R.L. STEVENSON JAMIESON, AND HIS BROTHER ...
Back at E-Branch HQ it should have been time to cal it a day, or a night, but Darcy had mentioned some paperwork he must see to before going home. Likewise Ken Layard; he also had work to attend to. And so they had ridden up together with Harry in the elevator and accompanied him to his door. Or perhaps the paperwork was just an excuse because they had sensed that the night wasn't quite over yet where the Necroscope was concerned.
The place was quiet. With the majority of esper personnel already checked out, the main corridor might easily be mistaken for any corridor in any better-class London hotel. But the Duty Officer had met the three out of the elevator, and as the Necroscope entered his room and made to close the door ... suddenly it seemed he heard someone breathe his name!
He immediately boiled over and, stepping back into the corridor, shouted, 'Hey, look! If I'm involved, why not simply involve me? I mean, don't talk about me, talk to me! What am I, a social leper?'
Layard had already entered his office; but Darcy and the Duty Officer, an esper by the name of John Grieve - a bespectacled, balding twig of a man in rolled up shirt-sleeves, grey slacks and slippers, with a clipped, precise, military or 'old-school-tie' sort of voice that Harry supposed might easily get him type-cast as an Inland Revenue Inspector, which he was anything but - were standing with their heads almost conspiratorially close together.
'Well?' he snapped, as they turned puzzled faces towards him.
'Well what?' Darcy was plainly annoyed. 'We weren't talking about you, Harry!'
'Er, but we were about to.' John Grieve was less certain and fidgeted with the lobe of his right ear. 'Or if not about you, about your wife. And you're perfectly correct: I should have included you. But I wanted Darcy's opinion first.'
Now Darcy was looking at Grieve in the same puzzled fashion. 'What? What's going on?'
That's what I was trying to tell you. It's about Brenda.' And quickly, before Darcy and the Necroscope could break into a bout of angry questioning: 'We seem to have lost her - and the baby.' In the Necroscope's mind, Grieve's dry, official, almost emotionless voice seemed to ring like an echo chamber; Darcy's, too. Perhaps it was an irritating effect of the empty corridor and rooms, he thought, and put it aside if only for the moment. But Brenda and Little Harry, missing? That was something else!
'Lost them?' he repeated Grieve. 'My wife and child? What do you mean, "lost" them?' The phrase seemed too well-chosen, too final. Harry's tired eyes were wide awake now, unblinking. 'Have they . . . come to any harm?' He grabbed the DO's elbow.
Grieve looked him straight in the eyes and said, 'No, not that we know of. Now, do you want to let go of my arm so I can talk to you in what's left of comfort?'
Harry gritted his teeth but released him. And waiting for Grieve to speak, he re-evaluated what he knew of the man.
Grieve had two talents; one of them 'dodgy,' Branch parlance for an as yet undeveloped ESP ability, and the other very remarkable and possibly unique. His first gift was that of far-seeing: he was a human crystal ball. The only trouble was he had to know exactly where and what he was looking for, otherwise he could see nothing. His talent didn't work at random but had to be directed: he had to have a definite target.
His second string made him doubly valuable. It could wel prove to be a reflection of his first talent, but occasionally it was a godsend. Grieve was a telepath, but a mind-reader with a difference. Yet again he had to 'aim' his talent; he could only read a person's mind when he was talking to him ... but if he knew the person in question, that included when they were talking on the telephone! Using John Grieve, there was no need for mechanical scrambler devices. It was one reason why Darcy used him as frequently as possible in the role of Duty Officer.
But. . . had it been something of Grieve's talent that the Necroscope had experienced just a moment ago? Was it even possible?
'You weren't talking about me?' Harry frowned and licked his dry lips, his mind returning to that peculiar sensation he had felt when he'd entered his room: the feeling that his name had been whispered. And then there was the echo chamber effect, which was still present: as if his head were hollow - or as if it were . . . what, occupied? By someone else?
Someone who was spying on his thoughts? 'Were you thinking about me, then? And if so, would I be able to hear you thinking?' Suddenly Brenda and the child had taken a back seat in Harry's order of priorities. Or if not that exactly, then he'd seen the possibility of a connection with their disappearance and this new problem. A remote one (he hoped and prayed), but a possibility.
