Harry Keogh, Necroscope, didn't know Darcy Clarke's ditty, but he did have a flea on his back. Several, in fact. And they were biting him.
Geoffrey Paxton was only one and probably the least of them, but because he was reachable and immediate he was the most frightening. Harry wasn't frightened of Paxton, rather of what he might do to Paxton if he lost control. And of what losing control might conceivably do to him, to the Necroscope himself. He knew how easy it would be to betray himself and reveal that he was no longer an innocent but that some great and as yet undeveloped (but developing, certainly) Darkness had entered him.
That was what Paxton was looking for, Harry knew: proof that the Necroscope was no longer a fit citizen or habitant of Earth - no longer, indeed, a man, not entirely - but an alien creature and a monstrous threat. And when he knew it for sure, when there was no longer any doubt, then Paxton would report that fact and there would be war. Harry Keogh versus The Rest. The rest of Mankind. And that was the last thing Harry wanted, to be at odds with a world and its peoples which he had fought so long and so hard to keep safe.
Paxton, then, was a flea on Harry's back, a niggle at the edge of - attempting to dig its way deeper into - his mind, an irritation. And because Paxton's presence was representative of an even greater threat, which must ultimately challenge the Necroscope's very existence, it was something Harry could well do without. For to the Wamphyri the single 'honourable' answer to any challenge may only be written in blood!
The word itself was ... a Power.
It was a tingling in the core of his being, an awareness of passions beyond the feeble, fumbling emotions of men, a savage, explosive nuclear energy contained - but barely - in his seething blood. It was a chain-reaction which was happening to him even now, whose catalyst was blood. And in itself it, too, was a challenge. But one which he must resist, which he must not, dare not answer. Not if he desired to remain ascendant and for the most part human.
A flea, then, this Paxton. An invader who would stick his proboscis in that most private and inviolable of all human territories, the mind itself, and siphon out its thoughts. A spy, a thought-thief- a parasite come to sup on Harry's secrets - a flea. But only one flea of several, and not one whose bites he could afford to scratch.
Another unbearable itch was the fact that the dead -the Great Majority of mankind, who yet lay apart from and unknowable to mankind, with the sole (the soul?) exception of Harry Keogh - were withdrawing from him. He was losing his rapport; the change in him had wrought a change in them. Their trust was weakening.
Oh, there were many among them who owed him beyond their means to repay, and many more who had loved him for his own sake, to whom the Necroscope had always been the one glimmer of light in an otherwise everlasting darkness, but even these were wary of him now. For when he had been simply Harry - unsullied and unsullying, innocent and gentle - why, then it had been a marvellous thing that he could touch the dead and they touch him! But all of that was yesterday.
And now that he was more than Harry? There are certain things which even dead men fear, and limits to what even they will lie still for...
Since the destruction of Janos Ferenczy and his works, Harry had been busy. Other than the constant irritation of Geoffrey Paxton the only intrusion he'd allowed - the single distraction from his purpose, because he had no control over it - was the knowledge that a necromancer lived and practised his abominations in England. It distracted him because Penny Sanderson was now his friend (his ward, even?) and because he was privy to what she and others like her had gone through.
Of the fact that the forces of law and order would track down and apprehend Penny's torturer, murderer, and then violator eventually, Harry had little doubt; but they would never charge him with the full range of his offences, because they had no yardstick by which to measure them. They neither knew nor were capable of defining a full range of offences, not in this case. And certainly there was no punishment which would fit the crime. Not in law.
But the Necroscope fully understood the nature of this beast and his crimes, and his ideas of punishment were rather more stringent. Even before his contamination he'd had that. It was a flame which had been sparked in him by the murder of his own sweet mother, and which burned just as lively to this day. An eye for an eye.
As to what Harry had been doing since removing the last of the Ferenczys forever from the world of men: his works had been weird and wonderful, and the thoughts in his Möbius mind even more so.
To begin with, he'd brought back Trevor Jordan's ashes from Rhodes. The incorporeal telepath had wished it (death might have some sort of meaning with Harry to talk to), but not even Jordan had suspected Harry's real purpose.
