The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Witless In Whitby
"... I'm going to send you to join the angels, Micky. The old fashioned way..." Emmanuel's hands tighten, and his face takes on a calm, absorbed, inquisitive look, like that of a child watching with interest the behaviour of some amusing toy.
One of Micky's arms is jammed between his torso and the passenger seat. Against it he can feel the pressure from the folded flick knife in his pocket. While using his left hand to pull at the strangling grasp of his attacker, he wriggles his right hand free, and slips it into the pocket.
A slightly startled frown passes over Emmanuel's face as he hears the dull clack of the flick knife blade, then his eyes widen in pain and shock as Micky sweeps the knife in a vicious slash across the backs of his hands.
"Whoever said it would be the angels who I would join?" snaps Micky, as his throat is abruptly released.
Recognising that his assailant is about to make another spring, Micky quickly wriggles into the passenger seat, so that he cannot be pinned against the gear-stick again, and is in a position to defend himself with his knife. Sure enough, an instant later Emmanuel lunges through the space between the seats. Micky swears and makes a feint for the other man's face, and the youth flings himself backwards, away from the menacing blade, and towards the driver seat.
As Emmanuel is suddenly violently thrown against him, Andrew loses his grip on the steering wheel for an instant. There is a sickening lurch, as the Landrover leaves the road. Beyond the crazed figure of Emmanuel that now obstructs much of his view through the windscreen, Andrew can see dark banks of heather approach in leaps and lurches, as the wheels of the vehicle bounce over stone and stem. The land slopes steeply away from the road, and Andrew struggles to prevent the vehicle accelerating.
Meanwhile, shaking himself from his half-stunned state, Culver scrambles with difficulty to his knees, bracing himself against one wall of the Rover. Hastily he fumbles for his syringe and needle, and tries to fill them with the remaining contents of the bottle of sedative. The violent bounds of the vehicle does little to abet him, and at least half of the contents of the bottle is spilt into his lap by his shaking hands.
Side-step, who is picking himself up from the back of the Rover, and moving his combat knife into his better hand, suddenly becomes aware that Culver is muttering under his breath. The words appear to be Latin, an incantation of some sort, or a prayer.
Realising with a shock that for the first time in many years he is repeating the litanies of his childhood, Culver changes to English, and raises his voice.
"...and I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, go your ways, and pour out of the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth." Culver is almost disturbed at how well he remembers the blood-and-thunder of Revelations. "And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his name..."
Emmanuel's figure stiffens slightly, as if the young man were listening.
The psychiatrist continues, allowing his voice to rise into a crescendo. "And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea." Emmanuel turns. There is little light, but his eyes seem to have a soft luminosity of their own. "Language of angels, eh? Not quite the Song of Creation but it'll do. What d'you reckon, Emmanuel? Like a bit of hellfire yourself, do you?"
"And the third angel," says Emmanuel, softly, tenderly, as if describing the foibles of a loved one, "poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou are righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy..."
From Emmanuel issues a faint, long hiss, almost like a drawn-in sigh. As he fumbles desperately with the syringe, Culver feels the young man's cold, fascinated gaze rest upon his like the chill of glass against his flesh. For an tiny instant there is a hush, as if the ancient words chanted had summoned the group into a cold and quiet place beyond the violence of the moment. The next moment, several things happen at once.
Andrew swears as, at the last moment, he glimpses a large stony outcrop protruding up through the heather. Swinging the Rover violently to the left he succeeds in missing the obstacle, and struggles once more to bring the vehicle to a halt.
The unexpected jerk throws Culver from his kneeling position onto the floor of the Rover. The syringe falls from his hand, and the bottle of Droperidol tumbles across the floor, spilling its contents in the process. Micky makes another swipe at Emmanuel as the latter leaps for Culver. Reading his antagonist's intention, Side-step moves at the same time, throwing himself forward to block Emmanuel's attack on his colleague, and wrestle him to the ground.
Gritting his teeth, Andrew grits his teeth and tries to concentrate on the treacherous terrain ahead. Even the sturdy wheels of the Rover are ill-equipped for the moorland slope, and again and again he is helpless to prevent the front of the Land Rover bucking as it careers down the slope. The headlights dance crazily over the nocturnal moor, and there is a thick, churning crackle of wood and foliage being ploughed and ground by the wheels.
Andrew leans to his right as Micky squeezes past him, knife in hand, to aid his companions. A few moments later, Andrew hears Micky a cry of pain that sounds rather like it might have issued from Side-step, and the noise of copious swearing.
"Get him off! For fuck's sake, get him off!"
The rear view mirror offers Andrew a view of Micky's back, and an impression of motion behind him.
With relief, Andrew sees the incline ease into a little valley a short distance ahead. Cautiously, he guides the Rover towards it, in the hope of allowing it to slow naturally.
In the rear view mirror, he sees Micky suddenly dart forward. There is a dark, many-limbed mass on the floor which gasps, and struggles, and occasionally cries out in pain.
