Second Contact - Horror on Halki -Negative Charge


Turbulent in his Rhodian hotel bed, Harry might have woken up there and then; but no sooner was his contact with Sandra and Layard broken than another voice intruded on his dreams, this time a far more welcome visitation:

Harry? Did you call out? Did you call His Name, Harry, into the void?

It was Möbius, but the waft and whisper of his dead-speak voice told the Necroscope that he was just as mazed and wandering as ever. 'His name?' Harry mumbled, still tossing and turning in his sticky sheets but gradually settling down again. 'Your name, do you mean? Probably. But that was earlier.'

No, His Name! Möbius insisted.

'I don't know what you're talking about,' Harry was bewildered.

Ah! Möbius sighed, partly in relief but mainly in disappointment. But I thought for a moment that you had reached a similiar conclusion. Not at all impossible, nor even improbable. For as you know, I've always considered you my peer, Harry.

He still wasn't making much sense, but Harry didn't like to tell him so. His respect for Möbius was limitless. 'Your peer?' he finally answered. 'Hardly that, sir. And whatever new conclusion you've reached, no way that I could ever match it. Not any more, for I'm not the man I used to be. Which is the reason I was looking for you.'

Ah, yes! I remember now: something about losing your deadspeak? Something about being innumerate? Well, as for the former, obviously not-for how else would you be speaking to me right now? And innumerate? What, Harry Keogh? Möbius chuckled. That is not how I would describe you!

Harry's turn to sigh his relief. Möbius's mind, at first misty, was at last coming through to him with something of its usual crystal clarity. He pressed his case:

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'But that's just it: it's the only way to describe what's happened to me. I am now innumerate; I can't conjure the equations; I no longer have access to the Möbius Continuum. And I need the Continuum now as never before.'

Innumerate! the other said yet again, plainly astonished. But how may I accept it? How may I believe it of you? You were my star pupil! Here, try this: and he inscribed a complicated mathematical sequence on the screen of Harry's mind.

Harry looked at it, examining each symbol and number in turn, and it was like trying to fathom an alien language. 'No use,' he said.

Astonishing! Möbius cried. That was a very simple problem, Harry. It appears this disability of yours is serious.

'That's what I've been saying,' Harry tried to be patient. 'And it's why I need your help.'

Only tell me what you would like me to do.

Now Harry's sigh was a glad one, for it seemed that at last he had Möbius's total attention. He quickly told him how Faethor had got into his mind and untangled the connections he'd found there, which had been stimulated into agonizing being each time Harry had attempted to use his deadspeak.

'Faethor was probably the only one who could ever have corrected it,' he explained, 'because it was one of his own sort who'd snarled it up in the first place. And so I got my deadspeak back. But that wasn't the only obstruction Faethor found in there, not by a long shot. The areas governing my basic and instinctive understanding of numbers had been closed off almost entirely. Here's what he discovered: closed doors, barred and bolted -with all my maths locked up behind them. Now Faethor is no mathematician, but still, by sheer force of will he got one of these doors open. Only for a moment, before it slammed shut again, but long enough. And beyond it... the Möbius Continuum! That was too much for him and he got out of there.'

Entirely fascinating! said Möbius. And: It seems we'll have to start your education all over again.

Harry groaned. 'That isn't quite the way I see it,' he said. 'I mean, I was hoping there'd be a much quicker way. You see, this is something I need right now, or I'm very likely a goner. What I mean is, well, Faethor could only handle those areas in which he was the expert. And so I was thinking that maybe you -'

But Harry, Möbius seemed shocked, I'm no vampire! Your mind is your own, private and inviolable, and -

'But not for much longer,' Harry cut him off. 'Not if you turn me down!' And desperately now: 'August Ferdinand, I have to go up against something entirely monstrous, and I need all the help I can get. But it's not just for me, it's for everyone and everything. For you see, if I lose this one, then my enemy gets it all - even the Möbius Continuum itself! Believe me, I'm not exaggerating. If you can't open those doors in my head, he will. And... and... and after that -' Yes?

' - After that, I just don't know.' Möbius was silent for a moment, and then: That serious, eh?

That serious, yes.'

But Harry, all your secrets are in there, your ambitions, your most private thoughts.

'Also my desires, my vices, my sins. But it's no peep-show, August. You don't have to look where you don't want to.'

The other sighed his acquiescence. Very well. How do we go about it?

Harry was eager now. 'August Ferdinand, you're the one man among all the dead who can go anywhere -literally anywhere - in three-dimensional space. You've been out to the stars, down to the bed of the deepest ocean. Through your knowledge of the Möbius Continuum, you've thrown off the fetters of the grave. So ... how we go about it is simple. I hope so, anyway. I'm going to clear my mind and drift in sleep, and simply invite you in. I'm going to say: Möbius, come into my mind. Enter, of your own free will, and do whatever is necessary to...'

AHHH! came the black, gurglingly glutinous, utterly overpowering voice of Janos Ferenczy in Harry's mind. BUT SUCH AN ELOQUENT INVITATION. NEVER LET IT BE SAID THAT I WAS THE ONE TO REFUSE YOU!

Möbius and his deadspeak were swept aside on the instant. Harry, paralysed, could do nothing. He felt the Ferenczy step inside his head as a fish feels the lamprey's clamps in its gill, and was likewise impotent to stop it. It was as if some nameless slug had oozed in through his ear to eat his brain, and was now stretching itself luxuriously before commencing the feast. He tried to bring down the shutters of his mind but they were stuck, effortlessly held open by the invader.


'My... invitation... wasn't to you!' Harry forced his brain into gear, tried to remind himself that this was just another vampire. Janos settled on the thought like a vulture to carrion:


Something of Harry's horror receded; he tightened his grip on himself, forced his feverish mind into what he hoped was a defensive stance. But he could almost smell the vampire's vile breath and feel his stealthy tread in the corridors of his most secret being.


Suddenly Harry was cool. He had felt stifled but now it was as if someone had thrown open a window to blow out all the cobwebs of his mind. He filled his lungs with the rush of this weird, conjectural ether and felt stronger for it. And from a far more buoyant if mysterious viewpoint, he wondered at the audacity of the vampire that he should feel so safe and secure as to be able to just... just walk in here.

All of these most recent thoughts were guarded, so that Janos took Harry's silence as an indication of sheer terror. AND SO THIS IS THE MIGHTY NECROSCOPE, said the vampire. AND HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE MY 'FILTHY LEECH'S MIND' IN YOUR HEAD, HARRY?

Harry continued to guard his thoughts. It wasn't difficult; it was like deadspeak, where with a small effort of concentration the dead heard only what he required them to hear. And again he felt a peculiar surge of confidence which was surely well out of place here. For, asleep and dreaming, he couldn't exert half as much control over his mind as when he was awake. However true that might be, still he sensed that Janos was becoming just a fraction more cautious.

YOU KNOW OF COURSE THAT I CAN BEND YOU TO MY WILL JUST AS I BENT - AND BROKE - THAT FOOL JORDAN? But was Janos stating a fact, or was he asking himself a question?

