HOME WITH BONNIE JEAN
And: Sergeant, said Harry to a good friend of his, well over a hundred miles away in the cemetery in Harden, / believe I have a problem. His dead friend, an ex-Army physical training instructor, and an extremely hard man in his time, was into Harry's mind at once, looking out through his eyes and reading the picture he saw in the bar room. The thing is, Harry went on, while Sergeant got acquainted, / don't want too much mess.
Step away from the bar, Harry, 'Sergeant' Graham Lane told him. This lad's big and bold, but he's getting old. What, forty-five?
And look at his gut: he drinks too much, and he's had too much tonight, too. The next time he speaks to you, if he really means to have a go, is when he'll make his move. Let me take it from there ...
Harry moved away from the bar into open space, heard B.J. saying: 'Look, Big Jimmy, we were only talking. I've the right to talk to people in mah own place, have I no'?'
'It's the way he was lookin' at ye, lass,' Big Jimmy answered, speaking to her but narrowing his eyes at Harry. 'I just dinnae like his attitude, his flashy answers!' (Here it came):
'You!' Big Jimmy rasped, turning more fully to Harry. 'So ye're a live one, eh?' And he started his swing. 'Well, not for long, ye fucking pipsqueak!'
Sergeant was right there in the Necroscope's mind, directing him, almost controlling him. So Harry let him handle it his way.
The bar was on Harry's right, and Big Jimmy moving along it from the left, still knocking aside bar stools. The man had swung with his right hand, a lumbering blow with lots of weight but nothing of speed. The Necroscope stepped forward inside the arc of the fist, caught Big Jimmy's wrist in both hands, turned and bent forward from the waist. The big man's impetus carried him forward; Harry's back formed the fulcrum and his opponent's arm the lever; he rose up, somersaulted, came crashing down on a table and reduced it to rubble. And Harry said:
Christ, Sergeant! I said no mess!
What mess? The other answered. Ifs over! He's winded but that's all. And maybe he'll take it as a warning. Only a total moron would push it any further. He's seen how fast we are.
Wel, I hope you're right, Harry answered with feeling, as Big Jimmy got groggily to his feet.
'Why, ye - ' The man took a stumbling step forward.
The Necroscope took a pace back, his arms lifting and extending forward as his hands commenced moving in an unmistakable karate weave. And cocking his head slightly on one side, warningly: 'Don't,' he said. Simply that.
'Huh!' The other grunted, stopping dead in his tracks. 'So ye're a hard man, are ye?'
'You really don't want to find out,' Harry told him.
And from behind the bar: 'Ye're leaving, Big Jimmy!' B.J. snapped. 'Right now, an' ye're no coming back!'
Big Jimmy looked at her through litle red pig-eyes, cast one more murderous glance at Harry, and grunted, Tuck ye'all, then!' As he swung around and headed for the door, one of the girls was hot on his heels with his coat; and B.J. shouting after them:
'Tear up his card! No one's ever tae let that pig in here again!' Her eyes stopped blazing and she looked at Harry, who was finishing his drink. And regaining a semblance of control, B.J. said: 'Greased lightning, aye. Maybe ye're right, and I should'nae have tae do with ye.'
Too late for that, B.J.' he told her. 'We're already had "tae do," as you wel know.' He glanced round the room but no one was looking his way. They probably thought it best not to. One of the girls was clearing away the wrecked table. 'We have to talk,' Harry reminded B.J.
She pursed her lips, as if preparing to argue, but finaly said, Tonight, then, after we've closed. Midnight, right here. And now perhaps ye'11 go? Ye're no' a member, after al. Ah've mah licence tae think about.'
And you should think a little more about your accent, he thought, which changes like the wind round Edinburgh Castle!
B.J. signalled for one of her girls to get his coat, then phoned for a taxi: 'Just in case the Big Man's waiting outside for ye ...' But he wasn't, and neither was the little man with the camera. Harry didn't need the taxi but took it anyway -as far as the town centre. .Then he took the Mobius route the rest of the way to Bonnyrig.
Back home he rummaged around until he found an incredibly ancient bottle of Scottish malt whisky that must have belonged to his stepfather. There was stil an inch or two of liquor in the bottom, and as he poured himself a large shot he couldn't help but wonder what Alec Kyle would have thought of it. Oddly enough, he stil felt buoyed by the single shot of cognac he'd had at B.J.'s! So what was he to make of that? A warning?
