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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.

101.

"You hobgoblin!" shouted Deirdre, as Adrienne pulled her away. "We should never have trusted you. You--" she was clearly at a loss for words. He watched her search through her memory for terms foul enough. "Putain de merde! Vas faire foutre a la vache! Arschgeige!"

"Get out of here," Adrienne told him, as she struggled to hold Diedre. "Get Ripper."

Ethan did one of those things.

102.

By the time Rupert reached the garden, Ethan had disappeared. Adrienne was holding Deirdre, who was sitting on the grass, sobbing.

"Ripper," said Adrienne, "can we borrow your car? Just for a couple of days. I want to take her to Louise's for a while, until she feels better. Louise would like help with the baby."

"So she had it, then?" Rupert asked.

Adrienne rolled her eyes. "Of course."

Rupert went to fetch his car keys. When he came back to the garden, Deirdre and Adrienne were taking bags to his car. Deirdre was still weeping.

"Have a good trip," he said.

Diedre spat at him.

103.

There was quite a good shop on the other side of town. You had to catch a train at Euston, then change at Waterloo. From there you took a train out for half an hour into the London suburbs, watching out of the window as office blocks and factory buildings gave way to terraces and then to houses with gardens. It was one of Ethan's favourite places to go when he felt like an expedition. By the time he stepped from the train, he was among icecream vans singing to schoolchildren and comfortable semi-detached homes.

The shop looked like a run-down bric-a-brac shop, mostly because it was. Four years ago, when he was still getting to know London, he'd worked his way through a guide to shops selling magical paraphernalia. But the guide had been old and out-of-date, and by the time Ethan had first come here, it had changed hands.

It sat between a shop selling second-hand furniture and a women's clothing boutique. There was a bow window at the front, through which you could see books piled on the windowsill, and perhaps the dark grey hair of the proprietor as he sat at his desk.

Inside, the walls were lined with mismatched shelves. Tables stretched from one end of the room to the other. A dog sat on a rug in front of a heater that the owner kept on year-round. There were a couple of cats too; you could smell them but it usually took some time to catch sight of one.

And everywhere: books. On the shelves, on the floor, in boxes perched on top of other boxes, in piles on top of the boxes. Ethan stopped at one pile to read through the titles: Kipling's Actions and Reactions, Donnelly's Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, the Autobiography of John Stuart Mill, a desiccated Things Seen in Northern India, and Hereward Carrington's Psychic Oddities. He picked up a copy of Heyday of a Wizard with a foreword by Harry Price.

There were signs up here and there purporting to indicate thematic contents, but in practice you were as likely to find a guide to Japanese etiquette filed under "Military History" or "Poetry" as "Travel". One had to have a strong sense of serendipity to appreciate the place. On one shelf, he skimmed his hand over 1930s children's books -- cloth-bound and rough to the touch, next to crumbling copies of farmers' almanacs and a notebook of tidal gauge observations from Semaphore, South Australia.

Then, down a steep and narrow flight of wooden stairs, was the basement, which had grubby whitewashed walls lit by naked tungsten bulbs. Here were boxes of knick-knacks and gewgaws, unlabelled and without pricetags. There were no tables here, so he had to sit on the rug-strewn concrete floor to rummage through broken china, old dolls, and plastic jewellery. On past visits he'd found the odd useful thing down there, like an antique scarf for Deirdre or half-decent shoes or cheap eggcups. Perhaps once a year he'd find something genuinely magical as well, such as a cursed Matchbox car or an ensorcelled string of amber beads.

Really, the shop wasn't much like the one where he'd found his first magic book (or where it had found him). That shop had been heady with fresh new-book smell and crisp minted pages. There had just been a single box of tattered used books, perhaps not for sale at all, being used to hold open a door at the back. His mother had stood near the counter, looking through the children's books to pick one out for him. He can't remember now what she chose -- something by W.E. Johns? -- but he could recite from memory everything he found in that hand-written journal.

He left the shop only when the proprietor called out that it was closing, and the cats came downstairs to roust him out. He bought a few books, one of which was slightly magical, and a box of Victorian photographs he thought he could use in a spell.

He had fish and chips for dinner, sitting at a table outside a pub. It was a warm night and there were many families out walking their dogs. A small girl rode past on her red tricycle.

On the train back, he watched the others passengers: the ones in the carriage, the ones who crowded in, and the ones who crowded out.

He felt light-headed and expansive. He felt like a hot-air balloon, with everything falling away.

Outside the station, he paused to watch the hundreds of others who stepped out into the grey streets, under the purple evening sky and the bright streetlights. He watched their faces -- pale or dark, male or female, smooth or weathered. He took in their expressions, of fatigue or happiness or worry. How different he was from them all.

Not one in a thousand men was capable of killing his own best friend.


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