The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Like a Thief in the Night
9pm 23rd December 2000, Oxford
Eric turns to Isabelle Kingston with a smile. “There is always something that we can do to help. It’s not always what we expect, but it’s generally something we’re suited to. In my case, the power I’ve been reaching for is denied to me, yes, but I have good hopes of recovering it. In your instance, perhaps we should look into ways to find the sort of spirit guide that you need. You say that none will come. What have you tried to do to invite them to come to you?”
“The only thing I can do, “she replies. “I’ve asked them to come. I’ve invited them, I’ve commanded them, I’ve begged them. Silence. It seems I’ve been rejected by the spirit world and I don’t know why…”
Eric remembers her words now, seeing Holly frustrated and close to tears. Mickey puts his arm round her shoulders.
“Never mind, eh? You did your best.”
“Don’t worry, sweetie,” Matt says. “You’ve already been really helpful – and I’ve got some ideas for where to start looking.” He looks around at the others. “Let’s sum up. The Tri Club links via Isobel to the Bradshaw Clinic, which links directly to Harvest, which is a front for our Ylid. We’ve already established a connection. And that entry in Edward’s diary…is it too obvious to suppose ‘S’ is another reference to Sophia?” He shrugs uncomfortably, avoiding Isobel’s gaze. “But ‘happy mothers all round’? Is another woman involved here – apart from Sophia, I mean? The cheap perfume in the car-park isn’t Sophia’s style. And one of the kidnappers was thinking of a ‘big tall man’ instead. Hmmm…”
“Look on the bright side,” Twitch says immediately. “Whoever has taken young Arthur is caring for him well, that’s for sure. It’s just a question of when we find him, that’s all.” He lays a hand gently over Isobel’s. “Have I ever let you down in the past?”
The look he gives her is so earnest she laughs despite herself.
Encouraged, Twitch beams back. “Whereabouts in Wiltshire was your dangly thing pointing, my sweet? Stonehenge? …..Avebury? ………er….Swindon……..?”
“All – and none. It centred on Wiltshire, that’s all I know.” She looks around fiercely. “I don’t care what the rest of you want to do. I am going to Wiltshire to find my baby – alone, if need be.”
“You won’t need to,” Mickey assures her. “What did the diary extract mean? ‘Happy mothers all round’. Perhaps the other mothers may have information. Also seeing as the baby and the Grail have been split up, then it is quite probable that it was two groups with different eventual aims cooperating?”
“Possibly.” TR, who has sat quietly watching the others until now, shifts forward slightly in his seat. “Based on the information we have now, I think we have several possible directions to search. I suggest we split up so we can cover more ground. You folks can add more to this list, but as I see it, here are the things to investigate: First, there is the Wiltshire clue that Isobel found. I don’t know the geography here. Is Wiltshire a district of Oxford or a street? If so, Mickey, maybe you can take your daughter there to see if she can sense anything. I realize it is already getting late tonight, but the sooner we try this, the better.”
“Wiltshire’s a county,” Matt tells him. “South of here, and a bit big to check out in one night. I have a feeling about the place, too, Isobel. Ylids are attracted to places of power – religious power – and that county’s got ’em all. There’s Salisbury Cathedral, the White Horse of Whateveritis and, of course, Stonehenge. Given the whole Arthurian thing, I’m willing to bet the baby’s there – or nearby.”
“Mmm… ’s lot of psychics and newy agey types in our gang right now,” Twitch is heard to mumble to himself. He gives Johnny a hard stare. “Not to mention Wolfman. What this problem needs is an objective, rational, trained, scientific mind.” He ponders hard, chewing his bottom lip as he stares at the carpet. “Could be Sophia,” he announces triumphantly. He looks around proudly. “Any chance of a whiskey, Eric old chap? Need to refuel the brain cells, you know.”
TR hides his exasperation well. “Second…” He speaks only with slight emphasis, “I assume the “S” referred to in the journal is Sophia. If not, someone should talk to Rohinder and see if she knows who “S” it might be. Eric would be a good person for that, since he has already spoken with Rohinder before.
