouthful of the red wine. Strange that
his vampire taste buds could still appreciate this, when they appreciated so
little else. Well, in the food line,
fine. Thank you, Grace.”
She poured two
full glasses and then left him alone with a Slayer who was arranging her tiny
stakes, rolling them around on the glass of the table. She spoke without
looking at him, her attention and her fingers never wavering from the pieces of
“So, there was
something you were almost going to say?”
was no more than a blur to her, and then he was sitting back in his chair, the
two slivers of toothpick in his palm.
“Who did you
say would be sorry?”
“I bet you
used to play cards with unsuspecting humans.
She gave him a
mock glare, and was satisfied when guilt flared briefly in his eyes. He decided to stop teasing her before she
won too many rounds.
been here before. I come in, sometimes,
for a drink, before they close.”
surprised, but said nothing, simply waiting for him to continue. He felt her silence draw him in, as
everything about her had drawn him in since that day he’d first seen her, on
the steps of Hemery High. Sometimes,
during the loneliest of the Los Angeles years, he’d been back to the school to
remember that day. To remember how she
had made him feel. To remember wanting
to be someone for her. The silence
tugged at him, urging him inwards, and it was a struggle to break free.
and Buffy thought the shrug particularly attractive. He was wearing an open-necked shirt, in a heavyweight black silk
with a fine purple stripe, and she thought that the shirt had shrugged nicely,
too. Now it was his turn to play with the remnants of the toothpick.
doesn’t especially attract transient demons, and the only resident vampire is
me, so patrolling doesn’t produce much.
You know that. But, I was
passing here one night and the landlord was having trouble with a bunch of drunken
louts. I helped him. That’s all.
After that, I stopped by sometimes for a drink and a chat.”
again, and Buffy approved the way his muscles bunched and rolled beneath that
rather fine shirt. A thought struck
her, pulling her from her admiration.
going back to being Liam, are you? You
told me about him…”
He smiled at
her, and at that moment, she’d have accepted that he was Liam and worried about
the consequences later. Then he reached
over the table and took her hand, and she thought, consequences be damned…
“No. He’s long gone. Besides, only one thing could get me as drunk as he used to… But
it’s a good way to get to know a few people.”
that need, but she’d already gathered from her time here that going down the
pub to get to know a few people was pretty much a male preserve. People went as couples, or in groups, or men
went. It generally didn’t work that way
for single women. Or at least, if it
worked, the results tended to be different and much less desirable. She definitely had no need to look for one
night stands. Fleetingly, she wondered
whether Angel had been looking for one night stands, but pushed down that
unwarranted fear into the oblivion that it deserved.
“So, did you get
to know a few people?”
“Yeah. A few here, a few in some of the other
places. A bit.”
crawls? You’ve been going on pub
been on one, but she’d heard about them from Lisa, who’d reminisced about her
younger days when bands of students would lurch from pub to pub, to test out
how many they could sample in an evening before falling over.
indignation on his face matched that in his voice. Her voice became a bit smaller as the thought that she’d pushed
down tried to resurface. She’d
remembered how the waitress seemed to know him.
looking for… dates?”
“I’ve got this
whole forbidden love of all time going for me.
There’s no room for distractions.”
Her smile was
his reward, but he had a more delicate path to tread yet.
She frowned a
good. It’s almost time for him to
go. His grandmother’s able to mind the
studio and shop again, especially now the tourist season is winding down.” She hesitated before adding, “I’ll miss
reflected that it would probably be better for the state of Kevin Langford’s
heart if he stayed away from Westbury, but he didn’t say this to Buffy. He didn’t care the snap of his fingers for Kevin
Langford’s emotions. He cared about
Buffy being happy. She took a sip of
wine before answering him.
whether he should tell her that he was insanely jealous.
jealous,” he replied, without any apparent hesitation. “But Buffy, the thing is, I’m not jealous of
the whole sniffing thing, because that’s pretty gross, you know…”
“NO! It’s nothing to do with the sniffing thing…”
Buffy wondered how many other couples had their own private lie detector, but
it didn’t worry her. She never lied to
Angel, and she was pretty sure he never lied to her. She let him carry on.
jealous of the fact that he’s a man (liar!), a…a male, or that he’s your
friend, or that you spend time with him – that you spend time with other people
who you know. I’m jealous of what they
can do with you. Hell, I’m jealous of Giles, if it comes to that. Picnics, sunny days at the beach,
window-shopping while the shops are still open… Eating out before ten at night in the summer. Watching Giles play cricket. Going to summer fetes. Riding over the downs. Watching midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge…”
“But I didn’t
go to watch midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge!
You said that there’d be a load of lunatics there in funny dresses,
although they’d be mostly harmless. And
you were right. We saw them on the TV.
isn’t the things I can’t do with you that count. It’s the things I can.
Oh, I might have thought differently once, but that was a long time ago,
and I’m not that girl anymore. You know
I must have fantasized about you turning human only about 10 zillion times…”
table, his fist clenched spasmodically at words so like those that he
remembered too well, but the fingers holding hers were as steady as a rock, and
his face didn’t betray him.
understand better now. I’m grateful
that I’ve got you to watch my back. I’m
grateful that I don’t have to worry about you when we fight – well, not too
much, anyway – and basically, I’m just happy that we’re still alive at the end
of every day, and that we get to sleep in the same bed and do other coupley
things. I want you to be human because
you want it but, barring that, I’m as happy as it’s possible to be. So, you really don’t mind about Kevin?”
her hand again. He knew that what she’d
just said wasn’t entirely true, but she was being positive for him, and it was
near enough the truth. He loved her all
the more for it.
“No. You need friends. Everyone needs friends.
I’ll just do my daytime living vicariously, through you. Just tell me about your days, when you’ve
been somewhere with them.”
to you, too, buster. I want to hear
about the people you’ve met on your pub crawls.”
died away as Grace brought their plates.
For Buffy, there was a colourful bed of baby leaves in red and bronze
and gold and maroon, and several shades of green, on which lay generous slices
of warm breast of pigeon, crisply fried pieces of streaky bacon and a variety
of wild mushrooms, shiny from the bacon fat in which they’d been cooked. A bowl contained her chips, heaped thick and
golden against the white of the porcelain.
She stared in
confusion at his plate. That
hadn’t been on the menu. At least, she
hoped it hadn’t, or she might have ordered it by mistake. There was a mound of chopped raw meat,
glistening darkly red. A depression in
the top held a golden-yellow egg yolk, also raw. Some baby leaves and slices of melba toast completed Angel’s meal.
tartare,” he whispered, seeing her uncertainty.
she shot back.
They ate their
meal and talked of small things. When
they’d finished, Buffy found room for a slice of home-made summer pudding, the
white of the bread stained purple and scarlet with the juices of the filling,
strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
The whipped cream that came with it was scattered with tayberries,
glowing in the soft light like garnets.
As she ate, he
sat quietly and watched her, making whatever response was necessary to the
things she said. He wondered whether
she remembered that almost a year ago to the day, she and Giles had come to
Ireland, to fetch him back after his breakdown and madness following his
massacre of the slayers. He’d killed
them to save the world, but knowing that didn’t help him to deal with it,
especially with the poisons that Giles had fed to them, and that had sent him
into hallucinations and delirium.
But Giles and
Buffy had come to fetch him back, and he loved them for it. And Ella, before her death, had given him a
small and secret place within himself where comfort could always be found when
things were at their bleakest. It
hardly seemed possible that a year had passed since that dreadful time, but
he’d been thinking about it a lot. He’d
done then what he’d been resurrected to do after the debacle in Los Angeles,
and the Coven had given him a reward.
No. Not a reward at all. They’d given him mercy. They’d done that when they brought him back
from death, by binding his soul, and thus they had given him Buffy. The converse was also true. They had given him to Buffy, with all that
that entailed, for better or worse.
the people of the village didn’t see him during the day, and even though they
spent half their time in the greater anonymity of Bath, it was becoming clear
to their neighbours that the two visitors from America were a couple. Other things were becoming clear to their
neighbours, too, and he’d heard the gossip.
Cohabitation was still frowned on here, and was definitely unusual. And so he’d wondered about buying her a
Oh, not a
claddagh. There were far too many
memories attached to that one that shouldn’t be revisited. A different sort of ring. Modern, like Buffy. He planned to ask her tonight if she would
like that. He really wanted to do more,
but that was out of the question. But, a
ring to show that she was taken, and to provide her with some protection from
the old tabbies… And it might protect the likes of Kevin Langford. Perhaps she would let him do that much. He’d begun to hope that she would welcome
And then she’d
finished her pudding, and was looking at him expectantly, as if she had asked a
question and was waiting for the answer.
“Well! I did ask how you always know the right
things to say to a girl, but I might change my mind now!”
I live in hope. As long as I don’t get
staked, I figure I’m winning in the conversation stakes. There was a time when I thought that perhaps
you should come with an instruction manual, and then there was a time when I
decided that an encyclopaedia would be better.
I’m a male. No matter what
species I am, I’m still a male. The
females of the species have us entirely at their mercy…”
prettily, but her riposte was forestalled by the appearance of the landlord,
“Yeah. That was great, Tony. Thank Andy for us, will you? And this is Buffy, my… Um, Buffy… Tony.”
Buffy and Tony
“Nice to meet
you, Buffy. I don’t know why Angel’s
been hiding you. Come and see us more
often. Angel, I, erm… I wondered if I
could ask you something?”
both see that Tony was nervous.
Privately, Buffy thought that if Tony were in a bandit-infested Mexican
village, he’d have a large sombrero turning round and round in his fingers.
“Sure. Ask away.”
“Well, I saw
the drawing that you did of the church.
You know, it raised a lot of money, did that. I wondered whether you would do one of the Boar? I’d pay you, of course…”
cut him off.
“It would be
my pleasure. There’s no need for
payment – I’ll swap it for this meal.”
brilliant! Thank you. Next one’s on the house, too. Provided you bring your young lady with
another smile at them, and hurried back to the bar.
As they stood
to leave, one of a group of elderly men who were clustered around a table,
where they’d been nursing half-full glasses for an hour, raised a hand and
almost imperceptibly twitched his grey cap.
murmured, expressionlessly. The rest of
the group remained silent, not looking at the pair.
the greeting, and Buffy gave the group a dazzling smile. When they were out of earshot, she said,
“What a strange old guy…”
villager, Buffy. They take a long time
to get to know people, or to even acknowledge them. Remember what Lisa said?
She’s been here over a decade, and they still think she’s a newcomer.”
doing better than she did?”
“Ah, but I had
a bit of luck. I got his
granddaughter’s kitten out of a tree a couple of nights ago.”
Angel’s guilt reflex flash a fin again, and relented.
“Sorry. Oh, wait for me; I’ll just…”
towards the sign that read Ladies, and was off. Angel walked over to the bar, to prop it up
until she returned. Tony saw him, and
reached under the counter, pulling out a slim packet wrapped in brown paper.
“A man just
gave me this for you. He said to give
it to you when the young lady wasn’t around – he knew her name, though. He’s just there…”
around the end of the bar into the other room.
gone. I’ve no idea who he was, never
seen him before…”
the wrapping. There was nothing on
it. There was nothing distinctive in
the way of scent, either, just the sharp fugginess of hops from the beer. He slipped the packet into his pocket.
And then Buffy
was back, and the blood stirred within him.
night was still balmy, and scented with rose and honeysuckle. They walked to the car park, Buffy a little
ahead of Angel on the narrow path through the garden. The halter-top that she
wore was short, and rode up a little as she moved, giving him glimpses of pale
flesh. Her tan wasn’t as deep as it had
been in California. He reached out and
placed his hands around her waist, skin to skin, bringing her to a halt. He remembered, back in the day, when the
most desirable ladies’ waists were those small enough to be completely spanned
by a man’s hands.
The tips of
his thumbs met, close against her spine, and he stretched his fingers around to
her abdomen. As his hands tightened
against her flesh, he heard her involuntary intake of breath, and her waist
drew in, just a little. He brought the
tips of his middle fingers together, and was grateful for large hands, but she
was still incredibly slim. As those
long fingers met, he pressed them into her navel. Her body reacted instinctively and, obedient to the command, she
pressed backwards until she was rubbing against him, tantalizing him almost
unbearably. Man and demon lusted
together, for her body and for her blood, and he bent over her as she rested
her hands on his. He started breathing,
savouring the perfume of her even as he fought for control, his cool breath
spidering over her neck. A shiver ran
through her as his hands squeezed.
public now, are we?”
Her voice was
low and breathy. His lips pulled at the
soft skin of her throat, and she sensed the merest hint of teeth. She thought he must still be human, because
she felt no scratch, but she wasn’t certain.
harder against him and then nodded, and he let her go with an effort. Cool as his hands were, the night air ran
cooler around her naked waist when they were gone.
As he walked
her to the car, he decided that tonight, when their hungers had been satisfied,
he would definitely talk to her about a ring.
approached the turning from the road into the drive for Summerdown House, she
was sitting with her back pressed against the car door, watching him, perhaps
remembering the feel of his body against hers.
He loved that. He spent a lot of
time watching her, whether she knew it or not, but he loved to feel the weight
of her gaze on him: her approbation, her desire, her intense analysis as she
tried to fathom his thoughts. But most
of all, he loved that she found him worthy of looking at, that she wasn’t
repelled by what he was, even when he was in demon face, that he was in some
way attractive in her eyes. He was
still basking in that glow as they reached the gateway, and then because of her
position, he saw what she didn’t see.
There was a car, with a trailer and a heavily-laden roof-rack, blocking
the entrance to the driveway and Giles was walking down from the bright
silhouette of the house, accompanied by a strange man. There were more people in the car.
pass the car in the gateway, and so he pulled into the edge of the road, the
passenger side tight against the hawthorn hedge so that he wasn’t blocking the
way to other cars, rare as they were.
He got out, but Buffy was trapped, unable to open her door. Rather than scramble over, she opted to
remain where she was, immersed in her Angelic heat. The people in the car looked to be no threat. Apart from the man, there was a woman, and
two young boys, and something dark that she couldn’t quite make out. Another child, perhaps.
walked to the car, he heard Giles giving directions. These were tourists, lost.
Giles turned at Angel’s approach and smiled wearily as he nodded a
Tadcasters here are lost and late. A
breakdown on the M6…”
He turned back
to Mr Tadcaster.
