The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Like a Thief in the Night
10pm 25th December
Andrew – Stonehenge
Eric, TR, John, Mickey, Isobel, Twitch, Matt – Avebury.
“Tell me where Culver is and I will give you the grail.”
“Yeah, right,” T.R. says, crossing his arms and laughing in disbelief at the situation, “Like a vampire is really gonna tell us where the Holy Grail is. I mean, that’s what you’re supposed to be, right? A vampire? So when does the blonde cheerleader show up and stake you?” He takes another step forward and his humour fades. “Listen, Spike, even if I did believe you knew where the Grail was, I don’t bargain with my friends’ lives, so why don’t you just buzz off. Turn into a bat or whatever you do.”
He crosses his arms and stares at the vampire, shifting slightly to make sure he is in front of Eric. Seeing John and Mickey racing up, he breathes a short sigh of relief. He’s sure he can take on Maurice alone if necessary, but it doesn’t hurt having reinforcements.
“So you thought young Theo was a vampire,” Twitch is muttering in the car. “That would explain a lot…been leeching off me for years.” He falls suddenly silent, staring through the windscreen. “Careful Matt, people don’t just stand around freezing their whatnots off in the middle of December… I think I’ll stay in the car…”
“Bloody hell, that’s Maurice!” Matt yells. He feels a jolt of remembrance pass through him, laced with fear. Straightaway he slows the car to a crawl. “Pass me those garlic capsules would you, Twitch? And get ready with that Maglite, eh?” He gulps down a whole handful of the capsules and switches the headlights to full dazzle.
The SITU agents, the vampire, the whole surrounding area, is illuminated in brilliant white light. Maurice yells and flings his arms over his head. Eric, smiles grimly. “Since you’re about to find out anyway, I see no reason not to tell you that he’s the driver of the car that’s just blinded you, Maurice. So, tell me – are you a man of your word? Will you give us the Grail now?” As he speaks he is reaching out with his mind, trying to sense the Grail. A brief glimpse of something golden flashes across his vision, and then, for some reason, the thought of crystals. If he can heal the vampire here and now, he thinks, it would surely remove the danger. But he knows as soon as he tries to focus his mind that this is going to take far more power than he has got.
Matt watches the scene from the car. “Looks like I’ve graduated to having my own stalker,” he mutters sourly, throwing back a second handful of garlic capsules. He makes no move to get out of the car. In fact, he keeps his hands on the steering wheel, ready to make a quick getaway if necessary.
Mickey aims his shotgun and Maurice and smiles. “Insurance,” he says. “Oh, and don’t get too confident, because I’ve killed your kind before.”
John stops beside him. “Culver is cured,” he calls softly. “It was the power of the crystals, power of nature. What of Johann Breit? Is he here? Does he have the grail?”
Maurice lets out a shriek that is half laughter, half agony. “He is dead. But there are others like him. She has it now. You will have to take it from her and she will not let it go.”
“Who is she?” Eric demands. “Sophia?”
“Sophia is a fool, the same as the rest of you.” Pinned in the silver glare of the lights the vampire is weeping with pain and rage. “Look for the one who was burned. The Watcher’s woman. Tanith.” He straightens, his lips drawing back in a snarl. “You have what you want. Now I will take what is mine.” Faster than anyone can react, he leaps away from the lights and is running at Matt’s car.
Several things happen at once. Mickey’s shotgun goes off with a roar. TR and John both dive for Maurice. Isobel hurls a flash grenade. Matt swears and flings the car into reverse. Maurice’s fingernails leave tracks in the windscreen. Then a second figure hurls itself out of the trees and cannons into the vampire.
“Darius,” Twitch breathes. Matt doesn’t answer. He is too busy backing the car away.
The two vampires roll on the ground together. “Run them both over!” Twitch shouts. Visions of Sidestep, lying in a hospital bed, come to his mind. But Matt doesn’t listen.
With a sickening rip of cloth and flesh, Maurice breaks free and springs into the cover of the trees. Darius stands up slowly, watching where he went but not following.
Limp with relief, Matt climbs out of the car, leaving Twitch to take over the driving seat. Darius turns to face the group that is hurrying up. He glances at Matt. “He is getting weaker,” he says. “We all are.”
