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"He's got the morals of a tomcat!"
"Stop getting yourself all worked up. He told me it might be a way of getting useful information".
"And what particular way would that be?" Kieran exclaimed "Jerking him off perhaps?"
"Oh for God's sake! Look, even Adam wouldn't be so insensitive as to go chatting up someone else in front of you".
"He just has though!"
Joby had to concede that he was getting nowhere, and that Kieran may be right. Adam had given no explanation for his sudden announcement that he would be dining alone with Yentzi, other than a vague mention of "gaining information", and had appeared to be oblivious to Kieran's silent distress. Joby in turn felt like a child witnessing a devastating row between his parents, unable to understand what had brought it about in the first place and powerless to stop it.
The small suite of VIP rooms that they had been appointed were comfortable, and could almost be deemed lavish. Adam had immediately locked himself in the bathroom, from which the most fragrant smells were now emanating. Hillyard was in the living-room persuading Lonts to eat. In the main bedroom Kieran sat on Joby's lap and bleated into his neck.
"It's all this Vanquisher cobblers", said Kieran "He's fed up with it. I mean it can't be easy having your lover hailed as one of the gods".
"He's been very encouraging to you so far".
"Fact remains he must be brassed off with it. And Yentzi's more suited to him than I am".
"How do you work that one out?" said Joby "Yentzi's a right knock-kneed old queen. His sort are a dime a dozen in Adam's world".
"He's the same age as Adam. He's intelligent, cultured, well-spoken, all the things that Adam is".
"I'll take your word for it".
"They'll probably have a very nice grown-up supper together, and then very nice grown-up sex".
"Well what do you get up with him then? Play tiddly-winks!"
"Like all men it suits Adam to have a younger partner sometimes. Flatters the ego. But for real stimulus he wants someone of his own age to discuss things with".
"Discuss things with? I don't think you know Adam as well as I do sometimes! You're talking bollocks Flannery. Adam's been after you ever since I've known him. He isn't going to drop you now just because Yentzi's got his tongue hanging out".
"He doesn't think subtly the way you and I do Joby. Adam's a sexual predator".
"In his dreams".
"No he is. All his life he's had to be blunt about sex with men. He's used to going after what he wants, and sod anyone's feelings. Where sex is concerned he's blinkered, he can't see anything other than what he wants. He was like that the first time he came on to me. It's purely physical with him and nothing else".
"My gran would say that was called being a man, actually".
"And all men are interested in is matter-of-fact sex".
"Oh yea? You seem to have forgotten the circumstances that led to his first prison sentence. He wasn't being very matter-of-fact about sex then was he? You're talking out of your arse as usual. Anyway, what do you keep wearing this for?" Joby tugged at the scarf round Kieran's neck "It doesn't suit you. Makes you look like a cross between a pipe-cleaner and Biggles".
"I had a bit of a throat infection", Kieran mumbled awkwardly "Brought on by the cold weather. Adam lent me one of his scarves".
"You don't need it in here though", Joby began to untie it.
"What the fuck is that on your neck?"
"I knew you'd say that. Love-bites".
"Do you think I've been without sex for so long I've forgotten what a love-bite looks like? They are claw-marks Flannery! And don't tell me Adam did them because I'll know your lying. His fingernails are as blunt as a navvies".
"It was Angel. He appeared to me in the litter, last night at the ruined church. Nothing happened. He didn't speak. He just tried to frighten me that's all".
"That's all? You're fucking unbelievable!" Joby stood up suddenly, tipping Kieran onto the floor.
"Don't darling me, you bastard. I suppose if he'd managed to kill you, then I might just have been told about it then, eh?"
Kieran grew steadily more desperate over the next hour. Joby shut him out completely, Hillyard was also absorbed in thoughts of his own, and Adam was taken up with such monumental decisions as to which shirt that he owned was the least filthy to wear out to supper. The only person who seemed disposed to talk to him was Lonts, which Kieran couldn't help feeling said it all really.
Joby wheeled one of the supper-trolleys into the main bedroom, and slammed the door firmly on Kieran, who had been left sitting on the sofa between Hillyard and Lonts. Joby was debating with himself whether to risk trying the caviar on ice, when Adam appeared in his red robe with his clothes arranged over one arm.
"Sad state of affairs when a man is reduced to wearing a shirt with bloodstains or a shirt without bloodstains", he said.
"Seems pretty straightforward to me", said Joby "You wear the one without bloodstains".
"Oh dear, you've got your disapproving voice on".
"I wouldn't normally give you that satisfaction", Joby spooned a small dollop of caviar onto a triangle of toast "I always thought this stuff was over-rated myself. It smells like tart's knickers, and it doesn't taste of anything to me".
