The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness

The Blood In The Cup

12.15pm 2nd October 1998.

'Stay here,' Jo said somewhat curtly to Arabella. She unstrapped herself and slowly climbed out of the car, still half expecting the old familiar twang of pain in her leg. Hovering by the car door, where Arabella peered at her curiously, she turned and headed back towards the Pritchard's front door, timing it so she got there just as Marie opened the door.

'Sorry to bother you again. Just wanted to leave our phone number,' she said to the rather confused looking Marie, 'Just incase you want to contact us about anything,' Quickly scribbling her new mobile number on a scrap of card she handed it to Marie who took it and looked at the two men.

'Er...can I help?' Marie asked.

The man closest to Jo purposefully turned away from Jo towards Marie, 'Ah yes, Mrs Pritchard, we understand that you propose to excavate the object recently found at Glastonbury, we were hoping to speak to you on the matter of acquiring it for the private collection of our client.'

'Well, I don't see how we can help, but we're always willing to discuss...' she opened the door slightly and the two men made to go in.

Jo stepped forward, 'Er, sorry to interrupt. Jo Wilton, Acorn Productions Ltd. We're running a programme on the grail mystery. Would it be intrusive of me to ask your opinion of the grail, sirs? It's the variety of thought on the subject that makes the artefact such a fascinating one, don't you think?'

The man closest to her turned. He was tall and very slender though he had broad shoulders. A mop of dark blond hair hung over his hooded eyes and he had a prominent nose. The look on his face was a sneer.

'Yes,' he said, 'it would be intrusive.' His voice was elegantly enunciated.

The other man turned and the look in his eyes was so ferocious that even the fearless Jo almost took a step backwards, 'Little girls shouldn't meddle in adult matters,' he hissed, his sibilant voice matching his effete appearance. There was a slight cut under one eye and Jo saw the glint of a necklace at his throat, she just managed to see it was a golden pentagram as he turned back towards the door. Jo wondered if they recognised her form the site.

'Yes, well,' said Jo, regaining some of her composure, 'it was good talking to you, too.'

She looked at Marie who seemed somewhat apologetic, leaning forward she said conspiratorially, 'It's the grail, it does strange things to peoples minds!'

Jo nodded, 'You have my number if you want to get in touch, but no doubt we'll be seeing you soon anyway!' Marie closed the door and as Jo headed back to the car, she heard the two men introduce themselves through the door; Charles Montfleur and Hugh Simmons.

Jo got back into the car, congratulating herself on a rather convincing impression of Amanda Gudmunsdottir.

'Oh, Mr Aldridge,' Phil said as Declan rose to leave, 'this historical society, Rosa Mundi, did you say? What exactly did they want from you? Have you got anyway I can get in touch with them?'

Aldridge looked rather weary, 'They wanted to hear my story, and ask me if I would help them raise funds to have the object excavated. They left me a mobile phone number, I'll find it and get it to you.'

'Well, it's a strange story to be sure, to be fair, Mr Aldridge, I've got to admit that I'm a bit of a non-believer in all this supernatural gubbins. But you seem to honestly believe, and I won't argue or take that away from you. It's funny though. One of my colleagues claims to have had a bit of a visitation while he was out at the grail site. He claims to have seen a ghost, a girl or something. Doesn't mean anything to you does it? There's no hoary old stories about love-lorn girls haunting Glastonbury?'

'Ms Morris, who discovered the dish claimed that her dream told her to take her young daughter there. That's the only link I can think of.'

'Well, thanks,' said Phil, 'Don't worry Mr Aldridge. We won't take your name in vain, and we'll not mock you on film. If I need you, I'll give you a call. And if you need anything don't worry 'bout calling me. Any time.'

Aldridge headed towards the door and making sure that Sam had noticed, Phil decided that a little hair of the dog might cure the remains of his rather persistent headache.

'Rupert, be a good chap, we'd better make this look good, do some panning shots and things. I'm going to chat to the stall holder, she looks rather agitated.' George said.

Rupert nodded rather tersely, pointing the camera at a group of bored school children gathering around the pond, slowly following George.

'God afternoon, Joy, isn't it?' George began, 'I'm not sure I should disturb you, but I had to ask. Is it always this quiet around here? I was expecting a queue of pilgrims getting in the way of the camera?'

'It'll be even quieter before this whole thing is over,' she snapped, slamming a bundle of leaflets down on the little trestle table.

