Johnny... Found

'I showed my E-Branch ID at the guardroom.' Jordan commenced his story. 'And told them I was investigating the death of the girl who was found under the walls. I said we'd had our wires crossed the first time, because she wasn't who we'd thought she was, which was why we were looking into it again from square one.

The squaddies on duty had read all about it in the newspapers, and anyway I wasn't the first investigator they'd seen. Not even the first today. They told me that in fact there were already two plain-clothes men in the castle, down in the sergeants' mess. That piece of information stopped me dead for a second or two while I considered it, but then I thought what the hell? For after all, I was E-Branch... wasn't I? Well, I had been until very recently. Anyway, I never had any problem dealing with the law. In fact the police had always shown me, and E-Branch in general, a lot of respect. And vice versa.

'So I asked directions to the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' mess and made my way there.

'Edinburgh Castle is a massive place, the greater part of which is never even glimpsed by the tourists and general public. Your average tourist knows that the Castle Esplanade is where they hold the Edinburgh Tattoo - with room to build a stadium of eight thousand seats, royal boxes and all, and a hard-standing that takes the military's massed bands, motorcycle and other vehicular displays, shows from all around the world, you name it - but the vast stone complex beyond Mons Meg, the One O'Clock Gun, and Ye Olde Tea Shoppe (or whatever it is they've named that cafe in the crag) remains a mystery to most people. And where the way is roped off, that's where the real Castle begins. But you've been there, Harry, and know what it's like: a maze of alleys and gantlets and courtyards ... a fantastic place! And one that's easy to lose your way in.

'Eventually I found the Sergeants' mess and the two Jock plain-clothes officers, who were talking to a Sergeant Cook and his civilian assistants and jotting down a few notes. I showed my ID and asked if I could sit in on their questioning, and they didn't bat an eyelid between them. They knew how the Branch - in the shape of Darcy Clarke and yourself, Harry - had been helping out with the job.

'Anyway, I'd arrived right on cue, because they were asking about the night of the murder, especially about the deliveries of refrigerated meat which had been made to the cookhouse that night. Apparently forensic had alerted them to beast blood on Penny's clothes, do you see?

'Well, you can imagine how it felt, Harry, to be right there when the Cook Sergeant got out his register of deliveries to check details of the beast carcases that had come in ... yes, from Frigis Express! Naturally, I said nothing, just kept my ears wide open and my mouth tight shut, and took in as much as I could get. Which was quite a bit; because this overweight, red-faced, hot-and-bothered sergeants' mess cook was efficient to a fault. He not only kept a record of dates and times of all deliveries of foodstuffs - and copies of his own countersigned receipts, which bore the signatures of his suppliers - but he even had the registration numbers of delivery vehicles, too! And naturally I made a mental note of the number of the truck which had made the deliveries that night.

'This is how the delivery system works:

During the day the esplanade gets crowded, and anyway, Edinburgh's streets are no place for big articulated trucks during daylight hours. So Frigis Express delivers at night. Of course, big vehicles can't make it under the arch of the guardroom and up the narrow gantlet, so they park down on the esplanade and the cookhouse sends down a driver in a military Landrover to collect the carcasses. The Frigis driver passes the meat straight out from the back of his truck into the back of the Landrover, which then conveys it up to the main cookhouse. And the Frigis driver goes up as a passenger in the Landrover to get his docket signed. And sometimes he'll have a beer with the Cook Sergeant in his little office, before walking back down to his truck on the dark esplanade. By night, of course, the esplanade is empty and he has plenty of room to turn the big vehicle round and get out of there.

'So... the plain-clothes officers wanted to know if this had been the routine on the night of the murder, and it had. In fact the Cook Sergeant knew this delivery man quite well; he worked for Frigis out of Darlington (yes, Darlington, Harry) and made deliveries to the Castle every three or four weeks. And when the sergeant was around they'd usually have a pint together in his office.

'As for his name: well, his signature was a scrawl, quite unreadable, possibly even disguised ... all except for the "F" which started his surname. But the fat sergeant was willing to swear that he referred to himself as - that's right -"Johnny"!