By themselves, however, the essential salts of a man were insufficient to put Harry's plan into action, not and achieve the entirely satisfactory result which he sought. Which was why, before reducing further the ruins of Janos Ferenczy's castle, the Necroscope had removed from them certain chemical substances by means of which Janos had performed his own monstrous brand of necromancy.
Not all of the dead would wish for such a resurgence, Harry knew: the Thracian warrior-king Bodrogk and his wife Sofia, whose world had lain two thousand years in the past, had been happy to collapse in each other's arms and return to dust (a merciful release for them, who had prayed for it so often). But what of the much more recently dead?
Like Trevor Jordan, for instance?
The answer might seem easy: why not ask him? But in fact that was the hardest thing of all. 'I intend to return you to life. I have the apparatus but I'm not one hundred per cent sure of the system. It worked perfectly well for another, but he had the advantage of many hundreds of years of experimentation. In the event all goes well you will be as you were; except, well... you'll recall that you did put a bullet through your brain. I'm not entirely sure how that will affect you. If when I call you up from your ashes I discover that you're a complete gibbering fucking idiot then, however reluctantly, I'll be obliged to put you down again. Now, provided you're perfectly happy with all of this
Or, in Penny Sanderson's case: 'Penny, I think I can bring you back. But if I get the mixture wrong it could be that you'll not be as lovely as you were. I mean, your skin and features could be imperfect, or blemished, or pocked... hideously. For example, some of the things I called up in the Castle Ferenczy were quite monstrous; there were depletions, inconsistencies, er, anomalies? Wherefore I reserve the right to erase you if things go wrong. But of course we'll always be able to try again, later, when with a bit of luck I'll get it right.'
No, he couldn't tell them what he had in mind, not yet. If he gave them the bare bones of the matter they'd require him to flesh it out, and if he elaborated they'd fret about every smallest detail. And from now until the actual - resurrection? - they'd mix anticipation with dread, alternating shivers of excitement with shudders of terror most extreme. They'd climb high mountains of hope, only to tumble back into black lakes of deepest despair and depression.
'I have a shot which may cure your cancer... but it just might give you AIDS.'
That was how it would feel to Harry, if the roles were reversed; but at the same time he knew that of course it wasn't like that: when you're dead you're beyond hope, and so any hope has to be better than none. Or does it? Or was that simply the vampire in him - tenacity aspiring to immortality - doing his thinking for him?
Or ... perhaps he hesitated for another, far more elemental reason: something which warned him that with his small talents (small, yes, in the scale of a universe or parallel multiverses) he must not, dare not, usurp one of the Greater Talents of that Other whom men called God? History's necromancers, among which Janos had been a latecomer, had dared it, and where were they now? Had there been avenging angels before Harry, to put right the wrongs of these wizards? And if so, would there be one after him, to chastise him in his turn?
Harry had been the Necroscope, was becoming a vampire, and now would be a necromancer in his own right. How dare he seek out Penny's murderer to punish him on the one hand, and on the other pursue the practice of that same black art? What would be his punishment?
Perhaps the gears were already engaged, the wheels even now turning. Perhaps the Necroscope had already gone too far, disturbing the delicate balance between Good and Evil to such an extent that it now required radical readjustment. Had he simply become too powerful, which is to say corrupt? How did the old saying go: 'Absolute power corrupts absolutely'? Ridiculous! Was God Himself corrupt? No, for the maxims of men are like their laws: they apply only to men.
Such arguments were endless in the metamorphosis of the Necroscope's mind and body, until sometimes he thought he was mad. But when his thoughts were clear he knew that he was not mad; it was just the thing that was in him, altering his perceptions along with everything else.
And then he would remember how he used to be, determine that he must always be that way, and know that he hesitated only out of consideration for his friends among the dead. It was simply that he didn't want Trevor and Penny to suffer agonies of protracted uncertainty, only to let them down when the waiting was over. To die once is enough, as had been made perfectly plain by Janos's many Thracian thralls in the bowels of the Castle Ferenczy.