'What do you mean?' George said, 'By the way, I'm George Hardy, this is my camera man Rupert de Montfort,' hearing his name, Rupert stepped up. 'We're with the BBC, we're hoping to do a programme on this whole thing.'

Immediately George realised he'd said the wrong thing, 'If it wasn't for people like you I wouldn't be in the mess I'm on now!' she raged.

'What's happened?' George asked, 'something to do with the grail?'

'You haven't heard?' the woman said, 'someone was caught trying to steal it last night. Dr Bord and the trust have decided it's too dangerous to leave the grail where it is. It's going to be excavated tomorrow and the police are going to guard it until then. They'll be arriving any minute and I've been ordered to remove my things, they say I'm a security risk! If it wasn't for all this publicity then they'd be leaving it where it was!' the look of anger on her face was evident.

'Excuse me dear,' Rupert said, 'Has someone just farted, or do you always look like that?'

George hurriedly covered Rupert's comment as Joy looked at him in astonishment, 'Err, oh that is a shame, and you must have been doing good trade too.'

Joy shrugged her shoulders, 'The grail is going to be kept in the visitors centre, they say they'll keep me on full time as there will be lots of people visiting. I have to get on, I've only got half an hour to move my things.'

'Well, we must go too,' Rupert said, shifting the weight of the camera on his shoulder, 'I have much more important things to do, like picking my nose!' He walked off and George hurried after him, hardly daring to turn around, knowing that Joy would be staring after them in a mix of anger and amazement.

He caught up with Rupert sulkily filming the legs of two teenaged girls who had come onto the site.

'Look, old chap,' George said, 'I know this is terribly tedious for you. Why don't you go and find yourself some better company for the afternoon? There are no end of hippy types in Glastonbury - maybe you'll run into some old friends?'

Rupert looked at him, his eyes rather red rimmed, 'Alright, Major, but only if you promise not to get into any trouble while I'm gone.'

He left and George watched as he disappeared round a bend in the path, guilt pricking him at the relief he felt.

Donald stamped his feet, only half-jokingly wondering if he was getting frostbite. Blowing into his gloved hands he saw a dark car approaching along the road. Keeping an eye on it he was somewhat surprised to see it linger outside the Red Lion. After a minute a man in a blue suit emerged and climbed inside. Donald wondered if this was Aldridge, he had seen the man go in around three quarters of an hour earlier. The car was a sleek Jaguar and it purred away. Sam burst from the door indicating eagerly to Donald who ran over.

'That was him,' she said, 'which direction did they go in?' Donald pointed and she dragged him a side street, 'I'll get us some wheels, this sort of thing is child's play and I'm no child.' Soon they were inside a small green fiesta and back out on the road. Donald behind the wheel they drove rather raggedly in the direction that the car had gone. They turned onto a main road and suddenly there were dark cars everywhere. They paused at the lights to see if they could spot the car, causing angry beeping from behind them. They slid out into traffic, frantically looking for the car. But it was no good, they'd lost him.

Donald cursed himself and struck the steering wheel, 'We didn't have a chance in this traffic,' he said, 'I think we'd better get rid of this car.'

They drove on a bit and pulled into a side street not dissimilar to the one they'd taken the car from and left it there, heading back to the hotel.

'Do you have anything in that bag to knock people out with?' Sam asked.

Donald nodded grimly, 'I've got something to deal with most occasions. Do you have a plan?'

'Yes,' Sam said, 'but I think we'd better wait until we're all together.'

Jo and Arabella decided to spend the afternoon in the library, to try and piece together the whole grail story.

Once inside, Arabella strolled up to the librarian behind the desk who was engrossed in something in front of her.

'Hi, I wonder if you could help me,' Arabella said brightly, 'I'm Professor Robyns of Nottingham university. I'm down here doing some research into the Grail for the BBC and was wondering if you could arrange for me to take some books out of the library or for me to work late here.'

The librarian barely looked up, 'Do you have a ticket?' she asked. Arabella shook her head.

'Then you can't take any books out. If you have three forms of identification including two bearing your signature and one proof of address such as a gas bill, then I can put in an application for membership. Should this be accepted a card will be issued in four to six weeks. The library closes at five o'clock sharp every evening, no members of the public are permitted to remain here after this time.'