'Keep telling yourself that,' said Harry, without emotion. 'But remember: you entered of your own free will.'

WHAT? And now there was a ragged, worried edge to Janos's thoughts. As if for the first time he might be weighing the issues and considering his position here.

And in the back of Harry's mind, unsuspected by Janos, it was as if he heard Faethor advising him again, as he had in the ruins of his house outside Ploiesti:

Instead of shrinking back from him when you sense him near, seek him out! He would enter your mind? Enter his! He will expect you to be afraid; be bold! He will threaten; brush all such threats aside and strike! But above all else, do not let his evil weaken you. And, finally: There may be more to your mind than even you suspect, Harry...


'Well, at least you have the vanity of the Wamphyri,' said Harry. 'But what is vanity without the means to match it?'

YOU KNOW US ... WELL, said Janos, edgier than ever. PERHAPS TOO WELL.

'Having second thoughts, my son?'

And again, but angrily: WHAT?!

'Come now, not so nervous. I speak more as an uncle than a true father. But it's a fact I do have a son of my own. Except, of course, he is Wamphyri! But see, now I sense your trembling. What, you afraid? How so? For after all you have my measure. Have you not invaded my mind? Where is my resistance? With what may I resist? Here you are inside the castle of my very being. Ah, but there are castles and there are castles - and some are easier to get into than they are to get out of!' And at last Harry brought the shutters of his mind crashing down.

Janos was confused; this was no mere man; it was as if he talked to ... something far greater than a man. In his panic, so the vampire became vicious:


Harry heard him, but he also heard this:

When he yawns his great jaws at you, go in through them, for he's softer on the inside!

'Beat them all down, then,' he answered. 'Tear them from their hinges - if you dare!'

Janos dared. He ran through Harry's mind shattering every barrier the Necroscope could put in his way, tearing down the shutters and screens on his Innermost Being. All Harry's past was there, his loves and hates, his hopes and aspirations, and all trampled under as the vampire marauded through previously secret corridors of id. In any one of these places the monster might pause a while, play, cause Harry to laugh, cry, scream - or die. But realizing now that indeed he had Harry's measure, he didn't pause but rampaged. And:

WHAT? WHAT? he finally laughed, as he came to a place more heavily fortified than all the rest put together. WHY, IT CAN ONLY BE THE VERY TREASURE HOUSE! AND WHAT MARVELLOUS SECRETS ARE STORED HERE, HARRY KEOGH? ARE THESE THE VAULTS OF YOUR TALENTS?

And before Harry could answer - if he would answer -Janos had wrenched two of the doors open.

Beyond one of them was the ultimate NOTHING, so that in a single moment Janos found himself teetering on the threshold of the Möbius Continuum. And behind the other... was Faethor Ferenczy, crouching there where he directed Harry's game, and now inspired Janos's uttermost terror!

The invader reared back - from Faethor, who had now emerged more fully from his hiding place and was frantically trying to push him through the doorway to eternity, and from the Möbius Continuum both - and grunted his shock, astonishment and total disbelief. For within a mainly human identity he had stumbled across not only an Unknowable and terrifying concept, but also the entirely monstrous and alien mind of his own long-dead father!

Terror galvanized him: he tore himself free from Faethor, gasped a stream of semi-coherent obscenities at him, and fled. He broke out of Harry's id, was gone in a moment. He had done no real damage, and the Necroscope guessed that he'd never dare try it again. But -

'Faethor!' Harry growled, his mental voice as grim and wrenching as an old chalk on a new blackboard - his own voice now, no longer influenced or guided by the mind of his secret tenant. And again: 'Faethor!'

There was no answer, except perhaps a far, faint chuckle, like oily bubbles bursting on a lake of pitch. Or perhaps the furtive whir of bat-wings, echoing from the deepest, darkest cave.

'Oh, you bastard... you liar!' Harry howled. 'You're in here! You have been right from the moment I let you in! But I can find you, throw you out...'

And at last:

No need, my son, came Faethor's distant, diseased whisper. The first battle is fought and won; the sun rises; I... get... me ... gone!

After that: Harry surfaced from his dreams slow and cold, so that the sweat was dry on him by the time he was fully awake and Darcy Clarke came knocking on his door mumbling about breakfast. By then, too, Harry believed he'd worked out how he was going to play the rest of it

At 8:15 Rhodes Town was only just awake, but already Harry was down on a pier in Mandraki harbour to see his friends off. Darcy and Manolis waved several times as their boat pulled out onto the incredible blue millpond of the Aegean, but he didn't wave back. He simply nodded and watched them out of sight, and silently wished them luck.

Then he drove over to the beach at Kritika and swam for an hour before returning to the hotel and showering. Even after furiously towelling himself dry, and despite the fact that it was at least seventy-five degrees out in the sun, he was still cold. The coldness he felt had nothing to do with the outside temperature. It came from inside.

Harry's bed had been freshly made; he lay on it with his hands behind his head and thought a while, slowly emptying his mind and letting himself drift...

... Then made a stab at Faethor!

And caught him there in his mind before he could wriggle down out of sight. Faethor, right there in his mind, and the time just a little after 10:30, and a scorching sun standing high in the sky. So much for the sun as a deterrent. Harry should have known: ghosts don't burn. It might give Faethor a few bad dreams but it couldn't physically hurt him because there was nothing physical left of him. Any of Harry's dead friends could have told him that much.

'You old devil!' he said, but coldly, for he wasn't name-calling, just stating a fact. 'You old bastard, you old liar. So just like Thibor fastened on Dragosani, you're thinking of latching on to me, eh?'

Thinking of it? Faethor came into the open, and Harry could feel him as close as if he stood right there at his bedside. Fait accompli, Harry. Get used to it.

Harry shook his head and grinned mirthlessly. 'I will be rid of you,' he said. 'Believe me, Faethor, I'll be rid of you, even if it means getting rid of myself.'

Suicide? Faethor tut-tutted. No, not you, Harry. Why, you are tenacious as the ones you hunt down and destroy! You will not kill yourself while there's still a chance to kill another one of them.

'Another one of you, you mean? But you could be wrong, Faethor. Me, I'm only human. I'd die pretty easily. A bullet through my brain, like Trevor Jordan... I wouldn't even know about it. Believe me, it's tempting.'

I see no real notion of suicide in your thoughts, Faethor shrugged, so why pretend? Do you think I feel threatened? How can you threaten me, Harry? I'm already dead!

'But in me you have life, right? Listen and I'll tell you something: you really don't know what's in my thoughts. I can hide them, even from you. It's deadspeak; that's how I learned to do it; by keeping back my thoughts from the dead. I did it then so as not to hurt them, but I can just as easily use it the other way.'

For a moment - the merest tick of the clock - Harry felt Faethor wavering. And he nodded knowingly. 'See? I know what's on your mind, old devil. But do you know what's on mine, if I hide it from you... so?'

Deep in the psyche of Harry, the Father of Vampires felt himself surrounded by nothing. It fell on him like a blanket, as if to smother him. It was as if he were back in the earth near Ploiesti, where his evil fats had been rendered down the night Ladislau Giresci took his life.