Again Harry gripped Grieve's arm, then both of them, as he read the other's negative stare. No, he wouldn't have been able to hear Grieve thinking about him. And so: 'John, I want you to read my mind,' he snapped. 'Go on in there and see what you can find. See who you can find! Do it now, as quickly as you can.'
Almost instinctively Grieve looked, and recoiled at once! He wrenched himself free of Harry, took a stumbling step backwards, said, 'What...?'
'Wel?' Harry caught up with him and held him against the wal of the corridor. 'What did you see?' (Perhaps not surprisingly, the echo had vanished now; the voices of everyone involved were remarkably clear and ordinary; there was no whisperer in the Necroscope's mind).
Darcy was looking worriedly from Harry to Grieve and back again. 'What on earth ...?' he began to say. But Grieve cut him short with: Two of you?' (This to Harry). 'A moment ago, two of you. But now, only one. Only ... you!'
Again Harry released him, and turned tremblingly away. He had been invaded, his mind broken into. Just like Banks, Stevens, and Jakes before him. For long moments there was an electric tension in the air, until finaly:
'Well, is someone going to explain?!' Darcy shouted.
At which Harry took them into his room and listened while Grieve reported the details of Brenda's and Little Harry's disappearance. Grieve didn't waste any time, but the Necroscope was now sensitive to every second ticking by. And as he listened to Grieve, he also found himself listening to - or for - something in his head. But it didn't return. Or not yet, anyway.
'She was shopping in Knightsbridge,' Grieve started. 'She had the baby with her. We had men on her, of course, three of the best. The same people who have watched out for her all the time she's been here, Special Branch and good at their job. Not espers but the next best thing.' He shook his head. 'If it were anyone else, I'd suspect their report was a whitewash. But not these blokes. They know what they're doing. And if they say she disappeared, she disappeared .. .
'But not into the crowd, you understand, though certainly there were plenty of people on the streets. But she took young Harry into a baby outfitters, and left the minders waiting outside. Where they waited, and waited ... and finally went in to see what was wrong. Well, there was no exit from the rear, but Brenda and the kid - '
' - Were gone,' Harry sounded much calmer now. 'Yes, I get the picture. But what time was this?'
'Five-thirty or thereabouts. You two had already left the H.Q. with Ken Layard. I didn't want to cause a panic or divert you from what you were doing. There seemed every chance that we would pick Brenda up again. I mean, we're not looking after her because she's under threat or anything, but mainly because ... well, because - '
' - Because sometimes she doesn't seem capable of looking after herself?' Harry cut in again. 'It's okay, go ahead and say it. She has problems, I know.' And to himself: Problems, Brenda? That's saying the very least!
All those weeks, months of debriefing following the Bodescu case and Harry's subsequent metempsychosis, his rehabitation of another's body. Indeed his very being, when Brenda had thought him dead. Wouldn't that be enough to ... unnerve anyone? And gradually, during the course of all that debriefing, and Harry's rehabilitation, it had become increasingly apparent that Brenda was in real trouble. But surely that was only to be expected, and might even have been anticipated.
For after all, Brenda had only recently become a mother; she'd still been recovering from an uncomfortable confinement and problematic birth, when for a while her doctor had thought he might lose her. Add to this the fact of her husband's weird 'talent,' that he conversed with dead people, which Brenda had known about and which had preyed on her mind for months - and then the fact that her infant child seemed possessed of similar or even more frightening powers, so that even among the espers of E-Branch he was looked upon as something of a freak - and the fact that Harry was now (literally) a different person, one who was Harry, with all of his past, his memory and mannerisms, but living in a stranger's body; the fact of the absolute terror Brenda had endured on the night when she came face to face with the monster Yulian Bodescu, whose like she couldn't possibly have imagined even in her worst nightmares ...
Little wonder her mind had started to give way under the strain. On top of which she hated London and couldn't possibly return to Hartle-pool in the north-east; her old flat would be poison to her and full of monstrous memories. For it was there that the Bodescu creature had attacked her, attempting to destroy both herself and her child!
Thus, as her mental connections with the real world were eroded, Brenda's visits to various specialists and psychiatric clinics had increased. Until now . . . what had happened here? Had she decided that enough was enough? Or was it the work of some outside agency? Or could it be that the baby himself...?