With care, Andrew steer between two jutting crags of rock, and into the clearing at the base of the hill. He feels the Rover start to respond to his control once again, and gently applies the brakes.
There is a scream, a thin, silvery sound that seems to sound far longer than any human lungs could have supplied it with breath. At last it fades into a breathy sibilance and fades. For a few instants something of the sound seems to tremble in the ears of those who had heard it, like the after image of a bright light.
The Land Rover comes to a gentle halt.
There is a long pause, before from the darkness, Side-step's voice articulates the sentiments of all.
Releasing his seat-belt, Andrew twists in his seat. Side-step is half-doubled, one hand clamped to a wound on the left side of his neck. A thin stream of blood is leaking between his fingers. In his other hand, a bloodied combat knife is gripped. Micky is sitting one of the back seats, clearly in the process of recovering his breath. Slumped against the back wall lies Culver, apparently unconscious. In the centre of the floor Emmanuel is spread-eagled, blood pooling from the place where Micky's flick knife has entered the left hand side of his chest.
Side-step takes his hand from his own neck and stares at his reddened palm. The blood seems to be oozing from one, or maybe two, gashes at the base of his neck.
"Oh, and don't worry about Matt or young Sidestep," the Professor remarks casually, as he parts from John Stone for the night. "They've usually got things under control. Good night, John." Professor Twitchin watches the departure of his new colleague with some interest. He has noticed that during the evening Dr Stone has seemed a little distant, perhaps even a little dazed.
Once back in his own room, Stone opens his cases and hunts out some warm, dark clothing. He changes his clothes quietly, and then hunts out a small torch, his Swiss army pen knife and his mobile phone, all of which he places into the pockets of his jacket. The pendant with the varnished tooth he keeps around his neck, and tucks into his black jumper.
After a few cups of coffee to clear his head, John Stone leaves the room, placing a note on the table by the door. The note reads, "Gone to the abbey. 22nd October, 3.40 a.m."
The mention of her brother seems to have shaken Sarah Louise into, if not sobriety, at least seriousness and a degree of focus.
"Have you any idea what might have scared your brother so much?" asks Isobel, eager to capitalise upon the moment. "Do you... do you think he might be in some kind of trouble with drugs, or with money he owes?"
Sarah Louise shrugs. She drags a cushion to her chest, and hugs it in a fierce, defensive fashion. "I don't think it would be drugs. I don't think so. It might be, but I don't think so."
"Money, then? Could he be afraid that some people he owes money might try to teach him a lesson by taking it out on you?"
"Do you think maybe you should talk to David Caine again? What is the likelihood that he knows more about this."
"You're right. I'll phone... " Another feeble attempt at standing is abandoned almost at the outset. "Mary, can you pass me the phone - it's by the door."
Isobel glances at her watch and raises an eyebrow.
"It's a little late," she hints gently.
"No, but... but you're right, I need to talk to David. You're right. It's important." Not without some reservations, Isobel passes the phone to Sarah Louise. She has the strong impression that her new drinking companion is about to make herself unpopular.
With some difficulty and deliberation, Sarah Louise dials a number, and waits.
"It's his answering machine," she says at last, with some surprise and chagrin. "And it still says that he's on holiday. But he isn't - we're going to meet up tomorrow for dinner." She stares at the receiver in a puzzled, slightly accusatory way, and Isobel moves quickly to help her new friend in the arduous task of guiding it back to the cradle.
"If you're really worried about your brother, I think you might want to think about hiring a private detective," says Isobel gently. "They're supposed to be very good at finding people."
"Yes. Yes. Do I seem drunk? I'm afraid I'm very drunk." Sarah cuddles the cushion in her lap, and settles into slumber with remarkable rapidity. Curled into this foetal position, the young social worker's already diminutive form seems to dwindle even further. Isobel is stung with an almost protective impulse. Perhaps Hendleby is right, she reflects, perhaps Sarah Louise does need to be got out of Whitby...
Culver comes round somewhat groggily to find himself being helped from the Rover. A large, tender lump is swelling on the back of his head. Sickened and dizzy, he tries to gauge his surroundings. Seeing the high security fences silhouetted against the October dawn, he realises that he is back at the safe house. Unable to offer much resistance to the assisting hands, he allows himself to be led to some form of sick bay, where the injury to the back of his head is examined.
He smiles a little as he hears voices, and recognises the voice of Side-step, who is apparently being a ferociously uncooperative patient.
"He just bit me, OK? I've had my tetanus jabs. And my rabies jabs..."
Little fragments of conversation filter into his mind, as he drifts to and from consciousness.
"... two longer prongs, you see? Longer than the others... but as I said his teeth seemed to have ordinary length and distribution..."
"...quite certain he's dead. Of course every care will be taken with the body.... not want to make assumptions... pity that a live specimen could not..."
"...tried to incapacitate... but he was biting into his throat and it was like he was trying to shift and go for the windpipe... nothing else seemed to work... just kept going..."