As for God: if there was such a One (and Harry had never been sure) then the Necroscope supposed he must consider his talents God-given and use them accordingly. While he could.
Harry had spent a good deal of his time arguing, not least with himself. If a subject took his fancy - almost any subject - he would play word-games with himself to the point of distraction and delirium: a sort of mental masturbation. But it wasn't just himself he was jerking off; in conversations with the dead he was equally argumentative, even when he suspected that they were right and he was wrong.
Indeed, he seemed to argue for the sake of it, out of sheer contrariness. He thought and argued about God; also about good and evil, about science, pseudoscience and sorcery, their similarities, discrepancies and ambiguities. Space, time and space-time fascinated him, and especially mathematics with its inalienable laws and pure logic. The very changelessness of maths was a constant joy and relief to the Necroscope's changeling mind in its changeling body.
Within a day or two of returning from the Greek islands he had used the instantaneous medium of the Möbius Continuum to go to Leipzig and see (speak to) August Ferdinand Möbius where he lay in his grave. Möbius had been and still was a great mathematician and astronomer; indeed he was the man whose genius had saved Harry's life on several occasions, again through the medium of his Möbius Continuum. But while Harry's primary purpose in visiting Möbius was to thank him for the return of his numeracy, instead he ended up arguing with him.
The great man had happened to mention that his next project would be to measure space, and as soon as the Necroscope heard this he threw himself headlong into an argument. This time the argument was 'Space, Time, Light and the Multiverses'.
Won't 'Universe' suffice? Möbius had wanted to know.
'Not at all,' Harry had answered, 'because we know there are parallels. I've visited one, remember?' (And East German students with their notebooks had wondered at this peculiar man who stood by a dead scientist's tomb muttering to himself.)
Very well then, let's concentrate on the one we know best, Möbius had been logical about it. This one.
'You'll measure it?'
I propose to.
'But since it's constantly expanding, how will you go about it?'
I shall stand at its outermost rim, beyond which there is nothing, transfer myself instantaneously through the universe to the far rim, beyond which there is likewise nothing, and in so doing measure the distance between. Then I shall transfer myself instantaneously back here and perform the same experiment exactly one hour later, and again an hour after that.
'Good!' Harry had answered. 'But ... to what purpose?'
(A sigh.) Why, from that time forward - and whenever I require to know it - a correct calculation of the size of the universe will be instantly available!
Harry had stayed grudgingly silent for a moment, until: 'I too have given the matter a little thought,' he said. 'Though purely on the theoretical level, because the physical measurement of a constantly changing quantity seems rather fruitless to me. Whereas to understand what is happening, how and to what degree the age of the universe is tied to its rate of expansion - a constant, incidentally - and so forth, seems so much more satisfying.'
(An astonished pause.) Oh, indeed! And Harry had almost been able to see Möbius's eyebrows joining in a frown across the bridge of his nose. 'You' have thought about it, have you? Theoretically, you say? And might I inquire as to 'your' conclusions?
'You want to know all about space, time, light and the multiverses?'
If you've the time for it! Möbius had been scathing in his sarcasm.
To which the Necroscope had answered: 'Your initial measurement will suffice; no other is necessary. Knowing the size of the universe - and not only this one, incidentally, but all the parallels, too - at any given moment of time, we will automatically know their exact age and rate of expansion, which will be uniform for all of them.'
'Now the theory,' said Harry. 'In the beginning there was nothing. Came the Primal Light! Possibly it shone out of the Möbius Continuum, or perhaps it came with the colossal fireball of the Big Bang. But it was the beginning of the universe of light. Before the light there was nothing, and after it there was a universe expanding at the speed of lightr
'Do you disagree?'
The universe was expanding at the speed of light?
'Actually, at twice the speed of light,' said Harry. 'That was the essence of your problem, remember, which sparked the return of my numeracy? Switch on a light in space and a pair of observers 186,000 miles away from it on opposite sides would both see its light one second later, because the light expands in both directions. Now, do you disagree?'