'Anyway,' Grieve continued, glad to be off the hook, 'it didn't work out like I thought it would and they're still missing. We have as many Branch agents on it as we can spare. They're out there in the City right now, doing whatever they can.'
His words drew the Necroscope back to earth. The address of the store?' The look on Harry's face was now entirely grim.
Grieve took Darcy and Harry to the Ops Room, punched up a street map of London onto the big screen. He showed the Necroscope the exact location of the store.
Harry said, 'Okay, now I have something to do.' Then, to John Grieve: 'I won't be gone long, but in the meantime Darcy might like to tell you about the case we're on.' And to Darcy: 'I hope this thing with Brenda has nothing to do with our werewolf, but ever since we got back here -1 don't know, I can't be sure - but I think I've been experiencing the same sort of mental invasion that Banks and the others described.'
'Christ!' Darcy gasped as the meaning, or a possible meaning, of what the Necroscope had said sank in. 'But if he knows you're on to him ... do you think he'd take hostages?'
Harry held up his hands in a helpless gesture, but a moment later gave a grim shake of his head. 'No, I don't think my son would let him! Let's hope it's just a coincidence. But one thing for sure, I daren't waste tonight. So while I'm gone perhaps you'd like to call in Trevor Jordan? Better still, let me have his address and tell him to wait there for me. It's something Sir Keenan Gormley recommended ... "
Using several co-ordinates that he knew, the Necroscope went to the store in Knightsbridge where he entered the premises using the Mobius Continuum. His arrival at once set off the store's alarms, but that didn't bother him; in the event that his plan worked, he wasn't going to be here very long.
In Harry's incorporeal days, before his 'repossession' of Alec Kyle, he had been able to travel into the past and 'immaterialize' there: he'd been able to manifest a ghostly semblance of himself on any bygone event horizon. Now, embodied and fully corporeal once more, this was no longer possible; it would create unthinkable paradoxes and perhaps even damage the temporal flux itself. He could still travel in time, but while doing so must never attempt to leave the Mobius Continuum for the real world.
Transferring back to the Continuum, he found a past-time door and floated for a moment on the threshold, gazing on time past. This was a sight that never failed to awe him: the myriad blue life-threads of mankind, twisting and twining in the metaphysical 'vacuum' of a previously conjectural fourth dimension; those neon filaments that might best be likened to the 'retinal memories' of time, the trails of human lives that had travelled here; or if not here, in the mundane world on the other side of the Mobius Continuum.
And way back there in the past, the blue haze of Man's origins, that supernova of human life, from which these streamers had hurled themselves into the ever-expanding future. It seemed to Harry that he heard an orchestrated, sighing Ahhhhhhh sound, like a single, pure note from some other-worldly instrument, or the massed voices of a magnificent chorus in a sounding cathedral; but in fact he knew that all was silence, that it was only the effect of his stunned mind. For if any man were to actually hear the tumult of the past, that would be a sound to blast his brain and deafen him forever.
Almost reluctantly, the Necroscope brought himself back to the task in hand. This was the place where his wife and son had disappeared just a few hours ago. Well, he had his own theories about what had happened to them; and now, one way or the other, he intended to prove them. And without further ado he launched himself down the past time-stream.
But here a curious and paradoxical thing. Because he had never existed in this particular space-time, Harry had no past life-thread to follow but must simply let himself plummet, and because this region of the past was now his present, (and even his future!) his true life-line extended behind him and seemed to unwind from him like cotton from a bobbin back to the past-time door. And Harry found the knowledge that he could return to his point of entry via that thread very reassuring ...
In a little while he had reached his destination, arriving at a point in past time where it would be proved eventually that his son, the infant Harry, had contrived to bring about an amazing, almost unique occurrence. But that was for the future, not the past!
He knew the life-threads of Brenda and her baby at once; he seemed drawn to them - sucked at by their rush - as they emerged like bright blue meteors out of the past, and hurtled by him on course for the true future. The one a mature blue nucleus at the head of a trailing thread, its pathway through all the alternatives of time, and the other smaller, but brilliant with new life! This was them, or their temporal 'echoes' after entering the store, but what the Necroscope desired to discover was their course from here on.
Quickly reversing his direction of travel, Harry followed behind and gained on them; for he had the advantage of knowing that time is relative, and that in the metaphysical Mobius Continuum will is the single cause that brings effect. And indeed he willed himself to catch up with them, 'just in time.'