Given their shaken and battered state, no-one suggests that the foursome should attempt to return to Whitby that night. Both Side-step and Culver are advised to spend the night in the medical room. Bothered by the pain in the back of his head, Culver spends a largely sleepless night, either listening to the occasional restive motions of his colleague in the other bed, or slipping into less than restful dreams.
With a fleeting sense of trespass, John Stone clambers over a dry stone wall and stands upon the grass beneath the walls of the abbey. In the darkness, it is almost possible to suppose that the building is not a mere shell. However, the pale early morning light is visible through the long, arched windows of the front edifice, and as he approaches, broken pillars of wall are thrown into silhouette. The unripe light blurs the distinction between stone and stone, and the abbey seems to have increased in size.
Walking through one of the tall, arched door, Stone seats himself on the grass, and tries to attune himself to his surroundings.
Above him the sky gradually pales. A sombre choir of gulls circle over head. Their calls are cold, broken, drawn out, like voices raised to call mechanically and hopelessly for someone who is no longer expected to respond. As he lets himself be lulled by the forlorn sound, Stone closes his eyes, and lets his senses open. As he does so, his many hours without sleep win him into a semi-waking state.
After a while, he forgets the abbey's walls about him. Feeling the wind against him, and the firm, cold ground beneath him, he gradually ceases to feel that he is encased within crumbling edifices of brick. Instead, he has an almost dizzying sense that he is somehow perched on the crest of something, as if the stone structures around him were the tip of something deeper greater, like the protrusion of a broken tooth with a root running deep into a great jaw of rock and earth.
His mind slips into a downward spiral, following the root down into the rock, into the darkness, into... sleep.
He awakes an hour or two later, with the discomforting impression that something has tugged urgently at his sleeve. He is lying on his back on the grass, his joints cold and stiff. Rising quickly, he leaves the abbey, climbs back over the wall, and walks swiftly back into town.
In the morning, the battle-worn group at the safe house congregate to assess their options. Culver is groggy but lucid, and Side-step has a large plaster covering his neck.
Side-step explains that he is determined to continue the interrogation of the security staff. He is also interested by the fact that Ian Brookland has failed to provide a substantiated alibi.
Culver nods. "Mmm, yeah, and 'Ian' might be the 'I' on that note pushed through Hendleby's door. Best get a sample of his handwriting, eh?"
It is decided that Micky and Andrew will drive back to Whitby to inform the others of events.
A little before breakfast, the Professor wakes. He turns on the local radio, and listens with a desultory ear as he dresses. When the local news comes on, he turns up the volume, and pays closer attention. There are a number of stories. Apparently, the congregation at St Mary's church have signed a petition to protest at the 'satanic pilgrimmage' by Bram Stoker fans to the graveyard of their church. There are a few minor items, most regarding entertainments to be provided by the Whitby Art Society and other organisations over the Halloween period. Then the topic changes to the shipping forecast.
The Professor raises his eyebrows and rolls a cigarette. Evidently the grisly murder of a young man through impalement with a wooden stake has not been thought newsworthy in comparison to the announcement of the Women's Institute bazaar.
Placing his battered cap on his head, the Professor strides out of the hotel, and takes the shortest route through the town towards the Cleveland Way.
Twitchin strolls briskly in the direction of Hendleby's studio until he is some hundred yards from it, at which point he starts to adopt a more aimless shuffle. For the benefit of anyone who might be watching, he takes a map out of his pocket and occasionally blinks short-sightedly at it, turning it up-side down and back again, as if attempting to make sense of it.
As he draws near, he glimpses the neon-red of a police cordon flickering like a dragon's tongue. Noticing a man in policeman's uniform, the Professor ambles towards him, with a vague but well-meaning smile, for all the world like a benevelent but bewildered elderly gentleman lost among the footpaths.
"Ah, good morning, officer. Could you tell me if this is the way to the old quarter of Whitby?" The policeman gives a slight but indulgent smile.
"I'm afraid you've just left it, sir. If you follow the path back, you'll pass the abbey. Go past the church and down the big flight of steps, and you'll be in the old part of the town."
"Oh... was that it?" The Professor looks perplexed. "It's very confusing. I suppose if you're stationed here all the time you have to send a lot of people back the way they've come, eh?"
"Well, I'm just posted here for the moment, sir. Till we get a team here to look at this premises."
"Oh - has there been a crime, officer?"
"Yes, sir, a break-in. Nothing stolen, just a bit of damage done." A sheet of tarpaulin has been stretched over the broken door.
Cradling a mug of coffee in his hands, Culver closes his eyes, and tries to clear his mind. A sudden dull throb sometimes issues from the back of his head, and this sensitivity seems more acute when he is looking into bright light, a little like the pain of a hangover.
Wilkinson is a smartly dressed man in his early forties, with a confident manner, and a tendency to talk over other people rather than acknowledging their interjections. All aspersions cast upon the security arrangements at the safe house he counters by repeating his opinion that the party have endangered the anonymity of the safe house by visiting it almost daily since they started their investigation.
