AND ONE OTHER
Freed of his conversation with R.L., Harry's mind became a possible target again, as did the telepath Trevor Jordan's. For of course he, too, was an enemy of A.C. Doyle Jamieson. The extra-sensory presence of both of them was too much; their combined esp-auras - undetectable to the great mass of mundane mankind - radiated out from them into the rainy night in every direction.
One direction would have been more than sufficient: that of the garage across the road.
There came ... an intrusion! Which the Necroscope felt at once. But instead of avoiding it or flinching from it, he answered back and tried to get into the mind that was getting into his. Trevor Jordan felt it, too, the blunt groping of a strange and strangely gifted mind, and said: 'Wha - ?'
But Harry held up a hand to still Jordan's inquiry, husking, 'Listen in if you want, but be sure not to open your mind to it for now. I'll let you know when.' And:
Huh? The intruder grunted like a pig in Harry's mind, no longer a mere whisperer but a sentience surprised that the Necroscope had recognized his presence and was reacting to it, but not in the way that the intruder had anticipated. Then, because he knew he'd been discovered:
You ... again! There could be no mistaking the phlegmy, threatening quality of that voice, or the megalomaniac 'superiority' of its owner. Any other man but a telepath born - and a practised one, who had come into contact with deranged minds such as this before - must surely recoil from the stench, the mental slime of it, like a poison seeping in his mind. A telepath, yes ... or the Necroscope Harry Keogh. For he had spoken with vampires, and not all of them dead ones. By comparison -and strictly by comparison - this mind was almost sweet. But as for the rest of it, the actual contact:
In fact, this mind-to-mind contact with a living person wasn't unlike speaking to the dead. Except Harry wasn't a true telepath; he couldn't 'send', but only receive incoming information; any answers he might originate would only be 'heard' by virtue of the other's telepathy - which in this case amounted to the same thing.
And this time the other - none other but A.C. Doyle Jamieson - had indeed heard the Necroscope's thoughts. But they were scarcely the thoughts of a frightened man, and definitely not those of one who doubted his own sanity! And: Who are you? (There was anger in that voice now, and perhaps something of uncertainty if not downright fear.) What are you?
What the fuck ... are ... you!?
'I'm the end of the road, Arthur,' Harry told him. 'I'm a big dose of your own brand of obeah bouncing right back at you. I'm a silver bullet heading for your heart. I'm the justice of all the lives you've taken held back way too long, pent up, and now about to burst out and enact itself on you!' But in Harry's metaphysical mind, irrepressible if not deliberately expressed, there was one other thought: And I'm the one they call the Necroscope.
A.C. got all of it, but especially the last bit. And even though he didn't know what a Necroscope was, it sounded threatening and he didn't like it. Huh? Necroscope? (The 'scope' ending had stuck in his mind; finally made sense to him, albeit mistakenly). 'Scope': a spy! A police spy? A raid? Oh, really? A.C. was trying to sneer but in fact he was panicking now, and far more dangerous for it! Finally he broke and snarled: Well, fuck your ass, bro! His presence vanished abruptly from Harry's mind.
The seconds ticked by. Then:
Down the street at the other end of the garage, the overhead door began clattering up on itself, its long metal leaves concertinaing into the housing. It was easily sixty yards away, but in the quiet of the midnight street, even at that distance Harry and Trevor Jordan could hear hoarse, angry shouting. And as the darkness was suddenly slashed by headlight beams, a veritable convoy of vehicles came roaring down the exit ramp, one after the other onto the road.
White and blue sparks lit the night where wings hit the walls of the ramp and chassis jarred down onto the shining tarmac as the cars and vans turned viciously, squeal-ingly into the road, some heading in the one direction and others coming Harry's way.
He and Jordan ducked down, shrank against the wall of the alley, watched two cars and a van howl by, their drivers pale-faced where they crouched over their steering wheels. 'Like a pack of rats deserting a sinking shit!' Jordan said in Harry's ear. Glancing at him, Harry saw that his eyes were narrowed to slits and his face creased in concentration. 'But the shit who ordered them out of there is still inside!'
