Summary: Angel’s looking to move forward, but events
and an old enemy conspire to get under his feet. Our team are in trouble.
Are there any friends to save the day?
for three hours, and then he called Buffy.
Her phone rang, but she didn’t answer.
He wasn’t sure how she would be tackling her business, and he didn’t
want to disturb her if she was in the middle of delicate discussions, and so he
clicked the phone off after a few rings.
Then he went to rescue his car and parked it in a pricey National Car
Park. At five o’clock, he called her
again, but there was still no reply.
This time, he let the phone ring for much longer, but it did no
good. He wondered whether her business
had concluded early, and she’d gone back home.
Then he tried to call Rupert.
There was no reply there either.
He didn’t have
the address that she’d gone to – he’d never even heard it discussed – and he
didn’t feel that knocking on every door he could find would be at all
productive. Angel was in Richmond, but
without a cell phone – or, he might be back at Westbury. Giles was apparently out somewhere. Nick felt that he was uselessly kicking his
heels, being of no help to anyone at all.
He tried her number once again.
He did the
only thing he could think of, short of calling the police. He retrieved his car, and set off back to
Westbury, his phone on the seat beside him, ready to turn back at a moment’s
the mêlée, she had managed to get the Monaghans out of the room, and to reach
her backpack. The stake from her
waistband was now embedded in the wall.
It was embedded in a crab-creature first, though. The beasts that she had despatched were the
smaller ones, the ones with less armament, but the psychic screams of their
deaths still rang in her head. Those
screams were drowned out, though, by the others.
Her mind was
flooded with images, pictures of terror and pain, and of things she hoped she
would never have to see. She was almost
blinded by them, her ears deafened by the din of events that either hadn’t
happened yet, or had happened elsewhere.
She neither knew nor cared which was correct. She was fighting blind and deaf, on slayer instinct alone. So far it had served her well.
Then, as she
lunged for one of the larger crab-creatures, she felt a touch on her back, and
something nip the nape of her neck.
Blood ran down, warm and wet, as she reached around to yank the thing
off. But there was nothing there. She whipped round, searching for it, but saw
only a flash of movement from the corner of her eye. And then she knew that the creature’s bite had been poisoned, as
a terrible lassitude swept through her body, and her leaden limbs refused to
respond. As she crumpled to the floor,
the last thing that she heard was Mrs Monaghan’s voice, each word precisely
Donald. That wasn’t so hard, was
it? The master will let you have some
treats, now, I’m sure. Maybe…”
into unconsciousness before Mrs Monaghan enumerated the promised treats.
awoke, he was immobile and helpless. He
was in the dark. And he was
terrified. Nightmare. It had to be a nightmare, a reliving of his
time beneath the ocean, yet there was no water here, and he could see
nothing. Besides, except when he
remembered his time in Hell, or beneath the sea, his nightmares were strange
amalgams of horrors and wishful thinking.
This was neither. This was
nothingness. He had no idea how long he
stayed in the nothingness. It might
have been hours, or it might have been millennia.
And then there
was light, and, weak as it undoubtedly was, he was dazzled by it. He wanted to screw his eyes up against it,
but even that small movement was beyond him.
He saw the
light as if through a small window, and then there was a dark, hooded figure,
casting a shadow on that tiny window to the world.
Angel? You’ll soon wish you weren’t.”
The tone of
voice was genial, chatty, and he thought that he remembered it, although he’d
need more to bring that memory back to mind.
The figure moved away. There was
a scrape of wood on stone, and the figure reappeared, lower. Angel thought that whoever it was had sat
down on a stool or a chair.
Shorshack box, Angel? You didn’t manage
to get the Ethros demon into that, did you?
Well, you’re in a Vampire box now.
It’s good for a thousand years, they tell me. I guess I did better than you.”
He seemed to
pause for an answer, but Angel couldn’t have answered if he’d tried.
“You know, I
thought of just shackles and chains, first, because they’re much easier to get
hold of, but I’m not at all sure you couldn’t get out of those, no matter how
unbreakable they were. You’re a lot stronger
than you used to be, back in the day, aren’t you? You won’t get out of this, though; not until I choose.”
again. It might have been for a reply,
or it might have been for effect, but Angel could gratify neither. He felt sure the man knew that, too.
But how the
devil did anyone still alive manage to know about his strength? That he was stronger than he’d used
to be? The voice was still
dreadfully familiar, and if he could remember who it was, perhaps he could find
a way to get out of this.
Otherwise… A thousand
years? He tried to struggle, to make
his limbs move, but nothing happened.
“Let me tell
you what’s going to happen, Angelus.
Oh, yes, I know you now, although I didn’t then, when it mattered. You spoiled my big day, you and your
friends. All of you are going to pay
for that, but you especially. The
others will be here, soon. What, you
still don’t remember?”
pushed back the hood that had darkened and obscured its features. Angel would have gasped if he could. It was Francis.
But, it was a
horribly changed Francis. The left half
of his face had been burned into something resembling seared pork, and Angel
could see, in his mind’s eye, the cauldron of flame that had been every part of
the Hellfire Caves except the protected circle that had housed himself, Philip,
and the boy, Joshua. Francis raised his
left hand, and it was nothing more than a blackened bony talon. In it, he held an oval of what looked like
“You see what
you did to me? And, angry as he was, my
master took me bodily down into hell.
You know what that’s like, don’t you, Angel? I’ve been there a long time now, but you know about that, too. I’m really very, very cross with you, but I
hate to tell you that my master is even crosser. You will suffer for that, and we’ll both make sure of
it. You see, the thing is, if
everything goes well here, I’ll be restored.
He’s made me that promise. I’ll
be restored in body, back to what I was before, and I’ll be restored back to
life on Earth. You could say that I’m
Then he lifted
the oval of wicker into the tiny window of light, and Angel was back in
darkness, and complete sensory deprivation.
waiting for John to get ready to drive up to Summerdown House. They generally did the same hours so that
they could travel there together, although sometimes Martha enjoyed the long
walk through the village and over the start of the downs. John was in the garage, fiddling with the
car. It had been reluctant to start, and
he was poking and wiping and cleaning, and Martha hoped he knew what he was
doing. John was good with all manner of
things, but woodwork was his real craft, not petrol-driven machinery.
He’d been out
there for twenty minutes now, and here she was, twiddling her thumbs and
huffing quite a lot. There was so much
that she had to do. The last of the
brambles needed making into jelly before they mouldered, some apple cheese from
the windfalls from the old, gnarled trees behind Giles’ house, and the cinnamon
and apple cookies that Buffy loved were almost gone. And, her search continued for something that would tempt Angel
other than blood. She was sure there
must be something… There was too much time being wasted here. My goodness, it was twenty-past eight
She picked up
her bags and marched through the utility room and out of the side door into the
gloominess of the garage. John was
sitting in the car, apparently waiting for her. She huffed in exasperation.
Why hadn’t he tootled the horn to show that he was ready? When she got close to the driver’s door, her
heart skipped a beat. And then
another. John’s head leaned against the
glass, and his eyes were closed.
Full-blown panic made her heart thunder as she reached for the door, and
then an arm reached around her, and a pad was placed over her mouth and nose,
and she didn’t recognize the sickly-sweet smell as chloroform, although it was,
and then she knew no more.
window of light appeared again, but it took Angel long seconds to be able to
see Francis through the blinding dazzle.
“Found a way
out of there, Angel? No? That’s because there isn’t one, you
know. Specially constructed by a famous
sorcerer, that box was. Of course, you
and your friends have pretty well done away with the most powerful magic users
in this dimension, so I had to go somewhere else to get it. They knew about vampires, though, especially
after I gave them one to practice on.”
He raised the
taloned claw again, and this time he held a mirror.
“I thought I’d
let you see the workmanship. Well,
workdemonship, but it’s all the same thing.”
He held the
mirror up and positioned himself so that Angel could see a reflection of the
box that entombed him. It was
anthropomorphous. It had contours that
slightly resembled the human body and more clearly resembled something
else. It looked like one of the old
Egyptian mummy cases. And then again,
it didn’t. Overlaid on top of the
almost-humanoid shape, and somehow a part of it, were the desiccated corpses of
things that were somehow octopus-like, and somehow crab-like. They twined around the sarcophagus, and bulged
obscenely, their matter somehow incorporated into the tightly-woven wood.
There was a
picture painted onto the front, and the outlines of the box followed that
picture, away from the human and into the demonic. The portrait, while stylised, looked shockingly like him. Shockingly, that is, because it depicted the
demon that he’d been in Pylea. There
was just a single oval opening in the face, where he ought to see his eyes,
wide and fearful. Drawn around the
painted figure were rank after rank of tiny letters, from inhuman
alphabets. They were the words, Angel
thought, of whichever spell made the whole thing work, although he was too stunned
to think much at all.
standing upright, which came as a surprise to him, since he had no sensation,
no spatial awareness, no feeling of up or down. He wanted to weep. This
was so much worse than when he’d been immobilised in the Hellfire Caves. He wondered whether Philip was here to help,
as he had helped before. Or whether
Philip was another victim. Perhaps
Francis saw something in his eyes.
wondering about Philip? He’s not coming
to rescue you. Oh, yes, I know that he
gave you immunity from his gris-gris.
Unfortunately, he and his family have disappeared. When I’m returned to Earth, though, he’ll be
my first concern. You, of course, will
be elsewhere, then.”
disappeared, and so did the figure of Francis.
There was the scrape of wood on stone, again, as Francis pulled up
something to sit on. Angel, trying to
regain control of his fear, wondered whether Francis’s left leg was as burned
as his arm. Perhaps he couldn’t stand
for long. He urgently needed to
understand all of his enemy’s weaknesses.