"If we are going to have daily visitors, then why not give our address to the milkman and postman and be done with it?" Even though he can see Side-step's ire rising, Culver cannot quite muster the strength necessary to smooth the situation over. Fortunately Side-step contents himself with a mere handful of biting remarks, and the director leaves the room red-faced and hot-eyed but unscathed.
Ian Brookland is shown back into the interrogation room. Culver seats himself in the darkest corner he can find, and shields his eyes. He has difficulty keeping his mind upon his partner's questions. He is vaguely aware that Side-step is alternating between menacing jocosity and curt, aggressive questions.
"So, tell me again. Where were you when Benedict Riggs went AWOL?"
"Answering a call of nature. Sod's law, isn't it? Didn't even know anything was wrong until the screaming started."
Culver chokes on his coffee. Side-step looks up at him in surprise, then walks over to him.
"Nothing much, it's just that that's what he said last time."
"Yeah, I know."
"No, I mean that's exactly what he said last time. Word for word. Tone for tone." Both glance back at where Brookland sits watching them with a mixture of perplexity and patience.
Isobel wakes a little after Andrew and Micky arrive back at the hotel. A rather livid bruise is starting to become apparent around Micky's throat, although he does his best to conceal this. They inform her on the events following the abduction of Emmanuel. Micky is wearing some rather ill-fitting clothes supplied to him at the safe house to replace his own, which had become severely spattered with blood during the fight with Emmanuel. After the news of Emmanuel's demise has been offered, none have any particular appetite for breakfast.
Returning to her room, Isobel puts a call through to Celestina.
"Hello? Celestina, it's me. Yes, fine. How is your grand-mère? Oh, I'm glad to hear she's a little better. No, of course everyone will understand that you have to stay with her. Yes. What, the 'Out for the Count' girl? Don't worry about that, I'll go and speak to her in your stead. If you can just tell me about your conversation with Tina Mamba..."
At about eleven John Stone rises, and about half an hour later Side-step and Culver return from the safehouse. The individuals that gather in Stone's room are in some cases battered, in most cases show distinct signs of fatigue and in all cases are comparatively subdued. Culver in particular has deep shadows under his eyes, and looks distinctly unwell.
"This whole bloody mess gets more Old Testament by the minute - and the 'angel' stuff's coming thick and fast." Frowning, Culver counts his points on his fingers.
"One: Emmanuel means 'God Is With Us.' He was the angel who appeared in the fiery furnace with Shadrack, Meshak and the unpronouncable bloke, Bendy-something.
"Two: Isobel read about an angel which appeared to Caedmon, remember? The angel that invented karaoke, made the poor guy stand up and sing 'The Song of Creation,' yeah? Well, that happened in Whitby Abbey, where Emmanuel reckoned he was a 'local legend' and that our Messianic friend certainly seemed fond of music and performances. He knew all the words to that Latin thing the other night.
"Three: he had stigmata, he hung about churches, he went on about angels and maybe he'd been staking anyone he reckons is a vampire." Culver shrugs, and glances around at the other members of the group.
"We already know there are, um, individuals who live beyond the usual 'three-score years and ten,' yeah? Well, either Emmanuel was an angel or, more likely, he was one of those guys who's lost the plot and thinks he's one of God's boys."
It is agreed that Andrew should develop the photograph which he took of Emmanuel to discover whether anything further can be learnt from it.
"Talking of photos." Micky slips the brown envelope from his pocket, and slides the photographs of Benedict Riggs out onto the table. "Take a look at these, I found them in Hendleby's studio." The photographs are eagerly passed from hand to hand.
"Has anyone got a magnifying glass?"
"Pity you can't see the numberplate of the car. But it's definitely a police car."
"Does anyone recognise the location? It ought to be possible to recognise the shape of that bit of hill..."
"I was thinking maybe Isobel might be able to hold them and get some kind of vibes off them," adds Micky.
Isobel takes the bundle of photographs into her hands and tries to concentrate. After a few moments she shakes her head slightly.
"There's... something. A sort of emotional smear that blots out everything else. Terror. Real fear. But a sort of excitement, too. Adrenalin. Sorry I can't get anything clearer. I'm a little edgy today, for some reason."
"I'd like to know more about Fulk's disappearance," Culver continues. "No way was that mere coincidence. The guy who drove off with him, Reverend Fanlight, has obvious connections with Transylvania, religion and motorbikes - who knows, he might even have known Ryan Rain. I can't help feeling we're missing something. Before we left the safe house this morning we had a look around Fulk's quarters. They've cleaned the whole place out - not a personal possession in sight. We even had a look for motorcycle tracks outside, but I guess there's been too many vehicles driving along that road since."
"With regard to Ryan Rain," remarks Twitchin, "I have some ideas of my own that I would like to try out. I want to see if I can trace him through his 'angel of a bike.'" Isobel offers to keep Celestina' appointment with Tina Mamba, and it is agreed that John Stone, Culver and Micky will visit the Montmorencies again the next day.
Twitchin and Stone then describe the apparently deserted state of David Caine's house the previous evening. It is decided that Side-step and Micky will try to break into Caine's house that night, in order to get a clearer idea of what has happened.