'You see,' Harry told him, letting the light of his thoughts shine in again, 'I can shut you out.'

Not out, Harry. You can only shut me off. But the moment you relax I'll be back.


For a moment Faethor was silent. Then: No, for we made a bargain. And so long as you hold to it, then so shall I. When Janos is no more, then you'll be rid of me.

'You swear it?'

Upon my soul! Faethor gurgled like a night-dark swamp, and smiled an immaterial smile.

It was the natural sarcasm of the vampire, but Harry only said: Til hold you to that.' And his mental voice was cold as the spaces between the stars. 'Just remember, Faethor, I'll hold you to it...'

Manolis handled the boat. It had a small cabin and a large engine, and left a wake like low white walls melting back into the blue. Always in sight of land, they had rounded Cape Koumbourno and outpaced the water-skiers off Kritika Beach before Harry had even hit the water there. By 9:00 a.m. they had passed Cape Minas, and with the mainland lying to port were heading for Alimnia. Darcy had thought he might have trouble with his stomach, but the sea was like glass and with the wind in his face ... he might easily be enjoying an expensive holiday. That is, if he wasn't perfectly sure he was heading for horror.

Around 10:00 a pair of dolphins played chicken across the prow of the boat where it sliced the water; by which time they'd passed between the almost barren rocks of Alimnia and Makri, and Halki (which Manolis insisted should be 'Khalki', for the chalky shells it was named after) had swum into view.

Fifteen minutes later they were into the harbour and tied up, and Manolis was chatting with a pair of weathered fishermen where they mended their nets. While he made his apparently casual inquiries, Darcy bought a map from a tiny box of a shop right on the waterfront and studied what he could of the island's layout. There wasn't a great deal to study.

The island was a big rock something less than eight by four miles, with the long axis lying east to west. Looking west a mile or two, mountain crests stood wild and desolate where the island's one road of any description wandered apparently aimlessly. And Darcy knew that his and Manolis's destination lay way up there, in the heights at the end of that road. He didn't need the map to know it: his talent had been telling him ever since he stepped from the boat to dry land.

Eventually, done with talking to the fishermen, Manolis joined him. 'No transport,' he said. 'It is maybe two miles, then the climbing, and of course we will be carrying our - how do you say - picnic basket? It looks like a long hot walk, my friend, and all of it uphill.'

Darcy looked around. 'Well, what's that,' he said, 'if not transport?' A three-wheeled device, clattering like a steam-engine and pulling a four-wheel cart, came clanking out of a narrow street to park in the 'centre of town', that being the waterfront with its bars and tavernas.

The driver was a slim, small Greek of about forty-five; he got down from his driver's seat and went into a grocery store. Darcy and Manolis were waiting for him when he came out. His name was Nikos; he owned a taverna and rooms on a beach across the bottleneck of the promontory behind the town; business was slow right now and he could run them up to the end of the road for a small remuneration. When Manolis mentioned a sum of fifteen hundred drachmae his eyes lit up like lamps, and after he'd collected his fish, groceries, booze and other items for the taverna, then they were off.

Sitting in the back of the cart had to be better than walking - but not much better. On the way Nikos stopped to unload his purchases at the taverna, and to open a couple of bottles of beer for his passengers, and then the journey continued.

After a little while and when he'd adjusted his position against the jolting, Darcy took a swig of his beer and said: 'What did you find out?'

'There are two of them,' Manolis answered. 'They come down at evening to buy meat - red meat, no fish - and maybe drink a bottle of wine. They stay together, don't talk much, do their own cooking up at the site... if they cook!' He shrugged and looked narrow-eyed at Darcy. 'They work mainly at night; when the wind is in the right direction the villagers occasionally hear them blasting. Nothing big, just small charges to shift the rocks and the rubble. During the day... they are not seen to do too much. They laze around in the caves up there.'

'What about the tourists?' Darcy inquired. 'Wouldn't they be a nuisance? And how come Lazarides - or Janos - gets away with it? I mean, digging in these ruins? Is your government crazy or something? This is ... it's history!'

Again Manolis's shrug. 'The Vrykoulakas apparently has his friends. Anyway, they are not actually digging in the ruins. Beyond the castle where it sits up on the crest, the cliff falls away very steeply. Down there are ledges, and caves. This is where they are digging. The villagers think they are the crazy men. What, treasure up there? Dust and rocks, and that's all.'

Darcy nodded. 'But Janos knows better, eh? Let's face it, if he buried it, he should know where to dig for it!'

Manolis agreed. 'As for the tourists: there are maybe thirty of them right now. They spend their time in the tavernas, on the beach, lazing around. They are on holiday, right? Some climb up to the castle, but never down the other side. And never at night.'

'It feels weird,' said Darcy, after a while.

'What does?'

'We're going up there to kill these things.'

'Right,' Manolis answered. 'But only if it's necessary. I mean, only if they are things!'

Darcy gave an involuntary shudder and glanced at the long, narrow wicker basket which lay between them. Inside it were spearguns, wooden stakes, Harry Keogh's crossbow, and a gallon of petrol in a plastic container. 'Oh, they are,' he said then, and offered a curt nod. 'You can believe me, they are...'

Fifteen minutes later Nikos brought his vehicle to a halt in a rising re-entry. To the left, pathways which were little more than goat tracks led steeply up through the ruined streets of an ancient, long-deserted hill town; above the ruins stood a gleaming white monastery, apparently still in use; and higher still, on the almost sheer crown of the mountain itself -

' - The castle!' Manolis breathed.

As Nikos and his wonderful three-wheel workhorse made an awkward turn and went rattling and jolting back down into the valley, Darcy shielded his eyes to gaze up at the ominous walls of the castle, standing guard there as it had through all the long centuries. 'But ... is there a way up?'

'Yes,' Manolis nodded. 'A goat track. Hairpins all the way, but quite safe. According to the fishermen, anyway.'

Carrying the basket between them, they set out to climb. Beyond the monastery and before the real climbing could begin, they paused to look back. Across the valley, they could pick out the boundaries of long-forsaken fields and the shells of old houses, where olive groves and orchards had long run wild and returned to nature.

'Sponges,' said Manolis, by way of explanation. 'They were sponge fishermen, these people. But when the sponges ran out, so did the people. Now, as you see, it's mainly ruins. Perhaps one day the tourists will bring it back to life again, eh?'

Darcy had other things than life on his mind. 'Let's get on,' he said. 'Already I don't want to go any further, and if we hang about much longer I won't want to go at all!'

After that it was all ochre boulders, yellow outcrops and winding goat tracks, and where there were gaps in the rocks dizzying views which were almost vertiginous. But eventually they found themselves in the shadow of enormous walls and passed under a massive, sloping stone lintel into the ruin itself. The place was polyglot and Darcy had been right about its historic value. It was Ancient Greek, Byzantine, and last but not least Crusader. Climbing up onto walls three to four feet thick, the view was fantastic, with all the coastlines of Halki and its neighbouring islands laid open to them.

