After dropping Sandra off in Bonnyrig and during the short drive home, Harry stopped at a newsagent's and bought himself a pack of twenty cigarettes. He looked at his change but didn't try to check it. It wouldn't make any sense to him anyway. They could rip him off every time and he just wouldn't know it.


That was the other thing Harry Jnr had done to him: he was now innumerate. No way he could use the Möbius Continuum if he couldn't even calculate the change from a pack of cigarettes! Sandra saw to it that his bills were paid, or he'd probably get that wrong, too. What price his 'instinctive mathematics' now, eh? The Möbius equations? What the hell were they? What had they looked like?

And again Harry wondered: was it a dream? Was that all it had been? A fantasy? A figment of his own imagination? Oh, he remembered how it had been, all right; but as he'd tried to explain to Sandra, it was the way you remember a dream, or a book you read in childhood, fast fading now. Had he really, really, done all of those things? And if he had, did he really, really, want to be able to do them again? To talk to the teeming dead, and step through doors no one else guessed existed to travel swift as thought in the metaphysical Möbius Continuum?

Want it? Perhaps not, but what was there without it? What was he without it? Answer: Harry Keogh, nowhere man.

Back home he went into the garden and looked at the stones again:

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They meant nothing to him. But still he fixed their meaningless legend in his mind. Then he brought the wheelbarrow, loaded it up and wheeled the stones back to the wall where ... he paused a moment and stood frowning, before wheeling them back up to the lawn again. And there he left them, in the wheelbarrow.

For if - just if - someone was trying to tell him something, well, why make things harder for them?

Indoors again, Harry climbed stairs and then ladders to the attic room which no one else suspected was there -that large, dusty room with its sloping rear window, naked light-bulb hanging from a roof timber, and its rows and rows of bookshelves - which was now a shrine to his obsession, if the word 'shrine' were at all applicable. And of course the books themselves. All the facts and the fictions were here, all the myths and legends, all the 'conclusive condemnations' and 'indisputable evidences' for or against, proving, disproving or standing in the middle ground of Harry's studies. The history, the lore, the very nature ... of the vampire.

Which was in itself a grim joke, for how could anyone ever fully understand the nature of the vampire? And yet if any man could, then it was Harry Keogh.

But he hadn't come here today to look again at his books or delve a little deeper into the miasma of times, lands and legends long past. No, for he believed that time itself was well past for those things, for study and vain attempts at understanding. His dreams of red threads among the blue were immediate things, 'now' things, and if he'd learned nothing else in his weird life it was to trust in his dreams.

The Wamphyri have powers, father!

An echo? A whisper? The scurry of mice? Or ... a memory?

How long before they seek you out and find you?

No, he wasn't here to look at his books this time. The time to study an enemy's tactics is before the onslaught. Too late if he's already come a-knocking at your door. Well, he hadn't, not yet. But Harry had dreamed things, and he trusted his dreams.

He took down a piece of modern weaponry (yes, modern, though its design hadn't changed much through sixteen centuries) from the wall and carried it to a table where he laid it down on newspapers preparatory to cleaning, oiling and generally servicing the thing. There was this, and in the corner there a sickle whose semicircular blade gleamed like a razor, and that was all.

Strange weapons, these, against a force for blight and plague and devastation potentially greater than any of Man's thermonuclear toys. But right now they were the only weapons Harry had.

Better tend to them...

The afternoon passed without incident; why shouldn't it? Years had passed without incident, within the parameters of the Harry Keogh mentality and identity. He spent most of the time considering his position (which was this: that he was no longer a Necroscope, that he no longer had access to the Möbius Continuum), and ways in which he might improve that position and recover his talents before they atrophied utterly.

It was possible - barely, Harry supposed, considering his innumeracy - that if he could speak to Möbius, then Möbius might be able to stabilize whatever mathematical gyro was now out of kilter in his head. Except first he must be able to speak to him, which was likewise out of the question. For of course Möbius had been dead for well over a hundred years, and Harry was forbidden to speak to the dead on penalty of mental agony.

He could not speak to the dead, but the dead might even now be looking at ways in which they could communicate with him. He suspected - no, he more than suspected, was sure - that he spoke to them in his dreams, even though he was forbidden to remember or act upon what they had told him. But still he was aware that warnings had been passed, even if he didn't know what those warnings were about.

One thing was certain, however: he knew that within himself and within every man, woman and child on the surface of the globe, a blue thread unwound from the past and was even now spinning into the future of humanity, and that he had dreamed - or been warned - of red threads amidst the blue.

And apart from that - this inescapable mood or sensation of something impending, something terrible - the rest of it was a Chinese puzzle with no solution, a maze with no exit, the square root of minus one, whose value may only be expressed in the abstract. Harry knew the latter for a fact, even if he no longer knew what it meant. And it was a puzzle he'd examined almost to distraction, a maze he'd explored to exhaustion, and an equation he hadn't even attempted because like all mathematical concepts it simply wouldn't read.

In the evening he sat and watched television, mainly for relaxation. He'd considered calling Sandra, and then hadn't. There was something on her mind, too, he knew; and anyway, what right had he to draw her into... whatever this was, or whatever it might turn out to be? None.

So it went; evening drew towards night; Harry prepared for bed, only to sit dozing in his chair. The dish in his garden collected signals and unscrambled their pictures onto his screen. He started awake at the sound of applause, and discovered an American chat-show host talking to a fat lady who had the most human, appealing eyes Harry could imagine. The show was called 'Interesting People' or some such and Harry had watched it before. Usually it was anything but interesting; but now he caught the word 'extrasensory' and sat up a little straighter. Naturally enough, he found ESP in all its forms entirely fascinating.