'Well, that was about it. When the officers were satisfied with what they'd got I came out with them. Along the way I made mention of how they seemed to be doing OK without E-Branch on this one. It was pretty obvious they weren't exactly sure what the Branch is all about - hell, who is, except Branch members? - but that they guessed we were some sort of higher echelon intelligence organization which "fools about", however successfully, with psychic stuff: table-rapping and divining and such. And I suppose in a way they were right at that.

Then we spent a little time looking over the wall in various places and down on the gardens towards Princes Street, and sure enough there are places you could dump a body without breaking its bones. The Jocks seemed especially interested in looking down on one spot, and I guessed that's where Penny had been found. A peep inside their minds told me I was right.

'Finally, as I parted company with them on the esplanade, I said, "We'll be in touch, and if this Johnny bloke doesn't work out the way you - "

'But one of them broke in on me: "Oh, we're pretty sure he's the one. And we can wait a few days longer. Actually, we'd like to catch this bastard in the act of picking up some girl before we move on him. He's been doing these jobs of his thick and fast, so we think he'll maybe try it on again the next time out. Another day or two at most. And you'd better believe we'll be right behind him..." Then he shrugged and let it go at that.

'So I told them good luck, and that was it. I felt great -great to be alive, and even better that I'd made a dent in the case - and so had a beer on the Royal Mile. Following which I just waited around for you to contact me. End of story...'

The Necroscope seemed a little disappointed. 'You didn't get a general description of this man, or discover when he's driving for Frigis again?'

These things weren't in their thoughts,' Jordan answered, shaking his head. 'And anyway, if I'd had to concentrate on scanning their minds I might have slipped up, done something stupid, given myself away. Remember, you and I are both telepaths. When we read each other and it comes over strong and true, that's because we're doing it deliberately. But reading the mind of an ordinary person is different. They're cluttered things, minds, and rarely concentrate on anything for more than a moment or two.'

Harry nodded. 'I didn't mean to put you down. What you've done is wonderful. It's worked out perfectly - so far. But now I want to find out something about this man's background, like why he's the way he is. Such knowledge might be of use, that's all. If not to me, to E-Branch after I've gone. Also, I'm curious about his name. You said something about Dragosani also being a foundling? Well, maybe there's more to that than you thought or intended. So ... I have one or two things to learn about this Johnny Found. And, of course, I want to get to him before the police. He'd be charged with murder, I know, but what he's done and would still do is worth a lot more than that. He came on very cruel. And that's how he should go out.' The Necroscope's voice as he finished speaking was a deep growl, sinking deeper all the time. Jordan was happy to keep out of his mind, but he couldn't help thinking to himself: Mr Johnny Found - who or whatever, or why ever you are - I wouldn't be in your shoes for all the gold in Fort Knox!

Ben Trask had called his briefing for 2:00 p.m. and all available E-Branch operatives were present. The Minister Responsible was there, too, accompanied by Geoffrey Paxton, whom Trask really hadn't expected to see. But he made no fuss about it; it had dawned on him that the job was too important to let personalities interfere. It just struck him as incongruous that while a low-life specimen such as Paxton was safe and legitimate, the good stuff such as Harry Keogh had crashed foul of fate and was about to become a victim of his own methods. Sure, for it had been Harry who showed the Branch how to do this sort of thing. How to set it up, what weapons to use - the stake, the sword, the fire - and how to strike. In order to kill vampires.

When everyone was present Trask wasted no time but got right down to it. 'By now all of you know what Harry Keogh has become,' he began. 'Which is to say, he's the most dangerous creature who ever lived... partly because he carries this plague of vampirism, which could consume all of us and for which there's no cure. Well, there have been others before Harry and they all succumbed - usually to the Necroscope himself! And that's the rest of what makes him so dangerous: he knows all about it, about us, about... just about everything. Now don't get me wrong: he isn't a superman and never has been, but he is the next best thing. Which was great when he was on our side but isn't quite so hot right now. Oh, yes, and unlike the other vampires the Branch has dealt with, Harry will know we're after him.'

He let that sink in, then continued: 'Some other things that make him dangerous. He's become a telepath, so from now on all you thought-thieves keep a close watch on your minds. If not, Harry will be in there. And if he knows what we're doing as we're doing it, then he won't be waiting around for it to happen, right? He's a teleport, too, and uses something called the Möbius Continuum to come and go as he pleases. He can be literally anywhere he wants to be, instantaneously! Think about that...