'What?' Harry frowned. 'You're in contact with him? But I asked you to stay out of it! We're not sure what we're dealing with here.'
'We're dealing with one powerful telepath, that much I'll grant you,' Jordan answered. 'Also a frightened one.
Something is interfering with his talent. He's trying to locate you again but something is getting in his way. Not me or you but - oh, I don't know - something else. And anyway, I didn't deliberately ignore your warning, Harry. But with a talent as strong as this one ... he's hard to avoid.'
'R.L. Stevenson,' Harry offered a grim nod. That's what's bothering him most: his brother's obeah. I can almost feel it flowing through me!' Which made little or no sense to Jordan; he couldn't get the meaning of it because he was busy not reading the Necroscope's mind.
But at that precise moment the intruder had chosen to return, and he was reading it. And: What...'.? (He issued a disbelieving croak). R.L.? But. . . he's dead! Listen, you white fuck, whatever you are: my brother is dead! Did you get that? He's dead! / know 'cos I killed him! For that matter, so are you dead, or good as ... and the two you got out there with you!
Two? And Harry wondered: What? Can he feel R.L. too? Not just his obeah but... R.L. himself?
Who you trying to shit, Fuckscope? There ain't no 'feeling' R.L. 'cos R.L. 's dead! I mean your two friends out there! Enemies, all three of you - but only three of you. So come and get it, if you got the guts. I mean, three against one ... what are you waiting for? But remember this: I got the moon on my side! His fading mental laughter was like the barking of a wild dog.
'He's not scared any more,' Jordan hissed. 'He's just mad-angry - and mad as a hatter, too, of course!'
'He's picked up three enemies, but there are only the two of us,' Harry was puzzled. 'If he's also reading R.L.'s talent, that makes him something of a Necroscope in his own right!'
'Whatever he is, he craves blood ... namely, yours!' Jordan answered. 'But also mine, if I've read him right! We should stop this right here and now and call in the law.'
Cowardly bastards! the thing in Harry's head roared. Fuck you, then. We fight another day! And Harry got a vivid mental picture of the intruder inside the garage, making for his vehicle. But the Necroscope had been challenged; worse, he'd been scorned, called a coward. And deep inside there was still this feeling that he wasn't at risk. Not the Harry Keogh he'd used to be, anyway.
Meanwhile, Jordan had locked on again, deliberately this time, and said: There's more than just him in there. He has a friend with him. Or ... friends?'
'Skippy,' Harry answered, jumping to the wrong conclusion, or one that was only half-right. They're both in there.
And if they get away this time, who knows when we'll be able to bring them to book.'
Jordan saw what was coming next, and said, 'Harry, I... "
'Are you coming?' The Necroscope held out his arms.
Jordan backed off. 'Your way? Not likely! I've seen inside your head, Harry. I know a little of what your Mobius Continuum is like! I'll go over the wal.'
Alowing no time for argument, he left the cover of the aley and made to run across the road, only pausing to turn and toss something back. It glinted blued-steel.
Harry caught it: a 9mm Browning. 'Since you'l be there first,' Jordan quietly caled, 'you may need it.'
Reaching the wal, he looked back ... and saw that he was right, Harry was no longer there -
- But he was inside the garage. And A.C. Doyle Jamieson knew it! The madman's astonishment was like triple exclamation marks in the Necroscope's mind, folowed by a ripple of terror, and a barrage of inwardly-directed questions: What? Where? How? Who? ... and finaly a renewed flaring of anger. His was a mind ful of moon and murder. And Harry was his target for tonight.
There came silence, physical and mental...
Someone switched the lights off; Harry heard the switches trip. And now there was darkness. Only one smal electric bulb, fifty or so feet away in the middle of a massive concrete ceiling, gave any light at al. And it cast shadows.
Harry saw or sensed movement... a metal object clatered as someone stumbled over it or kicked it aside. That was to the left. But to the right: a slithering of shadows, just a flicker but enough to bring the short hairs at the back of Harry's neck erect like a cat's brush. His eyes flickered this way and that, glanced upwards.
Overhead, a system of gantries supported rails and a motorized cabin and crane; heavy chains were still swinging a little on their puleys. Or maybe they'd only just been set swinging?