They clambered over heaps of stony debris in the shell of a Crusader chapel whose walls still carried fading murals of saints wearing faded haloes, and finally stood on the rim of the ruins looking down on the Bay of Trachia.

'Down there,' said Manolis. That's where they are. Look: do you see those signs of excavation, where all of that rubble makes a dark streak on the weathered rocks? That's them. Now we must find the track down to them. Darcy, are you all right? You have that look again.'

Darcy was anything but all right. They... they're down there,' he said. 'I feel rooted to the spot. Every step weighs like lead. Christ, my talent's a coward!'

'You want to rest here a moment?'

'God, no! If I stop now I'll not get started again. Let's get on.'

There were several empty cigarette packets, scuff marks on the rocks, places where the sandy soil had been compacted by booted feet; the way down was neither hard to find nor difficult to negotiate. Soon they found a rusting wheelbarrow and a broken pick standing on the wide shelf of a natural ledge which had weathered out from the strata. And half-way along the ledge... that was where much of the stony debris had been excavated from the mouths of several gaping caves. Moving quietly, they approached the cave showing the most recent signs of work and paused at its entrance. And as they took out spearguns from their basket and loaded them, Manolis whispered: 'You're sure we'll need these, yes?'

'Oh, yes,' Darcy nodded, his face ashen.

Manolis took a step into the echoing mouth of the cave.

'Wait!' Darcy gasped, his Adam's apple working. 'It would be safer to call them out.'

'And let them know we're here?'

'In the sunlight, we'll have the advantage,' Darcy gulped. 'And anyway, my urge to get the fuck out of here just climbed the scale by several big notches. Which probably means they already know we're here!'

He was right. A shadow stepped forward out of the cave's darker shadows, moving carefully towards them where they stood in the entrance. They looked at each other with widening eyes, and together thumbed the safeties off their weapons and lifted them warningly. The man in the cave kept coming, but turned his shoulder side on and went into something of a forward leaning crouch.

Manolis spat out a stream of gabbled Greek curses, snatched his Beretta from its shoulder holster and transferred the speargun to his left hand. The man, thing, vampire was still coming at them out of the dark, but they saw him more clearly now. He was tall, slim, strangely ragged-looking in silhouette. He wore a wide-brimmed hat, baggy trousers, a shirt whose unbuttoned sleeves flapped loosely at the wrists. He looked for all the world like a scarecrow let down off his pole. But it wasn't crows he was scaring.

'Only... one of them?' Darcy gasped - and felt his hair stand on end as he heard pebbles sliding and clattering on the ledge behind them!

The man in the cave lunged forward; Manolis's gun flashed blindingly, deafeningly; Darcy looked back and saw a second - creature? - bearing down on them. But this one was much closer. Like his colleague in the cave he wore a floppy hat, and in its shade his eyes were yellow, viciously feral. Worse, he held a pickaxe slantingly overhead, and his face was twisted in a snarl where he aimed it at Darcy's back!

Darcy - or perhaps his talent - turned himself to meet the attack, aimed point-blank, squeezed the trigger of his speargun. The harpoon flew straight to its target in the vampire's chest. The impact brought him to a halt; he dropped his pickaxe, clutched at the spear where it transfixed him, staggered back against the wall of the cliff. Darcy, frozen for a moment, could only watch him lurching and mewling there, coughing up blood.

In the cave, Manolis cursed and fired his gun again -and yet again - as he followed his target deeper into the darkness. Then... Darcy heard an inhuman shriek followed by the slither of silver on steel, and finally the meaty thwack of Manolis's harpoon entering flesh. The sounds brought him out of his shock as he realized that both his and Manolis's weapons were now empty. He leaned to grab a harpoon from the open basket, and the man on the ledge staggered forward and kicked the whole thing, basket and contents, right off the rim!

'Jesus!' Darcy yelled, his throat hoarse and dry as sandpaper as again the flame-eyed thing turned towards him. Then the vampire paused, looked about and saw its pickaxe where it lay close to the rising cliff. It moved to pick it up, and Darcy moved too. His talent told him to run, run, run! But he yelled 'Fuck you!' and flew like a madman at the stooping vampire. He bowled the thing over, and himself snatched up the pick. The tool was heavy but such was Darcy's terror that it felt like a toy in his hands.

Manolis came unsteadily out of the cave in time to see Darcy swing his weapon in a deadly arc and punch the wider point of its dual-purpose head into his undead opponent's forehead. The creature made gurgling, gagging sounds and sank to its knees, then slumped against the cliff face.

'Petrol,' Manolis gasped.

'Over the edge,' Darcy told him, his voice a croak.

Manolis looked over the rim. Further down the mountain, maybe fifty feet lower, the wicker basket was jammed in the base of a rocky outcrop, where debris from the diggings had piled up to form a scree slide. The lid was open and several items lay scattered about. 'You stay, keep watch, and I'll get it,' Manolis said.

He gave Darcy his gun and started to clamber down. Darcy kept one eye on the vampire with the pickaxe in his head, and the other on the leering mouth of the cave. The creature he had dealt with - a man, yes, but a creature, too - was not 'dead'. It should be, but of course it was undead. The small percentage of its system which was vampire protoplasm was working in it even now, desperately healing its wounds. Even as Darcy watched it shuddered and its yellow eyes opened, and its hand crept shakily towards the harpoon in its chest.

Gritting his teeth, Darcy stepped closer to it. His guardian angel howled at him, poured adrenalin into his veins and yelled run, run! But he shut out all warnings and grasped the end of the spear, and yanked it this way and that in the vampire's flesh, until the thing gnashed its teeth and coughed up blood, then flopped back and lay still again.

Darcy stepped back from it on legs that trembled like jelly - and gave a mighty, heart-stopping start as something grasped his ankle!

He glanced back and down, and saw the one from the cave where he'd come crawling, his iron hand clasping Darcy's foot. There was a spear through his throat just under the Adam's apple, and the right side of the thing's face had been shot half away, but still he was mobile and one mad eye continued to glare from a black orbit set in a mess of red flesh. Darcy might easily have fainted then; instead he fell backwards away from the undead thing, and sat down with a bump on the ledge. And aiming directly between his feet, he emptied Manolis's gun right into the grimacing half-face.

At that point Manolis returned. He hauled the basket up behind him, ripped open its lid and yanked out Harry Keogh's crossbow. A moment later he was loading up, and just in time ... for the one on the ledge had torn the pickaxe from its head and was now working to pull out the harpoon from its chest!

'Jesus! Oh, Jesus!' Manolis croaked. He stepped close to the blood-frothing horror, aimed his weapon from less than three feet away, and fired the wooden bolt straight into its heart.

Darcy had meanwhile scrambled backwards away from the other creature. Manolis caught hold of him and hauled him to his feet, said: 'Let's finish it, while we still can.'

They dragged the vampires back inside the cave, as far back as they dared, then hurried back out into sunlight. But Darcy was finished; he could do no more; his talent was freezing hiiri right out of it. 'Is OK,' Manolis understood. 'I can do it.'