And: I've really got to get this body in training, Harry thought. With which he poured the contents of his glass - and the rest of the botle -away down the kitchen sink. Once you know your enemy, it's easier to deal with him.
And that was the end of that...
But maybe he should have taken a drink if only to lighten up a little. Doom and gloom were back by the time he used the Mobius Continuum to return to B.J.'s, a little after midnight, and the miseries were on Harry as heavy as ever. Also, he was somewhat upset by al this unnecessary hopping about; if B.J. had realy wanted to talk to him, why hadn't she simply taken him into her back room and talked to him? Or ... had she needed the time to set him up?
Whichever, he was alert as never before as he stepped out of the Continuum across the street from B.J.'s in the dark doorway where he'd seen the little man with the camera. If anything he was early; two of B.J.'s girls were just geting into a taxi at the kerbside, and B.J. herself was seeing them off. She gave a wave from her doorway as the cab puled away, then moved back out of sight. And the iluminated sign blinked into darkness.
Harry conjured a door of his own, moved across the street, rang B.J.'s bel. She hadn't had time to lock the door yet; he sensed movement, heard the ratle of a chain; the door swung open.
And seeing him: 'Now how in al that's ...?' she said, and frowned her puzzlement. 'You weren't here just a moment ago. I thought you weren't coming.'
He shrugged. 'I saw your girls leaving and waited. Didn't want anyone to get the, er, wrong idea.'
'Oh, realy?' she raised an eyebrow. 'Wel, maybe ye'd beter come in then, before someone sees you!' And as he made to step across the threshold, 'But Harry, you can believe me that they wouldn't get the wrong idea. So let's have it understood: this is strictly business. It's not that I want you here, but that you want to be here, right?'
His turn to frown, where he paused with one foot over the threshold. 'You invited me.'
'No,' she denied it. 'You insisted!'
'Wel, I'm here anyway,' he said.
'And do you stil want to talk to me?' (She half blocked his way).
'If you'l let me in, yes!'
Smiling, she let him pass. And walking along the corridor while she finished locking the door, he wondered, now what was that al about?
The lights were low in the bar room; Harry stood waiting, until B.J. came in from the corridor and turned them off altogether. Then he stood in total darkness, until a vertical crack of light expanded into an oblong as B.J. opened a recessed door behind the bar and passed through into the back room. And looking back at him, she said: 'Well, are ye no' coming?' She was in and out of that accent of hers like a hungry budgie in its cage, hopping to and fro from swing to swing!
Harry let himself through the bar hatch and followed her into the back room, or one of them. It was a storage room with a door to one side and stairs ascending to B.J.'s private rooms overhead. Here the Necroscope hesitated . . . until from the foot of the stairs B.J. said: 'I see more than enough of that bar of an evening. So if we must talk, let's at least be comfortable.'
Following her up the lighted stairs, he admired her figure and the natural swing of her backside in her sheath skirt, which was slit up one side oriental style. B.J. was slim and shapely . . . and classy, yes. Or was it just Kyle's body chemistry? Whichever, the Necroscope felt it; also their closeness: the fact that they were quite alone here. But (he was quick to reassure himself) it was all part of the search for Brenda.
This is where I live,' she told him, stepping aside on a landing that opened directly into her living room. 'Go on in.' And as he stepped by her into the room: 'Do have a seat, Harry Keogh,' she said.
Before doing so he looked the room over, and was pleased with what he saw. For where the bar below was a mixture of different styles, this room was all B.J. - it perfectly reflected her image, or the image that he still had of her. It was tasteful, yet exciting, too.
It pleased the eye, and simultaneously satisfied the mind. Lacking pretension or ostentation, still it looked rich, looked real. . . like the woman herself?
The carpet was pile, patterned, and obviously wool. Harry could almost feel its warmth coming right through the soles of his shoes. The carpet's pattern was ... what, Turkish? Greek? But Mediterranean, anyway. As were the varnished pine ceiling beams that formed spokes from the centre of the ceiling, completing the wheel where they were joined up by curving members around the room's perimeter. Thus the room had a circular or at least octagonal look, while in fact it was simply a square room. But actually there was nothing 'simple' about it.
