FOR BRENDA, AND FOR HIMSELF
Despite his several duty stops, still Harry beat Trevor Jordan back to E-Branch H. Q. He found the place just as the telepath had advised: My activated under Darcy Clarke and ready at a moment's notice to back him to the hilt ... psychically if not physically. In the event, and with the assistance of new-found friends, he hadn't needed extra help; also, and right from the beginning, he had asked Darcy to keep out of it. Be that as it may, the Head of Branch had been ready, wiling and able, and it said a lot for the value the espers placed on Harry.
Eventually the Necroscope was able to complete his report, and in the wee smal hours he sat alone with Darcy in the latter's office. With his duties behind him, Harry at last found time to inquire after Brenda and his infant son. Not that his concern was any less than it should be, or his attitude in any way casual, but he knew that wherever his wife and child were, it was unlikely that they would come to any harm. For al that Harry Jr was a babe in arms, he'd already displayed his ability to protect his mother from even the most dire threat, and Harry Sr knew that whatever mundane things the infant wasn't capable of doing for himself, Brenda - or the Great Majority - would do for him.
And in answer to his, 'Anything ...?'
'Nothing,' Darcy shook his head worriedly. 'Not a thing. Every man who wasn't on your case has been on the lookout for Brenda and the baby. They've al drawn blanks. Precogs, telepaths, hunchmen, locators: a dead end - if you'll forgive that expression.
When Brenda first came here, it was Harry Jr who brought her; we have to assume he's taken her away again. Why, and where to ... is anybody's guess. Of course we shall go on searching for them, but right now ... " His shoulders slumped a little. 'I'm sorry, Harry. You've done so much, given so much of your time and energy for us, and we don't seem able to do a thing for you.'
'Which means I'll have to do it for myself,' Harry answered, but without bitterness. 'Darcy, you must have known from square one that the main reason I let you talk me into staying here was for Brenda? You had al the contacts, and I hoped the people you brought in would be able to do something for her. I knew she'd be safe here if there were any aftershocks from the work I'd been doing. But that's all over now.'
Darcy saw what was coming. 'You're moving out?'
'Lock, stock and barrel. E-Branch isn't for me, Darcy. I was always a loner, and that's the way I have to be. And after all - and as you've often enough said yourself - do I really want to spend my life slopping out mental sewers? I just can't see myself at the beck and call of the police, their "pet psychic" who they can call on to solve every grubby little murder in the book! Oh, I know it wouldn't be like that, but it would be something like that, and it isn't what I'm cut out for. So, it looks like it's come sooner than either one of us expected. I'm moving out, yes.'
'I don't have any ties here. I mean, I'm not bosom buddies with any of the people here, or anything like that. I have friends here, yes ... I hope you're all my friends. But no one I have to say goodbye to. Except maybe you. So, goodbye.'
Plainly Darcy didn't know what to say. 'You're our greatest asset - or you were.'
'I'm just a man,' Harry answered, and meant it. 'And anyway, the Branch has enough going for it.'
'But... lock, stock and barrel?'
Harry shrugged. That doesn't amount to much. Nothing, in fact. What's in that wardrobe in my room can stay for now. Maybe I'll pick it up sometime.'
That's not what I meant. No contact?'
'Only if you find my wife and child. But in any case, I'll probably find them first.' Suppressing a yawn but stretching a little, the Necroscope grimaced as he felt a scab break on his thigh under new bandages. His expression was wry as he looked at his hands, which were also bandaged.
'You should have had stitches,' Darcy was concerned.
'I hate stitches!' Harry answered. 'Not to mention scars! This way if I'm lucky there'll be no scars.'
'So where will you go? And when? Not tonight, surely?'
There's my flat in Hartlepool, which could use some tidying up before I sell. It's been empty for well over a year. And my inheritance up in Bonnyrig, that big old house. I think I'd probably like the solitude, and I would be that much closer to my Ma. As for when: what's wrong with tonight?'
'Look,' Darcy said, suddenly anxious, 'we're both tired. You especially. You look all in! And we don't see things right - nobody does - when we're, tired. Spend the night here; have breakfast with me in the morning; make up your mind then.'
Harry shrugged again. 'It's made up,' he answered. 'On the other hand, you're right and I am tired. Okay, tomorrow is soon enough ... "
Darcy looked pleased, said, 'And you'll stay in touch - I mean, when you're settled?'
Harry sighed. 'If you promise not to bother me ... maybe. But let's have it understood right here and now - I'm through with E-Branch, Darcy. It isn't me. I wouldn't have time for the Branch anyway, no time for anything, until I know about Brenda and little Harry.'
Darcy nodded. 'Very well...' And then, on an afterthought: 'What will I tell the police?'
They found two bodies in that burned-out van. One was our werewolf, yes, but the other . . .? They're bound to identify him, you know. And then there's the one inside the garage, shot dead ... but with a crossbow?'