Of course not! The Primal Light, as any light, must have expanded just as you say. But... the universe?
'At the same speed!' said Harry. 'And it still is expanding at that speed.'
Explain. And make it good.
'Before the light there was nothing, no universe.'
'Does anything travel faster than light?'
No - yes! We can, but only in the Möbius Continuum. And I suppose thought is likewise instantaneous.
'Now think!' said Harry. The Primal Light is still travelling outwards, expanding on all frontiers at a constant speed of 186,000 miles per second. Tell me: does anything lie beyond those frontiers? And I do mean any thing?'
Of course not, because in the physical universe nothing travels faster than light.
'Exactly! Wherefore light defines the extent - the size -of the universe! That's why I called it the universe of light. A formula:
aU = rU
Do you disagree?'
Möbius had looked at the thing scrawled on the screen of Harry's mind. The age of the universe is equal to its radius divided by the speed of light. And after a moment, but very quietly now: Yes, I agree.
'Hah!' said Harry. 'It's hard to get a decent argument going these days. Everyone cries uncle.'
Möbius had been angry. He had never seen Harry like this before. Certainly the Necroscope's instinctive maths was a wonderful thing, an awesome talent in its own right, but where was Harry's humility? What on earth had got into him? Perhaps Möbius should let him continue to expound and then try to pick holes, bring him down a peg or two.
And time? And the multiverses?
But Harry had been ready for him: 'The space-time universe - which has the same size and age as any and all of the parallels - is cone-shaped, the point of the cone being the Big Bang/Primal Light where time began, and the base being its current boundary or diameter. Is that feasible, logical?'
Desperately seeking errors, still Möbius had been unable to discover them. Yes, he was obliged to answer, eventually. Feasible, logical, but not necessarily correct.
'Grant me feasible,' said Harry. 'And then tell me: what lies outside the cone?'
Nothing, since the universe is contained within it.
'Wrong! The parallels are cone-shaped, too, born at the same time and expanding from the same source!'
Möbius had pictured it. But... then each cone is in contact with a number of other cones. Is there evidence of this?
'Black holes,' said Harry at once, 'which juggle with matter and so perform a necessary balancing act. They suck matter out of universes which are too heavy, into universes which are too light. White holes are, of course, the other ends of the black holes. In space-time such holes are the lines of contact between cones, but in space they are simply - ' (a shrug,) ' - holes.'
Möbius was tired, but: Cones are circular in cross-section, he'd argued. Put three together and you get a triangular shape between them.
And Harry had nodded his agreement. 'Grey holes. There's one at the bottom of the Perchorsk ravine, and another up an underground river in Romania.'
And so he'd made his point and won his argument, if there had been one to win in the first place. For the fact was he'd only argued for the sake of it and neither knew nor cared if he was right or wrong.
But Möbius had cared, because he didn't know if Harry was right or wrong either...
Another time, the Necroscope had talked to Pythagoras. Again his principal reason for going to see him was to convey his thanks (the great Greek mystic and mathematician had been of some assistance in his quest for numeracy), but again the visit had ended in argument.
Harry had thought to find the Greek's grave at Metapontum, or if not there then at Crotona in southern Italy. But all he found was a follower or two until, by pure chance, he stumbled upon the forgotten, 2,480-year-old tomb of a member of the Pythagorean Brotherhood on the Island of Chios. There was no marker; it was a stony, ochre place where goats ate thistles not fifty yards from a rocky shore looking north on the Aegean.
Pythagoras? No, not here, that one informed, in a hushed and very secretive manner, when Harry's dead-speak broke into his centuried thoughts. He is elsewhere, waiting out his time.
Until his metempsychosis, into a living, breathing man!
'But do you converse? Are you able to contact him?'
He will occasionally contact us, when a thought has occurred to him.
The Brotherhood! But I have said too much. Begone. Leave me in peace.
'As you wish,' Harry had told him. 'But he won't thank you that you turned away the Necroscope.'