The main lighting feature, a small round chandelier on an extending golden chain, depended from the hub of the pine ceiling-wheel; its crystal pendants served to contain the electric light from three egg-shaped bulbs, so that the whole piece was set glowing like a small soft sun. Its light was adequate, but could be supplemented by use of shaded wall lights, and by the reading lamp on its tall white stand near the circular central table.
The three inner walls were decorated with what looked like good quality old prints in modern frames, while in the comers narrow tapestry screens framed in bamboo added to the circular effect. In the exterior wall, a wide bay window and seat took up three-quarters of the
space and opened onto a balcony overlooking the garden; the Necroscope could see the gently mobile tops of trees or shrubbery out there, gleaming a lush green in the rain, and a night-dark hill in the distance (the Castle's Rock, maybe, or Arthur's Seat?) silhouetted against a lowering sky.
A light-tan leather lounger faced two matching easy chairs across the polished top of the pine table, and a pair of tall, narrow, crammed bookshelves filled the gaps between the framed prints along one wall. A television set at the foot of one of the screens that flanked the bay window could be viewed comfortably from the lounger, while a music centre on its stand occupied the space in front of the other screen. Behind all four of the screens small chests of drawers were barely visible; obviously Bonnie Jean kept her clutter in the drawers, well out of sight of visitors. She was one tidy lady.
To complete the picture, there was a rotating drinks cabinet on the open landing itself, where B.J. had paused, presumably to prepare drinks, and to inquire: 'A Courvoisier?'
Harry almost replied in the affirmative, then remembered his vow against hard liquor and shook his head. 'Thanks, no.'
'What?' she said. 'And am I supposed to sit here drinking by mahself!'
'Nothing hard,' he answered. 'I'm not one for hard liquor. Tonight was a one-off. If you hadn't suggested cognac, I probably wouldn't have thought of it. But look, since B.J. 's is a wine bar, why don't you offer me a glass of wine?'
That seemed to please her. 'Actually,' she said, 'I think I'm glad ye're no' a drinker. Hard drink will make a fool of a man - like Big Jimmy, for instance. It'll put an idiot in your head and a braggart in your mouth, to think and speak for ye!'
The Necroscope was well able to appreciate that: the idea of other people in your head, speaking and acting for you. And it wasn't too far-fetched, either, except his people were anything but idiots and usually told the truth!
'As for the difference,' B.J. went on ...
'... Eh?' he felt obliged to cut in.
'Between a pub and a wine bar,' she smiled.
'It's the licence,' she explained. 'A pub's hours are controlled, and its clients often aren't! But my wine bar's a club whose opening hours are satisfactory to me ... within the law, you understand, and with clients that I can pick and choose.'
'Like Big Jimmy?' Harry sat on the lounger.
'It was Big Jimmy's first bad mistake,' she answered, 'and his last.'
'You know,' Harry said, 'that was the first Jock "Jimmy" I ever met? I know everyone calls everyone Jimmy up here, but are there really that many Jameses?'
She laughed, and explained: 'It's like "Johns" in London. Or "Bruces" in Australia. If you don't know someone's name, you call him Jimmy, that's all. But Big Jimmy really was one.'
Harry grimaced, and agreed, 'He was one, all right!'
Til tell ye something, though,' she said, sitting in one of the easy chairs opposite him. 'You'd best be careful how you use "Jock." The Scots don't much care for it.'
'Oh, I can tell you know about them,' Harry said. 'Despite that you're not one of them ...?'
B.J. turned her face away and busied herself pouring wine, generally hiding her momentary confusion.
She had brought a silver tray bearing a crystal decanter, a bottle, and glasses, from the drinks cabinet. Now she poured a glass of red wine from the decanter and a glass of liebfraumilch from the bottle. Taking up the sweet white wine, she offered a toast: 'Here's to you, Harry Keogh.' And the accent had quite disappeared.
Harry picked up his glass and looked at it. The glass was many-faceted; its contents were a light ruby red, but seemed misty. 'The red's for me?' he queried. 'But I thought red wine was supposed to give you a headache? What's this, the "house" wine?'
That headache stuffs a myth,' she told him. 'In fact I deliberately chose the red for you because it's not so strong.
