The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Witless In Whitby
"Who was trying to open the window?" asks Stone in a hushed tone, aware that raised voices might attract the attention of other guests. "Who can't we trust?"
"Him - I heard you talking with him after you rescued us. Those bastards must have implanted him into my head... and he's working for them." He raises one hand to the side of his forehead, fingers hooked, as if he were about to claw at his own temple. "Quick, we don't have time to lose..."
"Wait a moment." Stone puts a hand on Riggs' arm. "If the vampires need to be invited in, then why not sit tight? Surely if we run out of the hotel we might be playing into their hands."
"Do you think walls can keep them out? Do you think anything can keep them out?" Riggs snatches his arm away from Stone's calming hand. "If they find us here we're done for. We need to go, now." Detecting danger signs in the American's body language, Stone takes a step backwards and lowers his hand to his side.
Micky gives the others a resigned glance. "He's right, you know. They know who we are and where we are, and you can guarantee that they're well and truly pissed. I, for one, am getting out of this death trap." He turns back to Riggs. "Riggs, get your shit together, we are out of here now. And I suggest that the rest of you do the same."
"I'll go with you, Benny." The Professor rubs some of the sleep out of his eyes. "Just give me a moment to get dressed." After exchanging glances, the others return to their rooms and begin to throw their belongings into cases.
As John Stone quickly packs his backpack, he is aware of Benedict Riggs hovering in the corridor, occasionally cocking his head as if to listen for something. By the time the party regroup in the corridor, hastily dressed, packing cases in hand, Riggs is shaking with what appears to be a painful degree of nervous tension.
"...they knock on the door, you see," he is muttering under his breath, "and meanwhile through the windows they come... no one expecting that. They must be here already... on the roofs, perhaps... or floating on the mist..."
"Let's get down to reception, pay the bill, and go." Micky leads the way. At the doorway to the main lobby, however, he halts, so abruptly that Twitchin following immediately behind almost cannons into him.
"Get back into the corridor!" Micky has sighted four men standing at reception, all dressed in casual overcoats. One of them is in the process of raising a police badge for the inspection of the receptionist. As Micky watches, the receptionist takes down the registration book, turns a few pages, then turns the book around to face the policeman, and taps one page with her finger tip. The policeman appears to ask another question, making a gesture towards the rack of room keys, and the receptionist nods. She steps out from behind the desk, and starts to lead the four men in the direction of the corridor in which the party are hiding.
"Quick! In here!" Side-step pushes open a door labelled 'Leisure Room.' "Maybe we can slip out after they've gone past." The leisure room is almost entirely dark, a few strands of light visible through the slats of a blind at the opposite window. "No-one turn the light on - they'd see it under the door." Twitchin is the last to enter, and closes the door behind the group. Standing in the darkness next to Riggs, he is aware that a thin, incoherent whisper is still issuing from his friend's lips.
"I think they've gone past." Micky's voice, from a curiously low position, as if he had been kneeling by the door to watch the passing of feet in the corridor outside.
"They know we're armed. Those four men will have some kind of backup within call. My guess is that the entrance to the hotel will be watched."
"Do you know if there's any other way out of here? What about that window?"
After bruising his hip against the edge of a pool table in the dark, Side-step reaches the window, and carefully eases up the blind, allowing a little light to ease into the room and show the operatives one another's faces once again.
"There seems to be some sort of little yard out here, with dustbins and stuff. There's a gate - I reckon we could get out this way. Here, move that pool table over here - we can use it for a leg up."
Riggs is first out through the window. Twitchin emerges next, wondering at the frequency with which he seems to be leaving buildings in this fashion nowadays. When he recovers his feet, he is surprised and not a little alarmed to find that Benedict Riggs has vanished. The gate is ajar, and swinging gently in the breeze.
As he listens, from the opposite side of the wall he hears a faint, choked cry, followed by a thud. A man bounds through the gate. Twitchin has drawn a breath to call out a warning to the others, when he recognises the man as Riggs.
"The way's clear now." Benedict's eyes have a curious glitter.
Stone climbs through the window, followed by Andrew, then Micky, and finally Side-step. As the group pass quickly through the gate and into the street beyond, Twitchin notices that on the far side of the street, a man is huddled in a doorway. He might almost have been mistaken for a homeless person sheltering from the wind, were it not for the fact that his overcoat seems to be in a rather good state of repair, and the way that his head is lolling unnaturally, as if his neck were broken. The Professor glances at Riggs and says nothing.
"Well, I guess we leave paying the bill for another day," mutters Micky. "Where do we go now, another hotel?"
"Perhaps we can find somewhere further down the coast. I'll drive with Benny here. Side-step, would you care to accompany us? Perhaps you other gentlemen could take the other car. We can keep in touch by phone."
"... they still may be watching us... their terrible eyes, like glass knives... cutting and cutting away my skin... seeing into my veins and my brain... got to get away, away, away from their eyes, from his eyes. Got to get away from the Master..." Riggs's eyes move rapidly, as if they were monitoring the erratic flight of some grotesque insect.
As the lights of Whitby fade in the rear window of Twitchin's car, Side-step casts occasional glances at Riggs seated beside him. All traces of the previous day's self control has apparently evaporated. Riggs' muttered monologue has sunk from a whisper to a mere suspiration of which only a few words are comprehensible. His hands convulsively clench and unclench, and periodically a small spasm passes through the muscles of his jaw.
"Benny," says the Professor gently, "I think we've probably shaken off any pursuit by now. Can you tell us what all that was about? I thought there might be some things you wouldn't want to discuss in front of the others."
"...yes, I think they were waiting to come down from the roofs. In through my window like cats. He would have let them in if I hadn't stopped him." Again the feeble clawing motion towards his head. "You mustn't believe him... I think he was lying about the house, but I don't remember... just eyes, walls of eyes burning my mind... my Master comes with eyes like steel, and claws like knives to make me feel, and teeth like knives to tear my soul apart and eat it whole... damn you, Maurice, you bastard..."
"Steady, Benny, you're safe now. We'll take you somewhere where neither the vampires nor SITU can find you."
"It talked to me in my cell, and promised to help me escape - I saw the red eyes go out on the security cameras, and the sirens didn't sound when I ran to the fence. But then, out on the moor... like a man and like a pillar of mist as well... with eyes as big as the sun. I couldn't run fast enough - there were other Things waiting on the moors, they looked like men but they weren't.