Matt shakes his head. “I got lucky, Darius. The Master had a whole load of healing energy stored in crystals; he’d siphoned it all away for years, some sort of psychic battery, I guess. The Whitby vampires called it the ‘force flow’. That’s how they work. Anyway, my friends found a way to divert that energy so it healed me, not him.” He meets Darius’s stare, still able to see the beauty beneath his aged skin. “I have got an idea, though,” he continues. “There’s another of them here, in Wiltshire; she’s planning something big for the Millennium. Dunno exactly what, yet, but it’s bound to involve harnessing that energy again…”
The sudden look of hope on Darius’ face is almost painful to look at. Matt stares down at the ground. “No promises, Darius, but if you stick around until the 31st there’s likely to be plenty of that energy slopping around. If I can find a way of using it to heal you, I’ll do it. Just… just stay close. I might need you for an alibi…”
There is a brief silence, broken by the blare of the car horn. “Only two of you left, eh?” Twitch yells from the driver’s window. “What about blondie, eh? Answer me that, fangs.”
“I only know what I learned from Maurice,” Darius says calmly. “He doesn’t want healing,” (this said with a quick look in Eric’s direction.) “He wants revenge, and so he’s got involved with whatever is going on here. I know there is a woman involved; I don’t know who she is or what her plans are. But if you have enemies, there are also people watching out for you,” he says. “Isobel, you believe in angels, don’t you?”
She nods doubtfully.
“Keep believing.” He smiles, bows quickly to Matt. “I accept your offer. I’ll be around, help if I can. Just remember me when this thing comes to a head.”
With that, he turns and walks quickly away. No one tries to stop him.
“Christ,” Matt says, pouring himself a measure of warmed brandy, “how would Maurice know about the Grail? I wonder whether the Master ever had dealings with Sophia…” He looks around at the others, all there except Andrew. “I’ve been trying to keep up with the other missions again, and it’s becoming clear that there are connections between Sophia and other Ylids. The French team’s managed to dig up some ancient contract whereby she apparently signed over her first-born son to someone in return for some unspecified favour in return. Seems she views herself as a Joan of Arc figure, a martyr to a cause.” He pauses to knock back another third of brandy. “But what cause?” he asks. “I can’t help feeling Sophia’s the lynchpin of a much greater whole – she and her half-Ylid offspring are a vital part of some big Ylid ritual. Something that ‘went wrong’ two thousand-odd years ago and they’re trying to put right on the 31st?”
He sets his glass down and reaches for the brandy again, beaten to it by Twitch. He frowns. “It’s about ritual sacrifice of Messiah figures. I’ve been ploughing through ‘Holy Blood & the Holy Grail’ again…” He fishes the dog-eared paperback from his coat, “…and I’m coming round to thinking that Sophia’s first-born child wasn’t TR’s apparition of the other night; he was Jesus Christ himself.”
Isobel’s eye open wide. Eric murmurs disagreement.
“It makes a certain amount of sense,” Matt argues. “‘Pure’ Christianity – as Isobel knows – seems fairly free of Ylid influence. Although he probably had half-Ylid parentage, it doesn’t look like Christ was on their side. If he was originally conceived as part of a ritual sacrifice, he’s done pretty well for himself along the way, eh? From the Ylids’ point of view, it all went drastically wrong, no?” He shrugs. “All speculation. We need more solid evidence. Any bright ideas?”
“Bugger the Grail,” Twitch slurs. “And SITU. And everything else.” Isobel looks alarmed. He glares at her. “And you can lay off, too. I’ve had enough of the whole damn lot of you.”
“One other thing,” Matt says quickly. “The French mission found a note in Liza Petherton’s things, an appointment card for the Bradshaw Clinic. There was something written over the fourteenth of January: ‘Meet S. first. Roseway Hotel, Oxford’. The mysterious ‘S’ again. Maybe we should be checking out the hotel, see if any staff remember anything? Possibly not myself,” he concludes dryly, “since I’m wanted in Oxford…”
As everyone drifts back to their own rooms, Matt begins his preparations for the night, which mainly involve barricading the windows with as much furniture as he can. He’s about to drag the desk across the door when it opens and Twitch comes in.