He thanked the Powers that Francis, like most evil beings, was inclined
to brag and boast. The urge to torment
was overwhelming in him. He remembered
the feeling well. There was information
in that, though, information that could be used, if only he had the ability to
needle more from the… man. Then it
seemed as though he didn’t need to needle.
plan for you and your friends. Want to
know what it is? I’m sure you do. You think that the small window I’ve given
you is a weakness, and you’ll be able to use it. You think that, when you get out of the box, you’ll be able to
foil the dastardly villain, hm? ‘Fraid
not. The box has a field around it, and
around you. You could be all the way
out, but if you have only one fingernail left in the box, you are still its
prisoner. Come on Angel! Why so glum? You were prepared to do this to a fellow demon.
you’ve spent a bit of time in a box yourself.
Gave you a taste of what’s to come, you think? Not a chance. You and
your friends are going somewhere where you’ll pray for the time you spend in
that box. You’ll beg to be allowed to
crawl back in. I know a whole host of
beings who’ll get a great deal of sport from you.”
He fell silent
for a moment, and then it became clear that he had been listening to something
that Angel couldn’t hear.
come. The first of the catch, after
you. With luck, all my traps and
ambushes will work first time, but if not, it doesn’t matter. I have…” He looked at a watch on his good
wrist, “about thirty-six hours to get everyone, and then whoever is in here
will be taken… elsewhere. Instant
transport, although not a transport of delight for you, sad to say. I made sure you were first, of course. You’re the most important. The others are just gravy…
“Did you enjoy
the book, by the way? I thought that
another Summers would attract your attention.
You made it so easy.”
over and grasped the coffin, for such it seemed to be, to Angel. Surprisingly, even with Angel in it, it
seemed to be light enough for him to lift, and he adjusted its position until
Angel could see virtually the whole of the room. It looked like some sort of chopped-off tunnel, arched overhead,
and covered in whitewash. The only
illumination came from a couple of bare light bulbs. An empty set of shackles and chains hung from the opposite
wall. Angel wondered whether those were
intended for Buffy, and prayed not. Yet
there was some hope if they were. He
was positive that she could free herself from those. If she were loose, he didn’t give a lot for Francis’s chances.
nothing else in the room except a door to his left, huge and heavy and
iron-bound. It looked as though it had
been purloined from elsewhere – a castle, he thought morosely, from the size of
it. The wall on the right was
completely blank. Then the single door
burst open and three men, in the loosest sense of the word, hurried in. They carried two bound and unconscious
bodies. Martha and John. Angel realised, with a sinking feeling in
his heart, just how comprehensive Francis’s idea of revenge might be.
Then the oval
was replaced and he was nowhere again.
Nowhere and nothing.
By the time
Nick got back to Westbury, there had been no phone call from Buffy, but he’d
talked himself into believing that she’d simply concluded whatever needed doing
in Bethnal Green, and come home early.
When he pulled into the courtyard, Buffy’s Mini sat in the garage, where
they’d left it, but the Porsche and the Discovery were absent. The door into the house was locked. So were all the other doors, and the
windows, although Nick had serious doubts about his ability to climb through
them, even if one had been open.
He had no idea
where spare keys might be kept, but he hunted around all the obvious places,
the places where Rupert would never, ever keep a key because those were the
places that burglars would look. Of
course, they were also the places that abandoned houseguests would look… He started hunting in some of the less
obvious places, and then gave up. He
sat on the low wall that completed the courtyard, and started to rack his brain
for the location of people who might know what was going on, people like Martha
and John. Unfortunately, he didn’t know
Martha and John’s surname, so looking them up in the phone directory was pretty
much a bust. He continued to turn his
powerful intellect onto the problem.
woke up, she was lying on a cold stone floor, but she wasn’t just uncomfortable,
she was in positive pain. And she
couldn’t move very much at all. At
first, everything was just a grey haze, but then, as vision returned, she saw
just how much trouble they were all in.
She was in a
room bare of all furnishings except a small wooden chair pushed into the corner
next to some weird mummy case. And
‘she’ wasn’t just ‘she’. ‘She’ was
‘they’. Martha and John lay trussed up
at the end of the room opposite the door.
Martha was crying, and John was trying, unsuccessfully, to comfort her. Giles was chained to the wall, the manacles
around his wrists fixed tightly against the stone. He could sit, but he couldn’t move much more than that. He was conscious, and watching her. Not that she would be able to do anyone any
She was bound
in iron. Two iron bands pressed tightly
around her upper body, imprisoning her arms.
Another was fastened around her waist, keeping fast her lower arms. There were two more around her thighs, two
around her calves and one around her ankles.
They were all so tight that they were impeding her circulation. Iron bars joined each band to the one below,
making something like a sadist’s corset, so that there was no possibility of
shuffling the bands downwards, and so wriggling out. She was going to have such a bad case of pins and needles after
this… And her hands were wrapped in
layer after layer of torn cloth strips until they just looked like balls. She couldn’t free her fingers.
She flexed her
muscles, but was only rewarded with more pain.
“Giles! How are these things fastened? If I can manage to get upright and hop over
there, can you unfasten them at the back?”
“Not a chance,
Buffy. They’ve got big padlocks on.”
“John! Can you pick a lock?”
Even as she
was talking, Buffy was shuffling to the wall next to Giles, and trying to
stand. So far, she’d only succeeded in
sitting slightly upright.
“No. And even if I could, I reckon I’d need
something to pick it with.”
right, of course.
“We’ve got to
rely on Angel, then. He’ll miss us
before long. Anyone know whenabouts it
She’d lost all
sense of time, and she’d feel better if it were night time, and she could know
that Angel would be on the hunt. But
she was the Slayer. She wasn’t just
going to wait here like a lamb for the slaughter.
John was the
first to reply.
“We were taken
just after eight in the morning, at our house.
We were out cold when they brought us here, but we were alone when we
woke up. Apart from yonder casket, that
towards the mummy case, or whatever it was.
and took up his part of the timeline.
“It was almost
lunchtime when I was taken. I’d had a
message to look at a property, and decided to do it on the way to pick up the
cats. I saw…”
He trailed off
as he remembered what he had seen. He
hadn’t been conscious for many more minutes than Buffy, and remembering
anything was an extremely painful process.
He knew he had a lump on his head the size of a hen’s egg.
gods. I stopped because I saw Angel’s
car in a lay-by. There was blood on
Buffy felt all
the hope leave her in one despairing breath.
Her head hung low as she realised that they were in all likelihood on
their own, and that something must have happened to her lover. Not only would there be no rescue there, but
he himself might be dead.
looked. There was no ash. Not anywhere in the car or around it.”
That was one
thing, at least.
mean anything with Angel. And it might
be someone else’s blood.”
It was Martha
who had spoken, in a halting, tear-filled voice. Also in that voice, though, was a hint of defiance. Buffy searched inside herself for her own
right. So, the first thing, then, is to
try and get free. I’ve always found
that lying around helplessly tied up is never a good plan. What I think…”
didn’t hear what she thought. The heavy
door opened and a figure, cloaked and hooded, limped through, followed by a
group of demons. They were almost like
humans, but not quite. Not close
everyone awake then? I hope you aren’t
too uncomfortable, because you’ll be here for a little while yet. Of course, once we leave here, you’ll be
very much more uncomfortable, but mustn’t grumble, eh?”
He looked over
the group, and Buffy could feel the smirk under the hood.
“What a motley
crew we have. An aging and failed
Watcher, a surplus to requirements Slayer who, let’s face it, is also past the
first flush of youthful slayerhood, and a pair of helpless servants. And let’s not forget the vampire. Now, I wonder where on earth he is? Perhaps he doesn’t care enough to come and
get you, do you think? Hm?”
He turned to
one of the man-demons.
“Thank you, Mr
Tarita. I think I can take it from
here. No need to detain you any
longer. They seem secure enough. If I require anything else, I have your
number. You’ll keep an eye on things
until it’s time?”
bowed to him, each in turn, and then they walked to the door, and were
gone. Giles eyed the figure up.
“That the best
you can do? Anonymous insults? My goodness, but evil just can’t get the
The man, if
such he was, pulled the chair away from the wall and sat down, straightening
one leg out in front of him. It seemed
what shall we talk about? Your
escape? I don’t think so. Mr Tarita and his family seem to have done
an excellent job.”
He lapsed into
silence. Buffy tried to work out from
what had been said before he came in how long they had been here, and when they
might be missed. What she didn’t miss
was the fact that he kept glancing at the strange casket. There was something significant in there,
and she was determined to find out what it was. Keys, or weapons, perhaps.
Meanwhile, she tried surreptitiously to wriggle her way out of the
ironwork, and to hope for some form of rescue.
It was almost
sunset, perhaps seven thirty, before Nick accepted that his hosts might not be
coming back tonight, and, incidentally, that he might not get fed. He was worried, and he was hungry. He always thought better on a full stomach,
and he hadn’t had more than a bite of rabbit food for lunch. He knew none of Rupert’s friends and
acquaintances here in Westbury. He’d
thought several times of calling the bobbies, but he was well aware that some
of the things that Rupert was involved with were, in the nicest possible way,
better off not scrutinised by the forces of law and order, and so he reserved
that as his Plan B. His Plan A was to
find someone who might know more than he did.
into his car, and drove to the nearest pub.
It was the Boar’s Head, with its fetching sign of the head of a wild
boar on a plate, a coronet tastefully placed between the severed neck and the
platter, and a rosy red apple in its mouth.
Even this early in the evening, the car park was full. Inside, the place was packed. What he wasn’t to know was that this Monday
night, the village would be given a full accounting of how the summer’s
fundraising had fared, and would determine who should benefit from money that
wasn’t already allocated. Then, next
year’s fundraising committee would be elected.
The Boar’s Head was offering free sandwiches as its contribution to the
Nick stood in
the doorway bemused by the diverse throng.
There were grannies and families, and folding chairs had been brought
from somewhere so that everyone could sit down. He shook his head a little and decided that Westbury was the most
unique village he’d ever come across.
