Summary: A dying man’s last wish is for the team to
find out whether his son was a murderer.
It’s a perfectly ordinary mystery.
Chief Inspector Ian Collins stood in the cramped reception area, trying to
ignore the scent of institutional disinfectant and despairing humanity. All cells were the same, in his experience,
even these beneath the Crown Court, although these were probably a bit cleaner
than most. In a few minutes, a security
officer would bring Angel down the stairs from the courtroom to this reception
area, and this difficult day would be over.
Except, of course, for the journey back to Wessex, and that was likely
to be trouble enough.
around, wondering, with his new knowledge of the world, whether these secure
cells could actually hold Angel if he didn’t wish to be held, and decided that
they probably couldn’t. There was
always the deadly sunlight, of course, as the very last line of detention, but
this area was underground, approached directly from the car park.
He stuck his
hands into his pockets, simply to feel the movement. He would have paced, if he could, but there wasn’t room. The custody officer was doing his paper
work, affecting not to be interested in the presence of a senior policeman from
out in the sticks, but signally failing.
He’d been on the same line of the same form for ten minutes now.
A man in a
suit brushed past him. It was the duty
solicitor, finally finished seeing the afternoon’s clients. He’d been here as long as Collins had. Giles had already left, emotionally wounded
after giving his evidence. He was on
the road now with Gavin Lincoln, Collins’ sergeant. Collins wondered how he was taking it. Buffy was still in Westbury.
They’d agreed that she shouldn’t come.
It could do no one any good.
The sound of
feet on the concrete steps interrupted his train of thought, and then he heard
the rattle of a key in a lock. A
white-shirted security officer, keys jingling on their chain, opened the
scuffed door onto the stairwell that led to the secure docks. Angel followed him out, his face pale
against his customary black, deathly, even, in the harsh glare of the
fluorescent lights. The custody officer
pushed his forms aside, and stood up.
Giles sat in
the front of the car with Gavin Lincoln.
They were halfway down the M4.
At last, Lincoln broke the silence.
have been difficult, sir, testifying against a friend like that.”
nodded, and looked straight ahead.
Difficult wasn’t the word. That
was one of the reasons he hadn’t waited, why he’d cut and run so quickly. But only one of them.
He knew he’d
have to talk about it soon, but he couldn’t do it yet. Not now, not when the pain of betrayal was
been in the courtroom when Angel had undergone his examination in chief, and
for most of the cross-examination. And
Collins had been there at the beginning, when a security officer escorted Angel
in, and when the usher asked whether he would swear on the Bible, or whether he
would affirm. He’d seen the look that
the vampire gave the holy book, and knew that there had been no choice made
here. Angel had said that he would
affirm, because there was nothing else that he could do, in a public place. Collins knew in his bones, though, that the
man would have held the Bible, if he’d had any choice at all. He was surprised to find that all the mumbo
jumbo of the cheap horror films might be right.
What was said
during all that long questioning hadn’t come as any surprise. Angel had remained steadfast in his story,
as Giles had done earlier. He was polite, but firm.
And then the
policeman had come down here to wait.
Now, the door
snapped shut, and the security officer locked it, as he was required to
do. The telephone rang, and the custody
officer answered it, safe behind the reception desk. He murmured a few words, and then he hung up and called to
someone out of Collins’ sight.
court number two, please.”
There was a
rustle of movement from further down the corridor, and another white-shirted
security officer, handcuffed to an unshaven youth in jeans and t-shirt, pressed
past those standing in the reception area and unlocked the stairwell door
again. He pushed the prisoner through
first, the key rattled in the lock, and he and his charge started the long
climb to the dock of court number two.
officer turned to Collins.
alright now, sir?”
The man behind
the desk turned to Angel.
“I’m sorry you
had to go up there, sir, but it’s the only enclosed way to the courts. I’m glad we managed to find you an empty
court to go through. At least you
didn’t have to come up in the same dock as the accused. Now that would have been interesting.”
fine. Thank you.”
He held his
hand out to the waiting security officer.
“Thanks, Jim. I’d have got lost
think he would have got lost at all, but he had to admit that it was a nice
“We can stay
and have a cup of coffee, if you like,” he offered.
back, I think.”
With a last
farewell, Angel and Collins headed out to the car park, squeezing past the
waiting prison van as they did so. It
was not yet four o’clock and now that it was high summer, sunset was about as
late as it could get. Angel was going
to have to spend a long time beneath the tarpaulin in the back of Collins’ car.
officer watched the two men go. It
wasn’t often that you got policemen doing witness support, especially not a
Detective Chief Inspector, but he’d heard that this was a fairly high profile
case, and with the possibility of repercussions for witnesses. The accused, a man called Raphael Carteret,
had looked pretty meek and mild when he’d been brought in on the prison van
this morning. Maybe he had more
dangerous friends. Or maybe looks were
over, he went back to his paperwork.
climbed into the car, Angel said, “You left too early, Ian.”
stayed in the courtroom until the defence was going round in circles on the
cross-examination. When it became plain
that Angel would not be shaken, as Giles hadn’t been shaken earlier, Collins
had left to wait for his friend. He’d
had to wait longer than he expected, but he hadn’t minded. Not really.
“He did what?”
his plea to guilty. I waited until I
was sure he wouldn’t retract. It’s all
“Thank God for
that.” The policeman’s relief was
genuine enough. Testifying against a
friend was always hard.
doors opened, just then, and Collins drove out. He’d made a small tent in the back, to allow Angel some movement,
and to allow him to sit more or less upright, with a bit of slouching, instead
of hunching down, or curling up on the seat.
This was the tent’s maiden trip, because they’d come down from Wessex at
As he swung
the car out into the narrow, shady street, he asked Angel, “Are you going to
call Giles? Tell him the good news?”
“Yeah. He’ll be relieved. And grimly satisfied.
Stealing and counterfeiting cultural treasures has to be right up near
the top of Giles’ list of deadly sins.”
the tarpaulin, Collins heard the sounds of a number being dialled, as he turned
onto a broad dual carriageway full of late afternoon traffic. They were facing west, in the direction of
home, and suddenly, as they left the shadows, the bright afternoon sunlight filled
the car. Behind him, there was a muffled
oath, and the aroma of seared flesh. A
dull thud marked the falling phone.
“Ian! Into the shade! Now!”
than done. Unsure of what was happening
behind him, but haunted by the smell, Collins sought frantically for an exit,
but there was none in sight. In
desperation, he pulled into a pub car park, and into the inadequate shelter of
a couple of young sycamore trees. He scrambled out of the car, and opened the
rear door, but then he stood in the doorway, uncertain of what to do for the
back the tarpaulin, and Collins was shocked.
His right cheek had been seared from ear to chin, the angry burn running
deep into the flesh. His right hand
looked as though it had been held in the fire.
split in the seam.”
sorry. God… What can I do?”
matter-of-factness cut through Collins’ shock at the sight. He nodded sharply, and shut the door against
whatever sunlight might make its way through the leaves. Rummaging in the boot of the car, he found
the roll of thick black gaffer tape that he’d used to make the tent.
him the gap in one of the original seams of the tarp, where the stitching had
given way. The material was crumpled, where
Angel had held it tight in his fist, but not before it had done so much damage.
made, Ian crouched down by his passenger.
the burns? What will help? I’m supposed to be protecting you, and look
what I’ve done! Buffy will kill me.”
was small and painful, but it was a smile.
fault. And I’ll mend. Most of it will be gone when we get back.”
“Do you want
to risk it again? Or shall we wait it
out until dark?”
“No need. This will be fine, now.”
down to pick up the phone. It had taken
the brunt of the flames that had enveloped his hand as he started to make the
call, holding the phone to his ear. It
was scorched and melted, an action sculpture to the transience of modern life.
your phone, shall I?”
As he pulled
back onto the dual carriageway, Collins discovered that he now had a more
visceral understanding of the difficulties facing Angel. Before, when he’d been told that it was an
intolerance to sunlight, he’d politely covered up his impatience, but he’d had
little sympathy. Intolerance. What did that mean? A few blisters? A bit of reddening? Some
soreness? He felt ashamed of that lack
of charity, now.
Even when he’d
learned that Angel was a vampire – and he thought that he still hadn’t fully
assimilated that, still hadn’t adjusted properly to a whole new world view – he
hadn’t really understood what that might mean.
If Nick and Lisa hadn’t been there, too, he might have thought he’d
hallucinated the whole thing.
Now, he had
the stink of burned flesh to reinforce the change in his understanding. He drove on in silence.
House, Giles watched Detective Sergeant Gavin Lincoln drive away. Lincoln had insisted on staying until
Collins arrived with Angel.
Conversation while they waited had, of necessity, been limited. If Lincoln had wondered why Collins had
pulled his car into the dimness of the garage, he’d said nothing.
having seen off his sergeant, returned to the garage, to help Angel extricate
himself from the tarpaulin. Angel slid
quickly into the protective shelter of the covered arbour, to join them in the
house. He wasn’t so quick that Giles
didn’t notice the scarlet burn down his cheek.
Giles sucked in his breath, wondering what had happened.
was sprawled in one of the armchairs, and Buffy was curled up on a settee. Curled up, that is, until she saw
Angel. As he sat down, he thrust his
hand between his thigh and the chair arm, but he couldn’t hide it from
Buffy. She stalked across the room and
turned his head so that she could see his cheek. Then she gently pulled his hand up. It wasn’t nearly as healed as he had hoped it would be. They’d made good time on the journey.
nothing,” he told her. “It’ll be gone
give up. “What happ…”
“It was my
fault.” Collins cut across her
impatient question. “My fault. I didn’t realise the tarp had a tear in it.”
“Well, now you
do!” She wasn’t especially mollified,
no matter how contrite the policeman looked.
Angel took her
hand. “I’m fine. I’m going to need a new phone, though. You could buy me that really slim thing you
had your eye on. See? It gives you a chance to go shopping. Not the pink one? Please?”
help but laugh.
“Can the sim
card be salvaged?”
and handed over the scorched wreck.
watched the little byplay with unrelieved guilt. Nevertheless, he was amused as he saw Angel twist Buffy around
his little finger. He’d always assumed
it was the other way round, but this was masterly. She caught him by surprise, then, when she turned on him.
supposed to be there to protect him?”
“We did that
for both Angel and Giles,” he replied, the epitome of a reasonable man.
Giles leapt in
when he saw Buffy winding herself up for a tirade.
it’s just fortunate that we stumbled over the gossip on the de… net that we
were going to be targeted.”
Collins asked, teasingly malicious.
nowhere near as common as it sometimes seemed, especially when they were in the
middle of a case. The internet had
provided a perfect way for the widely scattered groups of different demon
species – at least, the intelligent ones – to keep in touch. There had been gossip about the downfall of
this massive fraud. Pertinent
gossip. And they’d picked it up. But they hadn’t talked to Collins about
demons, and their interactions with humans.
They weren’t sure he was ready for that, although it would almost
certainly have to come.
Buffy saw his
difficulty, and added her own non sequitur.
“I don’t see why
you wouldn’t let me come along. I could
have driven you, and protected you, and watched what happened in court as
back to her seat.
agreed,” Angel soothed her, from a safe distance. “If anyone in court had recognised you, they might have called
you to give evidence, and what were you going to tell them? That you killed a well known but dishonest
art dealer who turned out to be the vampire who was fencing the goods? That would have gone down well.”
And that was
what had happened. They had stumbled
into a massive operation of theft and counterfeit and smuggling of art
treasures. It had taken a long time for
Giles to be certain that there was something to report, but what had seemed
like a human problem, a problem simply for the police, had gained another
dimension. A demon dimension, although
this was one of species and culture and cupidity, rather than of spatial
mathematics. Demons were using the
thefts to fund their own activities.
As they put
together their evidence, piece by piece, observation by observation, they had
come closer to identifying the prime movers.
And then Buffy had been forced to kill the middleman, who had proved to
be an old and cunning vampire, with an extensive train of adherents. She’d had a choice between that, or Giles
losing his head. Literally. Unfortunately, his death had meant that the
demons responsible for the operation were lost in anonymity. For now.
They’d got the humans bang to rights, though.
found – minus the demon involvement, because he was still adjusting to a world
that included a vampire and a Slayer, let alone demons – had been passed on to
Collins, and what a coup that had been for him. It didn’t mean he’d be the one to deal with it, though, which
would have been preferable so far as the Project Paranormal team was
concerned. It had been a squabble
between the Serious Organised Crime Agency – and how much organised crime
wasn’t serious, Giles had asked himself – and the Art and Antiques Unit of the
Metropolitan Police. The Art and
Antiques Unit had won the lead role, largely because of the specialised nature
of the artefacts, but partly because their Director had shouted louder, and had
been in better odour with the powers that be.
And so, Giles
had had the distasteful task of ratting out a friend. If Carteret had been a demon, Giles thought he might have simply
preferred to kill him. That wasn’t
possible, of course, with a human.
Giles had followed the paper trail and Angel had followed the artwork,
and Buffy had watched their backs.
vampire had died. That hadn’t gone
unnoticed in vampire circles, or in other demon circles, either.
No one had
felt any need to worry at home, or not to worry more than they normally did,
but witnesses were all provided with civilian supporters at trials, and,
unorthodox as it was, Collins had volunteered himself and his sergeant, against
the wishes of the Project Paranormal team.
He’d insisted, though.
Everything had passed off smoothly, for now, at least.
“I still can’t
believe it of Carteret,” said Nick, shaking his head, pushing back the
white-blond hair as it fell into his eyes.
Giles, abruptly. Everyone else remained
silent in sympathy.
Carteret. One of the members of the Sophists, and a
successful art historian and art dealer.
Both Nick and Giles had dined with him each month, at the Sophists’
meetings. They’d done so for
years. They’d known him since they’d
been undergraduates at Oxford together.
Now, Giles, backed up by Angel’s evidence, was responsible for sending
him to jail.
Collins stayed to eat with them, but it was a morose company who ate Martha’s
gourmet meal of Cumbrian Herdwick mutton followed by a luscious summer pudding
heavy with strawberries and raspberries.
Oh, and one flagon of premium Bull’s Blood – the Charolais that had been
slaughtered that morning at Staggett’s Abattoir, not the Hungarian wine.
coffee, Nick had to go.
“I talked to
Lisa,” he told Giles, as he took his leave.
Wasn’t she supposed to join us for dinner?”
said Nick, wryly, well aware that Giles had hardly noticed their friend’s
absence. “She said something about the
appallingly wet weather ruining the hay crop.
She’s gone to look at a barnful somewhere on the South Coast, to do a
deal before someone else snaffles it.
She said to tell you she’ll get enough for your two boys.”
“She’s a good
friend,” Giles told him, warmly.
Nick knew that
Lisa would like to be more than that, but had decided she was doomed to
disappointment. Oh, well. Misery loved company…
“I’ve got to
go, Rupert. I’d stay but…”
Carteret’s treachery as keenly as Giles, and would have liked to stay with his
friends, but his operating list meant that he had to go. It had been difficult enough getting away
for these few hours. Collins went with
him. Giles took his coffee into the
study, and stayed there for a long time.
climbed the stairs up the side of the garage, Buffy picked up Angel’s hand,
taking careful hold of his wrist so as not to cause more pain. The burn was fading now, but was still pink,
“I should have
you shouldn’t. We’d never have
explained the vampire.”
He’d been glad
it was a vampire, and not one of the more humanoid species of demon that left
inconvenient corpses behind. He didn’t
want to think what the police would do with Buffy, if they ever thought that
she’d murdered a reputable West End gallery owner, even if he had been a
murdering thief masquerading as human.
They were on
the landing now, outside their door. It
was the dark of the moon, and the stars, bright and clear on this velvet night,
cast down their thin, cold light. It
sang in his blood, speaking to him of the thrill of the hunt, and the climactic
surrender of the feed. He swallowed
against it, the coarseness of the bull’s blood still on his tongue, and he
kissed her, to wipe that taste away, to replace it with something more
She leapt up
to him, her legs wrapping around his waist and, as his arms wrapped around her,
he felt himself rise to meet her. Lost
in her embrace, he managed to turn the door handle, pushing backwards through
the open doorway, and stumbling against her suitcase. Only his demon’s reflexes allowed him to keep his feet as he
staggered away from the obstacle, catching his hip against the corner of the
chest of drawers as he did so. Wood
squealed against wood as the piece of furniture careened a few inches out of
place. Off balance and smarting, he
almost fell onto the couch. The
bed-settee. They’d forgotten to pull it
out and make it up before dinner.
broke the clinch, and leaned over to the wall light on his side. In its dim glow, he pulled out the bed while
Buffy burrowed in the crammed wardrobe for the bedding. The wardrobe was crammed with her stuff. His mostly stayed in his modest overnight
bag. The suitcases were hers. Except for the space needed for the bed,
almost every available inch of floor had something on it, with just space to
step through to reach the kitchen and the shower. When the bed was down, the only way past it was to scramble over
It had been
okay, at first, when this was just his room, and when Buffy had moved in, he’d
been so grateful for her that the cramped space hadn’t set his teeth on
edge. Besides, Giles had then given
them the keys to the flat in Bath.
They’d had to spend no more than a couple of nights a week here, just to
keep him company. Recently, though, as
business had increased – although not necessarily paying business, he thought,
as he tucked in the sheet – they had spent more and more time here. Now, they were lucky if they got to Bath
every other weekend.
couldn’t hold them both on a long-term basis.
The bed made,
they lay together for a few minutes, trying to capture the lost moment.
“The place at
Nineacres is still for rent,” he whispered, as he bent to titillate her neck.
right. Their clients had mainly been
the ordinary and the not well-off. They
made enough, between them, for day-to-day living, but only provided
living came rent-free.
“I could do
some more drawings of Ye Olde Towne.”
Buttsworth had a stand of his drawings in her art shop at the Craft Centre, and
they sold well in the tourist season.
He was nibbling Buffy’s ear, now, but she managed a reply.
many in winter.”
That was true,
he reflected, and rent tended to be a twelve months a year affair.
“I’m cheap to
feed,” he retorted, moving down to her throat.
She stretched languidly beneath him, rubbing gently in all the right
places, before voicing the final word.
“If we lived
five miles away at Nineacres, we might as well just stay in Bath. It’s less than twenty miles.”
That was true,
but he really didn’t want to talk about it any more, and so he slid his hand
down her hip, and the time for intelligible speech was over.
night, Giles sat in his study long after his coffee grew cold, reflecting on
the nature of friendship. And of
He was lucky
in his friends, he knew that, but Carteret had cut him deeply. The two of them had been close, once upon a
time. As for family, there were none
worth speaking of, other than Buffy and Angel.
Buffy, as close to him as a daughter.
Angel, almost a son-in law. And
yet... They were also comrades-in-arms,
with ties more binding than those that mere blood, or law, could ever forge.
He pushed his
chair backwards, and turned it so that he could reach the safe. The leather folder that he brought out
wasn’t locked, only tied shut with a leather thong. Nevertheless, he was certain that neither Buffy nor Angel would
have looked in it. They all kept things
in the safe, each item in there personal.