'So ... let's get this right,' the skeletally thin host said to the fat lady. 'You went deaf when you were eighteen months old, and so never learned how to speak, right?'

'That's right,' the fat lady answered, 'but I do have this incredible memory, and obviously I'd heard a great many human conversations before I went deaf. Anyway, speech never developed in me, so I wasn't only deaf but dumb, too. Then, three years ago, I got married. My husband is a technician in a recording studio. He took me in one day and I watched him working, and I suddenly made the connection between the oscillating sensors on his machinery and the voices and instrument sounds of the group he was recording.'

'Suddenly, you got the idea of sound, right?'

That's correct,' the fat lady smiled, and continued: 'Now, I had of course learned sign-language or dactylology - which in my mind I'd called dumbspeak - and I also knew that some deaf people could carry on perfectly normal conversations, which I termed 'deafspeak'. But I hadn't tried it myself simply because I hadn't understood sound! You see, my deafness was total. Absolute. Sound didn't exist - except in my memory!'

'And so you saw this hypnotist?'

'Indeed I did. It was hard but he was patient - and of course it mightn't have been possible at all except he was able to use dumbspeak. So he hypnotized me and brought back all the conversations I'd heard as a baby. And when I woke up -'

' - You could speak?'

'Exactly as you hear me now, yes!'

'The hell you say! Not only fully articulate but almost entirely without accent! Mrs Zdzienicki, that's a most fascinating story and you really are one of the most Interrrresting People we've ever had on this show!'

The camera stayed on his thin, smiling face and he nodded his head in frenetic affirmation. 'Yessiree! And now, let's move on to - '

But Harry had already moved, to switch off the set; and as the screen blinked out he saw how dark it had grown. Almost midnight, and the house temperature already falling as the timer cut power to the central heating system. It was time he was in bed ...

... Or, maybe he'd watch just one more interview with one of these Interrrrresting People! He didn't remember switching the set on again, but as its picture formed he was drawn in through the screen where he found Jack Garrulous or whatever his name was adrift in the Möbius Continuum.

'Welcome to the show, Harry!' said Jack. 'And we just know we're going to find you verrry interesting! Now, I've been sort of admiring this, er, place you've got here. What did you say it was called?' He held out his microphone for Harry to speak into.

'This is the Möbius Continuum, Jack,' said Harry, a little nervously, 'and I'm not really supposed to be here.'

'The hell you say! But on this show anything goes, Harry. You're on prime-time, son, so don't be shy!'

'Time?' Harry said. 'But all time is prime, Jack. Is time what you're interested in? Well, in that case, take a look in here.' And grabbing Garrulous by the elbow he guided him through a future-time door.

'Interrrresting!' the other approved, as side by side they shot into the future, towards that far faint haze of blue which was the expansion of humanity through the three mundane dimensions of the space-time universe. 'And what are these myriad blue threads, Harry?'

'The life-threads of the human race,' Harry explained. 'See over there? That one just this moment bursting into being, such a pure, shining blue that it's almost blinding? That's a newborn baby with a long, long way to go. And this one here, gradually fading and getting ready to blink out?' He lowered his voice in respect. 'Well, that's an old man about to die.'

'The hell - you - say!' said Jack Garrulous, awed. 'But of course, you'd know all about that, now wouldn't you, Harry? I mean, about death and such? For after all, aren't you the one they call a Necrowhatsit?'

'A Necroscope, yes,' Harry nodded. 'Or at least I was.'

'And how's that for a talent, folks?' Garrulous beamed with teeth like piano keys. 'For Harry Keogh's the man who talks to the dead! And he's the only one they'll talk back to - but in the nicest possible way! See, they kind of love him. So,' (he turned back to Harry), 'what do you call that sort of conversation, Harry? I mean, when you're talking to dead folks? See, a little while ago we were speaking to this Mrs Zdzienicki who told us all about dumbspeak and deafspeak and -'

'Deadspeak,' Harry cut him short.

'Deadspeak? Really? The hell ... you ... say! Well, if you haven't been one of the most Interrrr...' And he paused, squinting over Harry's shoulder.

'Um?' said Harry.

'One last question, son,' said Garrulous, urgently, his narrowing eyes fixed on something just outside Harry's sphere of vision. 'I mean, you told us about the blue life-threads sure enough, but what in all get-out's the meaning of a red one, eh?'

Harry's head snapped round; wide-eyed, he stared; and saw a scarlet thread, even now angling in towards him! And:

'Vampire? he yelled, rolling out of his armchair into the darkness of the room. And framed in the doorway leading back into the rest of the house, he saw the silhouette of what could only be one thing: that which he'd known was coming for him!

There was a small table beside his chair, which Harry had knocked flying. Groping in the darkness, his fingers found two things: a table-lamp thrown to the floor, and the weapon he'd worked on earlier in the day. The latter was loaded. Switching on the lamp, Harry went into a crouch behind his chair and brought up his gleaming metal crossbow into view - and saw that his worst nightmare had advanced into the room.

There was no denying the thing: the slate-grey colour of its flesh, its gaping jaws and what they contained, its pointed ears and the high-collared cape which gave its skull and menacing features definition. It was a vampire -of the comic-book variety! But even realizing that this wasn't the real thing (and he of all people should know), still Harry's finger had tightened on the trigger.

It was all reaction. This body he'd trained to a peak of perfection was working just as he'd programmed it to work in a hundred simulations of this very situation. And despite the fact that he'd come immediately awake - and that he knew this thing in his room with him was a fraud - still his adrenalin was flowing and his heart pounding, and his weapon's fifteen-inch hardwood bolt already in flight. It was only in the last split second that he'd tried to avert disaster by elevating the crossbow's tiller up towards the ceiling. But that had been enough, barely.