A. C. and Skippy ... and who else? Harry remembered what Trevor Jordan had said only a moment ago: 'He has a friend with him ... or friends?' Wel, great!
But how many of them? Jordan was right: Skippy didn't have to be the only one.
Three! said a voice from the blue, or rather from the metaphysical darkness behind the Necroscope's eyes. And he at once knew its owner for R.L. Stevenson Jamieson. Three enemies. But whose enemies is harder to say! Two of them is against you, for sure. As for the third ... Harry sensed the dead man's shrug.
'R.L.,' Harry whispered, 'you'd best be using your obi to damp down your brother's. I mean, you should save your efforts for that.
Don't waste them talking to me.'
You is there to put things right, Necroscope, and I'll do whatever I can to help you, R.L. told him. Don't you be worrying 'bout my obi. It is working, believe me. And I just read in your mind my own brother boasting how he killed me! So I won't be holding you to no promises,
Harry. Don't be holding off for my sake. You go get that son of a ...
Harry's eyes were now more accustomed to the gloom of the place. The shels of cars lay in various stages of repair, conversion, and reconstruction, in twin rows of bays equipped with inspection pits, overhead hoists, and various hand tools. Jacks and other wheeled machines stood abandoned in the central aisle, and chains dangled everywhere. The garage had been evacuated in a hurry and was now a mantrap. Even to someone wel acquainted with the layout, any abrupt or hasty motion could prove dangerous to say the least.
Harry was shielded by one of the massive steel stanchions supporting the high ceiling; he was located just inside a repair bay, where he'd stepped out of the Mobius Continuum. Some forty or so feet to his left, the warehouse doors that he knew opened on the maintenance yard ... had been closed! By now Jordan would be stranded on the other side of them, and that meant that Harry was on his own. And he knew that even if he took the Mobius route into the yard, still the telepath wasn't going to let himself be transported that way. But in any case what good would it do to get Jordan inside? None: it would only place him in greater danger.
Of course, Harry could simply wash his hands of the whole mess and take himself out of here. But that wasn't his way.
And the trouble was that here in the dark and the danger, he was starting to feel more nearly himself; he was more surely aware of the jeopardy in which he had placed himself, the Harry Keogh mind if not the original body. But what the hel, it was al the same - wasn't it? It had now been brought forcefuly home to him that this was him! And he realy was on his own ...
Not necessarily, Necroscope, said the near-distant voice of George Jakes, causing him to start a little. Harry, use the - what, Mobius Continuum? Jakes was excited, uncertain of what he'd 'heard' Harry thinking. By all means use it, but not just to cut and run! You need real back-up, Harry, and it just might be that I've got the answer. Then, quickly (indeed, as quickly as that), he outlined his plan. And because George Jakes was a dead man, whom only the Necroscope could hear and speak to, no other prying, intruding mind was privy to it.
Harry listened, liked what he heard, acted upon it. The idea of placing an aly like Jordan in jeopardy had been sufficient to give him pause, true, but Harry was no fool; he knew he could use George Jakes without worrying about the consequences. And this way he would be keeping his promise both to R. L. Stevenson and to the teeming dead in general. He made a Mobius jump to the police mortuary in Fulham, and in a mater of seconds returned to the East End garage.
But coming back, he wasn't alone ...
I got him! R.L. was triumphant, his incorporeal voice greeting the
Necroscope even as he stepped from his door. You was right, Harry. My obeah has come back to me, drawn back through you. It gives me strength and depletes A.C. He'll have a hard time finding you now. The balance is maintained; you is equals. At least as long as 1 can hold him.
'My thanks, R.L.,' Harry whispered; but in the empty, echoing garage his words were plainly audible! Almost immediately, there were furtive movements both left and right... and overhead?
Harry wasn't much disturbed by the movement on the right, which wasn't so much furtive as deliberate, purposeful.
He knew the sounds he heard were the shuffling scrape of George Jakes's feet where he headed off alone on his mission of vengeance. But Jakes's shape and shadow were grotesque things, made even more grotesque by the glowing nucleus of the single dim light bulb, which silhouetted his lumpish figure in a pale aura, and cast his long freakish shadow on the angular machinery and dangling festoons of chains like that of some nightmarish spider on its web.