Private. Sitting cheek-by-jowl
with everyone else’s secrets, and yet untouched by them.
to his desk, he placed the folder into the small pool of light cast by the
standard lamp at the side. The room
otherwise was in darkness. It matched
his mood perfectly. The folder
contained a number of envelopes. The
first one that he took out was a stiff blue one, marked ‘Last Will and Testament’. It was his.
Life was so
fleeting. He’d always understood that,
but the last decade had underlined the fact.
His latest encounter with a vampire had truly rammed the message home. He’d made a new will. There were bequests, including a sizeable
cash sum to John and Martha, but the bulk of his property, including the
business and Summerdown House, went to Buffy and Angel.
He hadn’t yet
given up hope that he would one day marry and have children. He’d been on the point of asking Ella to be
his wife, when the worst had happened.
It had taken months after her death before he finally let her go, albeit
reluctantly, but there’d not yet been anyone else to move him on from her. Some fine women, yes, but so far his heart
hadn’t truly been in it, so to speak.
come, though. If it did, then he would
leave the bulk of his property to his wife, and to the heirs of his body. There could be no doubt about that. The flat in Bath was leasehold, and the
lease had seemed long enough when he bought it, decades ago: when his parents
were still alive, and he’d wanted somewhere close in case they needed him. It certainly wasn’t long in Angel-terms
fair. Buffy and Angel saved the world a
lot, but that was never rewarded in any material way. It was a hand-to-mouth existence, and they deserved better. He wanted them to have his family house, but
if he had a family in the future, what he wanted now wouldn’t matter. Besides, they might be reluctant to sell it,
if they decided to move on, and he didn’t mean to tie them down.
And so, he had
He put the
will back into its envelope, and picked up another bundle of papers. On top was an estate agent’s brochure,
creased and smoothed out again. It was
for a broken-down old property about five miles away. It was called Nineacres, and it was for let.
A couple of
weekends ago, Angel and Buffy had been in Bath, and Giles had been researching
a manifestation of ghostly lights. He’d
ruled out the physical, and narrowed it down to Raethaller’s Phenomenon. He’d needed Encetter’s Guide to give him the
correct charm and incantation to clear it.
But his copy of Encetter’s was nowhere to be found.
And then he
remembered that, before leaving for Bath, Angel had dealt with a case of
Gorslinks in the cellar of a house belonging to a friend of Ivy
Grittleton. The ancient Ivy had stumped
up the drive with the faithful Walter Satterthwaite in tow, and had threatened
to rattle their shins with her walking stick unless they sorted out the strange
noises in Hetty Cowthorpe’s cellar.
Hetty was almost deaf, but it was driving her dog, Domino, to
distraction, and he’d almost scratched through the cellar door.
And then Ivy
had reached into her shopping bag and brought out two battered old tins, and
handed them carefully to Buffy.
“Let me have
the tins back when you’ve done with them,” she said casually. The tins looked as though she’d been saying
that about them for fifty years. When
Buffy took the lids off, the contents, in their little paper cases, had
glittered like jewels.
In one was
glacé fruit, slices of pineapple and halves of peaches, whole apricots and
quartered pears, these larger pieces interspersed with dark, round cherries and,
arranged into delicate fans, glowing slices of tangerine.
In the second
tin were tiny petits fours, miniature cakes with white and lemon and chocolate
icing, fondant-covered rolls, and dainty little tartlets, each containing a
piece of fruit: a wild strawberry coated in thick chocolate, or a raspberry in
something that looked like jellied honey.
Giles, looking over her shoulder, thought that every one was different,
and every one looked ready to eat.
For once in
her life, Ivy looked a little abashed.
Hetty’s got no spare cash, but a job done well is a job that needs rewarding,
wouldn’t you say? So I reckoned that
you’d take these in exchange. Made ‘em
myself. Hetty can’t cook. Never could, and certainly can’t now.”
Giles had seen
Buffy almost licking her lips, and he’d had to resist reaching out to snaffle
one. But he’d left the answer to Buffy.
we’ll do it, Mrs Grittleton.”
And so, for a
fee of fruit and cakes, Angel had taken care of the Gorslinks, and only he and
Buffy knew just how much enjoyment they had derived from the ways he found to
feed the tiny morsels to her. He’d
insisted on trying a wild strawberry tartlet set on a ganache of dark
chocolate. Anything so red, he’d said,
surrounded by so much darkness and promising so much pleasure, must belong to
him. He’d been looking at something
else, though, as he ate it.
But Giles had
known nothing of this, and would have been slightly embarrassed to find out,
despite his own willingness to embrace the adventurous. All he did know, as he tried to finish his
research into Raethaller’s Phenomenon, was that he’d thoroughly enjoyed his own
share of the spoils, and that Angel had not returned the copy of Encetter.
And so, he had
gone to the flat. Sitting in his study
now, with the cold cup of coffee at his elbow, and his folder of secrets in
front of him, he wondered how he could have been so oblivious, so
thoughtless. He rarely invaded this
space, but he should have thought, should have understood.
When he opened
the door, the place was as neat as it could be made, with possessions for two
people who were essentially living in a bedroom the size of three car parking
spaces. He’d been shocked at how
cramped they were, now that the majority of their time was spent here.
He’d found the
Encetter on top of the chest of drawers but, before he noticed it, he’d also
found the screwed up brochure on the floor by the waste paper bin. He’d taken both away, together with a real
guilt for his blindness. Buffy would be
chafing over the lack of space, but he couldn’t imagine how Angel was managing,
with his need to get away from beating hearts and throbbing blood. No wonder he went out most nights.
stretched a little, and his arm rattled the cup of cold coffee. With a sigh, he picked it up and took it
into the kitchen, where he made himself a fresh cup. When he’d sat down again in his leather chair, he opened the next
folded piece of paper. It was a
typescript form, with ‘APPROVED’ stamped in black over it, and a name scribbled
on the bottom.
planning permission for another building.
In those more innocent days, when all he’d had to worry about were a
group of young girls who had had a new way of life thrust on them, and before
Angel had been brought back from the dead, Giles had put this application in
He’d had no
idea, then, how many slayers there might be, and how many more might be
created, but he was sure that most of them were so young that he didn’t dare
send them out into the world without a trained Watcher. And there were none of those to be had. His ambitions then, before events and
history and magic got in the way, were to house the girls suitably until
Watchers could be found.
to build this annex as part of the Summerdown House complex. Much to his surprise, the application had
been granted. But then, he shouldn’t
have been surprised. Ella had been with
him throughout, and he was certain now, looking back, that she’d had something
to do with it. She, and her Earth
He looked at
the date on the approved application.
Coming up for three years ago.
If you didn’t make a start on it, planning permission expired after five
years. Recently, though, he’d heard
that the planning authorities had been given the power to lapse an application
if work wasn’t started within three years.
He couldn’t let that happen.
Without Ella, he doubted he’d get it renewed. That was just one of the things he missed about her.
He opened up
the architect’s drawings. The rooms
that he had devised for the girls could easily be made into a comfortable home
for a Slayer and a vampire. Taken as a
whole, the complex would provide an embarrassment of accommodation for three
people. But for two families? Ah, that was different.
He smiled to
himself. If he did this, then come what
may, Buffy and Angel would always have somewhere to live or somewhere to
sell. This annex would be leased to
them, on a suitably long-term lease.
Long-term enough, even in Angel’s view of things. And it would be a definite improvement on a
Now would come
the hard part. Selling the idea to
Buffy and Angel. Knowing they were
considering other accommodation was a help, but they were bound to raise the
question of funding. And it was true
that the business couldn’t possibly hope to pay for a capital project like
over the desk for another file, a file that wasn’t kept in the safe, a file
that they all laboured on from time to time, but he was its main keeper. The business accounts. He flicked through the sheets, mostly in his
own neat hand. Since the time he’d set
up Project Paranormal to keep Buffy and Angel occupied, it was showing healthy
growth, at least in terms of customers.
The income stream was not much more than a dribble, though.
He closed up
the folders in front of him and sat in thought. Never broach your capital, that was what his father had taught
him. Keep your capital safe, and
increase it if you can, but learn to live on the income. And he had.
What they needed now was a big paying job. Fat chance of that.
A glass of
whisky had now joined the second cold cup of coffee, the difference being that
he was drinking the whisky.
And so Giles
sat and thought about friends and betrayal, and friends and families. He wondered if he would ever find someone to
live his life with. Someone to
love. Someone to give him a different
sort of family, an ordinary family, in addition to the extraordinary one that
he had now.
As he sat and
sipped his whisky, he felt hope grow that it would be possible. That it wasn’t too late. And he felt that Ella would be pleased for
him if it happened. He smiled at that
thought, a smile of real pleasure. What
he didn’t see was Zillah, crouched on one of the bookcases, staring at him with
Ella-green eyes. Anyone who understood
cat expressions would have said that she, too, was smiling.
morning, there were two immediate consequences of the trial the previous day.
a multi-million pound scam, the case was headline news across the country,
including the fact that it had been Rupert Giles, a long-standing friend of the
ringleader, who had raised the alarm.
police car arrived shortly after breakfast, disgorging a local bobby and a box
file of photographs. The Art and
Antiquities Unit had failed to identify these objects. Could Giles help with any of them? If he needed to see any of the objects
themselves, said the officer, then that could be arranged.
And so Giles
and Angel settled themselves down to pore over the photographs, leaving Buffy
to her own devices.
consequence was that Buffy went shopping.
The fourth consequence took longer to become apparent.
The day after
that, a smartly dressed young woman closed the door on a motor cycle courier,
and then set off into the depths of her employer’s house. She knocked on the study door and went
The man behind
the desk sat in a wheelchair. His skin
was a papery grey, his eyes hollow, and his mouth set in a thin line. He wore pyjamas and a dressing gown,
something that she knew irked him considerably. He was too weak, now, for anything else, though. His voice belied that weakness.
handed him the file that the courier had brought. He almost dropped it, and she hastened to help him. He was worse than he’d been yesterday. He shrugged off the help.
He pulled at
the contents of the envelope, his hands shaking.
“Damn it! Get this out for me, will you?”
little, she stepped towards the querulous invalid and pulled the manila folder
from the envelope, laying it open on the desk in front of him. He peered at the three photographs clipped
to the inside of the folder. A young,
blonde woman, a pale-skinned, dark-haired young man – a night shot, that one –
and an older man, his face starting to line and his hair starting to grey. Then he turned to the top sheet of the slim
sheaf of papers that the file contained.
too damned small. You’ll have to read
it to me.”
She picked up
the file from her position on the other side of the desk, turning it round.
Paranormal, based in…”
“No, no… Sit
yourself down. We’re going to be here
for a while. And ring for a pot of
did as he instructed, pulling a green leather chair towards the desk.
“Here. Come and sit by me here.”
She did so,
and then with the file placed on the desk between them, she again began to
Paranormal, based in Westbury.
Established a little over two years ago. Three investigators…”
After half an
hour, she rang for the tea trolley, again, and then resumed her reading of the
After an hour,
just as she finished, the nurse came with medication, and Miss Earnshaw closed
the file. When the nurse was gone, Mr
Gabriel opened up the cover and looked for a long time at the three
photographs, as though they could speak to him. Then he started to dictate a series of letters, his voice
becoming frailer, the longer he went on.
But Mr Gabriel had found what he needed, and he was determined. There was very little time, after all.
Giles sat with
his back to the desk, his thoughts a long way from the papers strewn behind
him. Angel sat in a shady corner of the
study, staring disconsolately at the new phone that Buffy had handed to
him. It was very slim. It was also very pink.
perched on the arm of the other comfortable chair, her leg swinging in what
Giles could only interpret as an ominous manner. She was about as relaxed as a hunting shark.
“Angel, I need
to take your car.”
have sworn that the vampire winced. There were very few things that he got
precious about, but his car, his beloved black Porsche, was one of them. And Buffy could not be said to be a born
driver, even by one who loved her to distraction.
Buffy saw the
wince and took it as a sign of impending surrender.
“You know I’m back
to doing the Meals on Wheels. That car
of mine simply won’t make the round until it’s fixed.” She seemed to mentally square her shoulders,
and carried on. “It’s definitely done
its dash. You know that.”
dash?” Giles managed to pack enough
astonishment for both of them into those three words, but Angel quirked an
eyebrow anyway, even though he remained silent. “You mean, there’s something wrong with the dashboard?”
dash, run its course, reached a natural conclusion, come to the end of its
useful existence. Had it.”
For a moment,
neither of the men said anything. They
knew that Buffy was right. The car had
been elderly when it was bought, but, at the time, no one had been sure what
the future held, or where in the world it might lead to.
It was Angel
who broke the silence.
dash? That doesn’t sound like
She smiled, a
slow and secretive smile that made him frown a little.
stand-in lifeguard at the pool over the holiday period. Luke.
It’s one of the things he says.
I liked it. I thought it was
good. He’s good too. To look at, I mean. All tanned and full of abs and pecs and
things… He says he’s…” She wrinkled her
nose. “Strine. Wherever that is.”
almost see the growl rising in Angel’s throat, although it never made an
appearance. He heard himself say,
“Strine. Australian, I believe. Yes, that sounds right,” as he watched Angel
struggle with himself and he saw Buffy smirking like the cat that got the
cream. Suddenly, in a moment of rare
insight, he understood what was happening.
Buffy was punishing them for not letting her go with them to Carteret’s
trial. He admired her tactics.
might have been a tiny whimper, Angel caved.
He dug into his pocket and pulled out his car keys, then tossed them to
her. She hopped off the arm of the
chair and walked over to give him a peck on the cheek. Then she took the new, pink phone from his
unresisting fingers and popped it into her bag.
said. ‘I got confused. This one’s yours.”
She threw him
an identical but undeniably black phone, and left the room with a triumphant
toss of her hair. As she shut the door,
she called back to them.
that after he’s fitted a new exhaust, whatever that is, it needs a new
clutch. That’s why I keep crashing the
again. Seconds later, there was the
harsh, grating squeal of a maltreated gearbox, and then the screech of tyres on
gravel. Angel’s shoulders visibly
slumped, and Giles offered up a prayer for a few cases that had a nice fat fee
attached to them.
laid a thick book onto her employer’s desk.
It was a signature book, and its substantial, pink, blotting paper
leaves contained all the letters that he had dictated and that she had
typed. Then, heels clicking on the
parquet floor, she returned to her office.
Mr Gabriel was with the nurse just now, and he might be some little
When he hadn’t
called for her by lunchtime, she went to his study, to see whether he felt up
to something to eat.
He had fallen
forward onto his desk. His pen, a black
Waterman fountain pen, had blotched a signature, but it wouldn’t matter. It was still legible. And he had signed everything.
She put her
hand on his wrist, to be sure. She
wasn’t a nurse, but she could tell from the cool flesh that he was beyond all
help. She squeezed his hand, something
she would never have done when he was alive, and as she did so, she saw that
the top drawer of the desk was open a little.
She pulled gently at it, and saw that lying on top of the other contents
was a framed photograph of a young man, his arm around the waist of a pretty
blonde. His son, she thought, although
she had never seen him, and there were no other pictures of him in the house.
She closed the
drawer again, and picked up Anthony Gabriel’s last missives. Now, his affairs were in the hands of
Fate. She hoped that the goddess was in
a kindly mood.
Angel had run quickly through the photographs, and had managed to identify a
good handful of artefacts without much difficulty. Giles had e-mailed those results to the responsible officer, who
was relieved to be able to cross something else off the list. Now they were starting on the difficult
Giles held a
photograph of a small terracotta figurine, a naïve rendition of a male carrying
something, although that something had been detached from the hand. It might be a god, a devotee making an
offering, or a hunter carrying something home for the pot. Giles had no idea. There was an inscription on the base, though, and that
inscription had been noted on the back of the photograph.
He held it out
ideas? I thought Etruscan,
perhaps? Or maybe Phoenician?”
at it dubiously.
“A bit before
He pulled over
to him the book showing the comparative alphabets of the Etruscans and the
similar to both, but with some differences.”
He turned the
photograph over and squinted at the figurine.
something about this. I can’t help
thinking I’ve seen something like it before.
It wouldn’t be demonic, would it?”
“I thought you
had a photographic memory?”
didn’t think it worth taking a photograph.”
With a shake
of his head, Giles pocketed the picture.
I’d look in on Alice. She knows a lot
of languages, human and demonic. I’ll
see if she recognises it. And yes, I
won’t forget that web site you found.”
He went out
through the kitchen and the utility wing, meaning to pick up the latest batch
of ointment for Alice, and soon wished that he hadn’t. Martha was in the utility room, her lips
pursed, and an angry glint in her eye.
she began, and he knew that he was in serious trouble. It had been years since she’d called him Mr
Giles, and almost never had she called him Mr Giles in quite that
tone of voice. Looking around, he
didn’t need to ask what was wrong.
He’d mixed up
a new batch of ointment for Alice, and he’d done it in here, in the utility
room. He’d already left green stains on
the marble worktop in the kitchen, and those had taken three weeks to get out. He hadn’t dared use the kitchen again. Martha, as she usually did, had hung the
freshly ironed clothes in here, close to the warmth from the boiler, before
putting them away. He could see at
least four of his white shirts hanging from the rack, except that they weren’t
quite white anymore.
whatever colour each garment had started out, was now a delicate shade of
tangerine. Threads of orange vapour
curled out of the bowl on the wooden shelf.
“Damn. I must have forgotten the Fauchard’s
would never do, he thought, especially since it was still smoking. If he gave Alice orange skin, he’d never
hear the end of it. He was suddenly
aware that he hadn’t perhaps said quite the right thing. Martha’s tightly crossed arms and the angry
tapping of her foot made him sure of it.
would you suggest that I do with the washing now?”
around wildly in his mind, as men are wont to do in these situations. In his panic, he seized on the nearest
could try soaking them in Fauchard’s… See whether it will act as a bleach…”
one of those strange, snorting noises that men know so well. She pointed to a scrap of fabric hanging
from the rack.
“Do you know
what that is?”
Dear Lord, he was in such trouble.
Martha hadn’t called Buffy Miss for positively years,
either. And this scrap was Buffy’s… Two
angry women… Martha hadn’t finished,
new sundress that Angel sent all the way to California for, to cheer her
up. She’s only had it on the once.”
His goose was
well and truly cooked. Buffy hadn’t
liked any of the sundresses in the local shops, and Angel had, indeed, sent to
Los Angeles for this. Mail order was a
wonderful thing. Giles remembered that
it had been a present for their anniversary.
Quite which anniversary, he wasn’t sure, because they seemed to mark so
many, but he thought that perhaps it was right for them, to remember the bad as
well as the good. Even worse, though,
he remembered how much Angel had liked seeing Buffy in the sundress, even if
the sun had gone down before she’d worn it for him, one warm evening in the
women and an angry vampire. He
decided to make himself scarce for a bit.
But Martha hadn’t finished. When
much moved, she sometimes reverted to the language of her early beliefs, and
she did so now.
I’ve had to buy a whole new set of mixing bowls. There’s no telling what ungodly things would have happened if I’d
used the ones that have had those nasty, heathenish chemicals in. You left me a green one and one stained with
that dirty blue colour, and now an orange one, not to mention that devil’s
stain on the worktop.”