"It won't. Not whilst you insist on eating it alone", Adam took the triangle of toast and popped it into Joby's mouth "You have to be fed caviar by someone you care about".
"Yea well", Joby mumbled "I suppose you'll be using tricks like that later".
"Joby, do you really think I would doing all this if it wasn't important? Yentzi knows everything there is to know about this place, and presumably the Ministry as well. He might be able to give us information which would make us less blind".
"Oh come off it Adam. Are you trying to persuade me you're some kind of Mata fucking Hari! I'd have more respect for you if you told the truth".
"But I am", Adam began to dress in a resigned way "I don't want to waste precious time away from Patsy, not when Angel might come for him at any moment now. But I have a feeling that any information Yentzi gives me could be valuable to us".
"Yea, and he'll want paying for it. He might get insistent about that".
"I am a big boy now Joby. I can take care of myself".
"I don't doubt that!" Joby snapped "You're hurting Flannery though, and that's all I'm concerned about".
"That is why I'd appreciate it you'd explain everything for me. He'll just get upset if I try to, but he'll listen to you".
"I doubt it. We're not talking to each other".
"Oh sweet Jesus, you two haven't been fighting again?"
"I suppose it was your idea not to tell me about Angel appearing to him at the ruined church?"
"It was his actually. I knew you'd get upset when you found out the truth", said Adam, pulling on his socks "Don't be too hard on him Joby. If you keep up the silent treatment now you'll only regret it if he gets called away soon".
"How soon do you think it'll be?"
"I have no idea".
"Adam", said Joby, awkwardly "You won't be late tonight will you?"
"I'll be back as soon as possible. And whilst I'm gone try to get Patsy to eat something".
"Why isn't Lonts in bed yet?" Adam said, on walking through into the living-room.
"It's only seven-thirty!" Hillyard protested.
"Exactly. He should have been tidied away two hours ago. There's no earthly point keeping him up, he won't want to do anything", Adam gave his hair a final comb, and surveyed his reflection in the blank screen of a security monitor "And Patsy, I'd like you to go and make it up with Joby".
"Get stuffed", Kieran exclaimed "You've got a focking brass nerve Adam, telling me what YOU want. Nobody's interested in what you want. If I want to speak to Joby, it'll be my decision".
Adam hoisted Kieran away from the sofa and propelled him in the general direction of the bedroom door. Without actually dragging his feet on the carpet Kieran couldn't refuse to go.
"I am not getting up to anything", Adam whispered, when they reached the door.
"Then why do you smell like a Moroccan brothel?" Kieran hissed "Well that's fine by me anyway. If you want to play fast and loose in this relationship then you just go ahead. Those rules can be used by both players, and I'm not talking about simply getting cosy with Joby or Lonts".
"You stay away from Hillyard", Adam checked over his shoulder, but the said man had coaxed Lonts into the other bedroom and so was out of earshot.
"Two lonely misunderstood people coming together ..."
"Patsy, I'm warning you".
"So? What's it worth then?"
"You just play the game my blue-eyed boy and you'll find out".
"Oh yes? Well I interrupt that as you either beating me like you did before, or half-blinding me or Hillyard with a broken bottle like you did that other poor eejut".
Adam was rather stunned. All his previous lovers who had known about the Antibes incident had treated the knowledge with terrified awe. Nobody had ever made fun of it before. Adam tossed back his head and laughed.
"You are priceless Patsy".
"I'm not scared of you that's why. Not anymore".
"And there's no reason why you should be dear heart. Do you really think I'd want to mar that gorgeous beauty of yours?"
"Black eyes don't count then?"
"You still looked beautiful, even with that", Adam stroked Kieran's face gently "Don't have sex with Hillyard though. It would upset Joby terribly. I doubt he'd ever get over it".
"Sometimes Adam, I could give you a good hiding!"
"Well don't let me stop you, it sounds wonderful".
"Oh go and see Yentzi", said Kieran, and kissed Adam's nose "He deserves you".
Yentzi's apartment was directly over the VIP suite, easily reached by an elevator nearby. Adam was glad it wasn't far. The darkness and silence of the Colony's underground tunnels made it an unnerving place to walk in alone. It was all too easy to see strange figures in the shadows, or hear soft footfalls behind you. Yentzi answered the door, looking immaculate in a grey silk suit. Adam, who up until then had been satisfied with having clean hair, teeth and skin, now felt like a hobo again.
"I would have dressed properly", he said, apologetically "If I'd had the clothes".
"You look fine", said Yentzi, in a quivering voice. Adam didn't just look fine, he looked impossibly sexy. So much so that Yentzi felt an urge to cross his legs. How he was going to keep up polite conversation all through the meal he didn't know.