'Let's deal with George Jakes first,' Harry answered. The big question is going to be: how did George get out of a Fulham mortuary into a burned out van in the East End, right?'
'You're the last one who saw him, er, in designated situ, as it were. If we have to put a name on all of this - I mean, we won't, but if we had to - '
'It would be mine, yes ... " Harry gave it a few seconds of thought, and said, Tell them that A.C. Jamieson was an obeah man from Haiti. They should be able to prove that easily enough. He must have stolen Jakes's body so that he could use it to put some kind of hex on the police. As for why he chose to commit suicide: who knows? He was a madman, after all. Also, tell them to look for a shrivelled or melted wolf-mask, and a claw glove. Then they'll have all they need.'
'More than they need,' Darcy agreed. That garage was full of class motors, most of them knocked off!'
'As for the one inside the garage, "Skippy" ... maybe that was Jamieson's work, too. Sure he was a madman, but mad like a fox!
Killing Skippy, he was covering his tracks. Simple ... "
'And the murder weapon?'
They won't find it,' Harry shook his head.
'Something you haven't told me?'
'Something I might look into, eventually.'
'Well, then,' said Darcy, nodding thoughtfully, 'it seems we've covered just about everything.' Then the faint half-smile that had almost made it onto his face turned to a frown. 'Still, I'm glad Jakes didn't leave anyone behind.
Family, I mean.'
'I know what you mean,' Harry answered. 'It would be hard to explain, right? But don't go worrying about Jakes, Darcy. I have it on pretty good authority that he doesn't feel sorry for himself, just glad that he got his man, albeit after the fact.'
Thinking about it, Darcy's face went pale. He remembered the Bodescu case, Hartlepool on the north-east coast, and the teeming dead coming up out of their graves. But for the fact that he - what, liked the Necroscope? trusted him? knew there was no menace in him? - he supposed by now his guardian-angel talent would be howling for him to run the fuck away from the man!
'It just doesn't bear thinking about,' he said, quietly.
'Well, if you must,' the Necroscope told him, 'then think of it this way: Jakes was only doing what he'd always done in life, and what he did best. He considers himself fortunate to have had another crack at it, and to have done it well. I say we should all be so lucky ...'
'All I know,' Darcy answered, 'is that when I'm dead and gone, all I will want to do is lie very still!'
'Yes, but that's for now,' Harry told him without emphasis, but with a strange light in those eyes that knew so much.
Darcy was scarcely listening to or looking at him, which was probably as well, but was still considering recent events. The dead thief and murderer in the garage, for instance. Harry was right: so far the police hadn't found the murder weapon - but they did have the actual instrument of death, the short, hardwood bolt. They had spoken to him about that, and it was worth mentioning at least.
'Are you sure you don't want to say anything else, Harry?' he said. 'About this crossbow thing, maybe? I mean, a crossbow is in any case an odd sort of weapon. But forensic are looking at it and they're puzzled by the fluke, the arrowhead.'
This was something new. Harry cocked an eyebrow. 'So what about it?'
Darcy shrugged. 'It's a steel arrowhead, as you'd expect. But silver-plated? You kill werewolves with silver, don't you?'
Harry was good at hiding his thoughts, his emotions, and this time his surprise. And coming to him as an extra surprise, it seemed he was getting good at telling lies, or half-truths, too! Never to the dead . . . but to the living? 'I didn't know what I was going up against,' he said. 'Oh, sure, we had decided that this was the work of a ... what, a lycanthrope? Some kind of lunatic? But what if we were wrong? There are strange things in the world, as we know only too well.'
Darcy nodded. 'You did kill him, then? Hence the missing weapon?'
The Necroscope looked away, finally muttered, 'He's dead, isn't he?' But now it was definitely something he would have to look into ... eventually.
He stood up a little unsteadily, and said, 'I seem to be more tired than I thought - yet how am I supposed to sleep? I have a lot on my mind, going round and round. Sometimes I can't remember a time when I didn't have! A pity we can't just switch ourselves off, like machines.'
Darcy gave a smal start, as if he'd just remembered something, and said, 'But we can! What, do you think that as head of this bloody outfit I leave sleep to chance? God, I'd never get any!'
Harry looked at Darcy as he opened a desk drawer, took out a smal botle, stood up and went to a water dispenser. 'Do you have any alergies?' He dropped a single white pill in a glass and filed it with water. The tablet dissolved in a moment.
'No,' Harry shook his head. 'No alergies that I know of. But... sleeping pills?'
'Just one,' Darcy told him. 'Does the trick for me every time. Just switches me off.'
Harry took the glass. 'Maybe this once,' he said, tilting his head back and downing the water. But as he drank, he didn't notice the fact that the Head of E-Branch seemed to be holding his breath ...