“And if you
think you’re using that stuff on Alice, you’ve got another think coming. That poor soul has enough to trouble her
without being a tangerine. I don’t know
what the world’s coming to, I swear.
There are these heathen E numbers in everything you eat nowadays, no
matter how hard you try to avoid them, and pesticides and hormones, and the
Good Lord knows whatever else. No
wonder she’s getting her scales back.
I’m surprised all of us haven’t got scales.”
at her in astonishment, the tangerine shirts and sundress forgotten.
Pesticides… E numbers… Martha! Thank you!
I think you might be right. It’s
worth a try, anyway,” he added, as he almost ran out into the courtyard. “Thank you!”
He left Martha
reached Alice’s little house, he saw that John had fitted the latest piece of
technology for her. Over her door, a
discreet little camera enabled her to see who her visitors were, before opening
the door to them, giving her warning of when she needed to cover up. She had no need of that with him, though,
and she let him in gladly.
He walked into
the chintzy interior and, not for the first time, wondered whether this was her
preferred style of furnishing or another piece of camouflage, a natural milieu
for an elderly, retired schoolteacher.
When they had
sat down to a pot of tea – ordinary Indian tea – and exchanged pleasantries,
Giles asked something that had interested him, because he’d wondered about
Alice’s social life.
“Alice, do you
have any idea how many Silarri there are?”
She picked up
one of Martha’s ginger snaps and bit into it, crunching the mouthful into
crumbs before answering.
world? Not many.”
know. Perhaps a dozen. Or less.”
talked to them? You know them, know
where they are?”
“No, oh no,
never. I… When I found the ones that
talk on the Internet, I didn’t let them know I was reading what they said.”
on that as he chewed on his own biscuit.
did you last see a Silarri?”
He thought she
wouldn’t answer, but eventually she did.
“Not since I
was fifteen, when my mother died. We…
we were estranged from my father… Isolated in North Africa…”
A hundred and
ninety years, give or take, without seeing anyone of her own kind. Giles was saddened. Then a thought struck him.
nodded. “Of course. Over many years.”
recognise them if you saw them?”
was scornful, but he persisted.
they’d be camouflaged to look like something else, wouldn’t they? A human, or another demon.” He looked around for the cats. Did mass matter, when it came to
camouflage? “Would you really
know? Would they recognise you as one
of them? Or have you met them, and
you met a strange man in a monkey suit, would you know whether it was a man or
a monkey under the fur?”
“Why are you
through the thoughts in his head.
“I was… well,
I was wondering whether others are having the same problem as you, and whether
they’ve found a solution, for one thing.
We could ask them, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.”
“I… I don’t
know. And I wouldn’t like to start
asking until I’m surer that these are people I want to talk to, and not people
I’d need to hide from.”
She would say
no more on that, but he understood her reserve. Sometimes, finding things could be dangerous.
you able to reset your disguise?”
believe so. But it’s a difficult
process and… well… I’m not entirely sure how to do it. It’s the sort of thing we learn from our
parents when we reach a certain age, but I never had the chance…”
that’s something we can work on.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering whether the proliferation of hormones and other
chemicals in food has had a deleterious effect on your camouflage. Remember you said that your washing powder
was irritating your scales? Why not the
rest of what you use, or what you eat?
All the modern day additives, that you wouldn’t have had, decades ago?”
“Do you think
that might be it?” She was almost
breathless with excitement.
“It’s worth a
go, don’t you think? There’s an organic
box scheme working around here, and it isn’t just vegetables and fruit and
meat. They have all sorts of groceries. Why don’t you give it a try? You can sign up online, and then get a
weekly delivery. We’ll carry on picking
up anything else for you, if you need us to, but shall we see if this works?”
And so it was
agreed. Giles stood to go, but
remembered he had another errand, and pulled the photograph from his pocket.
recognise that alphabet?”
scrutinised it for a moment or two.
“Yes. It’s a demonic script. Kilvazen.
They mainly live in the uppermost slopes of the Atlas Mountains. Roughly translated – very roughly, you
understand – it says ‘Made by the pupils of the Ganstat Primary School for the
1976 Congregation.’ It’s a good piece
of work for young children, isn’t it?”
Giles let out
a crack of laughter.
“I think maybe
I won’t divulge that to the investigators.
I’ll put it down as a bastardised Phoenician script, artefact
unknown. If they ever find an owner for
it, they can squabble about it for a few decades.”
At the door,
he turned back to her.
“You know, I’m
sure the Art and Antiquities Unit would pay a further consultancy fee for
anything we need to refer to you. And
Angel came across a website yesterday that was advertising for online
translators for Eastern European languages.
There was good money involved. I
said I’d ask you if he should send you the address…”
She stood on
tiptoe to give him a peck on the cheek.
Rupert. You’re very kind. I should very much appreciate that.”
As he opened
the door, a black and white cat, Poppy, he thought, trotted in, carrying a limp
mouse as her contribution to her mistress’s larder.
He left in a
high good humour, which wasn’t dampened to find that his orange ointment had
disappeared, and so had all the orange washing. About an hour later, Martha appeared with a bundle of half-dried
laundry. She’d taken it to the
anonymity of a laundrette in Trowbridge.
All she would say was that she wasn’t risking putting it through the
machine at Summerdown House. Giles
never asked whether Fauchard’s blanching powder had been involved, or whether
simple soap and water had sufficed.
whether there had been a rash of orange laundry at the Main Street Laundrette
morning brought them the fourth consequence of the Carteret trial, in the form
of a letter. Giles had been tiptoeing
gently around his friends and colleagues, but Martha seemed to have kept the
matter of the sundress to herself.
Giles made a mental note to send her some flowers. She loved flowers.
He was on his
second cup of coffee of the morning, and his fifth photograph for
identification, when he heard the crunch of wheels on gravel and the rat-tat of
the doorknocker. The postman held out a
bundle of letters, and then offered Giles his clipboard.
here that needs signing for, Mr Giles.”
complete, the postman hopped into his van, whistling, and Giles turned back
into the house, chewing his lip.
Buffy had gone
to the flat over the garage, muttering something about ‘housework’, but Angel
remained in the breakfast room, poring over photographs. Giles had shared the joke about the
pseudo-Phoenician figurine. The handful
of post contained the usual assortment of advertising flyers, from supermarket coupons
and leaflets for vertical blinds, to offers for weatherproofing treatments on
the exterior walls to bring them to show-house standards, only twenty pounds a
square metre. All those went into the
were monthly statements from the power companies, the parish magazine – Giles
was certain that Dave the postman wasn’t supposed to distribute items like
this, but he always did, together with the newspaper round when any of the
newspaper boys were ill and, once, the milk, when the milk float had overturned
on ice – and a couple of letters from cranks wanting to know whether Project
Paranormal could give them information on alien visitations and alien
envelope with a little-girl type, star-spangled unicorn in one corner contained
a request from a student to spend her summer vacation helping out, and learning
about their work. A post card from
Tenerife assured that the writer was ‘having a good time and wish you were
here’. Giles blushed a little when he
realised that it was addressed to Buffy, and was from Kevin, her one-time
admirer. Silently, he handed it over to
Angel, and Angel, just as silently, accepted it.
And then there
was the registered envelope, left until last.
It was a stiff, white business envelope. Giles tore it open. It
contained a single sheet of paper.
“It’s from a
firm of lawyers called Broadribb and Shuster.
They have a proposal for us, a case they want us to investigate on
behalf of a client. They want us to
meet them in their London offices tomorrow morning. All three of us.”
“Let’s get hotel
rooms, and tell them to come there, then.”
suggestion was a good one, and so that’s what they did.
Mr Shuster did
all the talking, while Mr Broadribb leaned back in his chair, his hands folded
over his ample paunch, and his eyes half closed as he listened. They were lawyers of the old school, elderly
men in black jackets and waistcoats, with grey, striped trousers. A thick albert in richly-coloured old gold
looped over Mr Broadribb’s expansive midriff, presumably attached to a watch in
his waistcoat pocket.
They were in
one of the Russell Square hotel’s private meeting rooms, a tea tray on the
table in front of them. Sheer net
curtains hung at each window, sufficient protection for Angel, on this north
facing side of the building.
began Mr Shuster, “instructed us to retain your services…”
“Might I ask
who your client is?” asked Giles, politely, or as politely as an interruption
you accept the commission, Mr Giles. If
you do accept, then you will be given whatever information we have.”
for Mr Shuster to continue. This wasn’t
uncommon practice for a nervy client.
son, Michael, disappeared three days before his twenty first birthday. At the same time, a young woman, Felicity
Wareham, was murdered, with some violence, I’m afraid. She had been friends with another young man,
and that had caused difficulties with Michael.
The common supposition at the time was that Michael murdered her in a
jealous rage, and then ran away and assumed another identity.”
Mr Shuster, I’m sure we all hope that your client can find his son and these
two other young unfortunates, but this is a matter for the police, I’m
afraid. I’m sorry. We simply don’t take cases of this
nature. I’m sure the police will do
everything they can.”
didn’t move, but Mr Shuster held up his hand as Giles made to rise from his
moment. Please. We understand very well what sort of cases you
investigate. Before giving us his
instructions, our client’s research was thorough. Very thorough. The police
did investigate this, and they, too, were very thorough. All this happened ten years ago. The police have newer cases, now, and no
more interest in this one. And our
client was very impressed by your actions in the Carteret case. He thought you were just the team to find
the answers, if anyone could.”
isn’t our sort of case. Please present
our apologies to him. We would help if
This time it
was Mr Shuster who interrupted Giles.
“Please. Mr Giles…” He turned to look at Mr
Broadribb, who gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head. “Perhaps I should mention the matter of the
fee. Simply for accepting the commission,
even if you fail to find an answer, our client has authorised a fee of fifty
thousand pounds. Plus expenses.”
They waited at
the hotel until after sunset, and when they made their way home, they took a
thick folder with them. They had
photographs, they had newspaper reports and, somehow, they had copies of
confidential police statements and reports.
Unfortunately, they had nothing that would seem to take them any further
forward than the police investigation.
The one thing
they did have was an agreement to go down to their client’s house. They wouldn’t be seeing Mr Gabriel, since Mr
Gabriel, they were told, had been dead for three days, but something had been
arranged, at his instructions, to give them a starting point.
couldn’t find the answer within a month, they could consider themselves free of
The size of
the fee had stunned them all. Giles had
been rendered speechless. Angel could
only gasp. Buffy had converted the
amount into dollars in her head, and then, simple as it was, in rough terms,
had done the sum again to make sure she’d got it right.
“We’ll have to
tell the Art and Antiquities Unit that they’ll have to wait for any more
information on those artefacts,” said Giles as he negotiated traffic out
towards the M4. That, too, was proving
to be a nice little earner, although just peanuts compared to what they had
why,” Angel replied, frowning. “We can
take everything down to Merrivale Hall.
I presume they have electricity, and possibly even a phone line.”
Buffy gave a
tiny snort of amusement. Neither of the
men had been terribly impressed at the thought of a visit to Dartmoor.
Giles that it would be nice, lots of peace and quiet, and spectacular scenery
with room to sunbathe. Giles had given
a wry laugh, and then said, ‘Dartmoor!
Hah! Even the residents say that
they have nine months of winter and three months of bad weather.’ She’d decided there and then to pack all the
warm clothes that she possessed.
reached Merrivale Hall, on western Dartmoor, it was close to dawn. Driving around the tiny, barely signposted
lanes that crisscrossed the edge of the Moor was bad enough, and doing it in
the dark was worse. Doing it in a night
fog was almost impossible. They’d been
lost more than they’d been found, but now they’d reached their destination.
As the car
crunched onto the gravelled forecourt, Buffy peered out at the dark bulk of the
house, its half-seen features made more secret by the swirling mists. A few lighted windows attracted the eye, and
made it even harder to discern the edges of the building.
expected. The door was opened for them
by a middle-aged woman in a black dress.
Not the black dress and white apron of the archetypal servant, but the
black dress of mourning, a smart sheath that showed the woman’s figure to
advantage. She wore a simple row of
pearls with it.
Giles? Please. Come in.
Miss Summers, let Hugh take your suitcase. And you, Mr… Angel.
Please come in out of the weather.
I’m Miranda Lamerton, Mr Gabriel’s housekeeper.”
She took them
through the house, with Hugh bringing up the rear.
“I’ve put you
in the North Wing. We’re expecting some
other guests, but you will have this wing to yourselves. You, Mr Giles, are here,” and she opened a
door onto a bright and comfortable room.
“Miss Summers, you are here,” and a door on the other side of the
corridor was opened to show a very feminine room, with a four-poster bed draped
in what seemed to be acres of lace and gauze.
“And you, Mr
Angel, are here.” She’d reached the end
of the corridor, and opened a door onto the room that occupied the northern end
of the wing. The rich furnishings
included another four-poster bed, this time with heavy tapestry curtains and a
form a complete suite, and there are interconnecting doors. If they aren’t suitable, please tell
me. There are plenty more to choose
She smiled at
“You must be
tired. If you want breakfast, it can be
served now, or we can wait until later, if you prefer to rest.”
prefer to snatch a few hours sleep, and so breakfast waited until late in the
morning. As Hugh closed the door on
them and the last of their bags, Angel looked at Giles, quizzically.
found anything significant about the address they’d been given, and there had
been no time for in-depth research.
This was the first time they’d heard the name of their client.
Gabriel,” replied Giles, his voice slightly awed. “Self-made billionaire, supporter of charities up and down the
country. I should have recognised the
story that Broadribb and Shuster gave us, but I was in somewhere called
Sunnydale, as I recall, and clearly didn’t pay enough attention to the society
up from her unpacking. “We aren’t going
to get bilked on the fees, then? He can
afford it, even though he’s dead?”
“I think the
answer to that must be a yes, Buffy.
Yes, the estate can afford it.”
Giles looked around the frothy room.
“If we leave you in here, we might never find you again.”
“Hah! For once in my adulthood, I’ve got a nice
girlie room. I’m going to enjoy
this.” She opened a door. “And a nice girlie bathroom. Out you go, boys. This girl is going to wallow in froth and frills and foam.”
The men beat a
hasty retreat, although not before Angel made sure that the door between
Buffy’s room and his was unlocked.
breakfast room, they were greeted not by the housekeeper but by Edwards, the
butler. Buffy took one look at the
mist-shrouded moor and helped herself to sausage, egg, bacon and fried bread. As she ate it, though, she could almost feel
it go to her hips.
her with a small smile on his face as he sipped his coffee. He’d already breakfasted.
Lamerton came to see them as they finished.
Having assured herself of their comfort, she told them of the plans for
some more guests arriving, and it’s been arranged that everyone should gather
in the library at five o’clock,” she said.
“Dinner will be served at five thirty.
In the meantime, feel free to examine whatever you like. If you need assistance, you just have to
ring for me or for Edwards. Hugh can
run any errands you need.”
out of the window.
“The mist will
be gone within an hour. You can see
it’s already getting a pearly glow to it.
If you want reading material, there’s the library. We’ve put papers into the bureau for
you.” She held out a key, and Angel
And so, after
a tour of the house, Angel settled himself into the library, reading more
newspaper accounts of the disappearance of Michael Gabriel and Felicity
Wareham, of the finding of the girl’s badly beaten body, and of the
funeral. Then there were the reports of
the various private investigators that Gabriel had hired, none of whom had
found the missing son. There were
family photographs and family archives – a very slender file, that one. And there were tourist information leaflets
and maps for the surrounding areas.
Giles took Buffy into Tavistock. The
housekeeper was right. By the time they
reached the town, the mist had blown away, leaving a bright and sunny day. Nevertheless, the wind seemed to have a
chill to it, and Buffy pulled her jacket tighter around her when they got out
of the car. The town was built of grey
granite, and even on this summer’s day, seemed to be grimly huddled against the
worst that the moor might throw at it.
The town had
looked pretty, when they’d first seen it as they came down off the moor, all
summer gardens and hanging baskets, nestled into a river valley. The River Tavy, Giles had said, for which
Tavistock got its name. It was a town
with a lot of history, he’d said, but then, didn’t everywhere in this country
have a lot of history? There was
absolutely no getting away from it. Its
history, dragging its ghosts and demons with it.
And now that
they were in the town, she could see how, despite its summer dress, it was
hunched in on itself, in its dour grey armour.
Giles had come
to the local museum in Court Gate. As
they got out of the car, he pointed to an undeniably old gateway, an arch, with
rooms over the top and on either side, and with the sort of crenellations that
normally went with a castle.
the museum is, Buffy. That’s the
surviving gateway into the courtyard of Tavistock Abbey. The rest of it is mainly long gone, of course… Founded by Earl Orgar in 961, as I recall,
as a result of a tutelary dream… He had
a rather notorious daughter who went around killing people. Now, what was her name… Aelfritha, I
think. The Abbey came first, and then
remember the date, but not the name?”
almost have blushed. “I had a quick
glance through one of the tourist leaflets about Tavistock. It only referred to her as ‘a notorious
daughter’. And no wisecracks about my
fading memory cells, thank you.”
least we haven’t got a thousand year old notorious devil-daughter to deal
with! Just a human mystery. Right.
at the adjoining buildings, all in the same sort of architecture, taken from
the Abbey. The stone had probably been
robbed from the Abbey, too.
she said. “Handy for the Town Hall, the
Guild Hall and, oh yes, the Police Station.
At least we know where they are, if we need them.”
at her over his glasses.
do better without the police, do you think?”
followed him up the stairs and into the Museum.
There was no
charge for entry, but she saw Giles put a few pound coins into the donation
box. The Museum itself was an eclectic
mix of memorabilia from the different periods of the town’s existence. It was also very small, and manned by a
hadn’t come to look at the exhibits.
He’d come to find information, and the volunteer was the best starting
point. He took off his glasses, and
walked over to where the man sat.
“I’d like to
talk to someone who knows about family history around here.” Newspaper clippings and police reports were
one thing. Personal knowledge was
another, and possibly far more useful.
understand the answer, delivered as it was in the rich, rolling accents of
could you repeat that?” He put his
glasses back on, the better to hear the answer. All he caught was ‘Old May’.
“Old May, did
you say? Is that here?”
sighed, and adopted the normal English approach to language barriers. Say it slowly enough and loudly enough, and
eventually the foreigners will understand.
His baritone voice echoed throughout the building. Giles nodded in acknowledgement, and hustled
Buffy out into the sunshine.
“So what did
“Um. I gathered we need to talk to someone called
Old May who will be here tomorrow. I
“Giles! This is one of your countrymen. Don’t tell me you need a translator.”
“Keep that up,
and I won’t offer to buy you a double latte and whatever sticky bun you fancy
in that nice tea room over there.”
zipping her lips, and they went off to find some refreshment.
They stayed in
their suite of rooms until just before five o’clock. From Buffy’s sitting room, they could watch the approach to the
house, and so they waited there. A
number of cars had arrived in the last fifteen minutes, and at last they judged
it time to go back to the library.
Angel led the way.
He’d left the
library just after lunchtime, having refused the offer of something to eat, and
since then the room had been quietly transformed. Now, a desk stood at one end, and chairs had been laid out in
neat rows in front of it. Already, most
of them were occupied. As usual in such
circumstances, those still vacant were in the front row.
