‘I’m not here because I want to work for Enchantment,’ I said to Barry.
He glanced at me appraisingly. ‘I can’t work out why you’re here at all.’ He jerked his head at Winter, who was examining a sheet of paper with a furrowed brow. ‘Unless it’s because of him.’
‘He’s here because of me, not the other way around.’ I had to stick with the narrative.
Barry snorted. ‘Yeah, right. No matter what we’ve been told, the Order is obviously still concerned that there will be more murders. There are witches all over Tomintoul.’
I let out a slow breath. ‘Do you think there are going to be more murders?’ It was unlikely, but Barry might have insights that the rest of us didn’t. ‘I have enough on my plate to worry about without getting killed too.’
‘You’re perfectly safe,’ he dismissed. ‘You heard Belinda. All that had nothing to do with Enchantment.’
‘You know, the other three in your team are planning to get you voted out if you don’t win. Lou is leading the charge. I heard her talking about it.’
I frowned. Something about the way he said that didn’t ring true. ‘Are you hoping that I’ll confront her on camera and that fireworks will ensue?’ I enquired.
His eyes widened. ‘Of course not! I would never do such a thing. You can absolutely trust me, Ivy. I’m on your side. All the way.’ He punched his chest for effect.
His protests were far too vociferous to be anything other than lies. Good grief, there was a lot to have to try and keep track of. Witches like Tarquin, with their wheeling and dealing to inveigle their way into better positions, had nothing on reality television.
‘Mmm.’ I watched Bellows and Brutus approach Armstrong, who was directing a group of cameramen to get ready for the challenge. ‘What’s the deal with Trevor? What else has he been up to?’
‘What do you mean?’
I shrugged. ‘Harriet suggested he was busy with … other things.’
Barry’s cheeks flushed. That was interesting. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He checked his watch. ‘We’re starting in less than thirty minutes. The other two teams will be here shortly. You should prepare. Warm up or … something.’
Or something, indeed. He turned and walked away, pretending to look occupied.
Nibbling my lip, I wove my way through the crew towards Winter. He looked up, watching as I approached.
His eyes softened. ‘Hey.’
We smiled at each other for an all-too-brief moment. Then I shook myself and drew him aside, quickly filling him in on all I’d learnt about Belinda and her mysterious vial.
Winter’s expression darkened. ‘We need to find out what it is. It might be time to bring her in for questioning.’
‘Won’t that tip our hand?’
He rubbed his cheek. ‘There’s been no sight or sound of anything untoward since the blood in Bellows’ trailer. Either our necromancer has gone to ground or something else is being prepared. Something bigger and nastier than we’ve already seen. We need to prevent any more deaths from occurring.’
We both turned in Belinda’s direction. She was sitting in a chair with a make-up artist dabbing at her face with some kind of powder. ‘She’s hard as nails,’ I said. ‘And all the evidence so far points in her direction. But there’s no motive and I find it hard to believe she could be capable of such a thing.’
‘Because you’re a fan?’
I shrugged. ‘Yeah, maybe.’ I sighed. ‘You should never meet your heroes. They only ever disappoint.’
‘And here was me thinking I was your hero.’ Winter’s tone was light.
I turned and met his eyes. ‘You are.’
‘Do I disappoint you?’
I didn’t smile this time. ‘Never.’
He edged a bit closer and I caught a whiff of spicy aftershave. Winter didn’t often bother wearing it – was he trying to impress me? It was certainly working.
‘You look like you’re feeling better,’ he murmured.
‘I am. Whatever caused that hallucination yesterday must have been mild.’
‘You still need to be careful, Ivy,’ he cautioned. ‘You might be being targeted.’
‘I might be. But it might not be anything to do with our necromancer. Bellows, for example, can’t wait for me to get booted off.’
A gleam lit Winter’s eyes. ‘He knows you’re better than him.’
I grinned. ‘Yeah.’ I thought about what Harriet had said. ‘There’s more going on with Trevor Bellows than we know. He’s been up to something else besides all the show stuff.’
Winter agreed. ‘When you lot are off filming this challenge, I plan to take advantage of the chance to investigate both him and Belinda. I only came to see if you were alright. As soon as I get the chance, I’m heading back to the main set to sneak into their trailers.’
‘Raphael Winter!’ I said, with a mock gasp. ‘Are you really going to enter someone’s domain without a warrant? How shocking!’
‘Someone’s dead,’ he reminded me. A muscle throbbed in his jaw. ‘And someone tried to hurt you yesterday.’
Barry started waving at me. ‘Ivy! Get over here! We’re starting!’
I sighed. This contestant malarkey was becoming irritating. ‘Time to go. I’ll try to get hold of Belinda’s vial so we can find out for sure whether she’s involved. It’ll be better if she doesn’t know what we’re up to just yet. If she is our necromancer then she has a hell of a lot of power. We don’t want it unleashed unless we’re sure we can contain it.’
Winter smiled. ‘I’m glad to see you’re being sensible for once.’
‘I’m sure it won’t last. Not unless there are more necromancers around. Anything to do with dead bodies scares the bejesus out of me.’ I shivered.
I gave him a hard look. ‘You too.’ I stretched up on my tiptoes. ‘I can’t have my hero getting into trouble for breaking and entering,’ I whispered in his ear.
Both corners of Winter’s mouth crooked up.
We were walked through the challenge by Morris Armstrong, alongside our producers. The other two teams of contestants looked considerably worse for wear; the last team to arrive sported weary expressions and several bruises. When I caught one of them muttering about how sore her legs were after marching up a mountain, I allowed myself a satisfied smirk. Unfortunately Mike was too busy flexing to hear her.
Previous challenges on Enchantment had been guided by location and this was no different. To begin with, there was the excruciating obstacle course to complete. Armstrong pointed out the rope swings, a precarious-looking balance beam and the marshy mud pit. Once those had been traversed, we were supposed to assemble a Celtic knot to unlock a box and reveal a magic wand. When the wand was pointed at the finish line, with the not-so-immortal words of ‘Enchantment commands you’, our names would be revealed in puffs of multi-coloured smoke.
‘Of course,’ Armstrong said with a knowing wink, ‘there are layers of magic built into this challenge which will not be revealed to you beforehand.’
I nodded, unsurprised. It was typical for there to be few magical demands put on contestants in the early stages for the simple reason that few of us could perform any spells of consequence. However, the show was called Enchantment; there had to be magic of some form or another to satisfy the watching public.
I didn’t really rate my chances of winning. I wasn’t fit and I knew that it would take me far longer than anyone else to get across the obstacles. Even Lou would probably be faster. And it didn’t seem particularly wise to exert my own magical abilities too far after the events of yesterday. Despite both my and Winter’s suspicions that my exhausted hallucinations had been caused by something nefarious, I couldn’t discard the idea that I’d simply cast too many spells. I had to be careful. After all, who knew when another real zombie would appear?