“Third, I understand that there are historical connections in Oxford with the Knights Templar. According to my guidebook, there is even a shopping centre here called Templar Square, right? If Sophia had a connection to the Templars, she may still have a secret base here in Oxford where the baby is hidden. Someone,” he looks at Twitch uncertainly, “uh…maybe you, professor, should check into it at the University Archives or Library. They are probably not open tonight, this close to Christmas, but you can always check.
“Fourth, someone might want to look into the genetics corporation Harvest. Find out who owns the corporation, how long they have been in business, where the headquarters is located etc. We may be able to find that information through the internet.
“Fifth, one of the people killed by Sophia – Emma Darton – had done articles for the Fortean Times. When Eric and I were in Oxford for the psychic’s conference two years ago, Martin Thane of the Fortean Times was scheduled as a guest speaker. As a student, Thane had done stories for the Fortean Times about crop circles near Oxford and about the Bronze Age burial at Stanton Harcourt. It was Thane’s story that led Eric to provide funds for the dig there this summer. It’s probably a wild goose chase, but someone might want to give Thane a call, since he presumably knew Emma Darton. I could give him a call, if no one else wants to.”
There is a short silence after he has finished speaking. Twitch is feeling quite breathless. “What if the baby was a decoy for nicking the grail?” he suggests in what he believes is a helpful manner. “That’s what I may have done.”
“We’ve got a clear path to follow at any rate,” Andrew comments. “The breeding programme. The first thing we should do is look into the Trismegistus Club.”
Matt grins at TR and stands up. “Personally, I reckon we should book rooms in a hotel as near as dammit to Salisbury Plain, spend another day checking out the Oxford leads then bugger off en masse to Wiltshire. I’m off to do the medical bullshit bit on Nigel Bradshaw; might be worth checking out the clinic for a possible moonlight raid too, eh?” He looks pointedly at Mickey then at the rest of the group again. “Someone needs to ’phone Blaize, see if Paul’s ‘genetic essence’ has been tampered with. And, uh, can anyone think of anything useful to do with Isabelle Kingston?”
“Thanks for coming with me,” Isobel says, though actually she doesn’t sound like she cares much one way or the other. Mickey gives John a worried look and slings the bags into the back of the car. Isobel’s bag is light – a change of clothes, little more. Mickey’s own bag is heavier containing as it does two baseball bats, several knives, two pistols and one sawn-off shot gun.
Twitch, hovering nearby, grins nervously, sucking on an unlit cigarette. “Well, if you need anything, my dear, you must call. And as soon as we’ve finished everything here, we’ll be down to Wiltshire with you. Before you know it.” He smells slightly of whiskey. “Pity you’re going, Mickey. We could have used your – ah – talents when we interrogate Bradshaw.” He grimaces slightly. “Best the ladies don’t see that, of course. Um. Well, keep in touch. I would come, you know, but things to do…”
“I understand.” On impulse, Isobel leans forward and kisses him on the cheek and has the satisfaction of seeing him turn beetroot. She gets into the car. On her lap is her handbag containing Arthur’s toy and Edward Lloyd’s journal. She clutches the bag close and barely notices when Mickey starts the car. Determination to get her son back has taken over. There is no room in her mind for anything else, now.
Andrew, Eric and Matt go en masse to find Anita Rohinder. It doesn’t take them long. She is sitting alone as usual in an office room at the university. She looks tired and pale, her eyes deeply shadowed, but she summons up a smile when the three men come in.
“Mr Weiser, Dr Alnes, Dr Culver. Have you made any progress yet?”
Matt ignores the question. “We want to talk to you about the Bradshaw clinic,” he says. “You recommended it to Edward Lloyd, didn’t you? Why that clinic in particular?”
She doesn’t seem surprised by the question. “A number of reasons. Firstly, we hadn’t used it before. We tend to spread our – ah – business around, for security reasons. Second, it has a very good reputation, a good success rate and it is well known for being open to the newest techniques. Our methods do tend to appear a little eccentric to the outsider so we needed someone who’d be in sympathy with that. Third, the clinic is local to us here in Oxford which made it a good choice.”
“Did you know Bradshaw had been funded by Harvest?” Eric asks.
