Johnny had stopped at an all-services motorway watering-hole north of Newark. He'd chosen the A1(T) rather than the larger Ml because its service stations usually had richer pickings: not only long-distance truckers and motorists used its facilities but locals, too. It was Johnny's experience that when the town and village dance halls slowed down around midnight the young ones headed this way for a cheap motorway meal after a hard night's drinking, dancing and whatever. He'd stopped here before, but no luck as yet. Maybe tonight.
On clutch and air-brakes, he'd snorted and whoofed the big articulated truck around the tarmac until he'd found a place to park it where its nose sniffed the exit route. It was as well to be able to drive out of such places with as little trouble as possible. The place was on a major junction; the car park was busy and the lorry park half-empty; people came and went in small parties to and from the brightly-lit diner. Johnny's would be just one more face over a plate of chicken and chips and a pint of alcohol-free.
Inside, there'd been nothing much of a queue at the self-service bar; in a little while Johnny had settled at a table in a corner booth where he'd toyed with his food and casually looked the place over for a likely female face. There were several, but... they didn't fit his bill: too old, too drab, slack-faced, sharp-eyed, accompanied, or stone-cold sober. A few bright-eyed young things, yes, but all hanging on to flash boyfriends. Well, that's how it went. But there were plenty more places just like this between here and London. And you never could tell when your luck was going to change.
He remembered a time when, on a lonely stretch of road, this bird had roared by in a little red sports job. He'd bombed after her and forced her off the road into a ditch, then told her he was sorry and it was an accident -but he would be glad to give her a lift to the nearest I garage. Oh, he'd given her a lift, all right, but not to a garage. And then it had been her turn to give him a lift, a really good one, a real high. Johnny had been in a weird mood that night: after killing her he'd chopped a channel up under her jaw and fucked her in the throat. She'd felt it, of course, and how the dead bitch had yelped! Oh, she'd had cock in her throat before, but not coming from that direction.
Thinking about it had got him worked up. He must have one tonight. But not from this place. Maybe he should move on.
And that was when he saw ... he saw... what the shit?
It wasn't possible but ... he had to fight with his eyes to keep them from looking in her direction again. She was just over there; she'd just slid her backside on to a seat in a booth close by; there was a blind guy there, too - or a guy in dark glasses, anyway - but he didn't seem to be with her. She had a coffee, just a coffee, and she was the same as last time. She was exactly the same. And for a moment Johnny's mind whirled, for he could swear he'd had this one before!
How can that be? he asked himself. How can it be? And the answer was simple: it couldn't be. Unless this girl was the other's twin sister ... or her double.'
And then he remembered reading something about that in the papers: how they thought the one he'd had in Edinburgh - Penny, that was her name - was someone else. But then she'd turned up alive: the spitting image of the one he'd screwed, murdered, and screwed again. Stranger still, the one who'd turned up had also been called Penny. Coincidence? Jesus, coincidence! But the biggest coincidence of them all: here she was, right now, right here. That is, unless he'd started seeing fucking things.
Slowly Johnny looked up from his food, through the acid-etched, fern-patterned glass dividers which loaned the booths a little privacy, until her face was directly in his line of vision. Maybe for a moment he caught her eye, but just for a moment, and then she looked away. The half-blind guy - the guy with the eye problem, anyway, who shared her booth - had his back to Johnny; but he didn't look much anyway, slumped over his mug of coffee like that. Her father, maybe?
No, her lover, Harry Keogh answered, but silently, speaking only to himself. Her vampire lover, you scumbag.
He had been into Pound's mind from the moment he and Penny had entered the place, and the mental cesspool in there was as rank as anything he'd ever come up against. Together with the necromancer's recognition of Penny as a former victim, or that victim's double, it strengthened Harry's resolve, confirmed his commitment. But as yet Pound's recognition of her hadn't produced the reaction Harry had expected. Curiosity, yes, but not fear. In a way, perhaps that was understandable.
For after all Found knew that the other Penny was dead; he knew that this couldn't be the girl he had violated. Still, his shock had been short-lived and Harry was disappointed. Also, he knew now that he was dealing with a very cool customer. Whether Found would be able to stay cool when confronted with what was on the cards for him... that was something else entirely.
