The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
The Blood In The Cup
6.30pm 3rd October 1998.
'Georgie old chap,' Rupert said, turning to the Major, 'I'm not sure that the whole Betty Phillips incident was entirely genuine. How about telephoning the hospital? While we do that we can ask if they know of a cure for death!'
George gave Rupert his phone and Rupert quickly charmed the barmaid into finding the hospital's number.
'Hello dear,' Rupert said when someone answered at the hospital, his best phone voice in evidence, 'I'm a friend of Betty Philip's family and I heard that Betty has been admitted with a head injury. Can you tell me if this is the case and how she is?'
'Uh...' the woman's voice was tinny, 'I'm not really supposed to give information out to anyone but family...'
'Well, I practically am family...' Rupert said smoothly, 'dear Betty is my godmother, I'm very concerned about her...'
'I don't suppose it can do any harm,' the woman said, 'you're going to find out anyway. Mrs Phillips is in a critical condition with a head injury. That's all that can be said at the moment.'
Rupert gave George his phone back.
'Let's go and visit Mrs Phillips. I'm sure she's just dying to meet a member of the British aristocracy, and an old war-horse like yourself. We'll make her day.'
'Yes,' George said, draining the last of his whiskey, 'I think perhaps we should pay a nocturnal visit to the Phillips' residence as well.'
Sam walked in through the door looking a little sheepish, 'Hi!' she said.
'Does this mean you're back for good?' George asked.
Sam nodded, 'If I can borrow your phone to speak to Andre,' she answered.
'Excellent,' George said, 'we may be in need of your specialist skills tonight!'
Sam spoke quietly into the phone and seemed satisfied with the results. 'Sorry about my earlier
outburst,' she said, turning to George and Rupert, 'it's just that I'm more used to working on my own, and that's the closest I've ever come to being caught in my life!'
After a while Phil came into the bar, his hair still damp from the shower, George quickly filled him in on the situation.
'Nice one, Rupert.' Phil said, when they got to the bit about Priscilla Morris, 'how do you manage to say so much with that foot crammed in your mouth, anyway?' He wasn't any more impressed when he heard of Betty's accident, 'So a fruitful day all round.' he concluded.
Rupert brought up his suspicions about the accident, but Phil shook his head, 'I can't see how it would make any sense to take her out - her story's already done the rounds. Why would anyone want to shut the old lady up? He also shared with everybody the fact that he'd arranged a meeting with the Rosa Mundi group and the fact that he has checked up on the night security at the site, and that one of the guards in particular, Alan Foster, checks out oddly.
'And I have an idea,' he said, waving his mobile phone, 'I'll ring the Pritchard's and get their permission to do some night time filming. I can talk to Mr Foster and we can leave the cameras running all night, see what they come up with!'
He quickly arranged it and it was decided that Phil and Rupert would go to the Grail site and George and Sam would break into the Pritchard's. After a hot meal they set off, wondering what the others had got up to.
The trees danced in the wind like drunken men and the piercing scream faded into the damp darkness.
Arabella rushed forward and Jo grabbed her, 'Don't be stupid,' she hissed, 'Donald and I know how to handle this sort of thing, you don't. For a start, you're making to much noise!'
'I'm going in there!' Arabella said, sounding even to her own ears somewhat of a brat. 'If you have a problem with that I don't want to hear about it. Have you still got your guns?' The other two nodded reluctantly, 'Good, if those bastards have hurt her, I might just let you use them.'
Jo shrugged her shoulders and glanced at Donald who looked non committal, 'Come on, then,' Jo said unhappily, 'but stay behind us!'
Arabella grasped her satchel and took a step towards the shack, 'Look,' Jo said sharply, 'we're trained killers. You're an academic. If you were in Amanda's position who would you want leading the rescue attempt? If you want Amanda killed, go right ahead. If you want us to resolve this with minimal damage, let Donald and I do our job.'
Jo pulled Arabella downwards and they squatted on the floor, their voices low. 'We'll have to find out how many there are,' Jo said, squinting in the darkness, 'I can only see one car, which probably means it's only our two friends, but I suppose there could be another vehicle around here somewhere... We'll go in, Donald you take the one on the left, I'll take the one on the right. Arabella, you get Amanda out of there. We'll try and do it without our weapons. Is that all right with you, Donald?'
