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The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness


SERVANTS IN THE PLACE OF TRUTH
CHAPTER 10

10.30 am, Tuesday 10th August 1999

John stands still, poised for action of any sort, waiting to see what Michael plans. He may have killed Arabella, but how does he hope to get away with it?

Rupert, without a thought for his own safety, flings himself at the prone form of his new paramour Arabella.

Jo and Van Heuvelen stare on impassively, the spirits within them unfazed by the shooting. ‘See, the anile fellaheen bicker amongst themselves, as ever,’ Jo mutters.

George and Phil stand, horrified, waiting for a cue for action from one of the more gung-ho members of the group.

They are not disappointed.

Donald quickly turns round to face Michael. ‘I knew I couldn’t trust you, freak-boy. What was the plan? Kill off the brains so the rest of us can’t function? I should have killed you when I first met you!’

Michael smiles nastily. ‘You catch on quick don’t you. Now, go over there with the others.’ He motions to the other agents with his gun.

‘I don’t think so’ Donald tells him. He glances annoyedly at Rupert, who is hunched over Arabella checking her pulse – it is very faint.

Michael’s eyes narrow. ‘I’m not gonna tell you twice. Now move, unless you’re want me to share this bullet with your head.’

‘Share this!’ Donald whips his own gun out and rolls to the ground, Michael’s shot causing sparks to fly as it hits the ruined pyramid wall behind. Donald’s shot is more sure… the expert aim of an assassin. It strikes Michael full in the chest. The operatives watch with mingled emotions as Michael is thrown back, collapsing to the ground, blood welling between his fingers as he clutches for his heart, his automatic dropping to the sand. John, his own gun emerging with remarkable speed, rushes over as Donald gets back to his feet.

‘Stay back,’ snarls Donald. ‘I told you, he’s mine!’ He pushes John away with a stiff arm as he comes to stand over Michael. ‘I have to finish this.’ He fires again, this time at Michael’s head.

Michael jerks, then lies still. ‘Who’s sharing bullets with whose head now?’ shouts Donald, his eyes wild. Calming suddenly, he turns to the group. ‘Right, we have to move fast. George, get the Landrover ready – Rupert, John, get Arabella into the car – if we can get her to a hospital, she might still make it. Someone help me shift this bastard into the back.’ He looks around. ‘And where the hell is Sam?’

‘Here I am,’ says Sam, appearing from behind a lump of rubble, very close by. She blinks. ‘Has anyone got some sunglasses I can borrow?’ She looks curiously at the prone Michael. ‘What was all that about?’

‘Never mind explanations, let’s get out of here. Essawi’s agents are probably all over the place.’ Donald slings Michael’s slender body over his shoulder. ‘Come on, move!’

Everyone snaps into action except Jo and van Heuvelen, who look mulish. Donald turns to them, trying very hard to be calm. ‘Are you two coming or not? I’m very sorry if you normally get treated better than this, but there’s no way you’re getting any flower petals to walk on just yet. If you want Essawi, you’re going to have to start acting a little nicer, there will be people swarming all over this place real soon so we have to get you and us someplace safe.’ His calm finally breaks. ‘GOT IT?’

The two spirit-possessed bodies jerk in surprise, look at each other, and sulkily amble over to the Landrover.

‘You two may be thousands of years old,’ John puts in, ‘but you know bugger all about modern society! If you keep this crap up then your little extra chance against Essawi and Nefertiti will come to absolutely nothing and you’ll have to spend another couple of thousand years locked away in a tomb! That’s if we don’t all just get blown to whichever Hell you happen to believe in!’

 ‘Just get us out of here, George,’ says Donald, once everyone is in. ‘John, mate, keep checking out the back: we shouldn’t be followed, but I need to keep checking.’

At this point Rupert, who is cradling Arabella’s head on his lap – he has tenderly wiped the blood away – says puzzledly ‘You know, I’ve run my hands all over her chest, but I can’t find a bullet wound. Once I remembered that was what I was supposed to be looking for, that is. Maybe Michael just bored her to unconsciousness with his scintillating personality.’ He gazes warmly at her. ‘She looks much better like this, and she can’t ruin the setting by saying anything.’

‘Er, right, time for some answers I guess,’ says Donald, as everyone looks at him in puzzlement. As he speaks he empties his gun and pockets the bullets, which it is now apparent are blanks. ‘Arabella isn’t dead, but she will have a headache when she wakes up. Michael didn’t shoot her, he knocked her out with a mind-trick thing of his. Right now he’s probably a little bruised, but definitely on our side still.’

