Necroscope IV: Deadspeak
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Harry Keogh Now: Ex-Necroscope
Harry woke up knowing that something was happening or about to happen. He was propped up in the huge old bed where he'd nodded off, his head against the headboard, a fat, black-bound book open in his slack hands. The Book of the Vampire: a so-called 'factual treatise' which examined the elemental evil of the vampire down through all the ages to modern times. It was light reading for the Necroscope, and many of its 'well-authenticated cases' little more than grotesque jokes; for no one in the world - with one possible exception - knew more about the legend, the source, the truth of vampirism than Harry Keogh. That one exception was his son, also called Harry, except that Harry Jnr didn't count because in fact he wasn't 'in' this world at all but... somewhere else.
Harry had been dreaming an old, troubled dream: one which mingled his life and loves of fifteen years gone by with those of the here and now, turning them into a surreal kaleidoscope of eroticism. He had dreamed of loving Helen, his first groping (mental as well as physical) sexual experience; and of Brenda, his first true love and the wife of his youth; so that however strange and overlapping, these had been sweet and familiar dreams, and tender. But he had also dreamed of the Lady Karen and her monstrous aerie in the world of the Wamphyri, and it seemed likely that this was the dreadful dream which had started him awake.
But somewhere in there had been dreams of Sandra, too, his new and - he hoped - lasting love affair, which because of its freshness was more vivid, real and immediate than the others. It had taken the sting of poignancy from some of the dream, and the cold clutch of horror from the rest of it.
That was what he had been dreaming about: making love to the women he had known, and to one he knew now. And also of making love to the Lady Karen, whom mercifully he had never known - not in that way.
But Sandra... they'd made love before on several occasions - no, on many occasions, though rarely satisfactorily - always at her place in Edinburgh, in the turned-down green glow of her bedside lamp. Not satisfactory for Harry, anyway; of course he couldn't speak for Sandra. He suspected, though, that she loved him dearly.
He had never let her know about his - dissatisfaction? Not merely because he didn't want to hurt her, more especially because it would only serve to highlight his own deficiency. A deficiency, yes, and yet at the same time something of a paradox. Because by comparison with other men (Harry was not so naive as to believe there had been no others) he supposed that to Sandra he must seem almost superhuman.
He could make love to her for an hour, sometimes longer, before bringing himself to climax. But he was not superhuman, at least not in that sense. It was simply that in bed he couldn't seem to get switched on to her. When he came, always it was with some other woman in his mind's eye. Any other woman: the friend of a friend or some brief, chance encounter; some cover girl or other; even the small girl Helen from his childhood, or the wife Brenda from his early manhood. A hell of a thing to admit about the woman you think you love, and who you're fairly sure loves you!
His deficiency, obviously, for Sandra was very beautiful. Indeed, Harry should consider himself a lucky man - everybody said so. Maybe it was the cool, green, subdued lighting of her bedroom that turned him off: he didn't really care for green. And her eyes were greenish, too. Or a greeny-blue, anyway.
That's why her part of this dream had been so different: in it they had made love and it had been good. He had been close to climax when he woke up ... when he'd come awake knowing that something was about to happen.
He woke up in his own bed, in his own country house near Bonnyrig, not far out of Edinburgh, with the book still in his hands. And feeling its weight there ... so maybe that's what had coloured his dreams. Vampires. The Wamphyri. Not surprising, really: they'd coloured most of his dreams for several years now.
Outside, dawn was on the brink; faint streamers of light, grey-green, filtered through the narrow slits of his blinds; they tinted the atmosphere of his bedroom with a faint watercolour haze, a wash of subdued submarine tints.
Half-reclining there, becoming aware, coming back to life, he felt a tingle start up in his scalp. His hair was standing up on end. So was his penis, still throbbing from the dream. He was naked, electrically erect - and now aware and intent.
He listened intently: to murmuring plumbing sounds as the central heating responded to its timer, to the first idiot twitterings of sleepy birds in the garden, to a world stretching itself in the strengthening dawn outside.
Rarely sleeping more than an hour or two at a stretch, dawn was Harry's favourite time - normally. It was always good to know that the night was safely past, a new day underway. But this time he felt that something was happening, and he gazed intently through the faint green haze, turning his eyes to stare at the open bedroom door.
Drugged by sleep, his eyes saw everything with soft edges, fuzzy and indistinct. There was nothing sharp in the entire room. Except his inexplicable intentness, which seemed odd when matched against his blurred vision.
Anyone who ever started awake after a good drunk would know how he felt. You half-know where you are, you half-want to be somewhere special, you are half-afraid of not being where you should be; and even when you know where you are, you're still not quite sure you're there, or even that you are you. Part of the 'never again' syndrome.
Except that Harry had not been drinking - not that he could remember, anyway.
The other thing that invariably affected him on those occasions when he woke up like this - the thing which had used to frighten him a great deal, but which he'd thought he was used to - was his paralysis. The fact that he could not move. It was only the transition from sleep to waking, he knew that, but still it was horrible. He had to force gradual movement into his limbs, usually starting with a hand or a foot. He was paralysed now, with only his eyes to command of all his various parts. He made them stare through the open bedroom door into the shadows beyond.
Something was happening. Something had awakened him. Something had robbed him of the satisfaction of spilling himself into Sandra and enjoying it for once. Something was in the house...
That would account for his tingling scalp, his hair standing erect at the back of his neck, his wilting hard-on. A perfume was in the air. Something moved in the shadows beyond the bedroom door: a movement sensed, not heard. Something came closer to the door, paused just out of sight in darkness.
Harry wanted to call out: 'Who's there?' but his paralysis wouldn't let him. Perhaps he gurgled a little. A shape emerged partly from the shadows. Through the submarine haze he saw a navel, the lower part of a belly with its dark bush of pubic hair, the curve of soft feminine hips and the tops of thighs where they might show above dark stockings. She stood (whoever she was) just beyond the door, her flesh soft in the filtered light. As he watched she transferred her weight from one unseen foot to the other, her thighs moving, her hip jutting. Above the belly, soft in the shadows, there would be breasts large and ripe. Sandra had large breasts.
It was Sandra, of course.
Harry's voice still refused to work, but he could now move the fingers of his left hand. Sandra must be able to see him, see how she was affecting him. His dream was about to become reality. The blood coursed in his veins and began to pound once more. In the back of his mind, faintly, he asked himself questions. And answered them:
Why had she come?
Obviously for sex.