He liked it. He recognised many
faces from the garden party, but he’d no idea who might be able to answer his
questions, and so he adopted the simple expedient of bellowing to the crowd in
“I say, do any
of you chaps have any idea where Rupert Giles is? Or the Americans? They
seem to be missing just now.”
Nick sat next
to Lisa Bradley, she of the livery stable, tucking in to a large plate of
sandwiches. Lisa wore a little frown of
“You say you
should have met Buffy at St Paul’s?
Well, why did you leave her?”
He tried to
answer around a mouthful of ciabatta and brie and smoked bacon, having eschewed
the free cold ham or cheese sandwiches, and the reply was somewhat muffled.
clearly wasn’t coming there, and she wasn’t answering her phone! I’d no idea what else to do!”
into silence. A couple of the older
teenagers had been despatched on bicycles to go to Martha and John Fletcher,
and see what Giles’ plans had been, but she was worried. Colin Blackwether had stood up in the middle
of the confused silence that had followed Nick’s original question, and said
he’d expected Giles to come and collect his cats that afternoon, but he hadn’t
It wasn’t long
before the boys arrived back. There was
no sign of the Fletchers. Their car was
in the garage, but there were no lights on in the house, and no answer at the
door. Tony, the owner of the Boar’s
Head, was just giving his opinion that perhaps the police should be contacted
when the police arrived, in the shape of DCI Ian Collins. He was clearly off duty. Lisa waved enthusiastically to him.
Ian. We need your advice.”
problem was explained to him, he frowned, just as Lisa had done before
him. He remembered some of the things
he’d seen, things that he had recounted to no one, and he rather thought that
whatever Giles and his people were involved in would fare much better without
the involvement of the plods. Still,
what if there had been a normal, everyday problem? Something his boys could and should handle? He knew that, with missing people, time was
critical. But was this a normal missing
persons case, or were they all on a strange job? The involvement of the Fletchers would argue against that. Probably.
A voice cut through his ruminations.
“I think that
we should get up some search parties.”
That was John
Cummings from the White Hart, sitting with his wife, Laura. What he’d said made sense. These were all locals. They could probably search as well as the
police. But, it was dark now, and this
was a thing best done in the light.
himself for those who didn’t know him.
evidence that any of them have come to harm, but if they haven’t turned up in
twenty four hours, the police must be properly involved. Meanwhile, I’ll help. It’s unsafe to have people traipsing around
at night, and in any event, you won’t be able to see well enough and might miss
something. We’ll start tomorrow morning. We’re looking for any of the three, but
we’re especially looking for signs of Rupert Giles, or anyone who saw him after
his phone call with Colin Blackwether.
Now, who’s prepared to co-ordinate, and who’s prepared to search?”
wanted to be involved. Many of them
felt that they owed it to one or another of the missing for help offered in the
past. A map of Westbury was produced,
and divided up into sections.
and his team would take the sector around the Boar’s Head, John Cummings, that
around the White Hart, and Alan Groom from the Blue Bull would take the area
around there. George Laverton offered
to head up a team of farmers searching the outlying farms and barns and
sheds. The Bucklands and the
Prestleighs shared responsibility for the areas around the railway
station. Mrs Grittleton and Mr Satterthwaite
would lead a team of pensioners who would question shopkeepers, market stall
holders, librarians and so forth in the centre of the village. The vicar would hold prayers at eight in the
morning, and then would lead a team in the area of the church. Gangs of teenagers were identified by their
parents, and volunteered for cycle patrol.
Lisa and the other horsewomen would cover the outlying districts. They could cover more ground, and see
further from the height of a horse. And
the names kept coming forward. Neither
Nick nor Ian had realised quite how much Giles and Buffy and Angel were part of
the fabric of this village.
Lists of cell
phone numbers were compiled, and Mrs Brewster, the local postmistress took it
to make copies for distribution to every team.
Everyone had a job to do, and would start after the first gathering at
St Cyprian’s church. A room was found
for Nick at The White Hart. No one
noticed the quiet young man sitting in the corner, drinking his pint of best
back to the previous night, and wondered if what he had seen had anything to do
with what was happening now. That small
and jealous part of his soul kept him silent, though. He hadn’t said anything before, and people would wonder why. Buffy would be found safely, he was sure of
that. Almost sure. She had to be. And if Angel wasn’t… What would that mean for him? His guilt-ridden mind didn’t probe too
closely at the logic of those assumptions.
He slipped into the Gents, and then he quietly left the Boar’s Head, and
walked up to the Hawkeridge Road. The
Porsche was gone. Reassured that what
he had seen was nothing to do with anyone going missing, he went back home, uncertain
of whether he would be joining in tomorrow’s search.
badly that night.
Collins sat in
the Boar’s Head the next day with Nick Hunt, taking reports from each of the
teams. That wasn’t always the easiest
thing to do, with excited amateurs garbling their information. Still, so far, they’d managed to make sense
of it, and they were steadily hatching over the various parts of the Westbury
had last been seen in London, and Angel had set off for there, but Giles had
last been heard of in Westbury, and Collins was as sure as he could be that whatever
had happened, they were all in it together.
Find Giles, and he expected to find the others, or clues to where they
were. His next plan, after today, would
be to gain entry to Summerdown House, and see what turned up there. Last night, he’d gained illegal entry to
both Summerdown House and the Fletchers’ house, but there was no sign of
anything amiss at all. He’d moved that
down the list of priorities. What he
really wanted to find just now, apart from three missing people, was two
missing cars. Find the cars, and you’d
got a good clue where the people were.
when most of the village appeared to turn up at St Cyprian’s the next morning –
most of the old village, anyway. He
wasn’t sure whether they counted any of the newer parts of Westbury as being
part of the village at all. He worried
because they’d come prepared. That is,
they’d come in hiking boots, and carrying sandwiches and packs with torches for
shining in dingy corners. He’d almost
expected that. They also come with a variety
of other things. The walking sticks and
walking poles he’d also expected, but the stout cudgels and pitchforks he
definitely hadn’t. What he’d let loose
resembled a peasant army more than anything else. Still, many of them would be prodding haystacks and poking under
hedgerows, and who knew what they might disturb? Searching the countryside was nothing like searching in a town,
and so he hadn’t protested. He’d made Arthur
Holden leave his shotgun at the Boar’s Head, though. It was probably a good thing that only later would he learn of
people like Agnes Wellow, an elderly, white-haired pensioner with bones as
small and fine as a bird’s, and tiny gold-rimmed glasses, and who could impale
a grey squirrel at twenty paces with a pitchfork.
He’d got on
well with Nick Hunt, and they’d talked more about what had been happening in
the days leading up to the disappearances, tentatively at first, and then with
a little more candour. Neither voiced
their deepest worries and suspicions, though.
Weird as business
was at Summerdown House, only Buffy’s disappearance seemed moderately
suspicious. Collins had had Gavin
Lincoln check for Monaghans in and around Bethnal Green, but there had been
none. He put that back into the to-do
pile, still convinced that find one, and he’d find them all.
started drifting back to the Boar’s Head at about six o’clock. They were all tired, and had found nothing
worthwhile. Almost the last people in,
an hour after sunset, were a group of teenagers, led by a twenty-something. Stephen Oldford, with Ellie Croscombe,
Rosemary Fitzpatrick, Pauline Smith and Darren Wingham, had been cycling around
the car parks in Westbury, looking for the two missing cars. Now, they were breathless with excitement.
“We found the
cars! Both of them… In that little
parking area on Sand Holes Lane, in Westbury Leigh.”
produced cans of Coke for the five breathless cyclists, while Collins
questioned them more closely. The
parking area was used by walkers, and by those wanting to use the neighbouring
football field. They hadn’t examined
the cars, they’d just seen enough to know there was no one in them. They’d tried to call, but their group’s cell
phone battery was too low. Darren
scowled at Rosemary as he said that.
take it from here. I’d appreciate it if
everyone would stay away from that area just now. We don’t know what we might find just there. Thank you.”
stood up, a tall, dark-haired young man who Collins vaguely recognised, but
couldn’t put a name to.
“I… I think
you’d be searching in the wrong place.”
The boy looked
as if he hadn’t slept for a week. He
also looked thoroughly miserable.
Collins had it, then. This was
the one who had been dancing attendance on Buffy for the summer. Kevin, that was his name.
“Why do you
think that, Kevin?”
story came out. What Kevin had seen the
previous night – or thought that he’d seen.
And where. Kevin sat down,
looking more miserable than ever.
Collins turned to the assembled throng.
– anyone know what it is?”
came from old George Croscombe.
“I reckon that
must be the old railway shack from where there was that old tramway under
Station Road and Hawkeridge Road. From
when they were mining and smelting iron up there. There’s still tunnels. I
thought the shack had been knocked down, but you can get access into the tram
tunnels around there.”
to Kevin to ask whether he’d actually seen the man he thought was Angel being
taken into the old shack, but Kevin was gone.
The hooded man
had sat in the chair for hours. Or
possibly days. Buffy had lost all sense
of time. He hadn’t removed his cloak,
nor his hood, and Buffy had no idea who he was, but she was sure he wasn’t
precisely human. Her slayer sense was
on overtime. Sometimes, he looked at
her, and the darkness beneath the hood seemed to smile. It wasn’t a friendly smile, it was one that
completely creeped her out. It was a
knowing smile that spoke of horrors yet to come.
And then he’d
walked out. She had no idea why. He’d said nothing, he’d simply walked out,
apparently satisfied that they would be there when he came back. She intended to disappoint him. In any event, she’d had a good long time to
worry about what had happened to Angel, and the results of that weren’t pretty.
The thing was,
would the man be back, or did they have time?
up the little hill to the small copse of trees on top. Had he known it, this was the vantage point
from which Kevin had seen his demons take Angel into the tunnels. He knew that he’d given way to a foolish
whim in leaving Angelus and the Slayer and her Watcher unguarded, but he
wouldn’t be gone long.
were secure. The vampire had been his
biggest threat, but he’d had the demon craftsmen build in the odd refinement to
the standard Vampire box. This one was
leaching Angelus’ strength away, minute by minute, hour by hour, and using that
strength against him, to reinforce its own. As osteoporosis thinned a skeleton until it was no stronger than a
paper doiley, so the magic of the box was thinning his demonic strength to its
own benefit. He giggled. Superman and
Kryptonite. Modern culture had so many
good ideas. He’d given Angelus the
demonic equivalent of the widow’s hump.