Wellesley, seeing the crossbow in Harry's hand, had blown froth through his plastic teeth in a gasp of terror and tried to back off. The bolt missed his right ear by a hair's breadth, struck through the collar of his costume cape and snatched him back against the wall. It buried itself deep in plaster and old brick and pinned him there.

He spat out his teeth and yelled: 'Jesus Christ, you idiot, it's me!' But this was as much for the benefit of Darcy Clarke, back there somewhere in the dark house, as for Harry Keogh. For even as he was shouting, Wellesley's right hand reached inside the coat under his cape and grasped the grip of his issue 9 mm Browning. This was his main chance. Keogh had attacked him, just as he'd hoped he would. It was self-defence, that's all.

Harry, taking no chances, had nocked his bow, snatched the auxiliary bolt from its clips under the tiller of his weapon and placed it in the breech. In a sort of slow-motion born of the speed of his own actions, he saw Wellesley's arm straightening and coming up into the firing position; but he couldn't believe the man would shoot him. Why? For what reason? Or perhaps Wellesley feared he was going to use the crossbow again. That must be it, yes. He dropped his weapon into the armchair's well and threw up his arms.

But now Wellesley's aim was unwavering, his eyes glinting, his knuckle turning white in the trigger-guard of the automatic. And he actually grinned as he shouted: 'Keogh, you madman - no! - nor

Then... three things, happening almost simultaneously:

One: Darcy Clarke's voice, which Harry recognized immediately, shouting, 'Wellesley, get out of there. Get the fuck out of there!' And his footsteps coming clattering down the corridor, and his cursing as he collided with a plant-pot and stand and knocked them over.

Two: Harry throwing himself over backwards behind the armchair as finally Wellesley's intention became clear, and hearing the angry whirrr of the bullet as the first shot went wide by an inch. And levering himself up to make a grab for the crossbow again, just in time to see the look on Wellesley's face turn from a mixture of incomprehensible rage and murderous intent to one of sheerest horror as his eyes were drawn to something behind Harry, which caused them to flash wide and disbelieving in a moment.

Three: the crash of shattering glass and snapping of thin wooden mullions inwards as something wet and heavy and clumsy came plunging through the locked patio doors into the room, something which drew Wellesley's fire from Harry to itself!

'Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!' the head of E-Branch screamed, emptying his gun over Harry's head, which he'd now turned towards the shattered glass door. And there, staggering from the impact of the shots but somehow managing to keep its feet, Harry saw something - indeed, someone, though who exactly it would be hard to tell -which he'd thought never to see again. And even though he didn't know this one, still he knew him or it for a friend. For in the old days, all of the dead had been Harry's friends!

This one was bloated, wet, intact, not long dead - but long enough to smell very badly. And behind it came a second corpse, dusty, withered, almost mummified, stepping through the frame of the shattered door. They were in their crumbling burial sheets and each of them carried a stone, advancing on Wellesley where he stood pinned to the wall, still yanking on the trigger of his empty gun.

And Harry could only crouch there watching, mouthing silent denials, as they drew close to the frenzied, maddened boss of E-Branch and began to raise their stones.

That was when the corridor light came on and Darcy Clarke stumbled into the room. His talent for survival -unfelt except by Darcy himself - was shrieking at him to get the hell out of here, almost physically driving him back. But somehow he fought it; and after all, the hostility of the dead wasn't directed at him but at his boss. 'Harry!' he yelled, when he saw what was happening in the room. 'For God's sake call them off!'

'I can't,' Harry yelled back. 'You know I can't!' But at least he could put himself between them. He did that now, jumped forward and somehow got between the dead things and Wellesley where he gibbered and frothed. And there they stood with their stones upraised, and the soggy one seeking to put Harry gently to one side.

He might have, too, but suddenly suicidal, Harry cried out: 'No! Go back where you belong! It's a mistake!' Or at least he tried to. But he only got as far as 'go back where - ' For he was forbidden to speak to the dead. But fortunately for Wellesley, the dead weren't forbidden to heed him.

As Harry clapped his hands to his head and cried out, jerking like a spastic puppet as he crumpled up, so the dead men let fall their stones and turned away, and went out again into the night.

Strangled until now, Wellesley found his voice again; but it was a deranged voice if ever Darcy Clarke heard one. 'Did you see? Did you see?' Wellesley gibbered. 'I didn't believe it, but now I've seen for myself. He called them up against me! He's a monster, by God, a monster! But it's the end of you, Harry Keogh'

He'd freed the spent magazine from his gun and dropped it to the carpeted floor, and was in the process of bringing a fully loaded one out of his pocket when Clarke hit him with all the force he could muster. Gun and magazine went flying, and Wellesley hung there in his makeup, suspended from the crossbow bolt.

Then there were more running footsteps, and in the next moment the two-man back-up team was there wondering what the hell was going on; and Darcy was down on the floor with Harry, holding him in his arms as the agonized man clutched at his head and gasped out his unbearable pain, and slid down into the deep, dark well of merciful oblivion...

A great deal occurred in the nine hours it took Harry to sleep it off. A security-screened doctor was called in to look at him, also to give Wellesley a shot that would keep him down a while; Clarke got in touch with Sandra because he reckoned she should be in on this, and should have been from the start; and as dawn came and went and both Harry and Wellesley were beginning to show signs of regaining consciousness, so a call came through from the Duty Officer at E-Branch HQ.

Darcy had of course already put HQ in the picture. He'd contacted the DO right after the excitement had died down to report everything that had happened and what he'd done, and at the same time to tender his resignation to the Minister Responsible. Also he'd suggested that someone might like to start thinking about a replacement for Wellesley, who was obviously several kinds of flake. And looking back on Wellesley's plan to scare Harry Keogh into using the Möbius Continuum -which he, Darcy Clarke, had gone along with - Darcy reckoned he might be just a little on the flaky side himself!