Darcy crawled away along the ledge and sat there shivering, while Manolis took up the petrol and again entered the cave. A moment later and he reappeared, leaving a thin trail of petrol behind him. He'd liberally doused everything in the cave and the container was almost empty. He backed away towards Darcy, sprinkling the last few drops, then tossed the container far out into empty air and took out a cigarette lighter. Striking the flint, he held the naked flame to the trail of petrol.

Blue fire so faint as to be almost invisible raced back along the ledge and into the mouth of the cave. There came a whoosh and a tongue of fire like some giant's blowtorch - followed in the next moment by a terrific explosion that blew out the mouth of the cave in chunks of shattered rock and brought loose scree and pebbles avalanching down from above. The shock of it was sufficient to cause Manolis to stumble, and sit down beside Darcy.

They looked at each other and Darcy said: 'What the - ?'

Manolis's jaw hung loosely open. Then he licked dry lips and said: "Their explosives. They must have kept their explosive charges in there.'

They got up and went shakily back to the blocked mouth of the cave. Down below, boulders were still bounding down the mountain's steep contours to the sea. Hundreds of tons of rock had come crushingly down, sealing the diggings off. And it was plain that nothing alive - but nothing - was ever going to come out of there.

'It's done,' said Manolis, and Darcy found strength to nod his agreement.

As they turned away, Darcy saw something gleaming yellow in the rubble. Next door to the collapsed cave another, smaller opening was still issuing puffs of dust and a little smoke. The stone wall between the two excavations had been shattered, spilling fractured rock onto the ledge. But among the debris lay a lot more than just rocks.

Darcy and Manolis stepped among the rubble and looked more closely at what had been unearthed. There in that broken wall, carefully packed in and sealed behind cleverly shaped blocks of stone, had lain the treasure for which Jianni Lazarides - alias Janos Ferenczy - had searched. That same treasure he himself had lain down all those centuries ago. Only the changing contours of the mountain, carved and fretted by nature in storms and earthquakes, had confused and foiled him. The old Crusader castle had been his landmark, but even that massive silhouette had crumbled and changed through the long years. Still, he'd missed his mark by no more than two or three feet.

The two men scuffed among the dust and broken rocks, their excitement dulled to anticlimax after the horror of their too recent experience. They saw a treasure out of time: Thracian gold! Small bowls and lidded cups... gold rhytons spilling rings, necklaces and arm clasps... a bronze helmet stuffed to brimming with earrings, belt clasps and pectorals... even a buckled breastplate of solid gold!

Their find eventually got through to Manolis. 'But what do we do with it?'

'We leave it here,' Darcy straightened up. 'It belongs to the ghosts. We don't know what it cost Janos to bring it here and bury it, or where - or how - he got it in the first place. But there's blood on it, be sure. Eventually someone will come looking for those two, and find this instead. Let the authorities handle it. I don't even want to touch it.'

'You are right,' said Manolis, and they climbed back up to the castle.

By 12:30 the two were back down into the village, where Manolis refuelled the boat for the trip to Karpathos. While he worked his fishermen friends came over and asked how were the diggers. 'They were blasting,' Manolis answered after a moment, 'so we didn't disturb them. Anyway, the cliffs are very steep and a man could easily fall.'

'Snotty buggers anyway,' one of the fishermen commented. 'They don't bother with us and we don't bother with them!'

Finished with his fuelling, Manolis bought a litre of ouzo and they all sat around tables in an open taverna and killed the bottle dead. Later, as their boat pulled away from the stone jetty, the Greek said, 'I needed that.'

Darcy sighed and agreed, 'Me, too. It's nasty, thirsty work.'

Manolis looked at him and nodded. 'And a lot more of it to come before we're through, my friend. It is perhaps the good job ouzo is cheap, eh? Just think, with all of that gold we left up there, we could have bought the distillery!' Darcy looked back and watched the hump of rock which was Halki slowly sinking on the horizon, and thought: Yes, and maybe we'll wish we had...

Halki to Karpathos was a little more than sixty miles by the route Manolis chose; he preferred to stay in sight of land so far as possible, and to cruise rather than race his engine. When the rocks Ktenia and Karavolas were behind them, then he set a course more nearly south-west and left Rhodes behind for Karpathos proper.

That meant the open sea, and now Darcy's stomach began to play him up a little. It was a purely physical thing and not too bad; after what he'd faced already he wasn't going to throw up now. At least his talent wasn't warning against shipwrecks or anything.

To take Darcy's mind off his misery, Manolis told him a few details about Karpathos:

'Second biggest of the Dodecanese Islands,' he said. 'She lies just about half-way between Rhodes and Crete. Where Halki goes east to west, Karpathos she goes north to south. Maybe fifty kilometres long but only seven or eight wide. Just the crest of submarine mountains, that's all. Not the big place, really, and not many peoples. But she has known the turbulent history!'

'Is that right?' said Darcy, scarcely listening.

'Oh, yes! Just about everyone ruled or owned or was the governor of Karpathos at one time or another. The Arabs, Italian pirates out of Genoa, the Venetians, Crusaders of the Knights of St John, Turks, Russians - even the British! Huh! It took seven centuries for us Greeks to get it back!'

And when there was no answer: 'Darcy? Are you all right?'

'Only just. How long before we're there?'

'We're almost half-way there already, my friend. Another hour, or not much more, and we'll be rounding the point just under the landing strip. That's where we should find the Lazarus. We can take a look at her, but that's all. Maybe we can hail someone - or something -on board, and see what we think of him.'

'Right now I don't think much of anybody,' said Darcy...

But as it happened Manolis was wrong and the Lazarus was not there. They searched the small bays at the southern extremity of the island, but found no sign of the white ship. Manolis's patience was soon exhausted. In a little while, when it became obvious that their searching was in vain, he headed north for the sandy shallow-water beach at Amoupi and anchored there where they could wade ashore. They ate a Greek salad at the beach taverna, and drank a small bottle of retsina between them. When Darcy fell asleep in his chair under the taverna's split-bamboo awning, then Manolis sighed, sat back and lit a cigarette. He smoked several, admired the tanned, bouncing breasts of English girls where they played in the sea, drank another bottle of retsina before it was time to wake Darcy up. Just after 5:05 they set out to return to Rhodes.

That evening, coming in stiff, weary, and tanned by sun and sea-spray, Darcy and Manolis found four people waiting for them in the lounge of their hotel. There were several moments of confusion. Darcy knew two of the arrivals well enough, for Ben Trask and David Chung were his own men; but Zekintha Foener (now Simmons), and her husband Michael or 'Jazz', were strangers to him except by hearsay. Darcy had anticipated four and had booked accommodation accordingly, but of this specific group he had only expected two. On Harry Keogh's advice he had tried to get a message to Zek and Jazz that they should stay out of it, but either it hadn't reached them or they had chosen to ignore it. He would find out later. The two missing men were E-Branch operatives finalizing a job in England, who would fly out here a.s.a.p. on completion of that task.

The four newcomers, having already dropped off their luggage in their rooms and introduced each other, were more or less ready to talk business. Darcy need only introduce Manolis and make known the Greek policeman's role in things, then replay the action so far, and all systems would be go. Before that, however...