‘That’s right,’ says Michael feebly from the back. ‘Can you get your feet off me, please, John? Thanks.’ He straightens up slightly so that he is sitting against the back door, still not visible through the windows.

‘This was supposed to be an initiation for Michael,’ continues Donald. ‘Essawi thinks he has Michael in his power – this was for the benefit of his onlookers. Michael had to kill Arabella to prove he was turned: hopefully they will now report to Essawi that Michael died by my hands after killing Arabella.’

‘Things should be much easier now,’ says Michael calmly. ‘Essawi thinks our group is in tatters and our ‘brains’ is dead. He’s arrogant enough to think that we haven’t a hope of stopping him now, and thus won’t be watching us closely. Boy, is he in for a surprise.’ He grins evilly. ‘The only possible danger is… he didn’t put any kind of bug on me, so it might be that he was planning to use magical means to see what happened. In that case there’s a chance he might have seen through our little ruse. But we can’t do anything about that, anyway.’

‘This is like an Agatha Christie novel, only better written!’ exclaims Rupert appreciatively.

Arabella groans and starts to come to, her hands clutching at her head and her brow wrinkling. The pain is pounding at her temples.

‘Here you go,’ says Donald, passing over two pills. ‘Don’t worry, they’re only paracetamol. I’m glad you’re OK. For a split second back there I wasn’t sure whether or not Michael was telling me the truth about his conversion. The only way for me to be sure was to see him shoot you, so I could tell if he was using live ammo or not.’ Arabella glances at him in alarm. ‘Not reassuring for you, I’m afraid, but at least we know he’s still on our side.’

Fortunately for Donald, Arabella is still in too much pain to comment on this strategy.

‘Er, where exactly are we heading?’ puts in George, from the wheel.

‘The only possible place I can think of is the mosque,’ says Rupert briskly. John nods.

‘Must I tell you again?’ demands Jo querulously. ‘We will not deign to set foot in such a heathen and barbarous place!’

Rupert loses his temper properly now. ‘For God’s sake, I’m sick of this absolute arrogance! I spent my childhood surrounded by arrogant bastards like you, and I’m not about to take more crap from you. You’re only here because we called you. We’re in danger of being caught and killed – and if we are killed, you’re up the creek without a paddle. We need you, but not half as much as you need us. Stop pretending you are something special, because you’re not. If you were that special you wouldn’t have been left to die amongst blocks of stone. Stop being arrogant and let’s actually achieve something! We want to stop Nefertiti as much as you do. Cooperation is the order of the day, chaps, and even you must understand that!’

‘Do try to be a little respectful, Rupert,’ urges George quietly. ‘We need their knowledge. After all, everyone toadies to someone, sometime.’

Van Heuvelen gives the impression of making a tremendous effort to speak politely. ‘In these difficult times, I will ignore your insolence, son of a dog, and refrain from striking you down where you stand. For now, we will accept that there is some merit in what you say. These alliances of convenience are not unfamiliar to us.’

‘Yes, it was my alliance with Sargon of Akkad which should by rights have brought the witch’s downfall, back in the days of my life,’ says Jo rather proudly. ‘And a fine scheme it was, had it not been betrayed.’ She smiles, rather forcedly. ‘I make no claim to understand what has just passed between you, nor do I wish to understand the puny bickerings that divert such as you. But if you are now united in wedding yourselves to my purpose, that is to the good, and I will see that you are well rewarded when I am Queen here once more, after you have helped me destroy the witch.’

‘I hate to put a damper on things just as they’re going so well, but we’re being followed,’ says John, still peering out of the back. ‘Police car. No siren, though.’

‘Damn! Can you lose him in the Old City?’ Donald asks George.

‘I’ll have a go!’ The Major flushes with excitement and hunches lower over the wheel.

‘Be careful!’ explains Rupert as the Landrover accelerates over a pothole, and Arabella’s head bounces in his lap. ‘Who d’you think you are, David Beckham? At least he has the excuse of that whining Victoria to handle – all we have to worry about is escaping the cultists and police.’