Adam was now roaming the room, examining the pictures on Yentzi's wall with a more than cursory interest. At one point he ran his fingers lightly over the brushwork of a landscape scene.
"Do you have an interest in art?" asked Yentzi.
"I've dabbled", said Adam, uncertain whether to admit that he knew nothing about any art produced in the past 2000 years "I've only recently started sketching again myself".
"You have a look of the artist about you".
"Scruffy and underfed you mean?"
"A free spirit, I would have said".
"I believe everyone should be free. Without that life is only an existence".
"It must have been very difficult for you in prison".
This comment completely poleaxed Adam. He stared at Yentzi with a look of horror on his face. Yentzi meanwhile appeared completely unperturbed. Mindful of Adam's earlier request he offered him coffee. When it was poured Adam accepted the gold-rimmed demi-tasse like an accident victim accepting brandy.
"How did you know about that?" he said, hoarsely.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you", Yentzi sat down opposite him "It's just that one of the questions I assumed you wanted to ask me was about the mass disappearance at Henang".
"Yes, but how did you know?"
"We have suspected for some time that the Vanquisher may have spent a while at the prison, after crossing a time-cusp. Some notes the Ministry found in the Governor's private quarters after the mass disappearance confirmed that he himself suspected the truth about your friend's identity too".
"But he never said anything", said Adam "He never asked to see him".
"I think he was hoping to protect the Vanquisher".
"The vampires. If they had suspected for one moment that the Vanquisher was there your friend would have been in grave danger".
"They wouldn't have killed him though?"
"No. But they would have put great pressure on the Governor to have him committed to Isolation. Few prisoners ever lasted long in Isolation without going insane. It was a terrible punishment. One that we are hoping now the vampires have gone to outlaw, although that all depends on when the prison is up and running again".
"He was in such danger all that time", said Adam.
"The prison system actually worked in his favour. With you all being sealed off in your cells, much as the inmates are here, there was little chance of his cover being blown. The guards and trustees that worked your wing were handpicked personally by the Governor for their trustworthiness and discretion. That may have been why he never asked to see him. It would have been too risky to have the Vanquisher being led through the prison, where he might have been seen by anyone".
"Fobbett knew all along".
"Fobbett. A trustee at the prison. He brought us our meals sometimes. He was the one who first told us of my friend's identity. There is one thing I have not understood for some time. Why doesn't everybody recognise him? I mean, we've been travelling for several weeks now and Patsy ... the Vanquisher hasn't been recognised by everyone".
"Many would choose to keep quiet out of fear, the long arm of the vampires stretched far, and many would have kept quiet to protect him. Also it must be borne in mind that not everyone believed in the legend of the Vanquisher, and would have seen any resemblance between your friend and the prophecies as pure coincidence. We have had many great pretenders over the years, most of them harmless cranks. So we cannot blame some people for being sceptical. Would you like to talk more over dinner?"
"Who are the Blue Men?"
Yentzi looked up from his pumpkin soup.
"H-have you met them?" he asked.
"I've heard about them", said Adam "Did they have anything to do with the mass disappearance?"
"Every so often", Yentzi began, occasionally tapping his nails on the white tablecloth as he spoke "The vampires would pull off a major coup, to remind us all of the kind of the power they had. Usually this took the form of releasing the Virus somewhere. Earlier this year they began to suspect that we were working on an antidote to the Virus here at the Colony. I distinctly remember that Caln wasn't, shall I say, pleased. He threatened us, saying he would organise something so audacious we would never again question their power".
"He was behind it all?"
"The Blue Men are victims of the Virus who have managed to keep their physical strength. In exceptional cases this can happen, and as such these men had been formed by Caln and his like into a sort of elite protection squad. No one will dare cross them, as it would risk contracting the disease themselves. The Blue Men are the ones who abducted everyone at the prison".
"And did what with them?"
"They were killed", Yentzi said it hurriedly, as though in embarrassment "Used as vampire swill".
"The entire prison population?"
"Including the dead from the graves".
"But we were left", said Adam "Why was that? Did they know of Patsy's identity?"
"The vampires never discovered the Vanquisher was at the prison. The Blue Men are still ordinary men at heart, in spite of their rather forbidding appearance and dubious habits. They knew from questioning the Governor that horrible night, that he was there. They are superstitious people Adam, and they refused to go near your cell. I know all this because one confessed to me before he died here very recently. He took comfort from the fact that they had never betrayed the Vanquisher".
"For which I will always be grateful to them", Adam pushed away his soup bowl and reached for a cigar. Yentzi was rather surprised that he hadn't asked if he could smoke whilst he himself was still eating. Adam did eventually notice his dinner partner's look of mild surprise.