Speeding behind them, intent on following wherever young Harry might take his mother, the Necroscope was witness to an effect that would baffle even him, and continue to do so for a period of seven long years - or 'lost years,' as much of that time would come to seem to him. For Harry had forgotten a very simple fact: that what he could do with the Continuum, his son could do in spades!
It was simply this: that in the space of a single moment of time Brenda and the infant Harry's life-threads had come to an abrupt, totally unexpected, apparently violent end! Blinded by the sudden flash of twin bomb-bursts, Harry closed his eyes and sped on through what must surely be the debris of his family, scattered atoms of light occupying the 'space' where they had been. But then, looking back, he saw that their termination had been too complete, too uter; that in fact nothing remained of them. Not in this world, anyway - - Or rather, not in this place?
And so perhaps Harry could be forgiven for believing that his son had simply moved his mother to some other, safer place in the mundane world, and that he would experience little difficulty in finding them and going to them later.
But later can be a long time, as the Necroscope would discover soon enough. And in his case it might even be years ...
Back at the baby outfiters, the alarms were still going off. As Harry paused there to get his co-ordinates, so the telephone started ringing. For a moment he ignored it, then gave it some thought. For who would be trying to cal a baby store at this time of night? The answer seemed obvious.
Moving to the front of the store, Harry found the office, desk, and telephone, and lifted the later from its cradle. At the other end of the line, Darcy Clarke said:
'Good, I'm glad I caught you! Look, don't go to Trevor's place. I spoke to him on the 'phone and by now he's on his way in. But, er, he told me to tell you that he wouldn't - I mean, not under any circumstances - accompany you anywhere via your mode of travel. Is that understood?'
Harry grinned to himself however coldly, and nodded. 'Yes, understood,' he said. And: 'Can you reach him in his car?'
Then tell him to go to this address and meet me there.' He passed on the address of the East End garage. 'And tell him to keep a low profile.'
'Harry, is this wise?' Darcy's concern came over loud and clear. 'Do you think you should be folowing this up? I mean, tonight?'
'Probably not, but I didn't start it.'
'What about police or E-Branch back-up?'
'Definitely not! Just Jordan, no back-up. In fact I want you to back off!'
For a moment there was silence, then Darcy asked, 'Can I hear alarms ringing?'
'Probably in more ways than one,' Harry answered, and put the 'phone down. And to himself: Sirens, too! Outside the shop, visible through the plate glass, a police car had screeched to a halt. Its siren was blaring and blue light rotating. A young policeman came to the window, held a hand over the peak of his cap and scanned the interior. He saw Harry walk out of the office, shrank to one side, began talking excitedly into his handset. Harry waved cheerily at him, then walked into the back of the store where it was still dark, conjured a Mobius door and took his departure.
Lawmen had irritated the Necroscope more than enough for one day. Time to let them do some explaining - and especialy after they'd broken into the store for no apparent reason ...
Harry took the Mobius route to the East End, and stepped from his door into a thin, penetrating drizzle that filed the night with its misery and turned the cobbles to gleaming jet. Turning up his colar, Harry walked a quarter-mile to the run-down district where the garage was located, and from a nearby street looked the place over. The garage was prety much as Harry had heard it described.
Its supports and upper floors formed a concrete skeleton six storeys high; the sections making up the outer safety wals had been knocked out, so that the floors were like vast lintels supported on giant steel and concrete stanchions. In silhouete against the night sky, the place might be a towering 20th Century Stonehenge, or some surrealist sculptor's 'Ziggurat.'
Below, at ground level, the ramps at Harry's end of the mainly derelict building had been removed, the entrance bricked up. But enclosed behind an eight-foot-high brick wal, a maintenance yard extended a further sixty feet or so beyond the end of the main structure. Ensuring that he wasn't observed, Harry made a quick Mobius jump into the yard to have a look ...
... And retreated in double quick time when he discovered warehouse doors standing open at the end of the main building, emiting a blaze of electric light and the sounds of human and mechanized activity. Also, the yard was ful of quality motors; he'd seen a handful of Porsches, even a Lotus! Obviously the people in the garage were working overtime, and the Necroscope knew what they were working on. He only hoped they wouldn't be working too late, and that Trevor Jordan wasn't going to take al night geting here.