After the Necroscope left to go to his own room, Darcy caled a Branch 'specialist' on his home number. Not an esper as such, still this was a man with an extraordinary talent. 'Doctor Anderson?' Darcy inquired, when finaly the 'phone was picked up. 'James Anderson? This is Darcy Clarke ... "
And in a moment, answering the tinny, tired voice at the other end of the line: 'Yes, I do know what time it is, Anderson, and I'm sorry it's so late. But this is important. Do you remember that Keogh thing we spoke about? Wel, it's come up.'
And in another moment: 'Just two minutes ago, yes.'
And finaly, before puting the 'phone down: 'Good, I'll be expecting you.'
After that there was nothing for Darcy to do but wait for Anderson to get there. That and to suffer feelings of disgust, self-loathing, like his substance had devolved to so much quaking, treacherous scum on the surface of a sucking swamp. On the other hand ... wel, duty and conscience didn't mix, not in his job.
Darcy's first duty was to the Branch (the swamp?), and he knew it. His conscience would have to take a back seat...
Maybe the Necroscope's atitude had been too casual after al, or he had been too sure of himself. So E-Branch couldn't discover the whereabouts of his wife and child ... so what? They didn't have the Mobius Continuum to work with. (Like a little kid refusing to let the other kids play with his bal - Nyahh! Nyahh!
Nyahh! Or too possessive and much too pleased with himself that he had a bal in the first place). But as the saying goes, what goes around comes around, and just like the little kid Harry had discovered that you can't play the game on your own. Especialy not hide-and-seek.
From his rambling old house outside Bonnyrig, he called Darcy Clarke and poured out his frustrations; but Darcy could only tell him what he already knew, (else E-Branch would have contacted him first): 'We haven't even the foggiest idea where they could be, Harry. It's like they've vanished off the face of the Earth!'
'A month, five weeks?' Harry looked at the telephone like he didn't believe what he was hearing. 'You've been on it for five weeks, and nothing? What, E-Branch, with your locators and your hunchmen, your seers and scryers and precogs? You haven't the foggiest idea?'
Which got Darcy's back up more than a little. 'What are you trying to say, Harry?' he snapped. 'That you don't think we're trying hard enough? That you don't believe we're looking for them, is that it? Well, start getting it together and believe this: that we have as much interest in the kid as you have - if not for the same reasons!'
And while Harry didn't much like that last, still he knew it must be true. Of course E-Branch wanted to find Harry Jr.
Just because his father had turned them down, that didn't mean the child would - when it was his turn! But maybe Darcy realized he'd said too much, and:
'Harry,' his tone of voice was more even now, 'I ... don't want to fight with you. I mean, Christ, we shouldn't be fighting! We are looking for them, you know we are. And I was wrong to fly off the handle like that. What I said ...
wasn't what I meant to say.'
'But you did say it,' Harry answered, and he was quieter, too. 'My son: the next E-Branch dupe! What, when he's fifteen, sixteen? And while you're waiting, you'l be stood off in the background watching him grow up, measuring his skills, letting him develop? Or will you step in before then, recruit him like I was recruited: by showing him all the world's evil, and telling him that with him on the team E-Branch will have the power to change al that? And what then, Darcy? Wil he be the one who ends up slopping out al of those mental sewers? Oh realy? Not if I can help it...'
'And not if / can help it, Harry!' Darcy's voice was pleading now. 'Look, you're not yourself or you wouldn't be talking like this. And I really didn't mean it the way it sounded. You want my word on it? You've got it: we'll never interfere with your son or his way of life. But Harry, the fact is that none of us will ever have anything to do with him, if we can't find him! and at the moment we can't.'
The Necroscope was silent for a while, then said, 'But you will keep trying?'
'Of course we will.'
'Well, thanks for that, at least.' And Harry put the 'phone down ...
Down by the river bank, where the water swirled and eddied in a small bight, Harry spoke to his Ma. It was the first time since the day he'd come up here almost three weeks ago, after selling off his flat in
Hartlepool, and the Necroscope's mother was beginning to feel neglected. But his mind had been troubled - oh, for a long time - and like any mother she'd sensed it. So despite that she could speak to him anywhere, any time, she hadn't intruded. And anyway, she knew how he liked to visit the people he talked to.
It was the middle of April, blustery but at least dry, and Harry was wearing his overcoat where he sat at the river's rim. But you II probably catch your death anyway! she told him, feeling the cold breeze in his hair, and scanning the blurred grey mirror images of clouds scudding in the river (as seen through his eyes, of course). It's no day to be out, Harry.
She was down there in the mud and the weeds, her spirit at least, and probably her bones, too, even if the rest of her was long washed away. But typical of a Ma (of any mother anywhere), even though Mary Keogh no longer felt the cold for herself, she was still able to feel it for her son.
'I'm okay,' Harry told her.
No, you're not. But she wasn't ready to push it, not yet at least. And because he didn't seem ready to speak: Well, how are things with the world, Harry? The rest of the world, I mean ...