He giggled again, a chilling little sound that seemed to still the tiny,
rustling night dwellers around him. Oh,
not permanently. The devil wouldn’t
have liked that. But he’d be easy to
handle for a while, whenever he was released from the box. Whenever.
That sounded good. There was a
lot of when to go round.
As for the
others, well, the servants were of no account, of course. The other two were secure enough. And he had the Door, to keep intruders out
and captives in. It could cut through
anything magic. Demonic and slayer
strength, it was all magic. The Door
was impervious to all that, making magic flesh into normal flesh, and shrugging
off magic spells. The Watcher didn’t
have that much power and even if she were loose, the Slayer could kick at it
all she wanted. Nothing that they had,
between the three of them, could harm the Door. No, everything was safe and secure.
The thing was,
the gateway would open in about an hour, and he’d wanted to savour the Earth
one more time. To smell the late summer
evening. To hear the rustle of
trees. To feel the cool breeze in his
face. To see the colours of the land,
even under the light of the moon. These
were things that you didn’t get, where he’d been. Oh, he was sure that Old Nick would keep his word – well, as sure
as he could be – but you just never knew.
Devils were tricky, and this dimension’s devil was trickier than
most. Still, Francis could do so much
more if he were loosed from hell, and his master knew that. It was in both their interests. And there would be the vampire, now, for the
devil to vent his rage on. And the vampire’s
lover and his friends. Maybe he would
let Francis watch occasionally.
He tried not
to think of what would have happened if he’d failed. The vampire had denied the devil embodied access to the Earth; it
would be a long time before there could be another chance to bring that about,
and someone had to pay for that.
Francis preferred that it not be him, anymore. He’d paid enough.
His tools had
done their jobs very well indeed, and he was glad that he’d got everyone on the
first trawl. Time had been
pressing. Everything needed to be
exactly right, to open a gateway direct to where they were going, and all the
elements needed to be in place to make it happen. Otherwise they could finish up in all sorts of limbo. While that was definitely going to be part
of Angelus’ future, and by far the kindest part, Francis definitely didn’t want
it to be part of his. The gateway would
only be open for a short time. He’d
need to make the most of it.
He turned his
burned and hideous face up to the moon.
He couldn’t wait to come back, whole.
Too soon, it
was time to go back to the tunnels.
Kevin raced to
the place where he’d seen Angel taken.
He couldn’t understand why he had acted as he did, hiding what he should
have known was nothing good. He’d been
jealous and besotted, certainly, but that didn’t excuse him. It was as if he’d been possessed or
enchanted. It was up to him now to make
good what he’d done.
When he was
close enough to the old building to make out its shape, he saw that he wasn’t
alone. He slipped through a small gap
in the hedgerow, into the field, and crept closer. A stranger, wearing a hooded cloak, was outside the building
talking to what looked like five of the burly men who had been in the car with
Angel. As he watched, three more came
running up the road. There were urgent
words, which he couldn’t hear, and then they all ran into the darkness of the
building. At least, the burly men ran,
and the cloaked man hobbled.
himself wait for thirty seconds, and then followed, cautiously. The building held very little except for a
door leading to a stone stairway that plunged downwards. At the bottom of the stairway was a short
and straight length of tunnel, which ended in a wall that appeared to have been
hewn from the solid rock. There was
nowhere else to go. He felt around for
hidden doors, and found none, and then he went back up the stairs to examine
the single room in the building. There
were no other doors or traps or entries to anywhere else.
There was no
other place that all those men could have gone, but gone they had. He puzzled over that, and then he became
aware of a commotion outside.
The mass of
people in the Boar’s Head seemed to think that this operation was being run as
some sort of democracy. They were
making preparations to go to the railway shack. At least, the adults were.
The youngsters were rounded up and told to sit in the Boar’s Head with
Andy, who would lock the doors on them if necessary, and who promised to feed
them and give them soft drinks. Or
shandy for those over eighteen.
to stop everyone – it was a policeman’s duty to go up there, not the mob’s, but
Ivy Grittleton rattled his shins with her walking stick and told him to stop
behaving like a spoilsport. Everyone
had been involved so far, and would see this through to the end. It was like Canute trying to hold back the tide. He felt someone take his arm. When he looked around, it was Lisa.
“Come on. If we’re quick, we can get there before they
get sorted out. You don’t want to be
tailend Charlie here, you know. Getting
there first is the only way you’ll stay in charge.”
He bowed to
her commonsense, and they ran out to his Volvo. Nick, not to be left out, was hot on their heels, and hopped into
the back of Collins’ car.
They were only
just in time. As they pulled up just
out of sight of the railway shack, they were followed by a retinue of cars and
other vehicles. Perhaps a dozen of the younger men had crammed onto the back of
Arthur Holden’s lorry. Collins tried to
make Lisa stay in the car, but he failed there, too. So did Nick. She’d
brought a hockey stick with her, and she walked up the road behind them,
clutching that tightly. Some yards
behind her was a decent-sized mob.
There were several pitchforks that Collins could see, and he prayed that
no one from the force was watching. All
he needed now was flaming torches…
to five hundred, and the others seemed to hold their breaths as she did so, but
the man didn’t return, and the door was firmly closed. Then she hissed at the Fletchers.
“Can either of
you undo your ropes?”
If one of those
could run for help…
shook their heads.
you undo John’s, if you lie back to back?”
obedient to Giles’ suggestion, shuffled over the ground until they were back to
back. After a very few minutes, Martha
shook her head despairingly.
“The ropes are
so tight, I can hardly feel my fingers.
I just can’t do it.”
burr gave a new hope.
“I think I
It took long,
long minutes, but eventually Martha’s hands were free. She made quick work of untying her legs, and
then freeing John. The first thing that
John did, like Martha, was to try and rub some feeling back into his
limbs. Then he tried the door. It was locked.
“I think that
there might be something to help us in that demonic Egyptian mummy,” Buffy
declared. “That guy kept looking at it
as if it amused him. There might even
be a key to these padlocks.”
over to the casket.
John. We’ve no idea what’s in there.”
John nodded to
Giles, and stood to one side of the decorated box. He felt the line of the crack that ran all the way around it,
certain that this was how it opened. On
one side, he found two slight bumps, which he thought must be hinges. He started to prise open the casket. The lid was stubborn, resisting him until he
applied his full strength, and then it opened suddenly. Angel stood in the casket, immobile.
silent seconds ticked by as the captives stared at Angel. He stood, wedged into the casket, his arms
crossed over his chest in an attitude of death, his eyes wide and
unseeing. The same thought ran through
all their minds. At least he isn’t
It was John
who broke the silence of horror. He
pulled at Angel’s shoulders, and then caught him as he fell. With his limbs still weak from their long
confinement, John couldn’t hold Angel’s weight, though, and he had to let him
slide to the floor. He lay like a
corpse, his eyes still wide open, and Buffy was terrified for him.
John bent down
to him, then looked at Buffy and Giles, and shrugged in perplexity.
use me feeling for a pulse, nor for breathing.
What should I do?”
turned to Giles, but he felt useless.
He had no idea. He looked at
Angel, half curled on his side, his feet still inside the casket, his vacant, dead
expression. What was there to do? Vampires were either alive or they were
ashes. They generally weren’t
catatonic. That spoke of some
intervention, magical or otherwise.
him. See if there’s anything that seems
strange. Empty his pockets. See if there’s anything around his
neck. Look for something that’s
over the body, then turned and shrugged again.
had been examining Giles’ shackles to see if they could be opened, sighed in
Fletcher, you need to look everywhere…”
over and pulled at Angel’s feet. John
hadn’t looked at the shoes. She’d seen
at the cinema what could be done with shoes…
As his feet
left their contact with the casket that had kept him enthralled, Angel gave a
gasp, and started to shake. Then he
coughed, a deep, hacking cough as if he had been drowning, and rolled over onto
hands and knees, his head hanging down.
He drew in air in great, shuddering lungfuls, as if he needed it, as if it
could bring him back to life.
Martha knelt down to him. John threw an
arm over his shoulders while Martha put a hand under his chin and lifted his
head. His expression was that of a
hunted animal. They both tried to calm
him and reassure him, with small touches and soft words.
to go to him, tried to force her way out of the iron bands, but only succeeded
in leaving long, deep bruises, even in Slayer flesh. Gradually, though, she could see that his breathing was easing. She hoped he’d hurry up and come back to
them. They might not have much more
the vampire, the Slayer, the Gileses, and anyone else who lived in this damned
village. He did the cursing as he ran –
or ran as best he could, anyway – following the family of Mr Tarita. They’d been stationed around, watching for
trouble, and trouble they had found. A
mob. With pitchforks. He knew all about mobs and pitchforks. He’d been in Paris when the Bourbons were
overthrown, and what a shockwave that had sent through the courts of
Europe. He’d barely escaped with his
skin intact there. Or with his head
still on his shoulders, rather than in Mme Guillotine’s basket.
He got down
the stairs as quickly as he could, and into the tunnels. As he and Mr Tarita’s family ran through the
door into the holding room, he left a trompe l’oeil vision of a rock face
behind him. It was a figment of his
imagination, but unless they happened upon the door handle, they would never
Angel was unsteady
as he clambered to his feet. His
strength was returning, though, and not a moment too soon. He’d no idea just when it was, but if
Francis had everyone here, then he was sure that the endgame wasn’t far
away. He had to get everyone out, and
himself from the attentions of John and Martha, he went first to Giles. That looked easiest. He tried not to obsess on what had been done
to Buffy. He took hold of one of the
manacles fixing Giles’ wrist to the wall, and pulled. Nothing happened. He took
a deep breath, and tried to centre himself.