For if the 'werewolf were on duty, sooner or later he'd be bound to discover Harry lurking out here, which could only result in complications. But Sir Keenan Gormley had advised to fight fire with fire, and Harry's answer to his unknown adversary's telepathy was Trevor Jordan's. Maybe Jordan could block the other out, giving the Necroscope the edge he needed. Which wasn't to say that Harry didn't already have an edge; he had a good many edges, and sharp ones at that, but he'd seen through the eyes of dead men what he was up against.
His plan was a simple one:
Get into the garage, check out some plates, engine block numbers and what have you, get out again and report the entire operation to the police. The Branch could pass on the information about the crazy wolfman, the murders he'd commited. And if there wasn't enough real, living evidence against that one ... maybe Harry could think up some other way to settle the score. Maybe even to the point where he'd offer himself up as bait.
But the law is the law; despite that the Necroscope might occasionally seem scathing of red-tape officialdom, he wouldn't be playing the part of executioner just for the sake of it. He knew that the murdered men, especially Jim Banks and the other policemen, wouldn't want it that way. Well, not if it could be avoided. But if it couldn't -
- In that case, if there were no other way, then Sir Keenan Gormley's law would apply. Then it would have to be Harry's way. An eye for an eye ...
Right now, however, deciding that his lone figure was too obvious standing there in the blurry, watered-down light of the street lamps, Harry made his way to an alley on the far side of the road and stepped into its shadows. No sooner had he done so than he realized that he hadn't been alone in what he'd thought was an empty street. Looking out into the night, he saw a figure, female, walking in his direction but on the other side of the road, in the lee of the garage wall.
Despite that she wore flat black shoes, she looked tall and lithe. Her gloves were black, too, as was her trouser-suit.
Her hair was tied back in a pony-tail, and her manner was carefree as she swung a fancy black shopping bag, for all the world as if she were just returning from a jaunt to some fashionable outfitters for that special little item - and to hell with the rain! Harry couldn't quite make out her features but found himself wishing that he could, for he felt sure she'd be a looker ... At which he remembered what George Jakes had told him.
Could this be the same girl? She fitted Jakes's picture, definitely. But if so, what would she be doing here now? Some sort of fancy lookout for the garage? It seemed likely.
But then, catching a glimpse of her dark, slanted almond eyes in a pale, heart-shaped face as the girl reached the wall of the maintenance yard and glanced across the street in his direction, the Necroscope drew back into the alley's shadows.
And as his back met the wall - at that precise moment of time - a well-known voice spoke suddenly, sharply in his mind: Harry? Thank goodness I've found you! My boy, you move so fast, it's hard keeping track of you! Sir Keenan had spoken to him at a moment of maximum concentration, when his nerves were at full stretch. So that there in the darkness Harry gasped and gave an involuntary start. The dead man felt it and said, Oh, and what are you up to now? Why are you so jumpy?
Harry took a chance and glanced quickly round the corner. But the girl... was gone? But how? There were no other alleyways close by, and the street was a long one. Yet from what he could see it was deserted end to end. Even an Olympic sprinter couldn't have disappeared at that speed! And it wasn't likely she'd gone over that wall... was it?
Well? Sir Keenan pressed him. What's going on?
Putting the problem of the girl aside to explain the more important details, Harry whispered: 'So you see, while I was half-expecting some kind of mental intruder, I wasn't expecting you!' On the other hand, while he engaged in incorporeal conversation with Keenan Gormley, he wasn't likely to be overheard and intruded upon by any living mind. Even a telepathic 'werewolf can't intercept the thoughts of the dead.
Sir Keenan, however, could hear his thoughts well enough, and told him: Harry, you know that normally I wouldn't bother you, but I believe this to be important. Indeed, I think it's what you've been looking for - the identity of the murderer!
Harry stiffened at once and said, 'I think I already have it. Or if not an actual identity, a description at least. But it would be good to have confirmation, yes.'
It happened after you visited Banks, Stevens, and Jakes, Sir Keenan told him. Someone came forward.
'A dead someone?'
Oh yes, a victim no less than the others. Yet if possible a worse crime than the others, for this was the murderer's own brother!
The Necroscope sensed what would be the sad shake of Sir Keenan's head. Then: Harry, now I'd like to introduce you to R.L.
Stevenson Jamieson, and let him take it from there ...