“So, back to
the main road, turn right, and the White Horse camping ground is on the next
lane right, just before you get to Bratton Camp…”
The man looked
confused, and Giles felt a momentary surge of irritation for people who hadn’t
bothered to check the map properly.
is an Iron Age hill fort. The tourist
camping ground is a little way before that, closer to the main road. You can’t miss it.”
wishing that these people would go.
He’d already had ten minutes of the prissy little man in his Fair Isle
V-necked sweater and corduroy trousers, who’d walked up the drive and hammered
on his door at eleven o’clock at night, explaining how they came to be so late
and asking to be guided to the camp site so he could pitch his tents. Giles had been curled up with a good book –
a very good book, Pissander’s Garden of Unnatural Delights, which
contained things that had shocked even him – a book that Angel had unearthed
from somewhere and had given to the ex-Watcher, and that had explained many
things about demons that Giles had never known. There were illustrations, too.
He’d been rudely pulled from his study by this tiresome man, who should
know better than to go traipsing around the countryside at night, with his wife
and two young children.
pleased to see the Porsche draw up as he’d walked Tadcaster back down the
drive. He’d particularly wanted to ask
Angel whether he knew more about the habits of the Sapproth. That chapter in the book had remained
unclear on some aspects… Pulling his thoughts away from Pissander, he heard
Tadcaster thank him, and was about to put out his hand in farewell when he felt
a pressure against his shins. He looked
down and saw Zillah, who must have followed him from the house. He thought he’d closed the door, but
apparently not. The black cat brought a
smile to his face, as she did every time he saw her. Ella’s cat, all that he would ever have now of the woman he’d so
recently loved, and yet he felt no sadness when he looked at the svelte little
queen. He wondered briefly whether Ella
had bespelled the cat to bring that feeling of peace to him. It would be just like her…
around his feet one more time, leaning against him and marking him as her own
in the face of these intruders. Then,
she trotted past the strange car to investigate some rustling noises in the
base of the hedgerow, her slender tail erect, its very tip crooked over her
back, her satin coat shining darkly in the light spilling from the cars as she
disappeared into the busy night of the country lane. Angel could hear the same rustling sounds, and knew that there
would be gifts of mice in the morning.
Although, last week, she’d brought back a half-grown rabbit, and had
watched smugly as Giles and Buffy enjoyed the fruits of her labours. When drained, it had given up a small amount
of blood for Angel, and he had tipped his glass to her as he drank. He’d thought she had winked at him, but he
might have been wrong.
movement in the visitors’ car as she passed it, and then a fair-haired child of
about seven opened the door and scrambled out.
Martin says that he’s going to…”
delivery halted, and whatever Martin had threatened was lost, as the third
occupant of the back seat leaped from the car.
It was a large, well-muscled Rottweiler. There was no sound at all from the dog except the click of its
paws on the metalled surface of the road as it pulled itself out. Giles found time to disbelieve that this
fussy little man would consider a large black and tan guard dog to be a
suitable pet, and then the dog had turned around the front of the Tadcaster’s
car and had Zillah in its sights.
very, very quickly, far more quickly than a human, even a Watcher, could react
to, although he had time to turn and see.
More quickly than a Slayer could react to, despite flinging herself from
the car, bruising her hip on the gear lever although she wouldn’t notice that
until the morning. And more quickly
than even a vampire could react to, though he threw all caution to the winds
and simply leapt over the car in a desperate effort to stop what had already
The dog opened
its jaws and snatched Zillah up. It had
her by the hind leg, and those with ears to hear were appalled by the snapping
sounds as the bone was crushed. Her
scream was human in its agony and fear, and her body writhed as she twisted and
reached for the dog’s face, her claws fully splayed. The dog took no notice of the sharp, stinging pain as she raked
its muzzle and nose, but she couldn’t reach its more vulnerable eyes. It simply shook her, as though it were a
terrier, and she a rat. If it had had
her by the neck, she would have died instantly.
to use the best of his powers to stop the unstoppable, reached down in mid
flight, but again he was too late.
Instead, there was a blur of dark orange as Aristotle flung himself from
the hedgerow and onto the dog. No one
could say just what happened next, or how it came about. Giles’ cat, the aloof, mature and disdainful
Ari, who had been besotted with Zillah at first sight, and who was now a ball
of spitting, growling fury, was latched onto the dog’s throat. Whether he found a particularly thin piece
of skin, or was simply desperate enough to do what seemed to be beyond his
natural weapons, and whether it was by fang or claw, was afterwards impossible
to say. One moment the dog had Zillah,
and Ari had the dog, and the next moment arterial blood sprayed three feet into
the air, a new spurt with every beat of the dog’s heart.
over the dog’s back as it clawed at the avenging cat, and he pulled Ari away,
feeling more flesh rip in its throat as the cat’s teeth and claws were dragged
downwards. As Ari fell away, the spray
of blood grew stronger, thicker, and Angel felt the bones in his face trying to
shift. He bent low over the dog, but
not only to hide what he might look like.
Zillah’s screams now mixed with the screams of the children, and, from
the corner of his eye, he saw Buffy place herself in front of the two boys,
even as she placed one restraining hand on Giles’ arm and the other against
Tadcaster’s chest. She knew what would
a miasma of blood droplets, bright against the blackness of the night, and the
intoxicating sound of the dog’s heart, pumping slower and slower, and the
thrilling scents of terror and pain, he fought back the demon and started to
prise the jaws apart. It was only the
memory of the children that stopped him from tearing the dog’s jaw off
completely and perhaps preventing the next of that night’s disasters. Blood beat against him in weakening pulses,
soaking his clothes and spraying into his face. The muzzle was slick with it, and so was Zillah. But, as the dog’s heart failed, its jaws
locked tighter around the cat’s hind leg.
He increased the pressure on the lower jaw, to snap it, and that was
when the animal let go of its first prize, and found another. That was when it bit him, sinking its teeth
deep into the meat of his hand. Blood
welled from his hand, mixing with the bloody froth and spittle. The Rottweiler, feeble now, licked at it,
swallowed, and then slumped into death, the weight of it suddenly heavy in his
hands. Zillah lay limp and unmoving on
It was Buffy,
taking in the shocked faces of her men and the wound on Angel’s hand, who now
took charge. She bundled the children
back into the car, dismissing the white-faced woman in the front passenger seat
as having no part in what must happen now.
She saw Angel strip off his bloodied shirt and wrap it gently around
Zillah, lifting her up as carefully as he could. Giles, in the act of running towards him, slowed, and his face
showed clearly the mute enquiry.
breathing, Giles, but she needs help fast.
I doubt she’ll have as long as half an hour, otherwise.”
There was no
need to ask how he knew. Buffy gave
Giles the words he needed.
“Giles, get her
to the vet. I’ll call ahead, and tell
Mr Blackwether that you’re on the way.
Angel and I will help the Tadcasters.
Angel dug into
his pocket and flung a small bunch of keys at Giles.
Porsche…” He bent down and scooped up
Aristotle. “And get Blackwether to look
at him afterwards. He’s got a broken
rib, at least.” He strode over to his
car and thrust the burnt-marmalade tom in, as Giles climbed into the driver’s
seat and keyed the engine. Angel just
had time to seize up Buffy’s bag, and then Giles was gone in a squeal of tyres
and a roar of German engineering at its best.
Buffy snatched the bag out of the air as it arced towards her and pulled
her phone from it to rouse up the vet.
She turned away, intent on her call, leaving the stunned Tadcasters to a
half-naked and decidedly bloody vampire.
She wouldn’t have cared too much if he’d been in game face.
himself under control with difficulty, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with
the demon. He knew how much Zillah
meant to Giles. Tadcaster was standing
stock-still, as if rooted to the spot where he’d almost shaken hands with the
man he’d been talking to before this nightmare started, and he flinched at the
approach of the blood-spattered figure.
care of the dog for you, Mr Tadcaster.
I suggest you get along to your camp site, and try to take the
children’s minds off what has happened.
We’ll get him cremated and give him back to you if you want to scatter
get some form of ash back, Angel was sure of that. It was too late for the dog. The deed was done, albeit accidentally.
shook his head though, and the stubbornness for which he was noted back home,
and for which he was often despised, fought its way to the forefront of his
shocked emotions. He clung to its
familiarity, as a drowning man to a spar.
“No. Absolutely not. Hermann must come home with us.
You can’t think that we would stay here, with him dead? How could the children possibly enjoy that?”
reflected that children of the age of these two could get over things rather
quickly provided their attention was focused on more attractive pursuits than
grief, but he said nothing. Tadcaster
started to puff out his chest in righteous indignation.
“My dog. You killed my dog…”
Angel cut him
your wife and children? Shouldn’t we
see whether they need anything?”
subsided a little. Angel walked to the
car, aware of how frightening he might look in his current state, but someone
needed to do this. He opened the door
and crouched down.
sorry. It’s a bit shocking for us
all. Is everyone okay here?”
woman in the front, mousy-haired, mousy by nature, nodded, and Angel knew that
he saw some relief in her eyes. He had
no doubt that she’d hated the dog. The
two children nodded solemnly, in turn.
He saw that the second child, Martin, was younger, perhaps five years
old. Suddenly, Martin’s face crumpled.
And so Buffy,
having pulled Blackwether away from his dinner party, shepherded the small
party up the drive while Angel lifted the corpse of the dog from the road, and
laid it on the verge, close by the Tadcaster’s Volvo.
In the house,
the Tadcasters took turns in the downstairs bathroom. Buffy sat them in the kitchen and plied the children with the
milk and cookies that Martha always had on hand, even if here they were called
biscuits. She made tea for the two
adults, ignoring the man’s attempt at bluster – Little Man Syndrome, she thought
uncharitably but accurately – and tried to coax the colourless wife into saying
something. The woman looked at her
husband, and her lips tightened into a thin and silent line.
straight to the flat to clean up and change.
He was quick about it, but by the time he got to the house, Tadcaster
was insisting that they were all ready to leave. They would take the dog with them, and he would brook no argument
on that. Over their heads Angel nodded
to Buffy, almost imperceptibly, and she pulled two large black plastic tie-top
sacks from the roll.
Back at their
car, it was a matter of moments for Angel to slide the corpse into a bag, and
then that bag into the other, surreptitiously wiping his hands over the outer
bag before cleaning them on the grass afterwards. Mrs Tadcaster and the children settled into the back seat and, in
response to the man’s imperious summons, Angel lifted the dog into the front
passenger well, curling it around to fit the space before rigor mortis
stiffened its limbs. Temporarily,
And then the
family were gone into the night, their trailer bouncing behind them in the
narrow country lane. Buffy knew what
Angel would do now.
He heard the
hesitancy in her voice, and knew that she was torn between the two of them.
“No. Giles will need you. I can handle this.”
Slayer, and this is a simple slaying job.
You can stay for Giles.”
He shook his
you more than he’ll need me. And I’ll
find them more easily than you will.
Did they say where they lived?”
his hand and then he turned and left, the keys to Giles’ car in his fist. She heard the Discovery roar to life in the
garage, and then she was alone.
Angel thought about
Buffy, and about Giles and the cats, as he sat waiting underneath the canopy of
the sycamore. He’d had little trouble
following the Tadcasters. The scent of
the fresh blood that he’d smeared onto the outside of the bag had been easy to
track until they’d reached a better-travelled road, where he’d been able to
keep them in sight without giving himself away.
they would pull up and stay at some motel or another, but they didn’t. Tadcaster drove on, obeying every speed
limit and every stop sign, until Angel feared that he would have to find
somewhere safe for the day, and spend time the next night trying to pick up
their trail. He’d been spared that,
though. They’d pulled up at this
stone-built terraced house, and Angel had just had time to seek shelter for the
The best he’d
managed before sunrise was a boarded-up public toilet. He’d pried the sheet of graffiti-covered
blockboard partially open, and slid through, allowing it to snap shut behind
him, just as ruby light from a blood-red sun had shafted through the thick
bricks of glass that filled the tiny windows.
He’d been penned up for the day, then, in this deserted place, filled
with the ancient fetor of male urine – and other things. He’d paced the length of the building, no
more than three or four paces in any direction, until he’d unintentionally
walked through a shaft of light and added the savour of burning flesh to the
mixed stench, and then he’d sat in one of the cubicles, despising himself.
He found that
he’d slipped the brown packet into his jacket pocket, and he ripped off the
paper, hoping that he’d find a clue to the mysterious man. There was only the book, and no indication
of who had given it to him. No
indication of who knew him, knew Buffy, and knew what he’d been looking
into. He sat and read it.
the sun had gone, and he’d driven hurriedly back to the Tadcasters’, hoping
that he wouldn’t be too late. A small
alley led along the back of the gardens, separating them from the gardens of
the houses in the next street, and from there, he’d managed to get into the
Tadcasters’ garden, unseen. He’d not
known whether they intended to have the dog cremated, which would give him a
whole different set of problems if it wasn’t done quickly enough, but he found
a fresh grave, and so he settled himself to wait for the resurrection of his
latest dreadful offspring.
After an hour
or so, he wondered whether he’d been mistaken, and the dog had taken nothing
from him. It was close to midnight
before he heard the scratching of paws on earth. He picked up the stake that lay by his side, and stood, ready for
what would emerge.
dog erupted from the ground, looking far less disoriented than he had been in
its place. Its face was thickened and
ridged, its fangs like razors. It
whimpered a little when it saw him, but didn’t attack. It knew its master. Its sire.
Only when he raised the stake did it start to growl and, as he struck,
it flew for him, making him miss his aim.
With the stake dangling from its flank, it tried to rip out his throat,
but instead, he ripped the head from its shoulders.
As ash floated
down around him, he stood head bowed, breathing harshly. He was poison. He tainted everything that he touched, infecting it with his corruption. He was good only for raising things from an
unholy death, a dreadful resurrection man.
He’d thought that he might find some acceptance in Westbury, might find
a place in the life of the village, but he never could. He wasn’t safe for anyone. He should never get above himself. He knew better. The fringes and shadows of society, that was the best he should
hope for. He pulled the disturbed soil
back into a heap over the empty grave, and then made his way to the car. As he drove back to Westbury, all thoughts
of a ring for Buffy were pushed down into the pit where his deepest hopes and
dreams had been buried.
the damp tea towel to dry. She’d come
up to Summerdown House late today.
