The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness

Like a Thief in the Night
Chapter 5

4pm Christmas Day
The taproom of the Red Lion

Twitch’s eyes light up at the thought of a free drink. “Well, thank you very much, mein host, most seasonal of you… Large malt please, Dalwhinnie if you have it.” TR also laughs and accepts the offer. The others don’t look so happy.  Matt smiles vaguely and orders another pint, Isobel doesn’t even look at Tom Williams as he bustles away.

As soon as he has gone, Andrew leans forward. “The child is here,” he says with certitude. “Inside the circle of stones. So, there will be a ceremony, a big final one, and we have to disrupt it. It could start at any time, but most likely at midnight, I’d guess. What do the rest of you think?”

There is silence for a moment, Matt gazing around the room, studying the faces there and only turning his attention back to the group when he’s satisfied there are no mysterious blondes or anyone else he recognises.

“I think we should watch what we’re saying a moment,” Eric murmurs, gesturing to where the landlord is making his way back to them carrying a tray of drinks.

Matt takes his with a smile. “Cheers! I don’t suppose you’re still serving food?”

“Not officially. But there’s plenty of leftovers from lunch. I can do you all sandwiches if you’re hungry.” He sets the drinks down. “There you go. I won’t be a moment.”

“Put some extra garlic in them,” Matt calls after him.

The landlord is back moments later. “Food’s coming. So tell me, what brings you all here on Christmas Day?”

After a slight hesitation during which no one seems to want to be the first to speak, John says, “I’m a psychiatrist. Radio shows and books, that sort of thing. I live up in North Wales now – I do a lot of adventuring and climbing. This is a holiday for me, you know, chill out with friends for a week.” He looks up at Tom Williams, eyes narrowed, gauging his reaction. “I’m starting work on a book about infant psychology in the New Year, studying infants in different environments. If I get a chance I’ll probably find some new-agers with a baby and talk to them.”

“New-agers?” Williams grins at him. “You want to go up to Stonehenge, then. There’s a load of them camped there, and kids running round all over the place. New age psychology. Who’s going to buy that book then?” He seems to find the whole idea amusing. He points at Mickey, who is playing with Holly. “Who’s he, then? One of your research subjects?”

Mickey raises his head briefly. “One of his friends. I work in security.”

The landlord’s smile falters a moment. John can read the thought clearly. Tom Williams is the sort of person who expects people to like him and feels personally insulted when they won’t talk to him. Holly clearly reads the landlord’s mind as well because she looks up at him and smiles. “I’m Holly. Daddy said it was all right for me to come in here today because it’s Christmas. But I mustn’t drink anything.”

Williams laughs and ruffles her hair. “Tell you what, come back when you’re eighteen and I’ll stand you a pint.”

Twitch has finished his drink and sets his glass down unsteadily. Sensing that he’s about to launch into a speech, TR steps in quickly.

“I am here on vacation for the Holidays. But normally, I am a reporter for a newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona, so I am hoping to do a story on the Millennium celebration while I am here. There are a lot of new-age types back home, so I think the paper would be interested in the story.” He turns his untouched glass in his hands. “Maybe you can give me some advice, Tom. Who would be the best person in town for me to talk to about the upcoming festivities? Anyone in town who is organizing them? Or maybe there is someone of particular importance involved with the events? A movie star maybe? Also can you mention any other interesting places in town that I should visit while I am here?”

“A movie star?” Tom bursts out laughing. “No, if you want to talk to the new-agers, you want to go up to the campsite and ask for Richard and Cath. They’re in charge up there – as much as anyone can be in charge of that rabble. As far as I know, they’re planning to storm Stonehenge on New Year’s Eve, but they’ve already been warned off and the police are ready to stop them. They’ve drafted in riot police from around the country, you know, they didn’t think the local police force would be enough. I’m putting my money on the police, myself. At least once a year they have to come in to stop some druid nonsense or other. Do you know why people are fixated on Stonehenge? I certainly don’t. Daft, making all this fuss over a collection of stones.”