But the movement to the left? The door to the maintenance yard was that way. Had Trevor Jordan somehow managed to force an entry, or was someone waiting for him to do so there in the darkness? Harry conjured a Mobius door and jumped to the warehouse doors. Standing in the near-absolute darkness, scarcely breathing, he could hear nothing inside.
Harry? It was Jordan's telepathic whisper, the result of a gigantic effort on the part of the telepath. Can you ... let me in?
No, Harry thought his denial. Just stay in touch with me. Then, if anything happens, get the hell away from here and call the police!
You've got it, and he sensed the relief in Jordan's mind. But they had also given themselves, and their situation, away!
Hey, you. Fuckscope! (In his mind, Harry saw a hulking, menacing outline moving in the mechanical labyrinth of the garage). / know where you are, shithead. You're locked in and one other mother's locked out. And I'm coming for you, Fuckscope! The maniac bayed like a hound, but al in silence.
Trevor, did you get that?' Harry spoke out loud through a knothole in a wicket gate set in the main door. 'Can you pinpoint him?'
'Yes,' Jordan's anxious whisper came back. 'He's down in the basement where they keep their personal vehicles. But he's moving in your direction. He is coming for you, Harry!'
Yes, but A.C. isn't a Necroscope, (Harry kept that thought to himself). And he hasn't got the foggiest idea what's coming for him! Neither had Jordan known it until he saw it in Harry's mind, and then he recoiled as if slapped in the face! However, Harry went on, if A. C. Doyle knows where I am, then it's probably a good idea not to be here.
Going on foot this time, using the repair bays as cover, he made his way back along the central aisle into the heart of the garage. But half-way back to the single source of electric light. . . suddenly it was snuffed! There came the soft tinkle of fragile glass breaking.
Harry froze. Whoever had smashed the light, it wouldn't be George Jakes. Because light or dark it would make no difference to him. Jakes was governed by ... whatever he was governed by! Love of the Necroscope, mainly; or Harry's power over the dead, whichever way one chose to think of it. So, it could only have been A.C. or Skippy - or one other?
One other, Jordan told him. But I can't read him ... or her! This one has a funny mind. I've met the like before. You can't scan them any too easily. They sort of deflect telepathic probes. Like mindsmog, you know? I don't think it's a conscious thing, but -
I get the idea, Harry cut him off, and made to release the safety on his 9mm Browning. But even as he did so, chains rattled almost directly overhead!
The Necroscope's gaze jerked upwards. He saw eyes glaring down on him from the gloom of the gantry walkway. And sliding down the greasy chains, a lithe, black-clad male figure kicked the gun from his hand, not only disarming him but numbing his arm at the same time.
Shocked, caught completely off guard, Harry's thoughts flew in every direction. Fumbling, he made to conjure a Mobius door, tripped and went sprawling over an open box of tools into a pile of fresh swarf. He felt a leg of his trousers rip, felt his hands sliced as he scrambled to untangle himself. But suddenly the black-clad figure was standing over him, eyes burning in a black stocking-mask, and a dark gash grimacing where the mouth would be. Then the mouth formed words, and snarled:
'Just one more motherfucking copper who won't come snooping anymore!' A Geordie voice - Skippy - and the Necroscope could picture the writhing of the scorpion tattoo on his wrist as he drew back his arm for the killing stroke; but no need to imagine his weapon. Harry could see that well enough: the long ugly curve of a silver-glinting machete!
The blade went up, commenced its arcing sweep forward and down -
- And something struck out of the darkness, making first a vibrating thrum, then the vicious whuuup sound of cleft air! But it didn't cleave the Necroscope.
The machete flew out of Skippy's hand; his black silhouette was straightened forcefully from its killing, feet-apart stance, jerked upright and tossed back like a carelessly discarded puppet. He tugged at something sticking out of his chest, coughed a spray of black that Harry knew must be red, and went down into darkness without another sound. And stayed down.
