‘Thanks,’ I muttered, pocketing the keys. ‘I’m going out for a few hours. Amy, if I’m not back by the time dawn breaks, call this number.’ I scribbled down the Ipsissimus’s direct line onto a napkin. ‘Tell him I’ve disappeared, then all of you need to get as far away from here as possible.’
Even Moonbeam seemed to register how serious my tone was. ‘Why? What’s going to happen?’
‘Nothing you need to worry about yet. But tomorrow morning…’
He drained his pint and stood up. ‘Screw that. I’m collecting my mother and we’re getting out of here.’ He stalked out.
‘Don’t worry, Ivy,’ Amy said softly. ‘I can do that for you.’
I smiled my thanks and walked over to Armstrong. ‘Hello buddy!’ I chirped.
He didn’t even look up. ‘What do you want?’
‘Don’t be like that. I’m your superspy, remember?’
He raised his eyes balefully. ‘You never gave me any useful intel at all.’
‘Well, that was hardly my fault.’ I nodded at the barman. ‘I’ll have a vodka,’ I said. ‘This gentleman is paying.’
‘Make that two,’ Armstrong grunted.
Hmm. He already looked well on his way to the Land of Toilet Hugging as it was. I’d better make this quick. ‘You told me when we started that this area was chosen because of historical links to magic. I need to know what exactly.’
‘What does it matter now?’
‘It’s important, Morris.’
He scanned my face. ‘It was a family. Apparently there were several witches. Things didn’t go well for them and most were burned at the stake.’ He made a vague attempt at looking apologetic. ‘Those were the times.’
‘Which times exactly?’
‘Around the turn of the nineteenth century.’
It seemed almost inconceivable that their magical bloodline had continued since then without anyone noticing but I had to be sure. I swallowed. I really didn’t want to know the answer but I had to ask – everything hinged on it. ‘What was their name?’
The barman set out the drinks in front of us. With shaking hands, I reached down and picked up the first one, downing it in one with barely a shudder. Then I took the second glass and did the same. Armstrong just frowned.
‘I’ve got to go,’ I told him. ‘Pack your bags. It’s time to get out of Dodge.’
Without waiting for a reaction, I spun on my heel just in time to see Tarquin enter. He strutted in, his shoulders back and his head held high. The few crew members dotted around, including Barry and Amy, gave him a ragged round of applause. I rolled my eyes.
‘Tarquin!’ I called. I strode over and barred his way before he could start massaging his own ego with his adoring public.
He grinned. ‘Hey, Ivy.’ He bowed dramatically. ‘You’re welcome.’
I stared at him. ‘For what?’
‘Saving the day, of course.’
Never mind that all he’d done was smash a glass vial whilst others tried to deal with the real issue of the zombie. Or that his little spell had sent our investigation wildly off track. I forced a smile and did what I could to get him to listen. ‘Pay attention,’ I barked. ‘I have to go out. Winter is at the police station talking to Trevor Bellows. You need to get yourself there.’
He frowned at me and flipped back his hair. ‘I think I’ve done enough for today. I was going to have a drink and relax. Adeptus Exemptus Winter can look after Bellows.’
I gritted my teeth. ‘Bellows isn’t the real villain. He is a villain but he’s not the one threatening the stability of Scotland.’
Somehow, it didn’t surprise me that Tarquin was out of the loop. ‘Just get to Winter. Make sure he stays there and doesn’t come looking for me. This is hugely important, Tarq.’ I needed some way to make sure he did as I asked; I couldn’t afford for Winter to come after me. ‘There’s no one else here I trust to do this. Are you clever enough to keep Winter in one place?’
Tarquin drew himself up. ‘What? Of course I am! If I’m clever enough to create a spell to keep ageing at bay, I can certainly hold one Arcane Branch investigator back. Ha! It would be a piece of cake.’
I pushed up onto my tiptoes. ‘Are you sure? Winter is pretty canny…’
Tarquin rolled his eyes. ‘He is no match for the might of the Tarq. I’ll do it now.’ He turned on his heel and exited while I let out a breath. He’d been easier to manipulate than I expected. My challenge had at least ensured that he’d not asked why I needed Winter to stay with Bellows. As long as my sapphire-eyed soulmate didn’t come near me, everything would be fine. Probably.
I darted up to the room I shared with Amy, quickly changing into warmer clothes – because it’s important to be snug when you’re facing certain death – then I grabbed my phone and left again. There was just one other thing to take care of.
‘Brutus!’ There was a faint rustle from some bushes to my right but nothing else. ‘Brutus, this is urgent. I wouldn’t interrupt your night-time stalking if it weren’t.’
I heard another rustle and then the cat in question appeared with a poor mouse hanging from his mouth. I gave him a frown and he opened his jaws, letting the creature to escape.
‘I wish you wouldn’t do that.’
He gave me a look filled with feline ferocity. ‘Food.’
‘Try the hotel kitchen.’ I crouched down and scratched his ears. ‘I need you to listen first, though. I’m going out to find Gareth McAllan. I’m certain he’s the necromancer. It’s not very likely that I’ll come back.’
For once, Brutus appeared to listen. I took a deep breath. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said, meaning it wholeheartedly. ‘It sucks for you. Wait in my room. Winter will show up in the morning and then you can go with him. He’s a good guy and I’m sure he’ll let you hang out. Besides, you like his familiar, don’t you? Princess Parma Periwinkle? You’ll get to spend more time with her after I’m gone.’
A flood of unshed tears rose up in my throat. ‘You’ll be fine. Just do what Winter tells you and everything will work out. I love you to pieces, you miserable bugger, and I’m so happy to have known you.’
Brutus blinked. ‘You go? Where?’
‘I’ll try Gareth’s farm. If that fails, he’ll probably be at the cemetery.’ Preparing for his next raising. I shuddered.
Brutus sniffed and head-butted my hand. Then he turned round and sauntered away. If I were honest, I had hoped for a little more.
Rubbing my eyes, and trying not to feel too hurt, I stood up. Using the remote control key, I located Barry’s car and strode purposefully over to it. Everything was starting to add up – and not in a good way.
I’d been blinded by the events on set at Enchantment and the extraordinary Oscar-winning acting skills of Gareth McAllan. I knew it was strange that sheep seemed to figure so heavily, even though up here they outnumbered humans by about twenty to one. My hallucination happened after I’d touched the sheep out by the river; Mazza’s hallucination happened after he’d killed the sheep on Dead Man’s Hill. The sheep really were bewitched. Just not in a way I’d considered. Maybe they figured into the spell for bringing the dead back to life. I had no idea. But where there were sheep, there was also Gareth.
He had obviously slipped by the Order when they looked into his family. By his own admission, the police had considered him as a suspect. And he was the one to find Benjamin Alberts. I was reminded of the old schoolyard rhyme – he who smelled it, dealt it. Except in this case, we were talking about something far worse than wind.
I’d been wholeheartedly hoodwinked. Gareth was the culprit; he was the necromancer. Now all I had to do was find him and pray I didn’t end up dead. But if that was what it would take, I’d accept the risk.
The only silver lining was that Winter was safely out of the way and focused on Bellows. He wouldn’t try any heroics to take my place. He wouldn’t get hurt. He wouldn’t even know until it was too late.