‘… so it seems like you spirits were right. Essawi’s ritual will give him power over the minds of the Arab delegates, who are visiting the Sphinx while the ritual’s happening. The idea is that they’ll set up the cult in their own countries, reporting to him. The cult will gain in power all over the Arab world, eventually replacing Islam. And that all means that Nefertiti’s power will be greatly increased,’ finishes Michael, who has been describing what he learnt at Essawi’s house. The rest of the team, scattered about Imam Hosseini’s antechamber, take in what he has related.

‘Well, all we have to do is disrupt the ceremony, then,’ says Phil. ‘From what you said, Rupert, the cult isn’t that big.’

‘There’ll be some strong-arm goons along too, Essawi said,’ says Michael. ‘Protection. He didn’t want me to be worried that you lot might catch up with me,’ he adds.

‘Who? Surely not the Islamic Brotherhood?’ asks Arabella. ‘They might be working for him now, but they can’t be in favour of him replacing Islam with his cult, surely.’

‘They might not even know that he’s involved with the cult,’ says Phil. ‘From what we’ve learnt so far, he seem to keep the two aspects of his life pretty well separated. It’ll probably this Ali Ramzy guy, the mob boss, who’s providing security at the ritual, then. I don’t suppose he’s a very devout Muslim, not if he does all that smuggling and drugs the Imam was complaining about.’

‘That is all as it may be,’ says van Heuvelen briskly. ‘A counter-ritual may be required. And, more importantly, a plan to destroy the source of the witch’s power, lest she concoct another such scheme. As she no doubt will if given the chance. No, we must extirpate her once and for all.’

‘How do we do that, then?’ asks Rupert. He has been making sure the still rather pale Arabella is comfortable in her nest of cushions, while Donald has been busily checking everyone’s forehead once more for the sign of Nefertiti’s name.

‘The obelisk!’ exclaims Arabella weakly. ‘It has spells on it. Can we use any of them?’ She describes to the two spirits the four spells she deciphered on the way back from Tell el-Amarna: to draw the power of the Aten into the obelisk, to call forth that power from it, to bless the king and queen, and to bless Egypt in general.

‘We should certainly charge it, at the next noonday sun,’ agrees van Heuvelen. ‘Calling the sun back forth from it will be a powerful source of energy to drive our own magic forward. But it will not strike its own followers directly. It must be channelled through another force, to strike Essawi and his people as they attempt their ceremony. Perhaps through this young thanatos-mage.’ He indicates Michael.

‘Hey, I don’t know about that,’ says Michael warily. ‘I tried to channel one of those obelisks against him once before, and… let’s just say it didn’t work too well.’

‘Then you must try harder this time,’ says van Heuvelen. ‘And you will have us to help you. But another type of magic, or another spiritual force of any kind, which could be made to strike against Essawi, would be of help. What of the modern faiths, this Islam he seeks to overthrow – has it no adherents who could be used?’

‘Maybe,’ says John. He wonders whether it would be wise to talk to the Imam about such direct action. ‘But the next noon might be too late. We’ve missed noon today, and tomorrow will be only just before the ceremony’s meant to happen.’

‘It can be charged at any time the sun is in the sky. But noon is most effective. And the more people who chant the prayer, which is written on its side, the better.’

Rupert meanwhile has eyes only for Arabella, and leans close to her, speaking softly. ‘We thought Michael had killed you for a moment or two, you know.’

‘So did I,’ says Arabella weakly.

‘I was furious. It would have ruined my date! I expect you want an answer to your, er, proposition. I have to say that I hadn’t expected you to do that at all. Obviously you were unable to resist my winning ways and irresistible charisma.’ He smiles rather coyly.

‘Obviously,’ agrees Arabella. ‘Just remember who kissed who first. I’d say you fell for my charms before I fell for yours.’

‘Well, I have to get myself together first, sort out parts of my life that are well and truly screwed. I appreciate the offer of help, and would love to, well, ‘see’ you on a more personal level. We have after all been through a lot on our adventures, and we probably know more than we should about each other.’

‘I know you’ve got a lot to think about and do, but no matter what, I won’t let you down, I promise.’

‘Are you sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for? My experience of women is either the Sloanes at nearby boarding schools, or stoned hippy women who would shag anything that had a pulse, and most things that don’t. You are rather different from those…’

‘Is that good or bad?’

‘… but then I suppose I’m rather different to anyone you know as well.’

 ‘I’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re like. I know you’re a little unusual in your approach to life, and if you try and change that I will tell you where to get off. When you’re not being belligerent, you’re fun to be with, and that’s what I want. Besides, life with you around would never be boring.’