“Of course. We do check out potential clinics very thoroughly, Dr Alnes. We didn’t see Harvest as a problem. The company has taken a bit of a downturn here in recent years, but the French arm has made some astounding breakthroughs in the field of fertility and genetic engineering. It’s not unusual that they should fund individual clinics, especially a clinic with the reputation of Bradshaw.”
Eric nods in agreement and sits down opposite her. “Edward Lloyd’ journal mentioned someone called ‘S’. Do you know who this could be?”
She frowns. “I’ve never seen his personal papers. No, I’ve really no idea.”
“Could it be Sophia?” Andrew cuts in.
“No. Certainly not.” She sees the disbelief on Matt’s face and looks up at him with a slight smile. “All I know about Sophia is what Geoff Blaize told me no more than a few hours ago. Until today I didn’t know she existed. I doubt very much that Edward Lloyd did, either.”
“All right.” Matt accepts her answer for the time being. “Then can you tell me more about the aim of the breeding programme, the White Alchemist? It all sounds a bit esoteric to me. What do you consider a ‘perfect human’? What, exactly, are you trying to breed true?”
Anita appears to relax. “That, I can tell you about. The White Alchemist, as we’ve called him, is intended to be perfect in every way. Physically perfect – no defect, no susceptibility to illness. Maybe, even, he’d withstand the ravages of time better than the rest of us.”
“He’d age more slowly, Dr Culver. We don’t know that for sure, but it’s a possible outcome. And he’d be intellectually perfect – perfect memory, perfect reasoning. Finally, he’d be spiritually perfect, perfectly in tune with himself and the world around him. He’d have a natural understanding of good and evil, a sure grasp of moral and ethical issues. I hesitate to say it, but he could even be the Messiah reborn.”
The car park is a sinister place at night – dim lighting, dark pools of shadow in the stair cases, every footstep, every breath taken echoing in the empty space.
TR wasn’t sure what he was hoping to find here, but whatever it was, he is to be disappointed. The whole car park is automated, the only person on duty a lone security guard watching a TV screen in an office. And with the security cameras disabled, he didn’t see a thing.
Talking to people in the area proves no more help. He only finds one person who was around at the right time, and she didn’t see anything. “There are cars going in and out all the time,” she tells him. “I really don’t take much notice of them. I’ve already given a statement to the police.”
Giving it up for the night, TR returns to the college. Tomorrow he’ll contact the police again. For now, he’s got other things to do.
“Dr Bradshaw? Sorry to call so late. My name is Dr Matthew Culver, psychiatrist from the Maudsley. You might have read my Lancet piece, ‘Infanticide in the Post-Partum?’“
“I believe I remember it.” Bradshaw has a typical doctor’s voice, slow and soothing. “What can I do for you, Dr Culver?”
“Well, I was hoping you’d be able to meet me to discuss a medical paper I’m working on. I’m looking into the correlation between infertility and depression – good, topical stuff – and I’d really appreciate a few pointers, if you can spare a half-hour or so. If you’re interested, we could publish under both our names.”
Bradshaw is immediately interested. “A joint paper, you say? Sure. I could spare you some time for that. When would you like to meet? Tomorrow?”
“I’m on a tight schedule,” Matt says. “How about tonight?”
Back at the college, TR and Twitch have joined forces. TR looks a little dubious about having the help of the mad professor at first but after a while he has to admit that Twitch is proving useful. Obviously, sitting at a desk looking through back issues of papers is what he does best – even if the back issues in question are not some musty academic paper but the Fortean Times.
“Here’s another article by Emma Darton,” Twitch mumbles. “About crop circles and aliens. One causing the other, I think. It’s a bit confused. She’s hinting at some government conspiracy, too. She mentions Harvest, too – saying the crop circles could be a result of secret trials of genetically modified crops. Doesn’t sound very likely. But then neither do aliens,” he says happily.
TR leaves him to it and goes to phone the editor of the Fortean Times himself, Martin Thane.
“TR Warren,” he introduces himself. “We spoke briefly at the last Psychic Conference in Oxford. I’m calling from Oxford now, as a matter of fact. I was a witness to what happened today and I’m trying to investigate the motives of the gunmen. I understand that one of the victims wrote some articles for you.”