How had she got in?
He must have given her a key. He didn't remember doing so.
Why didn't she come forward more clearly into view?
Because she wanted to see him fully aroused first. Perhaps she had not wished to wake him until she was in bed with him.
Why had she waited so long to show him that she could be sexually aggressive? She'd taken the initiative before, certainly, but never to this extent.
Maybe because she sensed his uncertainty - feared that he might be having second thoughts - or perhaps because she suspected he had never fully enjoyed her.
Well, and maybe she was right.
Staring was causing his right eye to jump, both eyes to water. It was the poor light. Harry willed his left hand to move, stretched it out, pulled the cord that closed the window shutters - to shut out a little more of the faint, greeny-grey light. That left the room in near-darkness -thin dim green stripes on a black velvet background. And that was what she'd been waiting for.
Now she moved forward, olive-fleshed. She must be wearing stockings; a T-shirt, too, rolled up to show her navel. Sexy, dismembered by darkness, her thighs, belly and navel floated towards him, hips moving languidly, green-striped. She got onto the bed, kneeling, her thighs opening, and inched forward. The dark cleft was visible in her bush of pubic hair. She was so silent. And so light. The bed did not sink in where she crept towards him. Harry wondered: how does she do that?
She began to lower herself onto him - slowly, so slowly - the dark cleft widening as her body settled to its target. He arched his back, straining up towards her... but why couldn't he feel her knees gripping his hips? Why was she so weightless?
Then, suddenly and without warning, his flesh was crawling. Lust fled him in a moment. For somehow -instinctively, intuitively - he knew that this was not Sandra. And worse, he knew that he couldn't rightly say what it was!
His left hand fumblingly found the light cord, pulled it.
Light flooded the room blindingly.
At the same time the cleft in her bush of pubic hair sprang open like a mechanical thing. White-gleaming, yawning jaws of salivating needle teeth set in bulging, obscenely glistening pink gums shot down from the gaping lips to snap shut on him in a vice of shearing agony!
Harry screamed, rammed himself backwards in his bed, banged his head savagely on the headboard. Galvanized, his hands stabbed out, striking murderously for a face, a throat - striking instinctively at features... which weren't there!
Above the navel, nothing! And below the upper thighs, nothing!
She - it - was a lower abdomen, a disembodied vagina with cannibal teeth which were chomping on him! And his blood hot and red and spurting as the thing feasted on his genitals and munched them up like so much slop. And a crimson eye that snapped suddenly open, glaring at Harry from the orbit which he had mistaken for a navel!
'And that's it, Harry?' Dr David Bettley, an E-Branch empath retired early for the sake of his shaky heart, gazed at his visitor from beneath half-lowered, bushy eyebrows.
'Isn't it enough?' the other answered, with some animation. 'Christ, it was enough for me! It scared the living daylights out of me. Yes, even out of me! I mean, don't think I'm bragging but that's no easy thing to do. It's just that this damn dream was so ... so real! We all have nightmares, but this one...'He shook his head, gave an involuntary shudder.
'Yes, I can see how badly it affected you,' said Bettley, concernedly. 'But when I say "that's it", it isn't to make light of your experience. I'm simply asking, was there any more?'
'No,' Harry shook his head, 'for that's when I actually came awake. But if you mean more reaction to it? You'd better believe there was! Look, I was weak as a kitten. I'm sure I was in shock. I felt physically sick, almost threw up. Also, I emptied my bowels - and I'm not ashamed to admit that I only just made it to the toilet! I don't mean to be crude, but that dream literally scared the shit out of me!' He paused, slumped back in his chair and lost a little of his animation. He looked tired, Bettley thought.
But eventually he struggled upright again and continued. 'Afterwards ... I prowled the house with all the lights blazing, with a meat cleaver in my hand. I searched for the thing everywhere. For an hour, two, until full daylight. And most of that time I was shaking like a leaf. It was only when I'd stopped shaking that I finally convinced myself it was a dream.' He suddenly laughed, but his laughter was shaky even now. 'Hey! - I nearly called the police. Can you picture that? I mean, you're a psychiatrist, but how do you think they'd have taken my story, eh? Maybe I'd have been in to see you a day or two earlier!'
Dr Bettley steepled his fingers and stared deep into the other's eyes. Harry Keogh was maybe forty-three or -four (his body, anyway) but looked five years younger. Except Bettley knew that his mind was in fact five years younger again! It was a weird business dealing with - even looking at - a man like Harry Keogh. For Bettley had known this face and body before, when it belonged to Alec Kyle.
The doctor shook his head and blinked, then deliberately avoided Harry's eyes. It was just that sometimes they could be so very soulful, those eyes of his.
As for the rest of him:
Harry's body had been well-fleshed, maybe even a little overweight, once. With its height, however, that hadn't mattered a great deal. Not to Alec Kyle, whose job with E-Branch had been in large part sedentary. But it had mattered to Harry. After that business at the Chateau Bronnitsy - his metempsychosis - he'd trained his new body down, got it to a peak of perfection. Or at least done as best he could with it, considering its age. That's why it looked only thirty-seven or -eight years old. But better still if it was only thirty-two, like the mind inside it. A very confusing business, and the doctor shook his head and blinked again.
'So what do you make of it?' Keogh asked. 'Could it be part of my problem?'
'Your problem?' Bettley repeated him. 'Oh, I'm sure it is. I'm sure it could only be part of your problem - unless of course you haven't put me fully in the picture.'
Harry raised an eyebrow.
'About your feelings towards Sandra. You've mentioned a certain ambivalence, a lack of desire, even a slackening of potency. It could be that you're taking your loss out on her - mentally, inside your head - blaming her for the fact that you're no longer...' He paused.
'A Necroscope?' Harry prompted.
'Possibly,' Bettley shrugged. 'But ... on the other hand you also seem ambivalent towards your loss. I have to tell you that sometimes I get the feeling you're glad it's gone, glad you can no longer talk to... to...'
'To the dead,' said Harry, sourly. And: 'Well, you're half-right. Sometimes it's good to be just normal, ordinary. Let's face it, most people would consider me a freak, even a monster. So you're half-right. But you're also half-wrong.' He lay back in the chair again, closed his eyes and stroked his brow.
Bettley went back to studying him.