'Last but not least - that we know of, anyway - Harry is now a necromancer no less than Dragosani was; no, more than Dragosani was. Because Dragosani only examined his victims. Harry on the other hand can bring them back from the dead, even from their ashes - as vampires, we think. And as such, obviously they'd be working for him. So, what I'm saying is that everything he's previously achieved has now been totally reversed: he is our target! Harry, and anyone who works with him.

'A lot of you will be wondering about Darcy Clarke, so let me put you in the picture. Darcy died ... by accident.' Trask at once held up a restraining hand, because he'd seen faces beginning to tighten and mouths opening questioningly. 'It was an accident of sorts,' he repeated, 'and in its way understandable if not entirely acceptable. Now, I've had to do a lot of soul-searching myself in order to come to terms with this, and so I can readily understand your confusion. But Darcy had been changed. He must have been, else we couldn't have killed him. That's right, I said "we", the Branch. If he'd lived he would have been our weakest link, and sooner or later we'd be obliged to deal with him anyway. But he isn't alive and can't be brought back or ... interfered with, not where he is now. For we've had him cremated - already, yes - and even now his ashes are being scattered. If he was one of Harry's people, which it has to be said seems likely, then he isn't any more.

'OK, I've said it was an accident. But the real accident - or more properly, the tragedy - was that Darcy Clarke and Harry Keogh were friends, and that they'd had a lot of contact with one another. It's as simple as that. Harry's own "accident" happened to him out in the Greek islands, or more likely in Romania, just a few weeks ago. Since when it's taken him over completely. And conceivably unknown to Darcy - and just conceivably unknown or unrealized even by the Necroscope himself - the thing, disease, contagion, whatever and however you think of it, somehow passed between them. That's the way we see it, anyway.

'But the fact is that Darcy had a very bad case of mind-smog, and he'd lost his guardian angel, the talent which had kept him secure through everything the Branch has thrown at him all these years. As for Darcy working with him or for Harry: well, we knew that he'd been passing information, even before we knew for sure that he'd been changed. Just when these changes occurred isn't easy to tell. They might have been in the wind for some time, but they came to light just last night. For that was when Harry visited Darcy at home. He didn't stay long but after he left... then Darcy had mind-smog.

'So that's what I meant when I said Darcy had been changed. When he died... he just wasn't Darcy Clarke any more, not the one we all knew. And now he isn't anyone. But more importantly, he isn't, and can never be, a threat to the Branch or to the world.

'Harry Keogh very definitely is, however, and so are the people we believe he's already contaminated. There are at least two of these: a young girl called Penny Sanderson, and ... the telepath we knew as Trevor Jordan.' Again he held up his hand. 'Yes, I know, Trevor was my friend, too. And hell, he was also dead! But he isn't any more. Harry Keogh has resurrected both of these people from their ashes - which in itself must surely confirm what they've become. Undead!

'So where does all of this leave us? Plainly, it leaves us with a fight on our hands, and one which will take all the skills and efforts of every last one of us. Because if we don't win this one, then there won't be a last one of us! Now here's how we go about it: as of tonight the Sanderson girl goes under covert surveillance. We're going to leave that to Special Branch. No espers to be involved at this stage. Why? Because Harry Keogh or Jordan would pick up on our people like they were radioactive. So it's the dear old British Bobby who covers for us, but without really knowing what it's all about. Just another stakeout as far as they're concerned. Which should be safe enough, for as far as we know the girl's had no contact with Jordan or the Necroscope since Harry... well, since he did whatever he did to bring her back. So we just let the common or garden Law keep an eye on her until it's time, then call them off, and finally move in. By which time we'll know how we're going to deal with her.

'Incidentally, if I seem cold-blooded about this, it's because that's how it has to be. I'm the only one who's left of the old crowd, which means I'm the only one who knows what hell is like. I saw it during the Bodescu case, and out in the Greek islands. Anyone who thinks I'm exaggerating hasn't read the Keogh files or Darcy Clarke's report on the Greek thing. And if any one of you really hasn't read those items, then he bloody well better had, and now!