Giles muttered. “That means we won’t be
able to watch the other people.”
Giles, I’ll do the watching,” Angel replied, and led off to three chairs at the
end of the front row. Exercising
old-fashioned courtesy, he helped Giles and Buffy be seated, and in so doing,
managed to turn their chairs a little, into an arc, and to space them away from
the rest of the row. His own chair he
positioned closer to the wood-panelled wall, at the end of the short arc, so
that it gave him a good sideways view of all those who would otherwise have
been behind him. As it transpired, he
needn’t have bothered. The meeting was short and succinct, and the reactions
and Mr Shuster entered the room, accompanied by the housekeeper, Miranda
Lamerton, the butler, Edwards, and a smartly dressed young woman whom they
hadn’t seen before. The two solicitors
seated themselves behind the desk, and Mr Shuster opened a folder, which he
placed on the desktop between them. It
was Mr Broadribb who spoke, and he did so with no preamble.
“It is unusual
to have a reading of the will in this day and age, but we are here to follow Mr
Gabriel’s instructions exactly. Mr
Gabriel wished it to be known that he has asked a team of investigators to make
one last effort to establish the truth about his son, Michael, and to find out
whether Michael still lives…”
Broadribb was interrupted by gasps from his audience, and by a man’s voice,
saying, ‘No!’ The petulant voice was
soothed into silence, and the lawyer’s deep baritone continued to deliver his
“Mr Giles, and
his associates, Miss Summers and Mr Angel, have agreed to undertake the
commission for a period not exceeding one month. Therefore, the reading of the will cannot take place today, but
will be deferred until the end of their investigation.”
At that, a man
of about thirty stood up to remonstrate, his flushed face a picture of outrage,
but Mr Broadribb continued.
“All of you
here will in some way be beneficiaries, together with a number of people and
organisations who are not represented, and you are asked to reconvene at a date
to be notified. In the meantime, some
of you are invited to stay for dinner and, for everyone else, a buffet has been
prepared, an extension of the funeral meats, if you like. Mr Gabriel asks that you co-operate with his
investigators in every way that you can.
Whether it be…” And here, Mr Broadribb looked down at the file and
quoted from what he saw there, “Whether it be from long-standing friendship, or
long-standing enmity, it matters not, since either may bear fruit for you.”
He looked then
at the man who had risen to his feet.
“And for you,
Mr Deverill, Mr Gabriel was very clear.
He instructed us to tell you that he would very much appreciate your
co-operation in this final attempt to get at the truth of the past. This house is entailed, and he had no wish
to break the entail. Therefore,
rightfully, the house passes to you on his death, provided that Michael’s body
is found, or the necessary steps are completed to have him declared dead. However, if you hinder the investigation in
any way, or…” Mr Broadribb consulted his folder again. “Or move so much as a mantelpiece ornament
during the lifetime of the investigation, then you can whistle for anything
other than the house. The remainder of
Mr Gabriel’s estate will, in that event, be given to the Cat’s Home.”
With that, Mr Shuster
gathered up the folder, and the two men made their way out, leaving a startled
audience behind them.
his way around the room in which the buffet had been laid out, doing something
that always came hard to him – striking up a conversation with perfectly
aftermath of Mr Gabriel’s post-mortem bombshell, the unknown woman with the
housekeeper and the butler had walked over to them. Long legs and a stunning figure beneath a long-skirted black
business suit, and a glimpse of shapely ankles, had definitely caught Giles’
attention. She’d introduced herself as
Helen Earnshaw, Mr Gabriel’s private secretary and invited them to follow her
to the dining room.
demurred, not wanting to face a very public display of playing with his food,
and not in the way he really enjoyed.
He would first join the buffet group, he said. Make their acquaintance, just in case he heard anything of
interest. Miss Earnshaw assured him
that any dietary preferences could be met, if he was worried about that. Angel was sure that would be the case, and
he would join them in a little while, if that wouldn’t be considered rude?
said that they were aware that Angel drank a lot of tomato soup, and they had a
good supply of that, made by their first rate cook from the best organic
Italian plum tomatoes. Mr Gabriel’s
research had been thorough. She’d
blushed a little as she said it, and her three auditors fervently hoped that Mr
Gabriel’s research hadn’t been as thorough as he’d thought.
the silence. She would offer Angel’s
apologies, and what a good idea it was to talk to the other people. That left Miss Earnshaw with nothing more to
say. And so here was Angel, with what
he had thought might be the lesser of two evils, thinking now that maybe he’d
got the evils the wrong way round.
seemed to contain an inordinate ratio of elderly women. If there was one thing that elderly women
were good for, it was gossip. And so he
walked the shadiest parts of the room, sipping a glass of wine and talking to
elderly women. And listening.
“Such a lovely
girl that Felicity Wareham. So pretty…”
Gabriel never got over his son’s disappearance…”
got on, though, Anthony and Michael.
The son could never do right for the father…”
have thought a nice boy like that had it in him, to beat someone to death like
being remembered in his will. And such
lovely little sandwiches…”
spinsters have never been the same, have they?
Doted on her far too much. Kept
her too close.”
here, never let them out of your sight, not for a minute, you hear?”
happened to that other boy?
Stuart? Stanley? Something like that. It was at the same time, wasn’t it?”
Michael killed him, too…”
look like an investigator, does he?
What does he think he can get from talking to a half senile old woman
like Gracie Talbot?”
little tick Deverill to inherit! He’ll
soon have frittered all that money away.”
“As long as he
fritters it around Devon, I shan’t care…”
“If you ask
me, Michael Gabriel ran away from what he’d done and fell into one of the
bogs. Thought he knew the moor, he did,
but it’ll always catch you out…”
sons, that’s what was at the bottom of it all.
Fathers and sons…”
arrived at the dining room, his head was full of small talk and gossip, some of
it harmless, some of it as vicious as sharp tongues could make it. It was all driven to the back of his mind,
though, as the door was opened for him.
About a dozen
people sat around a mahogany table, with the wood gleaming in the soft
lamplight. The scene looked agreeable enough.
Giles looked relaxed, Buffy interested in what was going on around
her. There was something, though. There was something in that room that spoke
to him in words that had no voice, something that pulled at the demon.
Framed for a
moment in the doorway, he extended all his senses into the air around him. Another vampire? No. He would have known. He could always tell. A demon of some kind? No, there was neither scent nor feel
of anything other than humans, apart from himself and the Slayer, although he
couldn’t scent himself, of course.
read them both like a book, though, after all this time. There was nothing disturbing Buffy, but
Giles… Ah, Giles. The man was wound up,
somewhere beneath that stiff upper lip British façade. As he walked towards his seat, Angel
re-examined what was tugging at him, stirring up the demon in his heart. It wasn’t sex. The vampire was always ready for that, always aware of the
pheromones of desire. And then he
looked deeper. The attraction wasn’t
only for the demon. It was also for
whatever humanity he possessed.
It was with a
small frown of puzzlement that he took his seat.
split up. The woman that he recognised
as Helen Earnshaw sat at the head of the table, hostess for the evening, with
Giles at the foot.
“I hope you’ve
had a profitable time, Mr Angel,” she said, as he went to his place halfway
down the table, opposite Buffy.
Angel. Just Angel.”
It was her
turn now to wear a puzzled frown, but her brow cleared quickly, and she
nodded. He turned to his chair, to find
a small brown teddy bear sitting in it, with an uneaten plate of dessert on the
table in front of him.
came, we were thirteen at table,” said Helen Earnshaw, as a dark-coated waiter
lifted away both bear and dessert. “We
keep Algernon handy for these occasions.”
table. He glanced over to Buffy, who
wore an exasperated look. It seemed
that the superstition had been explained to her. He looked back at Helen.
want the first person who leaves the table to die an early and unnatural death,
no,” he said, mildly, reflecting that one already dead person at table was
enough. But, if Anthony Gabriel had
invited this gathering because he believed one of them to be the killer, it
might just be as good a way as any of determining guilt. Struck by the fell hand of
superstition. That would be a result.
introduce you to our other guests,” she said.
“Mr Whitchurch, the vicar of our parish, and Mrs Whitchurch.” An elderly, portly man in a clerical collar
and his stick-thin wife nodded gravely to him.
Chillaton-Kelly and Miss Hope Chillaton-Kelly.” Two middle-aged women on the other side of the table simpered at
the handsome new arrival, in a maiden aunt sort of way.
Buckland.” A bird-like Miss Buckland
stared at him, and then gave a thin smile.
Eworthy.” A grey-haired man with a
broad, florid face nodded briefly.
Deverill and Miss Georgina Kaye.” Miss
Kaye wore a hoop of diamonds on her left ring finger, and so Angel deduced that
she might soon expect to be Mrs John Deverill.
Both of them gave him the slightest of frosty nods.
Elfrieda Bridestowe and Sir Edgar Bridestowe.”
There were no nods from these two.
Sir Edgar murmured a polite greeting, but Lady Elfrieda, sitting next to
Giles, simply stared at Angel. Then, as
though she had seen enough, she turned and said something to her husband, in a
low voice. Something stirred in Angel’s
subconscious, unrecognised, but with claws outstretched. He caught movement from the corner of his
eye, and turned sharply to find a silent waiter placing a bowl of red soup in
front of him.
because people simply didn’t steal up and catch a vampire unawares, he lifted
the spoon. He already knew he didn’t
have to worry about the soup. His
vampire senses told him it was tomato, even though, to his vampire taste buds,
what little flavour it had was more appropriate to the compost heap than to the
As he spooned
down the soup, everyone else played with their desserts, and the snippets of
gossip that he had heard chased themselves through his head. He refused anything further, saying that
he’d eaten at the buffet. Over coffee, he turned his attention back to the
over-abundance of pheromones in the room.
sex. He’d known that as soon as
whatever it was had stirred in his blood.
No, not sex – at least, not the thing that was rustling around in some
of his deepest hungers, although he wasn’t too sure about Giles. Stop being mealy-mouthed, he chastised
himself. He was sure about Giles. The woman, Elfrieda, had her claws in
him. He didn’t need the pheromones to
be clear about that, although he didn’t think Giles knew it yet.
radiating nervous energy, even seated.
She was full of small gestures, which carried as much emphasis as though
they had been large and extravagant, and made on the stage. The movement of her fingers, to accentuate
what she said, the way she used her body to reflect her every mood. She was holding court, and accustomed to
doing so. Everyone else paid attention.
sex. He’d no idea what it was that
coiled and slithered around his psyche, enticing him to do…what? No idea at all. He sipped the black coffee, and tried to concentrate, but
party broke up soon after. John
Deverill was the first to leave, and Angel wondered whether the superstition
would count a vampire at table as a man or as a teddy bear, or whether it
wouldn’t count a vampire at all. They
went back to their rooms to discuss what they had learned.
In his own
room, Angel poured himself some blood, and then went to join the others in
Buffy’s sitting room of chintz and frilly lace. They were comparing notes as he came in.
understand what Gabriel was doing, arranging this party,” Buffy grumbled. “None of the people here looked like
killers. Why were they invited?”
scratched his ear.
Gabriel thought that one of them was the killer, or he thought that one or more
of them could lead us to the killer. He
just didn’t know which. I’m sure of it. Although, I’m less sure about why he thought
that we could solve this. If anyone
could exonerate his son, surely the police would have done that? Or one of the private investigators he
hired? The very good private
her head as Angel took a seat.
said. “We’re more about hacking and
slashing and chopping heads off.”
Angel put his
glass down on a small table.
“He asked us
because of the Carteret case.” His
voice was strong with certainty.
“Because you, Giles, pursued a lifelong friend to the courtroom itself. He didn’t think that his son would be
exonerated. He might have hoped it, but
he didn’t expect it. Because he thought
that his son was guilty. He wanted
justice for the dead girl, and he didn’t do anything about it until he knew
that he wouldn’t be alive to see the result.
You’re his Nemesis, Giles. His
noncommittally. Eventually, he replied,
“Well, if I am, we all are. But I’m
certain you’re wrong, Angel. He must
surely have had faith in his son?”
silent, but his thoughts weren’t. No,
he heard in his mind. No, Gabriel had
lost faith. He thought he knew his son
for what he truly was. It was a father
and son thing.
to divide the dinner guests up between them.
The next morning, Giles and Buffy went into Tavistock. Giles went to see Old May, at the Museum,
while Buffy went to see the sisters Chillaton-Kelly. Angel would talk to the staff in Merrivale House.
outside the Museum, Giles gave a small shudder as he remembered the
incomprehensible Stentor of the day before.
He squared his shoulders and walked in.
There was no one immediately obvious, and so he glanced at the exhibits
in this room. There were a few statues
and busts of comparatively recent date, a small show of Guiding and Scouting,
with old uniforms, a collection of items from tin mining and smelting, an
exhibit about Tavistock Abbey, and other, very local, memorabilia. He was about to walk through to the second
room when a woman walked out of the dimness and almost bumped into him.
She was no
more than thirty, and all that Giles saw was pale skin, a cascade of
mahogany-coloured hair, and cat-green eyes.
He felt his hand rise involuntarily towards her, before he recovered
himself. This wasn’t Ella.
She wasn’t Old
May, either. She was far too young and
beautiful for that.
your pardon,” he stuttered.
“Why? Because I almost ran you down?” She laughed as she said it, her voice low
and musical, full of painful remembrance for him. He saw that she carried a wooden display case in both arms. It was full of policemen’s truncheons from
days gone by.
“Here, let me
He reached for
“I’m sure you
can, but let me.”
again, she relinquished her burden to him.
When he’d placed it to her exacting requirements, he introduced himself.
Giles. I, erm, I understood that I
should speak to…” and he hesitated, “erm, Old… Old May. Is she here today?”
looked at him in open-mouthed astonishment, and then her musical laughter rang
told me that there was a damn fool emmet who couldn’t understand a word he
said. He’s from Cornwall, you
understand, from just across the Tamar.”
It was Giles’
turn to gape a little.
“Ant. It’s what the Cornish call the tourists –
they’re an irritating nuisance….”
“Yes, yes, I
know what it means. But emmet…?” The look he cast her was plaintive. “Besides, we aren’t tourists. We’re investigators, here at the request of
sound like a tourist to Stanley. It’s
me you’re looking for. I’m Carol. Carol Oldmay.”
deep in his researcher’s reflexes, Giles found the necessary words.
good. You’re just the person to help
us. I gather you specialise in family
history. I wondered what you knew about
the Gabriel family?”
on the door of an imposing Georgian-style house on the outskirts of the
town. She had been told that she would
be expected, but she’d believe it when the door opened. She raised her fist to hammer at the
doorknocker again, but as she did so the door swung wide, and she was greeted
by Grace Chillaton-Kelly. The elderly
spinster ushered her in to a comfortable, if slightly eccentric, kitchen.
“Hope will be
with us momentarily.”
that were true, in the broadest sense.
She had no real faith that they were going to succeed where the police
had failed, in this ordinary, human, affair.
She followed Grace’s gaze, out of the kitchen window and into the
garden. Hope stood by the side of a
young weeping willow, staring down at the ground.
“She likes to
spend time in the garden. It so
refreshes the mind as well as the body, don’t you think?”
absently, and then Hope Chillaton-Kelly turned abruptly and came into the
now. Buffy, isn’t it? So pleased to see you again. Won’t you have some tea?
to the three senior members of Anthony Gabriel’s staff.
had not been part of the household at the time of the disappearances and
murder, and so she could add nothing of fact.
She talked of her employer with respect and affection, demanding as he
had been, but she had never met Michael Gabriel.
Lamerton had been the housekeeper at the time, but only for a matter of
months. Her statements were in the
files. She wanted the truth for Mr
Gabriel’s sake, but she knew nothing more.
Edwards in the Armoury, where he was polishing and dusting. It seemed that almost every house in the
British Isles that was of a certain size and a certain age had a room like
this, where the plain white walls were decorated with displays of weapons. There were swords and knives and ancient
guns, old pike heads, and a few battered shields.
Edwards had been Mr Gabriel’s butler for thirty-two years. He’d seen Michael brought home as a newborn,
and he had watched him grow into a wild youth.
If there was harm in Michael, he said, it was the self-destructive kind,
not the murderous kind. It was a father
and son thing. Angel had to swallow
hard. He’d been at both ends of that
Edwards, had never been able to do as his father wished, and his father
couldn’t hide his disappointment.
Michael had been a tearaway, but not vicious. Except to his father, when the boy felt hurt beyond
endurance. Everything Edwards knew
about the disappearance was in the files.
He could remember nothing else.
up his notebook. He didn’t need to take
notes for his own benefit, but Giles liked to have them to refer to. He watched as Edwards replaced the claymore
that he’d been cleaning as they talked.
you’ve got another one out,” he remarked, nodding towards a starburst of swords
that was lacking the central upright.
it’s odd that you should mention that.
The police made nothing of it, but that went missing the same night that
Mr Michael did. So did a shield.” He pointed to a bare spot on the wall. There was no indication that anything had
ever hung there, but it left an unbalanced display.
Eworthy thought that he’d taken them to sell them for money, because they were
the two most valuable pieces, but they never turned up. Not anywhere. Mr Gabriel had people hunting up and down the country, and on the
his head, as Angel added to his notes, and then thanked the butler
gravely. He walked back to his room,
very much troubled. If Michael Gabriel
hadn’t taken the pieces to sell, then why had he taken them at all? Something slithered through his
subconscious, and then was gone.
gathered again in Buffy’s sitting room, Giles started to compile what they
knew. He asked for every little
detail. If everyone else – the police
and private investigators – had failed, then there must be some tiny detail,
some small point that had been unnoticed, not included in their synthesis. Project Paranormal wouldn’t make the same
mistake, if they could help it.
them of the sisters Chillaton-Kelly.
When Felicity Wareham had been left an orphan at the age of two, they
had become her guardians. They had
doted on the child. They had album
after album of photographs, all of which they had insisted on showing her. They called her ‘their golden girl’, and so
she had seemed to be.
She had been
loved by everyone, one of those girls who was almost too good to be true. At the age of eighteen, she had a place at
University, and an offer of marriage from Michael. Those two things weren’t mutually exclusive, but either or both
of them would have taken the girl away from the sisters. Buffy wasn’t certain the sisters had been
ready for that, but their grief was real enough, even ten years later.
Felicity had disappeared on the same night, on midsummer night, ten years ago,
and it had been assumed that they had run away together. Assumed, that was, until a body had turned
up eight months later. A farmer had
been hedging and ditching, and he’d found the shallow grave in the ditch along
were Felicity’s. The body was too
decayed to be recognisable. The face
would never have been recognisable anyway, because the girl had been beaten so
badly that the facial bones were smashed.
But with the clothes, the bright golden hair and the jewellery, there
could be no doubt.
Now, she lay
buried in the local churchyard, and the sisters seemed to be lost.
back dutifully on his discussions with the staff, and the other two were as
puzzled as he about the missing sword and shield. He said nothing, though about the feeling that he had, the thing
that seemed to be rustling through his mind.
Giles had had
little more luck with Carol Oldmay.