Harry had become adept at discerning good from bad almost from the initial 'sound' of a dead voice. And when this one spoke to him, at first tremulously, and then with growing confidence, he knew its owner for a good and honest man.
I reckon I was, yeah, the other agreed, but not without a degree of modesty. As best I knew how, anyways. But my brother . . .
wasn't. Like I means, he isn't! You want to hear our story, Necroscope? See, I think things is gone far enough. I has heard you talking to others bout this thing, and even though I was a ways off and it weren't me you talked to, still I felt how warm you was. So I know why the dead 'uns love you so. And God knows that should anything happen to you, my name and bones is cursed forever.
Well, I don't want that! No way! So ... does you have the time to hear me out, Necroscope?
And of course Harry nodded his confirmation ...
I'll keep it short, (R.L. Stevenson began his story). We were born in Haiti, Port-au-Prince. By we I means me and my brother, A. C. Doyle Jamieson. And before you asks: yes, our Poppy was a hell of a reading man! We had a older sister, too, Shelley. OrM. W. as we sometimes called her, 'cos Wollstonecraft is a mite long-winded.
I was bom in '46 and Arthur Conan came seven years later. So you see, he was my little brother. But out there in the Antilles it was much the same as here in England, or anywhere else in the world, I reckon: there's a hell of a difference in sevenyears! What I mean is, I was brungup respectful to folks, just like Shelley before me. But by the time Arthur Conan came along things was changing. For one thing, Poppy was getting old. He weren't much good at correcting anymore.
Ma died when Arthur Conan was born, and three years later Shelley got herself married and moved across to Jamaica. Which left just me, ten years old, Poppy, and A. C. That didn't help a lot neither, 'cos there was no womenfolk to teach A. C. his manners and put him right when he did wrong, just me and Poppy to do our best at spoiling him ... which we did. By then Poppy was really old; A. C. had been his last spurt, so to speak, if you take my meaning.
About Poppy. He had obeah blood in him; me too, a little, and A. C. a lot! You know the obi, Harry? Shoot, a 'course you does! Why, this thing you're doing right now is . . . well, it's obeah, right? Black magic! Obi! Those islands is still full of it, I hear. Whole regimes has risen and fallen on it! But more of it when A. C. and me was kids. It came with the black folks out of Africa, you know? The preacher used to say that obi was born in sin and bred in ignorance, and didn't have no place in a God-fearing world. But I always figured he was more a-feared of obi than God!
Except, Poppy's obi was gentle stuf, for protection more than anything else. I mean, Poppy wouldn't a harmed a soul! He was just happy with his charms and love-potions, and never once messed with poisons or dead folks-I mean the zombies, Harry, begging your pardon! Protection, yeah! But Poppy did have something more than the simple stuf, and he coulda used it to make himself a big man.
Why, whole governments have balanced on such as this, in Haiti and the Indies! Yeah! For Poppy had the power to look into a enemy's mind, and so know his every move.
Why, it was even better than that: he simply knew it when he came up against a bad one! This thing of his would kick in; right away he'd be reading any bad or dangerous thoughts aimed in his direction. And he'd know who was aiming them! Not that it happened too often, you understand, 'cos Poppy didn't have no enemies.
There was special times when Poppy would practise his obi, and the full of the moon was one of them. We had a little house and garden sheltered by the clifs in a corner of a shingle bay near Port dePaix on the south coast. We kept a few chickens, a pig or two, and there was plenty offish in the straits between Haiti and Tortue Island. What with green stuff out of the woods and the garden, we didn't do too badly at all. But as Poppy got older and A. C. grew up, I'd keep getting this feeling that my little brother wasn't satisfied. There was a whole wide world to play in, and our garden by the beach wasn't big enough ...
We'd creep on up Poppy at full moon time. He had what he called his 'obeah house: it was just a wooden shack at the end of the garden, where mostly he'd sit on a old rocker and tilt a jug. But sometimes he'd burn herbs, mutter a spell or two, turn in a circle and scan all around, to 'feel' what was going on in the world. And the next day we'd have chicken for dinner, 'cos he'd a used a bird in his practice. But if he'd catch us spying on him, my, how he'd fly into a rage then! Obi was something he didn't want us having nothing to do with! And he'd get me on my own and say:
' You has a good aura. Robert, you is chocolate - which is to say, you's a natural thing. As a forest is green, and a fish is silver, you is chocolate. Like a log is brown, and the sky's blue, and the sea's deep green down under, you is the colour of your soul, too. But son, I tell you your brother is dark. And I mean darker than just his skin! But Arthur's young and that can change - better had, too, else there's no good ending for him! Except I knows I won't be here to look out for him, so I got to leave all that to you. You is his brother, after all.' And that was me stuck with it. Not that I minded much, not then ...