He didn’t know why the breathing was helping him, but it was, so let
that be enough. Then he pulled
again. The shackle fell from the wall,
with a clatter of brick debris. Within
seconds, he had the other one out, and had snapped the chains attached to
Giles’ ankles and neck.
Giles to try and rub some life back into his arms, he went to Buffy. He let his finger caress her cheek as he
turned her over to inspect the locks.
She pressed back against the finger.
They didn’t need words. Not just
yet. Breaking the locks was the work of
seconds, and then Buffy was free.
approached the railway shack, a dark figure ran down the road towards
them. It was Kevin.
“I saw the men
who took Angel into there. There were a
lot of them, and they went down into the tunnels, and now they’ve just
Kevin, I’ll send for some dogs to track them, if I have to. We’ll get them.”
“No! You don’t understand. They haven’t run into the tunnels. There’s nowhere to go. They’ve literally disappeared. Into thin air.”
his eyes briefly. He should have
known. After what he’d seen at the
Hellfire Caves, he should have known.
Were all underground tunnels like this, he wondered. It was going to be one of those nights. He didn’t disbelieve Kevin. Nevertheless, he set off to examine the
building and its tunnels himself, followed by his mob. It didn’t take long to understand what Kevin
had meant. He’d seen the men come into
this building. There was one door in,
and then there was the door that led to the tunnels. There was a dozen feet of sheer-walled tunnel, and then there was
a rock-cut wall, blocking the way.
There was simply nowhere else for the men to have gone.
stumped, was aware of some whispering behind him, and a couple of the men
hurried back out into the night. When
they returned a minute or two later, there was some more whispering. Then, Walter Satterthwaite and Ivy Grittleton
Satterthwaite says that the rock of that end wall isn’t proper rock. It don’t belong here.”
“Now, now, Mrs
Grittleton, let me explain to the policeman.
Mr Collins, the thing is that I know rock. I was a blaster and quarryman for nigh on fifty year in
Yorkshire. Westbury stands on
greensand, a poor and rotten rock that is, too, and on chalk. Yon rock face is granite.”
come from volcanoes. Weren’t that many
volcanoes just hereabouts. The rock’s
wrong. It’s been put there. May be a secret door or some such mechanism,
but that rock don’t belong. We’re going
to get rid of it, see what’s behind.”
“What do you
The hair on
the back of Collins’ neck was starting to rise, and his copper’s instinct was
screaming at him.
pensioner, Walter Satterthwaite, held up a stick of dynamite.
to get rid of it,” he repeated.
loose! How in hell had that
happened? Francis gaped in astonishment
when he saw his five captives unfettered and mobile. Even the vampire! Still,
they couldn’t possibly be at full strength yet, after their physical
confinement. And so long as they didn’t
get out of this room, then all would still be well. A few minutes only, and the gate would open. Everyone in this room would be sucked
straight through. No problem. Just keep them here.
that instruction to Tarita’s people, and then tucked himself into a corner, out
of harm’s way, as fists started to fly.
He wasn’t a brawler. Let Tarita
do what they’d been well paid to do.
hell did you get that?”
doing some hauling for the quarry.
That’s in the load to deliver tomorrow.
“I’ll arrest anyone
who tries to detonate anything in this tunnel! Is that understood?”
His time in
the Vampire box seemed to have deadened all his senses and drained half his
strength. It was taking too long for
him to come back to normal. Buffy was taking the fight to the demons, but she,
too, was still weak. Giles was making
best use of the chains that had lately ensnared him. John had his arm around the throat of a demon, and was clinging
to its back for all he was worth.
A fist sent
Angel flying to the floor. He had to do
much better than this. As he got up, he
saw Martha edging down the wall, in the direction of the corner where Francis
was huddled, next to the damned Vampire box.
His fist connected with the throat of a demon, leaving it on its knees,
coughing up blood, and he wondered what would happen if Martha managed to shove
Francis into the box. He thought that
was her intent.
Then, as he
yanked another demon from Buffy’s back, his hearing began to sharpen. He heard people outside the door.
He flung the
demon hard into the one that John was clinging to, kicked the knee out from
under the one that Giles was belabouring with his chains, and ran to the
door. It was locked. He heard a voice that he recognised, though.
“I’ll arrest anyone
who tries to detonate anything in this tunnel! Is that understood?”
Collins. What the…?
yanking on the door, but it was far too solid.
Probably magically solid. He
heard what sounded like a crowd muttering, and then ‘Fire in the hole!’, and
Nick bellowing, his voice drowning out even Collins’, telling everyone to ‘Run! Sorry, walk, but just look sprightly now.’
There was a
pause. Angel wasn’t misled. There was an orderly withdrawal taking place
outside the door. Someone knew what
they were doing.
Then he heard
a sound from inside the room, one that he heard in many nightmares, usually
after he’d dreamed of gratifying his most demonic wishful thinking. It was the grating noise of a portal
opening, just as Acathla had opened. He
looked around in terror, and saw a point of light on the far wall, a point that
spun and expanded, growing from the size of a dinner plate to cover half the
wall in the time it took him to process that fact. This wasn’t the blue of the portals that he’d seen so far –
although he hadn’t seen the Acathla portal, so perhaps that had been different
– it was raging red, a billowing inferno.
He could feel the pull of it.
And then he
heard something outside, something that he’d expected. A sort of click, but a click that presaged
something much worse. They were caught
between the devil and the detonation.
They had no defence.
vampire speed to the limits, he picked Francis up bodily, and hurled him at the
flaming, billowing gyre. From the
corner of his eye, he saw the demons disengage, hold hands, take a step and
disappear, although not into the portal, and then he’d flung himself at his
lover and their new family, sweeping them into his arms and against the side
wall. Braced as best he could, he gave
them the only defence available, the shelter of his own body. And it wouldn’t be enough. He’d piled them on top of one another, but
he couldn’t cover everything. He had
nothing to hang on to as the gateway to Hell sucked at him, stronger and
stronger, and then the world exploded in more fire and heat and sharp, sharp
And then it
The first of
the crowd stepped into the tunnel to find a scene of carnage. There was a huddle of bodies against the left
wall. Angel lay on top, covered in
blood. Slowly, Angel turned his head to
see the shattered doorway in which stood Collins and Nick, and Lisa wielding a
hockey stick, Mrs Brewster’s great-niece, Angela, holding a cudgel, and several
pitchforks in the rear.
Pitchforks. He thought that they
must all have been sucked down into a rather stereotyped hell. Then, painfully, he turned to look the other
way. The massive door stood flat
against the wall exactly where the portal had been. It was scarred and shattered around the edges, and the central
part looked dreadfully thinned, but it had saved them. It had clung on to this reality, shutting
out the other. The gateway had closed
behind it, and he hoped that it had closed on Francis, and then the pain became
too great, and he gave in to it.
shouldered his way past everyone and knelt down by his friends. Then he turned and said into the pin-drop
silence, “Get an ambulance. Quickly. And someone come to help me here.”
There was an
abundance of willing volunteers, but knowing where to begin was a problem. He needed to get Angel off the others, but
he was so badly hurt… Nick could see
what had happened. He’d protected the
others with his own body, and he’d caught the full brunt of the blast. Long wooden shards from the shattered door
surround stood out from his back. The
door itself, in its passage across the room, had sheared across his legs, both
of which were shattered and torn, and had caught the back of his head, which
was bloody, and felt spongy to the touch.
Gently, Nick pressed his fingers into Angel’s throat, searching for a
pulse. There was none.
the wooden shafts in the man’s back, or of the massive injuries to his legs and
head, Nick turned him over, pulling him from the pile of bodies, and tried to
resuscitate him. As his lips touched
Angel’s, he only had time to think that he’d imagined this in better
circumstances, and then he was the absolute professional, giving mouth to mouth
and pressing rhythmically down on the heart.
Again, and again, and again. He
searched once more for a pulse. There
was nothing. There was no longer any
need to be careful. The man had given
savage words over his shoulder.
you’ve done with your damned dynamite now!
This man’s dead!”
movement from the sprawl of limbs that had lain beneath Angel, as the others
tried to gently separate the casualties, and Nick heard Rupert’s voice.
“No! No, the explosion saved us. It saved us. Give me a hand to get up…”
Giles had seen
the gateway to hellfire, and guessed what it was.
forward, lifting as gently as they could, and Giles wriggled free of the
others. Groans promised that some still
we would be gone beyond all hope, if you hadn’t blown down the door.” Giles knuckled at his ears, trying to stop
Nick and his
helpers had the others separated now.
Martha clutched at a broken arm and John sat holding his ribs. Buffy lay ominously still. Nick directed a bystander to find a tie or a
belt and strap Martha’s arm into her body, and then he turned to look after the
young blonde girl he’d grown so fond of.
He feared that she might be dead, like her lover.
She was just
concussed. There was a bloody patch, where
something had struck her head, but it had been a glancing blow. It was possible there was a fracture of the
skull, but he didn’t think so.
Then he heard
the sirens of the ambulance. He felt
Rupert touch his arm as he cradled Buffy, automatically checking her vital
signs. They were strong and steady.
Rupert. I’m sorry. Buffy will be fine,
Nick looked up
at Rupert in sorrow. His friend was
always so full of realism, but it seemed to have deserted him now. Nick shook his head.
Rupert. Dead and gone.”
have to trust me. Please. You really do. Angel isn’t dead. But we
need to save him. Get him into the
It was a
little more than Nick could process, so he just nodded. Who could it hurt? Certainly not a dead man.
Nick heard Collins directing the crowd, and then the paramedics arrived,
and things were out of his hands. He
watched the wounded being helped or carried out. And the dead.
He felt a tug
on his arm again, and Rupert was pulling him up into the night.
Rupert waved a
bunch of car keys at him.