Isobel recounts her own conversation with Sarah Louise, and the result of the other woman's attempt to phone the lawyer.
"I'm getting really concerned about Sarah Louise's safety," Isobel adds. "I'm even starting to think perhaps we should consider trying to get her out of Whitby, for her own good. Whether she likes it or not."
A little after one, Isobel arrives at the Rohilla Arms to meet with Tina Mamba. The little public house has a certain faded gentility of aspect, and features a large number of rather conventional paintings of ships, most of them in the process of suffering shipwreck. One or two ships in bottles are hung from beams.
Tina is seated at one of the corner tables. She is wearing a long coat of patchwork velvet, midnight blue Doc Martens, and dark glasses. She is also obviously and profoundly hung over.
"Excuse me, Miss Mamba? You're expecting a representative from the York Royal Theatre, that's right, isn't it? I'm afraid that my colleague hasn't been able to make it." Tina removes her glasses, and gives Isobel a look of bleary and slightly pained suspicion.
"Get cold feet, did she? Look, if she's found something better you can just say so, you know."
"Oh no, it's nothing like that. She's just had something of a family emergency. We're still very interested in working with your company."
"Then why talk to me? Why not talk to Greg?"
"Well, actually I'd like to talk to him too."
"That's good." Tina gives a crooked smile. "I've told him to show up here half an hour from now. Sorry, I guess judged you wrong. It's just that from time to time, like I told your colleague, I get people who ask to talk to me about the future of the company, and then try to get me to leave it. So I thought Greg had a right to be present."
"No, we really are interested in the whole company. We visualised a short run of 'Out for the Count' at the York Royal Theatre. I hope you'll consider it. It should be good publicity for the whole company, and hopefully an enjoyable experience for the cast as well." Isobel continues her patter, taking care to skirt around details of the theatre or the aspects of the performance where she might find herself out of her depth. "There was one question I was going to ask. Those rather effective sets you use - the play would not be the same without them, but they might be a little small for our stage. Could the artist or designer who produced them be persuaded to extend them, or produce larger versions? Obviously we would attend to any expense."
"Yes, they're pretty good, aren't they," agrees Tina. "Karl Hendleby painted them. He's quite a local celebrity around here. When there was, you know, the big Dracula centenary celebration, we did quite a big run of 'Out for the Count,' ending with a big out of door performance, on the grass up by the Abbey, with the backdrops up on scaffolds being hoisted with ropes and things. This year is a sort of reprisal, but there was no way we were doing the out door version again. It was a complete nightmare to organise.
"I can give you Karl's address and telephone number if you like." Tina takes out a piece of paper and scribbles upon it, then passes it to Isobel. Without surprise, Isobel sees the address and telephone number of Hendleby's ordinary residence. "As for whether he can be persuaded to work with us again, well, I don't know. You might stand a better chance of persuading him than me." She flashes a grim smile at Isobel over her dark glasses. "He's my ex." Glancing past Isobel, Tina suddenly raises her hand and waves. "It's Greg," she explains.
Greg Major has clearly taken some trouble to attain an appearance of smartness. However, the neat cut of his suit only throws his unhealthy pallor into relief. Clearly even the play's workaholic director had been drawn into the post-performance celebrations the night before.
Tina gives a short laugh.
"Look at us. The living dead. Well and truly Out for the Count." Tina quickly updates Greg on the preceding conversation. Greg is still inclined to be a little stiff and suspicious, but is clearly tempted by the offer of a run at the York Royal Theatre.
"If you like I'm sure we could try and get in contact with Mr Hendleby," he says carefully, "but I don't think any of us have actually had a real conversation since the final night of our last run of 'Out for the Count' last year."
"Not a normal conversation, anyway," mutters Tina, under her breath.
In his hotel room, Matt Culver at last succeeds in getting through to Mark McCullough.
"Well, I think I've hunted down your 'rough beast,' Matt. Let's see. Full name, Gregory Emmanuel Staithes. Born, 18th April 1974. No record of routine self-mutilation or suicidal tendencies, but according to the records he does have stigmata tattooed to his palms. Does this sound like your boy? He's not seeking therapy at the moment, although for a short time he was being counselled by... let's see... one Sarah Louise Hendleby. His GP's Donald Oswestry. Hold on, I'll give you their addresses and contact numbers... I'll let you pay me back with dinner some time."
Meanwhile, Professor Twitchin is driving his hired car out of Whitby, a map spread out upon the dashboard beside him. In the glove compartment lies the driving licence of Ryan Rain. The licence gives the owner's address as situated in Mickleby, a village some five miles from the town. Most of the journey is along major roads, which are well-signposted, so that the Professor soon finds himself at his destination.
Rain's residence is a small, unshowy detached house, of remarkably suburban aspect. There is no sign of a motorbike outside, but the gravel in front of the garage is grooved in a fashion that suggests the tyres of a bike rather than the wider tyres of a car. The garage door is fastened with a heavy padlock, and blinds are drawn at every window. For a couple of hours, Twitchin surveys the house from a distance. There is no sign of activity either around or within the house.
