- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
- All the Possibilities
- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
Necroscope V: Deadspawn
In the operations room at E-Branch HQ, Millicent Cleary and the Minister Responsible sat with David Chung, who was also the Duty Officer, at one end of a large desk. The desk was equipped with a radio receiver, a radio telephone, standard telephones, blown-up Ordnance Survey maps of England under illuminated plastic, and a tray containing various small items of property belonging to Branch agents in the field. Spotlights in the ceiling were concentrated on the desk, turning it and its immediate surroundings into an island of light in the large room's comparative darkness.
Millicent Cleary had just a moment ago received a brief telepathic message from Paxton at the house near Bonny-rig, stating that the assault team was in position. Keogh and the girl had been back, briefly, but Paxton was sure that the Necroscope was no longer in the house. Similarly Frank Robinson, the spotter who was Paxton's partner on the job, believed one of the two was still there; since there was no noticeable disturbance of the psychic 'ether', he would guess it was the girl. Keogh must have used the Möbius Continuum to drop her off at the house before moving on. If there'd been any indication that the Necroscope himself was still in there, then the team would have maintained ESP silence. But since he wasn't... Paxton was eager to learn what was happening.
Cleary passed the mind-message on and the Minister Responsible gave a snort. 'I've come to the conclusion that you're right about Paxton,' he said. 'All of you. I get the feeling he won't be satisfied until he's running the world!'
Cleary frowned and nodded. 'Ruining it, you mean!' she said, sourly; then quickly added, 'Er... sir! But we are right, and you don't have to be psychic to know it. He's a menace. We're lucky Ben Trask is up there keeping an eye on him. Do you want me to tell him anything?'
The Minister looked at her - also at Chung where he busied himself touching and concentrating on his many contact sigils in their tray, fathoming the whereabouts, mood and feelings of the agents in the field - and mentally reviewed the situation:
The telepath Trevor Jordan (who by all rights and natural laws should be a small heap of ashes in a vase), was on a night train heading for London via Darlington. Two E-Branch agents were on the same train and didn't anticipate too much trouble, even though it was a pretty safe bet that Jordan was a vampire. They were equipped with powerful automatic weapons, and one of them had a small but deadly crossbow. Another man was on his way to the mainline station in Darlington to give them a hand. He had a car, and in its boot a flamethrower.
Penny Sanderson, also a resurrected vampire, was probably in Keogh's house outside Bonnyrig. The agents up there were (again probably) as strong a team of espers as E-Branch could throw together, which they would need to be if or when Keogh rejoined the party. For the odds were that sooner or later he'd go back there for the girl.
As for the Necroscope himself: he could be quite literally anywhere, but he was probably tracking Johnny Found. His reasons for doing so were all his own, but the Sanderson girl had been one of Pound's victims. Vengeance? Why not? It seemed the Wamphyri had always been big on revenge.
So, if E-Branch moved now, two of the three targets were good as dead (the Minister recoiled for a moment, shocked by the necessarily cold efficiency of his own thoughts) but Keogh would still remain the big question mark, the pivot on which everything else turned. And it would be to everyone's advantage - literally everyone's, everywhere - if the Necroscope could be taken out at the same time as the others.
'Sir?' The girl was still waiting for an answer.
The Minister opened his mouth to speak, but at that moment David Chung held up a hand and said, 'Hold it!' Cleary and the Minister looked at the locator; his other hand was resting on a Zippo cigarette lighter, the longtime property of Paul Garvey, a telepath working with the police out of Darlington. That hand was steady, the tips of Chung's long fingers motionless where they touched the cold metal. But the hand he held up was trembling, violently.
Suddenly he snatched back his hand from the tray, stepped back a little from the desk. In another moment he'd recovered himself, came forward again and said: 'Garvey has been hurt! I don't know how, but it's serious...' He closed his eyes and his hand hovered a moment over the maps beneath their clear plastic laminate.
As the small Chinaman's hand came down to cover a section of the Al north of Newark, the Minister turned to Cleary. 'Can you get hold of Garvey?'
'I've worked with him, lots.' She was breathless. 'Let me try.'
She closed her eyes and concentrated on mental pictures of her fellow esper, and got him at once. Garvey was in fact sending at that very moment. But his signal and message were weak, garbled, distorted by his pain... which Cleary immediately became heir to! She gasped and staggered, and for a second lost him. Then she picked him up again, but barely in time before he blacked out and his telepathic thoughts flew into shards in her mind. The rush of psychic sendings had not been without images, however, which she'd received even as he was going under.