“These are Ian
Collins’ car keys. Where is his
car? Can you remember?”
around at the new voice. It was Lisa.
don’t think you’re going without me, do you?
And you’ve got the car keys on sufferance from Ian, provided you call
him and tell him where to come to.
He’ll be following as soon as he can.”
There was no
more time for talk, just then, as the ambulance rumbled into life, and the blue
light flashed its emergency signal as the vehicle pulled away. The three of them ran to the car, and set
off in hot pursuit.
vehicles arrived shortly after the departure of the ambulance. One of them contained Gavin Lincoln, looking
for his boss. He stared at the wreckage
After only the
briefest hesitation, Collins replied, loudly enough to be heard by his mob,
“Seems some unknown idiot in years gone by left some ancient explosive lying
around. The casualties are on their way
to hospital now.” If Giles said the
explosion had saved them, Collins couldn’t dismiss that, even though he didn’t
understand it. He damned well would
understand it, though, and somebody was going to explain it all to him
extremely clearly. Only then would he
decide who should be arrested. He’d
heard what Nick had said about Angel.
Someone was going to pay for that.
It probably should be him. He
should have been the leader here, and he’d failed abysmally.
what Collins had said, and the whispers were passed around. The cover story would stand.
tried to think of something useful to say, Angela Brewster walked up, holding a
long, sharp aluminium javelin. Lincoln
tried to get his head around why so many people were carrying what could be
interpreted as weapons.
paramedics said that there were some sort of power cuts at the A&E in
Bath. They’re off to Bristol. The BRI.”
Angela. I’ll follow on in a minute or
back to the small knots of villagers.
Many of them were suffering from shock at the temerity of what they’d
done, and at the injuries they’d seen.
At the lifeless body of Angel, and the sight of the blonde girl, limp
and bloody. The Blue Bull was the
nearest place with space, and better to go there than to the Boar, and worry
the teenagers she hoped were being entertained. She had a word with the Bull’s landlord, Alan Groom, and soon
everyone was being ferried there for tea and sympathy. She guessed they’d mainly stay there until
there was word from the hospital. On
that thought, she turned back to Collins.
Lifting Lincoln’s notebook and pencil from his fingers, she wrote down
her cell phone number.
to the Bull. Call me when there’s any
news. People will want to know.”
As she turned
away, Gavin made to tear the page out, but Collins stopped him.
“Find me a
reliable sergeant, and then we’re off to Bristol. Witnesses to interrogate, and such.”
little enough to do here, now, Collins thought. He took a last walk around the blasted room, savagely kicking
aside some pieces of wooden wreckage as he did so. It was painted wood, certainly not from the door, but it was in
so many pieces now, he couldn’t identify what it had once been.
Gavin came up
with Sergeant Allinson in tow. A good
man, not too imaginative, but compassionate and thorough. He gave the sergeant some final
instructions, then waved Gavin out of the room. They, too, followed the ambulance to Bristol.
Brewster watched them go. She’d heard
Rupert Giles aver that Angel wasn’t dead, and truly hoped that was so. She’d known the Fletchers all her life, and
she hoped that they and the American, Buffy, would be fine. She particularly hoped that Rupert Giles
would be okay. At the age of 31, Angela
had started to think of herself as on the shelf. She didn’t mind that – she knew she was pretty enough, but she
was so demanding when it came to boyfriends.
She wanted brains as well as pretty, and that was hard to find in
Westbury. This summer, though, she’d
come to know Rupert a little, and she’d liked what she’d seen. She’d thought that Lisa also liked what she
saw, but Lisa seemed to have made herself comfortable with DCI Collins. Maybe the field was clear…
and Lisa still had the ambulance in sight when it pulled up at A&E. There’d been a slight spat over the keys,
but it was Lisa who’d driven. They had
expected it to go to Bath, but as it continued, it became clear that Bristol
was the intended destination. Giles, in
the back seat, and grateful that he still had some of his hearing left, felt an
idea burgeoning. He wasn’t as worried
about Angel and Buffy as the others, and John and Martha seemed to have got off
lightly if painfully. And now, this
little idea wouldn’t be denied.
the nearest MRI unit?”
As they pulled
into the Infirmary grounds, Giles simply nodded. There was a lot to do before then. Angel’s legs had looked badly damaged, and he’d no idea what his
friend’s healing powers were for injuries like that. A little intervention might be timely. After all, Nick had intervened with Zillah… He felt a pang of conscience. He hadn’t been able to pick Zillah and Ari
up. They’d take a long time to forgive
busy for a midweek night, but triage sent John and Martha immediately to the
next vacant cubicles. Buffy was still
unconscious and was wheeled off to X-Ray.
Privately, Giles thought that they’d probably had to knock her out on
the way, to make her stay down. Her
colour was good, and he had no real fears.
Lisa gripped his hand.
with Buffy. You two do what you have to
meaningfully at the two men, and then slipped away. Giles ignored Nick’s confusion and dragged him back outside,
towards the ambulance.
known, here, Nick?”
will know me, yes. Not many.”
“Do you know
your way around?”
“Good. I’ll push, you lead the way.”
As he spoke,
Giles took the end of the trolley holding Angel, taking advantage of the fact
that, for the moment, everyone else’s back was turned.
“Just go! Before anyone sees us!”
can attend to Angel!”
arguing. He understood what grief could
do to the human mind. Perhaps it was
best to let it run for a little while, to humour Rupert, or at least to talk
seriously to him somewhere more private.
He recalled something from his last visit here, and set off down the
maze of corridors.
It’s a strange
thing that, no matter how bizarre the thing you are doing, if you look as if
you have every right to be doing it, and look as if you know where you are
going, no one will stop you. This seems
to especially apply when you are in a hospital and are pushing a trolley with a
corpse on it. At least, so Nick and
Giles found out that night.
Nick found a
small day-care operating theatre, and they pushed the trolley to a stop beneath
the theatre lights. Giles took the
“Nick, I know
you think I’m demented, but try to leave that aside for a moment, will you?”
He waited for
an answer, and Nick nodded, cautiously.
“Then tell me,
do you trust me?”
old boy. No question of it.”
going to remind you of some strange things that happened at Abbotsbury
Holt. People being turned into
statues? Angel felling a tree with just
his fist? I know it was a small tree,
remember.” Nick’s reply was solemn. He’d asked Rupert a number of times to
explain what had happened there, and Rupert had fobbed him off. Then he’d stopped asking, and finally
decided that it was probably better if he forgot the whole thing. Now, it was painted in glorious Technicolor
on his retina once more.
“Trust me when
I say that Angel isn’t dead. The proof
of that is that he’s lying on this trolley.
If he were dead, he’d be gone.”
Nick eyed up
the body. “You aren’t trying to tell me
he’s actually an… an…”
He couldn’t bring
himself to say the word ‘angel’. He
wondered for a moment whether Rupert was quite safe to be with, and then
chastised himself for the thought.
“No! Although sometimes I wonder… But no, he’s very far from that. But he’s my friend, and I’m going to do the
best I can for him. I don’t know how
well or how quickly his legs will heal if we don’t do something. I want you to just put him back together. Can you do that here?”
“Rupert! I may be good, but I can’t resurrect people from
the dead. And if I’m not careful, I’m
going to be struck off after tonight’s little episode, even if the hearing
finds me not guilty!”
He bent over
the corpse and carried out a quick examination.
cold! He has no heart beat. He has no pulse. He isn’t breathing. He’s dead,
Giles put his
hand on Nick’s arm, remembering when he had so recently done that to Angel.
“Yes. He is.
Just, you know, not permanently.”
As if on cue,
Angel’s hand came up to touch the back of his head. Nick stood wide-eyed while Giles bent over the ex-corpse.
“Giles… I seem to have a hell of a headache.”
His voice was
weak and thready.
got bashed in by that door, you idiot.
If you aren’t careful, you’ll get my reputation for being concussed.”
all that got bashed in, is it?”
“No. It did a good job on your legs, too.”
He lifted the
green sheet that covered his friend.
Angel tried to inspect the damage, but didn’t have the strength. Giles wrapped an arm around his back and
pulled him into a sitting position.
heal, if we leave them?”
said that eventually might be a long time, and a lot of pain, away.
“Want Nick to
up at Nick.
mind? It will speed things up a lot.”
nodded. He felt as though the rational
part of his mind had shut down, in the presence of far too much conflicting
information. If his mind were a
computer screen, it would be displaying a blue screen of death. But surgery was instinctive for him. He didn’t need his rational mind.
Nick. If you wouldn’t mind. And Giles, these stakes are a bit
uncomfortably close, you know…?”
Angel. Nick, help me get him over, and then
maybe you could find the stuff you need?”
Looked at in
the cold light of the theatre, it was amazing that Angel wasn’t dust. There were perhaps a dozen impromptu stakes
in his back, and half of them seemed to be round about the heart area. Giles started to pull them out, while Angel
gritted his teeth and tried not to scream.
The pain from his back and the pain from his legs had completely drowned
out the fractured skull.
By the time
Giles had finished, Nick was ready, and had a bottle of anaesthetic in his
“What do you
“Just do it.”
Giles took the
bottle and the syringe from Nick’s hand.
filled the syringe and pumped it into Angel’s arm.
enough to kill an elephant!”
“Should be just
about right, then.”
And so Nick
got to work rearranging Angel’s legs to make them look something like they had
a few hours previously. There was a
running commentary from Giles.
“No need to
put pins in, Nick. Just lay the bits of bone where they should be. They’ll do the rest.”
stitches will be good, Nothing fancy, just enough to keep things in place until
he starts to heal.”
“Nick, do you
think that knee should be a bit further up?
Still I suppose he’ll sort it out.”
being dead thing – has he tried acupuncture for it?”
arrived, he left Lincoln kicking his heels outside. He didn’t know what he was going to find. He found Lisa sitting with Buffy. A nurse was just bustling out.
