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“What are you gawping at yourself in the mirror for?” said Joby, coming into the galley to find Bengo peering at his face in a small shaving-mirror.
“I am fascinated by the dark circles round my eyes”, said Bengo “Aren’t they spectacular?”
“Like a panda”, said Joby “Aren’t you sleeping better now we’ve all moved into the saloon?”
“Most of the time”, said Bengo, putting the mirror back on the shelf “But I keep waking up suddenly. It’s horrible. I have a tight knot in my stomach when I first wake up. God, I wish all this was over. And then last night, to cap it all, I had a really upsetting dream”.
“Well go on, tell me about it”, said Joby.
“There were some people sitting on a bench in a room”, said Bengo “I got the impression they’d been brought there to watch something. Suddenly two men were brought in, wearing loose robes. They were older men. The one I remember was quite stocky, and had long-ish grey hair. They were made to lie face-down on the floor, and then they were sliced in half, on their waists, with a machete”.
“Fucking hell”, said Joby.
“And they were just left there to bleed to death”, said Bengo “The grey-haired one reached the hand of the other man and squeezed it in his last moments. The audience just sat there, shocked and traumatised”.
“Well they would”, said Joby.
“I don’t understand where the shitty dream came from”, said Bengo “it was horrible, so vivid. Oh this damn world …”
“OK, come on”, Joby cuddled him “It was a rotten dream, that’s all. We’ve seen and heard so many awful things in recent times it’s bound to get into your subconscious and wreck havoc”.
Adam burst into the room holding a tiny bottle.
“Look what I found in the hold”, he said “Isn’t it exciting?”
“Don’t look it”, said Joby.
“It’s blue food colouring”, said Adam.
Joby looked monumentally unimpressed at this news.
“I thought we could make an ocean blue cheesecake with it”, said Adam “We could use some of the sea-biscuits for the base, which we seem to have an inexhaustible supply of. You can smash them up into little bits, work off some of your spleen, Joby”.
“Spleen and cheesecake, that’s nice”, said Joby.
“Adam!” Ransey galloped breathlessly into the room “Come next door, quickly”.
Adam followed him.
“Well I hope we find out what that’s all about”, said Joby.
Ransey hustled Adam into the wireless room and handed him the headset. “OK old love, what am I actually supposed to be listening to?” said Adam, after listening intently for several seconds.
“Has it gone?” said Ransey, snatching the headset back off him “Damn, it has. We should have been faster”.
“Well short of teleportation, I don’t know how much quicker I could have got in here”, said Adam “What did it say anyway?”
“I can’t remember”, said Ransey.
“But you must remember something”, said Adam, in exasperation “Or you wouldn’t have got so excited”.
“But that’s why I wanted to call you in”, said Ransey “I didn’t understand it. It was a jumble of voices, all coming at once. Some distant, some nearer. All making different sounds”.
“Sounds like the Sea of Torment”, said Adam “Are we getting near there again?”
“No it’s a bit further north”, said Ransey “But it didn’t feel like that. More like a mad jumble of voices all clogging up the airwaves”.
“Perhaps we are getting close to civilisation”, said Adam “If there is any left”.
“At the risk of sounding Kieran-ish”, said Ransey “Something’s nearby for sure”.
It began to snow as the day went on, a very fine, feathery snow. It didn’t take a weather expert to predict that it would probably get worse the further north they went, which made Bardin more keen than ever to find a suitable resting-place.
Towards late afternoon, as the sun was setting, a substantial structure appeared on the cliffs they were approaching.
“Could this be it?” said Hillyard to Bardin, up on deck “Our destination?”
“Sounds a bit final when you say it like that”, said Bardin.
“For the time being, perhaps I should add”, said Hillyard.
Angel looked out of the window at the two magnificent ships which had anchored at the dilapidated quayside far below.
“He’s here”, he said, with a total absence of emotion in his voice. It was simply a bald statement of fact.
Crowley lumbered over the room towards him. Angel cringed at having the obese, sweaty man standing so close to him.