After dinner, many members of the group seek an early night. Side-step and Micky, meanwhile, quietly prepare for their visit to Caine's premises.
When they reach the house of the lawyer, the sign for the milkman is still propped against the door. The windows of the house are dark.
"Doesn't look like it."
"Let's check it out."
The back gate looks onto a little alley, and its simple lock soon gives away. The back door is bolted as well as locked, so Side-step carefully breaks a panel of glass in the door, taking care to muffle the sound, before reaching in a gloved hand to pull back the bolt.
They pass through a spotless kitchen, into the hall.
Micky opens a door, and peers through it.
"Study," he mouths, almost noiselessly, then slips through the door.
Side-step opens the next door and finds himself in a small, old fashioned living room with a wealth of family photographs along the mantelpiece. However, Side-step's attention is attracted by a wealth of new ash in the little fireplace. The room still has a faint, hanging smell of smoke.
Micky appears at the door of the living room.
"Filing cabinets and desks empty. All of them," he whispers.
In answer, Side-step indicates the pile of ash.
"Burnt paper." With one gloved hand, he reaches into the ash, and pulls out a tiny fragment of gleaming ribbon, and holds it up to his eye. He shows it to Micky. "From a cassette tape of some sort."
They conduct a quick search of the premises. In the hallway, Micky notices a small amount of recent post on the mat, including one large, well-stuffed envelope with a handwritten address. He places these within his inside pocket. While he is kneeling on the hallway floor, he suddenly stoops, and aims the beam of his torch first at the carpet, then towards the radiator.
When Side-step appears at the door, the tape of the answering machine in his hand, Micky beckons, and points to an area of discoloration at the top of the radiator.
"Not rust." He points to the small dark blot on the chocolate coloured carpet. The two intruders exchange glances. "Looks like he wiped the worst of it off. Just missed the bit on the carpet, and couldn't reach down behind the radiator." Both men stand, glancing from the door to the radiator and back, a single thought in both minds. Yes, a man at the door struck suddenly might fall back, hitting his head on the corner of the radiator...
A little further along the hall, Side-step sees another tiny splash of darkness on the carpet, this time before one of the side-doors. He opens it, and finds himself in a bedroom. One roughly rectangular region of the polished wooden floor shows less sign of wear, dust and time than the rest. Side-step ducks his head back through the door to the hall.
"Rug's been nicked from this room."
Isobel feels curiously restless as she lies in bed, trying to sleep. Repeatedly, as she slips towards sleep, she seems to hear voices from the next door hotel room, which startle her awake, without leaving her any concrete impression of the words that have been spoken.
After a while, as the edges of her consciousness become a little more softened and blurred, understanding the voices starts to become all important to her.
...there is something maddening about the muffled booming of the voices, and she starts trying to mouth along so as to catch at the words, to understand them. At last she can hear her own voice saying the words.
...Looks like Rain... it looks like rain...
Nonsense, darling, says the man without a face who walks beside her, there's no such thing as rain. That's why I never carry an umbrella. You mustn't carry an umbrella, that would be terribly bad for you...
...but it is raining... I can feel it and see it...
The man is walking ahead of her now, still talking to her as if she were beside him. She is following him along a narrow gorge. The rain is falling heavily here, and pulling the stones loose from the sides of the ravine. Already around their ankles a thick torrent surges, brown and foaming like coffee, but ice cold.
...wait for me, we can't go this way, how long have we been going this way?
Ahead of her, a deluge is coming, roaring down the ravine like a hungry, brown dragon, racing like a train through a tunnel of its own making. As it strikes at the ravine walls it seethes and tears, hurling clods the size of men as easily as ping-pong balls, but behind the foam and frenzy sweeps a towering, graceful, terrible mountain of moving water. Watching it, with a sickness and resignation beyond fear, she can almost feel its sheer unstoppable liquid weight against her limbs already.
There is nowhere to run, nothing, nothing to be done.
The faceless man flings up his arms as he is borne down and up and away by the water, and the next instant there is an icy crash of sensation as the water hits her frame. The shock knocks the terrible calm of resignation from her system in a second, and terror succeeds. She makes a convulsive effort to keep her head above water, her head, just her head, but she is immediately sucked down into the icy belly of the water monster. And there is no up here no down and the floor is here and here and here and nowhere and the sky is nowhere and there is only freezing turbulence of water turning her over and over and over as her lungs start to burst...
For several minutes after Isobel wakes, she gasps helplessly, unable to convince herself that she can still breathe.
The next day, Professor Twitchin renews his investigations from a phone box on the outskirts of Whitby. A quick survey of the telephone directory reveals that there are no less than seven R. Rains in the region. None of the addresses paired with these numbers match the address on Ryan Rain's driving licence.
The Professor rings the first number in the list.
"Hello, is Ryan there?"