Leaving Johnny's mind, the Necroscope leaned across the table a little toward Penny and quietly said, 'I can see how badly shaken you are. I can feel it, too. I'm sorry, Penny, but just try to stay calm. It won't be long now; when Found leaves I'll go after him; you'll stay here and wait for me. OK?'
She nodded and said, 'You seem very... well, cold about all of this, Harry.'
He shook his head. 'Just determined. But you see, Found is cold, which might give him an advantage if I allowed myself to get too heated.'
As he spoke, Harry saw two men enter the diner from the car park. They seemed ordinary enough but there was something about them. As they moved along the self-service bar collecting cold drinks, their eyes scanned the room, found the Necroscope and Penny in their booth, moved on. Harry went on to probe their minds - and his telepathic probe at once came up against a wall of mental static!
He withdrew immediately. At least one of these men was an esper, which meant E-Branch was closing in ... on both Johnny Found and Harry Keogh! They probably wouldn't try anything in here - maybe not even in the darkness of the car park - but in any case Harry didn't want them on his trail. And they'd obviously figured out that if they followed Found they'd find the Necroscope, too. Now of all times he really couldn't afford this sort of complication.
Now, too, he remembered the car he'd seen tailing Pound's truck out of Darlington: an unmarked police car with... how many men aboard? Two or three? He'd thought they were all policemen but now knew better. Suddenly, coming from nowhere, he felt a growl rising in his throat. His Wamphyri side was reacting to the threat. Aware of Penny's gaze, he stifled the growl at once.
'Harry.' Her voice was concerned. 'You're very pale.'
Fury, my love. 'There's something I must do,' he told her. 'It will mean leaving you here - but only for a minute. You'll be OK?'
'In here, alone with him?' Her eyes were huge and round.
There are fifty people in here,' he answered. And two of them at least are pretty sharp characters. 'I promise I'll be right back.'
She touched his hand and nodded. Then I'll be OK.' But she avoided looking Pound's way.
Harry stood up, smiled a robot's smile at her and went out into the night.
At first, to anyone watching, it would appear that he'd been heading for the gents' toilets, but as he passed close to the swinging glass doors of the exit he turned sharply and pushed through them -
- And as soon as he was outside crouched down, breathed a mist and moved wraithlike between the cars ranked like soldiers on the hard-standing. His Wamphyri senses guiding him, he went straight to the unmarked police car and approached it from the rear. There was a driver, a plain-clothes policeman, with one elbow on the sill and a cigarette dangling from his lips where he sat silhouetted in a steel frame, looking out of his wound-down window into the darkness and breathing the mild night air.
Exuding fog, the Necroscope moved like a low-slung spider - performed a weirdly loping limbo - to draw silently alongside the car. And then he stood up.
The policeman's jaw fell open in a gasp of astonishment as a shadow, coming from nowhere, blocked out the stars and flowed over him; his cigarette flew as the Necroscope hit him once, hard enough to send him sprawling across the front passenger seat.
He was out like a light - or like his cigarette, which Harry ground under his heel. Then he reached inside the car and snapped the key in half in the ignition. So much for that: they wouldn't be following Johnny - or Harry -anywhere in this car. But to be doubly sure he took out Pound's steel-tube knife and drove it into the wall of a tyre until it hissed air and sagged down on to its rim. But as he began to straighten up he glanced into the back of the car and froze.
The Necroscope's eyes were attuned to the night, which was his element. He could see into the back of the car just as clearly as in broad daylight. And there on the back seat, a bulky, ugly, dark-snouted shape which Harry knew at once: a flamethrower. And on the floor back there, the blued-steel glitter of a pair of loaded crossbows. Loaded crossbows!
Harry hissed and crouched down into himself. They were ready for him, all of them. It must be coming soon. Perhaps sooner than he'd anticipated. Bastards! And he was the one who'd showed them how!
He attacked a second tyre and grunted his satisfaction as it collapsed into extinction, then moved round the car and did a third. Following which he paused and drew a ragged breath, and forced himself to be calm, calm...
He was trembling, but only trembling. No more hissing, snarling. Mere moments of violence, but they had acted as a safety valve on Harry's awful pressure. As his mist began to thin he sighed his relief, stood more humanly erect, put away the knife and headed back towards the diner...