Grey streaks, so evenly spaced as to seem deliberately designed or affected, were plentiful in Harry's russet-brown, naturally wavy hair. It wouldn't be too many years before the grey overtook the brown; even now it loaned him a certain erudite appearance, gave him the look of a scholar. Ah, but in what strange and esoteric subjects? And yet Harry wasn't like that at all. What, a black magician? A 20th-century wizard? A necromancer? No, just a Necroscope, a man who talked to the dead - or used to.
Of course, he had other talents, too. Bettley looked at him sitting there, so tired-looking, his hand to his brow. The places this man had been! The means he'd used to go there, and to return. What other man had ever used an obscure mathematical concept as a ... a spaceship, or a time-machine?
Harry opened his eyes and caught Bettley staring at him. He said nothing, merely stared back. That's what he was here for: to be stared at, to be examined. And Bettley was good at his job, and discreet. Everybody said so. He had many admirable qualities. Must have, else INTESP would never have taken him on. And again Harry wondered: is he still working for them? Not that it would matter a great deal, for Bettley was easy to talk to. It was just that Harry so hated subterfuge.
The doctor continued to stare into Harry's eyes. They were soulful as ever, and somehow defensive; but at the same time it seemed that Harry needed this close contact. Honey-brown, those eyes; very wide, very intelligent, and (strange beyond words) very innocent! Genuinely innocent, Bettley knew. Harry Keogh had not asked to be what he was, or to be called upon to do the things he'd done.
Bettley forced himself back to the job in hand. 'So I'm half-wrong,' he said. 'You would like your talents back, to be a "freak" again - your words, Harry. But what will you do with those talents if they do return to you? How will you use them?'
Harry gave a wry smile. His teeth were good and strong, not quite white, a little uneven; they were set in a mouth which was usually sensitive but could tighten, becoming caustic and even cruel. Or perhaps not so much cruel as unyielding, single-minded.
'You know, I scarcely knew my mother,' he dreamily answered. 'I was too young, just a baby, when she died. But I got to know her... later. And I miss her. A boy's best friend is his mum, you know? And... well, I have a lot of friends down there.'
'In the ground?'
'Yes. Hell, we had some good conversations!'
Bettley almost shuddered, fought it down. 'You miss talking to them?'
"They had their problems, wanted to air their views, wondered how things had gone in the world of the living. Some of them worried a lot, about people they'd left behind. I was able to reassure them. But most were merely lonely. Merely! But I knew what it was like for them. I could feel it. It was hell to be that lonely. They needed me; I was somebody to them; and I suppose I miss them needing me.'
'But none of this explains your dream,' the doctor mused. 'Maybe it has no explanation - except fear. You've lost your friends, your skills, those parts of yourself that made you unique. And now you're afraid of losing your manhood.'
Harry narrowed his eyes a little and began to pay more attention; he looked at Bettley more piercingly. 'Explain.'
'But isn't it obvious? A disembodied female Thing - a dead thing, a vampire thing - devours your core, the parts of you that make you a man. She was Fear, your fear, pure but not so simple. Her vampire nature was straight out of your own past experience. You don't like being normal and the more you have to endure it the more afraid of it you get to be. It's all tied up to your past, Harry: it's all the things you've lost until you're afraid of losing anything else. You lost your mother when you were a child, lost your own wife and child in an unreachable place, lost so many friends and even your own body! And finally you've lost your talents. No more Möbius Continuum, no more talking to the dead, no more Necroscope...'
Harry was frowning now. 'What you said about vampires made me remember something,' he said. 'Several things, in fact.' He went back to rubbing his brow.
'Go on,' Bettley prompted him.
'I have to start some way back,' Harry continued, 'when I was a kid at Harden Modern Boys. That's a school. I was a Necroscope even then, but it wasn't something I much liked. It used to make me dizzy, sick even. I mean it came naturally to me, but I knew it wasn't. I knew it was very unnatural. But even before that I used to ... well, see things.'
Bettley was an empath; now he felt something of what Harry felt and the short hairs began to rise at the back of his neck. This was going to be important. He glanced down at a button on his side of the desk: it was still red, the tape was still running. 'What sort of things?' he asked, hiding his eagerness.
'I was an infant when my stepfather killed my mother,' the other answered. 'I wasn't on the scene, and even if I had been I wasn't old enough for it to impress me. I couldn't possibly have understood what was happening, and almost certainly I wouldn't have remembered it. And I couldn't have reconstructed it later from overheard conversations because Shukshin's account of the "accident" had been accepted. There was no question of his having murdered her - except from me. It was a nightmare I used to have: of him holding her there under the ice, until she drifted away. And I saw the ring on his finger: a cat's-eye set in a thick gold band. It came off when he drowned her and sank to the bottom of the river, and fifteen years later I knew where to go back and dive for it.'
Bettley felt a tingling in his spine. 'But you were a Necroscope - the Necroscope - and read it out of your dead mother's mind. Surely?'
Harry shook his head. 'No, because it was a dream I had from a time long before I first consciously talked to the dead. And in it I "remembered" something I couldn't possibly remember. It was a talent I'd had without even recognizing it. You know my mother was a psychic medium, and her mother, too? Maybe it was something that came down from them. But as my greater talent - as a Necroscope - developed, so this other thing was pushed into the background, got lost.'
'And you think all of this has something to do with this new dream of yours? In what way?'
Harry's shrug was lighter, no longer defeatist. 'You know how when someone goes blind he seems to develop a sixth sense? And people handicapped from birth, how they seem to make up for their deficiencies in other ways?'
'Of course,' the doctor answered. 'Some of the greatest musicians the world's ever seen have been deaf or blind. But what...?' And then he snapped his fingers. 'I see! So you think that the loss of your other talents has caused this... this atrophied one to start growing again, is that it?'
'Maybe,' Harry nodded, 'maybe. Except I'm not just seeing things from the past any more but from the future. My future. But vaguely, unformed except as nightmares.'
It was Bettley's turn to frown. 'A precog, is that what you think you're becoming? But what has this to do with vampires, Harry?'
'It was my dream,' the other answered. 'Something I'd forgotten, or hadn't wanted to remember, until you brought it back to me. But now I remember it clearly. I can see it clearly.'
'It's just a little thing,' Harry shrugged again, perhaps defensively.
'But best if we have it out in the open, right?' Bettley spoke quietly, clearing the way for Harry without openly urging him on.
'Perhaps.' And in a sudden rush of words: 'I saw red threads! The scarlet life-threads of vampires!'
'In your dream?' Bettley shivered as gooseflesh crept on his back and forearms. 'Where in your dream?'