Arabella nodded, 'Mostly I need copies of 'The Blood in the Cup' by Marie and Richard Pritchard, 'The Templar Revelation' by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, any books you have on Witchcraft, Judaism, the Knights Templar and mythology of this particular region. Also folklore of the Glastonbury area, as well as books on hauntings.'

The librarian pointed at a computer terminal in the corner, 'The catalogue is on that, it's a basic program so you shouldn't have any problems.' she sounded bored and was obviously reciting a set passage, 'Should you wish to make copies of anything the library is granted permission to allow you to copy fifty pages or one eighth of any one given book, which ever is greatest, so long as it is for research purposes and not further reproduction. If you wish to copy a greater amount, direct permission must be obtained from the publisher. The photocopiers are in the back room and there are vending machines which will sell you photocopy cards for one pound which will allow you to make ten copies once inserted correctly into the machine.' She looked up. 'Anything else?'

Arabella and Jo headed for the computer.

George enjoyed the quiet stroll through the grounds, finding the original chalice well without any difficulty, due to the fact that the map site sign indicated it was on top of the nearby hill. The well was at ground level, set into a crudely round shaped stone which apparently went all the way down. It was a covered with a lid made of translucent Perspex overlaid with some fine wrought iron work which was obviously much older than the plastic which held it. The stone shaft below looked very deep. The sun emerged from behind a stormy looking cloud and glinted rather brightly off the plastic so that George had to shield his eyes. Peering through his fingers and listening to the sound of hundreds of gallons of water rushing through the shaft below, something suddenly caught George's eye. Leaning forwards he thought it looked golden, for a moment he thought it looked like a chalice but he shook the thought away - he was letting all of this get to him! The sun persisted in its brightness and using his cane as a lever George lowered himself to kneel in front of the well. He put his face next to the lid, shielding his eyes and peered inside like some lascivious old man at a peep show. The sound of the roaring water was louder now and he blinked at the mix of the gloomy shaft under the well and the sunlight reflecting off the plastic cover. Again he thought he saw something golden lurking way down in the depths and he took a deep breath. It did look like a chalice, it looked more like the golden grail cup of legend than the mouldy old piece of glass in the other pool. He felt a little faint, probably because of the blood pouring into his head from the angle he was at, but he scrabbled at the catch which held the lid closed until he felt a gentle hand on his upper arm.

Turning around and squinting into the sun he saw the two girls that Rupert had been filming.

'Are you alright, granddad?' one of them asked, her accent that of a cockney.

The girl with her hand on his arm, scooped her hand under his shoulder and made to pull him up.

'Had a fall have you? Come on then, I'll help you up!'

George mustered his dignity. 'Thank you, young lady, but I'm fine,' he shook off her hand and, his cane forgotten, he rose smoothly to his feet, not a single groan escaping his lips. Suddenly he realised how easily he had stood and much to the amusement of the two girls began grasping his legs, the persistent pain from his arthritis all but gone. Suddenly feeling elated, he grabbed his cane and raced back down the path, hoping that someone would be at the hotel to hear his good news.

Still in the Red Lion, Phil replaced the phone receiver, draining his whisky glass and waving it hopefully at the landlady behind the bar. SITU had done a quick search on Rosa Mundi. The only historical society of that name which had come up was a medieval reconstruction society in the north east and he didn't think that people who spent their spare time dressing up as milkmaids and pikemen would have much serious interest in the object. Lighting up a cigarette and paying for his whisky, a thought suddenly occurred to him, something that Donald had said last night. Digging around in his pocket for some change he quickly dialled another number on the phone. 'Hi, Eddie. It's me, Phil. Phil Harlow, from the Evening Standard. Can you do me a little favour. Please. I promise to make no jokes abut the West Midlands crime squad for... ooohh... a month? Two months? I'll even buy you a drink when I'm next up there. Can you check on a couple of names for me, just any criminal background? Alan Foster and Tom Richardson, both security guards in Glastonbury employed by either a company or charity called the Grail Trust, I think. Sorry I can't be more precise, it's for a story I'm working on. Nothing that would interest your lot, I don't think, but if I do turn anything up I'll return the favour. Yes, but only after my story's been printed. Cheers, bud.' He left his mobile number and hung up. Perhaps the library would have some info on Rosa Mundi.