A shadow moved sinuously close by. Harry heard a straining sound -like something being stretched under pressure - and the sharp click as a catch engaged. And being no stranger to crossbows, he knew what had hit Skippy. A moment later:
The bright beam of a pocket torch shone directly into his eyes. He was stil tangled in cutting swarf, and dripped blood where he put up a hand to shield his eyes. But before the light snapped off he saw the Browning lying in the swarf and reached for it. This time, before freeing himself, he prepared the gun for firing. As he did so, he saw the shadow - a female shape, surely? and one that he'd seen before? but he couldn't be sure because his eyes were still dazzled - slipping away along the central aisle.
Think straight, can't you! Trevor Jordan snapped in his mind. And as Harry finaly got to his feet, in a softer, more anxious tone: How bad is it? Are you okay?
I'll live, the Necroscope answered, hoping Jordan would hear him. But things are getting nasty now and I can't rightly say what's going on.
Get back over the wall and call for backup. Let's have the police in on it.
H.Q. has been tracking us, Jordan answered. / called for back-up the moment you ... what, went into shock? I thought it was all over for you, Harry!
No, not quite, not yet, Harry answered. Now for Christ's sake leave me be! I need to concentrate.
And as Jordan cleared the telepathic ether, so Harry took over. He spoke to R.L. Stevenson Jamieson: R.L.? I hope you've got your obi going full blast. A.C. 's going to be pretty mad when he finds out he's lost a bosom pal!
'Fraid not, Necroscope, R.L. came back at once. You is on your own. My obi maintains the balance, that's all. But now the balance is all in your favour! And in case you is interested, I wants you to know we just welcomed a stranger into the ranks of the Great Majority. Or we will, eventually, when he quits fussing and screaming, and if he be worth it.
Skippy? (Harry scowled, and knew that R.L. would feel the depth of his loathing, the way he shuddered in his soul). Wel, he isn't worth it! But in the moment of speaking, Harry sensed that the shuddering wasn't his alone. The intruder, A.C. Doyle Jamieson, was back. Except now he was whimpering like a whipped dog where he crouched in Harry's metaphysical mind - almost as if he were trying to hide there!
Get out of there, A.C., Harry quietly, coldly told him. / don't want to share your pain with you when finally you die!
Let me show you something, Fuckscope. The other's terror was transformed on the instant, replaced by rage and madness. Now he no longer panted his fear but his hatred and bloodlust. Let me show you how it was for the rest of those bastards who tried to bring the werewolf to heel!
But before he could begin: No! the Necroscope refused him point-blank. I've already seen how it was, A.C. I know exactly how it was. So instead, I'd like to show you something: (A mental picture of Skippy, transfixed by a crossbow bolt, stopped dead - literally - in his tracks, and sprawled in the bloody swarf where he'd falen). But because that didn't seem enough:
Harry opened up his metaphysical mind to display al the unknown depths, the gauntly yawning vacuum, the absolute otherness of the endless Mobius Continuum. A.C. saw how Harry was a part of it, linked to it, and finaly sensed the preternatural chil of The Great Unknown creeping in his bones. Then, as the psychic ether slowly cleared:
Well? The Necroscope was very quiet now. And are you still coming for me, Arthur?
The answer was a howl - but one of anguish, of a diseased mentality frustrated to the breaking point - that reverberated in the darkness of the garage and went echoing off into a throbbing silence. No, A.C. wasn't coming for him; A. C. was running!
From somewhere below came the cough of a motor revved into tortured life, the scream of its abused engine, and Harry supposed that A.C. was heading out of here. There was only one way out, down the old car-park ramp and through the barrier. But if the barrier were lowered?
Harry judged the co-ordinates and made a hasty jump to the garage entrance, just inside the retractable doors. To his left he saw the dark tunnel of a two-lane down-ramp to the basement; down there, headlight beams swerved erraticaly, tyres shrieked their shrill protest as the revving roar came closer.
Hurriedly, Harry scanned the wals on both sides of the exit for the buton controling the overhead door, to no avail. And it was too late to cover the thirty or so feet to the barrier's tiny control shack, switch on and lower the boom; A.C.'s vehicle was already roaring up the ramp from the basement! But: Don't sweat it, Necroscope, said George Jakes's incorporeal voice in his head. Didn't you hear the bugle sounding the charge? The cavalry's right here, Harry!