A barmaid arrives with plates of sandwiches. Williams moves to let her set them down. “Anyway, enjoy your food. Oh, and if you want to go visiting while you’re here, you could take a look at the Barrow at West Kennet. Bath is all right for shopping and if you haven’t been before. Or go to Salisbury for the day. You’re not going to find much in Avebury itself apart from the stones.”

There is a general sigh of relief when he goes.

“I think he’s all right,” John says. “But he talks like that to anyone. He’d tell our business to half the town without thinking.”

Isobel nods agreement. “I don’t think he meant any harm. And I don’t think those sandwiches are poisoned,” she adds to John who’s looking at them suspiciously.

Matt takes one and bites into it defiantly. “Okay,” he says, “so we’re a little further forward. We now know the kid’s in Avebury, even if – and you’ll have to excuse me, Isobel – Bradshaw’s records cast some doubt on his, er, parentage.” He pauses, eyeing Isobel anxiously.

She just sighs. “As long as I get Arthur back, that’s all that matters. I know he’s within the circle of stones now. I wonder if there’s another dimension hidden inside them, and Arthur is there. Maybe I should spend some more time meditating and praying. Twitch, would you come with me?”

“…All too confusing… things spiralling away… grail maidens, new-agers, angels and demons, vampires… and now they say we are working for another bally bunch of spacemen or whatever.”

The rest of the group look at Twitch worriedly. He pulls himself together with an effort and looks around blearily. “Whatever. Matt, if you honestly think Anita whatsherface was lying we should stop pissing around and send young Mickey down there to grab her and beat it out of her. Isobel’s baby, Holly, all of us are at risk here so stop pussyfooting around.”

It’s the longest coherent speech he’s managed for a long time. Matt regards him thoughtfully. “I know Anita Rohinder was lying. She and the whole bloody Tri Club are fixated on defeating their old enemy, The Watcher; I reckon that’s the whole point of the White Alchemist shenanigans. Somewhere down the line, those bastards – sorry again, Isobel – have made a bargain with Sophia then double-crossed her. All to create a living weapon, a living psychic bomb…”  He washes the remainder of his sandwich down with a mouthful of cider. “Who’s in on it, though? Did the Tri Club manage to get hold of Paul’s ‘genetic material’? Surely SITU wouldn’t have cooperated…?”  His voice tails off.

“We should try to discover what it was that TR felt when he faced that apparition, and who it was that warned him to run,” Eric suggests in the silence. “Accuse me of being megalomaniac, but I wonder if it might possibly be the Grail Maiden? John said that she’d been severed from the Grail; she might be trying to help us, if so. Which leads me to a related point, which is the question I was wondering about yesterday: how -do- you unsever a maiden? I suspect that the answer is that you must heal that severance, reconjoin the two. Perhaps remarry them, in a spiritual sense, although in this instance I’m not sure that that metaphor is a good one; the Grail is surely a female symbol.”

“There was also that part about Sophia having possibly produced a child before, one that ‘wasn’t right,’“ Matt suggests. “I’m wondering, TR, if that might explain your, ah, encounter the other night?”

“I’m not sure,” Eric says.  “Dr. Bradshaw seemed to detect a multiple personality in Liza, but I suspect that she was possessed. One Liza said that she had no other children, and the other said that she had two, but that one wasn’t right.” He drums his fingers thoughtfully on the table. “Assuming for the moment that it was Sophia who gave the answer that she had the other child, who and where might it be, and what is wrong with it? Is Paul the father?”

“Was it the Sophia’s child TR saw yesterday, or the grail maiden?” Mickey says.

Matt shrugs. “Anyway. There’s a lot going on elsewhere too. Were you thinking of popping in on Theo, Twitch? Mind if I join you?”

“Sure thing, old boy. Always glad to have you along.” Twitch stand up a trifle unsteadily. “I’ll help you meditate when we get back, Isobel. Promise.”

“Be careful,” she says. Twitch is already heading for the door.

 “What do we do, then?” Andrew asks. “It could be a good time to go out to Stonehenge, dig in and wait for the ugliness.”