“An, Matt my lad,” Twitch says. “Just a quick word. Our little chat about… ahem… my Margaret. Keep it to yourself, will you? Wouldn’t want the others thinking I was unstable in any way. Oh no…”
Matt takes a step towards him. “Twitch, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. It’s just… well, you know that’s how Sophia operates. She targets people who’ve suffered a loss, bereavement, and she gets her claws into them through their dreams. She makes promises but they’re not real.” He regards his friend with sympathy. “Just… look, I know it’s difficult for you, but you can’t afford to let your guard down. You can’t let her get you.”
Twitch’s eyes narrow into a glare. “She’s not getting to me,” he snaps. “Just because I have one dream. And a little Christmas cheer… Some friend you are.”
It’s too late. The door slams.
The two wolves walk side by side. Shimmering paths branch off either side of them.
“Are these the spirit realms?” John asks.
His wolf totem regards him seriously. “These are the realms. What you are seeking lies here in part. But it is guarded.”
“How do you know what I seek?”
The wolf dips its head. “Because we are one. Our thoughts are alike. You seek the spirit of a child, do you not?”
A great lake opens out in front of them, its silver water rippling between black cliffs on one side and a sea on the other. A black boat waits by the shore and in it a woman sits weeping.
She looks up as John approaches.
“They have taken my Lord,” she says. “And I do not know where they have put him.”
John finds he has shifted back into human form. He reaches out a hand to her. As he does, she lets out a gasp of surprise.
“You are Lancelot. The savagery of the wild animal always just below the surface. But where are the others?”
The vision fades.
Andrew sleeps fitfully that night. Most of the time he watches, his night-vision goggles showing people as slow-moving blobs of red light. He wonders whether vampires give off heat. John radioed him to bring him up to date with events in Avebury – worrying to know that Maurice is on the loose, but at least Darius appears to be on their side at the moment.
The thing to do now, though, is to watch. Richard, in the camp, said they were expecting people from south Wales. People who follow the druidic tradition. They are the key, Andrew thinks. This whole thing could turn out very much like the showdown at the pyramids in Egypt.
Andrew lowers his goggles, lays one hand on his rifle, the other on the sword. Let them come, he thinks. Whatever happens, he will be ready.
Matt wakes early, relieved to find no signs of an attempted break-in. Checking his laptop for emails, he reads something that makes him pause suddenly and flick over to the online Times’ obituary page.
So the obnoxious brat’s father is dead, he thinks. It’d be fair to suppose that at least one Ylid might well turn up at his funeral.
“Holly,” Mickey says, “I want you to do something for me, all right?”
“Sure, daddy. What?”
“Nothing much.” He smiles at her. “Keep an eye on Twitchin, that’s all. I’m a little worried about him. Why don’t you try to cheer him up, keep his mind focussed on the job? He’s not happy at the moment.”
Holly nods, chewing her bottom lip. “He’s missing someone,” she says. “It’s hurting him and he wants to hurt everyone else. Yes, I’ll help. I’d like him to be happy again.”
“Happy Boxing Day! Don’t you ever go home?” Matt grins, picturing Blaize dining alone in the SITU offices on a turkey Pot Noodle for one. “Anyway, there are some developments here. It’s looking more and more interlinked. I reckon their last sacrificial lamb went awry and became a Messiah instead. Perhaps they’ve waited two millennia to put things right again? Oh, and it looks like the Watcher might crash the party; there’s a load of Welsh druids planned to arrive and do their thing.”
He breaks off, preparing to give Blaize a list of his latest demands. “Don’t worry; I’m not asking for another glimpse of Buck Rogers from the Republic of Nauru. I’m just wondering whether you could contact the Bamworth Coven – Harriet Bamworth, wasn’t it? – let them know we’re looking for a missing child, and get them to, I dunno, scry Avebury or something on our behalf. It’s worth a try, no?” He rubs his eyes wearily. “Oh, and have you got round to checking out Paul’s ‘genetic essence’ yet? It’s looking more and more like the Tri Club have been doing the dirty on us; the ‘serpent’ in Paris was pretty damn Biblical, eh? Or does the ‘S’ in Edward Lloyd’s diary refer to ‘SITU’? Or ‘Swahn’? Is there a viper in our little Paradise…?”