Harry looked, and he saw, and even the Necroscope himself scarcely believed what he was seeing. But conversation with the dead often conveys more than is actually said, and Jakes showed him the whole picture in the time it took for the battered van to make it up the ramp; or rather, he showed him the picture as it had been just a minute or so ago: A. C. Doyle Jamieson, tall, burly, decked out in his wolf-mask and wearing his glove weapon, lurching like a drunkard in the darkness of the basement, spewing obscenities like the madman he was as he made for his van. The vehicle was parked with its driver's door to the wall; A.C. yanked open the front-seat passenger's door and hurled himself headfirst inside the cab. But before he could reach the controls the motor coughed into life! Someone was in the driver's seat, hunched over the steering wheel, andA.C. knew it could only be one of his enemies! So why hadn't he been able to read him?
The answer was obvious, but of course A. C. couldn't know it: that only the Necroscope, Harry Keogh, can read anything of the dead!
The cab rocked as the van drew out into the central aisle and the driver gunned the motor, heading for the dim square of light that marked the exit ramp. Then the headlights blazed on and iluminated a figure standing dead ahead, a female figure with her arm and hand raised and pointing -or aiming - directly at the cab!
This was a concerted atack; they were acting in perfect co-ordination, al of A.C. Doyle's enemies together! He yelped, ducked, turned and struck with his honed steel claw al in one movement - struck at the face of the man at the wheel. And the face unzipped itself like a banana, its flesh flopping down in strips, then turned to grin at him with scarlet gums and reddened teeth and wet, pus-dripping eyes!
A.C. would have screamed then, but could only go 'Urgh, urgh, urghhh!' as the Thing beside him lay back its grotesque head and gurgled:
'Ow-woooow, wolfman! Ifs silver bulet time!'
But in fact it was crossbow-bolt time: a bolt that came smashing through the windscreen and nailed A. C. 's shoulder to the padding of the seat, where its head jammed in the aluminium back-plate ...
All of this from Jakes's mind as the van reached the top of the ramp and bounded onto the ground-floor level, and turned left, not right, to go revving up the skeletal ramp to the next floor, and the next, and the one after that. All the way to the top. And Harry seeing it through Jakes's dead eyes, but hearing it with his own ears even over the thunder of the van's engine:
A.C. Doyle's shril, agonized, maniacal screaming, as it finaly dawned on him that a man he'd kiled was about to kil him! And: Cheers, Necroscope! Jakes crowed in Harry's metaphysical mind, and he aimed the vehicle at the parapet wall six storeys up.
Thanks for having me in on this. This is for Jim Banks and Derek Stevens, but mainly if s for me. The tank of this bucket is full, and I always wanted to go out this way: in a blaze of glory! Oh and by the way, here's the face of the ugly fuck who caused all of this: And he reached over with a dead hand to rip A.C.'s wolf-mask right off his head. Which was at the same time as the van hit the wall and went through it in a crumbling of rotten mortar and battered concrete, and a shrieking of twisted metal.
Harry staggered back against the wall in the entrance to the" garage, flopped there with his jaw hanging slack, looking at A.C. looking at George Jakes. At the mad, black, screaming face; the claw-hand held up to ward off the very sight of the dead man; dreadlocks flying in the midnight wind as the van's door was shorn from its hinges. The mad eyes almost bursting from their sockets; the thick, foaming lips; the torso beginning to float in free-fall, but pinned to the backrest by the crossbow bolt whose flight stuck out from A.C.'s shoulder.
Let's talk again some time, Necroscope, said Jakes. But right now I just want to savour the warmth ...
Harry shook himself, had time to straighten up and look out into the street... where even now something was crashing down in the centre of the road. And Jakes was right: the van's tank must have been full to brimming.
Under a sky clearing of clouds, in which a bloated moon lit the wet-shining streets of London, A.C.'s van hit like a bomb, nose first, went off like a clap of thunder and blotted out the night with the abrupt brilliance of his funeral pyre. And of George Jakes's.