Sandra, when she'd arrived looking worried as hell and after he'd explained things to her, had said as much in no uncertain terms and probably would have said a lot more, except she could see that Darcy was taking it badly enough already. She didn't feel the need to blame him because he was so obviously blaming himself; so instead of ranting and raving and generally going to pieces, she'd simply sat with Harry through what was left of the night and into the morning. And just a few minutes ago, when everyone was into his third cup of coffee, that was when the telephone rang and it was HQ asking to speak to Darcy Clarke. He took the call, which was a long one, and when he was through had to sit down a minute and think about it.

They'd stretched Wellesley out on Harry's bed upstairs, with one of the men from E-Branch watching him; Harry himself had a leather couch downstairs in the study where everything had happened, and where they'd draped a blanket over the broken patio doors to keep out the night chill; Sandra, Darcy and the other E-Branch operative were all there with him, with nothing to do now except wait for him to wake up.

Except that now, following this telephone call, Darcy had quite a bit more to do, and the speed with which circumstances had changed had left him breathless. But Sandra had seen the full range of rapidly changing expressions on his face as he'd talked into the telephone; and now, catching a glimpse of the confusion in his mind - and the relief, and something of the shock, too? - she felt prompted to inquire:

'What was that all about?'

Darcy looked at her and his bleary eyes slowly focussed. Then he turned to the other agent and said, 'Eddy, go up and keep Joe company, eh? And when Wellesley wakes up, tell him he's under arrest!'

'What?' the other looked at him incredulously.

Darcy nodded. That was the DO on the blower, and he had our Minister right there with him. It seems our pal Norman Harold Wellesley has been fooling around a little with a suspicious character from the Russian Embassy! He's suspended forthwith, and we're to deliver him to MIS a.s.a.p. - which puts me right back in the chair. For now, anyway.'

As Eddy left to go upstairs, Darcy told Sandra: 'Yes, but that's just part of it. It never rains but it pours. We have a big problem.'

'We?' she said, shaking her head. 'No, for I'm out of it, whatever it is. And I thought you were, too. Well, your resignation may have been turned down, but not mine. I'm through with the Branch, as of now.'

'I understand that,' he said, 'and I meant I have a problem rather than we. It's not only business but personal, too. And I'm afraid I can't quit until it's sorted out. But you don't want to hear about it, right?'

'Hearing won't hurt,' she said.

'It's Ken Layard and Trevor Jordan,' he began to explain. 'They were out in the Aegean, Rhodes, keeping tabs on a load of drugs being run through the Med. And now it seems they've come unstuck. Badly.'

'How badly?' Sandra had met the two men - in fact Jordan, the telepath, had been her sponsor - and she knew something of their talents and outstanding reputations.

'Very badly,' Darcy shook his head. 'And... it's weird! Something I'm going to have to look into myself. These were two of my closest friends.'

'Weird?' she repeated him. 'Were?'

He nodded. 'Over the last few days Trevor's had a couple of minor problems. They thought it was overeating or drinking or something. Now apparently he's a raving madman ... or would be if he wasn't under sedation in a Rhodes asylum! And the night before last - no, the one before that; when I'm tired like this my body-clock goes out of whack - Ken Layard was fished out of the harbour half-full of water and with a bump on his head where he'd collided with something. Concussion, that's all. Except as yet there's no sign of a normal recovery. All of which smells very fishy to me.'

'What?' said Harry Keogh, fumbling the word out of a mouth that tasted highly toxic as he tried to sit up.

They sprang to his side, Darcy supporting him and Sandra hugging his head. 'Are you all right, Harry?' she stroked his hair, kissed his forehead.

He freed himself, licked his lips and said, 'Be a love and make me a cup of coffee.' And as she left the room he focussed on Darcy.

'Names,' he said.


'You mentioned the names of some people,' Harry said again, seeming to find some difficulty in getting his tongue round the words. 'People I've heard of, and met, in E-Branch.' He pulled a face. 'God, my mouth tastes vile!' And then, suddenly remembering, his eyes went wide. 'That idiot was trying to shoot me! And then -' Abruptly, he struggled upright, his eyes searching every corner of the room.

'All that was last night, Harry,' Darcy told him, knowing what he was looking for. 'And... they've gone now. They went when you told them to.'

Some of the anxiety went out of Harry's face, replaced by the bitter look of a man betrayed. 'You were here,' he accused, 'with Wellesley.'

Darcy didn't deny it. 'Yes,' he said, 'I was, but for the last time. I was following orders, or trying to, but that's no excuse. I was here, and shouldn't have been. But from here on in ... I have one more job to do, and then I'm out of E-Branch for good. I don't think spying's my style, Harry. And I sure as hell know that shitting on my friends isn't! As for Wellesley: I don't think he'll be much trouble from now on.'

'What?' Harry went deathly pale in a moment. 'Don't tell me they - ?'

Darcy shook his head. 'No, they didn't hurt him. You told them to go and they went. And then you folded up.'

Sandra was back with Harry's coffee. 'What's this about names?' she said. -

Harry took a mouthful of hot coffee, gave his head a tentative shake and said, 'Ow! God, my head!'

She took pills from her bag and gave them to him. He accepted them and washed them down. And: 'Names, yes,' he said yet again. 'The names of people in E-Branch. You were talking about them as I came to?'

Darcy told him about Layard and Jordan, and as he talked so Harry's face grew drawn, even haggard. Finally, when Darcy was done, Harry glanced at Sandra. 'Well?'

She shrugged, looked mystified. 'What are you getting at, Harry?'