Everything that she’d remembered, they already knew. But, over coffee and cakes in the same tea
room that he’d taken Buffy to, she had agreed to do some research tonight. She would see him again in the morning.
spoke, Angel could scent his interest in this woman, and he was relieved. Elfrieda Bridestowe was a most unsuitable
object for his attentions, and not only because she was married.
It was almost
sunset, late now, in the run up to midsummer.
Despite the hour, Angel had an appointment. In the division of suspects or witnesses, he’d taken the vicar. He chose to walk, and it was almost ten
o’clock when he knocked on the door of the Vicarage, but he was expected.
Whitchurch, thin as a rail, and faded, a woman who like so many clerics’ wives
seemed to have spent all her physical substance in good works, invited him
in. He studiously avoided looking at
the occasional cross on the wall, but otherwise the Vicarage was reassuringly
normal. The vicar was earnest, and
anxious to help.
it all well, one of the stains of the past that coloured the darkest of his
memories. At the undertaker’s, it had
been a closed-coffin affair, of course, and the funeral was very well
attended. The sisters Chillaton-Kelly
had been inconsolable. It seemed that,
for all those months of uncertainty, wandering around like grey ghosts, in
funereal blacks and lavenders, they had lived in hope that Felicity would be
found. And then she had, but not as
anyone would have wanted.
Angel asked if
he could see the grave. He wasn’t sure
whether he could learn anything there, but it would be wrong not to look. The devil was in the details. Geoffrey Whitchurch rummaged in a drawer for
a torch, and then led the way into the next-door churchyard.
know what he might have expected, but it probably wasn’t the plain, unadorned
granite headstone that simply read:
There were no
tokens of remembrance, no flowers, not even a vase to take a posy. There was simply the grave, the headstone,
and the body beneath the earth, young, about eighteen, rotting.
thought it odd,” said Whitchurch. “The
sisters don’t lack for money, but the funeral, although well-attended, was
simple, the burial positively sparse, and not even a ham sandwich afterwards
for the mourners. Odd, when they
positively doted on the girl.”
“You keep a
tidy churchyard,” said Angel, looking at the plain, mown grass before him, and
then looking round at the other graves, with their evidence of visitors.
looked up at him in confusion, and then his face cleared.
“Ah, the lack
of offerings, so to speak. Never. No one needs to keep this spot clear, other
than mowing the grass, because nobody ever leaves anything.”
nodded. That was definitely odd.
He bade the
vicar goodnight, and walked back to Merrivale House. For some reason, he kept looking over his shoulder, as though he
were being followed, but there was nothing to see.
On his way, he
passed a landmark that he recognised from the tourist brochures and the local
maps. Vixen Tor. Nowadays, said the literature, it was out of
bounds to walkers. It stood out clearly
to him in the darkness, although he couldn’t see any resemblance to a
vixen. He thought back to the
brochures. It had been named for a
witch called Vixana, who lured people to their deaths in the mire beneath the
tor, for reasons not specified. Or, the
more sensible literature said, several tors here were named after foxes,
because the cracks and caves made good foxholes, and dens for rearing
cubs. He was about to walk on, when
movement caught his eye. Something
pale, in the moonlight.
wire that kept humans out was no barrier to him. The moon wouldn’t be full until the end of the month, but there
was ample light for him to see. More
than enough. This darkness was what his
eyes were made to see in, to use, to hunt in.
The path to
the Tor was overgrown with lack of tourist feet, and surrounded by marshland
where all the season’s exceptional rain seemed to have collected, but none of
that presented any difficulties.
Certain of his footing, he made his way to the thing that had caught his
attention. And he wasn’t the only one
to have used this path recently. He
could see the small signs of recent passage, and he could scent the aroma of
humanity. Someone visited the forbidden
As he walked,
whatever the presence was that he had detected, it stretched itself once
more. He could think of no other way to
describe it, other than as a vague rustling in his senses, and claws, waking up
his demon. He shook his head, to try
and clear his mind, and almost fell over a pile of rocks. As it was, he barked his shins, the sudden
pain driving the distractions away.
Here, at the
foot of the rocks, three slanting uprights set deep in the earth supported a
flat capstone. And here, in front of
that cluster of stones, lay a bouquet of flowers. Pretty flowers, English garden flowers, not a bouquet from a
florist, the petals of the moonpennies fluttering a little in the soft
breeze. Those were what he had
seen. Fresh flowers.
He felt his
senses stir again, and beat a hasty retreat to the road. As he vaulted lightly over the barbed wire,
he thought he saw movement near a few scrubby hawthorns at the side of the
road, and he waited. There was nothing. Whoever it was, they were very good. He decided to play the game. Perhaps things were getting interesting.
He walked for
a long time over the moor, and it was very late when he got back to Merrivale
House. In his room, he stood for a
moment with his hand on the knob of the door that led to Buffy’s. On his tongue was still the taste of Megan’s
all too human blood, and his mind’s eye conjured up the remembrance of Buffy’s
neck, stretched out for him. He badly
wanted to drink, and he wasn’t at all sure that he should trust himself
tonight, and so he let go of the doorknob, and slept alone.
The next day,
breakfast was difficult for Giles and Buffy.
John Deverill rolled into the house, and it was clear that he’d just
come from a night of drunken carousing.
off, they’d been told – although not in those exact words – after the dinner,
which he’d only been persuaded to attend with reluctance. His fiancée was lodged in the Dower House,
where it had been supposed that he had been.
Not so, from the look of him.
that his eyes were as red as a Durril demon’s, and his skin even more
pasty. He stank of whisky and cigarette
smoke, and something entirely more exotic, and he could barely hold himself
When he saw
Giles, he began a tirade about his bastard of an uncle, and how he was being
deprived of his inheritance. Not for
the first time, as he tried to calm Deverill down, Giles wondered whether this
man had had a hand in the events that had effectively removed his competitor
for Gabriel’s money.
caught sight of Buffy. He fell into the
chair next to her, and lifted his hand to her cheek. She batted it away, but he persisted, leaning over her and
with an ‘I say…’, intent on damage limitation.
Damage to whom, he wasn’t entirely sure, and he fervently hoped that
Angel didn’t put in an appearance just yet.
Buffy waved him away, though, and got up from the table.
Giles. I’m done here.”
leered at her again.
later, my dear.”
back to the Museum, and Buffy went to see Miss Buckland.
Angel read the
tourist literature, and then pulled up information on archaeological
sites. The rocks at the foot of Vixen
Tor were a rather fine kistvaen, an Early Bronze Age tomb, now almost buried
beneath the peaty soil. It was four
thousand years old. Why would people be
leaving fresh flowers? He knew that
people in these rural areas could have long memories, but that seemed
down to think through what had been learned so far. And to read.
wasn’t needed at the Museum that day, and so she took him to see some of the
sights. They walked to the Pannier
Market as they talked. She had a fund
of knowledge about the old families in the area. Better still, she had a folder full of papers, which she gave to
wandered through the old market building, looking at the crafts and antiques on
display in a market that had operated for over nine hundred years, Giles began
to feel the weight of millennia that hung heavy on west Dartmoor. People had been here for a very long time.
She knew about
the murder, of course. And she told
Giles there were other disappearances that were never solved. People always got lost on the Moor and died
on the Moor, but there were others. He
should look at those, perhaps.
she said, had been at Merrivale for about twenty years. Louisa Gabriel had died giving birth to
Michael, and they’d come here soon after, although Anthony Gabriel spent a lot
of time at his other house in London.
One of his other houses, anyway.
And not since that final illness, of course, which had seen him more or
less confined to Merrivale House.
Deverill was a
leech and the worst kind of playboy.
He’d sponged off Anthony Gabriel since Michael went missing. Drawing his inheritance early, some
thought. Gabriel had despised him, and
yet had tolerated him for the sake of his dead mother, Gabriel’s younger
Bridestowes? Ah, yes, an interesting
family, that, she told Giles. They
lived at Alford House. That had been in
Elfrieda’s family for centuries. Sir
Edgar had turned up about thirty years ago, penniless, but with a minor
title. She’d married him, and they’d
stayed at Alford House.
remarked that Elfrieda must have been a young bride, Carol frowned in thought,
and agreed that must have been true.
She’d only been a child herself, so she couldn’t remember.
And so they
talked, bits and pieces of information, all of them something or nothing, but
which of those they might be, Giles couldn’t yet say. They had lunch together, and he asked her to meet him for
dinner. Next week, she said, and she
would look forward to it. She couldn’t
manage an evening before then.
She still wore
a frown, though.
something,” she said. “Something that I
can’t bring to mind. One of us said
something earlier, and that prompted a memory, and I can’t think what it is. If I remember, I’ll call.”
And so it was
left, and Giles went off to see his next interviewee, ex-Inspector Charles
Eworthy. As he drove to his
appointment, he could have sworn that a motorbike was following him, but then
it was lost in the traffic, and he relaxed again.
Buffy was having morning coffee with Jane Buckland.
that this, frail, bird-like woman had a sharp sense of humour and an even
sharper intelligence. And she loved to
gossip. She answered all of Buffy’s
questions, and then, when the Slayer ran out of things to ask, the ex-postmistress
supplied some questions of her own.
think it strange,” she asked, “that no trace should ever have been found of
Michael? He took no money with him, to
“He took a
sword and shield. Perhaps he got money
“Did he now? Well, I never heard about that. But the staff at Merrival House have never
gossiped. Never. So, you think he got enough money from those
to fund ten years of living anonymously, then?”
while, wouldn’t things calm down? He
could get a new identity…”
said Miss Buckland, as she poured more tea into the fine bone china cup, and
offered Buffy another fondant cake.
“That’s very true. But didn’t
you find it odd, too, about young Stephen?”
“Stephen?” Buffy racked her brains to remember why that
name seemed familiar.
“A young man,
a traveller. He disappeared at the same
time as Michael. The police said that
he simply moved on, but his father came back here several times, looking for
him. He stopped doing that after about
five years, so perhaps Stephen was found.
But it’s an interesting question, isn’t it?”
Stephen? Why might he be important?”
was in love with Felicity, that’s why.
There he was, every night, making sheep’s eyes at her, and Michael was
furious. They had a fight over
her. A real fight, with the rest of the
Buffy’s interest. “Who won?”
did. He was always handy in a scuffle.”
police weren’t interested in pursuing this?”
at first that Miss Buckland must have bitten into a bad cake, because her mouth
screwed up in distaste.
to the good ex-Inspector,” she said, mildly.
She made it a statement, not a question.
yet. Giles is doing that this
good. He should be asked about these
things. I mentioned them to him at the
time, but I believe my interference was unwelcome.”
imagine that, from what she’d seen of Eworthy.
She made a note, and took a bite of fondant cake. She could get used to elevenses.
wasn’t finished, yet.
“And I do so
think it would be instructive to know whether there were other missing people
about that time, don’t you?”
“Jane, this is
quite a small town. How many people
could disappear without being noticed or missed?”
As she said
it, Buffy’s heart sank. She knew
exactly how that could happen. But
she’d had no vamp vibes, not a sniff of a demon. Neither had Angel, at least not so far as she knew, and she was
sure he would have said. Still, the
most innocent and unlikely-seeming people could surprise you. She remembered Alice. No, Jane wasn’t a demon, she was sure. Just a rather inquisitive old lady with a
brain like a bacon slicer.
simply peered at her over her gold-rimmed spectacles, satisfied that the point
had been made. This young woman was
brighter than she let on. Miss Buckland
pursued her train of thought relentlessly.
another thing that always seemed so odd to me.
Something about Felicity. She
was adored. She was pampered and
preened and given every good thing. She
was loved. And yet, such a plain
headstone, don’t you think, for a girl who was loved so much?”
thought Buffy? Headstone? Angel said he’d seen the grave, but then, he
had a particular point of view about graves.
A not very human point of view.
What he’d told them was that the grave was occupied, and not by a
vampire, or by anything else that could rise again.
“But does it
make any difference what sort of headstone they put there? It’s where Felicity is buried…”
“It’s where someone
at Jane quizzically, thinking that Giles should have picked this gig.
On his way to
see Eworthy, Giles got a phone call.
Buffy told him of Miss Buckland’s questions. She would go back to the church and have a look at the headstone.
When she got
there, she saw what Angel had seen. She
couldn’t vouch for the body under the earth, but she was sure that this plain
little headstone didn’t fit what she had heard from Miss Buckland, or seen for
herself at the Chillaton-Kellys. And
Angel had said that the sisters never visited.
No one ever visited. It was as
though whoever lay there had been as invisible in life as they were in death.
she made her way back to Merrivale House.
She was so deep in thought that, for once, her Slayer senses were
numbed, and she was unaware that she was being followed.
like Eworthy, but he tried to ignore that.
The man was truculent, resentful of yet another despised investigator
dipping their fingers into what had been his case. Giles thought that he might have a sharp nose for the truth, but
perhaps didn’t much care whether that was the coin he dealt in, so long as he
got a result. Then he chastised himself
for being uncharitable, and tried to apply himself to getting the information
The case had
been simple, so far as Eworthy was concerned.
Felicity Wareham had disappeared.
Her boyfriend, Michael Gabriel had disappeared, on the same day. It was known that he had become jealous of a
young traveller called Stephen Smith, who was also paying attention to
Felicity, and that the two young men had fought. Six months later, Felicity’s body had been found, identifiable
only by her clothes and jewellery.
Despite a huge manhunt, Michael had never been found. Ergo, he must be the killer.
Giles hung on
to his temper with both hands, as several other possibilities loomed large for
him. But, Gabriel had employed private
investigators – good private investigators – and they had come up with
nothing better. He asked questions.
Smith had never been interviewed. His
family said that he, too, had gone missing.
Good riddance. One less
Of course it
was Felicity Wareham’s body. Who else’s
would it be, with her blonde hair, and her clothes and her jewellery? No, of course there hadn’t been a DNA test. They’d been rare and expensive, then.
Deverill? Don’t make me laugh. He’d never have the backbone for a
killing. Besides, why kill her? Why not just kill the Gabriel boy?
And so on.
endurance, at such a closed-minded investigation, Giles took his leave. Eworthy had retired to the coast, and Giles
had a fairly lengthy drive back. He
noticed that a black motorcycle, with a black-clad rider, had been behind him
all the way, but then it turned off in Tavistock, and he relaxed once more.
Merrivale House, Buffy headed to the Library where she expected to find either
Angel or Giles, or possibly both.
Instead, she found Deverill, halfway through a bottle of brandy. He stood, as she walked into the room, and
moved behind her, to stand between her and the door.
he said, his voice a drunken slur, “Just what do we have here?”
she replied, her voice tight, and she edged around him.
He was quicker
than she had anticipated and, before she realised it, he had her pinned face
first against the wall, his body pressed against her back, his hands on the
wall, on either side of her head. The
fumes on his breath made her nauseous.
blondie. Right room and right man, not
that pretty boy that you came with.
Separate rooms, I gather. He’s
too much of the limp wrist variety for a red-blooded girl like you, eh?” He dropped his head towards her.
this was his house, although she didn’t think that he’d get much sympathy from
any quarter. Alienating him might mean
that things became very difficult for the Westbury contingent, but that never
entered her head, and wouldn’t have stopped her if it had. She snatched his wrist and, with a quick
flip, their positions were reversed.
She pushed his captive arm hard up his back. Deverill whimpered in pain.
“When I came
here, I promised Giles and Angel that I would be good,” she lied. “That I wouldn’t, just for instance, break
someone’s arm. Giles has a lovely
saying that I really like. I’ve got promises
like pie crust, easily broken. I should
remember that, if I were you.”
She pushed his
arm harder, and he cried out in pain.
Buffy, it isn’t fair if you don’t pick on someone your own size. Still, I was never one for being fair. You all done here?” The tone of voice was mild, slightly amused.
seen Angel come in. She gave one last,
vicious push, and wished she were cruel enough to take it a little too
far. Deverill cried out again.
“Yeah. I think we’re all done. Don’t you?”
Deverill go. When he turned round, the
look he gave her was so venomous, so reptilian, that she wondered for a moment
whether her Slayer-sense had gone on vacation, whether he was a demon in
disguise. She hadn’t yet got over the
fact that none of them had known there was a resident Silarri in Westbury. Could this be another one that was only
No. He wasn’t a demon, she was certain. He was simply one of those obnoxious humans
that gave innocent reptiles a bad press.
She hissed at him to get out, and he fled on unsteady legs. He had to push past Angel to get out of the
door, and Angel made no move to give him more room, his solid bulk a real
hindrance to Deverill.
As they heard
the unsteady footfalls receded, Angel gave her a quizzical look.
“Yeah.” Angel paused, and then persisted. “You okay?”
“You want me
to do something about him?” He was
definitely not amused now.
at Angel as though he’d offered her a real treat. Which, she thought, was what he had done in the male-female,
breast-thumping-to-keep-off-the-competition stakes, while still allowing her to
fight her own battles.
“Nah. He’s just a s…” She was going to say
‘snake’, but she remembered all those hard-done-by reptiles. “Slimeball.
A real slimeball. He’ll get his
come-uppance without us.”
his arm around her waist and gave her a squeeze. “Let’s go get rid of the smell of him, before Giles gets back,
shall we?” He smiled for her, but she
thought it looked like a predatory smile. She liked that thought.
She stood on
tiptoe and kissed the end of his nose.
“You and your
supersenses… Yes. Let’s.”
It was Angel’s
idea that he be the one to go and find Stephen Smith. Or, to find out about him.
Giles looked worried, but Buffy agreed readily enough, which
demonstrated to Angel that she didn’t fully understand what he was going to
do. He didn’t say anything, and neither
reviewed what they’d learned so far.
Stephen Smith seemed to be a good suspect for perhaps doing away with
both Michael and Felicity.
Then there was
the enigmatic suggestion from Jane Buckland.
Could someone else be buried in the grave? Stephen Smith? Michael
Gabriel? But neither of those had been
blond, so far as they could determine, even with the help of a bottle, and they
could only presume that the pathologist had been competent to tell boy from
girl, despite the decomposed state of the body.
through the records, and his notes. Two
investigators employed by Gabriel had tried to get the body exhumed, but there
had been no real cause in law for so doing, and the sisters Chillaton-Kelly had
refused permission. Besides, if it
wasn’t Felicity, where was she?
Giles was due
to see the Bridestowes the next day. It
had originally been intended that Buffy, as perhaps the least objectionable of
the three to the irritable heir, should see Deverill and his fiancée, but Angel
stubbornly refused to permit that now, even though Buffy was game. And so they agreed that Angel would hunt
down the travellers, and Giles would conduct the remaining interviews. Buffy would trawl back through all the
records, in the light of their advancing knowledge and suspicions.
something to do first, though, and Giles made the call. It was to Ian Collins. When Collins understood what he was being
asked, his response was predictable.
“You want me
to release confidential information to you on open cases of missing persons in
the Dartmoor area?”
Giles, intent on mollifying the irascible Detective Chief Inspector, “I assure
you that it will only be used confidentially.”
it just isn’t possible.”
And with that,
Giles had to be content. Angel hoped
that they’d have more luck with transport.
He didn’t want to take their only car, and leave Giles and Buffy reliant
on taxis. They went to find Edwards.
The butler was
in close discussion with Helen Earnshaw and Miranda Lamerton.
sir,” he replied, to Angel’s question.