"Sorry about that", he said, waving the thick smoke away vigorously, but not putting out the cigar. "It's a long time since I've eaten in genteel company. My lot half the time wouldn't care if you got a pisspot out and used it at the dinner table".
"Some might envy you the life you had on the road. The freedom for one thing".
"Oh yes, the freedom to freeze to death for instance".
"Has it been very difficult at times?"
"We've not done too badly on the whole. Life becomes rather extreme. One time you're living off soggy rice and watery coffee for days on end, the next you're eating rather well in comfortable surroundings".
"What will you do when it is all over? It must be a great sadness that you can no longer get back to your own time?"
"It's not so bad for me. I didn't leave anyone behind, not anyone I cared about too much anyway".
"Will you want to settle down eventually?"
"I wouldn't mind giving it a try", Adam sighed "It's been so long since I was settled down, I find it almost hard to imagine what it would be like. Really all I want though is for us to stay together".
"All of us, although I think somewhere will have to be found for Lonts. He might need to be hospitalised for a while".
"There were women in your time weren't there?" Yentzi asked, suddenly "Did you ...?"
"Do you regret that now?"
"Then you won't have too much trouble adapting".
"The City will be a big test of that. I might suddenly find I miss the sight of women, just for the sake of variety if nothing else. Have all the paintings of women been destroyed?"
"I'm afraid so", said Yentzi "As have all pre-Massacre literature".
"That's not to say the black market doesn't do a flourishing trade of course. It's not just clandestine Bibles that sell well".
"And old videotapes", said Adam, remembering the tape of the dancing twins he had seen in the Governor's office "Poor old bastard".
"Nothing. I was rambling".
"I have an apartment in the City, although I'm rarely there to use it. I keep it more for convenience during the short trips I do make, as hotels and rooms are so expensive. It's a bit basic, but it's heated and all of you could be accommodated there at a push".
"That's very generous of you".
"If your friend really does manage to beat the Devil, it will be but a very small show of gratitude on my part, believe me! I won't be visiting the City again until the spring, but the keys can be collected from a deposit box at my bank. I will write down all the details before you leave".
"I wonder if he's got his leg over yet?"
"If they dished out awards for being a compulsive winder-upper, you'd win hands down", Kieran snapped.
"Just saying. If he has I'd make him see a doctor before I let him near me again if I was you", Joby wiped his greasy hands on the tapestried bedspread "Walking health hazards the Yentzi's of this world".
"And what would you know about this world now?" Kieran began to peel an orange, as though he was tearing hair from Joby's scalp "What did you ever know about the old one come to that? Adam would say you were uncouth".
"He could talk! At least I clean up after meself in the bathroom. The basin was full of his hairs, and the towels were all over the floor like great steaming damp turds. He must have used every single one in there. Didn't give thought that we might need them as well".
"You're beginning to sound like Hillyard", Kieran laughed "You two should get married, you'd make a lovely couple. You could nag each other to death".
Joby shoved Kieran over to the other side of the bed, and reached for the last hardboiled egg. The food from the supper trolley lay all over the bedspread, looking like a picnic after a herd of cows had trampled through it.
"At least we'd have standards", Joby said, spraying bits of egg from his mouth "You'd be no good at clearing up".
"I don't think housework's that important on the great scale of things. Anyway Adam can be a fusspot when he chooses, it's just that he always expects someone else to do the actual dirty work".
"Talking of marriage", said Joby "You and he could get hitched now I expect".
"Adam doesn't believe in it. I think he scorns gays who do that kind of thing. Calls them pathetic for wanting to live a normal life, almost as bad as the ones who pretend to be straight in his eyes. Anyway, I'd be committing bigamy".
"I can't believe it counts after 2000 years!"
"It does to me. I wasn't brought up a Catholic for nothing", Kieran slid down the sheets and gazed thoughtfully at the remains of the orange "I'm never going to see Amy again am I?"
"Oh Kiel, you should've just told me to belt up", Joby squeezed Kieran's hand "I didn't mean to upset you. I just get carried away with the sound of me own voice".
"I'm alright really. Sometimes it hits me though, like walking into an iron door. It must be how terminally-ill people feel. You forget all about it for a while, and then it hits you hard when you least expect it. I don't long for her sexually anymore. Not now when I've got Adam. But oh God sometimes I miss her company. She was such an easy person to be with, such fun. She laughed at life".
"Unlike a bunch of wankers like us?"
"As no doubt your gran would have said, men can be very trying at times!"
Kieran woke with a start a couple of hours later. He was lying in the dark. Joby was asleep next to him. There was a distinct chill in the air, and never had he felt less inclined to leave a bed. But he could hear a distant bleeping sound, like that of a smoke alarm with dying batteries.