'In the green stripes where the light came through the blinds,' Harry answered. 'The stripes on her belly and thighs, in the moment before that hellish thing fastened on me. They were green-tinted, almost submarine, but as my blood began to spurt they turned red. Red stripes streaming off her body into the dim past, and also into the future. Writhing red threads among the blue life-threads of humanity. Vampires!'
The doctor said nothing, waited, felt the other's horror - and fascination - washing out from him, welling into the study like a sick, almost tangible flood tide. Until Harry shook his head and cut off the flow. Then, abruptly, he stood up and headed a little unsteadily for the door.
'Harry?' Bettley called after him.
At the door Harry turned. 'I'm wasting your time,' he said. 'As usual. Let's face it, you could be right and I'm frightened of my own shadow. Self-pity, because I'm nothing special any more. And maybe scared because I know what could be out there waiting for me, but ' probably isn't. But what the hell - what will be will be, we know that. And the time is long past when I could do anything about it or change any part of it.'
Bettley shook his head in denial. 'It wasn't a waste, Harry, not if we got something out of it. And it seems to me we got a lot out of it.'
The other nodded. 'Thanks anyway,' he said, and closed the door behind him. The doctor got up and moved to his window. Shortly, down below, Harry left the building and stepped out into Princes Street in the heart of Edinburgh. He turned up his coat collar against the squalling rain, tucked his chin in and angled his back to the bluster, then stepped to the kerb and hailed a taxi. A moment later and the car had whirled him away.
Bettley returned to his desk, sat down and sighed. Now he was the one who felt weak; but Keogh's psychic essence - a near-tangible 'echo' of his presence - was already fading. When it had faded into nothing, the empath rewound his interview tape and dialled a special number at INTESP HQ in London. He waited until he got a signal, then placed the handset into a cradle on the tape machine under his desk. At the press of a button, Harry's interview began playing itself into storage at E-Branch.
Along with all of his other interviews...
In the back of the taxi on the way to Bonnyrig, Harry relaxed and closed his eyes, leaned his head against the seat and tried to recall something of that other dream which had bothered him on and off for the last three or four years, the one about Harry Jnr. He knew what the dream was in essence - what had been done to him, how and why - but its fine detail eluded him. The what and how part was obvious: by use of the Wamphyri art of fascination, hypnotism, Harry Jnr had made his father an ex-Necroscope, at the same time removing or cancelling his ability to enter and manoeuvre in the Möbius Continuum. As to why he'd done it:
You would destroy me if you could, he heard his son's voice again, like a record played a hundred times, until he knew every word and phrase, every mood and emotion or lack of it, by heart. Don't deny it, for I can see it in your eyes, smell it on your breath, read it in your mind. I know your mind well, father. Almost as well as you do. I've explored every part of it, remember?
And now, under his breath, Harry answered again as he'd answered then: 'But if you know that much, then you know I'd never harm you. I don't want to destroy you, only to cure you.'
As you "cured" the Lady Karen? And where is she now, father? It hadn't been an accusation; there'd been no sarcasm in it, no sourness; it was just a statement of fact. For the Lady Karen had killed herself, which Harry Jnr knew well enough.
'The thing had taken too strong a hold on her,' Harry had insisted. 'Also, she'd been a peasant, a Traveller, without your understanding. She couldn't see what she'd gained, only what she thought she'd lost. She didn't have to kill herself. Maybe she was... unbalanced?'
You know she wasn't. She was simply Wamphyri. And you drove her vampire out and killed it. You thought it would be like killing a tapeworm, like lancing a boil or curing out a cancer. But it wasn't. You say she couldn't see what she'd gained. Now tell me, father, what you think the Lady Karen had gained?
'Her freedom!' Harry had cried in desperation, and in sudden horror of himself. 'For God's sake, don't prove me wrong in what I did! I'm no bloody murderer!'
No, you're not. But you are a man with an obsession. And I'm afraid of you. Or if not afraid of you, afraid of your goals, your ambitions. You want a world - your world-free of vampirism. An entirely admirable objective. But when you've achieved that aim... what then? Will my world be next? An obsession, yes, which seems to be growing in you even as my vampire is growing in me. I'm Wamphyri now, father, and there's nothing so tenacious as a vampire - unless it's Harry Keogh himself!
Can't you see how dangerous you are to me? You know many of the secret arts of the Wamphyri, and how to destroy them; you can talk to the dead, travel in the Möbius Continuum - even in time itself, however ephemerally. I ran away from you, from your world, once. But now, in this world, I've fought for my territories and earned them. They're mine now and I'll not desert them. I'll run no more. But I can't take the chance that you won't come after me, daren't accept the risk that you won't be satisfied. I'm Wamphyri! I'll not suffer your experiments. I'll not be a guinea pig for any more "cures" you might come up with.
'And what of me?' Harry had spoken up then, even as he now whispered the words to himself. 'How safe will I be? I'm a threat to you, you've admitted as much. How long before your vampire is ascendant and you come looking for me?'
But that won't happen, father. I'm not a peasant; I do have knowledge; I shall control myself as a clever addict controls his addiction.
'And if it gets out of control? You, too, are a Necroscope. And in the Möbius Continuum there's nothing you can't do, nowhere you can't go, and always carrying your contamination with you. What poor bastard will get your egg, son?'
At which Harry Jnr had sighed heavily and taken off his golden mask. His scars from the battle in the Garden had healed now; there was nothing much to be seen of them; his vampire had been busy repairing him, moulding his flesh as his father feared it would one day mould his will. So you see we're at stalemate, he'd said. And his eyes had opened into huge crimson orbs.
'No!' Harry gasped out loud, now as he'd gasped it then. Except that then it had been the last thing he'd said for quite some time, until he'd woken up at E-Branch HQ. Whereas now:
'Whazzat, Chief?' his dour-faced driver, puzzled and frowning, glanced back at him. 'But did ye no say Bonnyrig? Ah surely hope so, 'cos we're a'most there!'
The real world crashed down on Harry. He was sitting upright, stiff and pale, with his bottom jaw hanging slightly open. He licked his dry lips and looked out through the taxi's windows. Yes, they were almost there. And:
'Bonnyrig, yes, of course,' he mumbled. 'I was ... I was daydreaming, that's all.' And he directed the other through the village and to his house.
North London in late April 1989; a fairly rundown bottom-floor flat in the otherwise 'upwardly mobile' district of Highgate just off Hornsey Lane; two men, apparently relaxed, talking quietly over drinks in a large sitting-room lined with bookshelves full of books and many small items of foreign, mainly European bric-a-brac...