"You have to believe me - he's dangerous, and he's working for them. I'm not mad, you know," he rounds suddenly, almost aggressively on Side-step, as if in response to such an accusation. "This isn't a mad fit. He may be mad, I'm not. I am a sane man fighting for..." He raises his hand to his head, looking confused, and falls silent.
In the rear view mirror, Twitchin catches Side-step's eye, and raises an eyebrow.
"OK." Stone pushes down the aerial on his mobile phone. "We have a set of rooms booked at the Latimer Hotel, in Robin Hood's Bay. I'll phone Side-step and let him know."
Robin Hood's Bay proves to be a small coastal town that sprawls down a slope so steep that the houses seem to be clumsily stacked one on top of another, and to be in danger of toppling forward into the sea. The main street runs down through the centre of the town to the little quay. With some difficulty, the agents find a parking space by the waterfront.
The Latimer Hotel is a rather shabby, white building halfway up the slope, with an unpretentious apron of concrete spread out before it serving as a patio and offering a rather striking view of the bay.
Stone, Andrew and Micky enter their details in the registration book while the yawning receptionist watches the flickering figures of two wrestlers on a little black and white television before him.
"You're lucky you caught me awake - yes, here we are. There'll be a deposit for the key, if you don't mind."
Twitchin nods, and fishes out his wallet.
"Yes - terribly kind of you, such short notice, could have sworn I'd remembered to phone ahead, tut, mind like a sieve..."
Against all odds, Twitchin has succeeded in hiring a caravan in a site at Hawsker, three miles south-east of Whitby. The little caravan site is situated on the top of a cliff, with only a thin fence to soften the punch of the wind from across the grim, gunmetal sea.
"Here we are." Their guide's torch beam flicks over a slightly elderly-looking caravan painted in faded cream-and-caramel colours. "You've timed it well - looks like the weather's going to change in an hour or two." As the site attendant fumbles laboriously through his pockets for the key to the caravan, Side-step and Twitchin cast occasional glances at Riggs, wondering how far his peculiar demeanour has escaped attention. He has resumed his old habit of glancing skyward, as if in expectation of imminent attack.
"I'm going to stay with him for a bit," whispers Side-step. "Look at him - he's not fit to be left alone..."
What did Karl Hendleby say about him? 'Too sharp...'
The other man walks back towards the bed, with a smile that is pleasant, indeed almost charming, and eyes that say absolutely nothing. Bound and helpless at the hands of an implacably sadistic captor - well, we've been here before often enough, and got a kick out of it. But of course, this time it's not make-believe...
A suede gloved hand reaches out and turns over the fetish of Ezili, causing the mirror to flash a faint rectangle of light up into the face of the man by the bed. This illumination shows the features of a man even younger than Culver had at first estimated, perhaps still in his mid-twenties. The pupils in the greenish-amber eyes visibly shrink as the light catches them. Directing an amused and questioning smile at his captive, he replaces the fetish gently on the eagle tattoo that decorates the left hand side of Culver's chest, over his heart. The suede feels warm, almost animate, like a living hide, and despite the oppression of the darkened room, Culver feels a faint thrill at the contact.
What game is he playing? Is it the old 'good cop, bad cop' routine? Or is he really working to his own agenda?
"'Trust me, I'm a doctor?'" Matt Culver smiles a little bitterly. "I've used that one myself. Are you a doctor?"
"Yes, as it happens. Yes, I am. I have the diplomas to prove it. In several names." The stranger laughs softly, and Culver recognises the quiet chuckle he had heard in the darkened interrogation room. "A fellow medical man, Dr Culver. Although I think our fields are a little different. Yours is forensic psychiatry, am I right?" He glances down at his clipboard. "Yes, here we are... studied medicine at Aberdeen University, later to become a senior lecturer in forensic psychiatry at the Maudsley. I've had about a week to do some checking up on you, Dr Culver. Some of it makes very interesting reading. But nowhere does it describe you as someone with a stigmata obsession."
Matt Culver wets his lips as he struggles to decide how much to tell this new interrogator. The stranger's proximity makes it almost impossible to think clearly. This is in part a result of a sickly sense of mortal danger, and the strange, choking, electric atmosphere of the room. But only in part.
"You're right, of course," he says, eventually. "I haven't told your friends the whole story."
Maurice, if it is he, sits in a chair beside the bed, leans back and gently rests his finger tips together, his pose suggesting a parody of the caring doctor listening with concern to a report of his patient's woes.
"I have become sensitive to sunlight and garlic, and certain of my colleagues had become suspicious. - that much is true. And we all wanted Benedict back, of course." Culver sneaks a glance at his companion as he pauses, but Maurice's face is in perfect repose. "Anyway, we got your letter and Side-step came up with the idea of the hostage swap -"
"Side-step? I'm assuming that this is a nickname of some sort."
"Yes - I don't think he gave us any other name." Although determined to avoid outright lies where possible, Culver decides to risk one untruth. "Anyway, he came up with the hostage swap idea - except we didn't actually have Emmanuel to give away. I was, um, elaborating when I claimed my colleagues made me take his place, though. Nobody forced me to do anything, I volunteered." A very slight nod from Maurice. Culver continues swiftly, so that the other man will not have time to ask where Emmanuel is.
"I knew things would go wrong, that I'd be captured. At some level I think I wanted this to happen." Culver lets out a long, weary sigh of a breath, and half-closes his eyes. Through his lashes, he can see that Maurice is inspecting him with interest, faint little embers of luminescence moving behind his eyes like marsh-lights as his gaze quests to and fro over Culver's face. Then his eyes narrow slightly like those of a contented cat.
"You must be very happy." His tone is impossible to read.
"Enquiring minds need to know, eh? I'm dying - but you know that already. A nasty little virus from a nasty big man called Darius." The lights are dancing in Maurice's eyes once again, but there is no way of telling whether they signify laughter, doubt, pity, anger... "A man who thought he was a vampire.
"The search for answers led me to SITU and, ultimately, to you guys. This meeting was always going to happen one way or another: fate, karma, Thanatos, call it what you like. I mean, I may be a bloody drama queen but I'm not about to spend my final days waltzing around with a drip stand to Maria sodding Callas. If I must shuffle off this mortal coil, I'd at least like to find out why." Realising that the volume of his voice has risen sharply, he strains to rein in his temper, and swallows down his anger. He manages a bitter smile, and even a slight shrug of his shoulders, despite the confinement of his limbs..
"As you say, it's only a matter of time before I pop my clogs anyway, so I offered to stand in for your angelic friend and here I am. That's what's going on." Raising his lids, Culver looks directly into his captor's face. Into eyes that are windows onto a deep, emerald-green evening sky, in which the stars swim like silver fish...