'Tell him about the stones,' Harry said, 'in the garden.'

And seeing his meaning at once, she gasped: 'Ken L! And T. Jor!'

Now it was Darcy's turn to look dumb. 'Do you want to let me in on it?' he said.

Harry stood up, swayed a little, then headed for the patio doors. He was still in his pyjamas. 'Be careful!' Darcy cautioned him. 'There's still a lot of glass there. We didn't do much of a job of tidying up, I'm afraid.'

Harry avoided the glass and took down the blanket, and they followed him into the garden. In his bare feet he crossed the lawn, pointed to a fresh series of stones where they'd been laid out on the grass. 'There,' he said. "That's what they were doing when Wellesley jumped me - which, incidentally, you might like to try explaining sometime when you've a week or two to spare!' This was directed at both of them.

'Harry,' Sandra was quick to protest, 'I had nothing to do with it.'

'But you do work for the Branch.'

'Not any more,' she said. And then, because she was afraid of losing him, she let it all out in a breathless rush. 'Try to understand, Harry. At first you were just a job, but different from any other they ever gave me. Also, what I was doing was for your benefit; that's what they told me. But they didn't plan - and I didn't plan - on my falling in love with you. That just happened, and now they can stuff their job.'

Harry smiled in his wan way, then staggered a little. She at once caught him, held him up. 'You shouldn't even be on your feet! You look terrible, Harry!'

'I'm still a bit dizzy, that's all,' he answered. 'Anyway, what you were saying: I heard all that, too, when I was waking up. And what the hell, I think I've always known that you were one of theirs. You and Old Man Bettley. So what? So was I, once. And let's face it, I can use all the help I can get, right?'

Darcy was still looking at the stones, his forehead creased in a frown. 'Does this mean what I think it means-?' he asked. They all looked at the incomplete word:


'Rhodes,' said Harry, nodding. 'They didn't have time to finish the E and the S, that's all. And now it all adds up.'

'But to what?' Sandra and Darcy said together.

Harry looked at them and made no attempt to hide his fear. 'To something I've been praying wouldn't happen, and yet half-expecting ever since I returned from Star-side,' he said. Then he shivered and added, 'Let's get inside.' And for the moment that was all he would say about it...

When Wellesley woke up and Darcy told him it looked like he was in big trouble, at first he was full of bluster. But then he had to face down Harry, too, and that was when he caved in. He knew how lucky he was that he wasn't a murderer, knew too that Harry hadn't let his dead friends kill him, even though he'd had the right and couldn't have been blamed for it. What's more, he knew what it had cost Harry to call them off. And so he told everything, the whole story: how he'd been recruited by Gregor Borowitz because of his negative talent (the fact that his mind couldn't be read), and how he'd been a sleeper until they tried to activate him.

Harry had been their chief interest - though doubtless they would have got around to the rest of E-Branch, too, when they were satisfied that he was no longer a player -and so Wellesley had been feeding them details of his progress. But when it had seemed that Harry might be on the verge of new things, then they'd wanted rid of him. Harry, with his old powers returned to him, or maybe new talents they hadn't even heard of, would be just too dangerous.

Then Darcy had given his men their orders, to take the ex-head of the Branch back to London and hand him over, and finally he'd spent a long session on the telephone talking to the Minister Responsible. One subject had been Nikolai Zharov, Wellesley's Russian contact. He was still loose somewhere, and alas would stay loose for the time being. Diplomatically immune, they couldn't even pick him up. Eventually a protest would be made to the Soviet Embassy, requiring Zharov's expulsion for the usual 'activities inconsistent with...' etc.

By the time Darcy was through, Harry had a lot more coffee inside him and a bite of brunch, and was looking more his usual self. Not doleful, Darcy thought, just sort of placid and not entirely with it. He reminded him of nothing so much as a powerful hand torch minus its batteries. Fully charged he could really shine, but right now there wasn't even a spark.

Or maybe there was.

'When are you going to Rhodes?' Harry asked him.

'Now, as soon as I can get a flight out. I'd be out of here right now but I wanted to be sure you were OK first. I reckoned I owed you that at least, and probably a lot more. But I want to arrange to get Trevor and Ken out of there, if they can be moved. Also, I have to see if I can discover what they came up against. Their Greek liaison man is still out there and might be able to help me on that.' He looked at Harry speculatively. 'And I had hopes that you might be able to help me, too, Harry, what with these... messages you've been getting, and all.'

Harry nodded. 'I have my suspicions,' he said, 'but we'd all better pray I'm wrong! See, I know the dead wouldn't harm me; they wouldn't deliberately risk hurting me. And yet this thing is so important to them, or to me, that it's almost as if they've been tempting me into conversation! But my son did a hell of a good job on me. I don't remember my dreams in any detail - not the ones which they send me, anyway - and I can't try to clarify them. And as for the Möbius Continuum... God, I can't add two and two without it comes out five!'

Darcy Clarke had personal experience of the Möbius Continuum. Harry had taken him there once, taken him through it. From here, this very house, to E-Branch HQ in London over three hundred miles away. And that had been a trip Darcy would never forget and, he hoped, never repeat, all the days of his life. Even now, these years later, it was printed on his memory in vivid detail.

There had been Darkness on the Möbius Strip, the Primal Darkness itself, as it was before the universe began. A place of negativity, yes, where Darkness lay upon the face of the deep. And Darcy had thought that this could well be that region from which God had commanded, Let There Be Light, and caused the physical universe to split off from the metaphysical void.

There had been no air, but neither had there been time, so that Darcy didn't need to breathe. And without time there was likewise no space; both of these essentials of a universe of matter had been absent. But Darcy hadn't ruptured and flown apart, because there'd been nowhere to fly to!