Very untypical of his race, Nikolai Zharov was slender as a wand, pale as milk, almost effeminate in his affectations. He used a cigarette holder to smoke Marlboros with their filters torn off, spoke excellent English albeit with a slight lisp, and had in general a rather limp-wristed air. His eyes were dark, deep-set and heavy-lidded, giving him an almost-drugged appearance which belied the alert and ever calculating nature of his brain.
His hair was thin and black, swept back, lacquered down with some antiseptic-smelling Russian preparation; under a thin, straight nose his lips were also thin in a too-wide mouth. A pointed chin completed his lean look; he appeared the sort who might easily bend but never break; 'real men' might be tempted to look at him askance but they wouldn't push their luck with him. Out in the city's streets Zharov would certainly warrant a second glance, following which the observer would very likely look away. The Russian tended to make people feel uneasy.
He made Wellesley uneasy, for a fact, though the latter tried hard to conceal it. As owner of the flat, Wellesley was worried someone might have seen his visitor coming here, or even followed him. Which would be one hell of a difficult thing to explain away. For Wellesley was a player in the Intelligence Game, and so was Zharov, though ostensibly they worked for different bosses.
At five feet eight inches tall Norman Harold Wellesley was some five or six inches shorter than the spindly Russian; he had more meat on him, too, and more colour in his face. Too much colour. But it wasn't his stature or mildly choleric mottling that put him at a disadvantage. His current mental agitation hailed not so much from physical or even cultural disparities of race and type as from fear pure and simple. Fear of what Zharov was asking him to do. In answer to which he had just this moment replied:
'But you must know that's plainly out of the question, not feasible, indeed little short of impossible!' Explosive-seeming words, yet uttered quietly, coldly, even with a measure of calculation. A calculated attempt to dissuade Zharov from his course, or perhaps re-route it a little, even knowing that he wasn't the author of the 'request' he'd made but merely the delivery boy.
And the Russian had obviously expected as much. 'Wrong,' he answered, just as quietly, but with something of a cold smile to counter the other's flush. 'Not only is it entirely possible but imperative. If as you have reported Harry Keogh is on the verge of developing new and hitherto unsuspected talents, then he must be stopped. It is as simple as that. He has been a veritable plague on Soviet ESPionage, Norman. A disaster, a mental hurricane ... a psiclone? Oh, our E-Branch survives, lives on despite all his efforts, but barely.' Zharov shrugged. 'On the other hand, perhaps we should be grateful to him: his, er, successes have made us more than ever aware of the power of parapsychology - its importance - in the field of spying. The problem is that as a weapon he gives your side far too much of an edge. Which is why he has to go.'
If Wellesley had been paying any real attention to Zharov's argument it hardly showed. 'You will recall,' he now started to reply, ' -1 mean, you have probably been informed - that my initial liability was a small one? Very well, I owe your masters a small favour - I'm in their debt, let's say - but not such a large debt even now. And their interest rates are way too high, my friend. Beyond my limited ability to pay. I'm afraid that's my answer, Nikolai, which you must take back with you to Moscow.'
Zharov sighed, put down his drink and leaned back in his chair. He stretched his long legs, folded his arms across his chest and pursed his lips; he allowed his heavy eyelids to droop more yet. The pupils of his dark eyes glinted from their cores, and for several long moments he studied Wellesley where he was seated on the opposite side of a small occasional table.
Wellesley's red hair was receding fast. At forty-five he was perhaps six or seven years the Russian's senior, and looked every day of it. A generally unattractive man, his one redeeming feature was his mouth: it was firm, well-shaped and housed an immaculate set of teeth. Other than that his nose was bulbous and fleshy, his watery blue eyes too round and staring, and his excess of colouring brought the large freckles of his forehead into glaring yellow prominence. Zharov concentrated on Wellesley's freckles a moment more before straightening up again.
'Ah, detente!' he tut-tutted. 'Glasnost! What have they brought us to when we must bargain with debtors? Why, in the good old days we would simply send in the debt-collectors! Or perhaps the bully-boys? But now ... the gentleman's way out: bankruptcy, receivership! Norman, I'm very much afraid you're about to go bankrupt. Your cover is about to be - ' he formed his mouth into a tube and puffed cigarette smoke through it in a series of perfect rings,' - blown!'
'Cover?' Wellesley's eyes narrowed suspiciously and his colour deepened more yet. 'I have no cover. I am what I appear to be. Look, I made a mistake and I understand I must pay for it. Fine - but I'm not about to kill for you! Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you - for me to turn a small debt into a massive great overdraft! But it's not on, Nikolai. So go ahead, Comrade, drop me in it. "Bankrupt" me, if that's the threat. I'll lose my job and maybe my liberty for a while, but not forever. But if I play your game I'm a goner. I'd be in even deeper. And what will it be next time, eh? More treachery? Another murder? What you're doing is blackmail and you know it, but I'm not having any. So do your worst and kiss any "favours" I owe you goodbye forever!'
'Bluff,' Zharov smiled. 'And nicely played, too. But bluff all the same.' His smile fell from his face and he stood up. 'Very well, I call: you are a mole, a sleeper!'
'A sleeper?' Wellesley's fists shook where he held them clenched at his sides. 'Well, and maybe I was - but never activated. I've done nothing wrong.'
Zharov smiled again but it was more a grimace. He gave a small shrug of his thin shoulders and headed for the door. 'That will be your side of it, of course.'
Wellesley jumped to his feet and got to the door first. 'And where the hell do you think you're going?' he rasped. 'We've resolved nothing!'
'I have said all I had to say,' said the other, coming to a halt and standing perfectly still. After a moment's pause he carefully reached out and took his overcoat from a peg. 'And now - ' his voice had deepened a little and his thin mouth twitched in one corner,' - now I am leaving.' He took thin, black leather gloves from a pocket of the overcoat and swiftly pulled them on. 'And will you try to stop me, Norman? Believe me, that would be something of an error.'
Wellesley had never been much for the physical side of things; he believed the other well enough. He backed off a little, said: 'So what will happen now?'