He hangs up, chuckling.
“It seems to me we have two possible leads,” TR says. “The best one is the Johann Breit household that Johnny discovered. The second is the Red Lion itself. I know we didn’t see any evidence of secret chambers, but the fact that the building is right in the centre of the stone circle might be significant. There’s also the woman, Tanith, that Maurice mentioned.” He fingers a flash grenade thoughtfully. “Mickey, could you go down there to check it out?”
Mickey shrugs. “I’ve got some other things to do first, but all right.” He winks at Holly who scrambles up onto Twitchin’s lap.
“Are you going to pretend to be a hippy today?” she asks. “I could help you. I can pretend you’re my grand-daddy.”
Twitch looks a little taken aback by her enthusiasm. “Please let me come,” she begs.
He tries to push her away without success. “Well, I suppose…”
“One thing I want to do,” Eric says, “is to talk to Isabelle Kingston again. She might know something more about the grail – and there’s always a chance she might be able to contact the grail maiden. It’s worth a try.”
Remembering his dream of last night, John nods. Did he see the Grail Maiden, he wonders. And if so, who is her Lord? Arthur?” He looks at Isobel. “You should try divining again. We’ve narrowed the search down to the circle of stones. Why don’t you try again with a street guide?”
“All right.” She casts another, worried look at Twitch. “I can look for Breit’s house, for a start. But I think we should look more into who’s involved with the stones at Avebury.”
“Andrew thinks we ought to look at West Kennet Long Barrow,” Mickey says.
Isobel shakes her head firmly. “No. I’m sure that’s just another excursion to keep us away from where we’re supposed to be. What I think we should do is to look more into who is involved with the stones at Avebury. Someone could do a bit of research into the living family members of the man who erected them in the 1930s. It could be that they have some artefacts that may help us.”
“And then there’s Avalon,” John says.
TR looks up. “Avalon? Oh yeah, I’ve been there.” He grins when everyone stares at him. “You’re talking about the city on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles, right? Some great restaurants there.”
“Any sensible suggestions,” Matt asks acidly.
“Hey,” TR says. “If I was King Arthur, that is where I would want to go after I died. The weather is a lot better on Catalina Island than it is here.”
He looks out of the window. As if to confirm his words, it begins to rain.
Rain slashes across the street where TR stands. By daylight the area looks drab, ordinary. Two paths cross, one leading to the hotel, the other to the town. A few leafless trees bend their branches towards him. Underfoot the ground is damp, slightly muddy and bears no marks that the woman he saw was ever there.
Sophia’s strength is in playing with people’s minds, he reminds himself. Maybe she made him see something that wasn’t there. Only, if what Maurice said was true, maybe it wasn’t Sophia they were dealing with at all, but another woman. Tanith – she was the one who tried to steal the Grail once before, wasn’t she?
Whoever she was, there was no sign of her now. Nothing to suggest why she should threaten him and then tell him to run.
TR starts to walk away, then stops. Another thought has struck him. He had assumed it was the woman who’d told him to run. But come to think of it, the voice he’d heard for that one moment before panic and self-preservation had taken over, wasn’t a woman’s at all. It was a man’s.
“Thank you for travelling down today,” Eric says.
Isabelle Kingston smiles and shrugs. “Well, it’s not as if I had anything else to do. And with all this trouble going on, I’m glad to help.” She settles herself down on the chair opposite him. “So, what can I do for you?”
Eric explains his theories about the Grail and its guardian. When he finishes, Isabelle sits quietly in thought for a few minutes.
“If I understand rightly, the people who stole the Grail from Glastonbury tried to use it as part of a ritual. A SITU group interrupted the ritual and recovered the Grail but its healing power was by them lost. My guess is that the damage was done when the ritual was halted part way. The Grail Maiden was cut off from the grail at the point, and the Grail’s healing power was lost. Now, to my thinking, there are two ways to undo the damage. The first is to undo the ritual that caused the damage. It’s not as difficult as it sounds – there are many counter-rituals. To do that we’d need the Grail, of course.”
