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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.

115.

Ethan was already largely packed, of course. He had meant to join Randall for the trip in the van, some terribly long time ago. He still meant to join Randall, in a way.

He took his notebooks, tomes, and clothes to that yard of the abandoned garage. The afternoon had turned sunny and Randall's remains were quite clear in the sunlight. He took a seat next to them, pulling some notebooks out to read. Poor Randall, the hippie fool.

In an old manila folder were the hexes he wrote in his schooldays. How crude they looked to him now: cobbled together with teenage clumsiness. Key concepts had been misunderstood, unnecessary features over-elaborated; they were convoluted where they should have been simple and were showy in ways that diminished their overall power. There were sections that he could only wince at now. Yet here and there was a well-executed flourish or a genuine touch of originality.

He'd told Randall that he'd only used these spells in self-defence; perhaps he had. But as he'd grown in skill, his retribution had grown in strength, until it was only the new boys, friendless and seeking to impress, who'd knocked him down. No-one had ever actually died.

The loathing he'd inspired must have had a cause. He'd always been unliked and unlikeable. Only the doting and the hopelessly naive had ever thought otherwise.

One of the hexes looked salvageable. It had a solid central idea and he thought he could combine it with part of an Ogata spell to increase its potency. It needed only an accomplice and an incontrovertible clue for Rupert, and Ethan thought he knew what to do for both.

An hour later, he made a telephone call from a booth near the zoo. It proceeded satisfactorily.

An hour after that, he knocked on Philip's door. Philip looked like he'd just got home from work: he was shoeless but still wearing a shirt and tie. "Ethan?" he said.

There was a note of fear in Philip's voice. Ethan though that would make everything a little easier.


116.

"The real problem," said Stockton, "is that there's no reward for initiative. I think they actually try and stamp down on it. You've got your paper pushers, who've played it safe all their lives -- and live a long time because of it -- but do they listen to those on the ground? No, they act like old women. Now, men like us, who've seen a thing or two, and who can recognise a vampire without a list of plate illustrations, we've a great deal to tell them. It's not as clear-cut as they like to think... Oh, is it my round?"

"I'm afraid so," said Rupert.

It was eight o'clock in the evening, at Stockton's favourite pub. Apart from Stockton, most of the other clientele appeared to be students. Stockton said he went there to look at the girls, some of whom were definitely worth looking at. So were a couple of the boys, although Rupert thought he might try to ignore that from now on.

"Now, what was I on about?" Stockton asked as he returned with a third pair of pints.

"Old women of the Council."

"Oh, yes. They're too stuck in their ways. They fail to take a proper look at the world around them. It's changed, Giles. They need to give that some serious thought."

Rupert sipped his beer. "So what would you do differently?"

Stockton leant back in the booth. "Demons aren't our worst enemy anymore. We should be turning our sights on Russia and the Chinese."

A man stumbled into the pub just then. He was weeping. When he got to the bar, he tipped out the contents of his wallet and pointed at a bottle of gin.

Rupert tapped Stockton on the arm and pointed.

The man said, "I didn't mean it. I hit him harder than I meant to. He was only a little boy."

From outside there was a scream. Rupert bolted out the door.

An older woman stood there. She said, "The bombs were raining down and I said, no, you can't come into our shelter. There wasn't room and she looked that common. First thing I saw when I came out in the morning was half her arm."

A car had slewed to a halt and now blocked traffic along the street. Rupert and Stockton walked up to the car. The man inside said, "Every night, before I went to bed, I prayed not to have a baby sister. I prayed and prayed until she caught measles and died."

"What the hell is going on?" asked Stockton.

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