'I shall report your reticence,' Zharov was forthright. 'I shall say you no longer consider your debt outstanding, that you wish it written off. And they shall reply: no, we wish him written off! Your file will be "leaked" to someone of responsibility in one of your own intelligence branches, and -'
'My file?' Wellesley's watery eyes began a rapid, nervous blinking. 'A few dirty pictures of me and a whore snapped through one-way glass in a grubby Moscow hotel all of twelve years ago? Why, in those days that sort of stuff was ten-a-penny! It was dealt with on a day-to-day basis. Tomorrow I shall go and make a clean breast of that old ... affair! And what will your side do then, eh? Moreover, I'll name names - yours specifically - and there'll be no more courier jobs for you, Nikolai!'
Zharov gave a small, sad shake of his head. 'Your file is somewhat thicker than that, Norman. Why, it's quite full of little tidbits of intelligence information you've passed on to us over the years. Make a clean breast of it? Oh, I should think you'll be doing that - or at least trying to - for quite a few years to come.'
'Tidbits of - ?' Wellesley was now almost purple. 'I've given you nothing - not a thing! What tidbits of - ?'
Zharov watched him shaking like a leaf, shaking from a combination of rage and frustration; and slowly the Russian's smile returned. 7 know you've given us nothing,' he said, quietly. 'Until now we haven't asked for anything. I also know you're innocent, more or less - but the people who count don't. And now, finally, we are asking for something. So you can either pay up, or ..." And again his shrug. 'It's your life, my friend.'
As Zharov reached to open the door Wellesley caught at his arm. 'I need to think about it,' he gasped.
'Fair enough, only don't take too long.'
Wellesley nodded, gulped: 'Don't go out that way. Go out the back.' He led the way through the flat. 'How did you come here anyway? Christ, if anyone saw you, I - '
'No one saw me, Norman. And anyway, I'm not much known over here. I was at a casino in the Cromwell Road. I came by taxi and let him drop me off a few blocks away. I walked. Now I shall walk again, and eventually get another cab.'
Wellesley let him out the back door and went with him down the dark garden path to the gate. Before pulling the gate to behind him, Zharov took out a manila envelope from his overcoat pocket and handed it over. 'Some photographs you haven't seen before,' he said. 'Just a reminder that you shouldn't take too long making up your mind, Norman. We're in a bit of a hurry, as you see. And don't try to contact me; I shall be in touch with you. Meanwhile... I'll have a night or two to kill. I might even find myself a nice clean whore.' He chuckled dryly. 'And if your lot take any pictures of me with her... why, I'll just keep them as souvenirs!'
When he'd gone Wellesley went shakily back indoors. He freshened up his drink and sat down, then took out the photographs from their envelope. To anyone who didn't know better they'd seem to be blowups of simple snapshots. But Wellesley knew better, and so would just about any agent or officer of British Intelligence - or of any of the world's intelligence agencies, for that matter. The pictures were of Wellesley and a much older man. They wore overcoats and Russian fur hats, walked together, chatted in a scene where the spiral cupolas of Red Square were prominent over red-tiled rooftops, drank vodka seated on the steps of a dacha. Half-a-dozen shots in all, and it would seem they were bosom pals.
Wellesley's older 'friend' would be in his mid-sixties: he was grey at the temples with a central stripe of jet-black hair swept back from a high, much-wrinkled brow. He had small eyes under bushy black eyebrows, lots of laughter lines in the corners of his eyes and lips, and a hard mouth in a face which was otherwise quite jolly. Well, and he had been a jolly sort of chap in his way -and jolly murderous in other ways! Wellesley's lips silently formed his name: Borowitz, then spoke it out loud: 'Comrade General Gregor Borowitz - you old bastard! God, what a fool I was!'
One picture was especially interesting, if only for its scenery: Wellesley and Borowitz standing in the courtyard of an old mansion or chateau, a place of debased heritage and mixed architectural antecedents. It had twin minarets jutting upwards like rotting phallus mushrooms from steeply-gabled end walls; their flaking spiral decorations and sagging parapets added to a general sense of decay and dereliction. But in fact the chateau had been anything but derelict.
Wellesley had never been inside the place, hadn't even known what it housed, not then. But he knew well enough now. It was the Chateau Bronnitsy, Soviet mindspy HQ, an infamous place - until Harry Keogh had blown it to hell. It was a pity he hadn't done it just a couple of years earlier, that's all...
The next morning, Darcy Clarke was late for work. A bad traffic accident on the North Circular, traffic-light failure in the centre of town, and finally some dumb bastard's rust-bucket parked in Darcy's space. He'd been about to let the air out of the offender's tyres when he turned up, said, 'Fuck you!' to Clarke's raving and drove off.
Still fuming, Clarke used the elevator discreetly placed at the rear of an otherwise perfectly normal-looking upmarket hotel to climb up to the top floor, which in its soundproof, burglar-proof, mundane-, mechanical-, and metaphysics-proofed entirety housed E-Branch, also known as INTESP. As he let himself in and shrugged out of his coat, last night's Duty Officer was just leaving for home.
Abel Angstrom gave Clarke the once-over and said, 'Morning, Darcy. All hot and bothered, are you? You will be!'
Clarke grimaced and hung up his coat. 'Nothing can go wrong that hasn't already,' he grunted. 'What's up?'
'The Boss,' Angstrom told him. That's what's up. He's been up since 6:30, locked in his office with the Keogh file. Drinking coffee by the gallon! He's watching the clock, too - been gripping each and every guy who's come in after 8:00 a.m. He wants you, so if I were you I'd wear my flak-jacket!'
Clarke groaned, said, 'Thanks for the warning,' went to the gents and tidied himself up a little.
Straightening his tie in a mirror, suddenly everything boiled over. To himself he rasped: 'What the bloody hell - ? Why do I bother? Dog's-bloody-body Clarke! And Himself wants to see me, does he? Shit and damnation - it's like being in the bloody Army!' He deliberately unstraightened his tie, mussed his hair, looked at himself again.
There, that was better. And come to think of it, what did he have to fear anyway? Answer, nothing; for Clarke had a psi-talent no one had positively tagged yet; it kept him out of trouble, protecting him as a mother protects her child. He wasn't quite a deflector: fire a gun at him and your bullets wouldn't swerve, you'd simply miss him. Or the firing-pin would come down on duds. Or he'd somehow stumble at just the right moment. He was the opposite of accident-prone. He could walk through a minefield and come out unscathed... and yet he still switched off the current to change a light-bulb! Except this morning he wasn't in the mood for switching off anything. Let it all hang out, he thought, heading for the Sanctum Sanctorum.
When he knocked on the door a surly voice said: 'Who?'
Arrogant bastard! he thought. 'Darcy Clarke.'