“Or we try to head off the ugliness before it can happen,” TR says. “Mickey, most of the Ylid activity seems to have been connected with this place. Maybe you should nose around for secret passages, strange guests, that sort of thing. The rest of us could take a walk around. Now we know the baby is within the circle of stones, Holly might be able to sense him, or Eric may sense the proximity of the grail. Holly, you said that something was going to happen at Christmas, didn’t you? We should all be on our guard for trouble. The last time I encountered Ylids, they were posing as humans, so I assume Sophia will do the same thing. Look out for women with background stories or circumstances that don’t quite seem right. Aside from that, I really think we need to find out more about the non-human SITU organizers, but I have no idea how.” He sighs. “The first thing I want to do, though, is talk to this Richard and Cath that Tom Williams mentioned.”

“That means going to the Stonehenge site,” Andrew says happily. “I’ll come with you.”

 “Hang on a mo,” Matt says, pulling the car into a service station. “I need to grab some anti-vampire gear.”

He gets back into the car carrying a pair of heavy duty halogen torches, barbecue fuel in a squirtable bottle and a pack of garlic capsules. “Cost the earth, but we’re lucky anything’s open at all today,” he comments, swallowing three of the capsules and offering the box to Twitch.  “I’ve not heard you talk much about your wife before, Twitch. What was Maggie like?” he asks.

Twitch’s face turns dreamy. “She was beautiful. Brown hair, brown eyes, a smile that lit up the whole room. Really clever too, but she gave up her job when we married to be my full time secretary. When we had Theo she spent all her time with him. Wonderful mother. Stood by me when I lost my job and everything. And then she drowned.” He hiccups softly to himself. “They said it was an accident, but they never found her body. One minute she was there on the boat with us and the next she was gone. One of the people remembers hearing a scream but no one saw anything.” He turns to stare at Matt. “Tell me Matt, you’re a psychiatrist – what does it mean when you dream about someone who’s been dead for over ten years. A real, vivid dream, I mean. One where you wake up thinking she’s alive and it takes a while for it to sink in that she isn’t any more.”

“I think it means you’re still missing her,” Matt says carefully. “It’s normal to dream about people, even decades after you’ve lost them.”

“Oh.” Twitch chews his bottom lip for a while before reaching for the brandy bottle. “If I’ve lost her, then, d’you think I’ll find her again?”

Matt shakes his head. There is no answer he can give.

Back at the hotel, Isobel locks the door before turning the computer on.

Place with different dimensions, she thinks. Mystical places, accessible only to the faithful, supposed to exist outside of the normal realm of time and space. Isn’t Avalon, supposed to be like that? Existing somewhere, but no one can reach it.

Avalon: A paradise where it was always spring and no one grew old; where there was everlasting peace; and where no toil was needed because the land remained ever fruitful: this was Avalon. As well as resembling other mythical realms, such as Atlantis, where the inhabitants enjoyed a Golden Age existence, Avalon became known as the place to which the British hero King Arthur was carried to be healed of his wounds after his last battle of Camlann. Avalon is first mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae. According to Sir Thomas Malory, writing in the 15th century, Arthur was taken to Avalon in a mysterious boat in which were woman in black hoods – among them three queens.

Avalon belongs to a long tradition of paradisal islands, ‘somewhere to the west’. One of these was St. Brendan’s Isle, supposedly in the Atlantic near the Azores, which was last seriously searched for in the 18th century. Today, the island of Avalon has been identified with Glastonbury, Somerset, since the alleged discovery of Arthur’s grave at Glastonbury Abbey in 1191. Glastonbury Tor, rising above marshy land often covered with standing water, in early times likely gave the impression of being an island.

Like Camelot, Avalon is everywhere and nowhere – it is contrary to its spirit to try to pin it down. It lies in the dimension of myth, where truth is manifold. The historical Arthur may have been buried at Glastonbury; but the real Arthur waits in that place where “healing does not fail” – the place which Geoffrey called Avalon.