He recognized the ploy: to take his mind off his own problems by getting him to relate the troubles of the world in general. Now that the dead were all linked up and talking to each other from their graves and various resting places, they could get the news from recent arrivals, of course. But through the medium of the Necroscope it was that much more immediate; they could see it and perhaps even feel something of it, if not actually experience it. Harry was their one link with the living. And on this occasion especially he went along with it. For his Ma was right and-he wasn't 'okay'.
Not that there was much of good news. 'Do you really want to know?'
Is it that bad?
'Well, it isn't wonderful!' He pulled a face. 'You'll have to judge for yourself.' And recalling a recent newscast:
'Most of Africa is in turmoil: Zambia and Rhodesia, Mogadishu, Somalia, Ethiopia. White "supremacy" looks to be on its way out in Rhodesia, where they've just voted for black rule.'
But isn't that just right? Aren't all men born equal?
Again his shrug. 'As long as the recently equal are happy to remain equal -1 mean as long as they don't want to be more equal - I suppose it's okay . . .' And quickly, so as to radically change the subject before she could start protesting or moralizing: 'And there's been an atomic meltdown at a place called Three Mile Island in the United States.
It's a power station.'
Oh? (She scarcely sounded impressed). Something melted? Is it that important?
Harry had to grin. When his Ma had died nuclear power was fairly new, industrially at least. 'It's pretty important, yes. Dangerous stuff. It kils people, Ma. An unpleasant, invisible, silent death.' The grin was gone now from his face, and his Ma knew why. She had gathered the rest of it - the seething horror of it - from his mind. And he felt her incorporeal shudder.
What else? she said.
'Wel, there's been some prety terrible stuff coming out of Cambodia, but - '
- But Harry couldn't possibly talk about that, not to his Ma! He at once bit his tongue and blanked his mind, wondering where in hel his thoughts could have been wandering that he'd ever mentioned it. Maybe it was because of the way she, his Ma, had died, but reading about that death-lake in Stung Treng had given the Necroscope nightmares: those two thousand bodies tied together with ropes and weighted with stones ...
She had caught on from his first mention of Cambodia, however, and quietly said, 'Oh, don't worry, Harry. For we know all about that. And as for Pol Pot: well, he'll have to come to us, too, you know, in the end. But he can have no idea what's waiting for him down here.
'What's waiting for him?' Harry had never thought of the dead as being especially vengeful. After al, what could they do? - wel, without that he, Harry Keogh, the Necroscope, was their motivation?
Do? His Ma at once answered. We'll do nothing, say nothing, have nothing at all to do, not with him. And he'll be so cold, lost, and lonely, it will be as though he has no existence, not even this kind of existence, whatsoever. And eventually he won't have. He'll simply fade away into nothing. But he wil know why ...
For a moment Harry felt the icy chil of her words - the coldness of outer space, the blackness of inner earth - as if it had entered into his soul. But it quickly passed and she was warm again. Strange, but of al Harry's dead people she was the only one who ever 'felt' warm! Or maybe not so strange. She was his Ma, after al.
'So, that's it then,' he said after a while, and shrugged. 'Oh, there's other stuff, but maybe it wasn't such a good idea to tel you what was happening in the world after al. I mean, when you think about it, that meltdown at Three Mile Island is probably the least of our worries!'
And she was glad to change the subject, too. But if this ... 'meltdown?' is so dangerous, then why did they do it?
'What?' (Was her understanding that limited?) 'But it was an accident, Ma! They didn't do it on purpose!'
Oh! (She gave a litle laugh). Then I suppose it can't be helped, can it? But her laughter quickly died away, and it was time to be serious again.
So in fact nothing is very much different from what it always was: men go on making mistakes. And I don't suppose there's much help for that.
But now you've got to tell me what can be helped, Harry. Tell me how I can help. And more especially, how I can help you ...
So finaly the Necroscope's beloved mother, his frequently omniscient Ma (where he was concerned, anyway), had got to the point. She sensed it when his shoulders slumped a litle, just before he sighed and told her: 'I haven't found them yet, Ma - Brenda and my baby son. Oh, there are a milion places I've not even thought to look yet, I know, but that seems a milion too many to even know where to start!'
For a while she was silent, then quietly said, Do you want me to ask among the dead, Harry? I mean, do you think it's possible that...?
Harry scarcely dared question her on the subject, but knew he must. 'Surely not, Ma?' he said, almost pleadingly. 'If that was the case, wouldn't you have known by now? If they were ...?'
Not necessarily, son, she said. It depends where, and when. I mean, if it were you we'd know, be sure! And no matter where or when, for there's only one Necroscope ... well, two now. And we'd know it at once, if your light went out. But death is generally a common affair: someone is born, lives, and dies. Inevitably. Brenda is Brenda, just another ordinary person, another life. And if she were to die in some far place, well that could take some little time to get back to me.