Normally, she only made an evening meal for the household once or twice
a week, but today was different. Angel
was off, heaven knew where, and probably in something of a state, from what she
could gather. Earlier, she’d found
Giles and Buffy anxiously awaiting news of Zillah, and such a shame that a
bonny little cat like that had been attacked by some strange and terrible
dog. Well, that beast deserved
everything that was coming to it. She’d
taken one look at the pair of them and knew, deep in her matronly bones, that
food would be the last thing on their minds come mealtimes. It wasn’t as if Buffy could spare it, such a
slip of a thing as she was. So, Martha
had called John, and said she’d stay here until after dinner.
She put her
head round the dining room door and asked whether they wanted coffee. Two wan faces looked up at her, but at least
they were well-fed wan faces now. She
wasn’t sure how much they’d tasted of the meal she’d taken such pains over, but
they’d eaten it, and that was all that mattered.
be lovely, Martha. Thank you. We’ll come into the kitchen…”
across at Buffy, who nodded and then pushed her chair back. When they joined her in the kitchen, Martha
was just pouring the coffee. Giles
gestured to the cups.
“Come sit with
This wasn’t a
household that ever stood on formality, and she often sat with them for
coffee. She didn’t need an
invitation. She realised that he’d
asked because they needed company.
Company other than themselves.
So, she poured another cup and sat down.
when Angel would be back. She’d got
some very nice blood put aside for him.
Old George Laverton had eventually been prevailed on to send his
champion Hereford bullock for slaughter that morning. Much longer and it would have been too old under the new laws
that hamstrung farmers at every turn.
John had seen him just after dawn, walking CiderBoy to Staggett’s
abattoir. He’d washed and brushed it as
if he were taking it to the West of England show again, and then he’d walked it
down the road on a rope halter, its blood-red curls shining in the new
sunlight, and the white powderpuff on the end of its tail swinging gently
against the flies. John had told her,
and she’d waited a decent interval, and then John had driven her to Staggett’s,
and she’d stood and watched while the son had drained the blood from the
carcass, to make sure he didn’t take the easy way of dipping her some from
yesterday’s blood pool. So, she’d
bought a full two gallons of what should be the best blood around. Most of it was in the freezer, but a couple
of pints waited for Angel in the fridge.
She wasn’t sure whether pedigree affected taste, but it couldn’t hurt,
could it? And speaking of hurt, she’d
seen George this afternoon as she walked over here, and he’d been frosty faced
and silent. She’d never have thought
he’d have got so attached to a meat animal, but then there’d been all the time
he’d spent with it when it was a baby and had that dislocated hip, and after
that it had followed him around everywhere it could, dribbling down his
neck… She hadn’t told him that the
blood had gone to a good cause, though.
He might not understand. For
herself, she wasn’t shocked by Angel’s diet, nor by the sights and sounds of
the slaughterhouse. For a cook, and a
farm girl, born and bred, these things held no horrors.
“Do you know
when Angel will be back?”
take his phone with him. He went in
such a rush. I don’t like not hearing
from him, not knowing where he is…”
her broad hand over the Slayer’s small and slim one.
after himself for many a year now. He
knows what to do. And the Good Lord
will take care of him.”
wryly. Martha and John had both been
firm churchgoers in their youth, but the things that they had seen since then
had given them a broader appreciation of the cosmos. Still, when she was much moved, Martha fell back on the power of
the Lord. And, strangely, she saw no
incongruity in assigning the Lord’s protection to a demon who was burned by the
symbols of Christianity. Silently, he
blessed her uncomplicated nature.
but said nothing. Martha hurried on to
fill up the silence.
absolutely sure that this dog is going to be a devil dog? I mean, Angel didn’t bite it, or anything…
For one moment
she was suddenly unsure whether the story that Aristotle had slit the dog’s
artery had been made up to cover something Angel had done. It was Giles who answered her.
“We can’t be
sure until the dog rises, Martha, but no, Angel didn’t bite it.”
“Then how… how
can it become… you know…?”
“If a body is
drained of blood, and at the point of death, then all a dog – or a human or
whatever – needs to do to become a vampire is to drink some blood from
one. It’s normally the vamp that does
the draining, but it doesn’t have to be.
But you need to be drained, first.”
roused herself to answer Martha’s question, subsided into silence again. She remembered drinking from Dracula after
he had given her that very reassurance, and she almost shuddered. She wished she’d gone with Angel. She’d been no use at all to Giles, she was
sure. She’d spent all day being Miss
Cheerful, but the whole thing had caught up with her now. It had happened over the apple Charlotte,
like a bucket of cold water, and now she just wanted them all safe and sound
and back together. Angel, Aristotle and
Zillah. She wanted them back. The house was empty without them. She knew Giles felt the same.
broached the subject that she hadn’t dared mention yet.
heard from Colin yet?”
the local vet, had gone to the same school as Martha and John, and he would
always be just Colin to them. He’d gone
to veterinary school, and he’d tried the faster pace of London, and then he’d
come back here, and stayed.
automatically looked at his watch.
“No, not this
evening. He said that Aristotle was
comfortable – he has two broken ribs and a lot of bruising. Zillah is still sedated and on a drip. He doesn’t feel that he can operate on her
leg until he has her better stabilised.
He says it’s very bad. Clarice
is staying there overnight, to keep an eye on her, and he’ll drop into the
surgery later on. He’ll give us a call
then. Or he’ll call earlier if there’s
was the veterinary nurse, a young but dependable girl who had a way with
Aristotle come home?”
that to have one of the cats, at least, would cheer these two up, but Giles
shook his head.
his presence soothes Zillah. They tried
taking him out of the next door cage but, even unconscious, she got agitated,
so they put him back.”
Martha’s turn to nod. Devotion was a
strange and wonderful thing, and there was a lot of it in this house. Not that
she’d expected it to turn out this way when Giles had brought Buffy home that
first time, and brought it along with her.
It. That’s how she’d thought of
Angel then, and now she felt a pang of shame about that. But, she and John had come across the likes
of it before, and it was only because of Giles that they both still lived, and
so she tried not to be too hard on herself.
John had been
here unblocking a sink when they arrived, and he’d told her about it. They’d brought a vampire home, and when they
asked him to help them get the thing out of the car, he saw that it was
mindless and… what was the word John had used… catatonic, yes, that was
it. John might be slow and sparing of
speech, but he’d never been slow of wit.
So, it was helpless, and he’d asked whether they were going to stake it,
and tears had fallen down Miss Buffy’s cheeks – for that was how she’d thought
of her at first, Miss Buffy – and she’d shoved John out of the way, shoved him
hard for the size of her, and she’d pulled the thing from the car by herself.
quite sure when she’d stopped thinking of the vampire as ‘it’ and when he’d
become Angel, but she knew it hadn’t taken very long. She’d watched – and so had John – because they knew how dangerous
these monsters were, and they were both afraid that these two were somehow in
its thrall. But she’d seen how it
despised itself, how it shrank away in shame as it was fed; and she’d seen the
grief in its eyes. One day, when they
were cleaning it up, and trying to change the bed linen to make it comfortable,
they’d managed somehow to hurt it, and she’d seen its other face as it snarled
at them. It was come and gone in a
second, but she’d seen the horror of the demon. Then she’d seen the horror of the man. He knew what he’d done, and he’d curled into a ball and refused
to feed. He’d still been incapable of
speech – of speech other than the word ‘Buffy’, anyway – but he’d lain there
silent and suffering until Buffy had climbed onto the bed behind him and curled
herself around his back. She’d talked
to him. She’d talked to him of old
times, and of the good things they’d done together, and of how she loved him. Martha had heard, and she’d seen, and soon,
she’d stopped thinking of Angel as ‘it’.
Then, when he
was more himself, she’d seen how careful he was not to put himself forward in
any way. He deferred to everyone, even
Martha. Even the cats. He was soft spoken and gentle, and he was
deliberate in everything he did, trying never to throw his weight around, never
to be cock of the walk in this household.
Not that he couldn’t, she was sure.
He had an air about him, that he tried to hide, but she recognised it. He was trying not to be top dog, not because
he couldn’t rule the roost, but because he could. She’d seen a flash of it once, not long ago. The other two had decided on a course of
action, and he’d said, in his quiet way, ‘No, that won’t work,’ and the other
two hadn’t argued, they’d simply looked for another way.
She knew that
she’d been right that he was dangerous, but she just hadn’t realised then quite
how dangerous he was, and who to. She
pitied anyone who really upset him. He
was a bit like Laverton’s bullock, she realised. CiderBoy was a gentle giant, bigger than most other bullocks, and
more accustomed to human company. He’d hang his head over the fence of the
field, looking to talk to anyone who passed.
One day, a few weeks ago, Jason Keevil, a wicked bully of a boy if she’d
ever seen one, had offered what CiderBoy thought was a treat, and instead he’d
had nettles stuffed up his nose. A
couple of days later, the boy and his friends had been crossing the field, and
CiderBoy had cut Keevil out and cornered him against the hawthorn, and then
he’d stood on his foot. The bullock
must weigh over a ton – must have weighed, she corrected herself – and Keevil
had been screaming before he’d moved.
Keevil had been lucky to get away with a broken foot. CiderBoy could have trampled him, and that
was the message that the bullock had given him. Don’t mess with me. She’d
seen old George give the animal a handful of carrots that night.
Not that Angel
seemed to care too much about himself in that sense. Just those he was out to protect. Martha looked across the table at Buffy, her slim hands wrapped
around the coffee mug. She didn’t look
strong enough to protect anyone, and yet…
No, the pair
of them seemed determined to protect the world, with help from Giles, even if
they were trying to do some of it as a business. She wished, for their sakes, that they’d think a bit more about
themselves, Angel especially. She
thought he’d been doing that lately, been more comfortable with who he was, but
Giles had let something slip earlier tonight, about how he might go into a
funk, and all because a wretched dog had bitten him. All she knew was that the village was all the better for having
them there. And anyway, Miss Ella had
loved them. Not as she’d loved Giles,
but she’d loved them like family.
Anyone that Miss Ella had vouched for was fine by Martha. Now, what to talk about, if she was going to
have to carry the whole of this conversation?
wondering whether you’d like some late sown annuals to fill up the gaps in the
garden? He was thinking about trying a
few biennials, too. If he plants them
now, there might just be time. You
know, foxgloves and Canterbury Bells, and things like that?”
“I always like
the purple foxgloves, but John says he’s got some seed from Mrs Fowler, from
those big primrose coloured ones she had last year, and Edna Motcombe gave him
a big parcel of seedlings that she’d weeded up – they should be the white ones
that looked so well beside that red climbing rose of hers…”
And so Martha
chattered on, keeping the silences at bay, and never requiring an answer.
It was almost
eleven o’clock when Colin Blackwether rang.
Zillah was more stable, but he needed to deal with the leg
tomorrow. He’d x-rayed it. Where the dog had had hold of her the bone
was shattered, and there was barely a single bit that was more than half an
inch long. There was nothing he could
do, nothing left to piece together. The
leg would have to come off.
kitchen, there was shocked acceptance.
Blackwether was a good vet.
Giles had seen three-legged cats, and they managed well, but ‘managed’
was never a word he’d thought of applying to Zillah. Surely there was something, with all their knowledge, that they
could do? He wasn’t powerful enough to
work a spell of healing, not for something this big. For a moment the thought of asking Angel to turn her crossed his
mind, and he was shocked that it should have.
Nevertheless, desperate times…
And then another thought crossed his mind, another memory, and he
reached for the phone. It was Nick that
he chose to dial. Nick Hunt, the
orthopaedic surgeon, who’d seen more than he bargained for at Abbotsbury Holt,
and who knew a lot about bones.
“Nick! It’s Rupert. I’m sorry to get at you so late, but…”
“Me? Oh, I’m fine, fine… Yes, Angel and Buffy, too. They’re still here in Westbury. Buffy’s with me right now.”
“What? No, you can’t have Martha! Or John.
Or… Just no!”
“Yes, I know
we’ve got a meeting of the Sophists next weekend, but I’ve got a bit of an emergency,
and I need some advice. I… um… my… our
little black one. Well, a dog has badly
damaged her leg. The vet can’t find
enough bone to pin together. I
remembered you saying about a new technique of using coral…”
This time, the
silence stretched on as Giles listened.
“Yes, yes old
man, that was terrible. I believe the
husband killed himself afterwards. But,
I was wondering whether the coral, you know, using it as a scaffolding to allow
new bone to grow, would work on a cat…”
“I don’t care
about the money. She was Ella’s cat.”
“You can? By tomorrow? Really? You’ll come
down? What about your patients…?”
“Pardon? You’re on what?”
me when you see me. Until tomorrow,
up from what she was doing. She’d taken
to trying to mend Angel’s clothes.
Giles wished that she would leave it to Martha. Angel’s clothes often needed a lot of
mending, and never more so than when Buffy had been trying to repair them. Hopefully, it was a phase, and wouldn’t
he’s coming down first thing. He’ll be
here before Blackwether starts operating – it’s scheduled for eleven
o’clock. He thinks the coral might
work. He’s getting on to his contact
good. Is he okay? You sounded a bit surprised at the end.”
“He’s on gardening
“What? They give top surgeons time off to do their
forgetting about the language barrier.
nothing to do with that. He’s suspended
from his job. I don’t know the
details. He said he’d tell me
Buffy gaped in
confusion, and then she shook her head in simple disbelief, and went back to
her darning. Sometimes she thought
she’d never understand the Brits. She
concentrated on the shirt. It was the one he’d worn to the Boar’s Head, washed
clean of blood, and she loved it. There
was a small tear on the sleeve. From
somewhere, the thought flashed across her mind that if she could mend this
shirt, make it well again, then its wearer would be well, too. She shook the childish thought away. This was what women did. They looked after their man, and that’s all
she was doing. Looking after
Angel. Admittedly, looking after him
usually meant blocking a whistling war axe, or staking something before it
could snap his head off, but it was the same thing. Sometimes, she thought, it was just as dangerous, too, as the
needle plunged into the pad of her finger.
Definitely just as dangerous, as she sucked the drop of blood away.
It was almost
dawn when he got back, and he took care to make as little noise as
possible. He left the Discovery in the
drive rather than crunch across the gravelled courtyard to the garage. She was asleep when he let himself into the
flat, and he longed to wrap himself around her, to plunge into her and lose
himself, to shed his doubts and his self-loathing as a serpent sheds its skin,
to have her peel away his heinousness until nothing remained but his naked
soul. Instead, he quietly showered away
the remnants of his lastborn until at least his outer self was clean.
when he climbed into bed, but he turned away from her, staying on the very edge
of the mattress. Even there, she
pursued him, though, snuggling up to his back, and holding him tight. He heard her heart come out of its rhythm of
sleep, and speed up a little. She was
half awake, no more. Even so, he heard
her beloved voice, throaty from sleep, telling him that she loved him; he felt
her hands caressing him, moulding him into her own sort of clay; and then she
turned him and smiled for him, and kissed him.