'OK, so as of tonight we'll have the girl covered, and she'll stay that way until we're all set. But she's small fry and the big fish - the sharks - are still cruising. They're the ones we have to worry about. But how much do we have to worry about them? Let's talk about Jordan.

This morning he was at Edinburgh, in the Castle on the Mount, taking an interest in the serial killer case. Darcy Clarke had asked for the Necroscope's help on this one, and it looks like Harry got hooked on it. Now he and Jordan seem to be working together on it; don't ask me why, except that Penny Sanderson was one of the killer's victims. Revenge? It could well be, for vampires are like that. If so, then sooner or later Harry and Co may be having a go at this sex freak.

'As to how we know Jordan was in the Castle: he just casually latched on to a couple of plain-clothes men during their investigations up there! He was able to do it because he still has his Branch ID. Later, when one of the investigators mentioned Jordan to a superior - the fact that E-Branch still had a man on this thing - his boss got straight on the phone to us saying thanks but no, thanks, they don't need our help any more, they think they've already got their man. Well, at least we managed to obtain the suspect's name and address, which might come in very handy. Apparently he's called John or Johnny Found and has a flat in Darlington. So there'll be some common or garden Law watching Mr Found, too, and I'll be detailing someone to watch them - with a warning to stay well out of the picture, for the moment, unless or until Keogh and Jordan decide to move on him.

'What else about Jordan? Well, as you know, Trevor was - I mean is - a pretty good telepath. It could be that that's where Harry got his new talent. For Harry's also a necromancer, remember? And as such he might be able to accumulate talents as he goes, much as Dragosani did. That's speculation, however, and still to be proven. Another thing about Jordan is this: he was always one hell of a nice bloke. Oh, I know, there's no such thing as a nice vampire. You don't have to tell me that! But what I'm saying is I don't think evil will come naturally to him. It will probably be a gradual process. I hope so, anyway, because of course his vampirism will quickly enhance his already powerful telepathy. Following which... well, put it this way: there won't be any sneaking up on him!

'All right, I'm almost through. You'll all be detailed to your new tasks within the hour, as soon as I can get them worked out. Anything else you're busy with, drop it until you're told otherwise.

'So to sum up on how we're going to work this thing:

'We know that Harry Keogh's favourite haunt - the place he rightly considers his "territory", because it's been his home for most of his life - is an old house near Bonnyrig not far out of Edinburgh. We think he must be working out of there, with Jordan assisting him in whatever he's doing. Probably tracking down Johnny Found, or, if they've already located him, gearing themselves up to bring him to some kind of justice. So as well as watching the Sanderson girl and Mr Found, we're also, obviously, going to keep a covert eye on Harry's old house. But -and I can't stress this too strongly - a very surreptitious eye, right?

'If we can get the girl, Harry and Jordan all at the same time - especially if we can get them on their own, as individuals - that's when we'll move on them. Which might possibly be precipitated if or when Harry and Jordan decide to take out Found. Ideally, we'll wait until we can move on all three of them simultaneously. That way they don't get any warning. What we mustn't do is try to pick them off one by one, which would be to alert the others. Are we straight on that?

'Lastly - or rather before we go on to examine the tools of our trade - I have something to tell you that I know won't go down at all well: namely that the Minister here has confided in Soviet E-Branch on this thing.' Trask stared into the small sea of astonished faces, but no one spoke.

'The point is,' he went on, 'that even if we find a way to trap the Necroscope, which won't be easy, still he'll have a bolthole into a place he could conceivably come back from - bringing God-only-knows what back with him! Yes, I'm talking about the Gate at the Perchorsk Projekt under the Urals. We've kept tabs on that nightmare ever since we found out about it, and we know that the Russians are managing to contain it while they decide on a more satisfactory solution. If we make life intolerable, hopefully impossible, for Harry here, he might just try heading for Starside. So that's why we've confided in the Russians, because we daren't let him go back there. Fine if he wanted to stay there, but monstrous if he ever decided to bring anything back here with him.