Eric nods. “And the second way?”
“We do what, I believe, our enemies will be attempting. We complete the ritual.” Her face clouds for a moment then she forces a smiles and holds her hands out. “Don’t worry: they’ll never get that far. Now, you wanted me to try and contact the Grail Maiden. I’ll need your help.”
Eric hesitates only a moment before putting his hands into hers.
“Close your eyes,” Isabelle instructs. “Focus your thoughts on the Grail. That’s right.” Her fingers tighten on his a fraction. Eric becomes aware of a stirring in the room, something that sounds like the wind blowing at first, but gradually taking on a rhythm so it becomes the sound of thousands of people breathing all together. He has to fight the impulse to open his eyes.
Then a voice issues from Isabelle Kingston’s throat. A voice that is changed, confident and masculine.
“Percival who was, who is it you seek?”
“Hello?” Twitch says. “Is that the News of the World? I have a tip-off for you. All hush hush, of course. It involves de Montfort, the government advisor. I have proof that he is having an affair with the daughter of an immigrant drug dealer.”
The girl on the end of the phone is silent.
“She’s a model, by the way,” Twitch adds helpfully. He hears a muffled conversation on the end of the line, then the girl comes back.
“Sir, I regret to inform you that Viscount de Montfort died of a heart attack earlier today. The only story we are running on him is his obituary.”
TR is bored. The tour of the Red Lion is proving singularly uninteresting, and Tom Williams hasn’t stopped talking from the moment TR asked if he could have a look around.
“Here are the bedrooms,” he announces, flinging open a door. TR has a brief glimpse of an unmade bed and clothes draped over a chair before Tom closes it again. “Can’t let you in, of course,” he apologises. “We’re full up this time of the year, always are. But you can put in your article that we offer a warm welcome and the rooms are the most comfortable you’ll find in Avebury. All fully modernised.”
TR stifles a yawn and smiles encouragingly. “So what about the rest of the pub. Any really old parts?”
“Oh, the building’s been here for centuries,” Tom says. “All I’ve done is redecorated some of the rooms. Much of the place looks exactly as it would have done in the year it was built. You wanted to see the cellars, didn’t you? This way.”
They go down two flights of stairs then Tom stops to open a door marked ‘Private.’ He flicks a light on. “It’s a bit of a mess down here, mind,” he says, treading over boxes, “so watch yourself. We still haven’t moved out half the stuff from the 1930’s excavation.”
He turns, seeing the look of stunned amazement on TR’s face. “You know about the excavation, of course, when they put all the stones back into their proper places. My great-uncle was involved. A lot of the stuff he found he put down here for want of something better to do with it. We’ve got boxes of stuff – old bones, bits of jewellery, all sorts.”
“Who are you?” Eric asks.
Isabelle’s hands are trembling beneath his. Her eyes are open but blank, staring at him without seeing him.
“I am Michael. The guardian. As you are Percival, the one who brings healing. You seek the Maiden. She will come. When you have the Grail in your hands you may call her and she will hear.”
“How will we find the Grail?” Eric asks.
“Find the one who has it. But take care. You have many enemies, Percival, and also many friends. Go with God.”
Isabelle gasps sharply and blinks. “What happened? What did I say?”
Isobel, Twitch and Matt are together in Matt’s room when John comes in.
“No luck,” he says. “I’ve asked all round the village and in the pub, and no one knows anything about Breit.”
Twitch pats Isobel’s shoulder sympathetically, but she seems more concerned about him than finding Breit. “Don’t worry,” she says quickly, “there are other ways of doing it.” She takes the street map and opens it up on the floor then takes a piece of crystal out of her bag. “Breit’s base was the crystal mine, so let’s see what we find with crystal.”
Letting the crystal hang loose on its chain, she half closes her eyes. Her aim is to let it swing unhindered and so she doesn’t watch it at all. She leaves the others to do that and doesn’t look again until Matt lets out a low cry.
They all bend to look.