“Ah yes, poor Emma. A terrible tragedy.” Thane tuts to himself. “She was going to report on the Conference for the Times, you know. Else I would have been there myself.” He sounds as if he’s not sure whether to be relieved or sorry that he missed the massacre.
“Could she have written anything that would have made her a target?” TR queries.
“I’m really not sure. For the Times, you mean? She wrote a splendid piece about crop circles, implicating Harvest, the government and just about everyone else. Let me see… Statistics on UFO sightings, that can’t have anything to do with it… a few short pieces on the new Millennium, fairly standard stuff. Oh, and there was the piece on…”
“I’ve found something about Stonehenge,” Twitch calls from his desk. “I wonder if it’s important.”
Ritual Sacrifice at Stonehenge
by Emma Darton
Was Stonehenge a place of sacrifice? The discovery of a man’s skeleton, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, seems to suggest so. The man had been cleanly decapitated, the direction of the blow suggesting he was struck from behind whilst kneeling.
Archaeologists suggest he was a criminal, executed and buried in Pagan ground by the newly emerged Christian church. However, mystery surrounds the whole affair. The skeleton itself was first discovered at the beginning of the century but was considered lost for decades before it came to light again at the National History museum in London. Was there a conspiracy to hide the remains from scientific scrutiny, and if so, by whom?
Further, decapitation of this type was rarely used as a method of execution in Anglo-Saxon days, when hanging was much more common. Beheading was reserved for the most serious of crimes – grand theft included – or where a superstition surrounded the victim. If, for example, people believed he might rise again from the grave.
Another possibility is that the killing was not an execution but a ritual sacrifice. Then we must ask the question, to whom were the people sacrificing? And why?
They stop at a service station to buy a large scale map of Wiltshire. Eating mince pies and drinking lukewarm coffee in what passes for the restaurant, the mood is anything but festive. Mickey looks down at Holly, curled up on his lap with a paper crown lop-sided on her head. Poor kid, he thinks. Some Christmas she’s having.
He looks at the other two. Johnny is sitting with his eyes closed, apparently asleep. Isobel has spread the map out and has Arthur’s toy swinging gently across it in broad sweep.
“I know some people down Wiltshire way,” he says quietly so as not to disturb his daughter or Johnny. “I’ll have a word with them, see if they’ve heard anything. It might help. Any idea where we should be heading yet.”
Isobel looks up. “Avebury.” Her voice is firm.
The wolf prowls silently between the parked cars. The night is icy yet its breath does not show on the air. The starlight shines through its almost transparent body. People walk past it and through it without pause. Almost as if it is not there at all.
The wolf dips its great head to sniff at an oil stain. It brushes alongside a van, drifts through the solid wall of the service station and back out again. A baby’s cry catches its attention and it turns towards the sound, but the child is a girl, not Arthur.
The whole place feels dead. Full of grumbling, late-night travellers, needing to be home for Christmas. The tree in the lobby is already dead, the brightly wrapped parcels beneath it all empty. Fake gifts. Everything fake, seeming alive but dead underneath.
And then, there is a sound like a rushing wind. The wolf suddenly feels trapped, like a rabbit caught in the glare on an oncoming car. It needs to back off, to run, but it is frozen, unable to do anything but watch as the lights rush ever closer, and between them a darkness that is huge, formless. And old.
The wind hits.
Johnny jerks upright, gasping.
“Are you all right?” Mickey asks.
It’s a moment before he can answer. “Yes, fine. Just a dream.”
Holly has woken up and is watching him with worried eyes.
Enid and Martin Salzman. Jewish. Parents immigrated to America after the second world war and settled in New York.
Eric continues phoning through his business and social contacts. The Jewish community being so close knit, he doesn’t have much trouble finding people who knew the Salzmans. Both in their fifties, they had four children (all still living in New York, none of them remarkable.) Martin worked as an engineer, Enid had been a housewife all her life. Both seem to have lived very ordinary lives – a house in a good neighbourhood, occasional attendance at the synagogue, a social life that included nothing more exciting than card games with the neighbours. Mrs Salzman was known to have a vague interest in fortune telling, which probably explains their presence at the conference. From what Eric can tell, the couple had been planning their trip to the UK for the better part of the year. They hadn’t mentioned to anyone they were going to the Oxford conference.