"Ryan? I'm sorry, we've no-one of that name here. I think you have a wrong number." Twitchin apologises, hangs up, and repeats the procedure with the next number. In one case the phone is not answered, but in the other six cases the Professor is informed that he has a wrong number.
Not discouraged, the Professor moves on to the other items found in Rain's pockets. He retrieves the two pieces of paper with telephone numbers on them from the dead man's wallet, and reaches for the receiver once more.
A little to his surprise, he discovers that the first number puts him through to the art gallery in which Hendleby's paintings are displayed. He hangs up immediately.
The second number appears to be a mobile phone number. It rings for a long while, and then a man's voice answers.
"Is Ryan there?" There is a not inconsiderable pause.
"Can I ask who is calling please?" The words are articulated in a careful, deliberate and rather expressionless manner."
"This is Red calling." Another long pause.
"Can I ask to what this relates?"
"It's a rather sensitive matter."
"Then perhaps you will allow me to take a message, or a number upon which you may be reached. Ryan is not available for the moment."
"I think it would be better if I speak to him personally."
"Then it would seem that I cannot help you. Perhaps you will ring again." The Professor hesitates, tempted to give the message which he had prepared for any 'Ryan' that came to the phone. While he pauses, the other end of the line goes dead.
The Professor then places a call through to SITU headquarters.
"Executive Twitchin here. Any progress on the Fanlight and Fulk enquiry referred to in our briefing? Ah, still hunting for them, eh? Specifically, I'd like you to notify me of the absent reverend's motorcycle model, registration, etc. This is associated with my group's current enquiry. Well, as soon as possible. Yes, I suppose tomorrow will have to do. Please keep me informed of any developments in this enquiry. Thank you."
After hanging up, Twitchin telephones the safe house once again.
"Hello? Executive Twitchin here. Good morning, Mr Macket. I was wondering if there was any recording of Fanlight leaving the house on the night of Riggs' abduction on the security cameras? Oh, I see, the cameras were all down at the time, yes, I see. Do you have any historical recording of him or his bike, perhaps in the car park? Ah, jolly good, well dig out of the archives then, and keep me informed about what you find.
"By the way, how are things going with Hendleby's computer? Any joy with that yet? You've passed it on to a more specialised department elsewhere - then where should we direct enquiries? Ah, I see. Well as long as you can pass on their findings to us...."
Next, the Professor has recourse to the Yellow Pages. There appear to be more motorcycle garages than one might expect in the Whitby area, but Twitchin has guessed correctly that few will specialise in repairing Harleys. Those that do advertise themselves as Harley specialists, Twitchin calls in turn, posing as an insurance investigator, and stating that a client, Ryan Rain, had claimed that his bike had been repaired there in recent weeks. The second call bears fruit.
"I thought Ryan and his insurance company parted on bad terms months ago," comes the cheerful reply
"Mr Rain has only been a client for a short time."
"Crumbs, his premiums must be through the roof by now! If they're not, he's not giving you a full picture, mate. Look, I'll do you a favour, but I didn't do this, OK? Here's the address of his last insurance company - you can get the dirt from them.
"Ryan drives like he thinks he's immortal. He's a War-steed, of course, and the whole gang drive a bit like that. But Ryan really is something special, even by their standards. I'm surprised he isn't dead..."
In the mid morning, Culver, Stone and Micky leave the Cove Hotel, and stroll in the direction of the Arabian Nights Theatre. While the two psychiatrists exchange their views on the two Montmorencies, Micky strolls along a few paces behind, truculent and watchful.
Stone had been watching Cato carefully during their last meeting, and he now confides in Culver his opinion that Cato's manner had concealed a degree of suspicion towards his new acquaintances.
"A little more honesty might be a good policy, especially if, as you suggest, old Cato's sharper than he looks. Just a little honesty, mind."
At the poster-covered door, Culver knocks gently, then a little louder. There is no response. He pushes the door inwards, and the group enter.
"Cato? Lydia? Hello?" The threesome edge gingerly along the dingy corridor and into the foyer. From across the foyer they hear the sound of a conversation, and the occasional laugh of a woman. As they draw closer, they can hear the whirr of the projector, and realise that a film is being shown in the little theatre.
Lydia is seated once again on the platform at the base of the screen. When they enter, she turns and gives an elegant little wave that contrives somehow to be both regal and invalid, despite the fact that she is holding a lollipop in her hand.
On the screen, a beautiful woman with a white flowing thirties-style dress reclines along a bench, next to her admirer, in the same pose as Lydia.
"I love the night," she says, her voice high, clipped, and terribly English, "night's the only time I feel really alive."
Obeying the beckon of their little hostess, the three visitors move down the aisle of the theatre and seat themselves in the front row.
As they sit down, Lydia glances over their heads towards the entrance, and waves. Turning their heads, the SITU members discover that Cato has just emerged through the door, with an open package of chips in either hand. He has halted in aisle, apparently a little taken aback. Then his face relaxes into a smile once again, and he joins the group at the front of the theatre. Guessing that Lydia would not welcome interruptions to the film, the visitors content themselves with smiling at Cato warmly.