He held her close for a few moments, and then turned away again, as if
early the following morning. Giles took
him to meet Colin Blackwether. The vet
had just finished his morning clinic, and was preparing for his surgical
cases. He had two castrations and
He shook hands
warmly with Nick.
“I’ve heard of
you, Mr Hunt. Even in the animal
business, we keep abreast of some of the developments in human medicine. I read your paper on the possible use of
induced microfacture callus response to maintain trabecular continuity…”
“Just call me
Nick. I hope you don’t mind me turning
up like this?”
“N..no. Not at all… Was there something…?”
his golden hair and tanned features making him look like an avuncular sun god.
good! Rupert was telling me about his
cat. Can’t have poor Tiddles losing a
leg for want of a visit to the seaside, now can we?”
He held up the
small box that he was carrying. It had
the stamp of a well-known supplier of seriously unusual items for discerning
surgeons. Blackwether might live the
bucolic life, but he caught on quickly.
“Coral? You brought a coral prosthesis… How…?”
breathless with curiosity.
scaffold a long phalanx, but surplus to requirements at the end of the day. I
reckon it should just about do the trick, with a bit of jiggery pokery and a
sharp scalpel. The joints are
“Yes, I think
everything can be sorted except the fragmentation of the bone.”
eyes were shining with excitement.
Buffy would have groaned and muttered something about boys’ toys.
“Well, it will
be a real pleasure to watch you operate… Nick.”
“Oh, I’m not
licensed to practice on animals. I’m
just the bike messenger with the parcel.”
grin was engaging.
need to be licensed if you’re assisting me…”
“Rupert. Go home.
Wait by the telephone. You’re
holding us up. Now, Colin… it is Colin,
yes? Do you want to show me where we
can get kitted up?
Giles, forgotten, in the waiting room, and he didn’t mind at all.
It was late in
the afternoon before Blackwether dropped Nick back at Summerdown House. Nick had waited to see what would happen to
his patient, and then he’d got caught up in an emergency when two tourists had
brought in their dog. It had been hit
by a car, but that didn’t stop it from biting both Blackwether and
Clarice. Nick described the afternoon
as ‘exhilarating’. He described
Zillah’s progress as ‘good’ and meant it.
But it was early days yet.
back to prepare a meal for them, and three of them sat down to roast rack of
lamb, a glorious dish that prompted Nick to once more try to tempt away its
creator. Martha replied with a swirl of
skirts and a huff, but she patted her hair as she went out.
Angel was the
absentee. If Nick thought it strange,
he had the good manners not to ask. He
looked up every time the door opened, though, and seemed disappointed when only
Martha came in. Giles remembered that
Nick had been attracted, but had accepted the obvious pairing with good
grace. Buffy took advantage of a moment
alone with Giles.
“He said he was
going out, and I don’t know where to. I
haven’t seen him like this for quite a while now, Giles. He’s really brooding. He couldn’t help it that the stupid dog bit
that’s rather the point, Buffy. He had
no control over it. It’s a little as if
you tried to help someone and forgot your strength, and killed them instead.”
care that he killed the dog!”
“No, of course
not. It isn’t that. It’s just…he must feel that his demonic side
has had the better of him, and he couldn’t stop it. He’ll be afraid that it could happen again. And it could, although the circumstances
would have to be rather unique. I don’t
suppose he looks at it that way, though.
You know Angel...”
nodded. She knew, really. She just wanted someone to find a different
explanation, because she didn’t like the one that she’d got.
overnight. All evening he’d been jovial
company, but Giles had seen beneath that exterior. He didn’t need his partners’ supersenses to know that Nick was
hurt and upset. When Buffy finally went
to look for Angel, Giles brought a couple of glasses and a bottle of Scotch
into the family room, and the two men sat down to some serious drinking.
It took more
whisky than Giles had expected before Nick opened up. It seemed that he’d operated on a patient with an abnormality of
the hip, and the patient had ended in a wheelchair, paralysed from the waist
down. Nick was confused and frustrated
about that, because there was no reason for that outcome, no reason at
all. The patient had decided to sue,
and Nick’s employers had taken the usual step of suspending the surgeon heading
the team, while enquiries were made into possible malpractice.
that every operation had risks, but he knew that Nick was careful, and that he
was very, very good. And now he was
hurt and alone.
nothing at home spoiling, so Giles invited him to stay. There was little else he could do to help,
but at least he could be a friend. It
was a decision of the heart, and he would later be profoundly grateful for it.
morning, Angel appeared for breakfast, although he only had coffee. While Nick was tucking into a full English
breakfast, Buffy nodded meaningfully to Giles.
She’d made sure her lover had his own breakfast before he came
over. Where Angel was concerned, Buffy
was ranged alongside Martha. Lack of
appetite was the signal for emergency action.
Then she scowled at Giles as he pushed away his half-eaten meal.
Nick was his
usual talkative self, and Buffy womanfully supported him in that. Angel really tried, but he would slip away
into abstraction, returning only with a visible effort. Giles fretted about Zillah, and didn’t hear
half the comments thrown at him.
brought something interesting, and Giles thanked his lucky stars. There was nothing like a little challenge to
stop people brooding, and this challenge seemed perfect for stopping everyone
from brooding. If he had known what
would happen, he would have burned the envelope unopened.
It was a query
from a prospective client. Did they
deal with cases of possession?
Specifically, did they deal with possessed body parts? There was a postal address in the East End
of London, and an e-mail address. No
telephone number though. Giles excused
himself and went into the study to send a reply. Yes, they might be able to look into the case, if the client
would provide more information. Would
Mrs Monaghan contact them again?
Details of their current rates were attached.
The next two
things happened simultaneously. As
Giles got up to rejoin the others, the computer signalled a new e-mail, and the
doorbell signalled a visitor. Giles
chose to deal with the visitor first.
It was Lisa, accompanied by Sally and Ruth, whom Giles recognised as two
of the girls who stabled their horses at Lisa’s. Girls. They were probably
not much younger than he was. There was
something about the horse that sank its hooves into the genetic material of
small English girls and never let go.
Maybe it formed some sort of mystic hybrid. Oh, that was disgusting, he decided, as a mental image of
Pasiphaë coupling with the bull came to mind.
And then he remembered that he’d never asked Angel about the Sapproth
that he’d read about in the Pissander book.
And then he wondered what the hell he was thinking about, with Nick
unknowingly keeping the Slayer and a vampire company in the kitchen, three
women standing unexpectedly on his doorstep, and Zillah still sedated at
looking at him measuringly.
forgotten, haven’t you? I’m sorry about
Zillah, by the way. I saw Clarice this
morning. She told me. Colin will call you later, she said.”
Such were the
ways of villages and villagers, Giles thought.
There were absolutely no secrets… well, maybe there was the odd one that
they hadn’t tumbled to yet, at least he hoped so, but then the other part of
Lisa’s speech pricked at him.
and in all the happenings, he had definitely forgotten.
had his quotient of charitable garden parties this summer – even in a
season-long campaign to raise money for the children’s hospice, one garden
party had seemed quite enough – but some unidentified vandal had got into the
Templemans’ garden at the Vicarage last week, and had treated the flowers and
vegetables, and the lawn, to a hefty dose of weedkiller, followed by a liberal
coating of red paint. What on earth the
mild-mannered Reverend had done to deserve that was entirely unclear, but what
was obvious was that the Vicarage could not host the last garden party of the
year. Giles had stepped in and made the
And here were
the girls, with a horsebox full of trestle-tables and chairs.
“Are you still
okay about this? Because it’s a bit
late to sort something else out now.”
Ruth was quite
unlike her name. She was ruthless in
her dealings with others, and, having said her piece, she was glowering at him
in a very Ruth-like way.
it’s…erm…it’s fine. Absolutely
fine. I’d just got my mind on other
things, you know.”
lifted a little, and he could have sworn that Lisa almost giggled at his
discomfiture. She came to his rescue.
is for dry, so we thought we’d get the tables and chairs sorted today, and then
tomorrow we can have more time to get things set up. A lot of tickets have been sold.”
groaned. Because this was the last one
of the year, and because it had been arranged for the large and interesting Vicarage
garden, it had been decided to sell tickets to tourists as well as locals, in
an effort to raise a little more cash.
He’d counselled against it – after all, you never knew who might decide
to come and case the joint, so to speak, as a preliminary to a spot of
burglary, but more innocent views had prevailed. Half the women around here would be baking, or making things to
sell. Half the men would be wearing
every last stitch of clothing that they valued, padded out like Michelin men,
while their wives remorselessly hunted out the final items for the Good As New
ahead. Anywhere you like. We’ll come and help.”
As the girls
turned back to the horsebox, Giles bolted into the kitchen. It was too early for strong liquor. Tea would have to do. Three quizzical eyebrows were raised at him.
dratted garden party. I said we’d go
help them unload the van.”
onto the table in mock dismay. Nick
demanded more information. Angel was
tight-lipped and silent.
new mail on the computer, Angel. Would
you mind having a look at that for me.”
As the three
went out, Giles and Buffy vying to give Nick the explanation, Angel watched
them through the window, feeling useless and worthless.
It took the
best part of two hours to unload the trestle-tables and the chairs, and to find
suitable places for them, and when they got back to the house, Angel had put
some lunch together – a bowl of tossed salad in a yoghurt and mint dressing,
hot crusty French bread, and omelettes that he was in the act of cooking. He must have seen Lisa and the other girls
leave. If Nick thought it strange that
Angel hadn’t come out to help, he kept it to himself.
As they sat
down to lunch, Buffy’s heart sank.
Where, before, Angel had been quiet and withdrawn, he was now overtly,
determinedly and fragilely cheerful.
This was so different from his normal demeanour when brooding that she
could only imagine the worst. Giles
shared her misgivings, but could say nothing.
And if Nick noticed any differences between the Angel that he’d met
months ago, before Abbotsbury Holt, and the Angel of today, he made no
until after lunch that the cause of the change became clear. Angel had been researching. In the study, one book lay open – a medical
encyclopaedia – but a sheaf of notes in Angel’s bold script lay beside the
“I checked out
that e-mail that came this morning. It
was the further information from Mrs Monaghan.”
She of the
possessed body parts. Giles raised an
“What did she
have to say?”
us to investigate on behalf of her son.
He had a heart transplant about a year ago, and he thinks he’s been
possessed by the heart’s donor. He’s had
a serious personality change. Now, he
thinks he’s psychic. And he seems to have predicted some things correctly.”
“By Jove! That sounds interesting. You know, I’ve read something about these
cases. With the increase in organ
donation, it’s becoming more common. Do
you really think there might be something in it?”
and Angel all turned to look at Nick, who failed to be in the least
“Do you want
to say what you’ve found already? I
know some good places to look, if you haven’t already seen them.”
No one noticed
Angel’s fists clench, his knuckles showing white, as the research party added
an orthopaedic surgeon to their number.
He went through a summary of his notes, making no comment on any
interpretation he might have put on the information.
been reports for some time of organ recipients who have had strange personality
changes. I’ve got a note of all the
ones I could find – Monaghan isn’t among them, but it includes things like a
sudden development of artistic talent, or ability to write, or to compose
poetry, where no such talent existed before; new and very unexpected passions
like mountain climbing or becoming a strident football fan, or significant
changes in food likes and dislikes. The
thing that links all these changes together, and makes them particularly odd is
that, when the organ recipient manages to find out who the donor is, the change
has always been something the donor loved to do. Something they were passionate about. A heart and soul thing.”
silent. It was Nick who followed that
up. He sat down at the computer,
appropriating Giles’ leather chair. As
the machine whirred into renewed life, he started searching for sites. He talked, as his fingers pecked out the
five percent of recipients report this, and so people are arguing that it’s a
statistical anomaly. Other people are
becoming interested, though. Angel said
the words. Heart and soul. There’s some speculation among people with
that bent of mind that the ancients might be right. That the heart really is the seat of the emotions. And of the soul.”
replied, momentarily oblivious to the look of dismay on Buffy’s face, “it was a
commonly held view. In Egypt, for
example, there were five elements constituting the human being and the ba,
which approximated to the soul, was present at the weighing of its owner’s
heart after death – that was weighed against Maat’s feather of truth, you
know. The ba was represented as a
human-headed bird flying between the two worlds of life and the afterlife. They thought that the brain was just so much
medicine, the heart is seen as housing a chen, a spirit, and their words
for ‘thought’, ‘love’ and ‘virtue’ all contain the ideogram for heart. Almost all cultures that I’ve studied have
seen the emotions, courage, love as centred in the heart. In Islam, to this day, in their teachings of
the Koran, they speak of three sorts of people, the mu’minun, whose hearts are
alive, the munafiqun, who have a disease, or sickness of their hearts in the
emotional sense, and the kafirun, whose hearts are dead. In the Book of Jeremiah, it is written that
the ‘heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.’ But those were desperate times.
“I seem to
recall that Galen implicated the liver in something, which I suppose might be
why we say people are liverish, but it’s the heart that gets the emotions, and
the passions. The soul.”
Buffy’s hand steal into his. He didn’t
look down at her, but he squeezed her fingers gently. After reading the articles speculating that the ancients had been
right about the seat of the soul, he’d already spent part of the morning
brooding on the nature of that soul. He
knew that there were distinctions between ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’, and you needed
to be careful about that – most of the early words from other languages
translated more properly as ‘breath of life’, or similar. So, the spirit was generally something that
gave life, and might have no separate existence from the body, but the soul,
the thing that set him apart from other vampires – he hoped – well, that was
almost always seen in religion and philosophy as being eternal, carrying
sentience and intelligence and surviving beyond the grave. He fervently wished that was so, because if
all he was and had been was truly him, no more than a few neurons that
also made his heart beat, and if the demon simply animated his body, in place
of a different spirit, then he was beyond all prayer. It was how he usually felt, that the mind behind his depredations
had always been his own, but the promised shanshu had somehow made a
tiny, tiny part of him feel that perhaps that wasn’t true, that perhaps he had
been a possessed innocent, and perhaps there was hope for the afterlife. Now the shanshu was gone, and the
feeble hope that it had carried.