“They want to
keep her in overnight for observation.”
won’t. I hate hospitals.”
appraisingly at Collins, and then at Buffy.
they went looking for a theatre. Angel
needed some attention.”
say the words. She hadn’t been able to
ask Lisa yet, and she felt sure that Angel would be here, if he weren’t dust.
himself, yes. He needed a bit of
that, Lisa left with an offer to find coffee.
Collins sat down and looked at Buffy’s woebegone face. He took her hand.
“Buffy, a man
who can stick a sword through his head and live to tell the tale isn’t going to
take any permanent damage from being hit by a door, do you think?”
“You saw? And you haven’t said anything?”
more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…
Angel is a good guy. I’m trying
not to worry about the rest. I’ll take
it as it comes. I think Nick will do
the same. I’m betting Lisa knows more than
nothing. Lisa had seen Angel in demon
face, but she’d never asked, and no more had ever been said.
Then Lisa was
back, with tea. It was weak, but it was
warm and it was wet, and the three of them sat a little, celebrating life with
that bastion of the English spirit.
never done a more Heath Robinson job in my life, not even as a student.”
Nick’s work. Despite being done at some
speed, it was practically perfect.
we’re here, do you think there’s any chance of slipping him under the MRI
“You want to
get me jailed as well as fired?”
“I suppose we
could try. It’s twenty-four hour
access, although only staffed when needed outside normal hours. If it’s free, I know enough to do it, I
think. Has he got anything metal on him
or in him?”
considered that question. He knew that
Angel had been shot more than once.
happen if he has anything inside?”
precisely sure. If it’s steel or iron,
I think it will come ripping right out.”
alright then. So long as it doesn’t
mess up the machine.”
Nick tried to
“What am I
going to look at?”
on discharging herself. The three of
them went to find the Fletchers. John
was being given advice on dealing with a broken rib, and Martha was off
somewhere having a plaster cast put on her arm. John shook his head wonderingly.
first broken bone she’s ever had.
She’ll be a right tartar to live with, you mark my words, until she can
do things for herself again!”
nodded. She was sure of it.
“Where are the
the answer to that.
lay unconscious. Giles looked at the
results of the MRI scan. Nick traced
around one of the organs shown there.
heart. It’s entirely normal, except
that it isn’t beating. It looks like an
athlete’s heart. Very healthy. Now, are you going to explain any of this to
Nick. Not now. Better not.
Another time, maybe.”
registered what he was saying. His
attention was fixated on the heart, so unlike the heart of the vampire in
Cardiff. Perhaps Angel was right. Perhaps the gypsies, whether they knew it or
not, had simply restored his heart to pristine, if unbeating, condition,
together with the small neural net that was part of it. And which might contain the soul. Or perhaps the Coven had done that, when
they resurrected him from the dead. Or
perhaps all vampires’ hearts were like that in the early years after their
birth, and the organs only deteriorated later.
After all, by some measures, Angel was a young vampire now. Or perhaps the vampire in Cardiff had been
unusual. Or perhaps…
himself. There was nothing he could
talk to Angel about, and now that he came to think about it, it had been a
stupid idea anyway. But he’d so wanted
to relieve some of Angel’s angst, to demonstrate to him that the soul was
something more than nerve cells in the heart.
He slid the
pictures into the knotted sheet that was now sitting on Angel’s stomach so that
they wouldn’t forget it. It contained
everything that had Angel’s blood on it.
Giles remembered the dog.
“Come on. Let’s find the others and see if we can go
somewhere, they found a wheelchair and managed to lift Angel into it. The debris of their night’s work went into
his lap, then he was wrapped around in a hospital sheet to hide his bare legs,
and they made a bid for freedom.
On the way
home, someone remembered to pass the good news on to those left back at the
A few days
later, Angel sat in the family room, his legs up on a green leather pouffe,
dozing. The two cats were dozing with
him, huddled in a boneless heap across his lap. Zillah’s hind leg stuck out straight, at a comic angle, swathed
in its stiff navy blue bandage. In view
of his wounds, Angel and Buffy were sleeping in the house, rather than in the
flat, and he’d been inveigled into coming downstairs for a nice glass of
CiderBoy. If Nick wondered why no one
else in the house was offered a drink of CiderBoy, he was much too polite to
ask. He had this morning taken the last
of the stitches from Angel’s legs, and it was clear even to a sceptical surgeon
that healing was well on the way to completion. When he gently felt the bones, there was no give in them.
though, Nick was up at Lisa’s, bouncing around on a horse, and thoroughly
enjoying himself. This was one of the
sports that he’d never previously tried.
Lisa told him that she thought he would be good at it, once he learned
hard coming, though. He’d told Giles
only that morning that he really would have to end his holiday in the next day
or two. His disciplinary hearing was
due in a couple of weeks, and he needed to go and concentrate on that.
Giles were out in the garden, weeding, deadheading, and enjoying the late
summer sunshine, and wondering whether it was time for morning coffee yet. Then Buffy called out to Giles as two
figures walked slowly up the drive.
It was Ivy
Grittleton and Walter Satterthwaite.
Giles extricated themselves from the petunias and dahlias, although not without
Giles catching himself on one of the newly planted rose bushes and having to
unhook the leg of his jeans. Ivy and
Walter sat down on the new cast iron bench that had been placed by the
porch. Giles kept out of reach of her
walking stick. He’d heard Collins on
Satterthwaite’s come to see how you are.
He didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt with that dynamite.”
Buffy held out
her hand to the weathered, wrinkled little man on the bench. He stood up to take it, and she could see
how his eyes twinkled.
explain how, but you saved our lives.
There’s no apology needed.”
was pretty sure that the likes of Ivy Grittleton didn’t give actual
apologies. This was as close as anyone
was going to get.
“Are you truly
alright now, lass? You gave me a real
turn when I saw you back in that hole in the ground.”
back at him.
Then, in mock
despair, she looked up at the azure sky.
“No! I didn’t mean rain…”
was a small thing, but it was there, and it was warm enough.
“Got your cats
back yet, Mr Giles?”
Grittleton. They’re around somewhere…”
seen either of them for a while, but he was sure they wouldn’t be far
away. They had both been very clingy
when they came home, rather than turning the usual cold shoulder on their
humans, in punishment for leaving them.
“You think the
little one will mend?”
there’s every chance. She had two good
Buffy’s arm slip into his, in comfort and reassurance.
“Hmph. Well, surgeons be as surgeons does. But think on this if you need to. You know Clarice, from the vet’s, and how
good with animals she be? She got that
from her grandmother. You remember
Ivy paused, to
see memory rushing back into Giles’ face.
“I see you
do. She came to see you when you fell
out of the High Oak, I recall. Esther
insisted that your father send for her.
She might only be a hedge-healer, but she be good at that. If your little one isn’t sound, send for
Aggie Sheen. Call it physiotherapy if
you want.” She pronounced it
“I will. I promise.
And thank you.”
someone else here we should see.”
She reached up
to take Walter’s arm.
“In the house,
is he? I hope you’ve been looking after
him, you and that doctor friend of your’n?”
“I’ll go and
check whether he’s asleep,” Buffy responded immediately.
herself up from the bench with the aid of her cane and Walter’s hand.
“No need for
that, girlie. Mr Satterthwaite and I…”
“Well, I’ll go
in first and make everyone a cup of coffee.
You two just wait here for a minute, enjoy the sunshine,” Buffy
interjected, casting a despairing glance at Giles.
“No need for
standing on ceremony. We know how
Martha Fletcher organises a kitchen, don’t we, Mr Satterthwaite? We called on her first thing. No, Mr Satterthwaite will make sure that
your young man and I have a comfortable cup of tea and a chat. I’m glad to see you both looking so well. Happy that there was no lasting damage.”
This last was
tossed over Ivy Grittleton’s shoulder as Walter Satterthwaite helped her into
the house. Buffy made to follow, but
Giles took her arm and held her back.
kitchen on the right and left into the family room,” he called out. He waited to say anything more until the two
were gone into the blackness of the house.
need to understand that, in a village like this, a very few people can sway
opinion on who is a villager and who is an outsider, and not to be
trusted. Ivy is one of those.”
at the rings on her fingers, but none of them on the finger that mattered. She, too, had heard the gossip.
“So, you’re in
and we’re out?”
“That’s not it
at all. She’s making her mind up. And Ivy is cantankerous enough to make her
mind up in defiance of the rest of the village if necessary, but usually they
follow her lead. Walter should have at
least another five years of Purgatory before being given a slight incline of
the head by those born here, but her patronage of him rather speeded that up.”
to be told what to do?”
all. But villages generally distrust
outsiders. There’s a lot of history in
it. The Ivies of this world are just
such busybodies that they find out everything there is to know. If they’re happy with someone, then other
people feel that they can relax.
They’ll still make their own minds up, though.”
Buffy sat down
on the bench with a decided snap. She
wondered whether she’d ever understand England. Or the English.
They could see
that Angel was asleep when they came into the room. He stirred slightly with their entry, though, and they heard him
mumble, “Yorkshiremen – tough as leather.”
“That we are,
lad, that we are.”
Angel sat bolt
upright. Sometimes predators become
predatees, and that possibility had brought him to instant wakefulness. The two cats raised their heads and stared
at the intruders, green eyes and gold eyes unblinking. Then they settled back down again to do what
cats do best.
be a Yorkshireman yourself, by any chance?”
at the owner of the voice, his eyes still not adjusted to the transition from
sleep to a light-filled room, but it was his nose that told him who his
not, although I’ve… er… I’ve known quite a few… Mr Satterthwaite. Mrs Grittleton… Sit down, won’t you? Can
I get you anything?”
He made to get
up but Mr Satterthwaite held up his hand.
“No cause to
fret, lad. Don’t want you wobbling
around on those pins just yet. We’ve
seen the kitchen. I’ll make tea. Mrs Grittleton wants a word. Oh, and sorry that you got cut up.”
alright. I don’t know what we’d have
done if you hadn’t been nifty with that stick of dynamite.”