He nodded, 'Sounds good to me, and it's definitely worth a try. But, should we succeed in rescuing Amanda I wonder what she'll think of three journalists saving her. We ought to cover her head so that she doesn't ID us.'
'Good idea,' said Arabella, pulling a scarf out of her bag, 'this should do the trick!'
They crept towards the shack, Arabella champing at the bit and Jo pressed her ear to the door.
'I can't hear any voices,' she mouthed to Donald. Arabella toyed with the scarf and eyed the letterbox. Slowly she pushed it forward and peered through, her eyes grew wide as the scene inside played out before her.
Sam and George stood somewhat sheepishly in Betty and Ted Phillips' living room, staring round at the flock wallpaper and sixties furniture. Whatever they had expected to find wasn't here and it definitely wasn't in the garden, though plenty of their footprints were, despite their efforts to scrape them away. They quickly left, and Sam's entry into the house had been so professional that the lock hadn't been damaged, so she closed it quietly behind them, her golden bracelets making subdued jangling noises. With any luck, Ted would merely think he'd forgotten to lock the door in his panic.
They walked away quietly, 'I don't have to meet Rupert to go to the hospital for another hour,' George said.
'I'm going to chase up some contacts,' Sam said, 'you can come if you like, as long as you promise to fade into the background at my word.'
George nodded, 'Shouldn't be a problem. Where are we headed?'
'A bar in town called Gringos, some of the local er...crime fraternity have kindly offered to help us out with the removal of the grail.'
'They have?' George said, with surprise.
Sam laughed, 'Well, not exactly, they will though, I'm sure of that!'
They caught a taxi and spent the short journey listening to the driver complaining about women drivers, the car pulled up outside the bar and George paid as Sam climbed out.
'If I put my hand on top of my head, that means come over to me. If I put my hand over my lips get out and go back to the hotel. OK?' Sam said.
Agreeing, George went inside and installed himself at the bar with a pint of real ale. This wasn't the sort of place he frequented any more, but it very much recalled the sort of place he used to go when he was in the army. The paper was gold and cream, circa 1979. The bar was stained and the tables were scratched with graffiti and dotted with ancient looking bar mats. The carpet was full of cigarette holes and framed pictures around the walls displayed undisclosed scenes of the English countryside through the eyes of someone who had obviously never seen it. But, he felt comfortable, the people were friendly and the barman was chatty, perhaps sensing a fellow serviceman, the man began to talk about his time in the RAF. George was more than happy to exchange stories. Ten minutes later, Sam came in and sat at a table near the major. She didn't acknowledge him. Not long after this a pair of men came into the bar and sidled over to Sam's table. The barman slunk off to serve someone else and George pricked up his ears to listen to the conversation. Glancing at the two men he saw that they were a pair of walking contrasts. One was long and thin. Scrappy red hair clung with an air of desperation to his dry looking scalp, like dying moss. His prominent nose and bulbous eyes gave him the look of a half starved bird of prey. His lips were thick and rubbery and one of them sported a mouldy looking scab. His clothes looked moderately expensive but on him they hung like charity shop rejects. A faded tattoo peeked out of the top of his crumpled collar. The other man wouldn't have looked out of place on a night-club door. He was short and seemed to be as wide as he was tall. His head was shaved and his face was thick set with prominent brows which made him look constantly perplexed. A borstal dot decorated his right cheekbone. He wore a bomber jacket.
The conversation started.
'You looking for us?' Mr Long said to Sam.
'Depends on who you are.'
'I think you know who we are,' said the short man, his voice surprisingly squeaky.
'If you're John and Dave, then I know who you are,' Sam replied. They sat down.
'So, what do you want?' Mr Long asked.
'Yeh, what do you want?' Squeaky echoed.
Sam examined her nails, 'I thought I could put some business your way.'
'Why would you want to do that?' said Mr Long.
'Yeh, why?' repeated Squeaky.
'Cos I want you to acquire something for me.'
'Ah,' said Mr Long, 'Dave 'ere,' he jabbed a stubby thumb in the direction of Squeaky, 'is a specialist in acquisition,' they grinned, 'so you've come to the right people.'