But it does have more than its share of sediment, which is why I decanted it. I managed to clear most of it. But if you don't like it...' she shrugged. 'I can always make you a coffee, or something else of your choice?'
Harry took a sip. The taste wasn't unpleasant; there was a certain bite to it - a hint of resin, maybe? He took a stab at it. 'You seem taken by things Mediterranean.'
'Aha!' she said. 'One minute an innocent, the next a connoisseur! But you're right: a friend brought a whole crate of it back from Greece for me. Probably very cheap local stuff, which might explain its quality, but...'
'... It's okay,' Harry cut her short. 'It tastes fine. And I'm grateful for your hospitality. But B.J., I do have to talk to you.'
'I know,' she said. 'About that night?'
'Well good, because I want to talk to you, too.'
'You probably saved my life,' Harry went on, 'and I'm not forgetting that I owe you for that. But what you did was still a killing, if not downright murder! Also, you nailed the "wolfman" to his seat in that van, and so helped kill him, too. And you were very cool, calm and collected about the whole business - which worries me. I mean, it's not everyone who goes around shooting people with a crossbow, then shrugs it off like it's something that happens all the time ... "
She waited until she was sure he had finished, then said: 'You could have asked me all of these things that night, after you ... well, after I found myself in the alley . . . when I was off balance? Let's face it, Harry, if I have a case to answer, so do you. You said you weren't a policeman, so ... what were you doing there that night, eh? And then there's a really big question: namely, how did you get us out of there? I mean, I still can't believe that - '
' - Drugged,' the Necroscope lied. 'I drugged you.' (He'd come prepared for this).
'What?' Her eyes has narrowed to slits, increasing their tilt, making her look more feral than ever. 'You . . . drugged me? How?
When?' Disbelief was written plain on Bonnie Jean's face.
'When I took your arm: I squeezed your arm tightly, held you, but still you pulled away. The effort you exerted to free yourself concealed the fact that I'd administered a drug from a small device in my hand. It had been meant for the people I was after, but I hadn't had an opportunity to use it.'
She let that sink in, and thought about it. And finally: 'That... all sounds a bit far-fetched,' she said. 'What, you got me out of there, unconscious, on your own?' But Harry saw that she was uncertain.
'I wasn't alone,' he went on. 'I had friends in the yard at the back of that place. And I switched the lights off, remember? That stopped the police for a little while. By the time they went inside, we'd bundled you over the wall.'
'Oh?' She cocked her head on one side. 'And then you carried me across the road, in full view of anyone who just might happen to be looking, to the alley, where you waited for me to recover, right?' Her sarcasm didn't quite drip, but it brimmed, certainly.
'Yes,' Harry nodded, delighted that she herself had supplied the answer to his biggest problem. 'Exactly right. There was a lot of milling around; most of the police were inside, or gathered at the entrance ramp; their vehicles were all over the place, blocking the road. And there was the distraction of the blazing van, of course. Also, if we had been seen . . . well, the people I work for are powerful. And so you see it wasn't really difficult. The drug is quick-acting, and just as quick to disperse. After a few minutes you came out of it. You were a bit shaken but nothing serious. Surely you remember sitting down on the wet cobbles?'
B.J. looked very uncertain now; her eyes blinked rapidly as she attempted to absorb all of this. 'I was shaken up,' she finally said. 'I ... didn't know what to make of things, except that it seemed like some kind of magic. I went to my hotel and to bed. In the morning ... well, it was all like a dream! And I had no way to contact you or even to know who you were. And I still don't.'
She looked at him accusingly.
'I shouldn't have helped you,' the Necroscope continued, and took another sip of wine. 'It didn't do me much good with my superiors, the people at the top. I should have left you at the garage to fend for yourself, and that way the police would have had a suspect for the killings. But ...' He shrugged. 'You had saved my life, and I felt obliged.'
'So ... you're an agent, of sorts?'
'Yes.' (It wasn't too much of a lie. He had been one, at that time, anyway).
'Working ... for whom?'
'People,' Harry shrugged again. 'When the police can't do something that needs doing - when the law defeats the lawful -then my people are there to help. Except they're not my people any more. I overstepped myself, with you.'
Her mouth fell open. 'You're out?'
'Yes,' he answered. This is my last job: to find out why you were there, why you did what you did. Only answer a question or two, truthfully ... you'll be in the clear. And I shall have squared it with my people.'