What? The Necroscope? (Astonishment, and awe.) You are that one, who taught the dead to speak out in their graves, so enabling them to talk to one another as in life?
And do you seek to learn from Pythagoras?
'I seek to instruct him.'
That is a blasphemy!
'Blasphemy?' Harry had raised an eyebrow. 'And is Pythagoras a god, then? If so, a painfully slow one! Consider this: I have already achieved my metempsychosis. Even now I embark upon a second phase, a new... condition.'
Your soul is in process of migration?
'I may say that a change is in the offing, certainly.'
And after a while: If I speak to our master Pythagoras on your behalf, and if you have lied to me, be sure he willdamn you with Numbers. Aye, and possibly me with you! No, I dare not. First prove yourself.
'Perhaps I can show you some numbers.' Harry had contained his impatience as best he could. 'As a member of the Brotherhood, I'm sure you will appreciate their importance.'
Do you seek to seduce me with your puny figures? What, the work of a mere lifetime? Are you suggesting that in the two thousand years and more which have passed since I was lain to rest here I've dreamed no numbers or equations or formulae of my own? Necroscope or none, you are presumptuous!
'Presumptuous?' Harry's anger had been aroused. 'Equations? Formulae? Why, I have formulae such as you could never dream.' And he'd displayed the computer screen of his mind, and covered it with the endlessly mutating algebraics of Möbius mathematics. Then he'd formed a Möbius door, and let the other gaze a moment upon the nowhere and everywhere across the threshold.
Until, gaspingly: What... what is that?!
The Big Zero,' Harry had growled then, letting the door close on itself. The place where all numbers begin. But I'm wasting my time. I came to talk to a master and ended up chatting with a mere student - and a middling one at that. Now tell me: do I get my audience with Pythagoras or don't I?'
He ... he is in Samos.
'Where he was born?'
The same. The last place anyone would think to look for him, he thought... And then, frantically: Necroscope -plead with him for me! I have betrayed him! He will exclude me!
'Rubbish!' Harry had growled, but without scorn. 'Exclude you? He will elevate you - for you have gazed upon the secret mathematical door to all times and places.
You don't believe me?' (And he'd shrugged). 'Well, it's your choice. My thanks anyway - and farewell.' And conjuring another Möbius door he'd stepped through it -
- And out again on Samos, twenty miles away, where Pythagoras had spent his childhood two and a half millennia ago, and to which his bones had been returned in secrecy when at last he died. Pythagoras, however introvert, secretive, diffident, could hardly escape or ignore the Necroscope's deadspeak probe at such close range. That thought in itself had been deadspeak and as such the recluse (in death even more than in life) had heard it. And answered: What is your number?
'Any you choose for me,' Harry had shrugged, homing in on the mystic's mental whisper. And when he'd located him definitely, one further Möbius jump took him from a deserted, wooded shoreline straight there: to a small olive grove on a terraced hillside above a headland with a tiny white church. Down the coast a little way, scarcely glimpsed through pines and wind-warped oaks, Tigani's harbour glinted turquoise, blue, silver; music from a taverna came drifting on the bright summer air.
It was cool in the shade of the trees and the Necroscope had been grateful to take off his wide-brimmed hat, also the dark-lensed spectacles which protected his now delicate eyes. And because Pythagoras had remained silently thoughtful: There are numbers galore. I'm not fussy.'
Then you should be, the mystic's whisper was tremulous, fevered. They are The All. The gods themselves are numbers, though no man knows them. When I have discovered the numbers of the gods, then my metempsychosis may commence.
'If you truly believe that, then you've a long time to wait,' Harry had answered at once. 'You can know all the numbers in all their combinations from now to eternity and it won't change anything, not for you. It isn't a magical thing, Pythagoras. However many numbers you employ, your soul won't fly into a new body. There's no science or sorcery can help you now.'
Hah! the other was filled with wrath and not a little scorn. Only see who utters these blasphemies! And is this the Necroscope, who was impotent and innumerate, to whom the simplest sum was a mystery? Are you the one they pleaded for, the legions of dust, the teeming dead? Möbius came to me on his knees for you, and what are you after all but an ingrate?