Harry had been Darcy's single anchor on Sanity and Being and Humanity; he couldn't see him for there was no light, but he could feel the pressure of his hand. And perhaps because Darcy was himself psychically endowed, he'd felt he had some small understanding of the place. For instance: he knew it was real because he was here, and with Harry beside him he'd known he need not fear it because his talent hadn't prevented him from coming here. And so, even in the confusion of his near-panic, he'd been able to explore his feelings about it.

Lacking space it was literally 'nowhere', but by the same token lacking time it was every-where and -when. It was core and boundary both, interior and exterior, where nothing ever changed except by force of will. But there was no will, except it was brought here by someone like Harry Keogh. Harry was only a man, and yet the things he could do through the Möbius Continuum were... Godlike? And what if God should come here?

And again Darcy had thought of The God, who wrought a Great Change out of a formless void and willed a universe. And then the thought had also occurred: We aren't meant to be here. This isn't our place.

'I understand how you feel,' Harry had told him then, 'for I've felt it, too. But don't be afraid. Just let it happen and accept it. Can't you feel the magic of it? Doesn't it thrill you to your soul?'

And Darcy had had to admit it thrilled him - but it scared him witless, too!

Then, so as not to prolong it, Harry had taken him to the threshold of a future-time door. Looking out, they'd seen a chaos of millions, no, billions, of threads of pure blue light etched against an eternity of black velvet, like an incredible meteor shower, except the tracks didn't dim but remained printed on the sky - indeed, printed on Time! And the most awesome thing was this: that two of these twining, twisting streamers of blue light had issued from Darcy and Harry themselves, extruding from them and racing away into the future -

The blue life-threads of humanity, of all Mankind, spreading out and away through space and time... But then Harry had closed that door and opened another, a door on the past.

The myriad neon life-threads had been there as before but this time, instead of expanding into a misted distance, they'd contracted and narrowed down, targeting on a faraway, dazzling blue core of origin.

And in the main, that was what had most seared itself on Darcy's memory: the fact that he'd seen the very birthlight of Mankind...

'Anyway,' Harry's voice, decisive now, brought him back to the present, 'I'm coming with you^ To Rhodes, I mean. You might need my advice.'

Darcy gazed at him in astonishment. He hadn't seen or heard him so positive in ... how long? 'You're coming with - ?'

'They're my friends, too,' Harry blurted. 'Oh, maybe I don't know them like you do, but I trusted in them once and they trusted in me, in what I was doing. They were in on that Bodescu business. They have their talents, and they have invaluable experience of ... things. Also, well it seems to me the dead want me to go. And lastly, we really can't afford to have anything happen to people like those two. Not now.'

'We can't afford it? What "we", Harry?' And suddenly Darcy was very tense, waiting for Harry's answer.

'You, me, the world.'

'Is it that bad?'

'It could be. So I'm coming with you.'

Sandra looked at them both and said: 'So am I.'

Darcy shook his head. 'Not if it's like he thinks it might be, you're not.'

'But I'm a telepath!' she protested. 'I might be able to help with Trevor Jordan. He and I used to be able to read each other like books. He's my friend, too, remember?'

Harry took her arm. 'Didn't you hear what Darcy said? Trevor's a madman. His mind has gone.'

She pulled a face and tut-tutted. 'What does that mean, Harry? Minds don't just "go", you of all people should know that. It hasn't "gone" anywhere - just gone wrong, that's all. I might be able to look in there and see what's wrong.'

'We're wasting time,' Darcy was growing anxious. 'OK, so it's decided: we're all three going. How long will it take you to get ready?'

'I'm ready,' Harry answered at once. 'Five minutes to pack a few things.'

'I'll need to pick up my passport on our way through Edinburgh,' Sandra shrugged. 'That's all. Anything else I need I'll buy out there.'

'Right,' said Darcy. 'You phone a taxi, and I'll help Harry pack. If we have time I can always put HQ in the picture from the airport. So let's go.'

And in their graves the teeming dead relaxed a little -for the moment, anyway. Harry, because he thought he'd heard their massed sighing, gave a small shudder. It wasn't terror or dread or anything like that. It was just the frisson of knowing. But of course his friends - his living friends - knew nothing at all of that.

Unbeknown to the three, Nikolai Zharov was at Edinburgh Airport to see them off. He had also been across the river with a pair of KGB-issue nite-lite binoculars when Wellesley broke into Harry's house in Bonnyrig. And he'd seen what had left the garden to plod back to their riven plots in a cemetery half a mile away. He'd seen and known what they were, and still looked haggard from knowing it.

But that didn't stop Zharov coding a message and phoning it through to the KGB cell at the embassy. So that in a very short time indeed the Soviet intelligence agencies knew that Harry Keogh was en route to the Mediterranean.

It was 6:30 p.m. local time at Rhodes Airport when Manolis Papastamos met them off their flight; during the taxi ride into the historic town, he told them in his frenetic fashion all he knew of what had transpired. But seeing no connection, he made no mention of Jianni Lazarides.

'What of Ken Layard now?' Darcy wanted to know.

Papastamos was small, slender, all sinew and suntan and shiny-black, wavy hair. Handsome in a fashion, and usually full of zest, now he looked harassed and hagridden. 'I don't know what it is,' he gave a series of questioning, desperate shrugs, held out his hands palms up. 'I don't know, and blame myself because I don't know! But... they are not easy to understand, those two. Policemen? Strange policemen! They seemed to know so much - to be so sure of certain things - but never explained to me how they knew.'

'They're very special,' Darcy agreed. 'But what about Ken?'