'Come in, Clarke,' and as he passed inside: 'Where the hell have you been? I mean, do you work here or not?' And before he could answer: 'Sit down...'
But Clarke remained standing. He didn't need this. He'd had it, taken all he could take of his new boss in the six months the man had been the head of E-Branch. Hell, there were other jobs; he didn't have to work for this overbearing bastard. And where was the continuity? Sir Keenan Gormley had been a gentleman; Alec Kyle a friend; under Clarke himself the Branch had been efficient and friendly - to its friends, anyway. But this bloke was... hell, a boor! Gauche! A primitive! Certainly as far as internal relationships - man management - were concerned. As for talents: so what was the guy? A scryer, telepath, deflector, locator? No, his talent was simply that his mind was impenetrable: telepaths couldn't touch him. Some would say that made him the ideal man for the job. Maybe it did. But it would be nice if he was human, too. After serving under such men as Gormley and Kyle, working for someone like Norman Harold Wellesley was C
Wellesley was seated at his desk. Without looking up he sighed, took a deep breath, and said: 'I said -'
'That's right, I heard you,' Clarke cut him short. 'Good morning to you, too.'
Now Wellesley looked up, and Clarke saw that he was his usual, florid self. He also saw the file on Harry Keogh spread every which way across the surface of Wellesley's desk. And for the first time he wondered what was going on.
Wellesley saw Clarke's attitude at once, knew it wouldn't be wise to try riding roughshod over him this morning. Also, he knew there was a power-struggle coming up, that it had been in the wind ever since he took over here. But that was something he didn't need, not right now, anyway.
'All right, Darcy,' he said, tempering his tone a little, 'so we've both been having a bad time. You're the second in command, I know that, and you believe you're due some respect. Fine, but when things go wrong - and while we're all running round being nice and respectful - I'm the one who carries the can. However you feel about it, I still have to run this place. And with this kind of job... who needs an excuse to be ill-mannered? That's my story. So how come you got out of the wrong side of bed this morning?'
Clarice thought: What? When did he last call me Darcy? Is he actually trying to be reasonable, for Christ's sake?
He allowed himself to be mollified, partly, and sat down. 'The traffic was hell and some clown stole my parking space,' he finally answered. 'That's just for starters. I'm also expecting a call from Rhodes - from Trevor Jordan and Ken Layard - on that drugs job; Customs and Excise, and New Scotland Yard, will want to know how things are progressing. Add to that about a dozen unanswered requests from our Minister Responsible for esper support on unsolved major crimes, routine office admin, the Russian Embassy job I'm supposed to be supervising, and -'
'Well, you can skip the embassy job for one,' Wellesley was quick to break in. 'It's routine, unimportant. A few extra Ivans in the country? A Russian delegation? So what? Christ, we've more on our plate than mundane snooping! But even without all that... yes, I can see you're up to your neck.'
'Damn right,' said Clarke. 'And sinking fast! So you see I wouldn't think you rude - in fact I'd probably thank you - if you simply told me to piss off and get on with my job. Except I don't suppose you'd have called me in here if there wasn't something on your mind.'
'Well, no one could ever accuse you of not getting straight to the point, could they?' said Wellesley. And for once his round eyes were unblinking and less than hostile where they searched the other out. What he saw was this:
For all his weird talent, Clarke wasn't much to look at. No one would suppose that he'd ever been the boss of anything, let alone head of the most secret branch of the British Secret Services. He was Mr Nondescript, the world's most average man. Well, maybe not that indistinct, but getting on that way, certainly. Middle-height, mousey-haired, with something of a slight stoop and a small paunch - and middle-aged to boot - Clarke was just about middle of the range in every way. He had hazel eyes in a face not much given to laughter, an intense mouth and generally downcast air. And the rest of him, including his wardrobe was... medium.
But he had run E-Branch; he'd been around through some pretty hairy stuff; he'd known Harry Keogh.
'Keogh,' said Wellesley, the name coming off his lips like it tasted sour. 'That's what's on my mind.'
'That': as if Keogh were some kind of contraption or thing and not a person at all. Clarke raised an eyebrow. 'Something new on Harry?' Wellesley had been monitoring Bettley's reports himself - and keeping whatever they contained to himself.
'Maybe, and maybe not,' Wellesley answered. And rapidly, so as not to allow Clarke time to think: 'Do you know what would happen if he got his talents back?'
'Sure,' and even though Clarke did have time to think, he said it anyway: 'you'd be out of a job!'
Unexpectedly, Wellesley smiled. But it quickly faded from his face. 'It's always good to know where one stands,' he said. 'So you think he'd take over E-Branch, right?'
'With his talents he could be E-Branch!' Clarke answered. And suddenly his face lit up. 'Are you saying he's got them back?'
For a moment Wellesley didn't answer. Then: 'You were his friend, weren't you?'
'His friend?' Clarke frowned, chewed his bottom lip, began to look a little worried. No, he couldn't honestly say he'd ever been a friend of Harry's, or even that he'd wanted to be. There'd been a time, though, when he'd seen some of Harry's friends in action - and he still had nightmares about it! But at last he answered: 'We were... acquainted, that's all. See, most of Harry's real friends were sort of, well, dead.' He gave a shrug. 'That's what qualified them, sort of.'
Wellesley stared harder at him. 'And he actually did what these documents credit him with doing? Talked to the dead? Called corpses out of their graves? I mean, I'll grant you telepathy: I've seen it working in our test cubicles, and in all the criminal cases the branch has dealt with in the last six months. Even your own peculiar talent, Darcy, which is well documented even if I haven't yet seen it in action. But this?' He wrinkled his bulbous nose. 'A damned... necromancer?'
Clarke shook his head. 'A Necroscope. Harry wouldn't like you to call him a necromancer. If you've been through his file you'll know about Dragosani. He was a necromancer. The dead were frightened of him; they loathed him. But they loved Harry. Yes, he talked to them, and called them up out of their graves when that was the only way to do what he had to do. But there was no pressure involved; just for them to know he was in dire straits was often sufficient.'
Wellesley was aware that Clarke's voice had gone very quiet, and that the man himself was now quite pale. But still he pressed on. 'You were there in Hartlepool at the end of the Bodescu affair. You actually saw this thing?'