Which was the way one of them had wanted it, at least ...
Harry shook himself again. His numb mind cleared, and he heard ... police sirens? Of course, and they'd be here in just a few minutes.
Harry, are you okay? (It was Trevor Jordan, but faint now that the pressure was off).
Yes, Harry answered. Are you out of it?
Well out of it, Jordan answered, with a mental sigh.
See you later, Harry told him, nodding.
But right now ... there was something he had to do, had to know.
He had seen the girl outside the garage. Then he'd seen her inside (but couldn't be sure), when she'd saved his life.
And he'd seen her a third time, in Jakes's dead mind, so that finally he was sure! Now he wanted to see her again, find out who she was, why she was here. Jakes had pictured her at the far end of the basement. To the Necroscope's knowledge there was no exit down there, and he knew that the maintenance yard doors on this level were locked. She had got in through those doors but couldn't get out that way. Which left only one escape route. She had to come this way. And she did.
She came panting, alert, aware of the growing clamour of the sirens. But Harry was waiting for her well inside the garage, at the landing where the down-ramp met the ground floor. She came up the ramp at the run, still carrying her
'shopping bag.' The Necroscope knew what was in it: her crossbow. She'd shot two bolts to deadly effect and was probably out of ammunition, else she'd be holding the weapon. But he stil had the Browning. And he'd found the main switch for the lights, set back in a recess in the wall at the top of the ramp.
As the girl drew level he threw the switch, stepped into view. She gave a small cry of surprise, skidded to a halt and blinked in the suddenly bright light. 'Who ...? What...?'
'Don't be scared,' Harry told her. 'It's all over. I just wanted to thank you - for my life.'
'Oh, it's you,' she said, and breathed her relief. 'I... didn't know which one of you to shoot! I was ... just lucky, I suppose.' her dialect was a distinctive, husky, even sexy Edinburghian brogue that Harry vaguely recalled and recognized from early childhood days in Scotland, and from later visits.
'Me too,' he grinned, however wryly. 'Very lucky!' And for the first time he felt the stiffness of his drying blood sticking his torn trousers to his legs.
'But the one in the stocking-mask,' she continued, 'well, he looked the most likely target.' She licked her lips nervously and glanced this way and that, obviously seeking a way out. She had seen the gun in his hand.
'And the man in the van?' Harry was intent now, staring at her. 'The passenger? I mean, why didn't you shoot the driver?' It would have made no difference but he wanted to know anyway.
Her eyes went this way and that. 'I ... I saw what looked like a big dog or wolf, sitting in the van, but it was a man in a mask.
He attacked the driver, tore at him. And I... I - '
' - you fired at the one who looked the most dangerous,' Harry nodded. 'So ... were you hunting them, or what?' He stepped closer to her but she didn't shrink away. Out in the night the sound of the sirens had grown very loud, and he could feel the girl's urgency radiating from her.
'Just one o' them,' she replied, her brogue thickening as her anxiety increased. And now she moved closer to Harry. 'Are ye the police?' The way she said police it sounded like 'polis.'
'No,' the Necroscope shook his head, and at the same time made up his mind about something. This girl should answer questions - to the law if not to him - but she had saved his life after all. 'I was hunting them, too.'
'Well, and we got them, did we no? But now, I've to go . . .' She made to brush by him, and cars skidded to a screeching halt immediately outside the garage, where orange flames lit up the night and black smoke roiled for the moon.
Tell me one thing and I'll help you,' he gripped her arm, and she looked at his hand where he held her. 'I promise, I'll get you out of this.'
'Better make it fast, then,' she gasped, as running footsteps clattered on the entrance ramp.
'Why were you hunting him?'
'Why were you?' She was drawing back from him, and she was surprisingly strong.
They murdered friends of mine.'
'And they placed good friends o' mine in ... in jeopardy. But I'm afraid ye're too late to get us out o' here!'
Harry reached back, threw the master switch, and the entire garage was black as night. Then he conjured a Mobius door, and swept the girl through it. And: Where to? he asked.
Her thoughts were like a vastly gonging, cracked and echoing bel: WHAT? ... WHAT? ... WHAT?