"Don't blame your situation on fate - that attitude is unworthy of you. You have created your own fate, chosen your own path. If this meeting was inevitable, it was because you had chosen that it should be."
"Well, is anyone likely to enlighten me before I die?" The long-suppressed anger and anguish erupt once again, swamping even Culver's sense of fear. "Isn't it traditional to explain the 'evil master plan' in the last scene?" The other man laughs out loud.
"I believe it is, shortly before one allows the hero to escape, and then absent-mindedly rests one's elbow on the self-destruct button for one's secret base."
"What's killing me, doctor? Am I becoming undead? Or just dead?"
"Ah, well that's the question, isn't it? Which would you prefer? You are perhaps unique in having a choice in the matter." Maurice leans forward in his chair once more. "What's killing you? A virus, as you say, but as you may have already guessed, not one of the usual strains of AIDS. In approximately 96% of cases the symptoms of this strain are virtually indistinguishable from those of ordinary AIDS, but in a few sufferers there are... differences. Yes, you are changing, but without help you will not complete the transformation. You will die.
"I sympathise. When I was... your age... I had a horror of death. I had a dread of feeling my body gradually cease to obey me, through illness or age, of knowing that my vitality was ebbing away inch by inch, of every day losing the battle against death... feeling my muscles slacken, knowing that my arteries were pumping a sluggish poison around my body instead of the rich, vital blood of youth..." Culver feels a gloved finger tip trace a line along the vein in the hollow of his forearm. "...knowing that my personality, my hopes, my dreams, my most enlightened imaginings, were dependent upon the continued motion of a lump of meat and muscle on the left hand side of my chest, a lump of meat that some day would become no more than meat.
"Even when I was a child, I used to lie awake wondering what that last moment would be like, when the heart finally stopped, the blood slowed, and the stars in the heaven of the brain went out one by one. And I used to wonder, as the clock of the brain slows down and stops, would one keep a sense of time? Or would time slow, and at last stop, so that one was caught for eternity in that last thought, that final terror and despair, incapable of moving to another thought, or dissolving into darkness and nothingness? What's your professional opinion, Dr Culver?"
Matt Culver closes his eyes, suddenly exhausted by his own outburst and the state of sustained tension in which he has been existing. Maurice's soft, pleasant voice continues, each word seemingly drawing pictures from some unattended corner of Culver's own mind.
"I escaped from the nightmare. You can too. A few days from now you could be able to run without tiring, to lift a heavy object without reaching for a strength that you remember and finding it gone. You followed your instincts, Matt. Do you mind if I call you Matt? You found your way to the only people who can help and accept you. You found your way home.
"Matt, where is Emmanuel?" The dreaded question.
"I don't know. My guess is that SITU still has him." True enough, after a fashion. "Why would SITU want to tell anything important to someone like me?" The bitterness is genuine enough - Culver hopes that Maurice will sense this.
"Tell me more about SITU."
A mental image of Benedict Riggs' haunted face passes through Culver's mind, and a warm pang of anger floods his chest.
"What do you want to know?"
Twitchin rejoins the rest of the group at the Latimer Hotel a little after three. The group snatch a few hours sleep, and rise in time for a meagre, greasy breakfast in the draughty little dining room, before retreating back to the privacy of their rooms.
"John, can I borrow your phone?" John Stone hands his mobile phone over to Andrew, who dials one of the contact numbers for SITU. At the other end of the line, he recognises the voice of Brett Piner.
With a certain blunt efficiency, Andrew reports the details of the ill-fated hostage swap.
"You asked for any information we could get on the vampires. Well, the best news is that the enemy use phones, cars and guns, which suggests that their paranormal powers are limited. On the bad side, they can withstand a shot in the head.
"The fact that they continue to function after loss of a large part of the brain could be explained if the bodies are animated by a host spirit using some sort of telekinesis. The important question is whether a leg will function if the hip is removed."
"That would be most useful to know - if you should happen to discover this, or anything else, an immediate report..."
"Right now it's us that need more information. We need to have a report on all the probable abilities of these creatures - if the body is lost, what will the spirit do? Will it just try and get a new one, such as one of us?"
"That seems unlikely. I don't know how these creatures would compensate for loss of customarily vital organs, but we have had no reports of them transferring from one body to another. With regard to other SITU missions against this sort of creature, I believe that briefings have already been sent to the appropriate members of your group." Piner seems a little less hesitant than before, and Andrew starts to suspect that the other man has received some briefing since their last meeting.
"Well, send us any more information you've got. And while we're on the subject, we're going to need some big guns if we're going to get through this alive. We'll all need pump action shotguns, maybe SG14 "Winchester M1300 Black Shadow" and about 250 rounds apiece. And we'll need some mixed rounds of lead, steel and silver, perhaps twenty per shotgun -"
"Agent Weiser, may I remind you that your operation is taking place in a quiet coastal town in North Yorkshire? You do recall our policy with regard to field operatives who cross the police..."
"Yes, yes, I know, if I get in trouble with the police I'm on my own. But we can't help being in trouble with the police - they are the trouble, and they lost my sympathy when they started allying themselves with these creatures." Despite his best efforts to keep his tone level, Andrew is starting to lose his temper. "Anyway, in addition to the shotguns, we'll need at least one assault rifle."
There is a short pause
"Did you say assault rifle?" Piner asks faintly.
"Yes, that's spelt A-S-S-A-U-L-T, you stupid deskw-" Andrew pauses, and takes a deep breath before raising the phone to his ear again. "And not one of these modern toy gun types - we'll need a NATO 7.62. And a L1A1 (FN FAL)."
"That's... that's an anti-tank weapon, isn't it?"
"Yes. Well, I'll make do with a AK-47, if you want to punish me. Though if you can find me a H&K G3 you'll have a friend for ever. But I know that the British army have some L1A1's in oil..."
"That is as maybe, sir, but we do not have access to British Army supplies. May I point out that we are in no way a governmental body? Agent Weiser, I'm afraid that all this simply won't be possible -"
"Look, I know that SITU have access to some big guns, and this is an emergency."
"I regret to say that 'had access' would be a more accurate term. Recent events have resulted in the seizure of one of our largest stores of armaments by the police - it's simply not possible..."
"Look, do I have to spell this out to you? If we don't get some proper weapons we are going to die. At the moment, the enemy outclass us in all fields. There are many more of them than there are of us, they're at least as smart as we are, in a fight they're practically immune to our attacks, while we can die by a single attack from them, and last but not least they have the authorities on their side. If you can't get to grips with this, then we'll be lucky if we're only captured, interrogated and killed."
