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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.


106.

Rupert felt a little better by Sunday morning. He lurched his way downstairs to wash and then have breakfast. The sight of the kitchen sickened him though and he started work on the washing-up. But once the dish drainer was full, he had nowhere to put the clean dishes, so he set to work on cleaning the countertops. Half an hour later, he had a teatowel out and was eyeing the horrible, ghastly floor, trying to remember where he'd seen the mop. Was it one of the things piled in the hallway?

He paused for some toast, then hunted out the mop and a bottle of bleach. At first all he managed was to detach the larger pieces of dropped, dried food from the linoleum and send them skidding around his feet. It was only after many, many rinses of water he succeeded in turning the blacker bits of the floor a smeared dark grey.

It was almost time for him to head out to his rehearsal. He went to fetch his guitar, and on the way back down, he saw Ethan standing in the bathroom, in front of the mirror. Rupert wondered if anyone else was at home. Adrienne had yet to return his car, there had been no sign of Diedre or of Tom, and Stan had driven off to High Wycombe on Friday night.

The Grins rehearsal went well. He played his part accurately and was complimented for it. He showed great restraint and only got slightly drunk. He got to try out some gear that Andy had brought, some new guitar pedals.

He got home around midnight. No lights were on in the house's lower floors. He stumbled upstairs and saw a flicker of candlelight from under Ethan's door and heard some light chanting, so there was nothing unusual there, then.

He had a strange dream that night, an Arabian nightmare, in which he woke and opened his bedroom door. There, on the landing, were Randall's dancing clothes, doing a kind of waltz with each other, to no music other than the rustle of their cloth. He closed the door and dreamt that he went back to bed.

107.

Ethan walked to Terry's shop to buy some supplies. He stood on the customer's side of the wooden counter, listing off materials that Terry wrote down on a pad. The counter was of old wood, scuffed and scarred, and quite possibly hundreds of years old. He wondered how long the shop had been there; he supposed he could look it up in a library somewhere. He stared at Terry's hands, thinking that both the shop and Terry could have been here for centuries.

Ethan found it surprising now that he'd ever mistaken Terry for human. He had that unwashable, inky scent of magic about him, and his skin had a very slight greyish hue. And his fingers! Now that Ethan looked at them properly, he could see that the nails started to curve sharply under at their tips. Besides, Terry's walrus-brown moustache was surely stuck on with glue.

"Is that the lot?" Terry asked him, before stepping into the back storeroom to fetch the goods. He came back with a multitude of small paper-wrapped parcels in his large hands. He did some sums on his pad and told Ethan a total that would have caused panic six months ago. Now Ethan could just peel pound notes from his shirt pocket and smile.

"I heard there was a ruckus," said Terry, fixing Ethan with a stare, "in Regent's Park the other night."

"Yes," said Ethan, gathering together his purchases into his canvas knapsack. "That was me. I've been learning a few things lately."

"I see," said Terry, with a flat inflection. "You're coming along then."

It was the only conversation Ethan had had in days. A perfectly ordinary lunchtime conversation with a demon of indeterminate age.

He spent the afternoon and evening running errands for Mr Grey. He'd got rather behind lately, what with one thing and another. He had fetishes to bury in people's gardens and dust to sprinkle over schoolyards, but he didn't know what any of it was for. He supposed that if he had been born a different sort of person, he would have cared.

Mr Grey, a demon of Oxfordshire, will send him money for the work, which he will then add to the notes in his shirt pocket. He will spend the money on the necessities of life, and on candles, chalk and small paper parcels bought from Terry, a demon of Camden Town.

108.

Monday really should have been a day of rest for Rupert. He had no rehearsals and no tedious lunchtime hours at the hotel. He wasn't even particularly hungover. He should have been able to spend the day in bed, catching up on his sleep, or lying with his eyes closed, listening to Tangerine Dream.

The first person to show up was Tom, some time in the mid-morning. Rupert heard a scuffling downstairs and found Tom in his old room, poking at the mattress as if he might find something under it. He had a large bunch of flowers with him and a box of chocolates.

"Is Diedre gone, then?" he asked.

He was dressed as he usually was for his summer job in the City, in a dark suit and tie. He looked like he hadn't slept well either. Rupert told him that Diedre was with Adrienne, but did not mention that they were with Louise.

Tom left his father's address and telephone number pinned to the fridge. "Please tell her I want to see her," he said. "I just want to know what it is that I've done. I know she's upset but she needs me now."

Adrienne came by in the early afternoon; Rupert could distinguish the sound of his own car from streets away.

"How are you?" she asked. Then: "Oh my God, it's so quiet in here. Thank God. Back at Louise's it's either the baby or Diedre wailing."

"She's not good, then?"

Adrienne shook her head. "Look, is Stan here, or Ethan? I was hoping to get something to calm her."

"I haven't seen Stan in days," Rupert said, "and I think Ethan's avoiding me."

They went up to Ethan's door anyway. Adrienne knocked loudly, saying, "It's me, it's Adrienne, are you OK?" but there was no answer.

"Randall had some pot," said Rupert. "You could take that."

"I want to borrow your car again," she said, once they had ducked in and out of the dead man's room. "I'd like to take my television to Louise's."

"You think you'll be there for a while, then?" Rupert asked, rather alarmed.

"At least a couple of weeks," Adrienne said. "She still wants to kill both of you."

"Both of us?" asked Rupert.

Up in the attic, Adrienne sat on the sofa and rolled herself a joint, which was something he'd never seen her do before.

"You can't drive my car if you're stoned," he said.

She spent the afternoon up there, either asleep or watching children's television. She sang along with both Play School and Blue Peter. Rupert sat on a nearby beanbag, often dozing himself. He wasn't sure if he wanted to have sex with her or not.

"Did you find university hard?" she asked him.

"What?"

"Well, you dropped out, didn't you? But you're pretty smart."

"I was doing the equivalent of studying for two degrees at once," he said. "There weren't any hours left for me."

"But was the work particularly difficult? If you were just doing one degree at a time, I mean."

"Some of it, but by no means all. And if it's something you're genuinely interested in, that makes it easier." He looked at her. "Are you thinking of going?"

She sighed. "The thing with the Germans -- I'm not sure any more that was the right thing to do, or the best use of my will, you know. I think there's three overlapping strands to reform. There's the front-line fix-it-now soup-kitchen-and-first-aid strand, there's the strand which changes the viewpoints of others through persuasion, and there's deep systemic change. The first strand is necessary and yields the most immediate results, but it's the third we need to reach." A note of bewilderment had crept into her voice. "I don't know how to get there from here."

"I don't know that you'll learn how at university," Rupert said, "Besides, there are some things that can't be changed. And then all you have is the front line."

"Like what?"

"The sun always rises," he said, waving his hand vaguely. "And the sun always sets." One girl in all the world, he thought. The Slayer.

Adrienne pulled out a pack of cigarettes and handed him one. They smoked together in silence until the news came on.

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