Arabella and Jo spent several hours trawling through the tiny library. They hadn't found all of the books that they were searching for but they'd found an awful lot and there was still more to come from SITU and the university. Jo had made copious notes in her idiosyncratic handwriting and Arabella had gone through, add some things and was now making copies of it all, it seemed the easiest way to get the information to everyone. Deciding that they'd got everything they could from the library they set off back to the hotel. It was almost dinner time and Arabella had a few phone calls to make.

Jo drove and Arabella took out the tiny phone, punching in SITU's number once more. Andre Swahn picked up.

'I think I might have some bad news,' she said, 'some of us have been doing some digging on the grail and it seems there might be a link with the Black Madonna cult..?'

'Oh,' said Andre, his voice tinny, 'that wouldn't be good. What makes you think that?'

'It seems that the Templar knights had something to do with the movement. We seem to have our own two resident Templars here, chanting to Baphomet and everything.' Arabella replied.

'Right, keep an eye on them, it's bad news if the Black Madonna cultists are involved but the evidence so far is pretty slim. Well spotted though, professor. How is the case going?'

'We may have had a spontaneous healing,' Arabella said, glancing at Jo.

'Right,' said Andre, 'what about the site? Any suspicious characters hanging around?'

'Some,' said Arabella.

'Perhaps you should concentrate on them. We've done some background checks on all those involved, the priest, the archaeologists and Aldridge. They all check out. Anything else?'

'No,' said Arabella.

'Keep in contact,' Andre said and hung up.

Arabella dialled Amanda's number but there was no response, not even a ring signal. For some reason Arabella was worried for the tenacious reporter.

George had found himself alone at the hotel and so had taken the time to package up his hipflask ready for the courier. He was in the bar, enjoying the papers when the courier arrived, swapping a box and large bundle of papers for the hip flask. Half an hour later a White Arrow van brought a stuffed envelope for Arabella from her university and George had to pay the twenty five pound delivery charge. An hour later there was a phone message for Phil which simply read, 'this is the number you wanted' and a telephone number.

The major rubbed his legs thoughtfully, he'd left his cane in his room, there was no need for it any more. He wondered, did this change his feelings about the authenticity of the grail?

There hadn't been any leaflets on Rosa Mundi at all in the library and the librarian had been rather anxious to close up so, grabbing a copy of an ancient map of the site, Phil decided to pay a little visit to the Clarion offices. He didn't entirely trust Amanda, perhaps seeing a little too much of himself in her. He found the offices after a little trouble. They were rather tatty and a glammed up receptionist was slinging some things into her bag and covering over her typewriter.

'Hi, can I speak to Amanda Gudmunsdottir?' he asked.

Immediately the girls face tightened, 'What has Amanda got to do with you?' her hair was dyed yellow and her eyes were tired. Her voice sounded a little strained.

'I'm here from London,' he flashed his NUJ card at her, 'I'm working on the grail story.'

The receptionist stabbed a button on her intercom, 'Fred, you'd better come out here.'

Almost instantaneously a little squat man in shirt sleeves and grubby looking trousers emerged into the reception.

'What is it, Becky?' he asked.

'This bloke is looking for Amanda,' she replied.

Fred immediately looked suspicious, 'What do you know about Amanda?' he asked sharply, rubbing a squat hand over his greased down hair.

'Nothing, that's why I want to speak to her,' Phil said.

'Well, I'm afraid you can't,' Fred snapped, 'Amanda Gudmunsdottir has gone missing. If she doesn't turn up by tomorrow morning she'll officially be a misper. It's a bit of a coincidence you turning up here like this.'

'No coincidence,' Phil said, raising his hands, 'I wanted to speak to her because she was dealing with the story. I hope she turns up!' he ducked out of the door and headed back towards the hotel.

Everyone had gathered once more in the bar of the hotel and in-between various drinks and their evening meal they shared everything they had learned, their theories and looking at the material that had accumulated during the day, and George's account of his healing. Sam had dyed her vivid blue hair a mousy brown and she patted it self consciously as several of her companions commented on it.

'I didn't want to be recognised by the guards again,' she said.

Donald tipped out the bag he had taken from the two men the night before. The bag itself was black velvet and it contained a small tripod made of brass which was worked into delicate images of goat-like demons romping around the legs of the object. There was a flat brass dish which fitted onto the tripod and it showed signs of recently having something burned in it. There was a heavy silver pentacle, a few pieces of chalk, a tiny bag of granules which turned out to be salt when Donald tasted them. The only other thing was a small, gilt statue. It was rather crude but seemed to depict a man with a goats head and hairy legs. There was an inverted pentacle carved into the chest.