'The right people,' Dave echoed the sentiment.
'You heard what went down at the abbey?' Sam asked casually, 'there's a certain object that lots of people are after, including my client, but the pigs have gone mad with security. It'll be a hard job. You up for it?'
'Depends how much you're paying.' John stated flatly.
'We ain't cheap,' Dave said firmly, tugging at his shirt collars with pride.
'Name a price and I'll take it to my client.'
'Well, we'd have to look into it, but I can't think of you getting the job for less than five grand.'
'Fine, I'll pass the price on to my client.' Sam said.
John's eyes widened at Sam's acceptance, 'Err, I mean... that is to say, we mean ten grand, minimum!'
Sam leaned across the table, 'Don't mess with me boys, there are plenty of others who'll take this on. But I heard you were the best. I'll let you know what my client thinks.'
'Don't take too long,' John said as Sam headed for the door.
'We don't like to be kept waiting!' Dave said.
George drained his pint and followed Sam out.
Rupert and Phil sauntered onto the site after minimal fuss with the policeman on the gate. Marie Pritchard had rather thoughtfully phoned ahead and left Phil's name. Rupert nudged Phil as they struggled with their cameras and cable towards the spring.
'I think that Mrs Pritchard has a crush on you! She's very forthcoming!'
'It's not me she's after,' grinned Phil, 'it's my publicity!'
A surly Alan Foster let them into the compound. Phil tried to engage him in conversation, but abandoned it when Foster wouldn't say much, deciding to try again later.
They walked over to the spring, seeing that it was covered by tarpaulin weighted down with turf. The spring had been temporarily diverted so it's contents was pumped into a huge black tank which in turn emptied the water into the a nearby stream.
They spent several minutes setting up the cameras and plugging them into the generator. Most of them were pointed at the tarpaulin, but almost as an after thought, Phil pointed one at the copse where Donald and Arabella had experienced their ghostly meeting. Rupert pulled up the tarpaulin and examined the grail which was still submerged in some water.
Heaving one of the cameras onto his shoulders, Phil approached Alan.
'Hi,' said Phil, 'would you like to say a few words for the documentary?'
'Not particularly,' the man responded. Phil tried not to stare but there was something definitely odd about this man.
'Everyone likes to have their say,' pursued Phil, 'what do you think about this terrorist attack?'
'Bad business,' said Alan slowly and without any real feeling. Phil looked at him through the camera, it was the man's eyes, was there something wrong with them? Staring at them he realised that the man looked rather, well... dead. There was no life or animation, not even when the man spoke. It chilled Phil to the bone.
'Well, if you've nothing more to say...' Phil said lowering the camera. As he turned to head back to Rupert he caught a glimpse of a shiny silver patch of skin on the man's temple, but stopped himself form doing a double take.
Rupert grinned at him as he approached, 'Well, I've got to meet George to see my dear godmother Betty. Should be fun!'
The slit of electric light from the letterbox illuminated Arabella's eyes like a bad lighting effect in a silent film. She really couldn't believe what she was seeing, though she realised that she should have expected this or some scene like it. Squinting against the rather harsh light she saw a rather bedraggled looking Amanda tied to a chair. She was blindfolded. Next to her was a table and on it was an open tub of Hagen Daas ice-cream with a spoon sticking out of it like a protruding tongue. There was also a coffee maker, apparently new as its box sat underneath it. Amanda's pink dress was stained with coffee and there was a cup on the floor. One of the men was hurriedly and apologetically mopping it up.
'You bloody idiot!' shrieked Amanda, 'The first time I've had a decent cup of coffee in bloody hours and you spill it all down me!'
'It's a bit hard to feed you it,' the man mumbled, 'you can't see where I'm going with it.'
'Take this bloody stupid blindfold off then, it itches like fuck!' hissed Amanda.
'I can't do that!' said the man, going back to the coffee machine.
'Well when are you going to let me go?' Amanda said.
'When we have the grail and not before,' he lowered his voice a little, 'Charles doesn't think we should let you go at all!'
Amanda snorted, 'Phh! You haven't got the nerve to do me in!'