She turned to the Minister and her features were drawn, bloodless. 'Paul's face,' she said. 'It's ruined! His cheek is hanging in tatters. But there's a doctor with him. They're in some sort of ... motorway cafe? I think he was attacked by Johnny Found - but the Necroscope was also there. And a policeman is dead!'
The Minister grabbed her wrist, steadied her. 'A policeman, dead? And Keogh was there? You're sure?'
She nodded, gulped. 'It was in Paul's mind: a picture of a ... a bloody hole in a policeman's head. And another of Harry, with eyes like red lamps burning in his face!'
Chung said, 'Garvey's somewhere here,' and he pointed at the map. 'On the Al.'
The Minister took a deep breath, nodded and said, This is it: it's all coming to a head, right now. Keogh might have guessed it all along but by now he must know we're after him, definitely. So while all three of these... these creatures, are in different locations - from which two of them at least can't escape - now has to be the best time to move on them.' He turned to the girl. 'Miss Cleary, er, Millicent? Is Paxton still waiting? Get back on to him and tell him to move in now, at once. Then speak to Scanlon and tell him the same thing.' He turned to Chung. 'And David - '
But the locator was already busy on the radio, speaking to people in Darlington.
By the time Johnny Pound's thundering Frigis Express truck took the curves on the roundabout at the junction of the Al and A46 outside Newark, he was much calmer and showing a lot of skill and driving discipline. Had there been a police patrol car stationed at the roundabout, its officers probably wouldn't look twice at him.
There was no patrol car, however. Just Harry Keogh.
Using Pound's knife, the Necroscope had followed the truck's progress in a series of short Möbius jumps, waiting for his quarry to slow down a little before attempting what would have to be an extremely accurate jump on to a moving object - directly into Pound's cab! Also, it must be accomplished as smoothly as possible, so as not to jar Harry's badly shattered collarbone. The pain of that alone would have left any other man writhing on his back or entirely unconscious. But Harry wasn't any other man. Indeed, with every passing moment he was a little less a man and more a monster, albeit one with a human soul.
And so, as the necromancer straightened up his truck off the roundabout and back on to the Al, Harry emerged from the eternal darkness of the Möbius Continuum into the empty seat on his left. At first Found didn't see him, or if he did he considered him a shadow in the corner of his eye. And Harry sat still and quiet in the very corner of the cab, pressed against the door with his face and upper body turned towards the driver. He kept his eyes three-quarters shuttered, studying Johnny's face, which had seemed previously scarcely to match up with any of the descriptions given him by the girls, but which he now saw to be very terrible indeed.
As for Johnny himself: he knew that it was all over. Too many people had seen him tonight, in the diner, the car park, with or close to the girl. Indeed, it seemed to him that he'd been set up. They had traced him, then trapped him with a girl who was the image of one of his victims. And he had fallen for it. Well, two of the bastards at least had paid for it, and the girl would pay, too, when he climbed into the trailer with her, chopped a passage through the orbit of her left eye and fucked her brain!
These were his thoughts, which Harry, looking directly at him, read as clearly as - more clearly than - the pages of a book. And if before there had been any doubt at all in the Necroscope's mind that his intended course of action was the right one, these were also the thoughts which dispelled it. Now, as Johnny dwelled more intimately on the pleasures he intended taking with or from the girl, Harry very quietly spoke up and said: 'None of those things will happen, for the girl isn't in the trailer. I freed her. As I intend freeing all of the dead. From their terror, Johnny. From your tyranny.'
Pound's jaw had fallen open at the first word. There was a trickle of saliva, slime, froth, in the left-hand corner of his mouth, which now ran down under his lip and into the dimple of his chin. He said 'Who - ?' and his coal-black eyes slowly slid to the left in their deep sockets... then stood out like inkblots on the gaunt parchment which until a moment ago had been the flushed, bloated flesh of his face.
'You're a goner, Johnny,' Harry told him, and opened his furnace eyes to reflect ruddily on the other's paralysed, astonished features.
But Pound's paralysis was short-lived, and the rest of it - his almost immediate response - was all instinct, so that not even the Necroscope could have seen it coming. 'What?' he gurgled, taking his left hand from the wheel and reaching up behind his head for a meat-hook where it hung from the cab's frame. 'A goner? Well, one of us is, that's for sure!'