Different writers throughout the ages have placed Camelot in different locations. Sir Thomas Malory, in Le Morte D’arthur (15th century), placed the castle in Winchester. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his History of the Kings of Britain (about 1136) named Caerleon Castle in Wales. Another theory puts Camelot near Tintagel, Arthur’s reputed Cornish birthplace. According to the romancers, Camelot was named after a pagan king called Camaalis. Modern attempts at identifying Camelot have sought to place Camelot at the ruins of Cadbury Castle in Somerset, excavated in the 1960’s. There is much underlying tradition to support this belief. Cadbury Castle is an earthwork fort of the Iron Age, which looks over the Vale of Avalon to Glastonbury. Nearby is the River Cam, and the village of Queen Camel (once known as Camel) The antiquary John Leland, in the reign of Henry VIII speaks of local people who refer to the fort as “Camalat” and as the home of Arthur.

 “Richard and Cath? Yeah, they’re over there.”

TR turns to look and sees a man and woman, both fairly young, dressed in layers of shapeless clothing. He glances at Andrew. “Come on.”

He introduces himself confidently, giving the usual speech about being a journalist researching a story. “Particularly, I’d like to know what you’re planning here,” he says.  “The people in Avebury think it’s some kind of festival. Is that right?”

“In a manner of speaking.” Richard motions them to sit. “The fact is people are being denied their right of way over the countryside and we are reclaiming it. Stonehenge is a good case in point. It has been a site of religious significance since ancient times but today the most people can do is to walk around it and look at the stones at a distance. This isn’t a case of breaking the law, or of trespass. It’s a case of taking back what has always belonged to us.”

TR nods to show he agrees and makes a couple of notes to give him time to think. Richard sounds like he’s learned all this off by heart, he decides, and it’s the typical sort of thing these people come out with. They obviously believe it – which doesn’t make them right, of course.

“The land belongs to everyone,” he says aloud.

“That’s right.” Richard grins at him. “You can see where we’re coming from, can’t you? Access to the land we live in is part of our democratic rights. Take that away and our basic rights are taken away with it.”

“So what exactly are you planning for the big night?”

Richard looks at Cath and frowns, waiting for her to shrug before answering. “There are some people coming up from south Wales. We’ve not heard of them before but they’re very much into the druid tradition. They’re going to lead a ceremony right in the middle of the stone circle.”

“And if the police try to stop you?” Andrew asks. He is looking around the camp, trying to gauge the state of their weaponry.

“We’ll stop them,” Richard says confidently. “There’s enough of us here to do that.”

John, Mickey, Isobel and Eric are together, studying the laptop computer that Mickey stole from the Bradshaw clinic.

There are various notes about clinic itself, none of them particularly interesting, and a set of notes that duplicate Bradshaw’s files.

Then Mickey finds Bradshaw’s personal calendar.

“Look at this,” he says. “According to this, he was seeing Isobel once a month through the pregnancy, but Liza’s visits are far less often, and more random. A lot of them were at night, too. Did you see him once a month, Isobel?”

“Yes. Bradshaw was keen to keep up on the progress of his clients.” She looks at the screen, scrolling down through pages of information. “I still can’t believe that Edward would have lied to me. He told me I was having Henry’s child. He couldn’t have used Ylid DNA.”

“Bradshaw seemed to have quite a few private meetings with Edward, too,” John points out quietly. “What were they about? Can you find any more details, Mickey?”

Mickey tries, but there is nothing more. Just the list which says plainly that Bradshaw met with Isobel, Liza Petherton and Edward Lloyd at various times in the past year. There is a final note, dated October 31st 2000 which says simply ‘babies born.’ Nothing more.

“October 31st?” Eric says quizzically.

Isobel blushes and smiles. “Arthur’s birthday.”

Theodore Twitchin’s home is a modern apartment on the ground floor of one of those elegant, Edwardian houses in the heart of Westminster. When Twitch and Matt arrive, it is bedecked with fairy lights and streamers around the front door. Twitch leans on the doorbell hard.

“Just in time for Christmas dinner,” he says appreciatively, when Theo opens it. “My, my, that’s handy. I’m famished. This is Matt, by the way… Friend of mine. He drove me here.”

He wanders on past while Theo is still protesting and Matt finds himself confronting the younger version of Adam Twitchin alone. Theo glares back, obviously a little drunk, and more than a little annoyed at having his day upset. Matt smiles blandly whilst checking the younger man’s forehead for the telltale silvery mark of Nefertiti. There is none.