Mere moments - less than two, three minutes at most -but more than sufficient time that the menace of Johnny Found had got to Penny, cancelling her former resolve to 'be OK'. For she had known from the moment Harry left the glass doors swinging behind him and disappeared into the night that she would not be OK, not in the same enclosed space as this monster, not with fifty or five hundred people around her.
Mere moments, yes, but enough time for Johnny to make up his mind that Penny would be The One. Obviously the guy with the dark glasses hadn't been with her after all, and now she was on her own. What was more, she was aware that Johnny was interested; he could feel her avoiding his eyes, even avoiding his thoughts, his existence. And suddenly he wondered: Does she know me? But how could she possibly know him? What the fuck was going on here, anyway?
He put aside his plate and placed his hands on the table, palms down, as if to push himself to his feet. And all the while he stared at Penny, willing her to look his way. She was looking his way, however obliquely, and saw him slowly rising. All the colour fled from her face as she too rose, slid out of her booth, backed away from him. She collided with a fat man with a tray and sent milk, hot food, bread rolls flying.
Johnny paced after her, smiling a deliberately feigned, surprised smile. It was as if he were saying 'What's wrong? Did I startle you?' Anyone watching would think: what on earth is wrong with that girl? Is she drunk, on drugs? So pale! And that nice young man looking so surprised, so astonished.
And that was the whole thing of it: Johnny Found did look like a 'nice young man'. When Harry Keogh had seen him, he'd been surprised that he didn't more nearly fit the bill. Medium height and blocky build; blond, shoulder-length hair; good, square teeth in a full mouth with a droopy, almost innocent smile... only his slightly sallow complexion marred the boy-next-door image. That and his eyes, which were dark and deep-sunken. And the fact that he lived in a pigsty. And that he was a coldblooded ravager of both living and dead flesh.
Penny blurted an apology to the gaping, spluttering fat man where he fingered his milk-soaked jacket, looked up and saw Johnny closing with her, turned and fled for the swing doors. Johnny glanced around at the dozen or so nearby patrons in their booths, shrugged and pulled a wry face, as if to say: 'A weirdo... nothing to do with me, folks!' and calmly walked after her.
But he was so intent on his act, and on following the girl into the night, that as he caught the still swinging door on the inswing and passed out through it he didn't see the two sharp-eyed men starting to their feet and coming after him.
Outside Penny turned frantically this way and that. A thin mist lay on the tarmac of the sprawling, tree-bordered car park; the headlights of vehicles on the nearby trunk road blinded her where they went scything by; she couldn't see Harry anywhere. But Johnny Found could see Penny, and he was right behind her.
She heard the crunch of gravel on the path leading back to the diner's door but didn't dare turn round. Of course, it could be anyone... but it could also be him. She felt rooted to the spot, all of her senses straining to identify what if anything was going on behind her, but utterly incapable of turning round and using the most obvious sense of all. And: God! she prayed. Please let it not be him!
But it was.
'Penny?' he said, sly and yet somehow wonderingly.
Now she turned, but with a sort of slow-motion jerkiness, like a puppet controlled by a spastic puppeteer. And there he was, bearing down on her, wearing a painted-on smile under eyes that were jet-black and flint-hard.
Her heart very nearly stopped; she wanted to cry out but could only choke; she almost fainted into his arms. He caught her up, looked quickly all around and saw no one. And: 'Mine!' he gurgled, glaring into her half-glazed, sideways-sliding eyes behind their fluttering lids. 'All Johnny's now, Penny!'
He wanted to ask her questions, right now, right here, but knew she wouldn't hear them. She was sliding away from him - away from the horror of him - into another world. Escaping into unconsciousness. That was a laugh. Why, no way she could escape from Johnny! Not even into death!
Here, in front of the diner, was the car park; behind it was the lorry park, and dividing the two a belt of trees with paths between. Johnny picked Penny up, hurried with her into the cover of the trees, carried her through them light as a child. Behind him the E-Branch spotter and a Special Branch Detective Inspector erupted from the diner, glanced this way and that, saw him hurrying into darkness.
They came running after him - and the Necroscope came loping after them.
Harry had heard her cry out. Not aloud, for she'd been too terrified to make any sound whatsoever. He'd heard her in his mind. She was his thrall, and she'd called to him. The call had come just as he was leaving the disabled police car, and at first he hadn't known what it was. But the vampire in him had known. He had seen Found carrying Penny into the screening trees, towards the lorry park, and he'd seen the two men from the diner running after him. All of them were moving quickly, but not as quick as Harry.