... Darcy and Manolis excused themselves and took invigorating showers before rejoining the E-Branch people where they waited for them. Then Manolis took them all to a rather expensive taverna on the other side of town which wasn't likely to be swamped with tourists, and there arranged seating around a large secluded corner table with a view on the night ocean. Here Darcy quickly restated the introductions, this time detailing the various talents of his group.

There was the married couple Zek and Jazz Simmons, who had been on Starside together with Harry Keogh. Zek was a telepath of outstanding ability and an authority on vampires. She was experienced as few before her, in that she had met up with the minds of the Real Thing, the Wamphyri themselves, in an entirely alien world. She was very good-looking, about five-nine in height, slim, blonde and blue-eyed. Her Greek mother had named her after Zante (or Zakinthos), the island where she was born. Her father had been East German, a parapsychologist. Zek would be in her mid-thirties, maybe eighteen months to two years older than her husband.

Jazz Simmons had no extraordinary talents other than those with which an entirely mundane Mother Nature had endowed him, plus those in which British Intelligence had expertly instructed him. After Starside, he had opted out of intelligence work to be with Zek in Greece and the Greek islands. Just a fraction under six feet tall, Jazz had unruly red hair, a square jaw under slightly hollow cheeks, grey eyes, good strong teeth, hands that were hard for all that they were artistically tapered, and long arms that gave him something of a gangling, loose-limbed appearance. Lean, tanned and athletic, he looked deceptively easy-going... was easy-going in normal circumstances and when there was little or no pressure. But he was not to be underestimated. He'd been trained to a cutting edge in surveillance, close protection, escape and evasion, winter warfare, survival, weapons handling (to marksman grade), demolition and unarmed combat. The only thing Jazz had lacked had been experience, and he'd got that in the best - or worst - of all possible places, on Starside.

Then there were the two men from E-Branch: David Chung, a locator and scryer, and Ben Trask, a human lie-detector. Chung was twenty-six, a Chinese 'Cockney' tried and true. Born within the sound of Bow bells, he had been with the Branch for nearly six years and during that time had trained himself to a high degree in the extrasensory location of illegal drugs, especially cocaine. If not for the fact that he'd been working on a long-term case in London, then he and not Ken Layard might well have been out here in the first place.

Ben Trask was a blocky five feet ten, mousey-haired and green-eyed, overweight and slope-shouldered, and usually wore what could only be described as a lugubrious expression. His speciality was Truth: presented with a lie or deliberately falsified concept, Trask would spot it immediately. E-Branch loaned him out to the police authorities on priority jobs, and he was in great demand by Foreign Affairs to see through the political posturing of certain less than honest members of the international community. Ben Trask knew the ins and outs of London's foreign embassies better than most people know the backs of their hands. Also, he'd played a part in the Yulian Bodescu affair and wasn't likely to take anything too lightly.

While they waited for their meals, Darcy filled in all the missing pieces for his team and watched them tighten up as the full horror of the situation was brought home to them. Then he was interested to know why Jazz and Zek had invited themselves in on this thing.

Jazz answered for them. 'It's Harry, isn't it? Harry Keogh? He gets our vote every time. If Harry has problems, it's no use telling Zek and me to keep a low profile.'

That's very loyal of you,' Darcy told him, 'but it was Harry himself who would have preferred to keep you out of it - for your own sakes. Not that I'm complaining... I'm short of a couple of good hands and you two probably fit the bill perfectly. Harry's main concern was that Janos Ferenczy is one powerful mentalist. He has already killed Trevor Jordan and controls Ken Layard, so you can see why Harry was worried. He was mainly concerned about what would happen if Janos came up against you, Zek. However, since Janos is now in Romania - that is, to the best of our knowledge - and with Harry gone there to hunt him down...' Darcy shrugged. 'Myself, I'm delighted to have you on the team!'

'So when does it all start - for us, I mean?' David Chung was eager to get into it.

'For you it starts tomorrow,' Darcy told him. 'The "active service" part of it, anyway. Tonight, back at the hotel after we've finished here, that will be the time for preparation and planning. That's when we detail, as best we can, who will be doing what - and to whom!' He spied a waiter moving towards their table with a loaded trolley. 'As for this very moment: I suggest we enjoy our food and relax as best we can. Because you'd better believe that tomorrow's a busy day.'

While Darcy Clarke and his team thought forward to their next day, Harry Keogh was looking back on the one just ended.

Harry's flight to Athens had been uneventful. Aboard the plane for Budapest, however, when he'd closed his eyes even before takeoff and determined to catch an hour's sleep...

... He'd felt them there the moment he began to drift into dreams: alien probes touching on his mind. And knowing they were there he'd forced himself to stay awake and alert, while yet hiding that fact from the telepathic talents who had found him. 'They' could only be Ken Layard and Sandra, but their ESP was cold now and tainted. Almost completely in thrall to Janos Ferenczy, their tentative touches were slimy as the walls of a sewer, so that Harry must fight not to recoil from them. But he remembered what Faethor had told him, and strangely enough accepted that it was probably good advice:

Instead of shrinking back from him when you sense him near, seek him out! He would enter your mind? Enter his!

And as the vampire intelligences grew less apprehensive of discovery and avidly scanned him, so Harry in turn scanned them. Indeed he spoke to them in whispers, under his breath:

'Ken? Sandra? So he has your co-operation now. Well, and you've done a good job for him. But why so secretive about it, eh? I was expecting you. I knew that he would use you, that in fact he can't do without you. What, him? Face to face and man to man? Not a chance. Your vampire superman is a coward! He fears I'll creep up on him in the night. One man against him and everything he harbours up there in that pesthole in the mountains, and he's afraid of me. You warned me he'd read the future and seen his victory there. Well, you can tell him from me that the future doesn't always work out that way.'

Ahhh! He sensesss ussss! It was Sandra, hissing like a snake in Harry's mind. He knows us. His thoughts are strong. His hidden strengths are surfacing.

She was right and Harry felt the strangeness of it. He was stronger, and didn't know the source of his new vitality. Was it Faethor? he wondered. Possibly. But for the moment there was nothing he could do about Faethor, and in a storm any port is better than none.

Ken Layard's locator's mind was fastened on Harry like a carrier beam. He let his own slide down it (but secretly) to its source, gazed out through Layard's eyes.

It was as if Harry were there in the flesh... and he was, in Layard's flesh! They were in the same subterranean room as before. Sandra sat opposite him (opposite Layard) at the table, and Janos furiously paced the pavings to and fro, to and fro. 'Where is he? What is he thinking?' the monster's eyes burned red where he turned them on Sandra. Plainly he was worried, but he tried to hide it behind a mask of fury.

'He is aboard a plane,' Sandra answered, 'and he is coming.'

'So soon? He's a madman! Doesn't he know he'll die? Can he not see that my plans for him go beyond death? What are his thoughts?'

'He hides them from me.'