They'll take you back?'
'No, but that's okay. I have other things to do.' He sipped again at his wine, which was in fact excellent. It soothed a sore throat he hadn't even realized he had. And it was loosening not only his tongue but his mind, too, and making everything he'd said seem reasonable - even to him!
'So ...' (she was still uncertain). 'After you'd left me in that alley - '. and that was something of a swift getaway, too, if I may say so! - where did you go? And how did you disappear so quickly?'
'I went to my superiors and briefed them on what had occurred. They'd been after that gang for a long time. As for getting away quickly: \ there's a wicket gate in that warehouse door in the alley. I simply I stepped through it.' (Well, he'd stepped through a kind of door, : anyway, if not a wicket gate).
The frown was back on her face. 'I could swear that when I glanced away from you, then back again, you had simply ... I don't know, disappeared?'
That stuff I used on you,' he answered. 'It has illusory effects, but i they soon wear off. Also, it was very misty in the alley.
Anyway, what ; are you suggesting? Where's the mystery? I get paid -1 used to get paid ' - not to be seen, to arrive unannounced and depart without leaving a trace.' Suddenly Harry was slurring his words. Not a lot, but sufficient that he noticed it.
'So what with the mist and all, and your disorienta- i tion ...'
And there was B.J. refilling his glass. Had he emptied it that quickly? 'Now it's your turn,' he said, stifling a yawn.
'Is my company that boring?' B.J. smiled wonderingly. Or so he thought.
Tired!' the Necroscope told her, feeling the weight of his leaden eyelids. Not surprising, really ... all the chasing about he'd been doing ... and the drink ... and the big question mark still hanging like a sword over Brenda and Harry Jr: their whereabouts, their safety. He leaned to one side, propping himself up with one elbow on the lounger, and asked: 'Why were you there? Why the crossbow? Why did you kill that Skippy bloke, and try to kill the one in the wolf mask? Just for revenge? You said that they'd put friends of yours in jeopardy.' (The word 'jeopardy' hadn't come out very well, but Harry continued anyway): 'Which was enough to make you track them down and kill them? Well, all I can say is, you must really care for your friends! Why not start by telling me about that?'
'Are you okay?' she looked a little worried now, concerned for him.
'Me? I'm fine!' But the glass tilted in his hand a little. That was okay, there wasn't much wine in the glass anyway.
'Look, be comfortable,' she said. 'I've only just realized how wiped out you look! Here, let me fix that ...' And before he could complain even if he'd wanted to, B.J. had placed a couple of pillows under his head. 'You have hollows under your eyes a cat could curl up and sleep in!' she said. But the way she said the word 'sleep' was like an invocation: he could actually feel his itchy eyelids closing, and was too tired to rub them open.
'Your ... turn ...' he said, lolling there -
- And barely felt her hands touching his shoulders, turning him on his back, and easing his head onto the pilows. And: Damn it! he thought, as he passed out. And a moment or an aeon later, even more idiotically: / hope I didn't drop my glass!
When she was satisfied that the Necroscope was well and truly under, taking her time and careful not to disturb him too much, B.J. unclenched his fingers from around the glass, removed the tray and wine and all back to the drinks cabinet, then returned to Harry and pulled down the crystal chandelier on its retractable cable and chain. His story hadn't been so wild after all. Not to someone like Bonnie Jean Mirlu, who had heard many wild stories and known many wild things in her long, long life. And what he'd said about drugging her hadn't come as too much of a surprise either, except for the fact that she hadn't been able to work out what he'd done to her at the time. But now? It was far easier to believe that than that he'd somehow conveyed her in the blink of an eye from one place to another, without covering the space between! What, like some kind of Genie out of the Arabian Nights?
Well, Bonnie Jean didn't believe in that sort of magic, but the 'magic' of secret agencies, like Mis 5 or 6, and mindbending drugs especially, these were things she could readily believe in. Yes, for she had experience of the latter!
Indeed her red wine was a case - or a good many botles - in point. The recipe for that had been old when the sciences were young, and when dabblers had been caled alchemists. B.J. didn't know what the ingredients were, but she knew where they were cached and how to brew them up. And she knew something of their origins, too: the islands of the Greek Sea - the 'Mediterranean,' as it was now - and the Bulgarian Empire (later Romania, or Eflak, or Walachia). Oh yes, and even further afield; for certain of the ingredients had come from the Far East with the Hsiung-nu (later the Huns), in the form of precious balms and medicines.