But come the time A. C. was seventeen, I was a full-time working man and didn't have a lot of spare time for him.
Poppy was on his very last legs; in fact, I couldn't see how the Old Boy was still hanging in there! And my brother... well, he be just a handful!
There was this girl in trouble in Port de Paix (not that that meant a hell of a lot, 'cos she had something of a reputation anyways), and A.C. was smoking a lot of the wrong stuf. Also, I suspected he was big in a gang on the wrong side of the law. And you got to remember, Harry, The Law out there in them days wasn't the same as here in England! No sir! Men was dying for their political beliefs, or just disappearing of the face of the earth, which amounted to much the same thing. But worse than these things, I also figured A.C. was doing some obeah, or trying to do it, anyways.
I spoke to Poppy'bout it, and he said, 'Son, it's what I feared. The blood will out. Obeah's in my blood, and in you and your brother's blood, too. Except I knows that if A. C. gets it he'll use it wrong. But I also knows that you is there to block him. So long as you is alive my obeah's split two ways, between you and your brother. So wherever he goes, whatever he does, be there to square it with the Powers That Be. I mean, the powers that govern obi. Just be there, and Arthur won't have full command of his skills. But son, I feel I has to tell you this ... your brother is strong in obeah. I has known it for, oh, many a long year. I reckon it's why I hangs on: 'cos I know he doesn't come fully into his own till I is passed on ...'
Now Harry, that's a night I'll remember always, 'cos when I was leaving the Old Boy be in his obeah house, I saw a shadow sneaking away along the garden, and that shadow was shaped like my brother ... Wel, Poppy died a few days later, all curled up like an old leaf and clutching his belly as if he ate something that didn't agree. I had my suspicions, but God, I couldn't see A.C. doing that! I just couldn't...!
A couple years went by, and Poppy was right: his obi came down to me and A.C. But as I said before, I got a little and my brother got a lot - and all of what he got, bad!
A.C. was nineteen and wanted by The Law. Not for any thing you could specify; mainly for being against the so-caled 'authorities.' If they'd got him he was a goner for sure, and A.C. knew it. That alone was enough to turn him against any kind of genuine authority from that time on. He wanted to smuggle himself out of the country, and he had the contacts to do it. Al he needed was papers, which weren't hard come by to someone who could do a few favours, some obi tricks for folks, to get them. And he got papers for me, too.
See, I minded my promise to Poppy, that 1 would go along with A. C. wherever he went, and watch him whatever he did. He was my little brother, after al. So we came to England. I suppose we was illegal immigrants, since our papers were faked and al; anyway, they never did catch us. Luck - and obeah - were with us.
And there's a lot of island folk over here, you know? There's always someone who be ready, willing, and able to protect an obi man. I suppose I was looked after 'cos people liked me, and A.C. 'cos ... 'cos they feared him.
But trouble folows trouble, Harry, and here in UK, A. C. just couldn't keep his nose out of it, same as back home. Black gangs and what al, pilfering, drugs ... he was just a bad lot; he was into everything! I would a given up on him for sure, but for my promise to Poppy. And I knew that he'd be a lot worse if I wasn't there to keep a balance. But it seemed my.obi balanced his and kept him out of trouble. Wel, out of the worst kind of trouble, anyways.
'Ventualy we fell apart. I had me a job, a good one, too, and there was a girl... but never mind 'bout that.
One night A. C. came around to my place, and he'd had too much to drink. Said he wanted to talk. Wel you know how drunks ramble. But there's rambling and rambling. My brother was looking at me sort of strange and breathing slow and heavy. And you know, Necroscope, I couldn't help but remember that night when Poppy told me about the balance between our obis, and how A. C. Doyle Jamieson wouldn't come into his own while Poppy was still alive; and how even then there 'd be me to steer a path for him. And I admit I thought: ' Wel, looks like A.C.'s about ready to start steering his own path!' and I thought: 'This boy wants my obi, too!'