Shrieks of laughter come from inside. Theo stands aside grudgingly. “I suppose you’d better come in for now.”

The two men walk through to the lounge. Twitch is sitting on the floor, happily bouncing a two year old boy on his knees. “Meet Luke,” he says. “Grandson, y’know.” He glances around furtively. “Marianne in the kitchen, is she, Theo? Good. I need to talk to you.” Passing Luke to Matt to hold he takes his son’s arm and pulls him behind the Christmas tree.

“This Buckingham Palace thing. Not my queen of course… I never voted for her… Anyway, David Icke recons they are shape shifting amphibiod human eaters, so watch yourself… And don’t forget to nick some cutlery.”

Matt hides a smile as he watches.

“Look here, Dad,” Theo says. “You really can’t go round casting aspersions like this. First de Montfort, now the queen. What exactly has de Montfort done that you don’t like, anyway?”

Twitch coughs and shuffles his feet, bringing a shower of pine needles down around him. “Hmm… Well… You know his type.  Not reliable, not at all. I knew his father, you know. Addicted to some pretty unsavoury things. The son, not the father. News of the Screws following him around already, so my contacts tell me. He’s not to be trusted. Just get him moved, or transferred to Rejkjavik or somewhere.” He pats his son on the hand. “And now I shall say no more,” he says in fatherly tones. “Just distance yourself.”

“But why? If you know something it’s your duty to speak up.”

“The subject is closed,” Twitch says firmly. “Is that turkey I smell?”

Dinner lasts several hours. At the end of it Theo dutifully offers his father and Matt beds for the night. Matt quickly suggests staying at his flat. Twitch turns them both down. “We’ve got things to do, remember, Matt. Can’t let a little thing like sleep slow us down. I’d like to have a rummage through my old boxes, Theo, and then we’ll be off. I’ll call you again soon.”

He vanishes for half an hour and reappears carrying an armful of old clothes and a penny-whistle that Theo protests he only bought for Luke a few days ago.

“You won’t want him blowing it all night, will you?” Twitch asks cheerfully. “Come along Matt, me lad. We’ve got work to do.”

Matt pauses by the door as Theo shows them out. “Sophia’s not happy with you or your mistress,” he says quietly. “Be afraid…”

Theo blinks sharply. “Sophia? Mistress?” Either he’s a very good actor, Matt thinks, or his surprise is totally genuine.

John finishes his mediations and stands up. He feels calm, all senses alive, his wolf’s eyes adjusting quickly to the dark. The map spread out on the ground before him shows the whole of Avebury. A small town and nothing interesting there apart from the stones. The stones, a few pubs and restaurants, tourist shops and a collection of middle-class housing. John raises his head and stares out across the dark streets.

Isobel is thinking in terms of another dimension, parallel to this place. He has in mind a far simpler explanation. The baby kept secretly somewhere in the town. Somewhere amid the middle-class respectable housing.

A picture comes into his mind. Respectable, middle-class Johann Breit, owner of a crystal mine, and agent of the Master.

Andrew, after an hour in the Red Lion flicking through back issues of the local newspapers, is ready for action.

According to the papers, some of the police guarding Stonehenge are part of a specialist riot squad. And according to the new-ager, Richard, the people in the camps are confident of holding them off. Andrew grins to himself. It should be quite a fight. But first, he thinks, he needs some extra gear.

Right on cue, a van pulls up outside the pub.

It takes Andrew the best part of an hour to check through the cases in the back. When he’s done he drives back to the hotel to find the others. He hands out two-way radios, one for everyone. “They could be useful,” he explains. “Also, I have these…”

He sets a box down and takes out what looks like a hand grenade. “It’s a Flash_Bang,” he explains with a touch of pride. “Light and sound. It’ll stun most types. I guess the undead hate the light the most though. The best thing is they won’t kill people. I’ll leave enough here for anyone that thinks they can use them.”

“Where are you going?” Isobel asks.

“Stonehenge. I’ll keep in touch by radio.”