The summons had arrived, of that he was left in no doubt.
He reached for his shirt and pulled it on before easing himself out of bed. Before he left the room he paused and kissed Joby lightly on his hair. He didn't know when he would see him again.
A red pinprick of light was flashing on the security monitor in the lounge. Kieran pressed it. The faint bleeping stopped and the screen activated into life. Although he had been half-expecting it, the image that appeared on it still gave him a shock. The startling thing was that Angel was no longer in the advance stages of decay. He looked exactly as he had the very first time Kieran had seen him, sitting on the steps at the prison. He was even wearing a clean shirt.
"Thought you might find this easier on the eye", said Angel, as though reading Kieran's thoughts.
"You'll have to show me how you do these transformations", said Kieran, sounding about a million times more lighthearted than he felt.
"Mind over matter", Angel shrugged.
"I suppose I have no choice but to believe you", said Kieran "Although I still find it hard to imagine you're capable of deep thinking at all. Are you inside the Colony now?"
"Nightwatchman's hut. Above ground".
"What's happened to the nightwatchman?" Kieran asked, suspiciously.
"He's here", said Angel, gesturing at an area out of range of the camera "I only ate his throat, so there isn't too much mess".
"So much destruction Angel. But you've never cared about that have you, not even when you were alive?"
"It's three o'clock now", Angel glanced sideways at a timepiece on the nightwatchman's desk "I'll come for you in exactly two hours. Be waiting for me outside your door".
"What do you intend to do with me?"
"Get rid of you, you're a pain in the neck!" Angel exclaimed.
"But you can't kill me, because you'll never be rid of me then".
"There are other ways". said Angel, showing signs of closing the conversation.
"ANGEL!" Kieran yelled "Tell me what you intend to do over the next two hours".
"Take on fuel", a sly smile spread over Angel's face "It might take me a while to destroy you, so I'm going to need something to keep me going in the meantime".
"I'll starve you", said Kieran "You bastard".
"No you won't. How can you? Don't worry. I'll make a deal with you. Be ready for me in two hours, alone, and I promise I won't touch any of your lot. Of course I can't make any such promises for after I've done with you, mind".
"You're going off to murder someone now?"
"I would've thought you'd be getting used to that. No point trying to stop me. If you do, I'll just cause even more havoc".
"I was just checking that he was alright", Kieran crept softly over the carpet and sat down on Hillyard's bed.
"It took me ages to get him off", said Hillyard "We can hear the elevator quite well in here, and everytime it goes he thinks it's Satan coming for him".
"I suppose it can be quite an eerie noise at night. Hillyard, I have some good news for you, and I haven't much time, because Satan's actually coming for me instead".
"Kieran ..." Hillyard sat up anxiously in bed.
"No, listen", Kieran told him what Angel had said about Artuul.
Hillyard's face, which normally wore a distrustful scowl not dissimilar to Joby's, relaxed into a peaceful smile.
"So, I made love to the real Artuul?"
"Looks like it", Kieran patted his hand and got up to leave.
"Kieran. When all this over, I'm going to come and get you. Fetch you home".
"You won't know where I am".
"I'll find out. Somehow".
"No one's going to look forward to that more than me", said Kieran "I wish Adam would hurry up and come back".
Adam had spent twenty minutes in Yentzi's bathroom, recovering from a combination of pumpkin soup, roast duck in cherry sauce, and a sticky nut pudding that was so wicked it could only have been eaten in private by consenting adults. Unfortunately Adam's insides had grown accustomed to more basic fare, and revolted against this culinary armed warfare in outrage. By the time he emerged, feeling distinctly green around the gills, Yentzi had changed into a velvet robe, and was sitting patiently on the sofa in his lounge.
"It's very late", said Adam, accepting yet more coffee "I must be getting back soon".
"I understand", said Yentzi, sitting with his knees glued together, and yet at the same time looking highly suggestive. He was looking at Adam like a dog begging for scraps from the dinner-table. There was almost something of the labrador in those worried-looking brown eyes. But it was obvious he was about to move in for the kill.
"Will you suck me off?" he asked, suddenly.
Adam felt like he was going to faint. The thought of having a clammy cock in his mouth after the meal they had just eaten was a prospect not for the faint-hearted.
"No", he replied, feeling that directness was best.
"I won't say I'm not disappointed", said Yentzi "You're very attractive".
"Casanova, a great lover in history, once said that you should always make love before a meal, not after", said Adam.
"I'll try and bear that in mind in future ..."