The crystal is hanging directly over a street called Diamond Row.
Plans are drawn up. Mickey decides early evening is the best time for an ambush which leaves a few hours to wander around Stonehenge. Twitch volunteers to go with him and Holly and Isobel both volunteer to go with Twitch. John agrees to tag along too, which leaves Matt to check out Diamond Row.
Andrew notes the group arriving at the Stonehenge campsite. Twitch is dressed in his hippy disguise, Holly clinging to his hand and dancing excitedly while Isobel watches the pair of them. While Mickey and John sneak off to examine the henge itself, Twitch, Isobel and Holly stay behind and start taking to the various campers.
“Catweazle Moonbeam,” Twitch introduces himself. “Been doing the festival round for years. This is my granddaughter, Holly Moonbeam. And – uh – my sister Isabella. Pleased to meet you all.”
Isobel contents herself with standing back and listening. Twitch seems a lot happier now, chatting amiably about saving whales and otters and fighting policemen. She starts forward a little worriedly when he accepts a drag on some dubious-looking cigarette, but he waves her back and grins at her merrily. “So when do we get to storm the henge?” he asks.
The boy whose cigarette he borrowed shrugs. “New Year’s Eve, they keep telling us. We’re expecting some more people to arrive tonight, from Wales, I think. They’ll be doing the druid ceremony bit. The rest of us have to keep the cops back long enough for things to go ahead. It shouldn’t be too hard. You want to see our weapons supply? It’s cool – far better than the normal stuff we get.”
Expecting to see bigger than average rocks and sticks, Twitch nods and ambles off after the boy. They stop at the back of a set of parked vans where there is in fact a large pile of stones and tree branches. But then the boy opens the back of one of the vans.
“Oh my…” Isobel murmurs.
Bullet-proof jackets, pistols, rifles, grenades, all in neat rows. There must be hundreds of them. Andrew would love it, she thinks.
Diamond Row is a road of twenty or so houses, all of them detached with large gardens and garages. Matt walks along slowly, looking for any clue that will tell him which of these houses is the right one. Not Johann Breit, he thinks, but somebody like him. Someone who is respectable, middle-class and an agent of an Ylid.
He splashes through a puddle and stops. Most of the houses have numbers set into their gates. But one of them has a name plate – ‘Crystal Cavern.’
Matt stands there a moment longer then hurries away. He doesn’t want to draw attention to himself now. For now, he needs to get back to the others and tell them what he’s found.
As he gets to the hotel, his mobile rings.
“Matt,” Blaize says. “You were right. I contacted the Bamworth Coven. They haven’t located the child, but they say there’s a definite disturbance. Ley lines are shifting – centring in on Stonehenge.”
Matt is silent a moment. “And Paul’s essence?”
“That’s the worst part.” Blaize sighs. “It’s been tampered with. I think some of it may be missing.”
“You can’t go there,” a policeman says the moment Mickey sets foot on the field around Stonehenge.
Mickey is about to argue when John puts a hand on his arm. “It doesn’t matter. Come on.” He pulls his friend away quickly.
“What did you do that for?” Mickey asks angrily. “He’d have let us through.”
“Maybe.” John is frowning. Maybe the policeman would have let them pass, but there was no need. Staring into the centre of the henge, the lake was so obvious he didn’t need to be any closer. He’s surprised Mickey didn’t see it himself – a great expanse of flat water with the sea on one side and mountains on the other. A path of moonlight across it, and, on the shore, a single black boat, waiting.
TR hurries away from the Red Lion, his mind reeling. Bones of children, and a skull that looked as if it had been struck off with a single blow. Ceremonial jewellery. A dagger made out of what looked like solid gold. He’ll need a proper analysis of everything to be sure, of course, but he’d say there was evidence for scores of different sacrifices here. Definitely something Jane Tate should be interested in.
Thinking of her, TR pulls out his mobile.
“Hi, Jane? Merry Christmas. It’s TR here. Listen, I’ve found something you might want to see. What are you doing tomorrow? Great.” He takes a quick breath. “And, while you’re here, how do you fancy going out for dinner with me afterwards?”