Harry had been needled but hid it from the Greek. Likewise he hid his thoughts: Pompous old fart! While out loud: 'I came to thank you, for my numeracy. Without it I'd be like you: dust in a grave. Or perhaps not like you, for there was a man who would have called me up to torture me for my secrets.' A necromancer? 'Just so.' It is a black art!
'Not always. It has its uses. What I am doing now is a sort of necromancy after all. For I am a living man, talking to one who is dead.'
Pythagoras gave this a moment's thought, and: I overheard your conversation with one of the Brothers, he said. Is blasphemy your byword? You alleged reincarnation, transmigration, metempsychosis.
'I stated a fact,' said Harry. 'I was one man in his own body, and when it died I inhabited another. Don't take my word for it but ask the dead, who have nothing to gain from lying. They'll tell you it's true. Moreover, if your ashes were pure, I tell you I could even call you up from the dead! Not with numbers but with words. And this isn't blasphemy, Pythagoras, but simple truth. Or ... perhaps the act itself would constitute blasphemy, I can't be sure. If so then you're right and I am a blasphemer, and plan to be again.'
You could call me up from my ashes?
'Only if they were pure, unsullied. Were you buried in a jar?'
I was buried in soil, in secret, here beneath your feet, where as a boy I ran among the trees. My flesh and bones are now one with the earth. Anyway, I cannot believe you. Words and not numbers? Words are from the lips, frivolous things which are spoken and change, while numbers spring from pure mind and are immutable.
'It's academic, after all,' Harry had shrugged. 'In two thousand years your salts have been washed into the soil. There are no words - and certainly no numbers - which can help you now.'
Blasphemy and sedition! Do you seek to turn my followers against me?
Harry could contain himself no longer. 'Pythagoras, you're a charlatan! In your world you guarded your small, pointless mathematical "secrets" - basic discoveries which any child under instruction knows today from his school-books - as if they were Life and Death. And true death has not changed you. I gave you deadspeak, since when you could have conferred with more modern, more genuine masters, if you'd wished it. To Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein; to Roemer, Maxwell and - '
Enough! the other had been outraged. I should have ignored Möbius! I should have -
'But you couldn't ignore him!' (Harry's turn to cut in.) 'You dared not...'
What do you mean?
'That I know your real secret. That you were a fraud. That you not only made fools of your precious "Brotherhood" in life but continue to deceive them in death! There is no mysticism in numbers, Pythagoras, and you must know it. If only because you're a learned man. Why, you yourself have told me that numbers are immutable, unchanging and unchangeable. Which means that they are solid truth, not flights of fancy! Iron truth, not ethereal magic.'
Liar! Liar! Pythagoras had raged. You twist words, change meanings!
'Why do you hide yourself, even from the dead?'
Because they have no understanding. Because their ignorance is contagious.
'No, because they know more than you! Your followers would desert you. You told them they would migrate, return again to men and meet with you in worlds of pure Number - and now you know that this was false.'
I thought it was truth.
'But that was two and a half thousand years ago. And are you returned? How long does it take to admit you were wrong?'
I have dreamed numbers that would blast you!
'Blast me, then.'
By this time Pythagoras had been sobbing. He hurled a catalogue of numbers at Harry, which shattered against the wall of the Necroscope's metaphysical mind. But at least they shocked him into recognition of his predicament: that again the thing inside was striving to replace him, this time by use of convoluted Wamphyri 'logic'.
On this occasion it was his salvation, for it had never been Harry's desire to hurt or even alarm the dead. And: 'I ... I'm sorry,' he said.
Sorry? You are a fiend! Pythagoras had sobbed. But... you are right.
'No, I merely argued. Perhaps I am right, perhaps not. But I was wrong to argue for the sake of it. And let's face it, I stand in contradiction of my own argument.'
'I know that numbers are not immutable.' Ahhh! (A long drawn-out sigh.) Would you... could you demonstrate?