Harry's plan had been simple: as Found attacked him, he'd conjure a Möbius door and wrestle him through it. But it was difficult enough just to take hold of a man in the cab of a truck, let alone when he was wielding a meat-hook.
Johnny had seen the huge bloodstain on Harry's jacket and recognized him as the one he'd shot back in the diner's vehicle park. How he came to be in the cab was something else, but he surely wouldn't be much good for anything with a gaping hole in his shoulder. And even less good when Johnny was finished with him. 'Whoever you are,' he grunted, swinging the hook, 'you're dead fucking meat!'
The blow was awkward and left-handed, but still Harry couldn't avoid it. He ducked down a little and the question mark of shining metal passed over his right shoulder, swooped down on him and caught in the hole which the bullet had torn out of his back. He gasped his renewed agony as Found yanked him towards him and glared into his face. Then -
- Using Harry as a counterweight, the necromancer lifted his left leg, reached it across Harry's knees and kicked open the cab door. And as the truck careened down the twin lanes he kicked again, this time at Harry himself, and simultaneously released his hold on the meat-hook.
Sliding free of his seat into the rush of night air, the Necroscope made a desperate grab for the wildly swinging door. Luckily the window was down; as he looped his arms through the frame, so his feet slammed down on to the running board. Johnny could no longer reach him without letting go of the wheel, but he could at least try to shake him loose.
Heedless of other vehicles, the maniac threw his huge truck this way and that across the lanes, and Harry hung on like grim death until the thought suddenly occurred. Why not a big door? Why not the biggest bloody door you could ever imagine?
On his left and almost directly under his skidding, skittering feet, a car was sideswiped and sent spinning, crashing through the roadside barrier in a shriek of ruptured metal. It smashed into the embankment nose first and exploded like a bomb. But the big truck rushed on and left people frying and dying in its wake, and in the cab Johnny fuelled himself with their pain and knew that even dead they would hear his crazy laughter.
Enough! Harry thought, and conjured his giant door - on the road directly in front of the truck.
The rumble and thunder and rocking violence of the vehicle died away in a moment as it plunged through the Möbius door into darkness absolute; likewise the mad laughter of Johnny Found, shut off as he delivered a single gonging thought into the aweseome Möbius Continuum: WHAT?
The beam of his headlights went on for ever, cutting a tunnel through infinity. But apart from the headlight beams and the truck where its mass surrounded him, there was nothing whatsoever. No road, no sound, no sensation of motion, nothing.
WHAAAAT!? Johnny screamed again, deafeningly, in both his and the Necroscope's mind.
But: No good shouting now, Johnny, Harry told him, hanging on the door and guiding the truck, aiming it like a missile to its final destination. Like I said, you're a goner. And we're very nearly there. Welcome to hell!
Johnny let go of the wheel and sprawled across the wide seat, reaching for the Necroscope where he clung to the door of the cab. But too late; they were there; Harry conjured another door in front of the truck and pushed himself free, slowing his motion to an abrupt halt. And the truck went rushing on -
- Out of the Möbius Continuum to emerge inches over the surface of a narrow road. It crashed down, bounced, rocked and roared; and as its free-spinning tyres found purchase on the tarmac, so it rocketed forward. Johnny screamed as he saw the sharp bend coming up where the road skirted a long, high wall of ivy-clad stone. He made a desperate grab for the steering wheel, but the truck had already mounted the kerb. It shot across a narrow strip of grass, tore through a mass of night-black shrubbery, slammed into the wall... and stopped.
... But not Johnny!
As the truck and its trailer concertinaed - as the wall cracked and sent stone debris flying - as massive petrol tanks shattered and showered fuel on to hot, tortured metal, turning the truck into a blazing inferno - so Johnny was ripped out of his driver's seat and hurled through the windscreen. Bones in his left arm and shoulder broke where, pinwheeling, he hit the top of the wall before crushing down on to something hard far on the other side. There was pain, more pain than he'd ever known; and then, apart from flickering firelight from beyond the wall, and a booming, whooshing explosion as the emergency tank blew, there was a deafening silence. The silence of mental concentration, of knowing even through waves of agony that someone - several pitiless someones - were watching him.