“Most of Mr Gabriel’s cars were disposed of during his final illness,
but there are two available still. The
Rolls, or the Ferrari.”
the Ferrari?” Angel asked wistfully.
“Red, sir, as
all Ferraris should be.”
Back at their
rooms, Buffy stretched out her hand to the doorknob, knowing that she would
miss Angel that night. Giles, curious,
said to her, “I’m surprised you didn’t object to Angel being the one to go
after Stephen Smith.”
I? He’s off to find a family of
travellers. What’s wrong with that?”
know what travellers are?”
salesmen? Tramps? Ageing hippies?”
“There are New
Age travellers, certainly. But some
travellers are gypsies, Buffy. Real
into the South West, to the tune of the throaty roar of the Ferrari. There had been some quibbling about whether
he should use the Discovery, but Angel had merely smiled and taken the keys and
gone. He’d worried briefly at leaving
Giles to see the Bridestowes, and hoped that he might decide to take Buffy with
him. He could still remember the
charged atmosphere of the dinner table, and the way that Giles had seemed…
entranced. But then Giles had met Carol
Oldmay, and although Angel was dismayed that the man should be attracted to
someone so like Ella, and yet so unlike, he thought that the attraction would
safeguard his friend when he got to Alford Hall.
night, before he had to take cover from the dawn, Angel found three groups of
travellers, all of them young men and women, young families, trying out the New
Age lifestyle. Two of the groups were
heading for Stonehenge, to celebrate the summer solstice and the midsummer
sunrise. The third were heading for
more earthy pleasures at the Glastonbury Festival.
They were all
harmless, in his estimation. Most of them would have been too young, ten years
ago, to be involved, anyway. And none
of them were missing anyone. In Angel’s
judgement, if these groups were responsible for any murders or abductions, it
was only of chickens or geese.
It was the
second night, and Bodmin Moor, before he found what he was looking for.
Giles was just
leaving Merrivale House to see Sir Edgar and Lady Elfrieda Bridestowe when a
policeman on a motorcycle drew up in front of the door. He pilled a large brown package from his
pannier, and handed it to Giles. It was
marked ‘Artefact Information – Attention Rupert Giles’. As the policeman rode off down the drive,
Giles was inclined to simply leave the package on the hall table. There was too much to do to spend time on
identifying artefacts just now.
Duty won. If they’d sent a policeman with this, it
must be important. He tore open the
package. It was a bundle of papers and
copies of photographs, and on the top, a yellow post-it note read, ‘You owe me
one. Ian.’ It was information on missing persons in the area. Grinning, he ran back to Buffy’s room. The
day would hold telephone calls for the Slayer, and a lot of reading.
was the Gabriels’ nearest neighbour, almost within sight, if it weren’t for the
hills and tors, and Giles found it easily enough. It was large, and rambling, and old, probably older than
Merrivale House. A suave young man
opened the door to him, and led him through a maze of hallways to a comfortable
room on the first floor.
Sir Edgar sat
at his ease in a black leather chair, but Lady Elfrieda paced up and down like
a caged wolf. She was dressed in black,
a slim, figure-hugging dress with a flared skirt that swirled with her as she
paced in front of the fireplace. It
might be almost the end of June, but a log fire burned there, casting welcome
warmth, and a gleam of red, onto everything in front of it.
butler announced him, Lady Elfrieda turned and walked swiftly over to him,
holding out her hand.
welcome, Mr Giles. How may we help?”
As he took her
hand, it felt hot, fevered, as though her excess energy was burning outwards
through her skin.
“Rupert. Please, call me Rupert.”
“And I am
Freda. This is Edgar. Sit down, and tell us what you want. Would you like some tea?”
waiting for his answer, she strode over to a bell pull by the fireplace, and
gave it a tug. Almost instantly, a
young woman hurried into the room.
“Bring the tea
tray, please, Marie.”
bobbed her head in acknowledgement, and hurried out again. Giles sat, but Freda did not. His natural courtesy would have made him
feel uncomfortable, except for his experience with Buffy, whose own pent-up
Slayer energy often made her just as restless as the woman prowling the carpet
in front of him. When she stopped, she
would stand in front of the mantelpiece and fiddle with the ornaments, or she
would twitch a curtain until it lay a touch more fetchingly. Occasionally, she would breathe deeply, the
movements inevitably attracting attention to what as beneath that tailored
It was as
though she were absorbing energy directly from air and fire. Giles smiled at that fanciful thought. There was no doubt that she was an extremely
handsome woman. Her age was hard to
determine, but her self-assurance was such that he thought she might be in her
forties, despite the fact that she looked younger. Her black hair was cut close to her head, an elegant style of
feathery layers. Her perfect make-up
enhanced her flawless complexion, her milky skin inviting him to touch it, her
perfect cupid’s bow of a mouth, with her blood-red lips, demanding to be
And then the
tea tray rattled in, propelled by the young maid, and laden with fine bone
china teacups, and plates of fancy cakes.
bored with reading files, and disheartened by making phone calls to the
relatives of missing loved ones. She
told them that she was trying to find a missing person, but so far as any of
them knew, no one had been acquainted with Michael or Felicity. She’d tried to find patterns in the
disappearances, but to no avail. Some
she could discount immediately, she thought, because they’d been too far away
and in entirely different circumstances.
Others, though, seemed to have vanished on Dartmoor as though a portal
had opened up and swallowed them. Here,
though, the portal was likely to be just a boggy pit that had led to a
suffocating death. She hadn’t realised
that anywhere in England could be so naturally dangerous, especially a place
that was visited by so many tourists and walkers.
visitors. The grim, granite prison, so
close to Merrivale House, had taken her quite by surprise. It had been built to hold French and
American prisoners of war during the time of Napoleon, and perhaps it was the
American connection that made her uncomfortable about it. She’d looked up the website, and discovered
that it ‘offered cellular accommodation on six wings’, as though it were a
hotel. She couldn’t help smiling, but
then she became serious again. It was
seriously weird, having a major prison so close.
She shook off
the fancy that perhaps people were disappearing into the prison for some
nefarious reason. She really wanted to
talk to Angel. She picked up her phone,
meaning to call him, but then she stopped.
It was daytime. She knew that he
could hide in plain sight in daytime, provided that he was out of reach of the
sunlight. She didn’t know where he’d
chosen to find safety. Would a phone
call put him in danger of unwanted discovery?
put the phone down on the bedside table.
It took a full five seconds before she consciously understood what she’d
seen there. She looked back to where
her phone lay, next to his.
his questions, even though he felt as though his collar were getting tighter
and tighter, as though he might never breathe easily again. He fought through the distraction, unaware
that he was digging his fingernails into the meat of his palm in the effort to
keep his mind focused.
Freda, the Bridestowes hadn’t known Michael very well. Such a wild young man. They’d had no reason to make his
acquaintance, other than in passing.
And they were such new arrivals here, the Gabriels.
Felicity? Yes, a lovely girl. Everyone had known Felicity. A great loss to Merrivale.
Smith? Why yes, of course they’d heard
of the jealous posturings between him and Michael Gabriel. Typical of all young men, really. No.
They knew nothing more than could be read in their statements.
All the while,
it was Freda who answered. Edgar sat in
his chair, content to leave his wife to deal with the intruder.
As she talked,
she said nothing new, and Giles watched her closely to see whether she gave
anything away by her body language. He
noticed for the first time that she had a large ruby that gleamed at her
throat, and rings on every finger.
Expensive rings. Her skin shone
softly, with a pearl-like sheen, as if dusted with tiny drops of moisture in
the afterglow of carnality, reflecting, like the ruby, the red flames of the
And then his
phone rang. He excused himself from the
room, meaning just to take the caller’s details and ring back. But it was Carol Oldmay.
remembered what it was,” she said. “It
was about the Bridestowes’ son. Very
mysterious. Talk to me before you talk
to them about it.”
He arranged to
meet her at the Museum in an hour, wondering what on earth could be so
mysterious, so cloak and dagger.
When he walked
back into the room, the Bridestowes were as he had left them. Freda hadn’t moved from where the ringing of
his phone had brought her to rest in her pacings, standing immediately in front
of the fire. Giles thought that might
have been the first time she’d been still since he’d arrived.
He asked the
final questions on his list, and then took his leave, gravely thanking them for
their hospitality. Suddenly, Freda
seemed to have diminished, to be simply a very attractive woman. And she seemed to have lost interest in him,
to be ready for him to go. She gave him
her hand abstractedly, and then the suave young man escorted him out.
He stopped on
the way, parked in an impromptu lay-by to review his notes and to call
Buffy. The road was little used, and he
wondered whether the Bentley that passed him was from Alford Hall. Then it was gone, and there had been no
glimpse for him of the occupants, no chance to see who was going where.
An hour later,
as he pulled up in Tavistock, he saw Carol, in front of him, hurrying towards
the Museum, a large brown envelope in her hand. He called to her, but she didn’t hear. He watched her for a moment, the sun making her hair burn with
all the shades of autumn, then he dug into his pocket for some pound
coins. He cursed silently as he
realised that he had no change for the parking meter, and so he ducked quickly
into a shop and bought a newspaper, watching for the approach of a traffic
warden as he queued to pay with a ten-pound note. When he came out, Carol was gone.
meet her, he thought that the gods might finally be smiling on Tavistock, as
the sun shone down out of a relentlessly blue sky, the warmth striking down
onto his back, through his jacket. It
was so warm that he took off the jacket, and carried it over his arm, smiling
at the prospect of seeing the historian again.
Perhaps, when this was all over, he could come down for a week or two. Buffy and Angel could manage very well
without him for a bit. A holiday might
be just what the doctor ordered, and a holiday romance...
He was halfway
across the square in front of the Museum when it happened. A woman’s scream cut through the holiday atmosphere,
shrill against the enduring stone of the surrounding buildings. It came again, weaker this time, and then
again. The Museum. He was off and running before the first cry
had died away, and he was at the door with the echoes of the last.
lay on the floor, the colours of autumn drowned in a welter of blood. Clots of blood and brain matter spattered
the wooden floor. He fell to his knees
by her side, and lifted her, to cradle her, but he knew, even as he did so,
that she was quite dead. An antique
policeman’s truncheon lay by her side, covered in gore. Of the killer, or of the brown envelope that
the dead woman had carried, there was no sign.
still holding her when the police arrived, and he would have been arrested on
the spot, except that two witnesses came forward. One was a young woman, Jane Skilbeck, dressed in motorcycle
leathers, and clutching a crash helmet, who said that she had been behind him
when the woman had screamed, and she had seen him run and pick her up. The other witness, who corroborated that,
although somewhat churlishly, was Charles Eworthy, ex-Inspector of police.
at the Jamaica Inn, remembering a different time, to ask whether any travellers
were in the area. He was in luck. There was a band just two miles away, camped
at Dozmary Pool. He wasn’t at all sure
that the Ferrari would appreciate the rough trackways around the Pool, and he
knew that he’d lost his shadowy follower, and so he walked the rest of the
way. It was probably best, anyway. He wouldn’t get much of a reception, in a
He didn’t get
much of a reception anyway. There was
no cover at all on the approach to the trailers circled in a small,
stone-walled field close to the only house for miles. The buildings of the farmhouse itself offered a temporary darker
clot of shadow, but there was nothing else.
And as he stood in the shadow of a stone barn, he’d reckoned without the
First came one
tentative bark, and then a serious challenge.
Other canine voices joined in, and long grey shadows raced towards him
over the field. Why couldn’t gypsies be
like other people? Most would shout at
the dogs to be quiet. These people
trusted their dogs, and simply let them slip.
This band of
travellers were gypsies, true gypsies, he had no doubt of that. There was something about the scent. There might be differences, but not enough
to deny their heritage. That odour took
him back too many years and too many sins.
Now, the dogs had him circled.
It wouldn’t be hard to deal with them, although not without some damage,
but that wasn’t what he was here for.
drew closer, calling to each other. He
recognised the language, and had a sudden, craven desire to run. He hunched his shoulders. No doubt he would find some penance to pay
for that moment of cowardice, some way to show the Powers, Buffy, Giles –
himself – that he wasn’t the same waste of space that he’d used to be. He took a deep breath – odd how some habits
never died – and stepped out into the circle of torchlight.
specifically told Buffy not to come down to Tavistock, that he would get back
to Merrivale House as soon as possible.
Therefore Buffy, naturally, got Edwards to drive her down to the police
station in the Rolls Royce. It was all
over when she got there.
given his statement. Broadribb and
Shuster had confirmed that Giles and his colleagues were investigating on
behalf of the Gabriel estate, and the two witnesses had made their statements,
that Giles was in plain sight, in the square, when the woman in the Museum
screamed. Being concerned citizens,
they had followed him in.
When Buffy saw
him, he was pale, his lips pressed into a thin line. She put her arm through his as they walked out of the police
station. It was far too soon for him to
have any real affection for the dead woman, but he had been attracted. This must be hard for him. She’d misjudged his mood though. His pallor was one of anger.
something to do with the Bridestowes. I
don’t know what, but I know they’re involved.”
His voice was harsh, his enunciation precise. She took a firmer grip on his arm.
“Why would you
“I was at
Alford Hall when the call came from Carol.
She said that there was something mysterious about a son of the
Bridestowes. Have you seen a son? No,” he said, answering his own question,
“we haven’t seen a son. But Carol
Oldmay remembered something. She was
going to tell me, but she didn’t get chance.
She had information, in a brown envelope, and now it’s gone. I knew that there was something
strange, something amiss with the pair of them after that phone call.”
to make her death count. We need to
find out about the Bridestowes’ son.”
“Will there be
something to hit?” Buffy asked, more in hope than in expectation.
“Oh, I imagine
so. We usually find something to hit,
They got back
to where Giles had left his car, hours ago, on a parking meter. It had been towed away, and Buffy thought
that Giles might find something to hit there and then. He cursed, softly, and then they walked back
to where Edwards waited with the Rolls.
Someone else could sort the car out.
surrounded by a circle of dogs and men.
A handful of the dogs were slim and lithe, built for speed. Lurchers, used to hunting and killing, he
was sure. The rest were big and
well-muscled, with teeth to match.
Mastiff-types, good at guarding.
None of them liked the look of him, and all of those teeth were bared in
snarls. It looked as though the dogs
had a good dentist.
carried an assortment of weapons, mainly sticks and cudgels. Three of them had guns, though. Shotguns.
They wouldn’t kill him, well, not unless they all shot together for his
head, and that might well rank as decapitation, but they would make one hell of
a mess. Buffy would be so pissed. So would Edwards, if he got the Ferrari back
with blood all over the nice red interior.
The men didn’t
seem to like the look of him either, even though he raised his hands, and tried
to look as unthreatening as possible.
He tried to take the initiative, and to look as unthreatening, as human,
A man, older
than the rest, stepped forward, to get a better look at him. The man saw Angel’s pale skin, and perhaps
he saw something else as well. In any
event, he said just one word.
holding guns raised them, to fire, and the dogs closed in, silent now that the
kill had been ordered. This definitely
wasn’t how he’d wanted it to go. Faster
than the eye could follow, because there was no point in camouflage now, he
leapt at the nearest man, knocking the gun from his hand as he took him. Still trying for ‘as human as possible’, he
didn’t release the demon, but he had his forearm around the young man’s throat,
and his teeth close enough to the neck to make the point.
“I didn’t come
here looking for trouble. I came to
find Stephen Smith. Or Stephen Smith’s
family, if he’s dead.”
crouched, almost in mid-leap, frozen, snarling statues. The men stood still, unmoving, no doubt
considering how to get him without hitting the hostage.
me. You’re all called Smith. Makes finding any one of you harder for the
authorities. I don’t care. I’m only interested in Stephen Smith. Had a fight with Michael Gabriel over
Felicity Wareham. Do you know about
silence, and then the older man asked, “Why do you want Stephen Smith? What is your business?”
Gabriel wants to know what happened to Felicity, and to his son. Seems to me that’s all tied up with Stephen,
too. If he’s alive, I need to talk to
him. If he’s not, I need to talk about
moved. But this was the right group,
Angel was sure of it. Taking a chance,
he pushed the hostage away from him.
tonight would be good.”
It seemed best
to start with the staff. Surely, if
there had been a son at Alford Hall, someone would remember. It seemed that no one did. Then Miranda Lamerton took them to talk to
the cook. ‘Cook’ might be the wrong word
for the elderly woman who presided over the Gabriel kitchens. She had ‘cooks’ working for her, and it was
clear that those kitchens were ready to turn out a banquet at a moment’s
Giles and Miss Summers have some questions to ask you, if you wouldn’t mind?”
Buffy held out
her hand with a smile. “It’s just
Buffy, especially to people who can turn out meals like you do.” It was exactly the right thing to say.
Bridestowes,” Letty mused, when the problem was put to her. “Now, I never heard anything very specific,
but Tanya might know. She was here as a
young girl, in the late seventies, a nursery maid to help Mrs Pollard with
Michael. But she and Mrs Pollard didn’t
get along, and she was offered a job with the Bridestowes. She took it, although she never told us what
it was for. She wanted to work with
children, so we always suspected Lady Elfrieda might be in the family way. There was never a sign of it, though.
came back to visit us, but I did hear from Bert, the postman, that about a year
later, she went back up north. To her
family, I expect. Featherstone, I think
it was. Tanya Knowles. I don’t know any more than that. It was a long time ago, now. Over thirty year gone. I can’t see it has anything to do with Mr
That was the
best lead they could get. Giles left
for Featherstone that night. It was a
slim lead, but better than no lead at all.
The next morning, Buffy would go back to Miss Buckland, and to the two
sisters, to see whether they could remember anything at all. She would most definitely not go to Alford
Hall. Not yet, anyway.
As Giles drove
over the tops of the high moors, the mist started to gather.
One of the
cudgels prodded Angel in the back, nudging him – not too gently – towards the
trailers and caravans. Shotguns were
aimed into both of his ears, but not close enough for him to snatch them both
if he had to. Still, he’d come here to
talk, and unless they intended to dust him inside a trailer, which would be
extremely untidy, then compliance seemed to be the way forward.
And so he
walked, with his strange, encircling entourage, into the camp. As they reached the pool of light
surrounding the camp the men switched off their torches, which they’d kept
played on him, and he could see rather better.
He hesitated, and another sharp prod urged him forward. The man in front of him held a long, thick
staff, and when they reached the steps up to a battered green trailer he
brought Angel to a halt by the simple expedient of thumping the end of the
staff into his belly.
The older man
called up to the trailer, in a language that Angel remembered well, or a very
close variant of it. The door opened,
and an old man looked out, and then replied.
A rapid conversation took place, none of it in English. This old man must be an original immigrant,
Angel thought. Judging by the age of
him, he probably came over as a boy during the Second World War, most likely to
escape the Nazis. It wasn’t only Jews
who were rounded up and gassed.
man came, alone or with a family, bringing with him his language and his
beliefs, and his darkest supernatural nightmares. They would have thought to escape the most hideous persecution,
only to find a more subtle form, in a crowded country where land was owned, and
enclosed, and there was no room for nomads.