Janos stopped pacing, thrust his half-handsome, half-hideous face at her. 'He hides his thoughts? And you a mentalist, a thought-thief? What, and do you seek to make a fool of me? And have I not warned you how it will go for you, if you continue to place obstacles in my way? Now I ask you again: what - are - his �C thoughts!'

The master vampire had come forward to lean upon the table with both hands, glaring into the frightened girl's eyes from only inches away. His lips curled back like a leather muzzle shrivelling from the jagged teeth of some dead carnivore, threatening her all too graphically, but she had no answer for him except: 'He - he is too strong for me!'

'Too strong for you?' Janos raged. 'Too strong? Listen: in the bowels of this very castle lie the ashes of men like satyrs who in their day swarmed rampant across this land raping to the death women, men and babes alike!' he told her. 'Aye, and when they'd slain the lot, then even the beasts of the field were not beneath their lust! For two thousand years some of these creatures - whose loins are now dust, whose bones are turned to salts - have gone without. But I say this to you: do my bidding now before I'm tempted to raise them up and command them how to instruct you! An unending torment, Sandra, aye: for I would line them up against you, and as fast as they tore you your vampire would repair the damage! Only picture it: your sweet flesh awash in all their filth, ruined and ruined again... and again... and again!'

Harry looked at him out of Layard's eyes, drew phlegm up from Layard's throat, and spat it into the vampire's face. And as the monster went reeling, gurgling and clawing at his face, Harry said to him with Layard's voice: 'Are you deaf as well as insane, Janos Ferenczy? She can't see into my affairs - for I am right here, seeing into yours!'

Layard, shocked and astonished, sat clutching at his own throat; but for a few seconds more at least, Harry kept a grip on what he now commanded.

Janos staggered back to the table, his head cocked questioningly, disbelievingly on one side. 'What?' he glared madly at Layard. 'What?' He lifted a claw of a hand.

'Go on,' Harry taunted. 'Strike! For it's only your thrall you'll hurt and not the one who commands him!'

Janos's jaw fell open. He understood. 'You?' he breathed.

Harry caused Layard's face to split into a humourless grin. And: 'You know,' he said, 'this fascination of yours with my mind isn't merely unhealthy and irksome, I suspect it's also contagious. I had thought you would learn your lesson, Janos, but apparently I was wrong. Very well ... so now let's see what goes on in your head!'

'Release him!' Janos howled, clutching his head in talon hands and hurling himself away from the table. 'Send the Necroscope out of here! I don't want him in my mind!'

'Don't worry,' Harry told him, as Layard jerked and writhed where he sat. 'Did you really think I would bathe myself in a sewer? Only remember this, Janos Ferenczy: you sought to discover my plans. Well, and now I'll tell them to you. I'm coming for you, Janos. And as you now see, our powers are more or less equal.'

He withdrew from Layard's mind and opened his eyes. The plane was off the ground, heading north and a little west for Budapest. And Harry was well satisfied. Back in Edinburgh less than a week ago he'd wondered at his precognitive glimpses of some vague and frightening future, and felt that he stood on the threshold of strange new developments. Now he experienced a sense of justification: his Necroscope's powers were growing, expanding to fill the gap created by Harry Jnr's tampering. That was Harry's explanation, anyway...

Half-way into the flight - asleep in his seat, and unafraid to be asleep - Harry reached out with his deadspeak and found Möbius resting in the Leipzig graveyard where he lay buried. Möbius knew him at once and said: Harry, I called out to you but got no answer. Actually, I've been half-afraid to contact you. That last time ... it was frightening, Harry.

Harry nodded. So now you know what I'm up against. Well, at the moment I have him on the run; he's not sure what I can do; but he knows whatever he plans against me will have to be more physical than mental. Physically, I'm still very vulnerable. That's why I need the Möbius Continuum.

Möbius was at once willing. You want me to take it up where I left off?


Very well, open your mind to me.

Harry did as he was instructed, said: Enter of your own free will, and a moment later felt Möbius timid in the labyrinth vaults of his mind.

You're an open book, said Möbius. I could read you, if I wished it.

Find the pages that are stuck down, Harry told him. Unglue them for me. That's the part of me that I've lost. Only unlock those doors and I'll have access to my best shot.

Möbius went deeper, into yawning caverns of extra-mundane mind. And: Locked? he said then. I'll say they have been - and by an expert! But Harry, these are no ordinary locks and bolts and bars. I'm within the threshold of your Knowledge, where an entire section has been closed off. This is indeed the source of your instinctive maths, but it is sealed with symbols I don't even recognize! Whoever did it... was a genius!

Harry offered a grim nod. Yes, he was. But Faethor Ferenczy, and his son Janos, they were both able to open those doors by sheer force of will.

Möbius was realistic. They are Wamphyri, Harry. And I was only a man. I was a determined man, and I was patient. But I was not a giant!

You can't do it? Harry held his breath.

Not by force of will. By reason, perhaps.

Then do what you can, Harry breathed again.

I may need your help.

How can I help you?

While I work, you can study.

Study what?

Your numbers, said Möbius, surprised. What else?

But I know less than a backward child! Harry protested. Why, to me the very word 'numbers' suggests only a vague and troublesome concept.

Study them anyway, Möbius told him, and lit up a screen before his inner eye. Simple additions awaited solutions, and incomplete multiplication tables glared at Harry with empty white spaces for eyes, waiting for him to print the answers on their pupils.

I... I don't know the fucking answers! Harry groaned.

Then work them out, Möbius growled. For he had problems enough of his own.

Four rows of seats in front of Harry, across the central aisle, someone turned to glance back at his pale, troubled, sleeping face. The man was girl-slender and effeminate in his mannerisms. He smoked a Marlboro in a cigarette holder, and his heavy-lidded, deep set-eyes were dark as his thoughts.

Nikolai Zharov had fouled up very badly in England and this was his punishment. Where Norman Harold Wellesley and Romania's Securitatea had failed, now it was Zharov's turn. His superiors had spelled it out to him: go to Greece and kill Keogh yourself. And if you fail... don't bother to come back.

Well, Greece was way back there somewhere now, but Zharov didn't suppose it mattered much. Greece, Hungary, Romania - who would care where he died? No one at all -

- Just as long as he died...

By 6:30 p.m. Harry Keogh, tourist, had been out of Budapest airport and onto a train heading east for a place called Mezobereny. That had been the end of the line for him, the halt at which he'd disembarked. Past Mezobereny the tracks turned southward for Arad, which was too far out of his way. From now on Harry would go by bus, taxi, cart, on foot - whatever it took.

On the outskirts of Mezobereny he found a small family hotel called the Sarkad after the district, where he took a room for the night. He'd chosen the Sarkad for the old world graveyard which stood guarded by tall, shady trees in a few acres just across the dusty village road. If there were to be night visitations - dreams influenced by his enemies, maybe, or perhaps more physical visitors -Harry wanted the dead on his side. Which was why, before he settled down for the night, he stood by his window and sent his deadspeak thoughts out across the road to the dead in their graves.

They had heard of the Necroscope, of course, but could scarcely believe that he was actually here; full of questions, they kept him busy until late. But as the midnight hour slipped by, Harry was obliged to tell them that he was tired, and that he really must rest in preparation for the day ahead. And, getting into bed, he thought to himself: What a masterpiece of understatement!