They opened their various parcels. SITU's report showed that Amanda checked out, she'd graduated from Reading University with a first class degree in Journalism and gone straight on to work at the Clarion. The Pritchard's were both legitimate, and there wasn't a single criminal record between Aldridge and Father Murray. Arabella quickly put together the material from the university and handed out everything she and Jo had found at the library. Most of it took the form of a large article from an encyclopaedia and various notes Jo and Arabella had made:

The grail is a Spiritual mystery in the Western, and especially British, esoteric tradition. It is a pagan story that became Christianised and merged with Arthurian legend, but retained much of its pagan imagery and symbolism. The Grail is a gateway to Paradise, a point of contact with a supernatural and spiritual realm. It possesses unlimited healing power and makes possible a direct apprehension of the Divine. As a pagan image, the Grail is the Graal, a cup of plenty and regeneration, the vessel in which the life of the world is preserved, and which symbolises the body of Goddess or the Great Mother. In its Christianised form, the Grail is the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper, and which held his blood following the crucifixion. It is not known whether such an object truly existed or exists, and there is no definitive image of it. As a spiritual

mystery, the Grail represents regeneration through Christ's teachings; in medieval belief blood embodied the soul, and in Christ's case even his divinity. Various versions of the Grail legend exist.

The first written texts appeared toward the end of the twelfth century and flowered through the fourteenth century, though it is likely that the story existed earlier in oral tradition. Originally, the story was pagan. An account attributed to the sixth-century bard Taliesin, but appearing four hundred years later, tells of a magic cauldron in Annwn, the other-world, in the keeping of nine maidens, which is sought by King Arthur's men. As versions proliferated the story incorporated elements of classical and Celtic mythology, Christian iconography, Arabic poetry, and Sufi teachings. It was first identified with the Last Supper in about 1190. The Grail was never fully accepted in Catholic apocrypha, but neither was it denied nor labelled as heretical. It was perhaps never fully accepted because it could not be identified with a relic. It was perhaps never suppressed because of its tremendous popularity. Grail symbolisms were absorbed into Rosicrucianism. A Christian version of the story of the Grail is this: Joseph of Arimathea is charged with preparing Christ's body for the tomb. He has obtained the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper; and while he washes the body, he uses the cup to catch blood that flows from the wounds. When the body of Christ disappears from the tomb, Joseph is accused of stealing it and is jailed without food. Christ appears to him, puts the cup in his care,' and teaches him various mysteries, including the Mass. Joseph remains alive in prison by the acts of a mysterious dove, which appears every day and leaves a wafer in the cup. After his release in A.D. 70, according to one version, Joseph travelled to Britain, where he founded the first Christian church at Glastonbury, dedicated to Mary, mother of Christ, and enshrined in it the Grail.

Early origins of the Grail legend may be found in the ancient and universal motif of sacred vessel as symbol of power and the source of miracles. Such vessels, feminine symbols, are in Vedic, Egyptian, classical, and Celtic mythology and in various mystery traditions as cups or cauldrons of inspiration, rebirth, and regeneration. The Grail is paralleled in alchemy as the philosopher's stone, which represents the unification with God. In Tibetan Buddhism a corollary is found in the human skulls that represent vessels of transformation. The Grail also is represented by other feminine symbols, as a dish, womb, or other stone. One version of the legend, Parzival, finished in 1207 by Wolfram von Eschenbach, said the Grail was an emerald that fell from Lucifer's crown

during his battle with God, and was brought to earth by angels. Psychiatrist Carl G. Jung said the story of the Grail is very much psychically alive in modern times. The Grail quest is a search for truth and the real Self. There are many paths to the Grail. According to lore the Grail may be seen only by those who have attained a certain spiritual consciousness, who have raised themselves above the limitations of the senses.

There were some notes scrawled at the back:

Baphomet: the church of St Merri in Paris has a representation of Baphomet on its facade and Aleister Crowley has his photo taken with this as a background. Though there is no record of Baphomet in any religion. Baphomet has been linked to sex magic, especially by Crowley.