His lope was more wolf - more alien - than human, and he covered ground like the shadow of a fast-fleeting cloud under the moon. But as he entered the trees on a diagonal course calculated to intercept Johnny Found and his captive, he knew he'd made a mistake. The trees and the shrubs beneath them were an ornamental screen designed to separate the two car parks, and as such they were protected by high wire-mesh fences. Precious seconds were lost as Harry came up against a fence, cursed and conjured a Möbius door. In another moment he cleared the belt of trees and emerged on the perimeter of the hard-standing...
... Where a reeling, gagging figure collided with him and brought him to a halt! It was the esper. He knew Harry at once - sensed the awesome power of his metaphysical mind, that and the vampire in him - and threw up a hand to ward him off. The hand was bloody as the gaping wound in his cheek, where Johnny Found had torn a third of his face away.
Harry held him upright, snarled at him, then thrust him toward one of the paths through the trees. 'Go and get help, quickly, before you bleed to death!'
And as the esper choked out something inarticulate and staggered away, the Necroscope reached out with his vampire awareness to cover the entire park. He found three people at once: Penny, unconscious; Johnny Found, furious and bloody; and the policeman, dead where Pound's weapon had crashed through his ear to gouge into his brain.
Harry pinpointed their location, conjured a door and ran through it ... and out again at the rear of the Frigis Express truck, where even now Johnny was slamming home the bolt on the roller door. At his feet, the policeman lay crumpled in a pool of his own blood, the left side of his face a raw red pulp.
The necromancer had taken the policeman's gun; he sensed Harry's presence, whirled, aimed and fired! Harry was coming head-on; he felt a colossal blow as the bullet smashed into his collarbone on the right side, spun him round and hurled him down on the tarmac.
Then, startled by the explosion and the flash, Johnny was fumbling the gun and dropping it. Stumbling across Harry, he kicked at him where he lay curled up in his pain; and running past the trailer toward his truck's cab, the madman raved, cursed and laughed all in one.
The pain in Harry's shoulder was a living thing that took hold of his flesh with white-hot pincers and twisted it, causing him to moan his agony. And he thought: Bastard thing in my blood, my mind! Your fault, you berserk, headlong, idiot! Very well, you've caused me to be hurt - now heal me!
Found was in his cab, starting up and revving the engine. Air-brakes hissed and the reversing lights blazed crimson to match Harry's eyes or the jelly coagulating on the side of the dead policeman's head. Racked by pain, the Necroscope saw the huge bulk of the truck jerk, shudder and start backing up; in another moment a pair of its twinned wheels skidded viciously, then gripped and dragged the policeman's body under. Blood and guts gushed as the wheels lifted up barely an inch and the weight of the truck squeezed the corpse's innards like toothpaste from a tube.
He's lucky he's dead! Harry dazedly, unthinkingly thought. It's something he wouldn't want to happen while he was still alive! They were instinctive thoughts, shocked out of him by the squelching eruption of brains and shit and flailing guts, but they were also deadspeak and the policeman heard him.
Exhaust gases belched in Harry's face where he rolled desperately from the path of the reversing truck; the scarlet-dripping wheels missed him by inches; but through all the roar and the stink and the mess on the tarmac he heard and was riveted by the policeman's answer:
But I did feel it! And God, it was like dying twice! And Harry's blood - even his blood - froze as he remembered who was driving the truck: Johnny Found, necromancer, whose actions his victims could feel even as the teeming dead had once felt Dragosani's!
Then the air-brakes hissed again and the truck jerked to a halt, shuddered, started forward, turned and rumbled away towards the exit. Johnny Found was making his escape, with Penny aboard. But: No, you fucking don't! Harry fixed the truck's location in his mind, got to his knees, toppled through a Möbius door and out again into the refrigerated trailer. It was dark in there but that was nothing to the Necroscope. He saw Penny, crawled to her, put his left hand under her head and drew it into his lap. She opened her eyes and looked into his where they blazed.
'Harry, I ... I didn't stay in the diner,' she whispered.
'I know,' he growled. 'Did he hurt you?'
'No.' She shook her head, but weakly, 'I ... I think I just fainted.'