'What makes us think he might hide out in another world? A notebook we found an hour ago at Clarke's flat, that's what. Darcy had been jotting down a few thoughts, but that must have been before Harry got to him. It may even be why he got to him. The notes are only a mess of scribble but they make it plain that Darcy thought Harry would skip to Starside. Well, now the Soviets know about Harry, as much as we could tell them, anyway, and they'll be looking out for him. So it looks like the Perchorsk Gate is closed to him.

'OK, so now let's consider our... equipment. And how to use it. Then we'll get round to breaking you all down into balanced teams and doing a preliminary itemization of your tasks.'

Trask removed a blanket from various pieces of equipment laid out on a stout folding table. 'It's important you learn how to use this stuff,' he said. 'The machetes speak for themselves. But be careful with them - they're razor-sharp! As for this: I suppose you all recognize a crossbow when you see one? This third item, however, might not be quite so familiar. It's a lightweight flamethrower, a new model. So I think maybe we'll take a look at that first.

This is the fuel tank, which sits on your back like so...'

And so it went on. The briefing lasted another hour.

Right after sunset Harry made his way to Darlington via the Möbius Continuum. He left Trevor Jordan sleeping (not surprisingly exhausted; his return from Beyond was still like the very strangest dream to him, from which he still feared he might suddenly awaken) in a secret room under the eaves of the house on the river. From the attic room there was a way into the deserted, crumbling old place next door, so that if anything should happen Jordan might use this route to effect something of an escape. But both espers had checked out the psychic 'atmosphere' of the locality and there didn't seem to be anything happening; and in any case Jordan had been busy rationalizing his fears in that respect and really couldn't see E-Branch doing a Yulian Bodescu on him. And in any event, he was satisfied that they wouldn't do anything rash.

Johnny Pound's address in Darlington was the ground-floor flat in an old, four-storeyed, Victorian terrace house on the outer edge of the town centre. The old red bricks had turned black from being too close to the mainline railway; the windows were bleary; three steps led up from a path in the tiny, overgrown front garden to a communal porch. And behind the fagade of that porch - behind the flyspecked, dingy windows, there in those very rooms -that was where Found lived.

In the twilight Harry's skin tingled at the thought and he felt his eager vampire senses intensifying as he walked the street first one way, then the other, past this gloomy street-corner residence of a twentieth-century necromancer. The murderer of sweet young Penny Sanderson.

Simple confrontation would be the easy way, of course, but that wasn't part of the Necroscope's plan. No, for then the result could only be precipitate: the accused would either 'come quietly', in the parlance of the Law, or he would react violently. And Harry would kill him. Which would be far too easy.

Pound's way, on the other hand, his modus operandi, was cruel, creeping, designed to terrify even before the terrible act - the monstrous crime itself - was committed. And Harry was concerned that in his case the punishment should fit the crime. Except... there should be something of a trial, too. But trial as in ordeal, not as in examination as a precursor to judgement. For if Johnny Found was in fact the man, then the sentence had already been passed.

The working day was over; traffic was thinning in the darkening streets; people wended their ways home. And some of them entered the house of the necromancer. A middle-aged woman with a bulging plastic carrier-bag, letting herself in fumblingly through the front door; a young woman with straggly hair and a whining child pulling on her arm, calling out after the woman with the bag to wait for her and hold the door; an older man in coveralls, weary and slump-shouldered, carrying a leather bag of tools.

A light came on in a garret room under steeply sloping eaves. Another winked into being on the second floor, and one on the third. Harry looked away for a moment, up and down the street, then looked back -

- In time to see a fourth, much dimmer light come on in an angled corner window in the ground-floor flat. But he hadn't seen Found go in.

The house stood on a corner; there must be a side-door; Harry waited for the traffic to clear, then crossed to the other side of the road and turned the corner. And there it was: a recessed doorway at the side, Johnny Pound's private access to his lair. And Johnny himself was in there.

Harry crossed the cobbled street away from the house and merged with the shadows of the building on the far side. He turned and leaned back a little against the wall, and looked at the light where it shone out on this side, too, from a tiny window in Pound's ground-floor flat. And he wondered what his quarry was doing in there, what he was thinking... until it dawned on him that he didn't have to just wonder. For Trevor Jordan had given him the power to find out for himself.