Certainly the wine had been known in Manchuria and Sinkiang, and to the esoteric Worm Wizards of the Takla Makan Desert, and much later to Arab alchemists in olden Irem, the City of Pillars. In the 14th Century it had been used by the Bulgars - who were good chemists and wine-makers both - and by the Serbians and the Otoman Turks, to ward off the Black Death itself which also had its source in the east. After that, its secrets had been lost to mankind in the reel and roil and turmoil of a troubled world. Lost to mankind, aye, but not to Bonnie Jean's Master, who remembered al things and told them to her in the hours when she was caled up to atend Him. For she was His watcher where He lay in state, the Guardian of His Place. And the hour of His caling would be soon now ...
... The howling in her mind, that would cal her back even from half-way across the world - the cry of the Great Wolf in His secret den -that throbbing throat that the wild Carpathians had known when the Danube was a trade route and Alaric of the Visigoths was yet to sack Rome ...
Reluctantly, B.J. drew herself back from her mental wanderings in space and time. After al, these weren't her memories but those of her Master, and she was only privy to them through Him. But Bonnie Jean had watched over Him for two hundred years - like her mother before her, and hers before her - and was a zealous, even a jealous Guardian. And now someone was come who might, just might, threaten B.J., and in so doing threaten Him in His place.
Well, threats weren't new. They were old as earth, as old as her Master's being here; indeed, some of them had come here with him! But the nature of the threat was something else. Aye, for there are threats and there are threats. Now she must discover what sort Harry was, and decide how best to deal with it.
Kill him? Oh, that would be easy, so easy. She could have done it in the garage - she almost had done it - except she'd thought he was a policeman, and knew that the police don't give up easily when one of their own is murdered.
She could even do it now, this very minute ... Ah, but what would follow behind? What of these powerful friends of his, these men who could act when the law couldn't? And what was their interest in her? Was it just the way he said it was, or was there a lot more to it? No, killing him now would be stupid, dangerous. Especially if he had been sent here, as he alleged. Safer to find out about him -discover al there was to know -and then let her Master decide his fate.
By now the wine would be right through his system. It was time to begin. Bonnie Jean propped Harry up with pilows until he was in the half-reclining position. She drew curtains across the bay windows, turned down the chandelier lights to a softly luminous glow, and gave the spiral flex a gentle twist that set the pendants slowly turning. Winding and unwinding, they sent a stroboscopic flicker through the finely sheathing membranes of the Necroscope's eyelids.
And: 'My turn, aye,' she said softly, in a while. 'Or are you no longer interested? Don't you want to listen to me then, Harry Keogh?'
His eyelids flickered and B.J. smiled. Oh, he could hear that hypnotic voice of hers, al right, as in some especially vivid dream. 'No need to speak,' she told him. 'Simply nod, or shake your head, in answer to my questions. Do you understand?' B.J. couldn't know that this was a 'game' he'd played before, and that therefore his resistance was weakened. Or should be.
He nodded, but his eyelids continued to flutter a litle. 'Would you like to see?' B.J. wondered out loud. 'If so, then open your eyes. The light won't hurt you; indeed the crystals will help you see more clearly. They'l help both of us to see much more clearly.'
The Necroscope opened his eyes, and Bonnie Jean was gratified to note that their pupils were dark pinpricks swimming on moist mirror irises.
'Now listen,' she said, ensuring that the soft spokes of light from the chandelier's pendants were wheeling directly across his eyes and forehead. 'I want you to listen carefully and answer truthfully. You do want to answer my questions, don't you?' Her voice was now magnetic, utterly irresistible.
(A slight twitch of Harry's head: left and right, left and right. A shake? A denial? He must be stronger than she'd suspected! But no, he'd been asked a question and was only trying to answer it truthfully - just as she had demanded!) Then his Adam's apple wobbled, and he gurgled: 'Y-your ... t-turn ... "
Why, he was continuing their 'waking' conversation! A different reaction from anything she'd ever known before. Oh, he was a strange one, al right, this one! But: 'My turn, yes,' she agreed. And why not? Why not satisfy his queries here and now? Then, whatever his fate would be later, for now at least he'd be satisfied that she was innocent of any 'ulterior' motives in connection with the kilings in the garage. What she'd told him at that time - that her motive was pre-emptive, defensive - had been a lie concocted on the spur of the moment.