Clarke shuddered. 'I saw many... things. I smelled them, too.' He shook his head, as if to clear it of unbearable memories, and pulled himself together. 'So what's your problem, Norman? OK, so during your time here we've mainly been dealing with mundane stuff. Well, that is what we deal with, mainly. As for what Harry Keogh, Gormley, Kyle and all the others came up against that time... just hope and pray it's all done with, that's all.'
Still Wellesley seemed unconvinced. 'It couldn't have been mass hypnotism, mass illusion, some kind of trick or fraud?'
Again Clarke shook his head. 'I have this defence-mechanism thing, remember? You might be able to fool me but not it. It only gets scared when there's something there to be scared of. It doesn't run away from harmless illusions, only from real dangers. But it sure as hell propels me away from dead people and undead people and things that would chew my fucking head off!'
For a moment Wellesley seemed lost for an answer to that. Eventually he said: 'Would it surprise you to know that I was totally unaware of my own talent? All ray life, I mean, until I applied for a job here?' (This was a lie, but Clarke couldn't know it.) 'I mean, how does one know when one has a negative talent? If it was common everyday practice for people to read other people's minds, then I'd be a freak, the odd man out who couldn't do it and couldn't have it done to him. But it isn't common practice and so I had no measure for it. I only knew - or thought - that I had an interest in parapsychology, the metaphysical. Which is why I mistakenly put in for a transfer here. And then you people checked me out for suitability and discovered I kept my mind in a safe.'
Clarke looked puzzled. 'What are you trying to say?'
'I'm not sure myself. I suppose I'm trying to explain why, as the head of E-Branch, I have so much difficulty believing in what we're doing! And when you confront me with the reality of someone like Harry Keogh... Well, I mean, parapsychology is one thing, but this is supernatural!'
Clarke grinned one of his rare grins. 'So you're human after all,' he said. 'Did you think you were alone in your confusion? Why, there's not a man or woman ever worked here who hasn't known the same doubts. If I had a pound for every time I've thought about it - its ambiguities, inconsistencies and head-on contradictions - hell, I'd be rich! What, an outfit as weird as this is? Robots and romantics? Super-science and the supernatural? Telemetry and telepathy? Computerized probability patterns and precognition? Spy-satellites and scryers? Of course you're confused. Who isn't? But that's what it's all about: gadgets and ghosts!'
Wellesley was a little happier. He'd managed to get Clarke on his side for once. And with what he had in mind, that's where he had to have him. 'And teleportation?' he said. 'Was that one of Keogh's talents, too?'
Clarke nodded. "That's what we'd call it,' he said, 'but it wasn't like that to Harry. He simply used doors no one else knew were there. He'd step in a door here and... come out somewhere else. Just about anywhere else. When I wanted to recruit him in on the Perchorsk business, I went up to Edinburgh to see him. He said OK, he'd take a chance if I would. That is, if he was going up against the unknown, he wanted me to taste a little of it too. And he brought me back here through a thing he calls the Möbius Continuum. It was quite something, but nothing I'd ever want to do again.'
Wellesley sighed again and said: 'I think you're right. If he got his talents back, we'd have to offer him my job. You'd like that, right?'
'Don't be coy, Darcy,' Wellesley nodded, knowingly. 'It's plain as day. You'd rather have him - or anyone - as your boss than me. But what you don't seem to realize is that I'm all for it! I don't understand you or the people who work here and I don't suppose I ever will. I want out, but I know our Minister Responsible won't let me go until there's someone to replace me. You? No, because that would make it look like they made a mistake replacing you in the first place. But Harry Keogh...'
'Harry's had the best help we can give him,' Clarke said. 'We've hypnotized him, psychoanalysed him, damn near brainwashed him. But it's gone. So what can you do for him?'
'It's more what we can do for him, Darcy.'
'Last night I had a long talk with the Markham girl up in Edinburgh, and -'
'If there's one part of this that I really hate,' Clarke heatedly cut in, 'it's that we've done this to him!'
' - And she advised me to speak to David Bettley,' Wellesley continued, unperturbed, 'because she's worried about Keogh. Can you understand that? She does have genuine feelings for him. It may be just a job but she is worried about him. Or maybe you think he'd be better off on his own? Well, whichever, she satisfies two needs: one in Keogh, and one in us. The need to know what's on his mind.'
'The tender art of the mindspy!' Clarke snorted.
'So I took her advice and spoke to Bettley. I got him out of bed to answer his telephone. I would have contacted him anyway, about some of his most recent reports and recordings; because in them he's given me cause to believe that Keogh is (a) about to develop some strange new talent, or (b) he's on the point of cracking up. Anyway, in the course of our conversation Bettley mentioned how Keogh first discovered this, er, Möbius thing - ?'
'The Möbius Continuum.'
' - Correct. He'd apparently been on the verge of it but needed a spur. Which came when the East German GREPO found him talking to Möbius in a Leipzig graveyard. That did it, triggered his mathematical genius. He teleported - or used the Continuum - to escape from them. That's why I have his file here: I wanted to check that I had it right. And it's also why I'm double-checking with you.'
"The way I see it,' Wellesley continued, 'Keogh's like a computer that's suffered a power failure: the information he requires - and which E-Branch wants to use - is no longer accessible to him. Oh, it's probably still in there but it's jammed in limbo. And so far we haven't been able to shake it loose.'
'What do you propose?'
'Well, I'm still working on it. But the way I see it, if we apply just the right spur... with a bit of luck it could be Leipzig all over again. You see, Keogh has been having some bad dreams lately; and if what you say of him is true - oh, I don't doubt it, but nevertheless if - then any dream awful enough to frighten him must be really bad. But perhaps not quite bad enough, eh?'
'You want to scare him silly?'
'I want to scare him almost to death. So close to death that he escapes into the Möbius Continuum!'
Clarke sat still and silent for long moments, until eventually Wellesley leaned forward and quietly said:
'Well, what do you think?'
'My honest opinion?'
'I think it stinks. Also, I think that if you plan to fool with Keogh you'd better take out extra insurance. And finally I think that it had better work, because if it doesn't I'm up and gone. When this is finished, no matter how it works out, I won't be able to work with you any longer.'
Wellesley smiled thinly. 'But you do want me out of here, right? And so you won't... hinder me?'
'No, in fact I insist on being part of it. That way I can be sure that if Harry has any breaks coming, he'll get them.'
Wellesley continued to smile. Oh, he'll get his breaks, all right, he thought. Broken all the way through, in fact!
And he was one of only a handful of men in the entire world who could think such things - especially here in E-Branch HQ - and be certain that no one could hear him doing it.