"I'll do my best, and see what I can order for you, Agent Weiser." Piner sounds intimidated and unhappy. "But the fact is that the weapons you have requested simply may not be available."
Andrew fumes silently for a few moments after hanging up.
"Well, with or without SITU's help, we can't sit around waiting to be eaten. I've had it with subtlety. We need to take the fight to the enemy. Micky, what's the chance that you can get hold of a RPG-7 or a M42 LAW? Could Side-step's contacts get us some?"
Borrowing Stone's phone, the Professor puts a call through to Isobel's mobile phone. She answers, sounding somewhat tired and fragile.
"Just thought I'd see how things were going your end... and... er... if there was anything I can do to help... or anything... er..." Despite suffering the effects of several nights of troubled sleep, Isobel is stirred to a smile by the warmth of intention behind Twitchin's kindly incoherencies.
"I'm alright, thank you, I'm just having some bad dreams. As a matter of fact I was planning to call and talk to one of our psychiatrists about it. Are John or Matt there?"
"Matt? Ah. Of course. You don't know..." The Professor gives a quick account of the events of the hostage swap. Isobel listens with growing concern.
"Is there anything I could do to help? Perhaps I could try and sense his location psychically. I've never attempted something like that before, but I could give it a go and then phone you back if I find anything out. I was also planning to go to London, and see if I could hunt down those books by Andrew Collins."
"Good idea - I was planning to visit our friend Operative 'K' and ask him a few more questions along those lines myself."
With a snort of annoyance, Micky throws down the telephone directory, which have failed to yield the details of Chief Superintendent Star. Directory enquiries prove equally fruitless. A call to Whitby Town Council establishes that the relevant council records are not available to the public.
After a hesitation, Micky picks up the phone again.
"Mr Piner? This is Agent Thomas. Here's a nice easy task for you this time. Can you get some of your people to browse the internet and see if they can find the home address of Chief Superintendent Star? Or get them to hack into the local council records and find it out that way?"
"I'll see what I can do." There are muffled voices at the other end of the line. Angela, are Agents Smith and Masterson in the country at the moment? Good, find me their phone numbers... there is a crackle, and Piner's voice comes through clearly once more. "I'm going to get some people onto it. I'll phone you back as soon as I get some information."
Finding herself glad to flee from the solitude of her own house, Isobel pulls out of her driveway, and drives towards London. Her new quest to aid Culver offers at least some distraction for her mind, and she welcomes the opportunity for activity.
Browsing the occult bookshops, she is eventually able to find copies of the Black Alchemist and the Second Coming. She purchases them, and puts them aside for later reading. She then seeks out books which might give her some guidelines upon psychically tracing missing individuals.
Many books give accounts of psychics aiding the police in missing persons cases. Often the psychic in question requires contact with an item of importance to the individual in question. In other cases, map dowsing is used, the pendulum and map allowing the psychic to 'tune in' to the location represented. The Dutch clairvoyant, Gerard Croiset, is reported to have had particular success in tracing missing aircraft and people using this method, and in 1966 it is claimed that the Irish psychic Thomas Trench helped the Belgian police track down the body of one of their murdered officers.
"What do you have in the way of flash guns?"
"What sort of camera would these be for, sir?"
"Oh, these aren't to be used with a camera. I've got to be able to operate them manually, independent of a camera. Oh, and they better be able to recharge very quickly. And I want 'em bright. Brightest you got." The man behind the counter at the camera shop looks at Micky askance.
"I'm not quite sure I understand what you're planning to use these for, sir."
"To keep vampires at bay, what else?" Micky gives a Cheshire cat grin from which the other man recoils with a certain amount of ease. After fumbling behind the counter, he places three flash guns next to the till. Micky pays, leaves the shop, and walks back to the Latimer Hotel.
Back in the rooms, he discovers that Stone, following a similar thought, has bought himself a large, very bright torch. While they are comparing purchases, Andrew strides in, a large parcel under one arm, wrapped in brown paper and bound with tape.
Andrew tears off some of the paper.
"Scuba harpoon." His colleagues swiftly move out of his line of fire. "I've got a couple more in the boot of my car. The range on these things isn't great, but it still packs a hell of a punch."
"Good job." Micky nods approvingly, and reaches for the mobile phone. "I'll phone Side-step and see what he can do about getting us some sawn-off pump action shotguns to go with these..."
A little after lunch, Piner telephones Micky.
"We have an address for you. It was not available on the internet, but one of our more computer literate Agents, er, used his ingenuity with the council records. Chief Superintendent Star lives at Weatherstone Cottage, Brent Row. I'll give you some directions..."
Micky listens, takes notes, then thanks Piner and hangs up.
"Right. I'm for heading back over to Whitby in the car and checking out the area, to see what the odds are of breaking into the place. Anyone want to come with me?" All the other members of the group are interested in returning to Whitby, Stone to have another talk with Cato Montmorency, Twitchin to examine the abbey further, and Andrew to visit the Wreckers again and have another talk with the War steeds. "Right, let's go. But let's keep an eye out - the police are looking for us, remember?"
Back in her own house, Isobel kneels on the living room floor, a large-scale map of North Yorkshire spread before her.
With a certain pang, she takes off her wedding ring, marvelling at the crevice that it has worn into her finger over time. Tying it to the end of a length of cotton, she starts to swing this makeshift pendulum to and fro over the map, starting over Whitby, but then moving it gently outward, first one way, then another.
What did the book say? Tune into the location...
For a space of about an hour, she lets the pendulum swing over the map, watching the pendulum for any irregularities in its swinging, and feeling her arm getting stiff. Unequipped with any personal items belonging to Culver, she contents herself with concentrating upon her memory of him. Automatically, she remembers the strange, rather claustrophobic sense she had sometimes experienced when in close proximity to him, and focuses upon this.
In order to get a clearer memory of this sensation, she takes her gaze off the pendulum and closes her eyes.
...and there is a brief flash of light, as if an image has been projected in that instant onto the inside of her lids, an image of grey sky, flattened grass, a kaleidoscopic whirl of white, a pillar of snow..
The image fades the next instant, teasing and eluding her. She lets the arm holding the pendulum fall to her side, and pursues the picture. It dissolves in her grasp, much as the reflection on the surface of water might break up under a clutching hand. But it moves on before her, and there, there, something is reaching back to her, yearning to make contact, like a hand reaching towards her own... with an effort she makes contact, takes the hand.