Harry had no time to waste. Not now, for his blood was up. Literally! 'Cling to me,' he said.
She did as she was told and Harry let the Möbius equations roll across the computer screen of his mind. One moment later and Penny felt the awesome immensity of the Möbius Continuum, and in the next gravity returned where they fell prone on to Harry's bed in the house outside Bonnyrig. 'This time stay here!' he told her. And before she could even sit up he was gone again...
In the operations room at E-Branch HQ, Millicent Cleary and the Minister Responsible sat with David Chung, who was also the Duty Officer, at one end of a large desk. The desk was equipped with a radio receiver, a radio telephone, standard telephones, blown-up Ordnance Survey maps of England under illuminated plastic, and a tray containing various small items of property belonging to Branch agents in the field. Spotlights in the ceiling were concentrated on the desk, turning it and its immediate surroundings into an island of light in the large room's comparative darkness.
Millicent Cleary had just a moment ago received a brief telepathic message from Paxton at the house near Bonny-rig, stating that the assault team was in position. Keogh and the girl had been back, briefly, but Paxton was sure that the Necroscope was no longer in the house. Similarly Frank Robinson, the spotter who was Paxton's partner on the job, believed one of the two was still there; since there was no noticeable disturbance of the psychic 'ether', he would guess it was the girl. Keogh must have used the Möbius Continuum to drop her off at the house before moving on. If there'd been any indication that the Necroscope himself was still in there, then the team would have maintained ESP silence. But since he wasn't... Paxton was eager to learn what was happening.
Cleary passed the mind-message on and the Minister Responsible gave a snort. 'I've come to the conclusion that you're right about Paxton,' he said. 'All of you. I get the feeling he won't be satisfied until he's running the world!'
Cleary frowned and nodded. 'Ruining it, you mean!' she said, sourly; then quickly added, 'Er... sir! But we are right, and you don't have to be psychic to know it. He's a menace. We're lucky Ben Trask is up there keeping an eye on him. Do you want me to tell him anything?'
The Minister looked at her - also at Chung where he busied himself touching and concentrating on his many contact sigils in their tray, fathoming the whereabouts, mood and feelings of the agents in the field - and mentally reviewed the situation:
The telepath Trevor Jordan (who by all rights and natural laws should be a small heap of ashes in a vase), was on a night train heading for London via Darlington. Two E-Branch agents were on the same train and didn't anticipate too much trouble, even though it was a pretty safe bet that Jordan was a vampire. They were equipped with powerful automatic weapons, and one of them had a small but deadly crossbow. Another man was on his way to the mainline station in Darlington to give them a hand. He had a car, and in its boot a flamethrower.
Penny Sanderson, also a resurrected vampire, was probably in Keogh's house outside Bonnyrig. The agents up there were (again probably) as strong a team of espers as E-Branch could throw together, which they would need to be if or when Keogh rejoined the party. For the odds were that sooner or later he'd go back there for the girl.
As for the Necroscope himself: he could be quite literally anywhere, but he was probably tracking Johnny Found. His reasons for doing so were all his own, but the Sanderson girl had been one of Pound's victims. Vengeance? Why not? It seemed the Wamphyri had always been big on revenge.
So, if E-Branch moved now, two of the three targets were good as dead (the Minister recoiled for a moment, shocked by the necessarily cold efficiency of his own thoughts) but Keogh would still remain the big question mark, the pivot on which everything else turned. And it would be to everyone's advantage - literally everyone's, everywhere - if the Necroscope could be taken out at the same time as the others.
'Sir?' The girl was still waiting for an answer.
The Minister opened his mouth to speak, but at that moment David Chung held up a hand and said, 'Hold it!' Cleary and the Minister looked at the locator; his other hand was resting on a Zippo cigarette lighter, the longtime property of Paul Garvey, a telepath working with the police out of Darlington. That hand was steady, the tips of Chung's long fingers motionless where they touched the cold metal. But the hand he held up was trembling, violently.
Suddenly he snatched back his hand from the tray, stepped back a little from the desk. In another moment he'd recovered himself, came forward again and said: 'Garvey has been hurt! I don't know how, but it's serious...' He closed his eyes and his hand hovered a moment over the maps beneath their clear plastic laminate.
As the small Chinaman's hand came down to cover a section of the Al north of Newark, the Minister turned to Cleary. 'Can you get hold of Garvey?'