'And your grandson, Harry Jr? Is he just another "ordinary" person? I don't think so - and not just because he's your grandson. He knows about you! You know about him! Wouldn't the Great Majority know it if his light was extinguished, too?'
But you have been with us for some time, Harry, she reminded him. And the Great Majority didn't know about you, either, at first. Why, they didn't even know about each other until you came on the scene! Oh, I knew you were different, but then I was your mother! But believe me, it took quite a while to convince the rest. Finally, they believed; how could it be otherwise? They felt your warmth as you passed close by; they heard your dreaming, and sensed you trembling when you were afraid. In those days of your childhood, they sprang to champion you. Little did they know that one day you would be the champion of the dead!
'You mean, they don't know him yet? He hasn't been around long enough? But in Hartlepool that time - what, a year and half ago? - they even came up out of their graves for him!'
For both of you, Harry. Oh, Harry Jr caled them up, but who did they come to save?
'Isn't he ... warm, then? Like me?'
He's warm, yes. And the dead feel him like a small, kindly flame. But he isn't the light in their darkness, like you. One day, maybe, but not yet.
'You won't know it, then, if he dies . . .' It wasn't a question but a statement. And in a way Harry was glad. He wouldn't want to be appraised of his son's death, nor of Brenda's, ever. Neither by the living nor the dead.
I would know it... sooner or later, his mother told him. But right now, I can promise you this much at least: nothing of that nature has reached me yet. To my knowledge, they are still among the living.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. If his mother said it was so, then it was so. And in al truth, that had only been a very smal fear anyway; he had 'known', been sure, that his wife and son were alive somewhere. But where?
His Ma heard his silent query, and asked him: Where would you go, Harry, if you wanted to hide yourself away? Where would Brenda go?
Surely you knew something of her secrets, her fantasies, her dreams?
Suddenly the Necroscope realized how selfish he must seem. Because he hadn't been thinking of it from his wife's point of view, not really, but his own. And now his mother, in her way, had brought it home to him that Brenda was a person in her own right, with her own secrets, fantasies, dreams. With feelings and emotions and passions, al of them damaged now, or contaminated by contact with Harry's world, until she had only wanted to 'hide herself away' from it. But:
That's not what I meant, son, his Ma told him. You know it isn't! It was simply my ... my manner of expression.
Except Harry knew that speaking to the dead often conveys more than is actually said; so maybe he'd read something of his Ma's true thoughts, after al. And certainly she had touched a raw nerve in him. Perhaps deliberately? Ah, but she had a way of bringing things into perspective, his mother - and ways of bringing him into line!
But at the same time her approach to his problem had set the Necroscope thinking. For of course Brenda was different, a person in her own right with her own ways of thinking, her own likes and dislikes. So that now Harry wondered where would she be likely to hide herself away, if 'hiding' as such had seemed the only course open to her? She had never been much of a one for the sun but always enjoyed the rain!
She'd loved gardens, the wind in her hair, dramatic, misted landscapes. To sit in a window-seat in their garret flat and listen to the rain on the tiles ... that had been one of her favourite things.
In which case, Harry's Ma chimed in, this place would seem entirely suited to her purpose! This very place!
'She never even saw this place,' he shook his head.
But a place like this one?
'Maybe, maybe not. Certain coastlines seemed to appeal to her, rugged cliffs and rainy skies ... and any garden; but more especially, a garden with a coiner run wild. Long grasses, wild flowers, and a place where she could lie on her back and watch the clouds. And the stars: the brighter the better. She didn't know a single constellation, but she liked them anyway. A place of wildness - a wilderness - and a lot of stars in the clear night sky: that would suit her perfectly.'
You're a poet and you don't know it! His Ma rhymed.
'I wonder where I get it? Harry said. And she sensed that his mood was lifting a litle.
I think it's about time you started checking on those million places, she told him. For after all, we must have narrowed them down a little by now. And Harry agreed.
They little thought or could ever have guessed that Brenda and Harry Jr were in just such a place as the Necroscope's Ma had suggested, which her query had brought into vivid definition in his mind. A place of dramatic scenery, however alien; of long, misted nights, slanting, sunlit days, long grasses and wild flowers.
And a garden quite beyond Brenda's previous expectations, her mundane imagination.
For the fact was that at this point of time it was beyond even the Necroscope's imagination, too, and would stay that way long after he'd given up any real hope of finding them ...
But for now: first Harry reconsidered the places he'd already checked out, starting with Brenda's old home with her folks in Harden, a coliery vilage on the north-east coast.
The mine ('the pit') itself had been worked out and shut down for some time now, so that the place had seemed even more souless than before, but the people were there as always. Of course, if Brenda or the baby were realy trying to avoid him, if they were actualy hiding themselves away from him - which he was forced to believe was true - then this would be the last place they'd go. Harry had known that from the start, but still he had looked. What he'd found had made him more miserable yet.