...a tower of some sort, paint gleaming white in the sun... gulls performing their giddy carousel around its summit... grass surrounding it... a road in the distance...the darkened cavities of three windows...
She has the image. Opening her eyes, she quickly scribbles the details down, and draws a faint sketch. In her mind, she can still feel the link she has established.
She can sense nothing from the other end. Perhaps he is asleep, or unconscious. As she extends her senses down the link, she feels suddenly like one who has picked up a ringing telephone only to hear nothing at the other end, not even the sound of breathing...
Brent Row proves to be a quiet, almost suburban little lane to the south-west of Whitby, beyond the cramped central jumble of streets. Most of the cottages have at least a reasonable pretence at a front garden, and have a comfortably affluent appearance.
Outside Star's house, a somewhat corpulent woman in a lemon-coloured cardigan is hanging clothes on the line. The clothes on the washing line range in size from baby clothes, through school uniforms for a teenage girl, to adult shirts and dresses. By the front door, a child's bike is parked. Micky's sharp eyes also pick out the box of a burglar alarm high up one wall.
"Hmm. A family. That's going to make things difficult."
Following directions given by Micky and Side-step, Andrew finds his way to the Wreckers. Today, there are only a handful of bikes located outside. Strolling in, he sees some four or five men in leather jackets lounging in a sunny corner of the room. One of them, to judge by his pained winces each time voices are raised, is painfully hung over. The others seem to be engaged in teasing him on this score. The most verbal is a man with a thick red beard, whom Andrew recognises from his colleagues' description. As Andrew approaches, he looks up, challenging, questioning, but not actively hostile.
"Excuse me, are you friend of Ryan Rain?"
"Might be." The biker frowns a little. "Who's asking?"
"A casual friend of his." Given that Rain will probably never be able to deny this, Andrew decides to risk the lie. "I've been trying to hunt out his friends. There's some things I think you need to know..."
Knowing that the bikers already suspect that Rain has been arrested by the police, Andrew hints at contacts who have informed him that Rain is not in jail, but dead, killed through a clumsy piece of 'interrogation' by the police.
"They're covering it up of course, but some friends and I are trying to dig up the truth." The bikers exchange glances. Even the hangover sufferer seems to have forgotten his headache, and stares at Andrew open-mouthed.
"Shit. Yeah, find out what you can, and then phone me. You can reach me here - I'm staying with my brother who runs this place. Ask for Thor." The red-bearded man wipes his hand slowly down his mouth, chin and beard. "If Ryan's been wiped out, you find out which of the bastards did it and tell us, OK? And if they give you some hassle, and you need backup, you get in touch with me, OK? That's not an offer, that's a fucking order."
"Looking for buried treasure?"
"Goodness, no, just lost the wife's wedding ring, old chap. Just looking for it on the offchance."
Professor Twitchin's already overtaxed wallet has been raided once again in order to equip him with a metal detector, so that he can search the abbey for markers, or other items of interest.
As he moves around the grass within the abbey, he is uncomfortably aware that he is approximately three times older than each of his fellow visitors to the site. As if they have fallen with the scattered morning rain, a number of young people have appeared, and are positioned on the grass or in some cases the stone with a confident, proprietorial air, tempered in some cases with symptoms of fatigue and rough sleeping.
Like a row of shabby black birds gathering on a telephone wire in preparation for migration to warmer climes, some six or seven men and women of university age are perched along the wall that flanks the churchyard, gazing out to sea with apparent disinterest, hunching against the wind for all the world like starlings bolstering their sullen feathers against the cold. One of the smaller women has fallen asleep against her taller companion, her fish-net stocking-clad legs dangling over the side of the wall.
The Professor succeeds in detecting a few abandoned lager cans, but nothing of obvious occult significance. As he is preparing to leave the abbey, he notices two men in overcoats standing near the entrance of the abbey. One of them he recognises as Star's companion in the Rohilla. Doubling back on himself, he heads away from the two men, who do not appear to have noticed him, and takes the route towards the Cleveland Way, deciding that it is better to take a long route back to the centre of town than to risk recognition.
Somewhat to Stone's surprise, the door to the Arabian Nights theatre is answered by a small girl in a black velvet bodice, with a mane of yellow dreadlocks falling to her waist. Around her eyes are painted a series of spirals, like exaggerated lashes. Through a rough hula skirt of ragged PVC, red and black striped woollen tights are visible.
"Can I speak to Cato?"
"Who shall I thay ith vithiting?" The girl examines her long black nails as he gives his name, and then vanishes from the doorway. A few moments later, Cato appears at the door. He is dressed in a rather flamboyant white shirt, such as might be worn in an early swashbuckling movie, and a leather waistcoat and trousers.
"I'm going to go and thkin up, OK, Cato?"
"Yes - I'll join you and the others soon, Poppy." The girl wanders away. "Um... we've got some friends over at the moment, Dr Stone. Halloween, you know." As he is led once again into the little lobby, Stone sees Poppy vanish into the room with the cinema screen. While the door is open, he glimpses some dozen or so people slouching over the seats. From the projection room issues the sound of a song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The audience appear to be attempting to sing along, with more enthusiasm than success.
"I'd like to talk to you privately. About Lydia."
"Um. Yeah. You better come with me." Cato pushes open the door to Lydia's little boudoir. "It's, er, it's OK to come in. She doesn't wake up, you see, not with the pills Dr Pym's given her. She won't know you've seen her room."
Lydia is curled at the centre of a nest of blankets, quilts and clothes. Her body is draped in a slip of dark blue silk, and her skin appears almost bluish, as if it were reflecting the colour of her clothing and her hair. Stone is relieved to note that her chest is still rising and falling, showing that she still breathes. Cato sits next to her, and carefully gathers her up into his arm. He smiles very gently as he spreads the fingers of one painfully delicate hand over his palm, and seems to forget his guest for a moment.
"I know about your sister's illness, and I'd like to help. I'm a doctor. I need to know what Dr Pym has been doing. Can you show me the medication he's been giving her?"
"Just painkillers recently. Stuff to make her sleep. She just doesn't wake up any more, with the new pills. Doesn't she look beautiful? Like one of those marble statues on tombs." Cato gives a little sob of a laugh. "I wish I could tell her that. She'd like that. Maybe I'll tell her when she wakes up." Glancing at the little bottle of pills by the bedside, amid the cluster of candles and curios, Stone is not surprised that she has sunk into this torpor.
"Cato, will you let me take a sample of her blood?" There is a pause while Montmorency smooths his sister's hair back from her face.