'I've worked with him, lots.' She was breathless. 'Let me try.'
She closed her eyes and concentrated on mental pictures of her fellow esper, and got him at once. Garvey was in fact sending at that very moment. But his signal and message were weak, garbled, distorted by his pain... which Cleary immediately became heir to! She gasped and staggered, and for a second lost him. Then she picked him up again, but barely in time before he blacked out and his telepathic thoughts flew into shards in her mind. The rush of psychic sendings had not been without images, however, which she'd received even as he was going under.
She turned to the Minister and her features were drawn, bloodless. 'Paul's face,' she said. 'It's ruined! His cheek is hanging in tatters. But there's a doctor with him. They're in some sort of ... motorway cafe? I think he was attacked by Johnny Found - but the Necroscope was also there. And a policeman is dead!'
The Minister grabbed her wrist, steadied her. 'A policeman, dead? And Keogh was there? You're sure?'
She nodded, gulped. 'It was in Paul's mind: a picture of a ... a bloody hole in a policeman's head. And another of Harry, with eyes like red lamps burning in his face!'
Chung said, 'Garvey's somewhere here,' and he pointed at the map. 'On the Al.'
The Minister took a deep breath, nodded and said, This is it: it's all coming to a head, right now. Keogh might have guessed it all along but by now he must know we're after him, definitely. So while all three of these... these creatures, are in different locations - from which two of them at least can't escape - now has to be the best time to move on them.' He turned to the girl. 'Miss Cleary, er, Millicent? Is Paxton still waiting? Get back on to him and tell him to move in now, at once. Then speak to Scanlon and tell him the same thing.' He turned to Chung. 'And David - '
But the locator was already busy on the radio, speaking to people in Darlington.
By the time Johnny Pound's thundering Frigis Express truck took the curves on the roundabout at the junction of the Al and A46 outside Newark, he was much calmer and showing a lot of skill and driving discipline. Had there been a police patrol car stationed at the roundabout, its officers probably wouldn't look twice at him.
There was no patrol car, however. Just Harry Keogh.
Using Pound's knife, the Necroscope had followed the truck's progress in a series of short Möbius jumps, waiting for his quarry to slow down a little before attempting what would have to be an extremely accurate jump on to a moving object - directly into Pound's cab! Also, it must be accomplished as smoothly as possible, so as not to jar Harry's badly shattered collarbone. The pain of that alone would have left any other man writhing on his back or entirely unconscious. But Harry wasn't any other man. Indeed, with every passing moment he was a little less a man and more a monster, albeit one with a human soul.
And so, as the necromancer straightened up his truck off the roundabout and back on to the Al, Harry emerged from the eternal darkness of the Möbius Continuum into the empty seat on his left. At first Found didn't see him, or if he did he considered him a shadow in the corner of his eye. And Harry sat still and quiet in the very corner of the cab, pressed against the door with his face and upper body turned towards the driver. He kept his eyes three-quarters shuttered, studying Johnny's face, which had seemed previously scarcely to match up with any of the descriptions given him by the girls, but which he now saw to be very terrible indeed.
As for Johnny himself: he knew that it was all over. Too many people had seen him tonight, in the diner, the car park, with or close to the girl. Indeed, it seemed to him that he'd been set up. They had traced him, then trapped him with a girl who was the image of one of his victims. And he had fallen for it. Well, two of the bastards at least had paid for it, and the girl would pay, too, when he climbed into the trailer with her, chopped a passage through the orbit of her left eye and fucked her brain!
These were his thoughts, which Harry, looking directly at him, read as clearly as - more clearly than - the pages of a book. And if before there had been any doubt at all in the Necroscope's mind that his intended course of action was the right one, these were also the thoughts which dispelled it. Now, as Johnny dwelled more intimately on the pleasures he intended taking with or from the girl, Harry very quietly spoke up and said: 'None of those things will happen, for the girl isn't in the trailer. I freed her. As I intend freeing all of the dead. From their terror, Johnny. From your tyranny.'
Pound's jaw had fallen open at the first word. There was a trickle of saliva, slime, froth, in the left-hand corner of his mouth, which now ran down under his lip and into the dimple of his chin. He said 'Who - ?' and his coal-black eyes slowly slid to the left in their deep sockets... then stood out like inkblots on the gaunt parchment which until a moment ago had been the flushed, bloated flesh of his face.