He couldn't simply approach Brenda's people as in the old days, for he was no longer him. What, go to them and tell them he was Harry Keogh, and try to explain? They'd never accept any of that, these salt-of-the-earth - and very much down to earth - north-east folks! Instead he'd approached Brenda's father in his local pub, introducing himself as a friend of Harry's, and asking what had become of him. Which had had a mixed result.
To make a long story short: Brenda and Harry had got married, and there was a child. Eighteen months ago, she'd taken the baby to London to join her husband.
He was working there, writing a book or something. She was always very quiet about his work. Nothing strange about that; she was probably a bit ashamed that he didn't have a 'proper job.' What, Harry Keogh? Why, he hadn't done a stroke since leaving school - not physical work, anyway. But whatever he did, writing or whatever, he must be doing al right; she'd never been short of money.
But then, just a few weeks ago, she'd writen to say that she was taking the baby 'abroad' somewhere. And that was maybe a funny thing, for she hadn't mentioned her husband: just herself and the baby. Still, she'd hinted often enough that Harry did some kind of hush-hush job with the government; maybe that was it. They must have gone off somewhere overseas to some embassy or other. Maybe the writing hadn't worked out, so he was wearing his other hat now. Maybe the government had given him a job as one of these 'special couriers' or something: someone who carries important documents or goods from country to country. Or perhaps the writing had worked out after all, and all of this was a tax dodge. Except... well, Brenda should write more often. That last letter had been - what? All of five or six weeks ago?
And they were her parents, after all...
In short, they were obviously worried about her, no less in their way than Harry himself. And equally obvious, it wasn't a put-up job ... Brenda wasn't with them and they really didn't know her whereabouts. He got the same story from all of her old friends. So Harden was out; she simply wasn't there, and no one knew where she was.
Then another thought had occurred, and one that really was worrying. The Necroscope had given the Russian E-Branch (known to Darcy Clarke and his lot as 'the Opposition') a hard time of it in the last two and a half years. They'd lost three Heads of Branch over that same period, and seen their HQ outside Moscow reduced to so much rubble! What if this thing with his wife and baby was something they had been engineering ever since Harry's showdown with Boris Dragosani? What if they knew that he, Harry Keogh, was alive, despite that his body - his original body - was dead? If anyone was likely to have that information, it had to be the world's ESPionage organizations! The Opposition's top telepath, Zek Foener, had known it definitely ... and following the destruction of the Chateau Bronnitsy, Harry had let her go free. Could Zek have told them? And had they then taken Brenda and the baby in order to facilitate the coercion of the Necroscope himself?
But no, a large part of that didn't make sense; he'd been incorporeal following his fight with Dragosani, and no one in the world would have believed that he'd ever be back, not even Harry himself! But on the other hand part of it did make sense. Right at the end of it, up in the Khorvaty region of the eastern Carpathians, Zek Foener had known that he was back. So she could have given him away after all; which would mean that her Russian superiors had put this thing together all in the space of... what, eighteen months? Even after he'd decimated their E-Branch?
No way; he hadn't left the Soviets nearly enough machinery to bring it into being! Which meant it had to be another dead end, and in a way the Necroscope was glad. He would hate to have to blame this on Zek Foener; partly because he had genuinely liked her, but mainly because his last words to her had been a warning never to come up against him or his again. If a threat carries no weight, then it isn't a threat; But this way he wouldn't have to enforce it...
So ... where had Brenda ever been, that she might want to return to? Nowhere to mention. Where had she ever expressed a yearning to go? Again, nowhere. Since their early teens she'd only ever wanted to be with Harry. And he hadn't been the most responsive of sweethearts,
either. Indeed, he'd asked himself a hundred times if he really loved her or if she was just some kind of habit. She had never known his uncertainty (he hadn't been able to tell her, because she herself had been so absolutely sure), but now he despised himself for it anyway.
But on the other hand, how do you tell someone who has loved you for so long - as long as you can remember - that you just aren't sure of your own feelings'? Not so easy. And a lot harder when she's pregnant with your child.
Misted landscapes, dramatic scenery, cliff paths and gardens grown wild, and starry skies ...
It brought a certain picture to mind, but of what? High passes and mountain peaks, and stars like chips of ice glinting on high.
And a plain of boulders stretching away to a far northern horizon under the weave of ghostly auroras.
The picture came and went like ... like an invention of his own imagination? It had to be, for he had certainly never visited such a place! But in any case it was already fading, melting into unreality like a fantastic dreamscape; which was probably as good an explanation as any: that in trying to visualize Brenda's ideal habitat, he'd evoked a leftover from some old dream. Not so old, in fact... indeed so new that the actual fact of it - its basis in reality - was yet to happen. But the Necroscope couldn't know that, and in the space of just a second or so the picture had faded entirely.