She had hoped to gain his sympathy by telling him that those people had threatened friends of hers. That way he'd be more likely to see her as an instrument of his own revenge, which he had. And now was the ideal time, the perfect opportunity, to substantiate and reinforce his previous opinion.
And so: 'My turn,' she said again. 'You want to question me, Harry? You want me to answer those questions you asked me before you fell asleep?'
(His slow, shuddering nod). And B.J. wondering, What sort of mind has this man, anyway? A determined one, certainly!
'Very well,' she went along with it. 'Except... I shall expect you to believe everything I tell you. And no matter what I tell you, or say to you, you will only remember that I'm innocent of any crime. You'll only remember that I'm innocent, and anything else that I require you to remember. And in that respect, and with that regard to myself, you will only act when I desire it. At such times as I require, you'll follow any instructions I may give you to the letter. You'll follow any instructions I give you ... to ... the ... letter! Is that understood?'
But his nod was tentative, trembling.
'If I'm to trust you with the truth, you must trust me,' she insisted. 'Isn't it only fair?
'Y-yes,' he said.
'Very well,' she said. 'Now pay attention, and let's try to have a normal conversation - except you will generally accept what I say. But you are allowed to point out any holes in the logic of my answers. So ... can we try to talk normally?'
Harry's throat worked up and down as he licked his lips. His face relaxed a little, and he said, 'Sure, why not?' in a perfectly ordinary speaking voice ... but his pinprick pupils remained fixed unblinkingly on the slowly mobile pendants.
B.J. was frankly astonished: at one and the same time he was difficult and he was easy! Perhaps, when these 'people' of his had trained him, they had somehow strengthened him against hypnotic suggestion. And post-hypnotic suggestion? If so, then he was a dead man. He mustn't be allowed to take any knowledge out of this room except what she desired him to know. But that was for the future, while for now:
'All right, then let's take it question by question,' she suggested. 'You wanted to know about my crossbow?'
'It's a weird weapon,' he said, attempting a shrug.
'No, it isn't,' she shook her head, despite that he wasn't looking at her. 'It's a perfectly normal weapon which I use to hunt rabbits in the Highlands. I climb, hunt, and live off the land; those are my hobbies. But I know a crossbow's power, and that it will kill men as well as rabbits. Also, it's a silent weapon! Anyway, it served its purpose admirably, and it saved your life. Does that answer your question?'
'Yes and no.'
'Yes and no? Theft let's deal with the "yes" part first. What do you mean by yes?'
'Your answer goes part of the way to explaining a coincidence.'
That the man you helped to kill - the one in the van - believed he was a werewolf.'
That hit B.J. like a fist! And forgetting for the moment that she was in control here, she even tried to cover her momentary confusion, which Harry wouldn't notice anyway. But then, regaining control: 'Are you saying that you, or these "people" of yours, actually believe in werewolves?'
'No, but the man you shot in the van did believe in them. He thought he was one. If you had believed it, too, you'd use either a silver bullet, or - '
' - A silvered crossbow bolt?' (She had seen it coming).
'Yes. And you did.'
She laughed, however shakily. 'That bolt was ornamental! Both of them were. They were taken from the wall of a hunting lodge in the Grampians. They were decorations, hanging over a fireplace along with a lot of other old weaponry. The lodge was my uncle's place, and when he passed on I got one or two of his things. The heads of those bolts were silvered for easy cleaning, because silver can't rust!' It was all a lie; clever, but a lie. But she knew that because it at least sounded feasible, it would be that much more acceptable to her 'guest,' especially in his drug-induced trance. In any case, this was a 'normal' conversation and allowed for normal responses. So perhaps Harry had been looking for just such an answer; maybe he'd even hoped for one. At any rate he sighed ... a sigh of relief, it seemed to B.J.
Yet still she frowned and said: 'But if you and these . . . these "people" of yours don't believe in werewolves, what made you think I might?'
'I didn't say that we did,' Harry answered. 'It was just something that required resolution, that's all.'
'And is it resolved now?'
