I snorted. The tool had been destroyed but its maker was still out there.
Belinda carried on blithely. ‘Not just that, but the blood which was discovered on set belonged to a sheep, not a human. We no longer have anything to fear. No doubt it was simply a prank. And,’ she smiled, ‘it is apparent that Enchantment was not the target of the original attack. Benjamin Alberts, may his soul rest in peace, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Filming will start afresh this afternoon at three o’clock. We are behind schedule but, if we pull together as a team, we can bring everything back to where it should be. We are, after all, the greatest show on television.’
There was a loud cheer from the watching crew members. As far as I could tell, everyone was delighted. I wrinkled my nose. Yeah, yeah.
Morris Armstrong stepped up. For a moment it looked as if Belinda wasn’t going to relinquish her hold on the microphone. Rather than cause a scene, however, she eventually let it go. There was no denying who was really running things around here – and Belinda was perfectly content to make sure everyone knew it. Given that yesterday Armstrong had spoken to everyone without a microphone, it was clear that his bid to take the microphone from her was a power play on his part. A failed power play at that.
‘I would like to thank Belinda for her gracious words. Be assured that I share every sentiment,’ Armstrong said. ‘Enchantment is most definitely the greatest!’ He fist-pumped the air. More than a few of the crew aped his actions but there was definitely less enthusiasm than there had been for La Battenapple. ‘To prove it, for this time ever, this series will have a member of the esteemed Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment on board!’
A ripple of shock ran through the crowd. As Winter stepped onto the stage, looking for all the world as if he wished the ground would open up and swallow him, Trevor Bellows appeared rather nauseous. If he’d been worried about me as competition, he couldn’t begin to fathom what it would be like having Winter judging his every move.
‘This is Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter!’ Armstrong began to applaud and gradually everyone else joined in. Even Bellows.
Winter forced a smile. His eyes scanned the crowd until eventually they landed on me. I raised my arms and clapped enthusiastically until the corners of his mouth crooked up slightly. I wasn’t oblivious to the many lascivious looks he was receiving from most of the female – and some of the male – crew members. I resisted the urge to yell out that he was hands off and contented myself with the fact that at least he was here. And at least it was me he was focused on.
But there were limits to how much Winter was going to be allowed to do. The microphone in Armstrong’s hands went nowhere near him and the director quickly regained everyone’s attention. ‘We have seven hours until showtime, everyone! Let’s get this set shipshape and ready once more.’
And with that, they all trooped off the stage.
‘Enchantment is most definitely being targeted,’ Winter told me in an aside when I caught up with him near the main producers’ tent.
I raised an eyebrow. ‘What makes you say that?’
‘There were some herbs found on the body last night. They were matched to a clump discovered in Bellows’ trailer. And,’ he reached into his pocket, ‘I found more of the same scattered around the perimeter.’
I sucked in a breath. ‘All the way around?’
Winter nodded, his expression grim. There were only two reasons why you’d encircle an entire area with herbs. To protect it – or to attack it.
‘So we’re looking for a witch again.’ Except why would an Order witch care about a reality television show that used only the weakest forms of magic?
Surprisingly, Winter disagreed. ‘I don’t think a witch is behind this.’
‘But you just said…’
‘The amounts are all wrong.’ He trailed his index finger through the herbs in his hand. ‘In every location I’ve checked, there are two parts cinquefoil to one part mandrake, with a tiny amount of prickly ash bark thrown in. I can’t see how that would have an effect on anything. Even in small quantities, the prickly ash bark would completely negate the mandrake. And there’s no known spell that uses mandrake and cinquefoil together. I’ve spent the best part of the night on the phone to the Herblore Department back in Oxford. They agree.’
I pursed my lips. ‘Is the Order being set up?’
‘Either that or we have a dangerous amateur on our hands.’ Winter swept a hand around. ‘Given where we are and who we’re surrounded by, that’s not a great shock.’
‘But the thing that attacked us last night was a damn zombie. A zombie!’
He sighed. ‘I explained that to you already. It wasn’t a zombie. It was an animated anomaly.’
‘Of course it was a zombie! It was a dead body which clawed its way out of its grave and attacked us!’ I still found it difficult to believe but the evidence had been there.
‘Keep your voice down.’
I put my hands on my hips. ‘Seriously? You don’t think that the people here have a right to know about this? There could be an army of the dead on their way!’
‘There’s no army.’
‘You don’t know that!’
‘Ivy, it’s impossible to raise more than one un-dead being at a time. Unless there’s an army of necromancers, which is not going to be the case, there’s no army of the dead.’
I met his gaze head on. ‘I bet,’ I said, ‘that if I had asked you last week if it were possible to raise one dead body, you would have said that was impossible too. Except that’s already happened. How could an amateur manage it?’
‘I don’t know yet. Necromancy is so rare that we don’t know much about it. There’s very little written in the Cypher Manuscripts because any spells designed to get the dead even to twitch are highly unreliable.’
‘I wouldn’t call what happened last night as a corpse merely twitching!’
Winter placed a hand on my arm. ‘I know you’re concerned. I am too. But one of the conditions of being permitted on set is that no one finds out what’s really been going on.’ I opened my mouth to continue arguing but he didn’t let me start. ‘The Ipsissimus agrees. We can’t have the world and its dog knowing that necromancy is real. We have to deal with enough conspiracy theories as it is. Not to mention that people up and down the country will be trying to raise their loved ones. Or worse.’
‘But the people here could be in danger, Rafe.’
Winter’s voice softened. ‘I know. It’s up to you and me to make sure they’re safe until we find out who’s really behind this.’
‘Can’t you do one of your herby spells to find out what happened in Bellows’ trailer? That’ll give us something to work with at least.’
He sighed. ‘I tried that first thing. There have been too many people coming in and out of the trailer for it to work. All it conjured up was a mess.’
Fat lot of good that was, then. I tried a different tack. ‘Morris Armstrong said that they chose this area for filming because there are historical links to magic.’
He nodded. ‘I heard. But it was one family a long time ago. While their descendants are still in the area, they don’t have any discernible magic. They’ve already been interviewed. They don’t have any links to the animated anomaly that attacked us last night either. I’ve already checked. The truth is that none of this started until Enchantment came to town.’
‘And with the traces of crap magic we’ve found around the set…’ I sighed. It did seem likely that the television show and at least one of its crew were connected.
‘The situation is different now. Even if the production company agreed to shut down Enchantment, we’d have to start from scratch again. At least this way we’re in the right place to catch the bastard who’s doing this.’ He squeezed my arm. ‘There are back-up teams already on their way from Oxford. They’ll stay out of the way unless we really need them but we know that they’ll be there.’
My bottom lip jutted out. I really didn’t like this. ‘Can I at least stop being a runner now?’