Templars: The knights fell into disgrace in 1307 accused of worshipping Baphomet by Phillip IV of France. Baphomet translates as 'wisdom' and is referred to by the proponents of the theory that the Templars excavated the remains of the Jewish temple in Rome and found various secret writings underneath. These writings reveal the true Christianity and are said to make suggestions that Jesus' brother James was the real Messiah and that Mary Magdalene was the first pope. Tarot cards are also linked to Templars, and are thought to have been a way of teaching secret wisdom, the Templars also have links to the modern Masonic movement through the tarot symbolism. There have also been some links to the Black Madonna cult.

'Wow,' said Phil, 'that's a lot of material.' He went onto tell them everything that had happened that day. Pulling out the map copy which they all poured over, a faint yellow line ran right across the site, through the abbey and as close to the site of the pool as they could make out.

'I wonder what that is?' Sam asked, pointing to it. No one seemed to know.

There was general despair when George told them about the grail being excavated the next day and the consensus seemed to be that they themselves should try and remove it before that could happen, even though SITU had repeatedly warned them not to involve themselves in 'extra-legal' activities.

Arabella moved the subject onto the link she thought she had unearthed with the Black Madonna cult and saw the faces of her fellow agents fall. She explained to the others that they had encountered the Black Madonnas in Mexico and had hoped that they would never come across them again.

'I think we need to start looking into some other things as well,' Arabella said, 'I'd like to get out to the site one night, see if we can't get a better look at Donald's ghost lady. She's involved in this and I want to know how? My other major qualification, in case I hadn't mentioned it, is in Parapsychology. I think me and this ghost will have a lot to discuss.'

'I'd just like to say, chaps,' Rupert began, 'that I believe the ghost was the grail maiden. Either that or Jo was very bored last night and ran through the trees!'

'We do need to at least have someone keeping an eye on the grail overnight,' Phil piped up, 'I'm not too keen myself, like, I'm not really built or that sort of thing, but Donald and Sam do need a rest, they haven't had much sleep.' The group nodded but Sam and Donald made noises of protestation to indicate that they didn't want to be left out of any nocturnal activities.

George turned to Arabella, 'I was wondering, my dear, while you were finding out all this information, you didn't happen to come across the term 'Aquarian Phoenix' did you?'

Arabella looked thoughtful for a moment, 'Do you know, I think I did,' she scrabbled around in her bag and pulled out another sheaf of paper, 'let me read you this passage,' she said, it's from Mysterious Britain by Janet and Colin Middleditch. I don't know why I copied it, it sounds like gibberish and doesn't really have anything to do with our investigations. It was just quite a striking passage, I suppose. Here goes: Marked out across the Somerset landscape, within a circle of 10 miles across, lies the famed and past fabled Glastonbury Zodiac, ancient Temple of the Stars. This enigma was rediscovered in 1929 by Katherine Maltwood, a sensitive and erudite woman who, by reading the earliest known accounts of the Arthurian Grail Quest, was able to transpose the knights' journeys from Camelot (South Cadbury Castle, 11 miles south-east of Glastonbury) on to the surrounding countryside, beside the Isle of Avalon. By the use of large-scale maps and aerial photographs, Mrs Maltwood was able to delineate figures formed by hills, waterways, old tracks and apparently natural features on the surface of the earth. When a map of the heavens is placed upon the map of the ground and the major stars in the signs of the zodiac are marked through, they are found to fall within the areas of the figures. At the top of the wheel beside Glastonbury town and encompassing the Tor lies the ancient air sign of Aquarius. The commonly known sign today is a figure of a man pouring water from a vessel. But the sign used in this zodiac is that of the phoenix, the mythical bird that perishes within its own fire, only to rise again, renewed; the Aquarian phoenix This resurrection could have symbolised the new life that the initiate to the pre-Christian mysteries would experience after successfully meeting the trials to be faced in the maze, which is thought to have been upon the face of the Tor. The Tor itself falls within the head of the bird which is twisted round to face Chalice Hill. This hill is within its body, and contains the rust-red water of Chalice Well, said to be the repository of the Holy Grail which was brought from the East by Joseph of Arimathea, to be safeguarded in this already holy site.' she shrugged her shoulders, 'so perhaps the Aquarian Phoenix is some sort of messiah figure? Maybe even Arthur, the once and future king?'

'I don't really see how that can help us,' Jo said, 'we should concentrate on more practical things someone should interview those that claimed to have been healed, ask them all the same questions,'

'Does that include you?' Rupert said cheerily, he seemed a lot more like his old self.