Fortunately the film seems to be fairly near to its termination. The girl in the white dress tries to vampirise her fiancé, is abducted by Dracula, is rescued by Van Helsing, and is finally seen walking with her true love towards the sunlight, to the chiming of church bells. As the cast list appears, Lydia turns from the screen, to indicate that conversation is once more permitted.
"I'm glad you came back."
"Well, we did enjoy 'tea with the Countess' the other day. It's a very under-rated classic in its own right, and I'm glad that they retained Edward Van Sloan from the original Dracula." Having invested in a cinematic reference book the day before, Culver has been doing a little superficial research. He is rewarded by an ecstatic beam on the face of Lydia.
"In addition - um, I guess we owe you something of an explanation for the scene at Hendleby's studio." Culver studies his hosts' face carefully as he continues. "We're not from any hospital arts committee - as I'm sure you sussed - and we'd only walked in on the dead biker a moment before you, Cato. We are looking for Karl Hendleby, though; we reckon he might've been the last person to see a friend of ours - Benedict, a chap whose portrait he painted.
"Look, we know Karl's mixed up in something dangerous - something that involves one Emmanuel, right?"
"Oh, we know Emmanuel, don't we, Cato? He's very beautiful, don't you think he's beautiful? We always wanted Karl to paint him."
"I guess you mean Emmanuel Staithes. Yes, we hang out sometimes. But Emmanuel wouldn't hurt Karl, they're friends." Cato frowns slightly and seems a little puzzled.
"Anyway, Benedict was one of the good guys and he was - is - my friend. If either of you does know where he is... well, we'd be eternally grateful."
"Oh, we'd like to help you find your friend, wouldn't we, Cato?" Lydia clasps her hands.
"Yes, but, um, you see, there's a bit of problem. I can't find Karl. I've been trying, trying and trying because I've been getting worried, but I haven't found him yet."
"But Cato will find him, and if Karl is in trouble, Cato will make it better." Lydia lies back stretching like a cat, and yawns, then extends her arms towards her brother. "Tired," she whispers into his lapel as Cato lifts her from the platform like an over-sized kitten.
"Er... I know it's none of my business, but... well, I am a doctor and I was wondering, are you, um, ill, Lydia?" The girl blinks a few times as if she does not fully understand Culver's question, then turns her cheek back to rest against her brother's chest.
"Cato looks after me. And Dr Pym helps too. But Cato looks after me."
"I'll be back in a moment," Cato whispers to his guests as he carries his slender burden up the aisle. After a few minutes he returns.
"When Lydia has things that worry her she gets tired very quickly. I don't like her to be worried about things. But as for Karl, I think... I think we should help each other find him. I'll talk to some of my other friends who are looking out for him. Everybody likes him, you see."
The group meet up back at the hotel for lunch. Isobel is noticeably distracted in her manner.
"Just a bad dream I had," she explains trying to laugh it off, but the sense of the dream flavours every breath she draws. Halfway through the meal, she excuses herself, and returns to her room.
For some ten minutes, she sits next to the phone, staring at it. With perfect certainty she knows that the effect of the dream can only be dispelled by hearing her husband's voice, by hearing him laugh at her fancies.
She picks up the receiver, dials her home telephone number, and immediately hangs up. After a few breaths, she lifts it and dials again.
The phone rings and rings. At last it is answered. Isobel holds her breath.
"Hello?" It is the voice of a stranger.
"I'm sorry, I think I've got a wrong number."
"Are you trying to contact Henry Blyth's premises?"
"Yes, I - this is his wife."
"I see." The man at the other end clearly covers his receiver for a moment, to speak to a third person. Isobel hears a few muffled words. "...his wife... no, I'll tell her..." Then the receiver is uncovered at the end.
"Mrs Blyth." The voice is speaking far more gently now. Isobel listens, breathing heavily in a calm and patient terror, in the shadow of the towering approach of the unbearable, the unstoppable. "I'm afraid that there has been a very serious accident..."
Looking down, Isobel can see that the room is starting to fill with water. It is already as high as her shins, but she cannot feel it. It is brown and foamy like coffee, but somehow ghostly, insubstantial.
"Mrs Blyth, are you there? I'm so terribly, terribly sorry..."
The receiver slips out of her hand, and she crumples into a sitting position. She presses her hands to her ears to cut out the roar of the rain.
The water is as high as her chin, and she cannot, cannot breathe...
The six other SITU members eventually leave the restaurant, and retire as usual to Stone's room to compare findings. As they pass Andrew's room, however, he pauses.
"Now, I am quite certain that I closed that behind me." He indicates the open door of his room. The group exchange glances, and then proceed carefully.
The room appears on first sight to be entirely untouched. However, Andrew then notices that on the pillow of the bed lies a single sheet of paper. Upon this are a few lines of printed text.
"To who it may concern,
It seems that we have both made an error.
We have one of your colleagues. You have one of our colleagues. It would be to our mutual benefit if we could arrange an exchange at the first opportunity.
I will telephone at ten tonight.
Yours in good faith,