The future was ever a jealous place ...
A million places? Hell no, there were a million million places! Since Brenda had never been anywhere or done anything very much, she could literally be anywhere doing anything! But the north-east coast was where she'd been born and grown up, and it still had to be the best bet.
Harry had tried all the towns and villages between Harden and Hartlepool, and had then backtracked all the way to Sunderland and Durham City ... to no avail. But he had been surprised how many small villages there were that he'd never heard of or visited before, and how easy it was to try to find a lost someone, albeit hopelessly. Housing and building societies, hotels and flats and bedsits, and temporary accommodations, these were the obvious places to check: Brenda had to be living somewhere, had to have a roof over her head. She wasn't registered at any of the agencies; the dozen or so girls with small babies who were registered weren't Brenda. And Harry wasn't greatly surprised, but he'd had to try anyway.
Somewhere abroad: that letter she wrote to her father had said she was going abroad, hence the milion milion places. For if there were a couple of hundred towns in the north-east that the Necroscope had never visited, and five thousand in the rest of England, then what of the rest of the world?
... A garden in a fertile saddle between ruggedly weathered spurs, where dusty beams of sunlight came slanting through the high passes during the long daylight hours, and the stars glittered like frosted jewels at night, or ice-shards suspended in the warp and weave of ghostly auroras ...
The northernmost of the North American States? Canada? The frozen tundras of the northern Soviet Union?
Switzerland? (Did they even see the aurora borealis in Switzerland - and why the northern lights anyway?) But Brenda was a British girl, naive in most things even in her native country, even in her native county! And as the Necroscope rubbished his own inward directed queries, so that fleeting picture of some far, alien land once more retreated. Which was just as well, for search as he might he would never discover it on Earth.
Never find them ... never find his baby son ... never even see them again ... not on Earth!
Harry started awake in a cold sweat, in his bedroom in the old house not far from Bonnyrig. A sweat of fear and frustration, yes, and a feeling of utter loneliness.
He lay panting in his bed, damp with perspiration, feeling his heart racing and his blood pumping. So that for a few brief moments it wasn't as if Brenda and the baby were missing at all but simply that. . . that he was the lost one! And of course the genuine Harry Keogh, the original Harry, was lost.
That again: his body, gone. And piece by piece his entire world going, too. Was that why he had to find Brenda, in order to find himself? In which case his search was useless, for she would only deny him.
Fuck it... that was why she'd run away in the first place! Because he wasn't him!
She'd run, or been taken away. By the baby or by ... someone else?
The Russians? But he'd already been over that and it seemed very unlikely. So if not the Opposition, the much-ravaged Soviet E-Branch, then who?
As his sweat dried on him, so Harry's thoughts cleared and his mind seemed to sharpen and focus as he hadn't been able to focus it for quite some time. He went right back to square one: to that night at E-Branch HQ when he'd first been told that his wife was missing. At the time he had put aside the possibility that A.C. Doyle Jamieson - self-styled 'werewolf - could have been responsible for the double disappearance. But now?
The man had been into his mind, after all... but for how long? Harry had become his 'enemy' the moment he became involved with the dead police officers and took up their case. Had A. C. been 'listening' to him - to his thoughts and worries and problems - from that time on? In which case he would know about Brenda, Harry's one weakness. But surely if that were the case, ;/ he and his gang of car thieves were responsible for Brenda's disappearance, then right at the end when A.C. himself had come under fire, he would have used her as a threat, to stand Harry off. Yes, of course he would -but he hadn't. So ...
... So, damn it to hell, it was another blind alley!
After speaking to his Ma he'd come back to the house full of resolve, and now it was almost burned out of him again. But while his mind was sharp he must pursue the problem. It was so frustrating: to be equipped with his powers - the powers of a Necroscope - and no way to use them to solve his problem, except by trial and error.
He got up from the bed feeling stiff; this damned body of his, which wasn't nearly as flexible as it had used to be. Because it was a different one, naturally. Or unnaturally?
The light coming through fly-specked windows was grey as the day outside. He had been down only an hour or two. An hour or two wasted. Down and out. Wilting. Going to seed. Oh, really? And suddenly Harry was angry with himself. He had to shake himself out of it and get on with the search, get on with life. He was ten years older than he should be, sure, but he didn't have to settle for that, did he? His mind was still in shape, wasn't it? And the mind governs the body, doesn't it? Well then, he'd have to get the fucking body in shape, too!
He was dressed; he went out into his overgrown garden and did twenty furious press-ups, then felt ridiculous and sat hugging his knees in the deep grass and shivering from the difference in temperature between the house and the garden. And in a while he thought:
My Ma's right... I'll catch my death!
Always a close companion of Harry's, death wasn't something he worried about. Not from a distance, anyway. Close up it would be different, of course. If ever death should attempt his stealthy (or sometimes abrupt!) approach, then like anyone else Harry would be galvanized - to life! But as for the idea of death and the dead themselves, he knew no fear.