'He couldn't swim, had a bump on his head. I dragged him out of the harbour onto some rocks, got the salt water out of him, went for help. Jordan was no use to me: he just sat on the mole under the old windmills babbling to himself. He was suddenly... crazy! And he's stayed that way. But Layard, he was OK, I swear it! Just a bump on the head. And now...'

'Now?' said Harry.

'Now they say he may die!' Papastamos looked like he might cry. 'I did all I could, I swear it!'

'Don't blame yourself, Manolis,' Darcy told him. 'Whatever happened wasn't your fault. But can we see him?'

'Of course, we go to the hospital now. You can see Trevor, too, if you wish it. But,' and again he shrugged, 'you won't get much out of that one. My God, I am so sorry!'

The hospital was off Papalouca, one of the New Town's main roads. It was a big, sprawling place with a frontage all of a hundred yards long. 'One section - a ward, clinic and dispensary - is reserved mainly for the treatment of the tourists,' Papastamos explained as their taxi took them in through the gates. 'It's not much in use now, but in July and August the work doesn't stop. The broken bones, bad sunburns, heatstroke, stings, cuts and bruises. Ken Layard has a room of his own.'

He told their driver to wait, led the way into a side wing where a receptionist sat in her booth clipping her fingernails. As soon as she saw Papastamos she sprang to her feet and spoke to him in breathless, very much subdued Greek. Papastamos at once gasped and went pale. 'My friends, you are too late,' he said. 'He is ... dead!' He looked at Sandra, Darcy and Harry in turn, and shook his head. 'There is nothing I can say.'

They were too dumbstruck to answer for a moment, until Harry said: 'Can we see him anyway?'

Harry looked cool in a pale blue jacket, white shirt and slacks. He and the others had slept on the plane, catching up on a lot of lost sleep. And despite his travails of the night before, he seemed to have come through it better than them. His face was calm, resigned; unlike Sandra's and Darcy's, Papastamos saw no sorrow in it. And the Greek thought: A cold-blooded one, this Harry Keogh.

But he was wrong: it was simply that Harry had learned to view death differently. Ken Layard might be finished 'here' - finished physically, materially, in the corporeal world - but he wasn't all dead. Not all of him. Why, for all Harry knew Ken might be seeking him out right now, desperate to engage him in deadspeak. Except Harry was forbidden to hear him, and forbidden to answer even if he did.

'See him?' Papastamos answered. 'Of course you can. But the girl tells me that first the doctor wishes to see us. His office is this way.' And he led them down a cool corridor where the light came slanting in through high, narrow windows.

They found the doctor, a small bald man with thick-lensed spectacles perched on the end of his hook of a nose, in his tiny office room signing and stamping papers.

When Papastamos introduced them to him, Dr Sakellarakis was at once the soul of concern, displaying his very genuine dismay at the loss of their friend. Speaking half-decent English and shaking his head sadly, he told them:

"This bump on the Layard's head - I 'fraid is much more than the simple bump, gentlemen, lady. There is perhaps the damage inside? This is not certain until the autopsy, naturally, but I thinks this one is causing the death. The damage, the blood clot, something.' Again he shook his head, gave a sad shrug.

'Can we see him?' Harry asked again. And as the doctor led the way: 'When is the autopsy?'

Again the Greek's shrug. 'One days, two - as soon as it can be arranged. But soon. Until then I am having him removed to the morgue.'

'And when did he die - exactly?' Harry was relentless.

'Exactly? To the minute? Is not known. One hour, I thinks. About... ah, 1800 hours?'

'Six o'clock local time,' said Sandra. 'We were on the plane.'

'Does there have to be an autopsy?' Harry hated the thought of it; he knew the effect necromancy had on the dead, how much they feared it. Dragosani had been a necromancer, and oh how the dead had loathed and feared him! Of course, this wouldn't be the same; Layard would feel nothing at the hands of a pathologist, whose skills would be those of the surgeon as opposed to the torturer, but still Harry didn't like it.

Sakellarakis held up his hands. 'It is the law.'

Layard's room was small, white, clean and pungently antiseptic. He lay full length on a trolley, covered head to toe by a sheet. The bed he'd used had been made up again, and the window closed to keep out flies. Darcy carefully laid back the sheet to show Layard's face �C and drew back at once, wincing. Sandra, too. Layard's face wasn't in repose.

'Is the spasm,' Sakellarakis informed, nodding. 'The muscles, a contraction. The mortician is putting this one right. Then Layard, he is doing the correct sleeping.'

Harry hadn't drawn back. Instead he stood over Layard, looking down at him. The esper was grey, clay-cold, frozen in rigor mortis. But his face was fixed in something rather more than that. His jaws were open in a scream and his upper lip at the left had lifted up and away from the teeth, leaving them visible and shining. His entire face seemed pulled to the left in a sort of rictus, as if he screamed his denial of something unbelievable, unbearable.

His eyes were closed, but in the eyelids under the brows Harry saw twin slits in the membranous skin. They were fine but dark and plainly visible against the overall pallor. 'He's been... cut?' Harry glanced at the Greek doctor.

The spasm,' the other nodded. "The eyes come open. It can happen. I make the small cuts in the muscles... no problem.'

Harry licked his lips, frowned, peered intently at the large blue lump showing on Layard's forehead and continuing into his hair. The shiny skin was broken in the centre, a small abrasion where flesh white as fishbelly showed through. Harry looked at the lump, reached out a hand as if to touch it, then turned away. And: 'That look on his face,' he said, under his breath. 'No muscular spasm that, but sheer terror!'

Darcy Clarke, for his part, had taken one look at Layard and drawn back first one pace, then another. But he hadn't stopped drawing back and was now out in the corridor. His face was drawn, eyes staring into the room at the figure on the trolley. Sandra joined him; Harry, too.