'You're a goner, Johnny,' Harry told him, and opened his furnace eyes to reflect ruddily on the other's paralysed, astonished features.
But Pound's paralysis was short-lived, and the rest of it - his almost immediate response - was all instinct, so that not even the Necroscope could have seen it coming. 'What?' he gurgled, taking his left hand from the wheel and reaching up behind his head for a meat-hook where it hung from the cab's frame. 'A goner? Well, one of us is, that's for sure!'
Harry's plan had been simple: as Found attacked him, he'd conjure a Möbius door and wrestle him through it. But it was difficult enough just to take hold of a man in the cab of a truck, let alone when he was wielding a meat-hook.
Johnny had seen the huge bloodstain on Harry's jacket and recognized him as the one he'd shot back in the diner's vehicle park. How he came to be in the cab was something else, but he surely wouldn't be much good for anything with a gaping hole in his shoulder. And even less good when Johnny was finished with him. 'Whoever you are,' he grunted, swinging the hook, 'you're dead fucking meat!'
The blow was awkward and left-handed, but still Harry couldn't avoid it. He ducked down a little and the question mark of shining metal passed over his right shoulder, swooped down on him and caught in the hole which the bullet had torn out of his back. He gasped his renewed agony as Found yanked him towards him and glared into his face. Then -
- Using Harry as a counterweight, the necromancer lifted his left leg, reached it across Harry's knees and kicked open the cab door. And as the truck careened down the twin lanes he kicked again, this time at Harry himself, and simultaneously released his hold on the meat-hook.
Sliding free of his seat into the rush of night air, the Necroscope made a desperate grab for the wildly swinging door. Luckily the window was down; as he looped his arms through the frame, so his feet slammed down on to the running board. Johnny could no longer reach him without letting go of the wheel, but he could at least try to shake him loose.
Heedless of other vehicles, the maniac threw his huge truck this way and that across the lanes, and Harry hung on like grim death until the thought suddenly occurred. Why not a big door? Why not the biggest bloody door you could ever imagine?
On his left and almost directly under his skidding, skittering feet, a car was sideswiped and sent spinning, crashing through the roadside barrier in a shriek of ruptured metal. It smashed into the embankment nose first and exploded like a bomb. But the big truck rushed on and left people frying and dying in its wake, and in the cab Johnny fuelled himself with their pain and knew that even dead they would hear his crazy laughter.
Enough! Harry thought, and conjured his giant door - on the road directly in front of the truck.
The rumble and thunder and rocking violence of the vehicle died away in a moment as it plunged through the Möbius door into darkness absolute; likewise the mad laughter of Johnny Found, shut off as he delivered a single gonging thought into the aweseome Möbius Continuum: WHAT?
The beam of his headlights went on for ever, cutting a tunnel through infinity. But apart from the headlight beams and the truck where its mass surrounded him, there was nothing whatsoever. No road, no sound, no sensation of motion, nothing.
WHAAAAT!? Johnny screamed again, deafeningly, in both his and the Necroscope's mind.
But: No good shouting now, Johnny, Harry told him, hanging on the door and guiding the truck, aiming it like a missile to its final destination. Like I said, you're a goner. And we're very nearly there. Welcome to hell!
Johnny let go of the wheel and sprawled across the wide seat, reaching for the Necroscope where he clung to the door of the cab. But too late; they were there; Harry conjured another door in front of the truck and pushed himself free, slowing his motion to an abrupt halt. And the truck went rushing on -
- Out of the Möbius Continuum to emerge inches over the surface of a narrow road. It crashed down, bounced, rocked and roared; and as its free-spinning tyres found purchase on the tarmac, so it rocketed forward. Johnny screamed as he saw the sharp bend coming up where the road skirted a long, high wall of ivy-clad stone. He made a desperate grab for the steering wheel, but the truck had already mounted the kerb. It shot across a narrow strip of grass, tore through a mass of night-black shrubbery, slammed into the wall... and stopped.
... But not Johnny!