Yentzi suddenly looked appalled. The electric lights were flickering in an ominous fashion, and the heating mechanism, which normally hummed nonchalantly in the background, was making the most disturbing groaning noise.
"That's not possible!" said Yentzi "We have every conceivable kind of back-up generator here. What's going on?"
"Oh shit", Adam ran for the door "You'll have to excuse me Yentzi, but I want to use the elevator before everything breaks down completely. Don't worry, this will pass. We're just having a little outbreak of evil!"
Reuton tapped his desk-lamp which was flickering in a most annoying fashion. Added to that he was so tired that his eyes kept blurring over. He rubbed them impatiently, but his bad vision was exacerbated by the temperamental lamp. He pushed himself away from his desk. He hadn't slept for two days. This wasn't unusual, he was used to working extremely long shifts, but this day had been an exceptional one, because he had met the Vanquisher. He had no idea what Yentzi's plans were regarding him, but he hoped to catch another glimpse of him sometime tomorrow.
"I must sleep", he muttered to himself, and switched off the lamp.
The darkness eased the pain in his head slightly, even so he couldn't help noticing that his office was getting unnaturally cold. The heating had never played up before, but there was always a first time. All Reuton wanted to do at that moment was rest though. Let someone else sort out any hiccups for a change.
His bedroom was separated from his office by a glass partition. A simple matter of crossing a few feet and he could then lie down on his bed. He wouldn't even bother to take off his clothes. As he neared the glass partition though he was jolted sharply into acute wakefulness. There was somebody moving about in his room. Reuton was angry. He got very little privacy or time to himself in this loathsome place, surely he was entitled to have his small room uninvaded? He wondered if one of the patients had managed to slip their guard and get in unnoticed. He glanced behind him at the button on the far wall. One press of that and every guard in the nearby vicinity would come running.
His movements near the glass attracted the attention of the figure on the other side. It moved towards him and pressed itself up against the partition. It was a slim boy, seemingly untouched by the Virus. Hair the colour of dark gold, startling blue eyes, and when he parted his lips in a sneering grin a distinct gap appeared in his top row of front teeth. Reuton had never seen him about the Colony before, and he hadn't been notified of any recent staff changes. He hadn't arrived with the Vanquisher either. It occurred to Reuton that the boy didn't look unlike himself, except the stranger wasn't quite so immaculate as Reuton who, even in his tiredness, still exuded an air of glowing goodness and simplicity.
The boy was starting to undress himself, all the while his blue eyes (disturbingly like the Vanquisher's) were fixed on Reuton in a taunting dare. Reuton though had recovered his composure. The boy's slow unbuttoning of his shirt had actually managed to drag everything back to a mundane level. The spell was broken. He would go in and order the boy to leave, and if he refused he would threaten him with the guards. The boy was obviously a stowaway. Someone who had managed to evade security and get inside the Colony. The silly fool obviously didn't realise the risks he was taking by being here.
Reuton pushed open the glass door and entered the room, just as Angel was stepping out of his pants. The boy walked towards him, his body tantalisingly illuminated by the small glow of a nightlight, which flickered irritatingly. Angel now stood directly in front of him, and Reuton felt himself go hard. He was appalled by this, as normally, with ruthless self-discipline, he reserved such feelings for the Vanquisher.
"You sh-sh-shouldn't be here", Reuton stammered.
"Sh-sh-shouldn't I?" Angel mimicked him.
Reuton felt the boy's hand caress his face, could feel the soft scrape of the long nails against his skin. Suddenly Angel gave him a sharp push and Reuton fell backwards onto his bed. Angel was now on top of him, breathing heavily into his face. The boy's breath stank, but this major drawback did little to alleviate Reuton's sexual distress. Angel was now systematically relieving him of his clothes. Reuton tried to distance his thoughts from the situation, and concentrated on the Vanquisher, willing him into his mind.
"Stop that!" said Angel, fiercely gripping him by his throat "You don't bring him in here".
"You're the Devil", Reuton whispered, frozen with fear.
Angel didn't reply. He tore away the front of Reuton's shirt with one movement of his hand. Underneath, next to his bare skin, Reuton wore a large crucifix which he had obtained from a friend of a friend on the black market in the City. Angel removed it, without breaking the clasp, and then hung it around his own neck. He sat back on his haunches and examined it in the dim light.
"It's a bauble", he said, laughing in his peculiar half-giggle half-squeak.
Reuton was now trying to pray.
"I've got a prayer for you", said Angel "For what we are about to receive, isn't that how it goes?"
The Devil's fingers were stroking Reuton's bare flesh, like a butcher prodding a fine cut of steak. Reuton could also feel the cold tickle of the metal crucifix against his skin.
"The Vanquisher's here", Reuton gabbled "In this Colony. You'll not get away with this".