Shhh! Harry told her. Just cling to me, and tell me where home is. Where do you want to go?
She clung to him, just as tightly as she could! And: 'Anywhere out o' here!' she whispered hoarsely, a whisper that rang like a shout in the primal emptiness of the Mobius Continuum.
He went to a place he knew, exited from the Continuum, and held her upright until she felt the solid ground under her feet and stopped trembling. Then, gradually opening her eyes ... she reeled for a moment, and abruptly sat down -
- On the rain-slick cobbles of the aley just across the road from the garage. But the rain was finished now, and a mist swirled ankle-deep like a river of white-glowing milk al along the aley, lapping into recessed doorways and swirling from the Necroscope's sudden resurgence.
Harry didn't want to answer any more questions right now, but later he might have some for her. 'Now I've to go,' he told her in her own brogue. 'How can I find you again? I mean, if I wanted to. Or if you ... wanted me to?'
He held out a hand, helped her to her feet. 'I... I just dinna believe what happened then!' she gasped. 'I realy dinna believe it!'
Her hands fluttered up and down the length of her thighs, brushed water from the wet seat of her trousers.
'I've realy got to go,' Harry told her, moving off along the aley away from a street that flared red and orange in the roaring firelight.
'B.J.'s,' she breathed. 'Find me at B.J.'s.'
'Oh?' He looked back from the dark threshold of a recessed warehouse back entrance and cocked his head questioningly.
'A wine bar - I mean, mah wine bar - in Edinburgh.' Her mouth was hanging open, and her words came out soft as breath.
But Harry had had enough of initials, A.C.s and R.L.s, and B.J.s included. 'So what does it stand for? B.J., I mean?'
'Eh?' Her mouth was still open, and looked delicious. 'Oh, mah initials? Bonnie Jean,' she said.
The name rang a bel. Harry remembered an old musical he'd seen on the TV in his flat at Hartlepool - how long ago? Now he recaled the title, and the words of a certain song:
Go home, go home,
go home with Bonnie Jean.
Go home, go home -
- IIIII'l ... go home with Bonnie Jean.
Well, maybe ... but not tonight, Bonnie Jean. 'Just like in Brigadoon!' he said.
She obviously understood his meaning. For now, accepting the weirdness of things, she closed her mouth, smiled however wonder-ingly, and said, 'Aye, mah brave laddie, exactly like in Brigadoon. And your name . . .?' But then, momentarily distracted when a police vehicle with blaring sirens went screeching past the mouth of the alley, she looked back over her shoulder.
And B.J. 's question hung unanswered on the damp night air, for when next she turned to Harry ... all that remained of him was a swirl of mist, collapsing like an exorcised ghost on the spot where he'd been standing ...
Harry made brief stops in several locations - graveyards, all of them -to report the results of the night's adventure. The principal details were already known, however, mainly through the efforts of one R.L. Stevenson Jamieson. Before returning to E-Branch H. Q., Harry spoke to R.L. himself, and said:
'Well, a proven principle is shown to be working still. I mean, what you did in life you'l continue to do in death. And in so doing, you'll earn the gratitude of all the teeming dead. No need to worry about your name being cursed now, R. L.'
You talking 'bout my obi, Necroscope?
Harry nodded. 'You know I am. For in life, you took care of your brother as best you could - you kept the balance. Now in death you'll go right on doing it.'
It don't take no effort, Harry, R.L. told him. Its a natural thing. 'Specially now that I'm in touch with Poppy again!
See, I didn't like to bother him with all this before. But now we is all together, so to speak -
Again Harry's nod. 'No shame attaches to you or your Poppy, R.L. And like I said, the dead will always be grateful to you for keeping A.C. in his place. What I mean is, when the teeming dead talk to each other it's voluntary; they don't need to feel anything like A.C. creeping in their minds!'
Oh, A.C. be no trouble now, Harry. The werewolf s gone for good. No more howling, just the whimper of a cold, lost little puppy. But he'll be okay, once he learns he's safe in the dark and the quiet.
And: 'Fair enough,' the Necroscope answered. 'Let's leave it at that, then ...'