He cranked his neck up an inch from where sharp gravel chips stuck to the tattered mess of his face, and saw Harry Keogh standing there, looking down on him. And behind the red-eyed Necroscope there were other - people? Things, anyway - which Johnny knew should never be. They came (crawled, staggered, crumbled) forward, and one of them was or had once been a girl. Johnny backed off, pushing with his raw hands, sliding on his belly and his knees, skidding in the bloodied gravel until he collided with something hard, which brought him up short. He somehow turned his head and looked back, and saw what had stopped him: a headstone.
'A ... a ... fucking graveyard!' he gasped.
And Harry Keogh said, 'End of the road, Johnny.'
Pamela Trotter said, You kept your promise, Harry. And he nodded.
And Johnny Found, Necromancer, knew what had passed between them. 'No!' he gasped. Then screamed: 'Noooooooo!'
He would get to his feet. Even broken, shattered, cut to ribbons, he would flee from the hell of it. But Pamela's dead friends fell or flopped on him and bore him down, and a hand that shed rotting flesh and maggots stoppered his mouth. Then she came to him and searched among his rags, until she found his new knife. And close up like that - badly gone into corruption though she was, even with the flesh beginning to slough from her face - still he knew her.
You remember that good time we had? she said. You didn't even say thanks, Johnny, and you didn't leave me anything to remember you by. Well, now I think it's time I had me a small memento. Or even a big one, eh? Something I can take back down into the earth with me, right? She showed him his own knife and smiled at him, and her teeth were long where the blackened gums had shrivelled back from them.
Harry turned away and shut out the sight; shut out Pound's silent, frenzied shrieking, too, from his mind. But to Pamela he said, 'Make sure you kill him.'
Except: Too late! She was weeping her frustration. Or rather, too soon! Damn the bastard, Harry, but he's already died on me!
Harry sighed his relief and thought, Just as well. She heard him and a moment later agreed:
Yes, I suppose it is. Shit, I didn't want to dirty my hands on this filth anyway!
And now Pound's deadspeak reached out to both of them, to Harry and to Pamela. What... is this? Where... am I? Who... is it out there?
Neither one of them answered him, but the sheer weight of Harry's presence impressed itself on Pound's mind like a light shining in through the stretched membrane of shuttered eyelids. He knew that Harry was there, and that he was special. It's you, right? he said. The guy with the dark glasses, with some kind of magic. You brought me here with your magic, right?
Harry knew that Pamela would probably never speak to Johnny Found, neither Pamela nor any other of the outraged Great Majority. Instead of taunting the necromancer, they'd merely shun him, lock him up or out, like a leper. So maybe Harry shouldn't speak to him either but simply go away. And perhaps that would be the most merciful thing to do.
Except... Harry had a less than merciful thing inside him, which now caused him to speak up.
You had the same magic, Johnny, he said. Or you could have had. You could speak to the dead - could have trained yourself, as I did, to converse with them and befriend them - but no, you chose to torture them instead.
Found was quick to catch on. So now I'm one of them, right? I'm dead and you did it to me. But just answer me this: why?
Harry could have explained: that he'd needed to focus his Wamphyri passions on something - to have something to let them loose on - rather than people who were previously his friends; which was to say E-Branch and the world in general. He could have explained, but didn't. For his vampire wouldn't let him. Found had been the cold, cruel, uncaring one in life; death should be a cold, cruel place, too. And just as uncaring. An eye for an eye.
Why did I kill you? Harry shrugged, began to turn away.
Hey, fuckface! Found shouted after him, defiant, furious even in death. That doesn't cut it. You had your reasons, sure enough. Because of the dead? Shit! Who gives a fuck for the dead? So come on, tell me ... why?
And so - coldly, cruelly and uncaringly - Harry told him. You're right, he said. No one gives a fuck for the dead. And you, Johnny, you're dead. You want to know why? And again he shrugged. Well, why the fuck not?
- The Loners
- The Saints
- Tome of the Undergates
- Black Halo
- The Skybound Sea
- If You Stay
- If You Leave
- Until We Burn
- Before We Fall
- Every Last Kiss
- Suspiciously Obedient
- Random Acts of Crazy
- Random Acts of Trust
- Her First Billionaire
- Her Second Billionaire
- Her Two Billionaires
- Her Two Billionaires and a Baby
- His Majesty's Dragon
- Throne of Jade
- Black Powder War
- Victory of Eagles
- Tongues of Serpents
- Empire of Ivory
- Crucible of Gold