"I know he's here", said Angel "It's him I'm going to finish off next. In the meantime I'm going to get rid of you, as you're starting to bore me".
And then he tore out Reuton's heart with his bare hands.
Adam stepped into the tiny foyer that connected the VIP suite with the rest of the Colony. He closed the door behind him and leaned against it with relief. The short journey from Yentzi's suite had been a fraught one. Lights had flickered all around him, he could hear distant screams and wailing noises, and to cap it all the elevator had nearly broken down with him in it. He had barely recovered his composure in the tiny foyer when a small white hand shot out of the darkness and struck him twice around the face.
"You bastard Adam! Where the fock have you been?"
"Patsy, where are you? I can't see you".
"The lights have blown", Kieran stepped up close to him "Angel's doing. Not that you cared. Too busy getting cuddly with Yentzi".
Kieran slapped him again. Adam groped blindly in the dark, and eventually managed to pin Kieran's arms against his sides.
"I know I'm owed a few slaps from you Patsy", he said breathlessly, the skin on his face smarting "But be kind to a poor, weary traveller on this cold dark night".
"Where have you been?" Kieran exclaimed "I've been sitting alone for the past hour, wondering if I'd ever see you again. Angel's coming for me at five o'clock".
"No!" Adam wailed.
"Well what did you expect you great pansy! Did you think he was arranging all this chaos for our amusement? And how come you've been 'talking business' with Yentzi until four in the bleeding morning!"
"The meal disagreed with me. I had to keep visiting the bathroom. Look Patsy, let's not talk about that now. If I've got less than an hour left with you I don't want to waste it having a row".
"No I agree. But I won't forget this Adam".
"There's nothing to forget! Nothing happened. It could have but it didn't, you'll just have to take my word on that".
"I wouldn't take you word on the weather Adam Jensen!" Kieran roared, but nevertheless he did seem to be getting calmer.
"For a self-proclaimed pacifist you pack a pretty mean punch".
"I didn't punch you, stop exaggerating".
Adam followed him into the lounge, and they both fell onto the sofa in a gesture of utter weariness.
"How the blazes did we get into all this?" Kieran sighed.
"Do you mean destroying the Devil, or our relationship?" asked Adam.
"Destroying the Devil. I suppose our relationship was inevitable", said Kieran, rather gloomily "What joker amongst the gods decided I was to be the Vanquisher of Evil? Me for heaven's sake! Or were they just looking for the next time-crosser with long blond hair like Braw, and it just happened to be me. You know, like being the millionth customer at the supermarket check-out".
"Come to that, why did the Devil choose Angel as his human form?"
"I don't know. Looking back, it seemed to be leading to this all along though. But why am I bothering? The human race is dying anyway, so why should I bother trying to destroy Angel?"
"For two reasons I would've thought. Firstly, you don't want anymore innocent men to end up like Fobbett, and secondly, destroying Angel is the only way to see the back of the Virus for good".
They sat silently for a while, until Adam spoke again.
"What do two people who are in love say to each other, when there is the possibility that they might never see each other again?"
"I'll call you from the station on Friday evening".
"That's the last thing I ever said to Amy", said Kieran "She was going to pick me up when we got off the train after the trip. So I said to her, I'll call you from the station on Friday evening. If I'd known that was the last thing I'd ever say to her, I'd of thought of something a bit more memorable. Just imagine how it would have been if it had all gone to plan. I'd have got in the car on the Friday evening. She'd have asked me how the field-trip went. I'd have moaned like hell about having to put up with you and Joby for a whole week. She'd relate some crisis in the office, we'd pick up some grub and go home. That life seems completely unreal now".
"If you could see her just one more time, for ten minutes perhaps, what would you say to her?"
"Is that all?"
"That's all there is to say, it's as good a blessing as any I can think of".
"No great showdowns about Joby then?"
"Seems a waste of ten valuable minutes", said Kieran "And I wouldn't want to hear from her how she feels about him ... just in case she tells me the truth".
"I cannot believe she'd have preferred him to you. I mean he's great as a friend, but the thought of him as a lover makes the blood run cold!"
"Perhaps she secretly wanted someone more intense and complicated than me. Women are like that sometimes. The amount of them that have said to me 'you're very nice Kieran, but I want someone I can rely on', like a focking guide dog I presume! Exit Kieran, no longer wanted. Served his only purpose. The easy screw. Good for that, but naff all else. Can't even cook a decent omelette. After all, even you got exasperated with me that time at the Loud House for the same reason, because I wouldn't show intensity of feeling".
"I expected too much from you too soon, and that was only because I had wanted you for so long. Anyway, you showed enough intensity in the foyer just now, so I can't complain can I?"
