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SUMMARY: Giles and Ethan, the electric Kool-Aid funky Satan groove year, in the early seventies. Rated M. Spoilers to Band Candy. Acknowledgements and disclaimers.


81.

Ethan lay in the grass of the back garden, looking up at the sky. The grass smelt warm and it made him sleepy. He had a headache again, his bruises still ached, and his body clock had no idea any more of the time, but he felt remarkably content. A decision had been made and his friends were sticking by him. He supposed he should be paying special attention now to the house and to Camden, savouring these last few memories before the big trip. He should cast into his memory the squat's peeling paint, its crumbling chimney-pots, and the shapes and pattern of its windows. He should learn to recall the routes of the half-buried garden paths and the types of weeds and wild-run garden plants that he lay near. And he should remember the sounds too, of traffic and neighbourhood televisions and even birdsong from among the trees.

The house had done him well. It had been a lot of work at first, clearing out the rubbish left by less scrupulous tenants, and washing down the worst of it with bleach and water. They'd started with the kitchen and bathroom, then cleaned up the other rooms as they'd needed them. Back then, Randall was still practising magic fairly regularly and Diedre was just starting to learn, so some of the cleanup could be done by magic, much to Adrienne's scepticism and subsequent consternation. There was a spell to repel rodents and another to flash-fry spiders (Randall was a little phobic). Adrienne was still arguing with the power company, so it was more like camping indoors than anything else. It was just the four of them then, trying to get everything half-sorted before winter properly started. Diedre would heat tinned food on her portable stove, Randall would pick out records by candlelight, and Ethan would show off cheap magic tricks to try and impress Adrienne, who in turn tried to convert him to her kind of politics. He had very vivid and tactile memories of sex with her on top of her campbed. That was back before they got bored with each other and Ethan moved into the second floor. Then Diedre gave up on sleeping with Randall and brought Tom home. Adrienne moved out, then moved back in. Stan was invited into the basement, Rupert took the last proper room, and now they had two Germans living, however temporarily, in the attic. The place was crowded: it was time to move out.

He heard the back door open and saw that it was Rupert. He decided to feign sleep but that didn't prevent the footsteps from getting closer. There was an ant crawling on Ethan's ankle and the red glow behind his eyelids darkened as Rupert's shadow fell over him, but he still didn't move.

"I've got the money Adrienne owes you," Rupert said, which meant that Ethan had to open his eyes after all. "It's two hundred pounds between us but you did most of the work, so here's a hundred and fifty."

"I still have the first hundred pounds," said Ethan, stupidly. "Just give me another hundred." He had to sit up then, brush the ant from him and take the money.

Rupert said, "The woman who was shot is still in hospital," as if that was Ethan's fault.

"Go and find the person then who shot her then," Ethan said, and laid back down on the grass as if to go back to sleep. Rupert hovered for a while, then went mercifully away.

When the kitchen door opened again, it was Adrienne. He wondered what she was going to berate him for now, but she was carrying a basket of washing on her hip. The house had a small washing line that was only ever used for the sort of delicate clothing that wasn't safe in the laundrette, usually Randall or Diedre's homemade pieces. Adrienne's handwashing only ever consisted of bras. She hung about six up on the line.

"Did Ripper give you your money?" she asked. When he nodded, she came over. "You know, there's been nothing in the papers about two missing passengers or anyone smuggled in, so your chimera trick did its job. I shouldn't have shouted at you but I was just scared shitless when nobody turned up to meet us in the carpark."

"I'm glad it worked," said Ethan, "but when are they leaving?"

"Tomorrow or the day after," Adrienne said. "Ripper and I are going to meet someone this afternoon."

As she walked back into the house, Ethan realised he might miss her a little after all. He could send her postcards, he supposed.

He thought he fell asleep for a while. He woke to the sound of the back gate opening. This time it was Randall who walked over. He was looking much better than he had last night, although he still looked very tired. He'd bathed and shaved, trimmed his moustache and washed his hair. He was dressed formally, according to his own principles, in his favourite purple tunic, a pair of wide trousers and a cavalier hat. He sat down next to Ethan, cross-legged, with his hands on his knees.

"Went for a walk?" Ethan asked.

"I decided I wanted to buy something," said Randall. "So I went to get some money." He passed Ethan a fat manila envelope.

Ethan wondered why people were suddenly all handing him large sums of cash. "What's it for?"

"A van," said Randall. "I think we'll do better travelling in a van. We'll have our own space and we won't have to travel as light. And Diedre won't have to sleep on people's sofas."

"Where'd you get the money?" Ethan asked, riffling his thumb over it.

"I sold my record player," Randall said, "to Terry."

Ethan handed him back the envelope. "Go and buy it back. I've got some money. Don't be stupid. I'd rather hitch-hike."

"That part of my life's done," said Randall. "I'm moving on to the next part." He stood up. "We'll go and look at vans tomorrow, or Tuesday maybe."

"They have four wheels and move," said Ethan. "I'll be happy with whatever you pick."

"And tonight, can we do the Eyghon spell? I think Diedre will need it to talk with Tom."

"If you like," Ethan said.



82.

"This isn't a good neighbourhood," Ripper said to Adrienne, as he pulled the car over. "In fact, it's a very bad neighbourhood." It was the late afternoon, but here tall buildings shadowed narrow streets and it felt much later. There was a main street lined with peep show establishments and headshops, but since then they'd turned down a series of streets, each one of which had looked less savoury than the last. They were now in an alleyway off an alleyway off an alleyway.