He let his vampire-enhanced telepathy flow outwards on the night air, out and away into the dark and across the road, and through the old brickwork into the smoke-grimed, stagnant house of evil. But the probe was aimless, unpractised and lacking authority, spreading out like ripples on a dark pond in all directions. Until suddenly -the Necroscope found more than he'd bargained for!

His telepathy touched upon a mind - no, two minds -and he knew at once that neither one of them belonged to Johnny Found. They weren't in the house, for one thing, and for another... they were already intent upon him! Upon Harry Keogh!

Harry drew breath in a sharp hiss of apprehension -fought hard against the urge to crouch down, which would only serve to illustrate his awareness - and looked this way and that along the dark alley. E-Branch? No, for there was no strength there, no talent, no metaphysical power. So who and what were they? And where?

Along the alley a cigarette glowed in the dark as someone took a drag, someone keeping to the shadows no less than the Necroscope himself. And across the main road under a lamp-post, there stood a figure in a dark, lightweight overcoat with his hands stuffed forlornly in his pockets, turning first this way and then that, for all the world like a man stood up who still hopes that his date will show: a decoy, to distract attention from the one in the shadows.

And both of them wondering about Harry, so that he picked up their thoughts in snatches right out of their unsuspecting minds.

The one under the lamp-post: Pound's home, but who's this bugger?... Up and down the street, prowling like a cat... The one we were told to watch out for?... Said if he showed up we shouldn't touch him, but... feather in the old cap... Promotion to Inspector?

And the one in the shadows, who was now stepping out of the shadows and heading Harry's way: Dangerous, they said... Well, let him try it on. If I'm obliged to protect myself... blow his fucking head off! (And Harry could actually feel the man's hand tightening nervously about the rubber grips on the butt of a pistol in his pocket.)

As the one with the gun came almost jauntily on, so the other straightened up and took his hands out of his pockets, then headed across the road towards Harry. And quite casually, patiently (but with their hearts pounding in their chests and their eyes sharp as daggers), so they converged on him.

Harry glared at them and was surprised to hear himself snarl. A river of fire raced in his veins, setting light to something inside which blazed up and sang to him of slaughter and spurting, crimson blood; of life, and of death! Wamphyri!

But the human side said: 'No! These are not your enemies! Upon a time, before you were a law unto yourself, they might even have been your friends. Why hurt them when you can evade them so easily?'

Because it isn't my nature to flee but stand and fight!

'Fight? Not much of a fight! They're like children...'

Oh? Well, at least one of these children has a gun!

The man crossing the road waited for a stream of cars to go by in the nearside lane; he was ten to fifteen paces away, no more. The other one was maybe twenty paces away. But both of them were definitely homing in on Harry. His vampire knew the danger no less than he did, and worked to protect him. The Necroscope sweated a strange, cold sweat and breathed a weird mist, which clung to him like an ever-thickening cloak. And as the two policemen came on, so Harry's mist spilled out of the shadows where he waited and poured itself into view like the exhalations of a basement boiler room.

Their guns are useless now. They can't see me in this. But I can see, smell, sense, even reach out and touch them, if I wish it. Reach out and snuff them!

'Damn you!' Harry cursed himself- or the thing inside him - out loud. 'Damn you - you slimy black bastard thing!'

'Yeah, well never mind all that, pal,' one of the policemen answered him, crouching down and aiming his gun two-handed into the fog. 'We've been damned and cursed before, right? So just come on out of there, OK? I mean, all of that steam has to be bad for you. Do you want to ruin your lungs? Or do you want me to do it for you, eh? Now, I said come on out of there!'

There was no answer, only a sudden swirling as the fog seemed to fold inwards upon itself, as if someone had shaken a blanket or slammed a door right in its heart. And in a few seconds more the mist thinned out, fell to earth, turned to a film of liquid which made the cobbles damp and shiny. And the wall was high, black and blank, with no alley and no basement boiler room.

And there was no one there at all ...

Back in Bonnyrig, Trevor Jordan was awake; some immediately forgotten night terror had drenched him in his own sweat and snatched him panting out of his bed in the attic room; now he prowled the rooms and corridors of the old house where it stood by the river, putting on all the lights, his every nerve jumping as he looked out from curtained windows into the night. Just what his apprehensions were he couldn't say, but he felt something looming, hovering, waiting. Some terrible Thing for the moment conserving its energy, but full of monstrous intent.