Anyways, I asked him what was the trouble, and he told me the leader of another gang was after his skin. But A.C. could only catch a 'glimpse' of this boy every now and then. I mean, an obeah glimpse, you know? Like when Poppy knew that a enemy was after him? But this was serious stuff, and A.C. needed to know this guy's every move. But he couldn't, 'cos my obeah was blocking his! And I had heard 'bout this boy and knowed he was real bad stuff.
Wel, like a fool I told A.C. I'd rein back on it, and I did just that. I hadn't given my obi hardly a thought since my talk with Poppy, but now I concentrated on clearing the way for A.C. It weren't nothing physical, al in the mind. I just quit from giving of obi. 1 figure you knows what I'm talking 'bout, Necroscope, 'cos you be like that. But. . . oh, I had bad dreams for a couple nights, 'til A.C. came to see me again.
And by then it's been the time of the full moon, obi time, and I has seen in the papers how this other guy is dead and all tore up. And here's my brother, A.C. Doyle Jamieson, on top of the world, not like when I last saw him; 'cept just like before I couldn't believe that of him, not of my brother. But just in case, I lets my obi flow again; I send it out of me not just to guide but to counter Arthur! And he knows / done it, o' course.
How? 'Cos he picked up on.a enemy - me!
Wel, a month went by ... it was full moon time again ... and after that... I mean it was then that... Harry, I was out of it! But don't ask me to tell you 'bout it, 'cos I won't. Andyou already had it from the others. And it's because you had it from them that I knows it were Arthur. See, the way it happened to them is how it happened to me. Just exactly. So in the end I has to face up to it; but like I always tells myself, A. C. was my brother, after all...
'You will know, of course,' Harry told R.L. Stevenson Jamieson in a while, 'that the best your brother can expect is to be put away, probably for the rest of his days? And I do mean the very best he can expect.'
And the worst?
'He thinks he's a werewolf, R. L., and to my way of thinking he won't be safe even behind bars or in a padded cell!
But the worst is death. If he puts up a fight... well, he just has to lose. Because if he doesn't, other people will. They'll lose their lives.'
He sensed R. L. 's nod. / suppose I knowed that, deep down inside. Sure I did, 'cos if I hadn't, I wouldn't a come toyou. But I figured if he got to go, best at your hands, Necroscope.
'Not if I can help it, R.L.,' Harry shook his head. 'Not now I've spoken to you. But if it comes down to it ...'
I'll understand, R. L. told him. And Harry, if I can be of any help ...?
'Well, perhaps you can at that.' For out of the blue, the Necroscope had an idea. And: 'How's your obi, R.L.?'
Eh? (And Harry could almost see the surprised expression on the other's face). Why, it be gone down into the earth with me!
'Oh, really?' For Harry knew it wasn't like that; he knew that whatever a man is or does in life, he'll usually continue to be and do afterwards. Why, it could well be that R.L.'s obeah had helped keep his brother's identity secret even among the Great Majority!
You think so? R.L. obviously hadn't given it any thought. Oh, my! You means, I was still looking out for A.C. even after he killed me?
'It could very well be,' Harry told him. 'In a way you've kept right on protecting him - or his good name, at least.'
Huh! said R. L. His good name, indeed!
'Yours, then,' Harry answered. 'And now, well, maybe you can protect me, too.'
Eh? How's that? (Astonishment, this time!)
Harry explained, and R.L. quickly got the picture. He was dead and his obi with him ...• or maybe not. Through the Necroscope he could use it again, for the Necroscope! And in doing so deny its use to his brother. 'But only if it comes down to it,' Harry told him -
- And in the next moment gave a massive start! There in the deep black shadows of the alley, he had been so caught up in his conversation with the dead man that he'd failed to hear the pad of soft, furtive footfalls as they approached him. Too late he had heard them - at the same time as a hand came down on his shoulder!
'Harry?' Trevor Jordan said, as the Necroscope gasped and lurched away from him. 'Did I startle you?'
'Jesus Christ!' Harry whispered, falling back against the wall. Trevor ... Trevor, what do you think you're doing!?'
'What I was told to do,' the other answered with a shrug and looked perplexed. 'I'm keeping a low profile, what else?'