He felt a stab of sympathy for the life they led.
conversation was over, a decision made, and the old man stood back. A cudgel in his ribs told Angel that he was
to go up into the trailer. The older
man followed him, and the door slammed shut behind them.
“Sit. At the end, behind the table. Make no sudden moves, or I’ll kill
the instructions. The man who had
entered the trailer with him sat at the end of the bench seat that ran in a
horseshoe at the end of the trailer, around a plastic table, but he didn’t
lower the shotgun that he’d brought.
The old man sat down, stiffly, on the other side of the table.
Thomas. This is Nicu. He does not speak English, and so I will
translate. Who are you?”
possible they knew his name. Angel
didn’t want to risk that.
“I don’t have
a name that’s worth hearing, but I’m not what you think…”
to translate, and Nicu held out his hand to Angel. Surprised, Angel hesitated, and then took it. As their hands came together he felt a
hardness in Nicu’s palm, and then the sear of burning flesh. He snatched his hand away from the concealed
exactly what you are. The civilized
people of this country may have forgotten, but us? Never. Even here, there
are those of your kind. The dogs can
recognise you. Now, did you kill
“Would I be
here if I did? No…” He was going to say
‘we’, and changed his mind at the last moment.
If things went badly, he didn’t want Giles and Buffy hunted by vengeful
gypsies. “No, I have been hired by
Anthony Gabriel to find the truth of what happened that summer, ten years
ago. If there’s a murderer, he wants
him brought to justice. That’s what
I’ve promised to do. And I need to find
out about Stephen.”
There was a
rapid discussion between the two men.
Angel wondered whether to reveal that he understood what they were
saying, and then decided that was a piece of information too many. Besides, he could find out more by
Anthony Gabriel not come here himself?”
dead. This was his last wish.”
“No! I’m not a killer. Not now. He died after a
long illness. I didn’t know him at
The two men
looked at each other, and the old man, Nicu, nodded.
Stephen’s grandfather. Stephen was a
rash young man, but not a bad one.
Occasionally, we would camp close to Merrivale for a day or two. Like here, there are people who don’t mind
us spending a few days on their land.
And then we move on. We would
stay at Merrivale on land belonging to Alford Hall, on our way up into the
west. That year, we were delayed
because of illness. Stephen had time to
meet people. He fell in love with a
already had a boyfriend, a man who wanted to marry her. That was Michael Gabriel. Stephen and Michael clashed many times, and
at last Stephen challenged him to fight for her. If Michael won, he said, then he, Stephen, would not try to see
her again. If Stephen won, Michael
would give her up.
them thought to ask the girl what she preferred. They were both very young.
They came to our camp, and Michael won.
Stephen kept his word.”
silent. Angel could smell the
uncertainty. He prompted Thomas.
“About a week
later, Michael came to our camp to see Stephen. They went off together.
Neither of them ever came back.”
“Do you know
why Michael came, or where they went?”
Nicu, and the old man answered, his voice heavy. Thomas appeared startled by the reply. This was something he hadn’t heard before. Without offering Angel a translation, yet,
he asked whether Nicu had told the police.
Nicu shook his head. Let the
vampire make what he could of it. The
police would have laughed at what Nicu had heard.
translation was slow, almost reluctant.
“He says that
he does not know where they went, or why, although they set off in the
direction of the Moor. But he heard
Stephen say to Michael that it was a dangerous business, playing Saint George
shrugged. They talked on, but there was
nothing else that was new. Angel asked
where their camp had been on that night.
At least he would have a direction to follow. He had one last thought.
“I was told
that Stephen’s father went back to Merrivale for about five years, to try to
find him, and then stopped coming.”
The old man’s
rheumy eyes glistened with tears, and Thomas’s face hardened.
disappeared on the Moor. No one was
interested in Marcu, just as no one was interested in Stephen.”
to let Angel out from behind the table.
As he walked to the door, Nicu called something after him.
“He asks why
you are doing this.”
for a reason they would believe.
paid to do it.”
Nicu shook his
head, and said, “There must be more than that.
Anthony Gabriel chose you to be his Nemesis, and he must have had a
reason. Why do you care?”
little shaken to have his own words given back to him, didn’t wait for Thomas
say that sometimes you might have to forget your preconceptions about avenging
angels. I promise, if I find out what
happened to Stephen, or to his father, I will come back and tell you. Wherever you are.”
The two stared
at him, but he left unchallenged. As he
walked back to the Ferrari, he mulled over what he had learned. Halfway there, some piece of information, a
random fact, collided against another, a lock and a key. The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle cascaded
down, fitting one into another into another, into a picture he didn’t like the
look of at all. No wonder the police
had made no headway. If he was right,
this was a Giles, Buffy and Angel job, not a police job. And Giles and Buffy didn’t know.
He ran. As he ran, he felt for his phone, but his
pockets were empty. Cursing, he ran
was interested in the latest snippets of information.
course,” she said, “the Bridestowes have always been very private. Very private indeed. I remember when Sir Edgar came to
Tavistock. He was rather disreputable,
you know. Something of a rake, and
quite dissolute. He’d been hanging
around with a bad crowd, I expect, because Elfrieda changed him. That would be almost twenty-five years ago,
now. He’s been a quiet country
gentleman every since.”
Bridestowe looks very young to have been married twenty-five years, doesn’t
dear. She keeps extremely well, don’t
you think? Now, this supposed son of
hers… Yes, I remember Tanya very well.
A bright child, rake thin. She’d
come here with her parents for a summer holiday, escaping from one of the
northern towns for a bit. She liked it
so much, she came back a year later, into service with the Gabriels. She didn’t like the nanny, though, so she
moved to Alford Hall.
“She had a
young man, you know, a suitor, but she stopped seeing him after she went to the
Hall. A good friend, too, Sally
something or other. They used to tell
each other everything. I think they’d
made some sort of pact between them, always laughing and giggling. I thought they were always amused at
something the rest of the world didn’t know.
You know how young girls can be?”
it ‘gels’. Her forehead wrinkled in the
effort of remembrance. “Tanya was at
Alford for a year or so, and then she went home. As I recall, Sally went with her. I’m sorry, I don’t remember where that was.”
“Really? Well, if she asked for any post to be
diverted, I don’t recall. And I
normally do. Strange that she should
have been employed at Alford, but if there was a child, it would explain
it. She wanted to work with either
children or animals. I was surprised she went home so… secretively. Never a goodbye to anyone. Sally neither.”
Buffy’s slayer sense was working overtime.
It could all be so innocent, and yet…
People coming and going, and no one knowing what had become of
them… Visitors disappearing, and the
only explanation being the Moor… She
mentally revisited the files that she’d gone through that morning, of missing
persons in the area. So many young
When she left
Miss Buckland’s, the fine mist that had hung around that morning had thickened
and clotted, and it swirled like smoke through the town. Plants stood bejewelled, dripping liquid
diamonds from every leaf and petal.
Edwards had brought her down, and then returned to Merrivale House. He’d said he would pick her up when
necessary. She didn’t want to think how
bad this might be, higher up on the moors, at Merrivale.
Giles, but his phone was switched off.
She hoped that was because he’d found what he was looking for.
She walked the
three miles or so to the sisters Chillaton-Kelly, and was greeted warmly. Her hair clung to her face in moist
tendrils, and her clothes were damp and uncomfortable. Grace insisted on offering her a bathrobe,
until her clothes dried, and Hope made a warming soup and some sandwiches. It seemed churlish to start asking questions
immediately, and so she settled into the warmth, and let the sisters pamper
her, just a little. Outside, the
weeping willow let fall its silvery tears onto the carefully tended grass
Giles had come
to know Featherstone really rather well.
He’d talked to a dozen Knowles families, before he’d struck lucky. He’d been directed to Albert Street, behind
the new library.
The woman who
answered the door seemed to be prematurely aged, her face lined with the cares
of life. When he asked about Tanya, her
face closed up, and the years seemed to hang even more heavily on her.
“Why are you
asking about her? Can’t you let her
lie, dead and buried?”
Trying not to
look confused, he told Mrs Knowles that he was trying to find out about Tanya,
because of a missing girl. Perhaps one
could shed light on the other?
blew her nose, and tried to pretend that this hadn’t raised old pain for her.
killed on her way home from Devon, knocked down by a hit and run driver, she
and her friend, Sally. How can that
Giles had to
admit that perhaps it couldn’t. Mrs
Knowles was certain that Tanya had never written about her job, other than to
tell her mother that she was enjoying it, and was treated well. She’d never written about her employers
either. Mrs Knowles knew nothing,
except that her daughter had never reached home again. She was buried in the local cemetery, and
Mrs Knowles still left flowers every week.
talked to Grace and Hope. They had
marvelled at the things that she asked, but shaken their heads. No, they knew nothing of those matters. They’d been in such a state when dear
Felicity vanished, such depths of grief, that they couldn’t remember half of
what had been going on. So sorry.
When she rang
Edwards, the fog was so thick that it was impossible to see beyond arm’s
length. No, it certainly wasn’t safe
for him to come and pick her up. She
No, said the
sisters, in unison. She would stay with
them until the morning. Then Edwards
could come and collect her. It would be
so exciting to have a young person in the house again. She could tell them all about herself. They so rarely met strangers, they would
love to hear her story.
Still in the
bathrobe, Buffy told them about California.
Something about it, anyway.
to go fast, and the car obliged. But,
as he approached Dartmoor, the fog swirled and thickened, until even demon
eyesight couldn’t maintain the pace.
But he knew where he needed to go.
Or thought he knew. Vixen Tor.
He was tempted
to go to Merrivale House first, but if anything had happened to his woman and
his friend, it would be around Vixen Tor.
The more he thought about it, the more sure he was.
He could go no
faster than a crawl now, in the car. He
would do better on foot. There was
something to do first, though.
left, onto the road up to Merrivale House, and stopped abruptly. He was out of the car in seconds, just in
time to stand in front of the motorcycle that followed him. The bike braked sharply, and hit the
ground. He walked over to it, and
pulled the leather-clad rider to his feet.
The rider removed his helmet, revealing a she and not a he, an
“Where did you
pick me up again?”
tossed her head, and he thought that she wouldn’t answer, but she did.
“Tavistock. You had to come back through there, and even
in the fog, I can tell a Ferrari when I hear one.”
“Where are the
phone to call Buffy or Giles, he’d prefer to know.
She pulled out
a slim black phone and dialled a couple of numbers, speaking briefly to each.
“Mr Giles is
coming back from Featherstone. Miss
Summers is staying overnight with the Chillaton-Kelly sisters.”
Angel felt the
chill of real fear.
“If you are
what I think you are, Buffy needs you more than I do.”
someone else following you.”
“You know that
it’s John Deverill? He’s been trying to
get up the courage to make some mischief for you all.”
“I know. I’ll take care of it.”
looked undecided. It was critical that
he be rid of her before he went further.
He also wanted to make sure that Buffy wasn’t in trouble.
was very good of Mr Gabriel to ensure that we had three bodyguards looking
after us. Right now, I don’t need you,
but Buffy does. I think the
Chillaton-Kellys are in this up to their necks. Please. Go and take care
of her. I’d do it myself, but I have
something else to do. I’ll hold you
responsible, you know.”
She gave a wry
myself responsible, too. How did you
know, by the way?”
He tapped the
side of his nose.
she said, wryly. “I might have known.”
He resisted a
smirk. He knew she’d think that,
although his gesture had been much more literal. He helped her lift her bike from the ground, and watched her go
back down toward the town and his beloved.
Giles, up in the North, should still be safe enough.
she had gone, he started off running towards Vixen Tor. He came at it from a different angle than
the last time, and quickly found the mire.
There was no way he was ever going to walk on water, but there was just
enough solid footing here to let him pass with ease. For a human, it would be a death trap, especially in the fog.
reached the kistvaen, there were flowers.
Not moonpennies, this time, but roses.
Big, pink damask roses.
the tor, looking in every nook and crevice.
He found a cave that reeked of fox, but it was small, and a dead
end. Suddenly, he began to doubt
himself. After all, Giles was the big
thinker, the research end of the gig.
Perhaps he was wrong…
He was back at
the kistvaen, with its offering of fresh roses. In his mind, something stretched a claw. He began ripping at the turf around the
stones, until he’d uncovered the stone burial chamber. He heaved the cover stones away, and was
left with upright slabs surrounding a bare floor. There was no sign that anything had ever been buried there, and
yet… And yet, there was something. He stood perfectly still, with his eyes
closed, and allowed himself to simply feel.
It was like
standing in a graveyard. There were
bodies all around, some ancient, some not so ancient. Very few of them lay quiet.
And beneath his feet…
He worked his
fingers under the largest flooring stone, and heaved with all his
strength. It came up with a rush,
tumbling over onto the grass. The
others followed, and then he dug into the peat, tearing up great handfuls.
And then he
had it. He’d made a hole. A small hole into somewhere large. He tore at more of the peat, and revealed a
set of rough steps. Wishing that he had
brought a torch, for the human comfort of the light, rather than to help him
see, he started down into the darkness.
Giles, on the
way back from Featherstone, called in at a service station for food and
coffee. Over a sandwich that seemed to
have been laundered a lot to freshen it up, he dialled Buffy, but her phone was
switched off. He knew that Angel didn’t
have his with him, but Giles worried.
After all, gypsies… Might they
still carry stories of Angelus, and what they had done to him, even in this
other country? Did they know what had
happened a hundred years later, and half a world away, when Angelus returned?
And had Buffy
found any connections in the file of information that Collins had provided?
There could be
no answers until he got back to Devon, unless Buffy turned her wretched phone
back on. He was hungry, and so he
persisted in masticating the soggy sandwich – it could never be called ‘eating’
– and poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot that he had bought. The ill-fitting lid, the poorly conceived
spout, and the carelessly filled pot inevitably resulted in a flooded saucer,
and a pool of coffee spreading across the plastic table. Cursing softly, he set about mopping up. Then, because he was worried and fretful he
took the pot back and angrily demanded a replacement. It didn’t make him feel any better, though.
barely see Grace and Hope through the swirling mist, as she stood looking
through the kitchen window and into the garden. It was dark outside, and she stood to one side of the window so
as not to be silhouetted by the light.
She wasn’t trying to conceal herself, she thought. No, not at all. What reason could she have to do that? No, she just didn’t want them to think she was snooping on
them. They’d excused themselves for a
few minutes, as they sat with her in the parlour. She somehow was sure she wasn’t supposed to see what they were
doing. Perhaps they’d expected her to
stay where she’d been left. Some
kneeling on the wet grass beneath the weeping willow, holding hands, like two
children lost in the woods.
Buckland was right. Perhaps Felicity
wasn’t buried in the churchyard.
Perhaps the sisters couldn’t bear to be parted from her, and had buried
her under the weeping willow. Or had
buried her, and planted the weeping willow on top of her. It didn’t look very old. That was a lot of perhapses, but then again,
they seemed to set a lot of store by that small part of their garden.
If that was
the case, though, who was in the grave?
As the sisters
rose to their feet, Buffy slipped back to what they had called the
parlour. That had confused her, until
she’d realised it was just an old-fashioned word for the sitting room. When Grace and Hope joined her, they’d
brought in the tea tray.
Over tea and
biscuits, Buffy tried a few more questions.
Subtlety, Buffy, she told herself.
“That’s a nice
tree you’ve got out there. I love that
droopy shape. I keep telling Giles that
he should get one in his garden. Are
they hard to grow?”
at Hope uneasily, and it was Hope who replied.
they aren’t hard to grow. But not too
close to the house, mind. Their roots
dig down everywhere. They take
everything from the soil, too. They
nodded. Grace was knitting, but still
managing to watch their guest closely, and it made Buffy feel
uncomfortable. She persisted, though.
“I have a
question I meant to ask you earlier.
Just after Felicity went missing, another girl was reported as
lost. She was an Australian. Stacey Swan. A blonde, like Felicity.
She was hitching up to Dartmoor from Plymouth. Did you ever read about that?
Do you know whether any more was ever heard of her?”
that nothing had, and she thought that was a nice subtle touch. Once again, there were those exchanged
glances, and once again, Hope replied, as Grace knitted.
“No, dear. We were too grieved to take much notice of
other people. Now, how about a nice
game of Scrabble, before we turn in for the night? Yes, let’s, and then I’ll make us all a nice cup of cocoa.”
descended into the pit, whatever had caught his attention was all around him
now. The rustling in his mind sounded
like scales, like wings, like the movement of tough leather. There was a bitter taste in his mouth, and
something… alert… that he couldn’t identify. There were claws and teeth, and they weren’t the vampire’s. Nevertheless, he kept on.
He had no
trouble seeing in the darkness, although, at the bottom of the stairs, he could
have wished that the case was otherwise.
There were skeletons. Ten years
was a long time, where a body was concerned.
As he allowed
his eyes to accustom to the almost total lack of light – even vampires needed a
second or two – he saw that he was in a huge underground chamber. It might have been created by the volcanic
paroxysms that had originally spawned the surrounding granite rock, the walls
having a strange, melted look, but it was apparent that there were tool marks,
too. And at the far end of the cavern
was another set of stairs, with an iron-bound door at the top. He’d go out that way, then, and see where it
By the steps
that he had walked down, the first skeleton lay sprawled, partially
disconnected, and not a little gnawed.
Close by were a long wooden staff, very like those he’d seen used by the
gypsies, and a knife that would have been wickedly sharp, if it wasn’t
rusted. The neck was broken. Stephen, then, he guessed.
The rest were
even more shocking.
There was a
large alcove in the rocks, and a second skeleton lay chained in that
niche. In front of the alcove lay
another jumble of bones. These showed
signs of charring. The bones of one
hand clutched the handle of a shield that had been held into a fierce flame,
the metal scorched and half-melted.
of all, sprawled across the floor was a shape he recognised all too well.
Its body was
as big as a rhinoceros, and it was winged, although only bones remained. Bones, and a very few golden scales. The skull, long and slender, was set on a
thin, supple neck, and counterbalanced by the long tail. In life, it would have been a beautiful
thing, but its life had been taken by the broadsword that had been thrust
through the throat and now lay embedded in the brain case.
had faced the dragon, and had killed it, although he’d lost his life in doing
so, and he hadn’t been able to save the girl, even with his own body. Angel understood how he would have
felt. He stroked the dragon’s skull,
not consciously aware that he was doing so, as something sleek moved through
his thoughts. Then, a fleeting recollection
struck him, a memory of an image that hadn’t been quite right, and he moved
over to the girl’s skeleton. There was
no head. Someone had taken that away.
straightened up, a sound from the end of the chamber made him turn. The door had opened, and Elfrieda Bridestowe
stood in the light from the passageway.
“I could tell
someone was down here,” she said, as she reached out to the wall, and the cave
was flooded with light.
She was a chic
as ever, in a black and white dress that hugged her figure, her hair lying in
dark feathers against her pale skin.
Her earrings were long black pendants that swung with every movement of
her head. The only points of colour
about her were her blood red lips, and the ruby that sat at her throat. She had rings on most of her fingers, but
these were diamonds and jet, emphasising those white, shapely hands. For a moment, Angel couldn’t drag his gaze
away from that pale, elegant neck; swan-necked, it used to be called. Edith Swan Neck… Now, where had that
leave this chamber, you know. Not
alive. You know too much, now.” Elfrieda’s tone was conversational, as
though she said that a lot. Perhaps she
did. She started to walk down the
stairs towards him.
