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[personal profile] indri
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.


109.

It was an old theatre, closed for repairs, its outside face pinned in place with scaffolding. The side door had been unlocked, just as Mr Grey had said it would be, and soon Ethan had found himself in a hall, the main foyer, with marble underfoot and a grand stairway that led up to blocked-off doors. Afternoon sunlight shafted downwards from high windows. The air was thick with dust but his footsteps fell loud and distinct. The walls were hung with mirrored tile and purplish-red damask wallpaper. Innumerable Ethans moved when he turned his head.

He was not alone there. There was a girl, of about thirteen, sitting on the bottom step, dripping blood from a thumb-wound into a saucer. She had greasy dark hair that hung like thin leaves over pale skin. In the poor light, Ethan couldn't make out the whites of her eyes. She held out the saucer and Ethan pulled out a knife to add a few drops of blood of his own. She had an envelope with her, from which she poured a pale blue powder, mixing it in with the kind of wooden stick you found inside ice lollies. She daubed the paste onto his cheeks and hers, and then they went into the main theatre, to touch every seat in the stalls whilst reciting a chant in a language Ethan did not know.

They finished near the edge of the stage, almost overlooking the orchestra pit. The girl passed him another envelope, which held twenty pounds and a final instruction from Mr Grey. He took a pen out of his pocket and wrote down a ritual for making dancing lights. She took it back from him greedily: that was her payment.

As a parting gift, she held aloft a Hessian bag. "I found it myself," she said, her tone proud. "I came through." It contained a single hedgehog, wrapped around itself into a ball.

A memory came back to Ethan, unbidden and unwanted: a bucolic day under a warm sky, spent running around the fields and woods near his grandmother's house. He'd disturbed a hedgehog in its nest and followed it around the underbrush until it had circled home. He must have been quite small then, if his grandmother had still been alive. He pushed the memory away.

He went back to the house first, to fetch a few things, then walked through the streets to the concrete yard where Randall had died. It was the late afternoon now. The weather was restless: clouds scudding over the sky, sunlight alternating with brief showers.

The yard was just as abandoned in daylight as it was at night. The garage was unused and empty. The only signs of habitation were mouse droppings and spiderwebs.

But the floor was an unbroken concrete slab, a perfect surface for chalk, blood and salt. He set to it with a broom, sweeping away brick dust and iron filings. As he worked, he thought to himself there was no reason to hold back any more, and there never had been. It seemed unreasonable to him now that he had ever done so. What had he ever cared of other people's opinions? Everyone had always known what he was.

The dust made him cough; he had to go outside for some air. He ventured in a second time, and managed to finish clearing a large area, if not the whole garage. He could do the rest of it later, but now he had a place to start.

He'd brought with him his satchel, heavy now from his books and a selection of magical supplies. The concrete was cold to sit on, even on such a mild day, so he pulled off his shirt and sat on that too. Then he considered the books he'd brought with him.

The evening light was starting to fade, so he lit a lamp. He thought he might as well start with the spell that required a live hedgehog.



110.

Stan came by after dinner. "How's everyone, then, yeah?" He looked around the kitchen. "Someone's cleaned up the place."

So Rupert had to explain that there was no-one else currently in the house. Tom was at his father's, Diedre and Adrienne were at Louise's, and he hadn't spoken to Ethan in days.

"And Randall?" asked Stan. "No sign of him yet?"

When Rupert shook his head, unable to meet Stan's eyes, Stan said, "That's not like him. I'm really starting to get worried there, yeah."

So Rupert endured another couple of hours as Stan's offsider as he drove around Camden, popping into pubs and clubs. Some of the places were behind unmarked doors on residential streets, behind which were purple and orange walls and flashing lights. Stan would walk into the middle of a party, where wasted-looking girls and young men sat on low sofas next to improbably large loudspeakers. He'd shake his head at would-be customers and then ask about Randall. No-one ever asked who Randall was; they all seemed to know.