Indeed, he had a thousand dead friends, but not one of them who could help him now, not this time. While among the living ... did he have any friends at all?
Well, some - like Darcy Clarke and his people - but even they weren't like the dead, because the dead were true friends and rarely demanded payment. As for the exceptions to the rule, the one or two monstrous members of the Great Majority who had demanded payment ... but they were in the Necroscope's past now and couldn't resurface. At least he prayed not.
It was a morbid train of thought, which he tried to break by numbering his friends among the living. These were a handful at best; no, not even that, for he couldn't any longer approach them as Harry Keogh. They would 'know' that he wasn't!
Depression, was that it? Probably. And Harry thought: /// believed in psychiatry I might even go and see a shrink. But if he started to explore my past, how could I explain it? He'd be certain / was incurably insane! Or, if I liked strong drink, I might go and get drunk and see how I felt when I woke up. Except... I wouldn't know where to go to drink, and I'd probably feel out of place when I got there. But damn it, I really feel like I could use a good stif drink! And a talk with a genuine friend. Yet I have no one to talk to but the teeming dead, and they're the only ones who give a damn anyway!
A morbid train of thought, yes ...
But now the entire chain of his thoughts, ever since he'd started awake in a cold sweat, began to join up link upon link. And there was one missing link, which was integral to the rest. He hadn't thought of it until now because it had seemed wrong, especially when he was searching, or trying to search, for his wife and child. But there might be something in it at that.
Initials writhed on the screen of Harry's mind. Not A.C. Doyle Jamieson and his brother R.L. Stevenson's initials, but someone else's. Someone the Necroscope had studiously avoided thinking of until now. But now ... maybe he did have a friend among the living after al.
Or someone who owed him, at least. And maybe, just maybe, it went a lot deeper than that. For one thing, the time frame was right: the disappearance of his wife and child had coincided precisely with this one's advent. And since that was true, mightn't there be a more relevant, more sinister connection?
Psychiatry? Maybe that was the last thing Harry needed. Maybe al he needed was a rest - from al of this, even from thinking about it! Or a change. Didn't they say that a change was as good as a rest?
Have a good stif drink and sleep it of, sleep it right out of his system. Clear the air. Christ, he needed a drink! Or was it simply his body - or somebody else's body - that needed it? But... the mind controls the body, doesn't it? Wel, yes, it does, except when the body has habits or needs that control the mind!
Suddenly things clicked into place in the Necroscope's metaphysical, his lateral-thinking mind. But his mind in another's body. And a litle shakily - shaky with realization, albeit as yet unproven - he went back into the house, to the telephone.
Darcy Clarke was at E-Branch, and he at once sensed something of the excitement in Harry's voice. And in answer to the Necroscope's question:
'What, Alec Kyle? What did he do when he was under pressure?' Darcy said. 'Well, he would just ride it out, Harry.
When there was work to be done, or a problem to be solved, he'd work at it al the way until he'd covered every angle, almost to the point of exhaustion. And after that? What did he do for relaxation?' (Harry could almost sense the other's grin). 'Wel, I'm not sure if I should mention this, you know? I mean - speaking ill of the dead and al that - but... "
'... Did he like a drink?' Finaly Harry forced the issue. And Darcy's answer lit up his mind like the crack of dawn on a summer day:
'Did Alec like a drink? Did he ever! When he was wound up, so tight it was the only way to unwind ... then he would drink, yes! Usualy at home, because there he wasn't risking anything and he didn't have so far to fal into bed. I remember one time he invited me round to his place and between us we kiled a big botle of Jack Daniel's. I stayed over, because I knew I wasn't going to make it to anywhere else. And I paid for it for three whole days. But Alec was just fine! That body of his could soak up hard liquor like a sponge.'
'He wasn't an alcoholic, was he?' (Something of alarm now, in the Necroscope's voice).
'God, no! Once in a blue moon, that's al. But when he did it, Alec did it right.'
Thanks,' Harry breathed, and put the 'phone down.
And now he knew. Knew how to be himself again: by not being himself. Feelings of illicit atraction? Chemistry, that's al. Alec Kyle's chemistry. And the need to have a good stiff drink folowing a period of prolonged stress? Again, chemistry: the ex-precog's body doing its own thing - or rather the thing it had used to do.
And there stood Harry smack dab in the middle, firm in his determination to get used to his new body, without giving a moment's thought to the fact that it must get used to him!
So maybe a night on the town wasn't such a bad idea after al. Maybe then he'd be able to get it al going - get body and mind working together - and figure something out. And come to think of it, he did know where to go to get a drink, and probably a free one at that. She owed him that much at least.
Alec Kyle's personal body chemistry? Illicit atraction? Sheer loneliness? Maybe it was al of these things. And initials, certainly.