Harry was no spy in the normal sense of the word. If he had been then he might have noticed the man who'd followed him from the railway station to the Sarkad and taken the room next door.

Earlier, Nikolai Zharov had listened to the Necroscope moving about in his room, and when Harry had gone to his window, so had the Russian. The light from the rooms had fallen on the road, casting Harry's shadow where he stood looking out. Zharov had moved back, put out his light, then approached the window again. And he'd looked where Harry was looking.

Then, for the first time, Zharov had noticed the graveyard. And at that he'd shuddered, drawn his curtains, lit a cigarette and sat on the edge of his bed to smoke it. Zharov knew about Harry Keogh's talent. He had been in Bonnyrig when Wellesley tried to kill the Necroscope, and he'd seen what came out of Keogh's garden after the traitor's attack failed. Add to that certain details from the report of those Securitatea cretins in Romania, and... perhaps this wasn't after all the perfect time or place for a murder.

But it seemed a perfectly good time to check his weapons. He opened the secret compartment in the base of his briefcase, took out and assembled the parts of a small but deadly automatic pistol. A magazine of sixteen rounds went up into the grip, and a spare magazine into his pocket. There was also a knife with an eight-inch blade slender as a screwdriver, and a garotte consisting of a pair of grips with eighteen inches of piano wire strung between them. Any one of these methods would suffice, but Zharov must be sure when the time came that it was performed with despatch. Keogh must not be given the least opportunity to talk to anyone. Or rather, to anything.

And again the picture of those two - people? - spied across the river near Bonnyrig, coming out of Keogh's garden, flashed unbidden on Zharov's mind's eye. He remembered how they'd moved - each step an effort of supernatural will - and how one of them had seemed to be leaving bits behind, which followed on of their own accord after him into the night.

It was early when the Russian thought these things; he wasn't yet ready for bed; putting on his coat again, he'd gone down to the hotel barroom to get himself a drink.

Indeed, several drinks...

Just as Harry had talked to his new friends in their place across the road when he was awake, so he now talked to them in his dreams; except this time the conversation was far less coherent, indeed vague, as most dreams are. But he was not so deeply asleep that he couldn't sense Ken Layard's locator mind when it swept over him (which it did, frequently), nor so far removed from the waking situation that he couldn't distinguish between the trivial gossip of the teeming dead and the occasional tidbit of real-life importance. So that when his deadspeak thoughts first picked up the new voice, he knew instinctively that this was a matter of some consequence.

Accordingly, he made inquiry:

Who are you? Were you looking for me?

Harry Keogh? the new voice came up stronger. Thank God I've found you!

Do I know you? Harry was a little cautious.

In a way, said the other. We've met. Indeed, I tried to kill you!

Now Harry recognized him, and knew why he hadn't made the connection earlier. It was simple: this was a voice he would normally associate with life - until now, anyway. It wasn't, or at least it shouldn't be, the voice of a dead man. Wellesley? he said. But... what happened?

You mean, why am I dead? Well, they put me through quite a lot, Harry. Not physical stuff, no, of course not, but lots of questioning - you know? Physical I could probably handle, but mental? The deeper they dug into me the more clearly I could see what a shit I'd been. It was all over for me. A long term to serve, no career to go back to, no real prospects. Well, it sounds hackneyed, I know, but the simple fact of it was that I was 'a ruined man'. So... I hanged myself. See, they don't offer you a gun anymore - the honourable solution, and all that rot - so I used a pair of leather bootlaces. I was half-afraid they'd snap, but they didn't.

Harry found it hard to pity him. The man was a traitor after all. So what do you want from me? he said. Would you like me to say how sorry I am? Offer you a shoulder to cry on? Hey, I have lots of friends among the dead who didn't try to kill me!

That's not why I'm here, Harry, Wellesley told him. No, for I got what I deserved. I think we all do. I came to say I'm sorry, that's all. To apologize that I wasn't stronger.

Harry gave a snort. Oh, wow! he said. Gee, Harry, I'm sorry I wasn't stronger. Hey, if I had been I would've fucking killed you!

Wellesley sighed. Well, it was worth a try. I'm sorry I bothered you. It's just that when I killed myself, I didn't know my hard times were only just beginning. He began to withdraw.

What's that? Harry held him. Your hard times? Then he saw what the other meant. The dead don't want to know you, right?

Wellesley shrugged. He was a beaten man. Something like that. But it's like I said: we get what we deserve. I'm sorry I bothered you, Harry.

No, wait... Harry had an idea. Listen, what would you say to a chance to square it with me? And with the dead in general?

Is there a way? (Sudden hope in Wellesley's voice.)

There could be. It all depends.

Just name it.

You had this negative sort of talent, right?

That's right. Nobody could see into my mind. But... as you can see, it died with me.

Harry shook his head. Maybe it didn't. You see, what we're doing now isn't the same. It isn't telepathy but deadspeak. You control it yourself. You don't have to speak to me if you don't want to. That other thing you had was uncontrollable. You didn't even know it was there. If someone hadn't noticed it - hadn't discovered that your mind was a stone wall - you still wouldn't know you'd ever had it. Am I right?

I suppose you are. But what are you getting at?

I'm not sure, said Harry. I'm not even sure if it's possible. But it would be one hell of a bonus if I had that talent of yours!

Well, obviously it would, Wellesley answered. But as you've just pointed out, it wasn't a talent. It was some kind of negative charge. It was there all the time, working on its own, without my knowledge or assistance.

Maybe so, but somewhere in your mind there's the mechanism that governed it. I'd just like to see how it works, that's all. Then, if I could sort of imitate it, learn how to switch it on and off at will...

You want to have a look inside my mind? Are you saying there's a way you can do that?

Maybe there is, said Harry, with your help. And maybe that's why no one else ever could: because you just kept them out... Now tell me, did you ever read my file?

Of course, Wellesley gave a wry chuckle. At the time I thought it was fantastic. I remember one of the espers seeing your file lying on my desk, and telling me: 'I wouldn't be caught dead speaking to that guy!'

That's not at all bad! Harry laughed. But he was serious again in a moment. And did you read about Dragosani, and how he stole Max Batu's evil eye?

That, too, Wellesley answered. But he cut it out of his heart, read it in his guts, tasted it in his blood.

Yes, he did, Harry nodded, but it doesn't have to be that way. You see, that's always been the difference between me and Dragosani's sort. It's the difference between a necromancer and a Necroscope. He would take what he wanted by force. He would torture for it. But me, I only ask.

Anything I have, I give it willingly, Wellesley told him.

Again Harry nodded. Well, that will go a long way with the dead, he said.

So how will you do it? Wellesley was eager now.

Actually, said Harry, it's you who has to do it.

Really? So tell me how.

Just let your mind go blank and invite me in, Harry answered. Just relax like I was a hypnotist putting you to sleep, and say to me: enter of your own free will.

As easily as that?

The first part, anyway, said Harry.

Very well, Wellesley was committed. So let's try it...

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