Jo ignored him, 'Well,' said Phil, 'There were really only two who would speak about it, Ms Morris who discovered the dish with her daughter Fern and Mrs Phillips.'

Rupert made a beak shape with his hand and waved it at Jo, 'Yap, yap, yap!' he squeaked. She continued to ignore him.

'Speaking to Betty Phillips might be a good idea,' Arabella said, 'why did Betty Phillips' husband want her to take a walk with him up to the spring and how did her cataracts actually heal? Did her husband suggest she drink the water? Did he pour it over her eyes? If so, why?

'I want to go back to the site tonight,' Donald said suddenly, 'I need to know if what I saw was real or not, plus I think it's time we had a go for the grail.'

'At least someone who wants to do something interesting! A chap could die of boredom here. I'll come along too, chaps!'

'Rupert, yes that's a superb idea you would be really useful tonight, I think I even have a special job for you.' Donald said, he and Jo exchanging wide grins.

The tiny bar was beginning to fill up, so Donald leant forward, lowering his voice.

'From what happened last night you must be wondering what sort of person I am, well like I said my previous job was not pleasant but I think its' time for you all to know about me,' he lit a cigarette with shaking hands, 'I worked for an agency, very top-secret, I can only imagine that SITU is also on the same level of security or above because we never knew about it's existence. I was a hit-man, and a bloody good one too, any where the agency sent me and for any reason all I ever had to do was kill a target through any means possible. In the past I have performed many roles, I have been a sniper, I have driven up to people and gunned them down in daylight, I have arranged 'accidents', poisonings, you name it and I have probably used it. My targets were usually crime related or political figures, I have seen Mafia bosses die by my hands. Leaders of countries dead because of me. One day a job came to me that I didn't agree with, I refused to kill my target and as a result I have been on the run ever since. For the past year I have been hiding, always moving, only recently have I found a place where I can rest for a while without fear of being found. I joined SITU because the only way out of this for me is to find hard evidence against the agency as to our activities and expose them. SITU is my only hope. I cannot go to directly to the cops as the agency are too careful about their activities and my word alone won't be enough. Sorry if none of you like what I am. It was a mistake to take my er...equipment last night, I should never have done that, sometimes the training takes over me and I react without thinking. I will try not to do it again,' he paused, 'I can't promise not to use any of it though...'

The others looked somewhat uncomfortable.

'Well, I think we all appreciate your honest, Don. Now then, who wants another drink?'

Jo took out the box she'd got from SITU and uncovered what looked like a Geiger counter and a very large pair of bolt cutters.

'Put them away!' hissed Sam, 'someone might wonder what you're doing with them!' Jo quickly stuffed them back in the box and then took out a note. She read it and then grunted.

'They couldn't easily get hold of the stuff I wanted. Instead they've sent an electro-magnetometer, which will detect fluctuations in the electro-magnetic field,' she glanced at Arabella, 'apparently, that's quite common in hauntings?' Arabella nodded. 'Does anyone know how to use this?' she indicated the electro-magnetometer,' no-one seemed to. 'I think it's quite simple,' she said, putting everything back in the box, 'Right, this is my plan. I suggest we go back to the Grail site tonight. We'll scan the area for electro-magnetic fluctuations. We'll see if we can get the grail out. I'll go, Sam and Donald you come too, and you as well, Rupert,'

'Jawohl mein Fuhrer!' Rupert said, sticking his arm up in the air in salute. Jo sighed.

'Step out of line, and you won't be able to count the number of bones I break in your body,' she said menacingly, 'Which knee cap do you prefer, Rupert? Because I'll start with the other one if you cause any trouble for us.'

'Yes sir!' Rupert said with a grin.

Jo was in the middle of explaining that they would take their mobiles so that they could maintain contact when she stooped dead, staring at the doorway. The others turned to see what had distracted her and saw two police officers, a man and a woman. They waked over to the bar and said something to the barmaid who pointed them towards the investigators.

'Good evening,' said the policeman, 'we're investigating an incident at Glastonbury abbey last night and a car theft today. A girl with bright blue hair was reported at both incidents. We've been told that you're a production company and one of your people is a woman with blue hair.' he looked around the table, 'where is she?'