'Darcy, what is it?' Sandra's voice was hushed.

Darcy only shook his head. 'I don't know,' he gulped. 'But whatever it is, it's not right!' It was his talent working, looking out for him.

Papastamos put back the sheet over Layard's face; he and Sakellarakis came out of the room into the corridor. 'Not the spasm, you say?' The doctor looked at Harry and cocked his head on one side. 'You are knowing about these things?'

'I know some things about the dead, yes,' Harry nodded.

'Harry's ... an expert,' Darcy had himself under control now.

'Ah!' said Sakellarakis. 'A doctor!'

'Listen,' Harry took him by the arm, spoke earnestly to him. 'The autopsy must be tonight. And then he must be burned!'

'Burned? You are meaning cremated?'

'Yes, cremated. Reduced to ashes. Tomorrow at the latest.'

'My God!' Manolis Papastamos burst out. 'And Ken Layard was your friend? Such friends I don't need! I thought you were the cold one but... you are not merely cold, you are as dead as he is!'

Cold sweat was beading Harry's forehead now and he was beginning to look sick. 'But that's just the point,' he said. 'I don't think he is dead!'

'You don't - ?' Dr Sakellarakis's jaw fell open. 'But I know this thing for sure! The gentleman, he is certain dead!'

'Undead!' Harry was swaying now.

Sandra's eyes flew wide. So this was really it. But Harry had been caught off guard; he was shocked, saying too much. 'It's ... an English expression!' she quickly cut in. 'Undead: not dead but merely departed. Old friends simply... pass on. That's what he meant. Ken's not dead but in the hands of God.'

Or the devil! Harry thought. But he was steadier now and glad that she'd come to his rescue.

Darcy's mind was also working overtime. 'It's Layard's religion,' he said, 'which requires that he's burned -cremated - within a day of his dying. Harry only wants to be sure it will be the way he would want it.'

'Ah!' Manolis Papastamos still wasn't sure, but he thought that at least he was beginning to understand. Then I have to apologize. I am sorry, Harry.'

'That's OK,' said Harry. 'Can we see Trevor Jordan now?'

'We'll go right now,' Papastamos nodded. "The asylum is in the Old Town, inside the old Crusader walls. It's off Pythagoras Street. The nuns run it.'

They used the taxi again and reached their destination in a little over twenty minutes. By now the sun was setting and a cool breeze off the sea brought relief from the heat of the day. During the journey Darcy asked Papastamos: 'Incidentally, can you fix us up with somewhere to stay? A decent hotel?'

'Better than that,' said the other. 'The tourist season is just starting; many of the villas are still empty; I found you a place as soon as I knew you were coming. After you have seen poor Trevor, then I take you there.'

At the asylum they had to wait until a Sister of Rhodos could be spared from her duties to take them to Jordan's cell. He was strait jacketed, seated in a deep, high-sided leather chair with his feet inches off the ground. In this position he could do himself no harm, but in any case he seemed asleep. With Papastamos to translate, the Sister explained that they were administering a mild sedative at regular intervals. It wasn't that Jordan was violent, more that he seemed desperately afraid of something.

'Tell her she can leave us with him,' Harry told the Greek. 'We won't stay long, and we know the way out.' And when Papastamos had complied and the Sister left: 'And you, too, Manolis, if you please.'


Darcy laid a hand on his arm. 'Be a good fellow, Manolis, and wait for us outside,' he told him. 'Believe me, we know what we're doing.'

The other shrugged, however sourly, and left.

Darcy and Harry looked at Sandra. 'Do you feel up to it?' Darcy said.

She was nervous, but: 'It should be easy,' she answered at last. 'We're two of a kind. I've had plenty of practice with Trevor and know the way in.' But it was as if she spoke more to convince herself than anyone else. And as she took up a position behind Jordan, with her hands on the back of his chair, so the last rays of the sun began to fade in the tiny, high, recessed stained-glass windows of the cell.

Sandra closed her eyes and the silence grew. Jordan sat locked in his chair; his chest rising and falling, his eyelids fluttering as he dreamed or thought whatever thoughts they were that troubled him; his left hand fluttering a little, too, where it was strapped down by his thigh. Harry and Darcy stood watching, aware now of the gathering dusk, the fading light...

And without warning Sandra was in!

She looked, saw, gave a strangled little cry and stumbled back away from Jordan's chair until she crashed into the wall. Jordan's eyes snapped open. They were terrified! His head swivelled left and right and he saw the two espers standing before him - and just for a moment, he knew them!

'Darcy! Harry!' he croaked.

And as simply and suddenly as that Harry knew who had come to him in his dreams at Bonnyrig to beg his help!

But in the next moment Jordan's white face began to twitch and shake in dreadful spasms of effort and agony. He tried to say something butwas denied the chance. The shuddering stopped, his fevered eyes closed and his head lolled, and he slumped down again. But even as he returned to his monstrous dreams, so he managed one last word:


They rushed to Sandra where she stood half-fainting against the wall. And when she stopped gasping for air and was able to hold them off:

'What was it?' Harry asked her. 'Did you see?'

'I saw,' she nodded, swallowing rapidly. 'He's not mad, Harry, just trapped.'


'In his own mind, yes. Like some innocent, cringing, terrified victim locked in a dungeon.'

'A victim of what?' Darcy wanted to know, slack-jawed as he gaped at her trembling in Harry's arms.

'Oh God! Oh God!' she whispered, her trembling threatening to shake Harry, too, as her eyes went fearfully back to Trevor Jordan lolling there unconscious in his chair. And Darcy felt his blood stiffen to ice in the haunted light of her eyes, as finally she answered: 'Of the monster who's in there with him! Of that Thing who's in there right now, talking to him, questioning him... about us!'

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