They moved closer together and Kieran leaned his head on Adam's shoulder.
"You shouldn't be so unkind to yourself", said Adam, pinching Kieran's arm gently "There has to be more to you than a good screw, if Joby and I love you so much. And Amy did too. More so than she wanted Joby I believe. Women just get itchy in marriage from time to time that's all".
"How would you know?" Kieran laughed.
"Shrewd guess. Women aren't so different to us really, mentally I mean. It's just straight men who mistakenly believe that, and start thinking of them as aliens from another planet. Being in close relationship doesn't stop you fancying other people. And sometimes women howl for the moon just as we do".
"Nicely put Addy, you should have become an agony aunt. Will you look after Joby for me whilst I'm gone?"
"Rather depends what you want me to do for him!"
"Be nice to him, that's all".
"Could be difficult at times, but I'll try. This being nice doesn't cover all your duties does it, like cuddling him in bed?"
"Not if you don't want to".
"Good. It'd be like cuddling a rattlesnake".
"He probably feels the same about you!" said Kieran "Now, I have a plan, and I want you to pass it on to Hillyard in particular. Somehow I'm going to try and get Angel to the Skirra Fludd lighthouse, and I want you lot to wait for me at Buskin's house".
"Patsy, you're crazy. Those places are light years away. It's taken us several weeks to get from Buskin's house to here as it is".
"Only because we took the long way round, not knowing any better".
Kieran reached for one of the maps, out of a jumble on the coffee-table.
"I was looking at this whilst I was waiting for you", he said "It's the map of the Uncharted Area. This country gets a lot narrower the further north you go. So if you go straight up through the Uncharted Area you'll get there in a fraction of the time".
"And what if Angel resists going to the lighthouse?"
"That's where he came from originally, the Devil inside him anyway, so I do wonder if he plans to incarcerate me there, as was done to him".
"You've thought all this through, haven't you?"
"I had long enough! Whilst I was waiting for you to get back from poking the arse off Yentzi".
"Ha bloody ha", Adam pulled him closer. He went to kiss him but then drew back suddenly "And why have I got to tell Hillyard in particular?"
"He says he wants to fetch me ... when it's all done".
"And what give him special priority?"
"I think he wants to play his part in avenging Stombal's death, and to a lesser extent because I gave him hope that he might have a sex life in the future".
"Oh yes? Does that mean I have to punish you Patsy?"
"Not me, you jerk! I was talking about Artuul. It was really Artuul who had sex with Hillyard, not Angel. It did me good to be able to tell him that. About the only favour Angel's ever done me, or anyone else for that matter".
For the final half-hour they lay silently in each other's arms, wrapped in a spare quilt as protection against the steady decline in the temperature. They counted the passing minutes like misers counting coins, always relieved that there was still more left and yet dreading them going.
"When I leave don't say a word", said Kieran "I don't think I could stand it if you did".
When the hour came he stood up silently, like a condemned man facing the hangman's noose. He dressed hurriedly, and put on his fur coat. He took nothing else with him, leaving his rucksack for the others to look after. Adam watched his preparations, but closed his eyes and pretended to sleep when Kieran left. Kieran knew it was an act, but was grateful for it.
He passed by him like a ghost, or a . Adam heard the outer door open and then shut again. At first he tried to hope that Kieran would reappear, say sod Angel, sod vanquishing, all he wanted was a quiet life. But in his heart he knew it wouldn’t happen. Kieran had gone.
Joby was woken up by a torch shining in his face.
“Adam? What the ...?“ he pushed it away, and then became aware that there was an empty space next to him on the bed “Where’s Flannery? What’s happened?”
“He’s gone Joby”, said Adam “Angel’s taken him away. Everything in the Colony’s gone haywire. There’s no electricity or heating ...“
“You should’ve stopped him!” Joby cried “You had no right to let him go!”
“I had no choice Joby. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, letting him go. Even harder than giving up the booze. I never want to have to do it again”.
Adam sounded like a sleepwalker. Joby stared at him in disbelief.
“I wouldn’t have let him go”, he said “If I’d known”.
“Yes you would”, said Adam.
“It’s the first time we’ve all been separated since we crossed over. The first time we haven’t seen him when we’ve woken up. He won’t be there to drive us mad. I want him back. I feel like half of me’s gone. Oh hell Adam, I’m so sorry!” Joby cried, wildly.
Adam held him close, whilst the boy wept in his arms.
“We’re not all separated Joby”, he said “We have plans of our own, you and me. We have a journey to make”.
“I was going to lend him the silk stocking”, said Joby “For good luck”.
“He’d only have lost it”, said Adam, and laughed gently.
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