After the last phone call, Eric sighs and rests his head in his hands. Tourists, travelling in the UK, hearing about the conference and deciding at the last minute to attend. Caught in the cross-fire. He wonders how many times this has happened before. Innocent people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, never even knowing the nature of the forces that kill them.
“Dr Bradshaw, good of you to see me at such short notice. This is my assistant, Andrew Weiser.”
Bradshaw looks doubtfully at Andrew who does his best to look like a medical student before turning his attention to scrutinising every detail of the office they are led into. During the fifteen minutes Matt spends discussing infertility and stress, there is plenty of time to look around. Large windows look onto the car park at the front of the clinic. Andrew spots alarm sensors above them and in the corners of the room. The door is swipe-card operated, alarmed again, no doubt, though he can’t see any sign of it. The computer is locked to the desk, and the three drawers of the metal filing cabinet are all locked.
The windows would be the quickest way in, he thinks, but also the most risky. The office is on the first floor so it would be necessary to climb the front of the building in plain sight of anyone who happened to be walking by. Coming in by the front way would mean having to get through several locked doors, and Andrew noticed security cameras on all the corridors they came along. Definitely a job for someone with the right skills.
“Fertility’s such an emotive subject,” Matt is saying, “and, of course, a clinician in your position is always open to accusations of ‘playing God’ – don’t you think?” He leans back in his chair and fixes Bradshaw with a hard stare. “Dr Bradshaw – Nigel – I have reason to believe that you have abused the trust of one of your clients – a friend of mine. Mrs Isobel Blyth.”
“I beg your pardon?” Bradshaw blinks several times. His hands open and close nervously. “I’m afraid I have no idea…”
“She came here for artificial insemination with frozen semen from her dead husband,” Matt cuts in. “You had a – how shall I put it? – a ‘conflict of interests’? A guilty secret, an unpaid debt?” he leans forward. “Tell me about your connection with Harvest.”
Bradshaw turns a fraction paler. “Any funding this clinic receives is entirely legitimate,” he says. He adjusts his tie and clears his throat. “I agreed to this meeting believing you wanted to discuss infertility and depression. If that is not the case, maybe you should leave now.”
Matt does not move. Andrew stands tense, ready to intervene if need be.
Matt continues, implacable. “I’m not sure if you know what you’ve done. The GMC would be interested, though, as would the tabloids – ‘medical blunder’ meets ‘genetic modification’, hmm? ‘Frankenstein’s Baby’. Your career would be over.” His eyes narrow. “More importantly, Mrs Blyth has a right to know: how did you earn the money from Harvest?”
“Harvest granted this clinic a sum of money to cover initial costs of setting up and to further scientific research,” Bradshaw snaps angrily. “The corporation is well known for its interest in fertility work as well as genetic modification – and I assure you the two fields of research are entirely separate. Frankenstein’s baby, indeed. You as a doctor should know better than that.” He stands up, glances at the corner of the room once, then back at Matt. “Harvest is a large organisation, Dr Culver, and well able to take care of the interests of its partners. Remember that before you start issuing threats. This interview is now concluded.”
He shows them out in silence, and they don’t speak again until the door is slammed firmly behind them.
“There was a surveillance camera in the office,” Andrew says then. “He’s got the whole thing on tape.”
Twitch shuts the last issue of the Fortean Times and yawns loudly. It is almost midnight and he is tired but delighted with progress so far. He shakes the last few drops of whiskey out of his bottle and wanders off to find TR.
“Tell me about your dig,” he says. “The Stancourt Hardon thingamy. Must be a pretty significant site if you travel all across the world, buy property and piss off the locals. What’s so important about it?”
“Stanton Harcourt,” TR corrects him. “It’s a fifth century burial mound. Workmen discovered it when they were digging foundations for a row of shops. Building work was put on hold while an archaeological team moved in. They found some interesting remains including a neckpiece called the Harcourt Jewel, and a number of swords. Eric bought up the row of shops so we could excavate the site fully, which is what pissed off the locals, as you put it.” He sighs and grins. “All in vain, I’m afraid. We found some more swords, a few smaller pieces of jewellery, bones and remains, but nothing that you wouldn’t expect to find in a mound of that type. No mystery there at all.”