"Yes," he says, quietly. "But it won't do any good. She's dying." He turns his dazzled, slightly ingenuous gaze back to Stone. "Do you really want to help?" Stone nods. "Then take your friend away from here."
"I don't know what you mean -"
"Yes you do. That's why you're here. You don't really care about Lydia and me. No-one cares about Lydia and me except Lydia and me. They could help Lydia if they wanted but they won't - and they won't even admit it. They could turn her into one of them." Cato pulls back the sleeve of his own shirt and stares down at a long, purple wound down his forearm. "I tried to give her some of my blood. I thought it would help, but it just made her sick. That's why she has to be in the ritual.
"They're going to make someone into a vampire. There's something more to it than that, I know, something big that they're all excited about, but they haven't told me what. They were going to use Emmanuel for the ritual, and Dr Pym told me that he thought Emmanuel would go mad or die before the time for the ritual, and if he did then he'd make sure that they used Lydia instead. But now Emmanuel is missing, and when I ask if they're going to use Lydia they just change the subject. Dr Pym says he'll take care of everything, but I know when people are lying to me.
"They're going to use your friend, instead. Dr Matt Culver. I thought they might when I first talked to him - he's sick in the same way as Lydia, isn't he? You want me to help you get him back, don't you? I can, but I need promises from all of you that afterwards you'll just go, and won't interfere with the ritual. There has to be a ritual, and Lydia has to be made into a vampire." Cato seems to lose interest in his guest again, and sings a few bars of the song 'Blue Angel' under his breath, while gently running his fingers over Lydia's face.
"I'll talk to my friends."
"Yeah. Good. And, Dr Stone?" John Stone turns in the doorway, and meets the gaze of Cato's warm, wide, friendly, brown eyes. "If I help you, and you allow her to die... I'll kill you."
When Stone, Andrew, Twitchin and Micky return to Robin Hood's Bay, they find Side-step waiting for them at the Latimer Hotel. Riggs has at last relaxed from feverish anxiety into torpor, and thus seems safe to leave by himself for a while, although he has been given the number of Side-step's mobile phone in case of emergencies.
While they are discussing the findings of the day, Stone's mobile phone rings.
"Hello, Isobel. Are you alright? Your voice sounds a little, I don't know, strange."
"Yes, I'm fine." With a certain amount of excitement, Isobel describes the vision of the tower. "I don't know if it's connected, but perhaps you could have a look at towers or tall, tower-like buildings in the area."
Andrew takes out a map of Yorkshire, and spreads it on the floor.
"There are a number of lighthouses and beacons marked on the map. Maybe we should visit some of them tomorrow, and see if any of them match the description."
"Well, I hope it helps. I'm probably going to turn in and have an early night now - I've been sleeping badly."
When the phone is free, Twitchin puts a call through to Star's home number. A woman answers - presumably his wife. No, Chief Superintendent Star is out for the evening.
"Tell him that it's the man he spoke to at the Rohilla. Tell him... that I know all about Crier, and Troy, and Emmanuel, and him. Tell him to bear that in mind. Tell him that I'll phone back."
Culver is woken by the sound of the door to his room gently closing. Even before the light dial is adjusted, he can faintly make out the figure of Maurice by the door, as if his eyes were learning to acclimatise themselves to the blackness. The visitor has a cup in his hand, and Culver is suddenly assaulted by a familiar smell, a sweet and wholesome smell that on the instant fills him belly with knives, and his mind with the knowledge that he has not eaten for more than a day.
The lighting waxes a little as Maurice adjusts the dial, then he strolls over to the bed and places the cup of hot chocolate on a side table. Next, somewhat to his surprise, he reaches over towards the head of the bed and removes Culver's handcuffs.
"When I told the others how cooperative you had been, they agreed to make your living conditions more civilised. I played down your reluctance to discuss your field colleagues in my report, by the way. Fortunately, I was able to convince the others that you were an intelligent man, unlikely to throw himself out of a third floor window for the pleasure of being torn apart by our dogs. Sooner or later, however, the others will expect to see you. When they do, if you cannot convince them that you are willing to cooperate to the fullest extent, and let them complete your transformation, then they will tear you apart..."
A sudden owl call wakes Isobel abruptly from her slumber.
She is standing in her own driveway, in her dressing gown, under the stars. Her car key is in her hand. Her heart is pounding furiously. The front door is open behind her. Bewildered, she walks back into the house. Glancing at the clock, she notes that it is a little after two in the morning.
Micky and Andrew rise early and drive out of Robin Hood's Bay, taking the map with them. They stop first at the safe house, to see what Piner has managed to collect for them.
As they approach, they notice that the gates are no longer fastened. All the security technology has been stripped away, and the windows in the low buildings are dark. Piner is waiting by the open gate, a few crates at his feet.
"There seemed little point in maintaining the installation. The staff have been reassigned, and we've done our best to clear up the traces of our stay."
Andrew pushes his tongue into his cheek as he surveys the small number of boxes on the ground before the gates.
"I did my best," Piner says simply. He opens the largest crate first. "I did manage to get you an AK-47, and three sawn-off pump action shotguns. The people working on the lead/steel/silver alloy weren't convinced by their success with these rounds, but..." he pushed forward another crate, "here they are. About fifty rounds. I couldn't get hold of the rest. I'm sorry."
"Let's get them in the car." Once the weapons are stowed safely away, the two Agents prepare to leave.
"Aim for the heart." Piner has drawn close to the window. "Apparently they think that works. With vampires."
"I was thinking of going for the kneecaps, myself," says Micky. "It doesn't matter how strong you are, you can't walk if you've got no knees."
"There is one other matter," Piner adds tentatively. "I understand from Agent Weiser's report that Benedict Riggs has been recovered. Of course I don't need to tell you that placing him somewhere secure should be the first priority, and that his information may be most useful to us. May I ask where he is currently located?"
Micky and Andrew exchange glances.
"You're not cleared for that information," says Andrew, and winds up the window. Piner is still staring after them with an expression of outrage as they drive away.
Meanwhile, Professor Twitchin is once again being shown into the scruffy flat of Operative Kay.
Quentin Kay listens open-mouthed as the Professor gives a sketchy, hinted outline of events in Whitby.
"Vampires? Well, it would be the place to pick, wouldn't it? For one thing, no-one would bat an eyelid if you walked down the main street in a cape and fangs. For another, well, maybe you could feed off the psychic energy - the power of belief and association, you see.