The man picked up the ice-cream and toyed with the spoon, 'I wouldn't be too sure of that, Miss Gudmunsdottir.'
She tossed her head back, 'Yeh well, you don't scare me. Anyone who lures someone out to a deserted place and whacks them on the head and then keeps them tied and gagged is obviously hiding something and a bloody great big coward! The Police will be looking for me by now.'
'And we almost have the grail!' the man said. Arabella could see the spark of madness in his eyes. A door off to the side opened and the other man came into view.
'Hugh!' the man's voice was harsh, 'I've told you not to talk to her,' he approached Amanda and stuffed something in her mouth.
'She was thirsty and hungry!' Hugh pushed the ice-cream tub forward as if to prove his point, 'I couldn't let her just sit there with the smell of coffee wafting through the place.'
The other man clenched his teeth and spoke through them, 'Hugh, this interfering bitch nearly cost us the grail! She's not here to be spoon fed, she's here to stop her from ruining the whole thing for us!'
Hugh looked sheepish, 'I'm sorry, Charles...'
'You always were a sucker for a pretty face,' Charles grimaced, 'God knows why. Well, when I'm finished with her she won't be very pretty any more!'
'Right, get in there!' Arabella whispered to her companions.
Donald kicked the door in with one well aimed blow of his foot and was on Hugh in a moment. Jo grabbed Charles but he evaded her like an eel, slipping out of her reach and bolting for the door. Arabella rushed to Arabella and flung the scarf over her face, untying her from the chair, but keeping her hands tied and helping her to stand.
Jo had rushed after Charles and Arabella turned to where Donald had Hugh firmly pinioned.
'Right,' said Arabella taking a menacing step forward, 'you'd better be ready to...' The door behind them burst open and another two men fell in, both grabbing hold of Donald, who fought them off easily but lost his grip on Hugh who raced after Jo and Charles.
'Run!' yelled Donald to Arabella. Deciding that Amanda would just have to see who they were, Arabella tore off her blindfold and bonds and pointed her in the direction of the door. They ran, shouting for Jo to join them. Donald sprinted past them.
'I'll go for the car, and bring it back - you head towards it!' he yelled.
The hospital had the same cold air that seems to be built in. It was drab, grey building and inside was the forced quiet of a place where people came to see out their illnesses or die. George and Rupert walked up to reception. A taut faced middle aged woman ignored them for a few moments and then looked up.
'Yes? Visiting hours are over now.'
'Err, it's my godmother, she's been admitted I believe... Mrs Phillips?' Rupert said, trying to look upset.
'Please wait,' the woman went away and returned with a clipboard, 'yes, we have a Mrs Phillips, but visiting time is over.'
'I know, I just want to be sure she's OK,' Rupert said, letting distress flood into his voice.
'I'm afraid she's critical,' came the reply.
'I don't suppose I could go and just have a look at her, could I?' Rupert pleaded, 'It might be the last time...' there was a catch in his voice as if he might break into hysterical sobs.
It seemed to work, 'You can go up if you promise not to disturb her, just look in on her, OK?'
Rupert nodded, 'Thanks very much. I appreciate it!'
'Ward 32,' the receptionist said, 'up two floors, turn left, go through the double doors, turn right, turn right again and it's opposite orthopaedics.'
Upstairs they found the room after much wandering and looking lost, and explained to various outraged nurses that yes, we do have permission to be up here. Betty was in a small room of her own. She was wired up to a multitude of machines all of which seemed to have their own particular beeping noise. Ted sat with his head rested on Betty's hand.
'I don't think there's any chance of us speaking to her or even him,' George said softly, 'and I don't think we should try. Let's leave them to it, eh?'
Rupert shook his head, 'If she's been attacked they might try to finish off the job. There's a very comfortable looking plastic seat just by the door, I think I'll spend the night there.'
George nodded and smiled, 'That's very decent of you old chap. Try and make it back for breakfast!'
George returned to the hotel to find Phil and Sam having an animated discussion about politics. He smiled and bought a round from the bar, thinking that they were practically keeping this place open. They ordered an evening meal and afterwards partook of several bottles of wine. George looked at his watch and fingered his mobile nervously.