As the truck and its trailer concertinaed - as the wall cracked and sent stone debris flying - as massive petrol tanks shattered and showered fuel on to hot, tortured metal, turning the truck into a blazing inferno - so Johnny was ripped out of his driver's seat and hurled through the windscreen. Bones in his left arm and shoulder broke where, pinwheeling, he hit the top of the wall before crushing down on to something hard far on the other side. There was pain, more pain than he'd ever known; and then, apart from flickering firelight from beyond the wall, and a booming, whooshing explosion as the emergency tank blew, there was a deafening silence. The silence of mental concentration, of knowing even through waves of agony that someone - several pitiless someones - were watching him.
He cranked his neck up an inch from where sharp gravel chips stuck to the tattered mess of his face, and saw Harry Keogh standing there, looking down on him. And behind the red-eyed Necroscope there were other - people? Things, anyway - which Johnny knew should never be. They came (crawled, staggered, crumbled) forward, and one of them was or had once been a girl. Johnny backed off, pushing with his raw hands, sliding on his belly and his knees, skidding in the bloodied gravel until he collided with something hard, which brought him up short. He somehow turned his head and looked back, and saw what had stopped him: a headstone.
'A ... a ... fucking graveyard!' he gasped.
And Harry Keogh said, 'End of the road, Johnny.'
Pamela Trotter said, You kept your promise, Harry. And he nodded.
And Johnny Found, Necromancer, knew what had passed between them. 'No!' he gasped. Then screamed: 'Noooooooo!'
He would get to his feet. Even broken, shattered, cut to ribbons, he would flee from the hell of it. But Pamela's dead friends fell or flopped on him and bore him down, and a hand that shed rotting flesh and maggots stoppered his mouth. Then she came to him and searched among his rags, until she found his new knife. And close up like that - badly gone into corruption though she was, even with the flesh beginning to slough from her face - still he knew her.
You remember that good time we had? she said. You didn't even say thanks, Johnny, and you didn't leave me anything to remember you by. Well, now I think it's time I had me a small memento. Or even a big one, eh? Something I can take back down into the earth with me, right? She showed him his own knife and smiled at him, and her teeth were long where the blackened gums had shrivelled back from them.
Harry turned away and shut out the sight; shut out Pound's silent, frenzied shrieking, too, from his mind. But to Pamela he said, 'Make sure you kill him.'
Except: Too late! She was weeping her frustration. Or rather, too soon! Damn the bastard, Harry, but he's already died on me!
Harry sighed his relief and thought, Just as well. She heard him and a moment later agreed:
Yes, I suppose it is. Shit, I didn't want to dirty my hands on this filth anyway!
And now Pound's deadspeak reached out to both of them, to Harry and to Pamela. What... is this? Where... am I? Who... is it out there?
Neither one of them answered him, but the sheer weight of Harry's presence impressed itself on Pound's mind like a light shining in through the stretched membrane of shuttered eyelids. He knew that Harry was there, and that he was special. It's you, right? he said. The guy with the dark glasses, with some kind of magic. You brought me here with your magic, right?
Harry knew that Pamela would probably never speak to Johnny Found, neither Pamela nor any other of the outraged Great Majority. Instead of taunting the necromancer, they'd merely shun him, lock him up or out, like a leper. So maybe Harry shouldn't speak to him either but simply go away. And perhaps that would be the most merciful thing to do.
Except... Harry had a less than merciful thing inside him, which now caused him to speak up.
You had the same magic, Johnny, he said. Or you could have had. You could speak to the dead - could have trained yourself, as I did, to converse with them and befriend them - but no, you chose to torture them instead.
Found was quick to catch on. So now I'm one of them, right? I'm dead and you did it to me. But just answer me this: why?
Harry could have explained: that he'd needed to focus his Wamphyri passions on something - to have something to let them loose on - rather than people who were previously his friends; which was to say E-Branch and the world in general. He could have explained, but didn't. For his vampire wouldn't let him. Found had been the cold, cruel, uncaring one in life; death should be a cold, cruel place, too. And just as uncaring. An eye for an eye.
Why did I kill you? Harry shrugged, began to turn away.
Hey, fuckface! Found shouted after him, defiant, furious even in death. That doesn't cut it. You had your reasons, sure enough. Because of the dead? Shit! Who gives a fuck for the dead? So come on, tell me ... why?
And so - coldly, cruelly and uncaringly - Harry told him. You're right, he said. No one gives a fuck for the dead. And you, Johnny, you're dead. You want to know why? And again he shrugged. Well, why the fuck not?