Rupert nods. ‘Once I get myself sorted out, God knows what’ll happen.’ He considers a moment. ‘But wait a minute, how does all this sit with Jo, do you think? When she tops being an extremely annoying spirit, do you think she’ll be jealous, cross with you for being an idiot, or just unconcerned?’

‘Ask her yourself! She won’t bite, very hard.’

‘For that matter, where the hell do I stand in relation to her? We haven’t got on at all well since she flushed my drugs down the toilet, and I’m not really sure where we can go, whether there’s a relationship to salvage with her. If the two of you move in together, where does it leave me, and if I move in too, what sort of atmosphere will there be in the household anyway? The possibilities are quite worrying.’

‘I know it’ll be difficult, at first, but I won’t let Jo down, just like I won’t let you down. You’re both very important to me and, besides, if she wasn’t there, you’d have no use for that camcorder, would you?’ Arabella smirks a little.

This tender scene is interrupted by a series of sobbing screams from the inner sanctum. Shortly afterwards, Sam emerges, looking pale and wan, accompanied by a serious-looking Imam Hosseini.

‘Are you OK?’ asks Phil.

‘I’ll live,’ mutters Sam. She does not seem to be in the same pain as she was when the group arrived at the mosque – she had insisted on being dragged in to see the Imam, no matter how her agonized body tried to resist. Donald had been happy to comply.

‘I reckon you and me had better lie low here for now,’ says Michael to Arabella. ‘It looked like George lost that car that was following us, but there might be other watchers. If any of them see us alive, they’ll know it’s been a con trick and we’ll be back to square one.’ He looks up. ‘And the others of you, better act like you’re confused and don’t have much idea what to do.’

‘Maybe following up this Mahmoud lead in force would be a good idea,’ suggests Phil. ‘That must be a trap Essawi’s laying for us, to distract us from the main event of the ceremony. If we look like we’re concentrating on rescuing Mahmoud, instead of working against the ritual, he’ll think he’s got us exactly where he wants us.’

‘I was going to suggest that we head over and recon the warehouse,’ says Donald. ‘But if it is a trap, we’ll have to be very careful indeed. John, are you up for it?’

‘Sure,’ says John. ‘What about Jo? – Arabella, any chance of getting her back?’

‘Leave her here with me for now, and between me and the Imam we ought to be able to achieve something,’ Arabella says.

‘And don’t forget about van Heuvelen,’ puts in Rupert anxiously. ‘I don’t want to just abandon him once the mission’s finished. He’s in even more of a mess than me. When we get out of here I will go with him to a rehab centre. We probably need each other as moral support, but him more than me. He’s shown me that these drugs we take really screw you up. When we get out then he’ll need more help, and more support, so he’ll have to stay with me I think. He can even join the next adventure with us, if he managed to stay clean. So, Arabella, how would you feel about van Heuvelen moving in as well?’

Arabella looks a little unsure about this prospect. ‘I’d say wait and see what he wants and what happens with us. I don’t see any problems, but he may have other ideas, as may Jo. It’s not something that we can decide until we see what happens here.’

‘But for now he might be best left possessed,’ says Phil. ‘At least it’s keeping him lucid – relatively – and off the drugs.’

‘I’ll help with the warehouse too,’ says Sam to Donald. ‘Whatever you can use me for.’

‘OK.’ Donald looks her up and down: colour is returning to her face now, after whatever mysterious ordeal it is that she has just been through. ‘Maybe Phil and George should come too, then, and Arabella and Michael stay here with the obelisk and the other stuff. We need to decide what to do with that – whether we charge it up today or wait for noon tomorrow, we’ll need it with us, and I guess we should probably aim to stay here again. I don’t know how safe the hotel is going to be, tonight. How close are you to Said at the moment, Sam?’

‘Why do you want to know?’

‘Just curious.’

‘Before you head off,’ says Rupert to van Heuvelen, ‘can you just confirm something for me? You presumably can tell what the man van Heuvelen, whose body you’re inhabiting, thinks about the Book of Revelations, the Beast being Nefertiti and so on. Are his theories correct?’