Was it Harry, Jordan wondered? The thing that Harry was far too rapidly becoming? Possibly. Could it be concern over Harry's fate if - when - E-Branch finally moved on him? Well, yes, that too. Or was he worried about his own fate, if he was still with the Necroscope at that time? Was this how Yulian Bodescu had felt at Harkley House in Devon, that evening when the Branch had closed in on him to destroy him? Something like this, Jordan was sure.

It was time for Jordan to leave Harry, and he knew it. To leave him for good and merge back into the mundane world of ordinary men. Oh, the telepath knew he could never more be truly mundane, for he had seen the other side and returned from it. But he could try. He could work at it, work into it, gradually forget that he had been - God, he couldn't bear the thought of the word even now! - that he had not been alive, and eventually become just another man again, albeit one with a talent. And when Harry was well out of it and fled into that other world which Jordan could scarcely imagine, then he might even return to the Branch. If they would take him back. But of course they would want to be sure about him first. They would want to check that he was who and what he was supposed to be.

But the trouble was (and Jordan knew now that this must be the source of his nightmare) that he couldn't be sure he would be the same person. For if Harry's awful metamorphosis continued to accelerate...

Harry!

Jordan sucked air gaspingly as telepathic awareness of the Necroscope suddenly flooded his being. The sensation was like being doused with ice-water, causing his whole body to shudder violently. Harry, out there somewhere, across the river. Harry, listening to Jordan, to his thoughts. But how long had he been there?

Only a minute or two, in fact. And he had not been eavesdropping on Jordan but telepathically checking the vicinity of the house. He had detected something of Jordan's fears, however, which did precious little to calm the beast which raged within him, denied expression when he'd fled from the two policemen watching Johnny Pound's flat.

The reason Harry chose to emerge from the Möbius Continuum into the bushes on the far side of the river and not directly into the house was simple: when he'd read the minds of those plain-clothes policemen in Darlington, he'd plainly seen that they were expecting him. Indeed, someone had told the man with the gun that Harry might be dangerous. Obviously E-Branch must have alerted them to the possibility of him showing up. So ... whatever Darcy Clarke had told the Branch about him, it hadn't cut any ice. They weren't having any.

And if they were looking out for him in Darlington, plainly it wouldn't take long before they were doing it here, too. He'd scared off Paxton (for the moment, anyway) but Paxton was only one of them and untypical of the species. So from now on he would have to check locations very carefully before venturing into what were previously 'safe' places. It all went to reinforce the Necroscope's feeling of claustrophobia, a doom-laden sensation of space - Möbius space included - narrowing down for him. To say nothing of time.

And now, to discover that Trevor Jordan was also afraid of him, of what Harry might do to him ... it was too much.

The dead - even Möbius himself - had turned against him; his mother had become worn out and left him; there was no one in the world, neither alive nor dead, who had anything good to say on his behalf. And this was the world, and the race, which he had fought so long and so hard for. Not even his own race. Not any longer.

Harry stepped through a Möbius door into a dark corridor of the house across the river and silently commenced to climb the stairs to his own bedroom. Suddenly he was tired; his cares seemed too great; sleep would be curative, and ... to hell with everything! Let the future care for itself.

But Jordan's voice stopped him when he was only halfway up the first flight: 'Harry?' The telepath looked up at him from the foot of the stairs. Trevor Jordan, who could read the Necroscope's mind as easily as Harry read his. 'I ... shouldn't have been thinking those things.'

Harry nodded. 'And I shouldn't have overheard you. Anyway, don't worry about it. You did your bit for me and did it well, and I'm grateful. And it won't be so bad being alone, for I've been alone before. So if you want to go, then go - go now! For let's face it, I'm losing more and more control to this thing, and leaving now might be the safest thing to do.'

Jordan shook his head. 'Not while the whole world's against you, Harry. I won't leave you yet.'

Harry shrugged and turned away, and continued to climb the stairs. 'As you wish, but don't leave it too long...'
    
 

***

***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

***