Eric meets Andrew and Culver as they come back from the clinic. Matt is angry, urging a midnight foray to the clinic to check it out, but Andrew and Eric both advise caution.
“We need someone with the right skills,” Andrew says. “And that means Mickey. We can’t risk getting caught, so, until we hear from him, we have to sit tight and do nothing. I’m going to take another look at the Tri Club, and then I’m going to get some sleep.”
Eric accompanies him indoors. “What part of Norway do you come from?” he asks. “I was born and raised in Oslo myself.”
“Were you really?” Andrew looks at the old man with renewed interest. “I’m living in Bergen now. I was studying history at the university, but my course finished this year. That and my national service has kept me busy up to now.”
“You weren’t ever in the Boy Scouts, were you?” Eric enquires.
Andrew laughs, surprised. “I was, as a matter of fact. When did you leave Norway, then?”
Chatting amiably, the two men go into the college.
The travellers book themselves into the Avebury Travelodge, reserving enough rooms for the whole group. Late as it is, there is little more to be done. Mickey puts Holly to bed while John flicks through the local newspapers and Isobel gives Matt a ring to tell him where they are.
“I see Stonehenge is to be cordoned off this New Year’s Eve,” John says, looking up from the paper he’s reading. “It says here there’s been talk of UFOs and strange lights and police are worried the New Agers might move in in force and ruin the place. They’re going to block off the area for a mile all around to make sure nothing happens. There are street parties and fireworks scheduled for just about every town in this area on the thirty-first, too. There’s likely to be a lot of people around.”
Mickey nods and checks the windows. “Crowds can be a good thing. We can hide ourselves if need be. Keep an eye on Holly for me, will you? I’m just going to take a quick look around, make sure we’re not being followed.”
Eric checks his answering service and finds a response from Martin Keyes, explaining that his first and only job for the Trismegistus Club was during the Oxford disaster. He was hired to perform mundane tasks during the conference, and to report everything he heard or saw to Edward Lloyd and Henry Blyth. Both are now deceased, and they were his only contacts with the club. There is a pause, then Keyes says ‘You see, doctor, you knew about my status as a ‘failed’ experiment of the T-Club before I did.’ His voice is almost without bitterness. ‘When I went to work for SITU in Mexico, Lloyd stopped returning my calls. As a matter of fact, he never even picked up the phone. I’ll never know if they killed my parents over their involvement with Goodchild’s family, but their actions were those of people with something to hide.’
The Trismegistus Club. Start date unknown, thought to be at least a hundred years ago. Known members, Henry Blyth (deceased), Edward Lloyd (deceased), Anita Rohinder, Martin Keyes (SITU agent), Vera Goodchild (SITU agent.)
Stated objective: a long term breeding plan culminating in the birth of the so-called White Alchemist – a perfect human baby. The exact meaning of ‘perfect’ being defined by the Club. While bearing some similarity to the Nazi eugenics programme, the Tri Club are not working on any large scale and shun short cuts. They believe that a slow, controlled programme is the only way to ultimate success.
Andrew leafs through the pages slowly. Swahn was happy to give him all of SITU’s information on the Club. Unfortunately, the information is scant at best. SITU appear to regard the club as being unimportant, an eccentric group intent on their own harmless purpose.
Their interest in the mystic is purely academic. They have no intention of meddling with forces they do not understand, and they have no real interest in ever understanding the psychic forces of the world around them. SITU as an organisation did not come into contact with them until the previous psychic conference in Oxford, August 1988. Keyes and Goodchild are both results of the breeding programme and proof enough that the programme is essentially harmless.
Henry Blyth died towards the end of the 1988 conference. Cause of death – whether accidental or murder – has never fully been established.
Christmas Eve. A light covering of frost makes the road outside the Avebury Travelodge look like a scene from a greetings card. The nearby church is bright and welcoming, already filling up with morning worshippers as Isobel slips in the back. She sits in the wooden pew, her head bowed, and prays silently.
“I want to find my child.” The whisper fills her mind. “I want to find my child and I don’t know where to look. God, what do you want of me? Why are you testing me like this? Show me what to do.”