Van Heuvelen laughs uproariously. ‘They are the drug-crazed ravings of an addled fool, just as the Book of Revelations itself is – the mushroom fantasy of that starved mystic, St John the Divine. She seeks to enslave the world, not to destroy it! But these visions often have hints, or clues, to truth in them. The heightened senses of the mystic drug-trance can be a valuable tool to insight, if used carefully by a strong mind not likely to be overwhelmed by the flow of images – as was the case with this weak fellow.’


‘So you’re firmly on our side now, right?’ asks Arabella, looking sideways at Michael, from the codex of Islamic banishment rituals Imam Hosseini has procured for her. Put together with the Egyptian spells for dismissing ghosts she read up during the previous night, something should be possible to help her friend.

‘Never was any different,’ Michael assures her. ‘I wanted to see how much Essawi would swallow. And it seems like he took the whole lot – hook, line and the other thing. That guy is so damned arrogant.’

‘It seems to be an occupational hazard of being an evil genius,’ agrees Arabella.

‘I wouldn’t mind that, but the man’s not even a proper genius, he’s just a flunky. This Nefertiti who he’s working for must be quite something.’

‘Let’s hope we never get the chance to find out in person.’

‘Fascinating!’ comes Jo’s voice, from where she is poking around in the Imam’s wardrobe. ‘These primitives have quite an understanding of ceremonial use of colour. No doubt happened on by chance. When I am Queen once more, I shall have this place as a temple to my own divinity.’

The Imam, who has been chewing the end of his beard annoyedly during the whole of Jo’s presence, glances at Arabella, who nods. ‘Now!’

At once Michael seizes Jo’s arms and clasps them tight behind her. ‘What is the meaning of this outrage! Unhand me at once, varlet, ere I…’

But Imam Hosseini flings a handful of blessed water in her face, and she splutters in rage.

Arabella starts to intone the prayer, calling upon the good and great Allah to free his servant from the pestilential demon that has infested her body. The Imam joins in sonorously, and Michael does his bit by twisting Jo’s arms up behind her back to make the body a painful place to remain.

‘And Anubis, Keeper of the Way, Watcher of the Two Flames, send this ghost, this ba-spirit, to Pet from whence it has fled, restore it to the judges there, let it be guarded by snakes,’ Arabella continues, stitching in the elements of the Egyptian prayers she thinks useful. The Imam raises his eyebrows but does not protest, and gradually Jo’s struggles still, and a strange smell of cedar, wax and decay fills the air.

Jo blinks, opens and shuts her mouth, then she does a sudden twist and Michael finds himself flat on his back on the floor, her hand around his throat. ‘What the hell’s going on? What do you think you’re up to? Bella, are you all right?’ Then she totters, the sudden rush of adrenalin too much for her. ‘Bloody hell, I feel dreadful… like I haven’t slept in a week.’

‘It’s OK, Jo,’ Arabella soothes, leading her friend to a seat as Michael stands up and brushes himself off, massaging his bruises. She quickly summarizes what has transpired.

Jo, taking it all in, nods. She glances across at Michael. ‘You’re bloody lucky I wasn’t there to kill you. Next time you mess about like that without telling anyone what you’re doing, I’ll beat you black and blue.’

Michael, rather coldly, puts his shades on and folds his arms. He is not impressed by this ingratitude.

‘And, Bella, thanks for dispossessing – is that right? – me. I hope I didn’t do anything too stupid while she was in my body.’

‘This is the plan, or at least this is what I reckon. The spirits gave us some ideas for how to block Essawi’s ceremony tomorrow, but we need the details, and some fallback options. What about you, Rupert – are you still well enough in with the cult that you could infiltrate them again for the ceremony?’

‘I don’t know,’ says Rupert. ‘It depends on if I’ve been seen with you lot since, I suppose.’

‘Well, it’s up to you, but don’t risk yourself unnecessarily – please!’


‘I’m sure I’ve seen that guy before,’ mutters Donald as the remainder of the group drive away from the mosque. The scruffy Englishman hanging around the café across the way looked somehow familiar.

‘Probably one of Essawi’s watchers. But that’s OK, we don’t mind him seeing us,’ Phil reminds him.

They drive in silence to the neighbourhood of the warehouse, each lost in his own thoughts. ‘how do you want to handle this?’ Sam suddenly says. ‘It’s still daylight now, for another couple of hours at least. Do we scout out now, then hang around for a raid this evening? Or report back to the others?’

‘We can do that by phone if we need to,’ says John.