“He’s finally got here”, said Angel.
“What’s taken them so long to find us?” said Crowley “It’s not as if we’re hard to find on this headland, and there is very little left on the entire West Coast”.
“Probably been too busy pissing about having fun”, said Angel.
“How?” Crowley barked “There is nowhere where they’ve been travelling …”
“They can find it”, said Angel.
He moved away from the window, and paced the gloomy corner room, which was stuffed with dusty old books and decrepit furniture. The whole chamber exuded a neglected air.
“How do you feel now that he’s here?” said Crowley, sounding sly “Disappointed?”
“No”, said Angel “Kieran irritates the shit out of me, but I’m bored stiff. I need some distraction”.
He had the satisfaction of Crowley being unable to think of a reply to this.
“I’m going out for a moment”, said Angel, heading to the dark corridor beyond the room.
“But where to?” Crowley called after him.
“You don’t need to concern yourself with that”, Angel shouted back.
“We need to go up there straightaway”, said Kieran, after he had bustled Joby into their cabin “You and me. No pissing about now”.
“No chance”, said Joby “Not with all those beady eyes on us. Julian, Adam and Bardin’ll be watching you like a hawk. Not to mention Ransey, and don’t start giving me all that astral projection malarkey”.
“Well now we’re here we can’t just sit down at the quayside staring up at them!” Kieran protested.
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in”, said Joby, irritably.
The door opened and Angel walked in, closing the door softly behind him. His ear was still missing, from where Kieran had torn it off many years ago, but other than that he was almost as young-looking as he had been when they had first met him, all those years ago at Henang Prison.
“If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed eh?” said Joby.
“Can we talk alone?” said Angel to Kieran.
“No”, said Kieran, who knew innately that Joby wouldn’t tolerate such a thing “You’ve been busy, Angel, having a high old time letting Evil run rampant”.
“Not my doing”, said Angel “Crowley’s been filling the Ministry’s heads with daft ideas about the Occult for years. Why did you grant him immortality?”
“I don’t know”, said Kieran “It was a different world back then. You must’ve been aiding and abetting him”.
“Entertainment”, said Angel “I felt like dismantling everything you’d built up. Kicking the chair out from under you for a laugh. Taking you back to Square One when you took the City from Father Gabriel. I’ve had you checkmated for years now. When was the last time you knew any peace?”
“OK, so you’ve had your fun”, Kieran sighed.
“And that horror has revitalised you”, said Joby.
“So has something changed now?” said Kieran “Why don’t you just leave us to sink entirely into the quagmire? Have your ultimate satisfaction”.
“Because it would give me more satisfaction to turn the tables on Crowley at the final square on the board”, said Angel “He thinks he’s got me onside. His sort always do. No one calls the shots on me, especially a fat old pervert like him”.
“And that’s the nub of it”, said Kieran, remembering the way they had found Tomce’s balls stuffed into his mouth all those years ago “Crowley IS a pervert”.
“Yeah, and you granted him immortality!” said Angel.
“OK I made a focking big mistake!” said Kieran.
“Yeah well, you can rely on me for one thing at least”, said Angel “I won’t let him get his hands on the clown Bardin. It’s what he wants. He wants him up there at that pile. I’ll keep his ultimate prize out of his reach. It’s in your interests to join forces with me”.
“Do a deal with the Devil”, said Kieran.
“Well it wouldn’t be the first time would it”, said Angel “Crowley’s mob think they’ve got everything sewn up. Let’s trash ‘em, just when they think they’ve got it all”.
“And what about the state of the rest of the world?” said Joby.
“That’s your problem”, Angel shrugged.
There was a cluster of voices from out in the corridor. Angel immediately vanished into the wall.
“That was some offer”, said Kieran.
“He could be luring us into a trap”, said Joby.
“No it’s not Angel’s way”, said Kieran “He’s more straightforward than people realise, and he will be repulsed by Crowley. Not just his perversion, but his arrogance too”.