He goes out quickly. Now everything is ready he’s eager to get into position. He climbs back into the van – a battered old thing that won’t look out of place among the vehicles at the Stonehenge camp – and lays a hand briefly over the kitbag on the passenger seat. The katana is slightly too long for the bag and pokes out at one end. Andrew gives it an affectionate pat and puts the van into gear.

 “Isabelle Kingston here.” The medium sounds tired, more than a little depressed, Isobel thinks.

“Isobel Blyth,” she replies. “I was wondering if you could help me. I need some information about other, spiritual dimensions. Places like Avalon that are supposed to exist but no one can go there.”

“You mean places between.” Kingston brightens immediately. “Yes, I can help there. The world is composed of several realms. The physical realm is the one we live in, the only realm that most people are aware of. Then there is the spiritual realm – or spiritual realms, I should say. No one truly knows how many there are. That’s why you need a spirit guide to take you through them: it’s far too easy to lose your way otherwise. Now, when a person dies, the spirit goes straight to one of the spirit realms. For someone with the right talents and a spirit guide it is possible to send the spirit out and call it back, to visit the realms, if you like. Some of the realms are linked to physical places so it become easier to make the transition in certain places. That’s not to say that a particular spirit realm can only be accessed from one location in the physical world. It’s far more a matter of faith and will-power.”

“Does Avalon exist?” Isobel cuts in impatiently.

“I really don’t know. Myth creates a very powerful link between the physical and spiritual realms. Sometimes aspects of the spiritual leak over into the physical world and are interpreted there as myth and superstition. Sometimes a myth gains such power within the physical world that it takes on a reality within the spiritual. So it’s quite possible that Avalon does exist somewhere, but if it does I’m afraid I’ve never seen it. What you’re asking is whether your Arthur could have been taken into Avalon and kept there. In response to that, all I can say is that it is possible for someone’s spirit to be imprisoned in that way, but not their physical body. What you’d have then is a baby that is alive and breathing, but is completely unconscious of anything that happens on the physical plane. He wouldn’t react to anything, wouldn’t eat unless he was forced. A persistent vegetative state, I believe is what the doctors call it.”

Note from G. Blaize to Mickey Thomas.

Liza Petherton

Australian born and a successful model, she suffered a breakdown which resulted in alcoholism after her fiancé, John, vanished near Stonehenge. We have had no further information regarding his disappearance or subsequent whereabouts – the only clue was a crop circle in a field close to his abandoned car. Liza was admitted to a private clinic and on leaving she joined SITU. The mission in Rennes-le-Chateau was her first and only one for SITU. Following the mission, she failed to report back to us and we lost track of her completely.

Liza spent much time in Paris during her years as a model. As well as staying at the George V hotel, she rented an apartment on the bank of the Seine. Liza was obviously unbalanced before she came under the influence of Sophia, seeing in the Ylid a mirror of her own loss. Liza was also typical of the women Sophia was using as ‘vessels’ in her attempts to see Paul reborn.

Our team in Paris have ascertained that Liza arrived there. They are currently working on tracking her down.

English winters are miserable, TR thinks. He and Eric are walking together around Avebury, staying within the ring of stones. It is nine o’clock and already so dark that they have to stop under a street lamp to study their map.

“According to this, the Red Lion is at the exact centre of Avebury,” TR comments. He looks around at the houses and the narrow roads leading between them. With his past experience of Ylids he’d expect them to have a hide-out in a subterranean cavern. He walks back to one of the standing stones and kneels to examine the base. There could be a tunnel leading down from anywhere. But not from this stone he concludes, disappointed, standing up.

“I really don’t think we’re going to see much this time of day,” Eric says helpfully. “Why don’t we head back to the hotel and take a look around first thing tomorrow?”

They slow as they get to the place where TR encountered the woman the previous night. TR pauses to study the ground. There are a few black marks but it’s hard to say whether they were recently caused or not.

“Any more ideas about the grail?” he asks.

Eric shakes his head. “The grail and the maiden must be rejoined, that is obvious. The question is, how?” He purses his lips in thought. Again, the image of the vessel floats before him and a voice asks him to choose. The grail or the spear. The spear used to harm, the grail to heal. And now the grail itself needs healing. “If we could find the grail, if I could study it again, it might help,” Eric says.