But, it was
all very tangled, and no one seemed to know any more about souls and spirits
and emotional hearts than three of the four people gathered in this room.
In his brown
study, he’d missed some of what Nick was saying.
“… and it’s
very fascinating. Some practitioners
are starting to refer to ‘cellular memory’.
Did you know that the cardio-vascular system of each individual is actually
sixty-two thousand miles long? That’s
more than twice the circumference of the Earth! If you look at what we’re discovering about the heart, there are
things that could bear greater study.
There’s the neural net that the heart has – it’s got something like
forty thousand neurons, which is definitely small beer compared to the billions
in the brain, but those neurons feed into the amygdala and the thalamus. The amygdala – that’s a tiny, almond-shaped
piece of brain, very primitive, and it’s responsible for our most basic
emotions – fear, anger, pleasure. It
asks some very simple questions. Can I
eat it? Will it eat me? Can I mate with it? That sort of thing. You can see the connection with the heart –
the heart rate speeding up when it needs to, and slowing down when the stimulus
is gone, for example. And the thalamus
serves as a relay station for the sensory tracts. Again, you can see the link with the heart. Smell smoke? Fire bad. Run like
heck. Pump more blood.
“But, it seems
the cortex uses input from those two areas to produce the deeper emotions.
“You know, the
heart has an EM signal that’s up to 50 times as strong as the one from the
brain. Whatever’s there is definitely active,
and can dominate other rhythms and currents.
Think about it. When we’re under
real stress, the choppy rhythms coming from the heart can disrupt everything
else, and we actually become incoherent when we try to speak. That’s the heart, not the brain. Or so I understand.
brain in the heart and the brain in the head are linked by the vagus nerve, a
kind of trunk cable made up of thousands of neural filaments flashing messages
continually between the two. Who’s to
say which of those messages only go one way?
As I understand it, the current consensus among researchers is that the
body's neural system is a distributed parallel processing operation with
different levels of hierarchy and control.
Little brains. There’s another
in the gut…”
at his surgeon friend with awe.
“You sound as
though you believe that the heart might contain the personality; that something
of another’s soul might be transferred with a heart transplant.”
was cheerful in its disdain.
“Oh, I think
that whole thing is raving bonkers, but I’ve been wrong before, so I keep up
with these things. Out of interest, you
know. Some good science will come from
By this time,
Nick had located a number of sites. He
turned to the others.
adept at this stuff than me? We can
probably get a lot more from these, but my googly-thingy skills are strictly
everything they could about the case from a medical point of view, and they
reviewed the notes that Mrs Monaghan sent them. In the end, they concluded that someone would have to visit the
younger Monaghan, Donald, who lived close-by, at Midsomer Norton. Giles sent an email to her suggesting that a
representative call there at a time to be arranged on Monday, and asked for the
full address. He also remembered to ask
for confirmation that their terms of business were acceptable.
“So, we need
someone to go and visit Donald Monaghan, and see whether there’s anything more
normally paranormal behind all this.”
That wasn’t a welcome
offer. This business was causing Angel
to do a lot of heart-searching – Giles mentally flinched at the unintended pun
– and it really didn’t seem like a good idea to send him.
“I thought it
might be a nice assignment for Buffy.
It’s very close, so she could get there, do the business, and be back in
less than a day, when…”
off, remembering Nick. But Angel didn’t
argue, simply nodded, once. The trill
of the phone broke the ensuing silence.
It was Blackwether. Zillah was
tottering around on a makeshift pot, and demanding attention. He wanted to keep her one more day, just to
be sure, and then she and Ari could come home.
If she was kept quiet. Nick
grinned hugely when he heard the news, and Buffy hugged Angel and then Giles.
evening was a rather more cheerful affair.
More relieved, anyway. Martha
wasn’t in charge of the kitchen. She
was busy at home, making jams, pies, pastries, cookies and all manner of other
gustatory delights for the next day’s event.
Instead, the household raided the freezer for the emergency rations that
she kept in there for the evenings when she wasn’t in attendance. The choices were wide-ranging and
mouth-watering, but Angel ate only the ‘tomato soup’ that waited for him in the
fridge. He pronounced that to be
delicious. He’d heard about CiderBoy.
When the sun
had set, Angel excused himself from the company, the rest of whom had relaxed
for the evening in the family room, saying he needed a breath of air. Giles thought for a brief moment that Buffy
would go with him, but she had understood Angel’s need for some alone time, and
sank back into her chair. He still
hadn’t returned when Giles remembered that he needed to shut the horses up for the
night. When he got to their stable, he
couldn’t help but smile. It was
empty. A note was pinned to the door.
a lot on your plate just now. I’ll take
the boys for a day or two.
It was signed Lisa. Managing females…
It was a fine
night, warm and clear, and he felt that a breath of air would do him good,
too. He set out for Lisa’s stables, a
treat in each pocket for Windsor and Celoso.
When he got to the stables, just a couple of miles away, the horses
A stable door
at one end of the eastern range let on to a small section separate to the rest
of the block. Giles’ horses were in a
pair of loose boxes, facing each other.
Angel was feeding them tidbits of apple.
company than us, tonight?”
was gentle, much as he would use to one of the horses if it was hurt, but Angel
sorry. I… It’s just… I’m sorry.”
normally be a man who wasn’t inclined to say much, but it wasn’t like the
vampire to lose himself in a tangle of words like that. Giles leaned on the wall of the loosebox.
“What is it
Angel? The dog?”
couldn’t help it. It was a one in a
million chance, no more. Tell me
truthfully, has anything like that happened before?”
“You mean have
I turned an animal? Well, yes…”
“Really? Which… No… I mean have you turned someone or
something accidentally like that.
Because that’s what’s eating you up.”
Giles knew that there was something else, too, but one thing at a time.
“No. As far as I know that’s the only time.”
then. Why on earth are you refining on
it so much?”
seen what can happen. What if it
happens again? I’m just not safe…”
Giles cut him
more unsafe than any of us. I could run
someone down in the High Street tomorrow, although, God willing, I hope not
to. Your reflexes make that much more
unlikely for you, so you’re safer than me.
I saw some figures on meteorites yesterday. Eight meteorites of up to twenty-five pounds enter the atmosphere
every year, with a killing area the size of the average back garden. Every eighty years or so, a meteorite
weighing up to a ton hits us, with a killing area of one hundred and thirty
three acres. Every hundred million
years, a meteorite the size of a modest mountain hits Earth with a killing area
the size of England. But so far as
recorded history goes, the only person, as opposed to possible dinosaur, who’s
been hurt by a meteorite was a woman in Alabama, in 1954. It hurt her shoulder after crashing through
the roof of her house. And tomorrow, I
might trip in the kitchen while holding a wooden spoon, and stake you to
ashes. I promise to try and not let
that happen, but I’m not going to fret about the possibility.”
He ended with
a harrumph that almost rivalled the horses’, and Angel, switching his attention
from the furry ear that he was scratching, looked at Giles in amazement.
remember all that?”
“And more if I
have to. Now, what else do I have to
say about chance?”
Angel shook his
head, but said nothing, simply pressed his forehead to Windsor’s.
“If that were
me, he’d toss his head and give me a bloody nose,” Giles grumbled. “It isn’t just the dog, though, is it?”
For a few
minutes, there was only the sound of horses munching, the rustle of hooves
stirring the straw, and the occasional whiffle and snort. Giles refused to break into the crowded
silence, and it was Angel who yielded.
“What if it’s
“What we were
reading today, Rupert. That the soul
might just be a construct of a few neurons in the heart.”
called him Rupert. Never. Only Angelus did that, and since there was
no Angelus factor here, then there was something else. And then Giles had it. Angel needed to talk to someone about this,
but he needed a particular sort of relationship in order to unburden
himself. A relationship of equals. Just now, Angel was living in Giles’
house, earning money from Giles’ company, albeit as a nominally equal partner,
and stroking Giles’ horse. He needed to
talk to someone different. And yet the
Giles did something he never did, either.
He put his hand on Angel’s arm, his fingers around the biceps. They never touched. Oh, in battle they pushed each other out of
harm’s way, but they never touched like this, like two men having a
surprised at the cool feel of the flesh beneath the cloth, although he
shouldn’t have been. The temperature
tonight, a fine September night, was probably around eleven or twelve degrees,
and that would be Angel’s temperature.
It occurred to Giles that this was why he usually had a glass of hot
blood before going to bed. To warm him
up for Buffy. It was harder for the
vampire here than in the California climate.
He was also
surprised at the tautness of the muscle.
Oh, he knew that Angel was in good shape, but this spoke of something
else. In a horse, the animal would be
preparing to bolt, its muscles bunched for flight. He guessed the physiological responses were the same. He kept his voice soft and gentle.
your soul, Angel. You know what it
looks like. It’s more than a few nerve
cells. Other people have seen it. Willow saw it in the Orb of Thesulah.”
necessarily. What has been seen might
just have been a side effect of the spell, some construct to focus the
mind. What if all that stands between
me and Angelus is a few memory cells, a few nerves that link to the deepest
part of what it is to be human. What if
all the gypsies did was to resurrect a cluster of neurons in a rotten,
shrivelled dead heart? That surely
would be more… more possible than dragging souls from the aether? If I had a soul, and it was separate from me
for a hundred and fifty years, why don’t I remember anything of what happened
to it? Of where it was for all that
time? What if that’s all I am, some
cells that remember what it’s like to be human?
that make me? Just a corpse with a
disease. Nothing human.”
to face him, and took hold of his other arm, as if to make sure that they
“If that’s what you are, and all that you
are, then it’s all any of us is. Think
about it! Buffy, me, Nick, any of the
people you see around you. We’re just
corpses in waiting, with the same cluster of cells. But, good god, what a powerful cluster yours must be, to control
what you control.
humanity, look around you! There’s
Walter Buckland, with a mental age of six, and who can barely tie his shoelaces,
but who can tell you what day any date in history fell on, and can name or
number every single locomotive that has ever run on Britain’s railways. Does he not count as human? Or Minnie Tytherington, who was born with
half a body, and has managed for the last forty-odd years? Or Adam Prestleigh, who has a pig’s valve in
his heart instead of his own faulty one?
Does that give him a pig’s soul?
are what you are, no matter what mechanism makes you that. And while you may be different from other
humans in some ways, and while all of us should thank god daily that we won’t
see part of you ever again, you are, fundamentally, a man. And a good man who we can all call friend.”
He looked at
the doubt writ large over Angel’s face, and wondered how he could ever have
considered Angel’s face to be inexpressive.
Impassive. What he saw gave that
the lie. You needed to know how to read
thinking that humanity can never apply to someone who has blood as his only
source of nourishment. Well, what about
the Maasai, who live primarily on milk and cow’s blood? I’m damned sure they aren’t all vampires,
considering how sunny it gets there.
There are special diets for people with severe allergies that seem to
consist of nothing but lamb and pears and potatoes. And I bet there are any number of people in China who get very
little except rice and the odd pig’s whisker.
You may be unusual, Angel, but it doesn’t lessen the humanity in you,
and you aren’t alone.”
When he looked
up into Angel’s face, he thought, in the dim light, that he saw tears standing
in his eyes, but then the vampire pulled away from his grip, turning back into
the shadow of the horse. The moment of
intimacy was over. Giles hoped he’d
done some good.
“Come on, let’s
start back, before Buffy comes looking for you.”
Angel’s arm and steered him out of the stables. As he locked up, he chattered.
Anything to break the silence.
“Have you ever
seen a vampire’s heart? There’s no
reason why it should be some little shrivelled thing – how could staking work,
if there weren’t a proper organ there?”
winced as his researcher’s tongue prattled on.
This topic would never do. But,
even as he searched for another – and naturally nothing came to mind except hearts
and souls – Angel replied.
“No, I’ve not
seen an actual vampire’s heart. I
always preferred to look at beating, blood-drenched hearts. But I’ve seen a vampire without a heart.”
Giles stopped what he was doing and turned to face Angel, who took up the
chores where Giles had left off.
snod demon somewhere with James’ heart, but James lasted six hours without
it. He was invincible. Staking didn’t get him, and neither did
sunlight… But I didn’t get to see the
set off for home. There was no more
conversation, but the silence was, at least, companionable.
was in bed, and a long day was promised tomorrow, with the garden party. Giles was still in his study, watching the
hands of the clock creep round towards midnight. He couldn’t get his mind away from the conversation with Angel,
earlier. What did the heart of a
vampire look like? Was it different to
how it had looked before death? How
could he show Angel that his soul was more than a cluster of memories in some
nerve cells? That the gypsies had truly
given him back the ethereal but essential him, and the Coven had bound
it in place?
decisive, he picked up the phone and dialled a number, apologising for the late
call, but staying on the line until he had what he wanted. That led to another call, and then
another. And then the one that he’d
wanted in the first place, but didn’t have the number for.
Keith. It’s Ripper.”
names are important.
“Yes, I’m well
aware of the time. Do you still have a…
don’t care about your habits and predilections, but I’m sure there are people
who do. If you’ve got one, I want to
know. Tell me the truth, and I’ll give
you five thousand pounds for it, provided I get to see it tonight. Lie to me, and I can bring your dirty little
preferences to the attentions of some very interested parties.”
“Yes. I’ll be there in under two hours. The address?”
In the event,
he got there in considerably less than two hours. Keith had given him an address on the edge of Tiger Bay, the old
Cardiff Docklands. Now they were
redeveloped and rebuilt, new inner city apartments replacing inner city slums,
the Ship and Pilot now a brasserie called the Orange Tree, and the old
community dead, if not yet quite buried.
But there’s always an edge to new development. Always somewhere that the tentacles of the modern don’t quite
reach. A small area of wasteland or
alleys or broken-down warehouses or dank and dreary terraces of houses occupied
only by squatters or by the hopeless.
That’s where Giles was now. A
man got out of a black car, a new and shiny Ford looking as out of place here
as Giles felt.
“Giles. What in hell is so urgent at this time of
night? And why do you want to see
personal, Keith. It’s work, that’s
safer to say that than to admit that he wanted to save a friend from heartache
and worry. He winced again at that
brought the money?”
He handed over
a brown envelope.
thousand in cash – that’s all I had in the safe – and a cheque for the
rest. You know it’s good.”
nodded. He’d known the man for decades,
and his word, be it threat or promise, was always good.