'It's really getting rather late,' he said, 'I wonder what's happened to them? I suppose we should give them until morning and if they're not here by breakfast, we'd better let SITU know.'
Sam nodded, 'But I don't think that they're going to be very pleased..!'
Spiny branches ripped at their faces and hair and their breaths came in painful, rasping gasps. This is what it was like to be hunted. Amanda and Arabella hung onto each other wordlessly and ran through the mud, stumbling on stones and random branches. They could hear the noise of their pursuers behind them and they silently cursed their bad luck. One of those following them was getting closer and closer and they panicked, spurring each other on with their fear. It seemed that the person was only a few feet behind them and just as they thought that their hearts would freeze with fear a voice croaked out;
'Arabella.... Amanda, it's me Jo...' she panted out loud and caught up with them, none of them pausing for a second.
It was dark and they didn't really have a clue where they were headed, only the two rows of bushes kept them going in the right direction. The noises behind them got louder and Arabella let out a sob, she was sure she couldn't take another step.
Then they were blinded by light, a car screeched to a halt in front of them.
'Get in!' yelled Donald, leaning out of the window. They fought with the hedges to open the doors and clambered inside, Donald hitting the accelerator before they'd even closed the doors.
'Hang on!' he said grimly, and swerved round, slamming through the hedge and doing a 180 degree turn until they were back on the road, facing the other direction. Flooring the accelerator they raced down the rutted road, all of them being flung from side to side. Arabella and Amanda were in the back and Jo was in the front. They drove along in silence until they emerged onto busier roads.
'I don't think we were followed,' Donald said gruffly.
The women looked at each other and allowed themselves a giggle. They were spattered with much and covered in leaves. Donald was even worse.
Amanda looked at them all amazed, 'What the hell is going on here?' she asked.
George went to bed first, laying his phone on his bedside cabinet incase someone should ring. He did briefly toy with the idea of phoning Arabella but decided that it might put her in a compromising situation.
Sam and Phil stayed up for a while, drinking whiskey until they could barely stand and helping each other up the stairs with the help of the very patient barmaid. Managing to get into their own rooms, Phil was asleep before he'd taken his trousers off and Sam decided to dispense with the formality of the bed and fell asleep on the floor.
Arabella turned to Amanda. 'I know you have a lot of questions and if there was any way to do this the easy way, I would, but as of now you're staying with us until I can talk with someone about this situation. You're not our prisoner, but we can't let you go just yet, I'm sorry, but I'm asking you to trust me, after all I did just save your life, OK?'
'Not really,' said Amanda cheerfully, 'but what can I do about it in a speeding car?'
'I'll make the phonecall when we get back,' Arabella said firmly.
They arrived back at the hotel.
'Stay in the car with her, Jo,' Arabella said, climbing out. Donald got out too and examined the car. 'We'll have to wash this thing before we return it to the car hire company. I hope we haven't damaged it!'
Arabella rang SITU, 'Andre, Arabella Robyns here. There's been a development that requires a little advice from your end. Jo, Donald and I have located and rescued Amanda Godmunsdottir. I know it's a big risk and a possible security breach, but I need your advice. I think she could prove useful to SITU, but I can't make the decision about telling her, that's got to be your call. I intend to keep her as much in the dark as possible, but you may want to keep an eye on her or have her approached by an independent source at a later date. Charles and Hugh and their accomplices got away.' Arabella gives the location. 'I know this hardly constitutes keeping a low profile and I know we've screwed up badly, but I think we might be able to achieve some useful results yet. If you disagree and want to pull us off the case, then fair enough.'
Andre sighed, 'This investigation just doesn't seem to be going your way,' he said, sounding rather tired, 'tell Amanda if you think it's necessary, but it'll be your responsibility.'
Arabella returned to the car and got inside. 'Amanda, I'm sorry to be all mysterious on you like this, but, like yourself, I have sources to protect. Before you ask, we found you because we spotted our friends Charles and Hugh, acting suspiciously near the abbey. On an impulse we followed them here and were lucky enough to be close enough to hear your scream. I know it sounds incredible, but Charles and Hugh were out at the Grail site the day we arrived, they tried to steal it that same night, then cropped up again whilst we were interviewing the Pritchards. Like they say, once is accident, twice is coincidence, three times is conspiracy.' Amanda's face was expressionless. 'I know you're going to want to publicise all of this, it'll make one hell of a story, and I know you're going to want to print our names, but we'd prefer to remain anonymous. Most of my students already think I'm barmy because I investigate haunted houses and other supernatural phenomena in my spare time, being in the newspapers would make me infamous.'