'Very well, and now I have a question for you.'
'What else are you working on? You said you weren't concerned that you'd been dropped by your people because you had other things to do. What things?'
Tm searching for my wife and child.'
Stranger by the moment! B.J. thought. But he couldn't be faking it. His eyes hadn't blinked once; they were still fixed firmly on the crystal pendants where they slowly revolved, continuing to seek their natural balance. 'Are your wife and child lost, then?'
'They ... went away,' he said. 'From me, my work. The baby ... he ... it was a difficult birth. My wife's health suffered, mental as well as physical - or rather, mental instead of physical.'
'And other ... problems, yes.'
'So she ran away? With your baby?'
'But in your line of work, with your experience, you'll be able to find them, right? I mean, like you found me? I'm not in the telephone book, Harry.'
'Neither is Brenda,' he answered. 'But I can't simply ask a taxi driver to take me to her ...' '
That's how you found me?'
'So ... where will you look for them?'
'Abroad. Canada. Maybe America. The West Coast. Seattle. That's where I'll start, anyway. Probably.'
'And when will you go?'
'As soon as possible. Maybe tomorrow. But that's a lot of questions, and it's your turn again.'
She nodded, despite that he couldn't see her; it was just that their conversation was that 'normal!'
'You asked me if I'd kiled or helped to kil those men in the garage out of revenge,' she reminded him. 'Well, I did. Revenge pure and simple. I told you it was because they had placed friends of mine in jeopardy, but it was more than that. I don't much like to talk about it, that's all.' (She was lying again, but trying to make it sound good). 'You see, one of them used to come here, into my bar. He was chatting-up one of the girls, a close friend of mine. Later he called from London, asked her down to see him. She went, and didn't come back. But she left a note of the address she'd gone to.
I waited, and eventually saw in the newspapers how her body had been discovered. After that, I felt it was all up to me. I look after my girls, Harry. Their welfare is very important to me ... "
At least that last part was the truth, and B.J.'s story as a whole wasn't a complete falsehood. About a year ago, she had lost a girl on holiday in London. She simply hadn't come back and was still missing, B.J. presumed dead. The work of her Master's olden enemies? She prayed not...
Meanwhile, though she had finished speaking, Harry wasn't saying anything. So B.J. prompted him: 'Does that sound reasonable?'
'Yes,' he answered tentatively, 'as far as it goes. Skippy was from Newcastle. Edinburgh is a short hop. Skippy was always on the run. He might have come up here to get away from trouble in Newcastle. But... you shot at two men.'
'One because he was trying to kill you,' she answered. 'It was dark in the garage, and he was obviously a killer. And ...'
'... And the other?' Harry prompted her, his eyes as glassy and fixed as ever.
'Because I thought he was trying to run me down! I mean, I didn't actually shoot at anyone, just at the van . . . and I had to get out of there! I was frightened, Harry!' It was another clever lie. And while the Necroscope's drugged mind was absorbing it:
'Your turn, Harry,' she said. 'Just what is this organization you worked for?'
'It's called E-Branch,' he said, flatly. 'Part of the Secret Intelligence Services. The most secret of them all.'
'And your job with this E-Branch?'
He was silent, but beads of sweat had formed on his brow.
'I was a field agent.'
'You saw that for yourself. Those louts in the garage were murderers and thieves. They were responsible for the deaths of innocent people, including policemen, and your friend! I was - oh, a means of enforcing the law, where natural laws no longer applied.'
'What,' she cocked her head on one side, 'they'd given you a licence to kill?' That wasn't exactly what he'd meant, but:
'Oh, I'm no stranger to death,' he answered. And before she could respond, 'But now it's your turn again. Why does an "innocent" girl like you have access to mind-bending drugs - like the stuff you must have put in my wine? And why, if you're so innocent, are you afraid of being questioned? Instead of hunting this Skippy and his lycanthrope friend down, why didn't you give the police the girl's last known address in London, which you told me you knew?
Last but not least, why is someone watching you or your place - this place? A shrivelled-up little man with a face like
... I don't know. Like a greyhound?'
But Bonnie Jean had had more than enough of this game now. And anyway, he was much too good at it. As for that last question of his: it had shaken her to her roots!
So: Enough of this! she thought. Now it was time to apply the real pressure ...