“I’ll take you
and followed Keith into the nearest dingy house. The red brickwork was blackened by a century of coal-fired
pollution, the woodwork rotting. There
was very little paint left to peel. The
inside wasn’t much better.
“You keep her
Ahead of him,
in the gloom cast by a low-wattage, bare light bulb, Keith shrugged.
seem to mind.”
tightened on the things he was carrying.
“She’ll be no
good to you when I’m done.”
that much when you said you’d pay.
Doesn’t matter. I’ll get another
She was in one
of the two upstairs rooms. She was
chained to the bed, the only solid thing in this rotting house, and she was
almost incapable of movement because she was stoned. She lay in a seemingly boneless heap, giggling and pointing at
the cracks in the tired grey plaster of the ceiling. Giles thought that she was beyond the point of feeling anything,
but he shot her with a tranquilliser dart anyway.
to the wardrobe. When Giles opened it,
there were, indeed, more manacles.
There were a lot of other things, too, neatly arrayed on shelves that
had been fitted inside. Keith was not
nice to his pets. Giles felt a surge of
disgust, as he imagined Angel in the place of the female vampire on the bed.
“What do you
“It’s my own
development of Orpheus. Doesn’t need a
human for the biting part. A dog or a
cat will do. She’s had a dose big
enough to keep her docile for twenty-four hours.”
The taste of
his disgust was strong enough to chew.
Still, he wasn’t going to be in the Boy Scout League here, either.
“How old is
his lip in thought.
“I’ve had her
for four years. I think she was about
three when I got her.”
More than half
her life had been spent here.
“Help me with
they got Pauline shackled securely to the iron bedposts.
“Best if you
go, I think.”
“Oh, no. I want to watch. What are you going to do, Ripper?”
Giles tore the material of the vampire’s dress from neckline to hem. She wore nothing underneath. He opened his bag and took out a
wicked-looking knife. It had a mark
that indicated that it was used for killing Kek demons, or would be, if they
weren’t already extinct, and it had belonged to Wesley. It was one of the things that had come from
Los Angeles… Shaking away that thought,
and the question of whether Wesley would ever have had the sheer nastiness to
do what he was about to do now, Giles brought out a pair of strong bolt
half-healed marks from Keith’s last visit to her were still evident, but they
would be of no account when he was finished.
He needed to see her heart. He
couldn’t do that if he killed her first.
And then he needed to find a better way than this to see Angel’s. He needed to be able to reassure his friend
that souls did not reside in hearts.
This was the first step.
tranquilliser wore off after a very few minutes, and even the upgraded Orpheus
that she’d been given didn’t stop her pain enough to prevent her from
screaming. Keith tore strips from her
dress and stuffed one into her mouth and down her throat. He used the other to tie the gag in place.
As he drove
back, speeding under the jowls of Wales, crossing the Severn into England, and
making for home, he thought that he might start to shake. That there might be some reaction to what he’d
done, even though he’d done it with no feeling whatsoever. But he didn’t. He was perfectly calm and steady.
Angel had been
almost right about the invincibility of a vampire without a heart. Almost, but not entirely.
not have a heartbeat, but their blood still circulated, albeit slowly. He’d seen Angel bleed more often than he
could count. As he’d slid the knife
through her flesh, and then cut into her ribcage, her blood had slicked his
fingers and run over his wrists. When
he’d cut the heart out, to examine it, little spurts of blood had come from the
severed arteries. He’d been tired and
in a hurry, and her circulatory system had not been his prime concern,
otherwise he would have taken more notice and made notes. Instead, he’d concentrated on the heart
itself. When he’d seen what he needed
to see, he’d placed the heart back in her heaving chest cavity.
to stake her, but, as with James, that hadn’t worked. It had been another three hours or so until sunrise, so they
couldn’t try that. She hadn’t been
immune to beheading, though. That had
worked just fine, and left the vampire and her damned heart as merely a pile of
dust on the bed. It had taken several
swings of the axe, though, just as with Mary Queen of Scots. Or had that been a sword? He was much too tired to remember. And even if he wasn’t too tired, his memory
had no room for anything other than that heart. He thought that the sight of that seven year old, wizened,
leathery organ, blighted and brown, wrinkled and shrunken to the size of the
final forgotten apple of last year’s harvest, would live eternally in his
But his hand
was steady on the wheel, his own heartbeat was calm, and when he showered the
blood off and climbed into his own haunted bed, he fell asleep instantly. That was when the nightmares came.
It was a fine
evening for a garden party, and Ivy Grittleton surveyed the assemblage as she
sat on her chair by the front porch, her handbag clutched firmly on her
knee. Ivy was a doyenne of Westbury’s
senior citizenry, and she rated pride of place among those content to
people-watch. She watched the impromptu
band from the Blue Bull set up so that the young people could have… what did they
call it now? A hop? And she watched as the Cidermen rolled up a
couple of barrels from last year’s pressing.
No doubt they were making room for this year’s.
garden was looking very well. It had a
lot of growing still to do, but she’d watched it take more definite shape this
summer. Such a pity that Walter and
Esther had been forced to grub up all the old garden, and lay it to grass. Still, Rupert was remaking it for himself,
and that was good. She’d seen John
Fletcher and that new helper he’d had for a few weeks… What was his name? Stewart? Stephen?
Something like that… Well, she
might not be able to remember his name, but she remembered how lovingly he’d
made that garden. The permanent
plantings were small and new, but they’d filled it up with summer bedding, and
everything glowed in the moonlight, as if it knew it was loved. She wondered where he was now.
herself for a foolish old woman, but she had these feelings, sometimes…
The man who
was currently dancing attendance on her, another Walter, Walter Satterthwaite,
dodged his way through the crowd to bring her a cup of tea and a plate of
something that was likely to keep her up all night with indigestion. Walter was a Yorkshireman, and he’d moved
down here five years ago, when he’d retired.
He said he wanted to be nearer his family, but they all worked in
London, so she didn’t yet know why he’d chosen Wessex. Still, he was a widower, and his late wife,
despite being a Yorkshirewoman, had clearly done a good job of training
him. He was much like her own dear,
departed Charlie had been – quiet and respectful, and attentive to her
needs. She supposed that she was
probably walking out with Walter, but she hadn’t yet let him know that that was
the state of their relationship.
arrived with a plate of comestibles, and that welcome cup of tea, and in a real
cup for Ivy, not a dreadful polystyrene thing, she had to choose between the
plate and her handbag. Reluctantly, she
put her handbag down between her feet.
Not that she had any fear of it being taken, not here, and probably not
anywhere else. Too many of the wild
young boys – and the not-so-young ones – had felt the sting of her cane across
ensconced again, she looked questioningly at Walter, who nodded to the
companions who had come to join her while he had been gone searching for
provender, and one of who had, incidentally, also appropriated his chair. In receipt of their preferences, he once
more set off into the fray.
There were a
lot of people here, and not all of them were known to her. She didn’t like that. She’d been here since Charlie had courted
her from her own village a few miles away, and she prided herself that she knew
everyone. She generally knew their
business, too, not because she was nosy, oh no indeed, but because she simply
kept her eyes and ears open.
She’d come in
her gloves, in lavender kid to match the crepe of her dress, because this was
an evening affair, and the autumn night would be chilly for old bones, and
they’d sat unnoticed on her lap. As she
juggled with her plate and her cup, they slid to the ground, and she stared at
a young man who was passing until the weight of that stare made him pause and
look at her uncertainly.
pick my gloves up for me, young man?”
He bent down
and retrieved them. She was relieved to
see they’d taken no harm. She’d made
those gloves herself, back in the days when Westbury had been famous for
glovers. That had been her trade, when
she hadn’t been rearing a family, and she had few enough pairs left.
are, Mrs Grittleton.” He saw that her
arthritic hands were full. “Would you
like me to lay them over your handbag?”
She beamed at
him, please by his pretty manners.
Sarah Buttsworth had nothing to be ashamed of in her grandson.
“Can I get you
ladies anything?” He looked from Ivy to
the other two, but they all shook their heads.
you. Mr Satterthwaite is attending to
his head and hurried away. Ivy wondered
if he was still chasing after the pretty blonde girl. She thought there might be trouble if he was. The girl was very much attached
elsewhere. At least, she’d better be,
the way she was carrying on.
“I don’t know
why they had to make this so late. It’s
almost eight o’clock now, and we’ve lost all the sun.”
Ivy turned to
the woman on her left. To her right was
Minnie Heywood, a boon companion, but to her left was Madge Oldford, her
implacable enemy. She let her gaze
sweep across the fairy lights and the candle lanterns hanging from poles, and
the newfangled solar powered lights.
They were in a rainbow of colours, sparkling in the gathering darkness,
and she thought they all looked rather pretty.
They’d probably come from Hugh Jones, he of the marquee and bouncy
castles for hire.
“I think it’s
rather nice, Madge. Something different
for the last gathering of the year. And
it’s a lovely night, unseasonably mild.
around for a different missile.
Langford will get himself into trouble if he isn’t careful, making eyes at the
American girl like that. The man isn’t
going to like that, the one that’s, you know, living with her.”
She had added
the last three words in a stage hiss.
She paused for effect, before continuing her train of thought, and Ivy
allowed her to.
people, that young Rupert Giles has living with him. Very strange indeed. Mind
you, it’s no more than you can expect from the Gileses. Always have been a rum bunch. Mixing with all sorts, that family. Bringing who knows what to the village. Such people – not part of the village at
all. Rupert really should know better.”
dear. Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.”
Ivy gave the
speaker, Minnie, a withering look. That
was just what you would expect from someone who’d never been further than five
miles away from Westbury. Not like
Ivy. She’d travelled. She’d been to Bristol. Several times. And then there was just the once she’d been to London… Mr Satterthwaite kept saying that he should
take her to see his native Yorkshire, but she hadn’t encouraged him in that
thought. Not yet.
aware that she might have said the wrong thing. Truthfully, she hadn’t heard a word the dreadful Oldford woman
had said. She’d been looking at all the
nice young men. A treat for old eyes,
they were. She hadn’t seen that nice
young American, yet. Her father had
raised her to be a Methodist, not one of those wishy-washy Church of England
types, and so she’d seen that handsome young man give his talk on Biblical
monsters to the Methodist Ladies’ Circle.
She knew he was here somewhere, because she’d heard that pretty little
girlfriend of his call his name, and then she’d heard his voice – and that was
something that was once heard never forgotten – but somehow, he always seemed
to be out of the range of the lights.
And her eyes definitely weren’t as good as they used to be.
did I miss something?”
and turned back to Madge. Minnie felt a
shudder coming on. Those two would
sharpen their sentences and cross swords at every opportunity. They did it every day, and with every sign
that it was a pleasure not to be missed.
Secretly, she thought that she was the expendable buffer state, and that
Ivy and Madge would be lost without each other.
saying what queer folk the Gileses and their friends are. And not part of the village. What do you think, Minnie?”
Minnie was not
deceived. What was expected here was
silence, so that Ivy could launch her counter-attack. She decided to live dangerously.
“Well, I don’t
know that I would say ‘queer’, exactly…”
ruthlessly across her, although she gave the impression that she wasn’t sure of
what she wanted to say.
I suppose you could call them strange.
The boy was strange enough to be able to get young Ellie Croscombe’s
kitten out of that tree last week – and in the dead of night, when they’d
almost given up on finding it. And
remember when we had all that snow last winter? The girl went out and delivered coal to all the old ladies that
Arthur Holden’s lorry couldn’t get to, and she such a slip of a thing. He, Angel, visited every one each night to
make sure they were in want of nothing.
I suppose that the Smiths and the Fitzpatricks thought the pair of them
were strange when they rescued Rosemary and Pauline from that fire. They wouldn’t have been grateful at all, do
you think? And then there’s young
Rupert, of course…
interrupted her flow.
“Oh, and Buffy
– that’s the girl’s name, you know – last week she was taking out the meals on
wheels, while April was down with that virus she had. She only got lost twice, but that was for Mrs Coleford and old Mr
Cheyney, they live so out of the way, don’t they? And they’ve both got microwave ovens, so that didn’t matter.”
at Minnie. She hadn’t known about the
meals on wheels.
young Rupert…” She recalled what a tearaway he’d been as a boy. More than once he’d had to be carried home
on a hurdle, including that time after falling from the top of the High Oak and
knocking himself unconscious. He’d
always been respectful, though, and never scrumped more than a modest share of
Rupert,” she started again, “is just like his parents. If something needs doing, he does it,
without no fanfare, neither. Like when
old Lottie Rudloe gave every last penny she had to those cowboy builders who
wrecked her house, and she with no family in the world to turn to. It was the Gileses that spoke to Bill
Wingham, and got him to sort the place out for her, and it was the Gileses that
paid for it, too, although Lottie never knew.
O’course, she was a bit loopy by the end of it. Still, who wouldn’t have been?
“Come to think
of it, Madge, didn’t your Stephen get into some sort of trouble a couple of
years back, and didn’t dare come to you or his mum for the fine. Didn’t Rupert help him out there, after he’d
given his oath he wouldn’t do it again?
Did Stephen ever finish paying that money back, by the way?”
It was Madge’s
turn to huff. She supposed Ivy knew
well enough that Stephen hadn’t held a proper job since, and still owed Rupert
Giles, although how she knew, Madge could never understand, because she was as
sure as sure that Rupert Giles wouldn’t have said anything. Minnie added her mite.
“And there are
all those times that Angel has helped Andy Filshaw and Tony Barnes at the
Boar’s Head, and John Cummings at the White Hart, and all those others, when
they’ve had a spot of bother around closing time. Oh, and that lovely drawing he did of the church for Reverend
Templeman’s fund for the steeple.”
“Angel! What sort of name is Angel for a grown
man? Or Buffy, for her, come to that?”
was gentle in victory.
“You know, we
can’t do anything about the names that parents choose for us, unfortunate
though they may be – can we, Madge?”
mouth pursed into an ugly, sour little moue, got to her feet.
“I can see
Stephen over there, and I need to speak to him. But mark my words. Kevin
Langford had better watch himself, or someone is going to get hurt.”
With that, she
walked off into the greater crowd on the lawn, leaving both Ivy and Minnie to
reflect that Madge had probably never spoken a truer word.
“O sing unto the
Lord a new song: for he hath done marvellous things.
With his own
right hand, and with his holy arm: hath he gotten himself the victory.”
round to find Mr Satterthwaite and the vicar, Reverend Templeman, standing
“Psalm 98, Vicar.”