There was a frenzy of preparation as the gun-store was raided, and weapons doled out by Ransey. For once, even Adam didn’t object to taking one.
“Let’s just get on with this”, he said “And get it over with. I don’t see any point in hanging around with it. I dread to think what we’ll find up there”.
“Angel will lead us straight to Crowley”, said Kieran “He’s meeting us at the entrance”.
“You’re putting a disturbing amount of trust in him”, said Julian.
“Angel only does what’s best for Angel”, said Kieran “And it suited him for a while to have Crowley’s ideas traumatising the world. Now he’s bored, with Crowley mainly. And Crowley disgusts him too. We have that on our side”.
“You’re an unscrupulous little bastard on the quiet”, said Julian.
“You’ve always known that”, said Kieran “Now has everybody got all the Holy protection I’ve given you? It’s very important”.
“Alright c’mon”, Joby sighed “Let’s go up to the dark side”.
“Isn’t it weird to think it’s finally happening?” said Bengo.
“This is just a part of it”, said Kieran “The real hard work comes afterwards. God knows what a helluva state the world’s in”.
The house, gloomy and austere as it was, felt like a maze of dark, cold rooms and passageways. There seemed to be things lurking in the depths, but no one had the time or the inclination to go investigating.
Angel led them to the top of the main flight of stairs.
“He was here last time I saw him”, he said, leading some of them into a gloomy corner room. There was no sign of Crowley.
Meanwhile, Adam had been distracted by a open doorway nearby. It led into a room dominated by a bed covered in filthy purple bed-linen. More books lay scattered and discarded over the floor. Snow-flakes drifted past the uncurtained window.
Crowley was crouched on the bd like a repulsive toad. He positively leered at Adam when he came into the room.
“Adam”, he wheezed “What a delight to see you again”.
“Aleister, so it is”, said Adam.
He pulled a gun out of the holster round his hips and shot Crowley, aiming for the chest, but hitting him in the groin instead. Crowley let out an in inhuman yell of pain.
Adam calmly walked over to him.
“W-why?” Crowley gasped “I c-can’t die. You know that. What are you d-doing to me?”
“Causing you great pain, Aleister”, said Adam “As you have done to the world”.
Crowley frantically tried to mouth words, but passed into unconsciousness instead. His mental resilience was such though that he managed to slide in and out of consciousness several times over the next few minutes.
The sounds of the gunshot had alerted the others, who ran into the room. Crowley became aware of two people standing close together, staring down at him. Kieran and Angel, like diabolical twins. Kieran’s looks were softer and more feminine than Angel’s, and both looked what they were, two sides of the same coin.
Crowley made an incomprehensible noise, feeling the metallic taste of blood in his mouth.
“Perhaps this is why I made him immortal, Angel”, Kieran was murmuring “Who knows? Eternity is a long time for people who have no souls”.
“Do we just leave him here?” said Angel.
“I think so”, said Kieran, and he turned to leave.
“You can’t!” Crowley was screaming in his brain.
“Let’s get out of here”, Joby was saying “Place gives me the creeps”.
Bardin was the last to leave. He leaned over the bed and peered dispassionately at Crowley’s tortured face.
“Pain and misery and torture”, he said, quietly “You’ll get what you’ve always wanted”.
“There’s a risk if we leave him like this”, said Hillyard, standing at the bottom of the stairs “Someone here might help him. We don’t know who else is in this house”.
“It’s only good people who have the urge to help, Hillyard”, said Kieran, standing a few steps above him “No one here will feel any loyalty to him”.
“What about any followers of his?” said Joby.
“There aren’t any”, said Angel “Might be a few left in the City, but not in here. He brought a few here with him, but has pretty much destroyed them. The cold, lack of food, sexual humiliation, neglect. He’s done ‘em in”.
“Is there anyone human in this house?” said Kieran “Non-psychopath human I mean”.
“No”, said Angel “Anyone like that hasn’t lasted, I told you. Search it if you like”.
“We’d better”, said Ransey “It won’t take long”.
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