"It's all like, y'know, religion and stuff. It doesn't have to be just Christian religion. Whitby is a religious place, particularly the abbey. It's just caked with history, and the ley lines run slap bang through it. And it just builds up other associations, it's like it's hungry or something, and just draws things to it. Psychic energies from ordinary people. Like, I mean, that's why the people at St Mary's go crazy every year about all the goths and vampire clubs coming to visit and sitting around in the churchyard. Because it's another religion. They know that's what it's all about. It's a pilgrimage, you see? There's a new god called Dracula, and he's got prophets called Universal Studios and Bram Stoker and Hammer Horror spreading his gospel. And the people in the church know, underneath, that this new god is taking over their places of worship. I mean, he's bringing more energy, more associations of his own, but he's making himself the focus, d'you see?
"And I guess other people would like to do the same thing, put a different god at the centre. Like the People of Hex." Twitchin manages without difficulty to draw Kay into discussing The Second Coming. "Well, Collins and his friends, they were trying to track down this big occult group called the People of Hex, who went about trying to subvert magical sites for their own rituals, using alchemical markers. The People of Hex are headed by this guy Collins calls the Black Alchemist. Anyway, they tried to affect Whitby Abbey using forks with runes upon them. They'd got Fenris the Wolf bound into the site, and they were going to do this big ritual which would release him, so Ragnarok would come, and the world would end, and Fenris would eat the world. But that shows you can hook the power to a god that had pretty much no obvious link to the site."
"Do you know where Collins lives, or how to get hold of him?" Kay shrugs. "There's some other things I'd like to ask you. I've been keeping your local knowledge as my secret trump card." Operative K is visibly flattered by this statement, and listens eagerly to the Professor's questions.
"Montmorency? No, I don't know that name. Yes, I know a lot of biker gangs hang around Whitby. Yes, I know the War-steeds have some links with some of the Vampire Societies - some people are members of both. I know that they were around a year ago when there was the big Dracula centenary celebration - there was something in the news about some of them causing some trouble. But there were no charges pressed. So the police are covering up, are they? Well, that doesn't surprise me. I expect the corruption goes all the way up to the top of the government, don't you? Chief Superintendent Star? Yes, I remember him. He got his promotion after his superior was murdered during an investigation in York, I seem to recall..."
Seated in bed, Isobel starts to read The Black Alchemist and the Second Coming. Both books claim to be factual accounts of the adventures of a group of psychic investigators. This group includes Collins himself, a man named Bernard, and two women called Debbie Greenstead and Caroline Wise. The first book deals with the group's growing suspicion that they have stumbled upon the magical endeavours of an evil magician that they nickname the Black Alchemist, since he tends to use alchemical runes for his effects. The book theorises that his magic is based upon that of Doctor Dee.
The sequel, The Second Coming, deals with the groups continued attempts to thwart the Black Alchemist, who is now abetted by the People of Hex. It is claimed that the group succeed in making psychic contact with a 'sorceress' who has defected from the People of Hex. The section on Whitby abbey only comprises a part of the book. According to Collins, the psychic who succeeded in finding the fork was rendered unconscious by it.
After a quick lunch, Stone turns his steps in the direction of St Mary's church. Remembering the slight start that the priest had given as he entered the church, he is suddenly gripped with curiosity with regard to the small side-room that the priest had been leaving when he saw Stone.
The main door of the church is unlocked. Stone pushes it ajar, and finds the church empty. Opposite him he sees the door through which he had watched the priest appear on his previous visit. Quietly, lest the priest be somewhere within earshot, he walks to the door, and lays his hand on the handle. He turns it slowly, slowly, and then gently applies pressure to the door with his shoulder. It swings open.
The room beyond is ill lit, and cluttered, half way between store-room and office. There is a small desk with a chair behind it, and a small filing cabinet with a copy of the Bible lying on top of it. There is also a sleeping bag in one corner, a small camp stove, and a half-full packet of sliced bread.
This is all Stone has time to see before a vicious blow to the kidneys from behind sends him sprawling. Stone rolls over, and finds a man standing over him, a contraption bearing a startling resemblance to a large crossbow gripped in his hands. The wooden shaft appears to be aimed directly at the psychiatrist's chest. Stone rethinks his initial impulse to try and kick away his opponent's legs.
His attacker is a little over average height, with a fairly strong build. His hair is fair and slightly spiked, and there are dapplings of gold and brown stubble around his jaws. He is shaking violently, as if struggling to compel himself to some act, and his eyes are round and almost animal with fear. Although he is a stranger, there is something in the wide-spaced eyes and the shape of the mouth which is familiar. The face of Sarah Louise Hendleby floats unbidden to Stone's mind...
"Karl!" The priest stands in the doorway. "What are you doing?"
"Stay out of this, Simon." Karl Hendleby does not glance at the new arrival.
"Who is this man? What are you planning to do?"
"Simon, just turn around and walk out of here. It's best that you don't know."
"I'm not letting you kill anyone, Karl. You know I can't do that."
"Well, don't try wrestling me from behind or anything else heroic, or it'll go off like as not and turn this guy into a kebab. Damn. I knew sooner or later they'd sniff me out, but I thought it would be one of them. This guy isn't a vampire, I can tell that much, but odds are he's working for them."
"If you'll let me draw back my coat, you'll find that I'm carrying three wooden stakes and a mallet at my belt," Stone says quietly. "Oh, and a water pistol of holy water." He glances past Hendleby at the priest. "Sorry."
"Don't move your hands. Even if you are carrying what you say, that could just mean that you're supposed to look like you're on my side. Simon, for God's sake stop dithering in the doorway and get out of here. If they're onto my hiding place, the heavy squad'll be in here when this guy doesn't reappear. And if you die then no-one'll know what's happened to me. Look, I won't kill this guy unless I really have to. I promise to God, and all the rest of it. Are you going?"
"Alright, Karl. If I have your promise." The priest's footsteps recede. In the tense silence that follows, Stone's mobile phone starts to ring.
"Turn that off. And move your hands slowly. I haven't slept properly in weeks, and I'm a bit more jumpy than usual."
"He's not answering his phone." Side-step glances up at Micky, Andrew and Twitchin. The three are seated at one of the corner tables in the Elsinore, empty glasses in front of them. "Stone did know that we were all meeting up here at four, didn't he?" Micky nods. Side-step listens for a few more moments. "That's funny - his mobile phone's just been turned off."
"Why would he do that?"
"Maybe he wouldn't."
"And then there were four. This is getting more like Ten Little fucking Indians every moment." Side-step sighs, angrily. "Come on, let's get out there and find him. Hopefully he's still in Whitby..."