“On a date, you mean?” Jane sounds amused. TR finds himself smiling too.
“Yes, a date. Fine. I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Whistling to himself, he hurries back to the hotel to meet the rest of the group.
“All set?” Mickey asks John.
“All set.” John glances in his rear-view mirror. The headlights of the car that’s following dazzle him briefly and he has to look away, but not before he’s noted that there are two people in the car. He makes a few more turns to check car really is following and when he’s sure it is he heads out of Avebury.
Mickey, sitting in his stolen truck, lets the engine idle. He’s glad Holly decided to stay with Twitch, partly because Twitch has seemed a lot happier today, but mainly because he wants to keep his daughter out of what he’s going to do next.
“I’m just coming up to your turning,” John says through the mobile phone. “The car behind is still following, something like eight seconds behind me.”
Mickey sees two sets of headlights approaching. Grinning to himself, running one hand through his dyed hair, he puts the truck into gear. The moment John has gone past, he slams his foot down on the accelerator.
There is a screech of metal, a jolt that leaves him dizzy. Blinking hard, Mickey is aware of John’s car turning, racing back to the scene of the accident. Mickey kicks the truck door open and rolls out.
The collision took the side out of the other car, spinning it around. One of the men inside is unconscious, the other is trying to get out. Mickey and John reach him at the same time, knocking him out before he can so much as shout a warning. Searching him, Mickey finds a pistol in a shoulder holster. He pockets it with a grimace and grins at John.
“So far so good. Let’s get them away from here, shall we?”
Back in Avebury, the group splits into two as it reaches Diamond Row, with TR, Eric, Isobel and Holly walking down the road while Matt and Twitch head down the lane that cuts across the backs of the gardens.
Eric slows as he reaches the Crystal Cavern, winks at Holly, then clutches his chest dramatically.
“Help, I can’t breathe.”
His collapse is so convincing that TR feels a flutter of real panic as he sprints up the front path to the house.
The door is opened by a middle-aged man wearing jeans and, incongruously, a party hat.
“Quick,” TR gasps. “My father’s having a heart attack. I need to phone an ambulance.”
The man gives him a frightened look then springs into action.
“In here. Chrissie, fetch a blanket, hurry!”
A woman appears. TR barely gives her a glance. He is looking at the hall. The walls are covered in framed prints – alien spacecraft, posters for old sci-fi films, a sign that proclaims ‘The Truth is Out There.’
“We’re fans,” the man explains. “Here’s the phone.”
Sneaking around the back of the house, Matt and Twitch climb over the wall and creep up to the kitchen window. The door into the hall is open and they can see TR standing there with a phone in his hand.
Then Twitch happens to glance up. He nudges Matt sharply.
“Look,” he mutters.
Standing at an upstairs window is a woman. The light is on behind her, casting a pale glow over her golden hair. She is cradling something in her arms and she appears to be singing.
Andrew is waiting. Checking his rifle and his sword from time to time. From time to time, moving and stretching. From time to time speaking into the radio, or listening, exchanging information with the rest of the group. Keeping watch on the camp and, in particular, on the parked vans where the weapons are hidden.
A Christmas carol comes into his mind. Shepherds watching their flocks by night. He smiles to himself and wonders when he can expect the angel of the Lord to appear.
The rumbling of engines disturbs his thoughts. Quickly bringing his binoculars up to his eyes, he sees a line of four vans approaching. Straight away, everyone in the campsite stops what they’re doing to turn and stare. The two leaders, Richard and Cath, get up and run across to the track into the site to greet the new arrivals.
9pm 26th December
TR, Matt, Twitch, Isobel, Eric – Diamond Row
Mickey, John – Outside Avebury
Andrew – the Stonehenge campsite.
ISOBEL: As soon as you start to pray you feel a great sense of peace, that someone is helping you. Almost as if people are standing around you ready to protect you if necessary. When you try to divine Arthur’s location later, you feel convinced that Diamond Row is the right place.
JOHN: Twitch appears a little better, though you sense he is still barely holding himself together, and he’s ready to lash out at anyone.
“A deep grief is in him,” your wolf totem tells you. “It is something he will have to find his own path through.”