“In that case,
it can’t hurt to tell me what happened, can it? You wanted Felicity for some sort of sacrifice to your pet, but
Michael and Stephen got in the way?”
twisted into an angry snarl.
“Pet? He wasn’t a pet.” She’d reached the dragon’s bones by now, and
she paused, staring down at them. He
thought she was sad, but when she looked at him, there was blazing anger in her
eyes. “He was my son!”
Angel aback, and the mental puzzle pieces shifted, giving him a different set
of images. The thing in his
thoughts, the thing that he could almost smell and taste in the air, started
to… To do what? To hiss in anger? Yes.
The sound was almost physical.
And then another puzzle piece clicked into place.
“You needed a
virgin sacrifice, and nubile virgins are in fairly short supply?”
towards him, stalking through the cavern like a predator, her smile fierce.
so. Felicity was the best one
around. I wanted only the best for my
“What? He could only eat virgins?”
“No. He needed a virgin for his twenty-first
birthday. It’s part of the magic, you
see. The magic that would allow him to
take on human form whenever he wished.”
The closer she
got, the more the sense of serpent coiled and writhed around him in
anticipation. At last, she was only an
arm’s length away.
“And now I
have to find another husband to sire another son. Edgar won’t serve any more.”
Her gaze raked
up and down Angel.
no. I won’t.” He backed away from her.
“Not a chance, lady.”
“Oh, I think
there might be. There’s something in
you, trying to get out.”
She seemed to
grow in stature, to become more… puissant. Magic crackled in the air, invisible, yet there. And the final puzzle piece fell into place
for Angel. He tensed himself, ready for
what was to come.
to wrap herself in power, her skin shimmering, the ruby winking at her
throat. Somewhere behind him, he heard
a sound, but it was far off, almost in another time, another life. And then Elfrieda was gone, and a dragon
stood before him, a white dragon, with a ruby red breast, and much larger than
the skeleton on the floor. She made the
He leapt over
her back, a huge, demon-fuelled leap, as she drew breath in one giant
inhalation, but all that came from her throat was a long hiss. No fire.
Perhaps only the males had that.
No wings, either. Perhaps only
the males had those, too.
serpentine neck twisted, and her head swung round towards him. He still heard her speech but now it was in
reply. He’d seen what had made the
sound behind where he’d been standing, something out of Elfrieda’s sight. Not a what, a who. John Deverill, swaying on the steps. He’d forgotten about him.
The man might be drunk, but he wasn’t drunk enough not to understand
what he’d seen.
turned her head to see what Angel was looking at. With a nonchalant flip of her tail, she caught Deverill in the
midriff, and knocked him back up to the edge of the pit, where he lay
said, “where were we? Ah, yes, not
terribly human. What are you, little
himself to change, slipping the demon from its leash. Whatever ghostly enticements the dragon was using against him,
they were overwhelmed by the resident vampire.
she spat. “Well, perhaps we can still
make something of you. We’re both
eternal and you are…desirable. It’s a
pity you can’t sire sons for me, but you could find suitable men. And that magical virgin’s blood, of
“Be your pimp,
you mean? I don’t think so, Elfrieda.”
Aelfrida, thank you. It was my given
name.” She pronounced the d as something
between a d and a th.
He started to
move sideways, very slowly, wanting her attention focused on him. He definitely didn’t want the tail end. He remembered his reading.
“Aelfrida? Orgar’s notorious daughter?”
He moved a
little further round, coming closer to the skeletons.
your stepson, didn’t you, back in the day?
Your husband’s son? So that your
own son could inherit. Ethelred wasn’t
it? Ethelred the Unready? Bit of a waste of space, wasn’t he? Not really worth the trouble.” He toed at the dragon bones in front of
him. “This him?”
stupid. That son is long dead. I’ve had others, since then.”
happened? I thought you spent the rest
of your life founding Abbeys and nunneries, and things, atoning for what you
did. Absolution hard to come by, was
“You have no
idea. It seemed my acts of contrition
weren’t enough. This is what was done
to me. But it has its advantages.”
Angel shuddered. If this was her
punishment for one killing, what might his be?
He put that thought as far away from him as he could, and edged a little
further sideways. Her head came up,
that huge white head, with its glittering fangs, and jewelled eyes, and her nostrils
Time to go for
it. He ran down the length of the
dragon bones, and snatched up the sword, rolling out of the way as her jaws
snapped shut behind him.
“Not for much
longer,” he muttered. He really didn’t
want to hear any more. “I’ve finished
off tougher dragons than you, Lady.”
caught him in the ribs, and he fetched up in a crashing fall among the bones of
the sacrificed girl. There was no time
to worry about bruises or broken bones.
Taking a tighter grip on the sword, he leapt for her throat, clinging on
like a monkey. Then, as Michael had
done to her son, he thrust the sword, rusty and blunt as it was, up through her
lower jaw, through her tongue, up into her palate, to come to rest in her
brain. He gave it a sharp twist for
good measure, and then he threw himself clear.
paroxysms shook the cavern, and he had to use every scrap of agility to stay
out of her way, but eventually she did die.
As she breathed her last, her form shimmered, and she became human once
more, sprawled in ugly death on the cavern floor. The dragon in his head fell silent.
tucked up in a warm and quilted bed.
Strange, she thought. It was
pretty well midsummer, and here she was, wrapped up, and with a mug of hot
cocoa. As she picked it up from the
bedside table, the window flew open and a blonde, leather-clad woman leaned in.
if I were you. It’s got cyanide in
it. Rosemary watched them make it. Angel sent me.”
Buffy put the
poisoned cup carefully back on the table.
Angel was so going to have some explaining to do.
thought was to see to John Deverill, and he ran up the stairs to the Tor. But it was too late. John Deverill had dragged himself away from
the ruined kistvaen, but Dartmoor had claimed another victim. He had fallen, and he lay face down in the
morass. Angel turned him over, to be
sure, but there was no real need. He
forget that Deverill had been the first to get up from the table, that first
night. Nor could Angel get rid of the
thought that, no matter what he did, or how hard he tried, the physical world
around him wouldn’t acknowledge him, and that he might even be more invisible
to the superstition of thirteen people at table than a child’s toy.
hadn’t done enough, then.
He went back
into the cavern, and pulled the sword from Elfrieda’s body, and then he went up
the other stairs, to the door. It stood
ajar. Clutching the sword firmly in his
right hand, he strode down the passageway.
It ran for a
long way, but in the end, it led to Alford Hall, to Sir Edgar’s library, to be
exact. Sir Edgar was there. He seemed changed. Perhaps it was that he stood taller. He took one look at the bloody sword.
sorry. She’s dead.”
knees buckled, and he staggered backwards.
Angel caught him and helped him to a chair.
the older man muttered. “Thank the
merciful God.” He gripped Angel’s
wrist. “Do you understand what it’s
been like, living enslaved to her? Not
able to have a thought or deed of my own?
I’m glad she’s gone! Glad, do you
some tidying up to do, in that chamber.”
“But at least
the dead can perhaps be restored, now,” he replied.
By the next
morning, Angel had managed to cover over the hole in the cavern roof, and
rebuild the kistvaen. The replaced turf
looked a bit rough, but, with luck, it would re-root before anyone noticed.
The bones of
Stephen, Michael, and Felicity he had brought up and placed into the fox den in
Vixen Tor. It was time for them to be
found. Elfrieda’s body, and the bones
of her son, he left in the cavern. No
good could come from those seeing the light of day. Later, he would come back and collapse the passageway to the
It was almost
dawn when he got back to Merrivale House, and the fog had cleared. Buffy wasn’t there, and neither was
Giles. He found his phone where he had
left it, by Buffy’s bed. He called her
first. She and Giles were at the police
station. She gave him the pared down
version of events. He did the
same. There was time to catch up
properly, later. Then he said, “Tell
the policemen that I’ve found three…” No.
Remember John Deverill. “Four
bodies. They might want to take a
investigation that followed, the police were left with a lot of unanswered
questions. John Deverill’s body was
recovered from the mire, but in the process a human femur was found. The police decided to dredge through the
bog, and found remains from perhaps sixty individuals, some ancient, some
not. Many of the bones had been gnawed
and cracked, or burned, before they’d been placed in the mire.
remains of two skeletons, and the partial remains of another, were found in the
fox den at Vixen Tor. DNA analysis
showed them to be the remains of Felicity Wareham, Stephen Smith and Michael
Grace and Hope
Chillaton-Kelly were arrested for the attempted murder of Miss Buffy Summers,
as witnessed by Alison Booker and Rosemary Vernon, two of the three bodyguards
hired by Mr Gabriel to protect his investigators. In the course of their enquiries, the attention of the police was
called to the weeping willow tree in the Chillaton-Kelly’s garden. The tree was chopped down and dug up, and
beneath it was found Miss Wareham’s severed head, wrapped in silk and placed in
an expensive silver casket. The sisters
said, in their defence, that they owed allegiance to the dragon, that they had
been offered a reward beyond their imagining, and that renewed life for
Felicity had been promised. They were
sectioned to an asylum for the criminally insane. They would never come to trial.
It was never
established who had killed Carol Oldmay, but when she was buried, the funeral
was paid for by the Gabriel estate, and there were too many mourners to fit
into the church.
buried as Felicity Wareham was exhumed, and shown to be Stacey Swan. That was one more family who could mourn
properly, and bury their child.
The bones of
Stephen Smith were buried alongside those of Felicity Wareham and Michael
Gabriel, at the request of both the Smiths and the Gabriel estate. On the night after the discovery of the
bones, the Smiths had a late night visitor who was only briefly challenged by
the dogs, and who sat drinking slivovitz with Stephen’s grandfather until the
early hours of the morning, speaking of how bravely the boy must have died.
And one night,
Alford Hall burned to the ground, with Sir Edgar in it.
Summerdown House, the three of them relaxed in the breakfast room. Buffy and Angel spent more and more time in
the main house, and Giles felt increasingly uncomfortable about the cramped
space that they had. Yet, sharing a
house with a Slayer and a vampire had certain practical difficulties that he
didn’t want to think about, if he were to try and divide the building between
they’d been reviewing the notes on the Gabriel case.
Buffy put her
coffee cup down with a decided snap.
“One thing I still don’t understand is why the sisters had Felicity’s
head,” she said.
his tea moodily.
“No. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Except… within the beliefs of reincarnation,
the tree can be one of the stages of life into which the soul can return. Perhaps they thought that she would in some
sense occupy the tree.”
“What? And come back from it?”
watched and listened, and remembered the dragon. Then he heard the crunch of wheels on the drive.
There was the
usual assortment of bills and letters and advertising. There was a letter that Giles ripped open
Keith McKechnie. Everyone is fine. The window beneath Overtoun Bridge is still
closed, and, oh, good! He’s got a new
puppy! Her name’s Flurry. She’s related
to Folly and Flag, and he’s sent a photograph…”
He passed the
square of card round, and even Angel felt the urge to coo a little over the fat
barrel of a puppy that was clearly trying to chew Flag’s ear off. The letter, too, was passed round.
Then a second
letter was ripped open. A cheque fell
out. Angel snatched it up before it hit
the table. It was from Broadribb and
Shuster, for fifty thousand pounds.
There was also a letter inviting all three members of Project Paranormal
back to Merrivale House for the reading of the will. Would they come down the night before, for a meeting with the
lawyers? They could and they did.
They went down
one night early, and stayed in a hotel in Okehampton, so that they would be at
Merrivale House shortly after sunset.
The lawyers were already waiting.
With them were Miranda Lamerton, Helen Earnshaw and Jonathan Edwards. They all sat around a table in Mr Gabriel’s
private conference room, with refreshments on a side table behind them.
asked the five of us to assess the results of what you managed to achieve,”
said Mr Broadribb. “He would have been
relieved to know that his son was now decently buried, and we do have, of
course, a briefing from the police.
What we would like is your story, to fill out the report that you
provided. We don’t actually know why
Michael died, or Felicity, or Stephen.
Perhaps you would be good enough to fill in the blanks, so to speak?”
It was Giles
who replied, with a cobbled together story of a cult of human sacrifice, and
two brave young men who had died trying to rescue Felicity. Mr Broadribb, took a sip of his coffee, and
looked to his fellow interviewers. They
all shook their heads.
said Mr Broadribb, “we are well aware that you are paranormal investigators,
and are therefore accustomed to hiding things from ‘normal’ people. Michael took a sword and a shield, according
to your report. Where are those now, we
ask? And why were some of Michael’s
“We here stand
in place of Mr Gabriel, and he would have every right to know the truth. Please.”
at Buffy and Angel. Buffy pursed her
lips, and then shrugged. Angel gave the
matter more consideration, and then nodded.
Giles sat back in his chair, and told the truth. Or most of it, anyway.
When he had
finished, his audience was rapt. It was
Miranda Lamerton who broke the silence first.
“You mean to
say that Elfrieda was preying on people hereabouts for hundreds of years?”
“So far as we
can determine, yes,” replied Giles.
will be a lot safer now? With only
natural hazards to worry about?”
his glasses, and then spoke the truth as he saw it. “They’ll be safer, there’s no doubt about that. But there might be other supernatural
dangers at work on the Moor. I can’t
guarantee anything better than ‘safer’.
picked on a point not answered in Giles’ story.
weapons? What about those. They should perhaps be returned to Merrivale
“No,” said Angel. “No, they shouldn’t. We
have the sword, and best we keep it.
It’s covered in dragon’s blood, and that’s far too dangerous to leave
lying around. The shield is still with
the bones. It isn’t in any condition to
do any more shielding, believe me.”
looked at Edwards, who nodded his acceptance.
then,” Broadribb boomed. “Our
congratulations to all three of you.
We’re sorry that you should have experienced such dangers to resolve
this investigation, but you have succeeded beyond Mr Gabriel’s wildest
dreams. And you have exonerated his
son. Justice has indeed been served,
for a number of souls. All of you, you
have been Mr Gabriel’s Nemesis, his avenging angels. Thank you.
join us at the reading of the will tomorrow?
There may be something to your advantage.”
A crowd of
people had gathered in the Library, for the reading of the will, and Mr
Gabriel’s bequests were generous. As a
woman in the row behind them pointed out to her unseen companion, Anthony
Gabriel was a billionaire, and now had no direct heir. His estate could afford to be generous. There were provisions for charities, trusts
and foundations, for Universities and hospitals, for friends and retainers, and
for communities round about. His most
trusted servants weren’t forgotten, with a farm in Wales for Edwards, a villa
in the South of France for Miranda Lamerton, and a house in London for Helen
Earnshaw, all backed by generous cash sums.
At last, when
all seemed finished, and even an estate of this size exhausted, Mr Broadribb
came to the residue.
remainder of the estate shall be divided into 12 shares plus Merrivale
House. Mr Gabriel intended that six of
those shares, together with Merrivale House, would, in the event of Michael
Gabriel’s proven death, go to John Deverill.
Not an enormous bequest, but enough to maintain the house, and to
establish himself in something more productive than his existing rakehell ways,
was how Mr Gabriel saw it. He didn’t
believe in mink-lined starts in life.
“The death of
John Deverill now means that Merrivale House, and one share should go to the
Tavistock Museum. The remaining eleven
shares go in trust to Project Paranormal, to use as they see fit, to conduct
the business that they have conducted so well for Mr Gabriel.”
filed out for another ham sandwich tea, Buffy and Angel and Giles stayed rooted
to their chairs, to the amusement of Mr Broadribb and Mr Shuster.
“Um. And how much might Mr Gabriel’s residual
bequest be worth,” asked Giles in failing accents.
named a sum. Buffy’s jaw dropped.
gave the figure again.
remembered the dragon. The standard fee
was usually the princess’s hand in marriage, and half the kingdom. This was a lot less than that, but it would
see Project Paranormal on a sound financial footing for many years to
come. He offered a small prayer that
the spirits of Anthony Gabriel and Michael might now find some way to be
reconciled; that after death, the father might find something to be proud of in
his son’s life; that for them, at least, the father and son thing was over,
even if it could never be over for himself.
Giles lost no
time when they arrived back at Summerdown House, and asked Buffy and Angel to
join him in the study. As they sat
down, he bent to unlock the safe and pulled out the plans for a second house at
something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about…”
‘Nemesis’ because I am a great fan of Agatha Christie, and I wanted to see
whether I could rewrite one of her stories (her own ‘Nemesis’, in this case)
with a different story, a different cast of characters, a supernatural twist
and a different ending, and yet still have it recognisable as the Agatha
Christie story. And that’s why you
might recognise a few character names, if you’re a Christie reader.
researching my chosen setting, around Tavistock, and discovered the Saxon Earl
Orgar, and his notorious daughter Elfrida, or Aelfrida, who became a perfect
choice for villainess.
that, weird things happened. For
example, Christie called her dead girl Verity Hunt. I called mine Felicity Wareham.
Then I read that Elfrida had murdered her stepson, Edward, whose body
was found on the Wareham Road.
Spooky. Then it got spookier.
atonement for her sins, founded abbeys and nunneries. One of the nunneries that she founded was in Cholsey. Buried in Cholsey parish churchyard is…
I hope you
enjoy this little story, and the games that I’ve played with an author I admire
1 Serious Organised Crime Agency
2 Art and Antiques Unit
3 Phoenician/Etruscan scripts
recognisably related, but are probably nothing to do with demons.
4 Organic box schemes are becoming very
popular here. This is one:
Merivale) is a bit of a quarry. My
Merrivale isn’t. But, there are
intriguing ancient landscapes there, including some stone rows dating back
To see the
Museum, go here
of the Pannier Market:
based around the real life woman Elfrida (the spelling varies) who was a noted
beauty. She persuaded King Edgar to
murder her husband so that he could marry her, and then she murdered Edgar’s
son by his first wife so that her own son, Ethelred the Unready, could have the
about her comes in bits and pieces, often as part of the information about
Edgar, or Ethelred. Here’s a start:
goddess of divine retribution, who made sure that people got their just
desserts, whether they wanted them or not.
9 Vixen Tor
There’s a lot
about Vixen Tor on the web, because there’s been a big kerfuffle about access
being denied to the public recently.
10 Dartmoor Prison
This is a very
famous prison, and it really does describe itself as offering cellular
accommodation on six wings. As if
inmates had any choice in the matter…
Here are some
nice general pictures of Dartmoor:
12 Dozmary Pool
What a lovely
name for a lake. It means ‘Drop of
Sea’. Here’s a picture.
– I had two. I didn’t know that the
name came from the gypsy ‘lur’, meaning ‘thief’, but they are definitely gypsy
something about mastiffs
The town of
Featherstone is near Wakefield, in Yorkshire, and has a famous rugby league
team, Featherstone Rovers. It’s very
coy about having information on the web, though.
15 St George
George and the
Dragon. Of course.
16 Edith Swan Neck
Only a few
decades after Elfrida and Edgar came Harold and the battle of Hastings. Harold’s mistress was called Edith Swan
Neck, and it was she who identified his hacked-up body on the battlefield.