"This is definitely the right place," she said, consulting the map on her knees.

Ripper didn't like leaving his car parked on the street, but he liked even less the thought of letting Adrienne wander through the place alone. He muttered some locking wards as he shut the doors. The back of his neck prickled.

There was a burly tattooed man standing outside the door to 181a. "I can't let you in unless I search you," he said.

"I'm here to see Marty," Adrienne said. "Is he here?"

The man shrugged. "I still have to search you. No weapons are allowed inside."

Adrienne held her arms out and gave a brief twirl, letting Ripper and the bouncer see exactly how skin-tight her clothing was. "Where am I going to be hiding anything?"

The bouncer searched Ripper though. He confiscated his wooden stake. "You'll get this back when you leave."

Through the door was a concrete corridor which led to a staircase going down. There were no windows or doors and the place was lit only by low-level red bulbs. An unwell-looking man passed them in the opposite direction. His complexion looked poor in the dim light, although perhaps that was because of his unpleasant high-collared mauve shirt.

The stairs led down to a sort of cellar hung with red and purple draperies. Low velvet couches lined the walls and there was a three-piece band playing, who weren't any good. A short woman with a face much older than her hair approached them.

"Have you any money?" she asked them.

Ripper showed her a flicker of the cash he was carrying for Adrienne.

"Please come this way," she said. She led them down another corridor, this one lined with doorways. There didn't seem to be any doors, as such, just more of the thick velvet hung as curtains.

The first two doorways had their curtains shut. The woman paused at the third doorway, asking, "Separately or together?"

The curtains were drawn back at the third doorway. Behind it was a small room, which held a mattress, an old sofa, and a woman of about forty years of age. The light in the room was even dimmer than in the corridor, but Ripper could see that she looked very unwell. She had a deathly pale complexion and he could tell from the way the folds of her skirt fell that she was missing most of her right leg.

"Together," he heard Adrienne say, but he was already racing up to the next room. There was a young man in that one, with wild curly hair. He also looked ill and was missing half a leg. He was also, Ripper noted, chained to the floor.

"What is this place?" Ripper demanded, pulling wide the curtain at the door opposite. Here also was a pale, ill-looking amputee -- but this one had her fangs in the arm of a well-to-do middle-aged man. She looked up as he disturbed them, pulling out her fangs and staring up at him in game face. She licked her teeth.

The man turned to look at him as well. "Fuck off," he said, with a City sort of voice. Rupert pulled the curtain back and stood there shaking.

"We're here to see Marty," Adrienne said.

"Oh," said the short woman. "Along to the end here then." She pulled Ripper away from the doorway as she passed.

At the end of the corridor was an office. It had better furniture than the other rooms and a window to a lightwell. The woman asked Adrienne and Ripper to please take a seat. The guest chairs were rather modish-looking and covered in orange velour. They could still hear the band playing from the other end of the corridor: they were playing a Beatles medley now and were struggling with their rendition of "Strawberry Fields Forever".

Marty, when he arrived, was a dapper businessman in his late forties with a thick moustache and collar-length brown hair, now going a bit grey. Rupert checked with his mirrored ring, but both Marty and the woman had reflections. They looked quite human.

"Sorry about the mixup," said Marty. "You're Adrienne, yeah? I've been expecting you but forgot to tell Mrs Aimes. It's the passports you're after?"

"Yes," said Adrienne. "We have the money."

Marty pulled at a gold chain he wore around his neck, which turned out to have a key on the end of it. He leant over to unlock a desk drawer. "Two British passports, excellent forgeries, for two West German born naturalised citizens." He pulled them out of the drawer, relocked it, and then moved around to lean against the front of his desk. Mrs Aimes had long since gone back down the corridor.

"They told me to expect a looker," Marty said, handing her the passports and eyeing her up and down. He nodded towards Ripper. "You could do better than him for a boyfriend."

Ripper bristled, whether he was her boyfriend or not, and Adrienne said, "I'm not here for your advice." She handed over a wodge of cash.

"Plus ten percent," said Marty, "for making me work on a Sunday."

"That's all the cash we have," she said.

"A kiss then," Marty said.

Ripper stood up, wearing his best snarling grimace. He was ready to step in between them, even though he wasn't sure to expect from this man, who might have maimed and chained up a dozen or more vampires. Adrienne got up too: she turned towards the door and walked out back along the corridor. Ripper followed her. She looked calm, but when he touched her back, he could feel she was trembling.

"Is he following?" she asked, facing straight ahead as she walked.

"No," Ripper said.

"What are those people doing in the cells?"

"They're just vampires," he said. "Look, we need to get out of here."

Back in the underground lounge, Mrs Aimes was talking with a couple of young men in tie-dye t-shirts. The three piece band lurched into a rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside". This time Ripper checked and found they had no reflections; what's more, they seemed to be chained to the floor. The grey-haired, bearded old drummer looked up at them as they passed and there was a baleful yellow tinge as he blinked.

"Up the bloody stairs," whispered Ripper.

It was almost night now, up in the alley. The burly tattooed man had been replaced by a wiry young West Indian; Ripper was a full head taller than him. He gave Ripper his wooden stake back, without ceremony or comment.

His car was still there. No-one had got past the magical locks, but someone had thrown up on the bonnet. Rupert almost didn't care.

"Got what you wanted?" he asked Adrienne, after twenty minutes of silence during the drive home.

"Yes," she said. "Thank you for coming."

"You're absolutely, completely insane," he said.

She started to cry.

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