'Come on, prof,' said Amanda, 'you'll have to think of a better excuse than that! You and your pals here roll in like the SAS in the Iranian embassy and then ask me to hush it up because you don't want to be infamous with your students! I want the truth and I want it now. You're with a secret group aren't you?'
Arabella shook her head, 'I didn't want it to come to this. It's a breach of security and we'll get into massive trouble if reveal all.' She looked pleading.
'I can't promise not to report anything if you don't give me the whole picture,' she said stubbornly.
'Yes, we're with a group,' Arabella relented, 'we're investigating the whole grail incident.'
Amanda crowed triumphantly, 'I knew you weren't a researcher or a professor!'
'Well, I am a professor...' Arabella said weakly.
'Look,' said Amanda, 'we already have a deal to exchange information. I'd guessed there was some other group involved, and I'll promise not to print your names or that of your organisation if you'll let me be in on your investigation from now on, OK?'
Arabella looked sheepishly at her friends. 'OK?' repeated Amanda.
'We have to discuss it,' Arabella said.
'You've got until noon tomorrow, I can keep a low profile until then, think up a story for the police. But if I don't hear from you then my editor and the police chief will have this story on their desks by twelve fifteen. Now!' she glanced at Donald who had climbed back into the driver's seat.
'Drive me home, superman!' she said, blowing him a kiss, 'I'm hungry, tired, covered in cold coffee and absolutely desperate to use the bathroom!'
They all slept very late and when they arose, Phil and Sam had headed off for their meeting with Rosa Mundi. They returned at eleven thirty to say that no one had showed up, but they'd stopped by to pick up the cameras from the site. Phil wondered aloud if he should try the number again.
George quickly rung for the results of the tests on the spring water. 'Normal spring water apparently,' he told the others, 'trace elements of various minerals and an unusually high level of iron, though anyone could have guessed that from looking at it.'
Rupert materialised not long after, eyes red from lack of sleep.
'I want everyone in my room now,' Arabella said in a business like fashion, 'we need to talk.'
'My dear, you must have read my mind!' said George, leading the procession upstairs.
'Let's look at the tapes,' Phil said before any one else could speak, 'I'm really curious.'
There were four cameras which all had six hour tapes and playback facility. The first one had the footage of Alan Foster at the beginning. Phil froze a frame of a close up of him.
'Look at his eyes,' he said with a shiver and then flicked it a few frames forward until he got the shot where the man turned his head to the side, 'there, there it is, a faint silvery patch...perhaps it's some sort of symbol...?'
The other tapes were rapidly fast forwarded, all of them showed nothing but the site in darkness except for two. Half way through one of them showed a definite pale figure in the copse of trees. A still image showed nothing but a fuzzy white shadow. The other one, which was near the one that had took the footage of the figure was lined with electrical activity which seemed to appear only for the period in which the other camera must have been filming the figure. As the film was examined, Rupert turned to everyone.
'Hey, chaps, I thought that run through the field being chased by Police was wonderful. All that gunfire, the stupid policemen and the psycho soldiers. What fun! Can we try that again? It's the most exciting thing we've done so far! All this relic and archaeology stuff is a little boring, isn't it? We need something a little extra. How about a Jerry Springer style brawl?'
Jo gave him a filthy look and he turned his attention to her, 'Have you seen a psychiatrist, Jo dear? I believe that shooting things, murder and general psychotic behaviour is considered a bad sign.'
Before Jo could respond, Donald stepped towards Rupert. 'I'm sorry for before Rupert, you caught me on a bad day. What were you saying?'
'Ha ha,' said Rupert, 'that's all right old chap, I perfectly understand. I've had bad trips myself! As for what I was saying,' he slunk behind George who was examining a camera, 'I'll just et George be my buffer. Now where was I...? Oh yes, have you ever killed anyone called Ken?'