At that moment, a noise behind them makes them both turn.

The ‘creature’ that confronts them is a man. Tall, thin, very pale, Eric has a sense of sickness coiled about him like chains.

“Darius?” TR asks uncertainly.

The man utters a hoarse laugh. “No. Darius is the other one. My name is Maurice.”

 “Any feelings about the pub?” Mickey asks his daughter as he turns the car around. He’s seen enough here to make his plans for tomorrow.

Holly smiles at him. “It felt nice. Friendly. Though I think that man who gave us drinks talks too much. He talks to so many people he doesn’t even remember them all.” She pauses, frowning. “I think he was talking to a blonde woman not long ago. He remembers her because she was pretty, but he doesn’t remember what she said.” She is having to concentrate hard. Mickey squeezes her hand.

“Relax. Just tell me if you remember anything else, okay?” He slides the radio set over his head. “John, Andrew can you hear me? What do you think of an ambush? You drive out of Avebury, nice and slowly, tell me when you’re being followed and I’ll belt out of a side road and smash into whoever’s chasing you. It’ll gain us a few people for questioning. What do you think?”

“Could work,” Andrew says. “Better set it up for tomorrow, though. I’ve got other things under way here.”

Turning the radio off, Andrew sits back to wait, surveying Stonehenge through binoculars from time to time. It is going to be a long, cold night.

John jumps up so suddenly Isobel lets out a startled yell. He doesn’t even stop to apologise. “Something’s happening,” he says. He leaves the room at a run. Isobel stares after him in surprise then grabs a couple of the flash grenades and runs after him.

Mickey, driving back to the hotel, sees them too – Eric and TR standing in the middle of the road, their attention fixed on a single figure standing close to one of the stones. He sees John running towards them, and Isobel not far behind. Then Holly exclaims, “Daddy, that man hasn’t got a soul!”

“Maurice,” Eric says. He is careful not to move. “What can we do for you?”

“Very little.” White teeth show in a grin that reminds Eric of rigor mortis. “I want Culver. Revenge, pure and simple. I want to finish what I should have done to him ages ago. Tell me where he is.”

“No.” TR cannot quite bring himself to believe he is talking to a vampire. He advances a step. “I suggest you leave.”

“What, before you’ve heard my terms?” Maurice laughs softly. “I know where the grail is.” His voice is little more than a whisper yet it carries until it seems the whole town must have heard. “Tell me where Culver is and I will give you the grail.”

 “Nearly there,” Twitch says happily.

Matt grins at him. “Here, check my emails, would you? The other SITU mission’s managed to trace one of their threatening notes to one Peter Lovell, another dodgy Government employee. Interesting thing is, he used a courier firm based in Oxford – where this whole damn thing blew up in the first place. Makes you wonder exactly how Sophia and Nefertiti are connected, eh?”

“Mmm. There’s nothing here,” Twitch says. He shakes the computer.  “Hey, looks like there’s a bit of a gathering in the road up ahead. Isobel’s there, look, and TR and Eric. Wonder what they’re doing?”

December 25th, 9.30pm
Andrew – Stonehenge
Eric, TR, John, Mickey, Isobel, Twitch, Matt – Avebury.


ISOBEL: From Matt: “Look, I know you’ve already got plenty to worry about, Isobel, but would you mind keeping an eye on the Prof? Only, I know Sophia works through feelings of loss and sadness – and he had that dream about his dead wife just the other night. Hell, it’s probably nothing; I’m just worried she gets her claws into another of us…”

JOHN: Twitch is very quickly falling apart, drinking far too much. You’re getting seriously worried about him. The others seem okay.

ERIC: From Matt: “Um, it was actually Nefertiti I was chasing in London, not the Watcher – with so many damn Ylids around it’s hard to know who’s working for who, eh? Speaking of which, I’m a bit suspicious of Twitchin’s dream the other night – y’know, the one where his wife was still alive? Only, I know that’s how Sophia works: she targets people who’ve experienced loss, bereavement, sadness… It’s probably nothing; just watch him, though.”

ANDREW: All your weaponry and equipment was delivered as you wanted it.

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