Mrs Grittleton. I happened on Walter
here, trying to manage your delicacies, and all the trays gone, so I offered to
carry some of these things for him. Do
you think that Mrs Oldford will be back for hers? No? Well, then Walter,
you have done your chivalry for the day, and I suggest you take the Siege
Perilous, and Mrs Oldford’s cup and plate.
Here you are, ladies.”
He handed over
the things that he had been carrying.
must see whether we have new parishioners, who can be inveigled into coming to
church.” He lowered his voice. “And well done on routing the dragon. I do believe that our American friends are
excellent additions to the parish.”
off, leaving Ivy in possession of the field.
“Thank you, Mr
Satterthwaite. Now, if you would be so
kind as to refill my tea cup before you quite get settled?”
“Do you think
he was named for the old Angel Mill, Ivy?”
“Minnie, he’s American. He’s never been near the Angel Mill until
restored, Ivy and Minnie went back to people-watching. When the tea was finished, there would
always be the cider…
Even though it
had been a last-minute change of venue, the garden party had been a great
success, and would swell the hospice’s coffers by a not-inconsiderable
amount. Giles had been far too tired
after his trip to Cardiff, and had simply let things sweep over him, but Nick
had enjoyed it hugely, and so had Buffy.
Between them, they had managed to drag Angel out of the shadows, and
Giles hoped that the vampire had regained enough perspective to see that he was
becoming liked and valued.
Now, they were
sitting together for a nightcap. Or
almost all together. Buffy had gone to
the study to see whether there was any news from the Monaghans. She came back with a mug of hot chocolate
and a piece of paper.
says that her son is with her in the East End of London. She suggests eleven o’clock tomorrow morning
if that’s okay with us. I could get a
train, couldn’t I? Do we have the
London A-Z, Giles? And a Tube map? I don’t think I want to try and drive
through there. It’s so… manic. Oh, and there’s a message for you,
Angel. I didn’t open it.”
about it, but just this once, conscience had got the better of her.
“Where is the
address, Buffy?” She was surprised that
the question should come from Nick.
“I’ve got an
appointment with my lawyer in the City at ten-thirty. If you like, I can take you to a Tube station, and then pick you up
again when you’ve finished.”
Nick had been
looking serious since coming back into the house, and now they understood
why. He’d had a few days’ grace from
his own pressing affairs, and now he had to deal with them.
for a hearing?” Giles asked.
“Yes. Two hours, max, I should think. If you’re done before then, I’ll buy lunch
enthusiastically, and so it was agreed.
Angel went to
check his mail, and came back looking as serious as Nick. Someone whose identity he didn’t recognise
had sent him a note to say that Montague Summers’ grave had been
desecrated. The informant believed that
his bones would be used for some dark magic.
Angel didn’t know whether to believe it or not. So, he used the internet. A small item of news, lately posted,
confirmed the email, although it gave no indication of the identity of the
despoiled grave. It simply cited
Richmond. That was good enough for him. He needed to look at this.
Back in the
family room, he gave a terse summary of the news.
Summers? What on earth are people doing
digging up his bones?” Giles scrubbed
at his glasses in perplexity.
“I think I
need to go and look.”
“Yes… yes, I
think that would be best.” Giles knew
that Angel was definitely the best person for this job, and it might give him a
whole new set of problems to think about.
Take his mind off other things.
“Come in with
Buffy and me, if you like. We’ll have a
at Nick, and the surgeon had to remind himself that this man was taken.
but I think I’d better get going now.
Get there while the trail’s hot, if you know what I mean.”
“I can’t think
of anything more spooky than a cemetery at night, but I suppose you know your
business best. You don’t feel too unnerved?”
shook his head.
So, Angel took
the Carrera and set off for Surrey.
He’d been gone half an hour before Buffy found his cell phone sitting on
the hall table, where he’d put it the day before. Casting her eyes to heaven, she went to the flat to get ready for
an early start.
the next morning, Nick was surprised to find that Angel hadn’t returned. Neither Buffy nor Giles shared that
surprise, although they didn’t tell him why.
They’d fully expected that sunrise at six am, or thereabouts, would mean
that he would have to take shelter for the day. So, they planned their outing.
Nick needed to be at St Paul’s.
He would drop Buffy off there, and she could take the Tube just three stations
to Bethnal Green. It was a fine day,
and he would wait for her around St Paul’s Cathedral. If they had time, he would show her the sights there as well as
buy lunch, or possibly afternoon tea.
They both had their cell phones.
They wouldn’t miss each other.
Nick booked his entry into the Congestion Zone and paid his fee, and
they were off. Buffy reflected that
Angel had gone to an opposite corner of the Underground network, in
Richmond. She wondered how he had
considered going with them, but there were things that needed doing, and he
Richmond and East Sheen Cemetery easily enough. He wanted the Grove Road entrance, for the Richmond Cemetery
part, and, for a wonder, it was exactly where the A-Z said it should be. Section 11, grave number 10818. He’d found that on the internet, quite
possibly just as someone had before him.
He walked up the path from Grove Road.
Just before the Garden of Rest on the right and the Star and Garter
section on the left, he found section 11.
From there, it wasn’t hard to locate Montague Summers’ grave. Even in a cemetery, even though there was
only a small and simple headstone, all he had to do was follow his nose.
soil was obvious, and so were the few bones scattered around. If the body had been unearthed, most of it
was missing. The whole thing was so
obvious that it must have been done during the hours of darkness. Surely there would have been innocent
visitors to this significant corner of the cemetery on a Sunday afternoon? The perpetrators might not be long gone.
He was uneasy
about the anonymity of the source, and about the very convenient news item that
wasn’t backed up by action from the authorities, but what choice was
there? Something was happening
here. They hadn’t faced any body
snatchers, any resurrection men, since the almost-Apocalypse of June. But there, Francis had been stealing fresh
bodies to reanimate with powerful demons as their new tenants. Now, Francis was dead, or gone to Hell,
stewing there with his Lord and master, Old Nick himself. That was over and done with.
many, many rites and rituals that required grave mould, or bits of bone, or
cerecloth, or other relics of the dead, and he had no idea yet what might be
afoot. Or else, if this grave had
deliberately been targeted and ransacked, it might be that someone, demon or
human, wanted to take this particular skeleton, a famous demonologist, simply
for the kudos that it would bring. And
possibly for the cash it could also bring.
But, if that were the case, why leave some of the bones behind? Then Angel remembered that Summers’
long-time companion had also been buried in this grave.
He set about
trying to differentiate between who had been there, the dead and the quick,
between demon and human, using every sense available to him. That was when he felt a prick on his neck,
first one and then, as he whirled round, a second dart that took him full in
the throat. He felt himself vamp, and
he tried to roar, but his throat wouldn’t obey, and neither would his vocal
cords, and then he was falling into oblivion.
He hung on long enough to hear someone whispering, softly, in his
ear. The voice had the tonal quality of
gravel rolled over sheet steel.
the first, vampire. Those you
know and love will follow.”
And then he
remembered no more.
A lone figure
stood at the edge of a small copse on a rise of ground to the north of
Westbury, overlooking the Hawkeridge Road.
Even from here, Kevin could see the mineholes below The Ham, the
artificial lakes that filled the old opencast mine workings shining silver in
the moonlight, more beautiful than one would imagine from their
beginnings. He found it impossible to
sleep nowadays, haunted by dreams as he was, and so he’d taken to roaming
around Westbury to try and tire himself out.
He mainly roamed at night, when his grandmother was asleep.
He would be
leaving Westbury in a week or so, and he knew that he was besotted with
Buffy. He was also as sure as he could
be that, although she wore no ring, he had no chance with her. He hadn’t seen her with Angel often, but
when they were together, they seemed very… attached. And then he’d been at the garden party tonight.
As everyone got
slightly tipsy on cider that could crinkle paint, he’d seen them slip into a
secluded part of the garden, and he’d followed. He would never know what made him do that. It was so…so uncharacteristic, but
he’d done it nonetheless. Sex hadn’t
been involved, technically, but it was only a whisper away. As Buffy threw back her head, her neck long
and pale in the light of the full moon, Angel had kissed her throat, and Kevin
had almost come on the spot, at the utter lasciviousness of what he’d seen,
even through the veiling of some evergreen shrub or another. The scene was so completely erotic,
involving only his mouth and her throat, that it was almost as if
Angel were some sort of… some species of vampire, ready to drink down her lifeblood
in a beautiful but deadly embrace, and just as Kevin had castigated himself for
having far too fanciful an imagination, the man had looked up, his mouth still
working on Buffy’s throat. Kevin could
have sworn that Angel had looked straight at him, had held his gaze for a few
long seconds, and then had turned his attentions back to Buffy. For those few seconds, the moonlight had
seemed to glimmer golden in his eyes. He
couldn’t possibly have seen Kevin, could never have known, of course, that someone
else was there. It was far too dark,
and Kevin too well hidden, but Kevin couldn’t help but think… He thought that
Angel looked as if he was enjoying the knowledge that Kevin was there, that
Kevin had seen something that he shouldn’t.
Kevin had left
as silently as he could, slipping unnoticed away from the party, then, running
blindly along road and pavement and path, until he had found himself here. And here he had stayed, to brood. He’d been in this place for hours. It wouldn’t be all that long until dawn, and
he didn’t want his grandmother to wake up and find him not there. But, for some reason, he couldn’t bring
himself to move from this spot. Not
until he’d somehow resolved what he was going to do. Should he speak to Buffy, see whether he had any sort of chance
at all? Or would she laugh at him? If he didn’t speak, did he have the
resolution to simply leave her behind?
As he pondered
that question for perhaps the thousandth time that night, he saw two cars pull
up in a small lay-by on the Hawkeridge Road, close to where it joined The Ham,
and close to the railway line. Even
from here, he recognised the black Porsche, but not the other, much bigger
car. The second car had an
indistinctive shape – it could be one of several models.
The doors of
the Porsche opened, and two men got out, big and burly. Intrigued, Kevin started to move downhill,
to see more closely what was happening.
The two men opened the doors of the other car, and four more large and
bulky men climbed out. No. Five.
Except, the one who had been in the middle of the back seat seemed
dazed, or drunk. As soon as the others
pulled him out, he staggered, even though two of them held him. He seemed to break away from their hold, and
he lurched forward a few steps and then he fell heavily, catching his temple
against the corner of the open driver’s door of the Porsche. He collapsed to his knees. He would have dropped all the way to the
ground, except that three of the men caught at his arms and then they all
gathered around him and pulled him upright.
One seemed to press a hand against his throat, perhaps feeling for a
pulse, but he subsided after that. Then
they half carried, half dragged him away from the cars.
close enough now to see better, but his attention was riveted by one face, and
he noticed nothing of the others. When
he tried to look at them, they had already turned their backs to him. The almost-unconscious man was Angel. He wondered what Angel was doing with these
strange men at this time of night, and he wondered why he was drunk. And then some mean little portion of his
soul wondered whether… if Angel lost some of that handsome gloss, some of the
heroic demeanour… whether Buffy might start to feel differently about someone
watched as the men dragged Angel to a small, tumbledown building by the side of
the road, and then he slipped away into the night, heading for his
at St Paul’s Cathedral just before one o’clock. He’d left his Bentley in the barrister’s private car park – well,
he reckoned he’d paid them a heck of a lot of money, so they could house his
car for a few hours. They didn’t seem
to be good for much else. He stood in a
couple of obvious places, but there was no sign of Buffy, nor had he really
expected there to be. Her business
would probably take longer than his had, and he hoped it would have more
discussions hadn’t gone well. The
evidence against him was starting to mount up, and he still couldn’t understand
where any of it had come from. He knew
that he was a popular and respected practitioner, but that for everyone who
respected him, there would be someone else who was happy to see him fall. Evidence and opinions were accumulating, and
they all seemed to go against him. He
could be in serious trouble. He’d get
by financially – he wasn’t entirely dependent on his fees and earnings, but he
lived for his work. He didn’t think he
could get by without that.
In a way, he
was glad that Buffy hadn’t shown yet.
It gave him a chance to recover some of his sang-froid, and some
of his genial bonhomie. He’d loved the
time that he’d spent at Rupert’s these last few days, but today, some alone
time wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
how full of pigeons London could be, and so he took refuge in strolling round
the Cathedral – it had been years since he’d done that. He was struck anew by the sheer grandeur of
it. Then he went back into the late
summer sunshine and found a small café where he had coffee and a salad, to fend
off the hunger pangs. There was no call
Giles hung up
the phone. Blackwether had said that
Zillah was doing very well indeed, as was Ari, and that Giles could collect the
two of them anytime today. He felt his
heart lift. Before setting off, he
checked the mail, both physical and electronic. Physically, there was only junk mail and bills. Electronically, there was still junk mail,
but there was also a message from a firm of solicitors in Frome. They were handling the estate of a deceased
client. The estate agents had reported
strange happenings in the property.
Surveyors had found nothing wrong, and there was no evidence of
vandals. Would Project Paranormal care
to inspect? The key was available from
either of two neighbouring houses. The
fee offered was rather in excess of the one that Giles would normally charge.
He shot off a
brief reply – that he would make an initial inspection today – and gathered
together a few necessities. The house
was on Hawkeridge Road, just above The Ham.
It wasn’t well populated just there, so perhaps it was no more than a
wandering demon. He added an axe to his
bag. He’d have a look, see if there was
anything obvious, and then pick up the cats on the way back. Two cat carriers went into the back of the
car, along with his bag.
slowly up the road, looking for the address.
When he came to a lay-by, his first thought was to pull in and look for
the house on foot. His second thought was
that there was already a car in the lay-by, and then he registered what the car
was. It was Angel’s.
He pulled up
behind it and got out. He couldn’t
imagine why Angel would park his car here, and why he’d need to come here for
the day anyway, and mystery turned to concern when he walked up to the driver’s
side door. The window was smeared with
blood. His heart racing with a sudden
onset of fear, he opened the door.
There was no evidence of ash. He
didn’t realise he’d been holding his breath until he heard his sigh of
relief. Just to be sure, he crouched
down and looked at the road surface around the Porsche. No ash there, either. No evidence that Angel had come to harm
except for the blood. And then, he
found something that he recognised. It was
a small metal dart used to deliver a tranquilliser, much like the one he’d used
He was about
to lever himself up when a blow struck him on the back of the head. He neither saw nor heard his attacker as he
fell face down onto the road. He tried
to struggle back to his feet, but hands and knees seemed to be the best he
could do. A rough, gravelly voice
breathed in his ear.