As she sits there, she feels a touch on her shoulder. A man’s voice says softly. “Don’t be afraid. It is written that this must happen. ‘And the Dragon stood before the woman which was about to be delivered, that when she was delivered he might devour her child. And she was delivered of a son, a male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God and unto his throne.’ Follow God and your child will not die.”
Startled, Isobel looks up, but there is no one there.
“Any thoughts on this?” Mickey asks Holly as they drive to the rendezvous point. The little girl frowns, pleased to be asked.
“I don’t know. It’s all very strange. Sometimes I’ve been able to find people by thinking about them, but when I think of Arthur I don’t feel anything at all. That woman who hurt everyone was very hurt and very angry. I couldn’t look at her for long. I don’t know what was stolen from her, but it was very, very important. I think they wanted the baby to do something with him, not just because of revenge. But I don’t know what.”
Mickey grins at her. “You’re doing fine. We’re here.” He stops the car outside a building that looks derelict and leaves Holly with John while he goes in.
His contact is a man named Sam. He listens while Mickey explains what he wants and shakes his head slowly.
“I’ve heard… rumours. A raid being planned, target unknown.” He glances around quickly and leans forward, close to Mickey. “Listen, two of my people were approached to take part in it. They were told it would involve shooting at random, with a couple of targeted killings. They turned the job down and the next morning the two of them were found dead of heart attacks. Not a mark on them. Whatever you’re getting into here, be careful.”
“I will,” Mickey assures him. “What else do you know?”
“Very little. The orders came through a woman, so I heard. No idea where the weapons or vehicles came from – I haven’t heard anything about that. Frankly, after what happened to Chris and Perry, I don’t want to know.”
“We need to push for more information on the Bradshaw Clinic,” Eric says to TR. “As it’s funded by Harvest, the obvious candidate is Sophia, but if that’s the case, why did she turn on her own minions? Could it be because they were associating with SITU?”
“She was associating with SITU herself,” TR points out. “Albeit unwillingly.” He looks around at the rest of the group, assembled together. So far they’ve all proved able to work together as a team. He’s slightly worried about what Mickey might be doing, and Andrew seems far too keen to kill people, but so far so good. He just hopes they don’t have a repeat of what happened in Mexico when the group all but fell apart.
Eric stands up. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ve due to talk to some people about organising the next congress. Some time next autumn, we hope. With rather better security precautions.” He catches the disbelieving looks from his companions and smiles. “I believe it will be a case of third time lucky.”
TR waits for him to go before laughing. “The eternal optimist. I’m off to call the police again. I’ll catch up with the rest of you later.”
The police have little more to go on. “We traced the vans used in the raid to South Wales,” Sergeant Harris says. “Both of them stolen from a garage. We’ve already checked it out and we’re satisfied the owner had nothing to do with it. Apart from that, nothing. These people have covered their tracks well.”
Feeling the need of some medicinal brandy, Twitch wanders outside. Matt and Andrew follow him, intending to take another look around the town.
“We can’t get into the Bradshaw place without Mickey,” Andrew says. “So what do we do? Move down to Avebury to join Isobel and the others?”
“Seems like a good plan,” Matt agrees. “But if Bradshaw thinks he’s off the hook, he’s – Look out!”
A screech of brakes as a car comes round the corner at them. Andrew grabs Matt and leaps to safety just in time. The two men sit up in time to see the car speeding off.
A worried Twitch ambles over. “Who’s for medicinal brandy?”
24th December 2000.
Isobel, John, Mickey – Avebury
Twitch, Eric, TR, Andrew, Matt – Oxford.
Isobel: You find extensive records in Edward’s house – personal details about your parents, yourself and Arthur. Edward seems to have been very proud of you and Henry both, and had suspected for a long time that the two of you were capable of producing the White Alchemist. Your parents were both member of the Tri Club – there’s reference to their marriage being arranged by the Club – and Henry’s family, too, appears to have been associated with the club for several generations.
You find only one other reference to ‘S’, from about eighteen months ago. ‘S has agreed to help.’ There is nothing at all to tell you what Arthur might be or why Sophia might want to kidnap him.