Sam resisted the urge to stroke her newly brown hair, 'We don't have anyone of that description in our group, officer,' she said, 'I understand that there are a lot of journalists covering this story, it must be one of them.'

The policewoman narrowed her eyes as if suspicious, 'We'll need a contact number, to verify your story. Are you going to be here long?'

'A few more days at least,' replied George with a smile.

'Good, don't leave until we've spoken to you again,' she said, taking the proffered number from Arabella, 'good evening,' they said as they left.

'That was close,' Phil hissed, 'you still want to go on with your plan? The place may be crawling with police, you might get caught!'

Those involved just shrugged, 'What choice have we got?' Jo said, 'I suggest we go and get some rest and meet outside at one AM. Agreed?'

Everyone nodded, 'Oh, Jo,' Arabella said, as they made their way upstairs, 'Perhaps we should go for a night out sometime? Maybe Sam might like to come along?'

After a quick discussion at one AM, Sam, Donald, Jo, Arabella and Rupert, all dressed in dark clothing, set off for the site. Jo had switched her mobile phone so that if anyone rang, it would merely vibrate. They crept onto the site and were pleased to find that no Police were apparently there. They put the first part of their plan into action. Quietly opening the door of the guard hut, Donald placed an open gas canister inside and then slunk away. Returning a few minutes later he found the guards slumped in their seats, asleep. He pocketed the empty canister and reported back to the others.

'Right,' whispered Jo, 'Donald and Arabella, you take the magnetometer and go and investigate the area that Donald witnessed the apparition, see what you can find. The rest of us can go and try to get the grail. And we'd better try and be quick!'

Donald directed Arabella to the place he'd seen the girl, they huddled round the magnetometer, pointing their torches at it. They walked a little further into the dense copse and soon they were hidden by the trees and could no longer see their companions. Arabella had done a few control tests at the hotel to see what a normal level was and was amazed to see that the level here was more than three times that. She tapped the glass a little. A high reading was odd, but she was sure that fluctuations characterised hauntings and the needle was totally still. She looked around, it was rather creepy here, the trees branches danced wildly and various disconcerting creaking noises emanated from the trunk. She glanced back down at the magnetometer and was just about to turn it off when the needle buried itself off the scale. She stared at it for a moment in pure surprise and then felt rising excitement as the needle began to wave wildly, imitating the action of the branches all around them.

'Look!' she whispered excitedly to Donald, but he didn't react, it seemed almost as if he were frozen. She looked at, tugging on his sleeve and indicating the instrument and when he still didn't react she followed his line of vision and gasped at what she saw.

A girl with shining white skin and flowing pale hair was travelling slowly towards them. She was half a foot of the floor and surrounded by a buttery, thick light. Her head was moving erratically on her shoulders and her eyes were wide and staring, full of madness. Her lips moved constantly as if reciting something and she had her arms stretched out. This wasn't the melancholy vision Donald had described, but something deranged, angry even. She was moving toward them at speed now and the pair took a step backwards, Arabella's feet slipping on the damp leaves. She was only twenty feet away now and they could see the madness burning in her eyes, a horrid murmuring filled their ears and Arabella physically pushed his hands over his ears. She stared on in horror as Donald drew an ugly looking hand gun from inside his coat and pointed it at the girl, who was nearly on them...

Sleeves wet and knuckles skinned, the trio at the spring struggled to hold torches, boltcutters and pull away rocks with fingers frozen by the icy water. Rupert swore as Jo caught his finger with the edge of the bolt cutter and Sam dropped the torch for the third time. Rupert took the torch and Sam tried to force one of the rocks out as Jo pulled it with the bolt cutters. Part of the rock came away and Rupert, who had been unreservedly well behaved gave a whispered cheer.

'We're not there yet,' Jo said, blowing on her frozen fingers.

'Come on,' said Sam, 'we're doing well, just a few more minutes!'

Jo plunged her hands into the water and grasped the grail, 'Right, I'll give it a big pull Sam, you try and force the rock away with then cutters,'

'OK,' said Sam. She gripped the rock with cutters and began to count to indicate to Jo when to begin, '1, 2, 3....'

They began to pull when suddenly a bright light shone in their faces. Sam dropped the cutters and shielded her eyes with her hands. Jo turned her face from the light. Rupert stared dumbly into the light, a look of realisation on his face.

'STOP, this is the Police,' came a shouted voice, 'put your hands where we can see them and step back. NOW!'

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