“Lie down, old
to get up, to face the threat.
“I said, lie
down. You aren’t up to this any more,
Then there was
another blow, and darkness. He didn’t
feel the hands that carried him into a small tumbledown building a little way
the address she was looking for easily enough.
Her brief was clear. Try to establish
whether this was a normal paranormal manifestation, strange as that might
sound. Some sort of parasitic demon,
perhaps. If it was, deal with it if she
could, or send for reinforcements. If
it truly seemed to be something that had come to Monaghan as part of the new
heart package, then get as much information as she could, and take it back to
Westbury for further research.
got on the wrong train – there were only two directions to choose from, and
trains had been waiting at both platforms, to calls of ‘Mind the doors’, not
even a please and thank you anymore, as she’d pelted down the stairs. Not being familiar with the station names,
it was plain luck that she’d chosen correctly as she hurled herself through the
narrowing gap of the sliding doors. It
was nothing to do with her non-existent sense of direction, or completely
latent map-reading abilities. She
scanned the coloured diagrams over the windows anxiously, but the next stop had
been Bank, and she knew that luck had favoured her.
stopped at Liverpool Street, where there was a mass exodus, and a mass inodus,
or whatever the word was, as people changed tube lines or headed for the
mainline station. Then it was her stop,
She got out of
the station, onto a broad thoroughfare, lined largely by three-storey, very
much undetached, yellow brick buildings.
She knew enough about Britain now to understand that these were
Victorian buildings, darkened by years of smoke pollution.
at the rows of shops again. Or maybe
earlier than Victoria. She’d sounded
off once to Giles about how Angel was older than the United States. Since being here, she’d realised that half
of everything in Britain seemed to be older than the United States, and that
probably included most of the buildings she could see here, although their
occupants must have changed several times in the last couple of centuries. She hoped.
The shops were
an eclectic mix of pizzerias, kebab houses, pubs, mini-cab firms and electrical
goods retailers. There were even some
that would have been useful for everyday shopping. The people were as eclectic as the shops. She spotted every shade of skin colour and
heard what she assumed to be an East End accent coming from people who would
have looked more at home on desert sands or in darkest Africa. She smiled broadly. She loved it already. The area was seedy and down at heel, but it
was definitely homely. She swung her
backpack over her shoulder and set off into the unknown.
down Cambridge Heath Road, crossing the junction of Roman Road from the Tube
station to the Museum of Childhood.
Someone had tried to make that more attractive by putting tables and
chairs outside, and by planting up a small garden. She wondered whether she’d have time to call in and see what was
inside. The next junction was Old Ford
Road, and on the other side was York Hall, somewhere that definitely looked as
though it needed a facelift. She could
almost imagine Spike and Drusilla going to what she’d heard referred to as
‘music hall’ there. She tried not to
think of Angel – Angelus – and Darla going there, too.
Patriot Square, at the back of York Hall, and then she was there. Millennium Place. As she turned into the little backstreet, she realised that it
was entirely different in character to the area she’d just walked through. It was quiet, for one thing, not the
hurly-burly of multi-ethnic passers-by, or even the roaring racket of
multi-ethnic vehicles on the main road.
It was a new development, hence its name, she supposed, of three-storey
apartment blocks in sand-coloured brick, trimmed with steel-blue. The doors and windows were all tasteful
white, and the architecture, she thought, was borrowed from the Georgian. She preened a little at having absorbed so
much from her menfolk.
It was a
private, gated development, and she had to give her name before she was buzzed
in. Then she located the door she
wanted, and knocked on it.
The woman who
answered looked as out of place in Bethnal Green as the apartments did. She was blonde with darker lowlights – from
a bottle, Buffy was sure, but not brassy or home bleached. Her coiffure was exactly that, elegant and
expensive. Her jewellery was not
excessive, but was striking and also expensive. Her clothes – well, Cordelia would probably have killed her for
that chic tailored cream suit. Buffy
might even consider doing that herself.
perfectly-lipsticked smile was cold, but her voice was warm and honeyed as she
invited Buffy in. If the name had given
an expectation of an Irish accent, that was to be disappointed. Mrs Monaghan spoke perfect Queen’s English. The Slayer, as she crossed the threshold,
felt grateful for the rasp of the stake in the back of her waistband.
was minimally furnished – fashionably minimal, that is – and matched its owner
perfectly in shades of cream and autumn gold, with dark lowlights by way of
touches of black ash in the woodwork.
Tea was waiting, in elegant ivory porcelain, on a sparely-designed birch
and smoked glass coffee table. The
whole thing was so unlike Buffy that it jarred on her, but the thing that
rasped on her nerves more than anything else was a picture on the wall. It was in grisaille shades, almost like an
old and grainy black and white photograph, and again she thought that Angel
would be pleased with her for remembering the word. It was of a beach. On the
beach were crabs. At least, she hoped
they were crabs, although they looked like none that she’d ever seen. They had the right claws for it,
though. She was pleased when Mrs
Monaghan spoke, so that she could look away from the picture.
“Please. Sit down.
My son will join us in a few moments.”
poured tea, but Buffy waited to drink until her hostess had drunk from
hers. She didn’t realise that was what
she’d done until she’d done it, though.
Instinct, she thought, and tried to bring more logical thinking into
play. Living in London was horridly
expensive. You probably bought – or
rented – where you could afford. Even
clothes and hair and jewellery like that perhaps didn’t mean that you could
afford to live somewhere else. She almost
expected to see Mrs Monaghan fix a cigarette into a long black cigarette holder,
but there was no evidence here that the woman even smoked.
Monaghan, when he joined them, proved to match the décor as well as his
mother. He, too, was blond, dressed in
a charcoal sweater that would have looked much better on Angel, and cream
slacks. He looked tired, though, and
grey around the eyes. Haunted. Buffy’s slayer sense was on high alert, and
she began to have hopes that this was going to be a case of the sort of
possession that she could deal with.
when they went through them, were pretty much as she already knew. Monaghan had started seeing things, knowing
things, foretelling the future. It was
the sort of behaviour that he had despised and derided, before. Buffy took down all the details of his
surgery. If they needed to follow that
up, maybe Nick could lend a hand. Then
she remembered. Well, maybe he could
lend a hand after he’d been cleared.
She felt certain that would be the case. She just knew it in her bones.
looked up at Donald Monaghan. Was that
how he felt? So very certain of
something? Her slayer senses were now
well beyond red alert. She didn’t think
that either of the other people in the room were demons, although the woman was
really giving her the creeps.
o’clock, more tea was produced, with sandwiches. Buffy would rather have had lunch with Nick. The little white triangles sat pristine on
the bed of red and green lettuce, defying anyone to break up the perfect little
arrangement. Buffy took one without
hesitation. As she reached for it,
though, her predatory senses detected a tiny movement behind her. She swung round, and something skittered,
but she only saw it from the corner of her eye. What she saw, in full view, was the painting. The beach was empty.
And then, from
the very edge of her peripheral vision, something launched at her. She swung her fist at it, but all that was
in her hand was the soft triangle of bread and smoked salmon. Neverthless, the crab-thing was flung back
to the wall, its carapace cracking with a sharp splintered sound. Her backpack was too far away to reach, but
she had the stake in her waistband, and she pulled that out, and went to work.
were persons employed by students of anatomy to steal dead bodies from
church-yards. I think that the equal
opportunity name was ‘resurrectionists’, because it wasn’t an all-male
The two most
well-known resurrection men were, of course, Burke and Hare in Edinburgh, where
there was a renowned medical school, although these two were particularly
notorious because they turned serial killer as well as grave robber. Here’s something about them and the trade.
This is in the
interests of absolute clarity, and because something recently got right up my
nose. A book I started to read, by an
American author, talked of sycamores in Europe with their peeling bark falling
off into a river. Bah!
sycamores aren’t sycamores, they’re species of plane tree, in the genus Platanus,
and have pendant, round fruiting bodies, and attractive peeling bark. European sycamores are different. They’re in the maple genus, Acer. They have winged keys as seeds and their
bark definitely does not peel, unless a vandal’s been at it. In Europe, we do have plane trees (e.g. the
hybrid London Plane, although none native to the UK), but they’re called plane
trees. Accuracy is important for Jo’s
sycamores are weed trees, and could be exterminated for all I care, but that’s
a different matter.
over. I feel much better now.
part of Greater Manchester) was built on cotton, and was a very wealthy
town. Like most of the industrial
north, things are different now. Here’s
a website – and some pictures.
4 Montague Summers
Summers really lived, and nothing will make me believe that Joss didn’t know
all about him. Here’s something about
something about him:
Not all, but a
lot of the surnames here are taken from place names, partly because I go blank
when trying to make up names, and partly because that’s one of the main ways
surnames develop. See how many you can
occasionally had a note from people across the Pond suggesting the use of the
word ‘pants’ instead of trousers, which they find strange. The thing is that here in the UK, pants are
items of underwear, knickers to be specific.
Uncomfortable as it may make someone to read ‘trousers’, I am sure
you’ll understand how very much weirder it would be for me to write about Angel
pulling on ladies’ underwear.
7 Bratton Camp
So far as I
know, there is no camp site there, if you’re thinking of taking a tent.
something covered with white tents, but an ancient hill fort, the probable site
of King Alfred’s victory over the Danes at Ethandun.
There’s a nice
Bratton Camp e-card
the nearby Adam’s Grave because the pictures give some idea of the surrounding
We have to
remember that our Westbury, although very like the real one, is entirely
fictional, and situated in Wessex, not Wiltshire. However, to give you an idea, this is the sort of real
countryside and history that we are dabbling in:
8 Hermann the Rottweiler
In view of the
near-Apocalyptic story for 06.06.06, for which this is the sequel, how could
the dog be anything other than a Rott?
Remember The Omen?
9 Zillah and Aristotle
absolutely emphasise – no permanent harm comes to Zillah or Ari in the course
of this story. Perfectly mended. Honestly.
But, you know, it’s a dangerous job, looking after these humans.
the soft, bready things that people have for breakfast in the US. In Britain, biscuits are any of a range of
small, flat, crisply baked item, always unleavened, and often sweet – from
garibaldi biscuits (or dried fly, as we used to call them), which are filled
with currants, to crumbly digestives, but also including unsweetened ones such
as table water biscuits to eat with cheese. There are hundreds of sorts. The soft, squidgy, artery-clogging ones with
chocolate chips and stuff like that?
They’re usually cookies. They
aren’t our fault.
11 The West of England Show
Royal Bath and West Agricultural Show.
Here’s the site for 2007:
12 ‘induced microfacture callus response to
maintain trabecular continuity’
actually mean something. To
someone. You can find the information
13 Coral and bone
You can use
coral to provide a scaffold for new bone growth. Isn’t nature wonderful?
Coral and bones
is Scotch whisky, and ‘whiskey’ is Irish whiskey. It’s very delicate territory, and whisk(e)y drinkers – or the
Scots or the Irish – can get really miffed of you use the wrong one.
of King Minos of Crete, was the mother of famous figures such as Ariadne. Unfortunately, she was cursed by Poseidon to
lust after a white bull, and thus also became the mother of the Minotaur. You can start here, but there’s a lot more:
16 Michelin men
Yes, you know
the one – a tubby pile of tyres. Like
17 Heart transplants and possession
There’s a lot
about this. Try these, as starters:
Daily Mail - heart transplants
18 The heart and the soul
I got some
info from here, too:
19 Egyptian belief and the ba
came from a book. A real book, sitting
in the bookcase behind me: Ancient Egypt Myth and History by Geddes and
Grosset. You can google for more
information as well as I can…
20 ‘the heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked’
Jeremiah 17.9, King James Version
All this is true. It was in The Daily
Telegraph a few days ago, in an article that included this statistical
information held at the National Archives in Kew. The unfortunate lady from Alabama lived in Sylacauga. Might be best avoided.
Milk and blood
are really a staple of their diet.
23 Tiger Bay
Tiger Bay was
the name of the cultural melting pot that was the docklands of Cardiff. It’s different now.
Death of Tiger Bay
24 Jowls of Wales
When I was very
young, a teacher at school helped us to remember the shape of Britain by
describing it as an old lady, wearing a bonnet, and riding a pig. Ever since, that’s the only way I can think
of it. Wales, of course, is the pig’s
head. Cornwall and Devon are the front
trotter and Kent is the back trotter.
Scotland is the head and bonnet.
Some poor, unfortunate counties have to be the pig’s bum. Westbury is in the throat, so ‘jowls’ tells
you all you need to know about position. :~)
25 Mary Queen of Scots
It took two
strokes of the axe to behead Mary.
26 Siege Perilous
legend, the Siege Perilous was a seat at the Round Table, kept vacant by Merlin
for the purest knight, who would return with the Holy Grail – Sir Galahad. The Siege Perilous was fatal to anyone else
who sat in it.
27 Angel Mill
Westbury is not the real one (no suing, please). But, some of the history of the place is so interesting, I
couldn’t ignore it. There really is an
old woollen mill called Angel Mill, which was in production until 1969, and
quite a lot more besides, including the old tram tunnels that we’ll read about
28 Congestion Zone
If you want to
drive into central London, you have to pay.
It’s £8 a time, if you pay on the day, or £10 if you pay the next
day. If you don’t pay, it’s £100. You have been warned.
29 Richmond Cemetery
wonderful government internet address. If you want to follow the action, there’s
a map of Richmond Cemetery: (Click here)
And here’s the
location of Montague Summers’ grave: (Click here)
The bit about
the desecration of the grave? Entirely
30 St Paul’s Cathedral
The one where
Charles and Di got married. Built by
St Paul's Cathedral
31 Bethnal Green and York Hall and the Museum
this opportunity to put these places in the spotlight, because York Hall,
Bethnal Green was the venue for the David Boreanaz/James Marsters Halloween
Event in 2004. LisaP and I went. We saw all this. Unfortunately, I can’t remember it as well as I should (other
memories take precedence in my brain, obviously), but these are the impressions
I have left of the place itself. We
visited the Museum, and it was a little gem.
Their sandwiches were nice for lunch, as well.
32 Millennium Place
There is a
Millenium Place, and it is a gated community of apartments. I’ve made the rest up.
A term for
painting that is executed entirely in shades of grey.