'Yes, a youngish guy, Kenny McCormick I think was his full name,' Donald said thoughtfully, 'A
strange case. I had to put him down as he was a major drug dealer, used to go around in an orange anorak, it was red when I finished with him. Is that what you need to know?'
'Oh my god you might have killed Kenny! You bastard!' Rupert said.
Donald's face curled up into an angry snarl, 'I tell you something important about myself an you stand there and take the piss. I'm going to finish you off this time!' He shoved George aside and threw Rupert against the wall. Rupert looked to his companions for help but Donald merely smiled, 'Don't worry, I'm joking as well' he patted Rupert's shoulder. 'That was quite a good joke,
keep it up.' Rupert managed a shaky smile and Donald walked past Jo. 'That should keep him quiet for a while. I expect he needs to change his pants.'
Donald cleared his throat to get the others attention. 'With all that's going on around here it's
obvious that my guns are not welcome. Each time they come out we get into more trouble. George, if I give you my blue bag, will you keep it in your room - if I need to take it with me at all then I'll have the bag, and you take my handgun and my sniper case somewhere safe. I won't be responsible for messing this case up, and I need to be a part of SITU too much to be thrown out.' George nodded gravely and took it, after Donald had taken out his cigarettes.
Sam took advantage of the lull in proceedings to explain her prospective deal with the robbers, 'Should I go ahead and ask SITU for the money or not?'
Jo said, 'I've been thinking, we need to check out Aldridge's house. A visit is long overdue.'
'I think we need the fake chalice back too,' George said, 'any ideas how to get it? And Brock Farm, does anyone have a map so we can find it?' A map was quickly produced and laid put on the bed. George and Donald poured over it, finding several unnamed farms in the area.
Arabella cleared her throat and they all turned around.
'We've screwed up, badly,' she began, 'so now we need to find a way to get back on track and still keep ourselves out of jail. And Rupert, get this clear, no monkeying around or I'll let Donald and Jo take you into a field and play! We're in a mess, but it's not unsalvageable. Major, do you think you could find us a doctor to register Jo's afflictions as medically real?'
The Major smiled, 'I was thinking that myself, m'dear, I'll see what I can do.'
'Phil, I want you to arrange for us to shoot on the site today, we're going with the documented and filmed miracle, we're filming it today before they move the damned cup, bowl or whatever it is. We're going to re-establish our cover and we're going to do it in front of as many witnesses as possible.'
Phil looked doubtful, 'We know that these miracles are apparently slow working, so we'll just end up looking like idiots. Beside that, I'm not sure that we'll be allowed to try. Filming the excavation is one thing. Holding it up so we can try out the miraculous waters is a totally separate issue.'
'Donald, Jo, I need you to let people know what we're doing, the bigger the crowd, the better. I'd also like the priest present, it can't hurt. We can do an interview with him and the Pritchards, get the opposing views and what the think might happen with this televised healing.'
'The debate might be interesting,' said Phil rubbing his chin.'
'Now, Rupert, if I thought you'd behave, I'd let you do something useful, instead, you're staying with me. You make one idiotic move or say one thing out of line, I swear, I'll gag you and throw you down the bloody Chalice Well myself, capisce?'
Rupert looked thoughtful, 'I think you might need some drugs to calm you down dear,' he said, 'do you know, I might just know where to get them!'
Arabella pulled a roll of sticky tape from her bag and waved it in front of his face. 'It hurts like the devil coming off of skin. And you'll never grow another beard.'
'I just like talking to people, I can't help it if some of them have no sense of humour!'
'This is an investigation, Arabella, not a petty dictatorship,' Jo protested mildly, seeing the looks on the other investigators faces at Arabella's bullish mood, 'Lets put it to a vote then. All those in favour of Arabella becoming leader?'
'Actually,' said Rupert gleefully, 'George reminds me of my father, he has the same authority, the same natural leadership and the same bad taste in clothes. I vote for you old chap, well, sort of..'
11.45am 4th October 1998.
George Hardy, Phil Harlow, Samantha Michaelson, Rupert De Montfort Joanna Wilton, Donald Swathe and Arabella Robyns at the Royal Cup Inn.