Rupert would watch this for a little bit and then go outside. Each time he was amazed at the silence outside and the fresher air. He'd have a cigarette and wonder why he wasn't supposed to tell Stan what had happened. He felt a fool, and a duplicitous fool at that. He hung around in the doorway, looking up at the sky. There wasn't much moon visible through the clouds, but there seemed to be a few bats about.

Stan drove him back to the house about one a.m. "I can't keep doing this," said Stan, "I've got work tomorrow. I should be moving out of here for good."

When he parked the car, he opened the glovebox and handed Rupert an envelope. "Can you pass this on to Diedre? It's a wedding invitation. I know I should invite you as well, but it's only a small wedding, close friends only."

"How are things up in High Wycombe?" Rupert asked.

"Good, yeah," said Stan. "We've found a flat. I'm starting this job. There's a wargamers club that meets at the church hall, and that looks like a good way for me to meet people. And Julie's just great."

"You're a lucky man," Rupert said, feeling genuinely envious.

"Yeah," said Stan. "Look, I'll be round later in the week to pick up my stuff. See you then."

After Stan left, Rupert poured himself a glass from the dwindling stock of gin. He sat on the back steps of the house, looking out over the thicket of garden that Diedre had rather failed to tame. Only a portion of the garden was lit by the streetlamps, as the rest was shadowed by the rest of the terraces. When the light started to flicker, Rupert looked up.

There was nothing wrong with the streetlamps, which shone on steadily. Rather, their light was occluded by a stream of bats.

Rupert stepped out onto the street. He thought at once of the animal-illusion spell, but it was soon clear that these bats were real -- one fallen specimen crunched underfoot. He started back to the house, thinking he should wake Ethan, who would surely want to see this, when he remembered that they weren't on speaking terms now. So he headed off alone, following the direction of the bats, which was roughly north-west. Perhaps there was something going on at Primrose Hill.

The density of the bats increased as he walked on. There weren't many people about in the small hours of a weekday night, and what few there were seemed keen to head inside. But a car pulled up beside him as he passed a pub. It was Stockton.

"Any idea?" asked Stockton, as he stepped out of his car.

"None," said Rupert. "What do we know?"

"No unusual vampire activity," said Stockton. "There's a demonic coven on Jamestown Road, but according to our sources, they've gone to a convention in Brighton. We're still investigating other local demons and sorcerers."

Rupert said, "Why would anyone want to summon thousands of bats?"

In truth, it looked more like hundreds of thousands of bats: every bat in London seemed to be on the move. There were so many of them now that the sound of their massed wings was quite audible, a rustling of leather leaves. The air was starting to reek of ammonia.

"Numerous species," noted Rupert. "It's a broad-range summoning spell, not terribly specific."

They were not far now from the canal. They paused on the bridge, which afforded them an excellent view of the massed bats, who were now following some intricate circular flight pattern, like the start of a whirlpool.

Stockton had a bulky camera with him. He raised it and took photo after photo of the whirling bats. With each flash, Rupert saw a black-and-white tableaux of wings, frozen for a moment in the glare.

Then, without warning, the bats dropped put of formation, started to thin and disperse.

"Where do you think was the epicentre?" asked Stockton.

Rupert shook his head. "Difficult to say. We should see if there's any radar information."

"And you should let us know, too," said Stockton, "if you hear anything." They walked back in direction of Stockton's car. "You know, I think this could work out. You, out in the field, gathering information. It could be useful."

Rupert said, "If you want something to do, try looking into this place--" and he gave him Marty's address. "There's a nest of vampires there and an unsavoury owner to clear out."

"Thanks," said Stockton, shaking his hand. "I'll look into it." Then he said, "Did you really kill Eyghon?"

"No," said Rupert, "but he'll be gone for a while."

Stockton dropped him back at the house.

Date: 2011-10-15 09:11 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Angel and Lindsey (Default)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
Ethan's hedgehog memory was an interesting touch. Hard to imagine Ethan as a child.

Date: 2011-10-17 11:12 am (UTC)
shapinglight: (Giles and Ethan)
From: [personal profile] shapinglight
Catching up after another weekend away. I feel awfully sorry for the hedgehog. Doubt it had a happy ending.

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