"What exactly are you planning to do?" Stone has resolved to keep Hendleby talking, in as calm a fashion as he can achieve.
"I'll have to get back to you on that one. 'Survive' would be a favourite. I suppose I have some vague hope of using you as a hostage, but given the sort of people we're talking about here, I shouldn't imagine that they really give a shit about you, you poor sod. For the moment we wait until it gets dark. It's the most dangerous time for the vampires of course, but I'm not going to get far holding a hostage at crossbow point in broad daylight, am I? Tell me, do you have a car?"
"That's a bit unfortunate for both of us. Don't worry, we'll improvise. Hitch-hike or something. At least it's dusk now. A few more hours and we'll make a break for it."
Culver awakes, and is neither surprised nor jarred to see that the sky beyond his window is black. There are reddish marks on his wrists still from the handcuffs, but these are fading. He rises, dresses in the clean clothes that hang over his chair, and then walks to the window. The aperture is too narrow to allow the passage of his shoulders, but offers him a view of a grassy cliff top some three stories below, and beyond it an ebony sea.
Staring at the sea, he seems to be able to bring the sound of it closer. He changes the focus of his attention, and is suddenly able to make out the abrasion of leaf against brick two stories below, where a creeper obstinately clings to the side of the building. Closing his eyes, he opens his senses further, and becomes aware that he can hear Crier's voice from somewhere below him, perhaps on a lower floor.
"What? When?" Pause. "Yes, of course, immediately. To the church? Good, you know how to handle that." Pause. "What problem?" Pause. "Troy was there when the report came in that you had a lead on Hendleby? Are you sure that he heard? Where is Troy now?" Pause. "I see. No, I'm afraid that there's no doubt that he will be heading to the church. Pity, that will make things messy. No, don't try to hold him back, you'll only lose men." Pause. "Damage limitation. Clean up the mess afterwards. Oh, and any witnesses, of course."
"I hope Karl wasn't a friend of yours." Somehow Maurice has slipped into the room without being heard. "A fellow SITU operative, perhaps?"
"No. I never met him."
"Well, I don't think you'll get the chance now. To judge that phone call from an eavesdropper's perspective, it would sound as if Troy has the scent. And if he has, then I pity anyone that comes between him and Karl. Troy was devoted to Ryan Rain, you see." Maurice pushes open the door. "Come with me, Matt. There's someone you're going to want to talk to."
"Right, it's nearly midnight. I think we can risk making a break for it -" Even as Hendleby speaks, the door behind him opens. For an instant, the psychiatrist is afraid that the shock will cause his captor to fire the crossbow. Fortunately, Hendleby glances over his shoulder and manages to maintain command of himself. The two figures in the doorway are Simon and Sarah Louise Hendleby. "Oh, Jesus Christ. Sarah, what the hell are you doing here? I thought I'd asked you to get the heck out of Whitby."
"Yes, I got your message. Of course I didn't go - I was worried stiff about you."
"Christ - Simon, you prize wombat. If Sarah's in Whitby still, they'll have been having her house watched, in the hope that I'd contact her. If she's just made a mystery trip in the middle of the night, she'll have been followed here. You'll have led them right here. I can't believe you got my sister involved in this, Simon."
"Leave him alone, Karl. He was worried about you, and thought you were going to do something you'd regret, so he came and asked me to talk to you, that's all. And by the looks of things, it's just as well he did. I don't know who you think is following you, but why don't you just put the crossbow down so we can talk about this?"
"Sarah, for God's sake, don't give me that social worker bullshit now, of all times. Look, whoever you are down there, if you are what you say you are, will you please try and help me persuade these two cretins that I'm not mad?"
Stone looks up at the shaking, terrified man holding a projectile weapon a foot from his chest, sees the ravages of sleep deprivation and malnutrition, and all the symptoms of prolonged and unnatural nervous strain.
"No, you're not mad."
"Doctor Stone?" Sarah has recognised the SITU agent for the first time.
"You know him?"
"Yes, he came by asking questions about Emmanuel."
The lines of suspicion deepen for an instant in Hendleby's face, but the next instant all are wiped away by a blinded look of terror and panic.
"Oh God. I think one of them is near by. I think one of them is heading this way... oh God... I think it's..."
"Hendleby, listen to me. We need backup. I have a mobile phone, remember? I have some friends in Whitby. Let me turn my mobile phone on and call for backup."
Karl's lips move in silence for a moment.
"Do it," he says, at last.
"Any sign of John?"
"No - I went by the Montmorency place, but apparently he left there hours ago." The four SITU members stand by the car down on the waterfront. "Perhaps if we call Isobel she could try and sense where he..."
Side-step's mobile phone rings.
"Hello, this is John Stone. I'm in St Mary's church with Karl and Sarah Louise Hendleby, and a priest. How quickly can you get over here? We're expecting company of a violent disposition."
"We can be at the church in a few minutes," says Side-step.
"Er... Side-step? It looks like he'll be there first." Micky is pointing up toward the 199 steps. Following the direction of his finger, the other men can see a single figure moving up the steps with alarming speed, taking several steps at a time. There is a sense of distortion in scale, as if the figure were unusually large in comparison to its surroundings.
"Stone - we'll be there as quick as we can. Brace yourselves. It looks like Troy's heading your way."
Isobel wakes sharply, and has to rally quickly to prevent her Mercedes careering off the road.
She is dressed in her nightdress only, her bare feet pressed against the pedals. The road is cloaked in a faint mist, and flat open land extends on either side. Braking abruptly, she steers the car to one side of the road, and spends a few minutes gasping uncontrollably, and waiting for her heart to stop sounding in her temples.
When she is a little recovered, she raises her head and sees directly before her a signpost.
Whitby - 5 miles
Culver is shown into a sizeable, semi-circular room, with large windows through which the starlight falls freely. Several paintings adorn the walls, one or two of them clearly by Hendleby. The floor is covered with a thick, white carpet, dotted with small crimson rugs. There are a number of sofas and chairs coated in white velvet. On the sofa a man is sitting. As Culver and Maurice enter, he looks up.
Culver and the newcomer stare at one another.
"You son of a bitch, Maurice." The third man seems to be having trouble speaking, trouble breathing. "I swear one of these days I'll kill you. Why didn't you warn me?"
"I know your sensitive, retiring nature. I'd never got you two into the same room. But Matt is going to be one of our little community, and Matt wants some answers. And you're going to give them to him. Aren't you, Darius?"