‘Perhaps I could pick up that dynamite that SITU promised,’ suggests George. ‘We may not need it to blow up the Sphinx, but it would be a shame to see it go to waste. And by the sound of it this Ramzy fellow is a bad lot in general. It surely wouldn’t do any harm to inflict a little collateral damage while we’re rescuing young Mahmoud.’

‘Let’s see the lay of the land first,’ says Donald. He stops the Landrover in a lay-by at the entrance to an industrial estate. ‘Right, the warehouse is in there, Unit 23. All this other stuff looks like standard light industrial, but we’ll have to be a bit careful, because Ramzy’s people might own some of the other units as well, under different names. Best just watch with the binocs from here for now, while it’s light.’

After half an hour’s observation the tem have established that Warehouse 23 stands to the north-east corner of the estate, which is as a whole protected by a twelve-foot chain-link fence and claims to be patrolled by dogs, although none have been seen. The warehouse itself stands about twenty yards from any other building. It is rectangular, about two hundred feet by eighty. A driveway leads up to huge double doors at one end. There is also an ordinary set of human-sized double doors in the left-hand side. The walls are brick, up to about twenty feet off the ground, and there is then a row of small windows all the way along both sides before the roof, which is semi-cylindrical and built of corrugated iron. The two end walls are brick all the way up to the roof. The large doors remain closed most of the time, although at one point a five-ton covered truck rolls up and is admitted – it is impossible to see what is in it – and people come and go via one of the smaller doorways. About twelve different men are seen, all fitting the general description ‘thug’, none openly armed. There is no sign of Mahmoud, Essawi, or anyone who looks as though they might be Ali Ramzy.

‘OK, what’s the plan then?’ asks Phil, somewhat nervously.


‘Another of your friends is here to see you, Michael,’ says Imam Hosseini, sticking his head around the door of the chambers, fresh from another meeting about the morrow’s ceremony.

‘But I haven’t got any… hold on! What’s he look like?’ But the Imam has dashed off again.

Michael gets to his feet, but his question is answered for him, as in through the door comes a small, wiry-looking Englishman with receding hair. ‘So, this is where you’re hiding, eh, Williamson? Very clever, moving away from the hotel. Thought you’d give me the slip, eh? But Trevor Green’s too sharp for that. I tracked you here easy enough, and now I see your tame gorilla’s headed off in the car – leaves just you and me to have a little chat, eh? You – stay sat down,’ he motions to Rupert. ‘And these two little ladies, of course.’ He cracks his knuckles vigorously, advancing on Michael menacingly.

‘What? Who the hell are you?’ Michael appears genuinely baffled.

Green smiles, revealing unpleasant brownish teeth. ‘You might not know me to look at, but I don’t suppose you’ve forgotten a little lady name of Michelle Ryan – eh? No, I thought not. Well, sonny, some people take it a bit funny when you start screwing around with their missus, and my boss is odd like that – Paul Ryan, his name is. Paul Ryan – Michelle Ryan – get the connection? You’re not so dumb as you look, are you? Well, he asked me to see if I could run you down and teach you a little lesson about manners.’ A butterfly knife appears in his hand, opening to a wicked eight-inch blade. ‘I reckon I could just about leave you in a state where the little ladies wouldn’t be all that interested in you any more, eh? Now wouldn’t that just about serve you right, eh?’

Michael backs away, but he is in a corner now. He can get his gun out, but would it be as quickly as Green can lunge with the knife? And the sound of a shot would bring attention from outside, just when he wants no-one to know he’s still alive.

‘Put the knife down!’ says Arabella nervously. ‘Can’t we just talk this over?’

‘Be quiet, little lady,’ says Green absently.

Jo weighs up the scene. She is about equidistant from Green and Michael, but to reach either before Green can stab will be impossible. There are plenty of small religious items that could be thrown, though. But she still feels terribly weak from her possession ordeal.

Rupert is still holding Arabella and not in a position to do a great deal without being rather obvious, but he could certainly distract the assailant.

‘Stand back,’ says Michael tightly, ‘or you won’t like what happens to you.’ His face is pinched and concentrated, but very pale. He does not think he has enough power yet for another mindstrike.

Green, laughing nastily, tosses his knife casually from one hand to another, advancing on Michael.


4 pm, Tuesday 10th August 1999

Michael, Arabella, Jo, Rupert – the Mosque of Ibn Tulun
Donald, Sam, Phil, George, van Heuvelen – Ali Ramzy’s warehouse.


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