“Me, lad? What makes you think it were me?”
grinned, a gap-toothed grin but a warm one, and then he went back to the
kitchen. Ivy came over towards Angel
and took a chair next to his. A small
table stood between them, and there was a sketch pad on it. Her definition of ‘not standing on ceremony’
clearly included poking around at will.
She picked up the pad without so much as a by-your-leave, and started
flicking through it. Angel watched her,
She stopped at
a series of small, rough sketches on one page.
On the page, she could follow the progression of a rambling building
constructed around all four sides of an inner courtyard. It was a coaching inn called the Rose and
Crown, according to the sign hanging outside.
Then, three of the sides disappeared, leaving a single range, now called
the Boar’s Head. In the corner of the
page, a few bold strokes delineated what could only be the buildings of Lisa’s
livery stable. A neat legend underneath
read ‘Heywood Lodge’. In another
corner, the early, courtyarded inn was in the process of being dismantled, and
there was something round on top of a long pole by the front door.
history group would be interested in this.
You’re doing a drawing for Tony Barnes, at the Boar?”
“I see you
know what happened to it?”
at her warily before replying.
“I heard, I
mean, I read about it. During the Civil
War, wasn’t it?”
Ivy pointed to
the round thing on a pole.
“Is that what
I think it is?”
“What do you
think it is?”
was positively girlish.
that’s Robert Keevil’s head on a pole.
right. He had never seen it, of
course. The Civil War was a century
before his time. But he’d heard about
it, when he’d been here. Robert Keevil
owned the Rose and Crown, and was a Royalist.
That wasn’t why he was hated, though.
He was hated because he was a mean and vicious bully of a man, and his
nickname had been the Boar.
Parliamentarians had taken their revenge. When they’d torn down the bulk of his inn, and sold the stone off
to build Heywood Lodge – what was now the livery stables – they’d done it under
the blind gaze of the Boar’s rotting head, stuck on a pike outside his own
front door. Not all pub names were
exactly what they seemed.
“How do you
“We have long memories
here. At least, a few of us do. An ancestor of my husband, may he rest in
peace, took the head down in the end.
I’ve still got the pike in my loft.
At least, that’s what Charlie said.
O’course, Tony and Andy don’t know any of that. Do you think they’d lie easier if they did?”
She looked at
him with sharp old eyes.
always said that I know things.
Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.
But you, you know the past, and the past knows you. Isn’t that right?”
exactly sure what she meant, and so he kept silent. She didn’t seem to need an answer.
“And I’m not
easily taken in, not even by names that sound as if they know better. You mark my words, young man, if you don’t
deal with the past, then the past will deal with you. You hear me?”
the end of her walking stick down, just once, and it gave a dull thud on the
carpeted floor. As if on cue, Walter
came in with a tea tray. He spoke as he
when Mrs Grittleton and me were coming up the lane here, we saw a young
man. Looked to us like he didn’t
rightly know whether to come or not.
Might have been worried about his reception.”
was flat when he said the name. He knew
now what had happened. That was what
you got for taunting a callow would-be rival.
He remembered Kevin watching him with Buffy, through the branches of a
shrub, on the night of the garden party.
Watching him feeling her pulse with his mouth, lusting for…
Kevin. But you know, if he hadn’t spoken
up at last, none of us would have known where to look for you at all. According to you, things would have gone
Angel let out
air – he could hardly call it a breath – that he hadn’t known he was holding.
“Yes. I know.
Do you think he’s still in the lane?”
“Dunno. Is there owt we should tell him if we see
“Yes. Tell him that we’d like to see him. All of us.”
and then they drank their tea and talked of small things. When they got up to go, Ivy said, “I’d
expect Martha to be back tomorrow, if I were you. I’ll tell Rupert Giles on the way out. And you might want to think about making an honest woman of that
pretty girlfriend of your’n. Save a lot
of trouble in the long run.”
behind a little, and then he turned back to Angel.
means is that you’re a rum sort – a decidedly rum sort – but you’re our
rum sort. You and Buffy and Rupert
He gave Angel
a broad wink, and then he followed Ivy out into the sunlight.
Kevin came up
later that day. Buffy saw him walking
up the drive and she went to meet him.
They stood talking for a long time, and then he turned to go. She called him back, held out her hand, and
took him up to the house to join the others.
undisturbed in his office, staring at a folder on his desk without actually
seeing it. For perhaps the first time
in his life, he was truly undecided about the course of justice. Eventually, he put the folder into his
bottom desk drawer. And then he sat,
still undecided about what he should push to know, and what he was better
staying in ignorance about. He was
incredibly relieved when Gavin knocked on the door and told him they had an
armed post office robbery to deal with.
Giles sat in
his study, staring blindly at the book in front of him. He’d just talked to Angel and Buffy about
the fact that at least three people knew more about Angel than they might all
be comfortable with. Lisa. Collins.
Nick. They’d agreed that it was
up to Angel to decide what should be disclosed, and what should not. Angel had said that he would see what time
brought, but he had seemed sanguine about it all.
worried at the situation, the telephone rang.
It was Angela Brewster. She had
two tickets for Les Miserables in Bristol. Would Giles like to go with her?
He found that he was faintly disappointed that the call hadn’t come from
someone else, but then he brightened up.
Angela was a very nice girl, intelligent and pretty. He said yes. It needn’t mean more than a trip to the theatre in good company,
He picked up
the large brown envelope in front of him.
It held Angel’s MRI scans. He
sealed it, addressed it to himself, and then locked it in the safe. Angel and Buffy both had the combination,
but they wouldn’t open an envelope addressed to him. Then he reached for the A-Z and checked the car parks in Bristol.
protestations that Giles and the others could manage, Martha and John both came
back to Summerdown House the next day and, after greetings and hugs, everyone
stayed out of Martha’s path as she learned to cope with the clumsy pot on her
things easily outside, but wished that he still had his summer helper. Still, Stephen had his own life to get on
with. John shook his head at the
passing strangeness of some demons, and at the need to take people as you found
them. That had always been his
Nick went back
home to prepare for the upcoming hearing.
If he were found to be negligent, his career might be at an end. He went over everything, from the thread to
the needle. He could find nowhere any
misstep that could have resulted in paralysis of his patient. He began to doubt himself, and became more
and more morose. The time he’d spent in
Westbury began to look like golden days.
Giles phoned him regularly, but neither of them went to the next meeting
of the Sophists.
ticked by, and Angel’s legs recovered, but Buffy teased him that he had lost
another bunch of brain cells.
One night, he
asked to use the computer in the study, so while Giles and Buffy played an
extremely unfair game of Trivial Pursuit, he put into use a few search tricks
that he’d picked up along the way. In
the end, it wasn’t hard to find what he wanted.
After that, he
spent the next few nights out, coming back exhausted just before dawn. Then, one morning, he came back with a smile
on his face. That morning, he made love
to Buffy until they were both utterly spent.
Neither of them got up until teatime.
On the day
before Nick Hunt’s hearing, the chairman of the disciplinary committee and
Nick’s lawyer both got a set of photographs.
The chairman also got a memory stick with the original images on. They were imprinted with the date and time
of the exposure. They were from three
showed Nick’s complaining patient, at home.
He was partying. He wasn’t in a
wheelchair, or bedridden; he was striding around, king of the festivities, with
a drunken grin on his face. The
pictures were taken from outside his windows, which seemed strange, since he
lived on the twelfth floor of an isolated council tower block, but the pictures
were irrefutable. The man was lying.
After the case
against him was dismissed, Nick came down to Westbury, and carried Giles and
Buffy and Angel off to the Boar’s Head for a drink and dinner to
celebrate. Hanging in pride of place
was a beautiful framed drawing of the pub in pastels, taken at the height of a
summer evening, all long shadows and brightness, a riot of flowering climbers
gracing its walls and an English cottage garden around it.
of the last time that he and Buffy had been there, and wondered once more
whether he should buy her a ring. Or,
at least, talk to her about buying a ring.
The answer, when he thought about it, was self-evident.
Nick basked in
the pleasure of being with these friends once more, as they made jokes about
the terrible things that had happened.
Most of the jokes were about Rupert and concussion.
He was sure
these three had had something to do with the fact that his reputation was now
untarnished, although he hadn’t worked out yet how they’d done it. Covertly, he watched the man sitting
opposite him. He’d wondered how it
would feel, seeing Angel once more, knowing that here was another thing he
couldn’t yet comprehend. Angel was, in
some way, dead. And yet not. He itched to understand that, professionally
On an even
more personal note, Nick had come here wondering whether the attraction he’d
felt would have turned to something different, considering the attraction was
apparently for a dead man. He watched
the person in question brooding over something, thinking that Angel definitely
made a lively corpse, and then Rupert said something about feeling far too old
for this sort of thing. Buffy made some
reference to Rupert having one concussion too many at his age, and dropping
that last catch in the cricket match, and Angel gave that killer smile that all
too rarely graced his face. Rupert said
something else that Nick failed to catch, and Angel threw back his head and
laughed, a full-throated laugh of absolute delight. Oh, well, thought Nick, his heart beating a little faster,
I suppose nobody’s perfect.
Just in case
there are different names for it, this is half beer, half lemonade.
Cnut, has had an undeservedly bad press.
In having his throne carried onto the beach, he was trying to teach his
courtiers that there are some things you just can’t change, even if you’re
36 Paris and the Bourbons and Mme Guillotine
French Revolution, and it certainly did send a shockwave through Europe.
37 Bristol Royal Infirmary
There is a
Bristol Royal Infirmary, and I’m absolutely sure that they wouldn’t let any of
38 There are more things in heaven and earth,
dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet act 1,
sc. 5, l. 166
39 MRI and heart
apparently gives a very good set of images of the heart. Would Nick be able to work the machine and
read the images? Well, they do it every
week in ‘House’!
40 I suppose nobody’s perfect
I pinched the
last line from that classic film ‘Some Like It Hot’, where it is also the last
line. It seemed appropriate.