At which Harry had shown him the screen of his mind, with all of Möbius's configurations crawling on its surface, mutating and sprawling into infinity. And for a long time the old Greek had been silent. Then: I was a clever child who thought he knew everything, he said, his voice broken. Time has passed me by.
'But it will never forget you,' Harry had been quick to point out. 'We remember your theorem; books have been written about you; there are Pythagoreans even today.'
My theorem? My numbers? If I hadn't done it others would have.
'But it's your name we remember. And anyway, that could be said of anyone and anything.' Except the Necroscope.
But: 'I'm not even sure about that,' Harry had answered. 'I think that perhaps there were others before me. And certainly there was one after me. They dwell in other worlds now.' And will you dwell there, too? 'Possibly. Probably. And perhaps soon.'
What's it like now? Pythagoras had asked after a while, and Harry had suspected it was the first thing he'd inquired of anyone in a long time.
'Upon this island,' the Necroscope had answered, 'lie many of the more recently dead. But you've shunned them. You could have asked them about Samos, the world, the living. But you were afraid to know the truth. And do you know, the last thing of any importance to the living on this island is number? Well, perhaps not entirely true. I'm sure they're interested in the quantities of drachmae to the pound, to the Deutschmark and the dollar.' He explained his meaning.
The world is so small now!
Harry had put on his hat, his glasses, and gone out from the shade into sunlight. With his hands in his pockets the latter didn't bother him too much, but he must go slowly or lose his balance on the rough tracks and roads into Tigani. Pythagoras had gone with him, his deadspeak, anyway; distance wasn't too important once contact had been established.
I'll open up the Brotherhood, dissolve it entirely, put it aside. There's so much to learn.
'Men have landed on the moon,' said Harry.
Pythagoras's mind had flown in circles.
'They have calculated the speed of light.'
The old mystic's thoughts were one huge, astonished question mark.
'But you know, among the dead are those mathematicians who could benefit greatly from your knowledge.'
What, mine? I am an infant!
'Not a bit of it. You stuck to pure number. Why, in two thousand and more years, by now you're a lightning calculator! May I test you?'
By all means - but please, a simple thing. Not the dizzy designs inscribed upon your secret mind.
'Then give me the sum of all the numbers between one and one hundred, inclusive.'
Five thousand and fifty, Pythagoras's answer had been instantaneous.
'A lightning calculator,' Harry had been right. 'Among the less practical mathematicians - the theoretical mathematicians - why, you'd be like a talking slide-rule! I think that for a dead man you've a great future, Pythagoras.'
But it was such a simple thing. The Greek had been flattered. And known by heart. Multiplication, division, addition and subtraction - aye, and trigonometry, too -I've done it all so often. There isn't an angle I can't calculate.
There you are.' Harry had smiled. And, however drily: 'Believe me, there aren't many today who know all the angles.'
And you, Harry? Are you a lightning calculator? Harry hadn't wished to shatter him. 'Ah, but with me it's different, intuitive.'
Between one and a million, then!
'500,000,500,000,' the Necroscope had answered almost in the same breath. 'Take ten and multiply it by itself as many times as you like, and it works every time. Half of ten is five; put the two halves together again: 55. Half of a hundred is fifty, put the halves together: 5,050. And so on. "Magic" to some, intuition to me.'
Pythagoras had been downcast. Why would they need me when they already have you?
'Because, as I've stated, I may not be here too long. It's like you said: the world is a small place. And it's hard to find a hiding place.'
On the outskirts of Tigani he'd found a small taverna and seated himself in its shade, and ordered ouzo with a dash of lemonade. English girls splashed in the warm, blue waters of a small, rocky bay. Their breasts were shiny and Harry could smell the oil of coconut from here. Pythagoras had picked the picture from Harry's mind and scowled at it. Perhaps it's as well I'm unbodied to stay, he'd commented, darkly. Like vampires, they deplete a man.
For a moment the Necroscope had been caught off guard, but then: 'Ah!' he'd answered. 'But there are vampires and there are vampires...'
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