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By Sarah Hapgood

He had been taken through the door at the far end of Brenfar's office, and then down a maze of wide but very gloomy corridors. He had then been left in a windowless chamber by himself for some time. The room frightened him. It was painted throughout in green, and it contained nothing but a large bed and a chair. There was a crucifix on the wall, and dark stains where the flames from the gas-lamps had been burning too long.

Lonts was very frightened indeed. He had trusted the eunuch when he had coaxed him away from the verandah and asked him to follow him. Lonts had felt that perhaps he was safe with a eunuch. He had never heard of one attacking anyone, or not to his knowledge at least.

The eunuch returned to the room a short while later, carrying a metal bucket.

"For you", he said, putting it on the floor "In case you need it".

"Where am I?" said Lonts.

"Inside the big rock behind the resort", said the eunuch "That's why there's no windows you see".

"I want to go back now".

"You can't", said the eunuch, in a flat, emotionless voice "They went to a lot of trouble to get you in here. Whilst your friend Adam's ill, all the others are distracted, looking after him. It was easy to take you away whilst all that was going on".

"Adam's ill?" said Lonts "But no one said! Adam can't be ill, he's never ill. He's strong. I don't believe you, I think you're lying to me. I think you're weird".

"Huh", said the eunuch "You're the one that everyone says is mad, not me".

Lonts felt that perhaps this was true. After all, he must be imagining things. The others had once told him that reality was distorted for him, and now it definitely seemed to be the case. Like the crucifix on the wall. It appeared to be upside-down. Had they accidentally put it up like that, or was he just imagining it?

The door opened and Brenfar walked in, followed by the man in the fedora hat.

"I hope you haven't been saying too much to him", Brenfar shouted at the eunuch.

"Only that you'd gone to a lot of trouble to get him here", said the eunuch, nervously.

"You can say that again", said Brenfar "Well Selis, I can't swear to its purity personally, but I don't think the others it came with have had it".

"Hard to believe as it's so ..." Selis began, breathlessly "So very beautiful. So ripe for the taking".

"The Kiskev Survivor", said Brenfar "I told you I'd land you a big one sometime didn't I? The only survivor of a Christian mass suicide. Our Lord will be pleased".

"I will just be pleased to see that imposter Gabriel removed from office", said Selis "The latest rumour is that he's the Devil! Our Lord must be seething when he hears such things. I hear you have been travelling with the Vanquisher, boy?"

Lonts backed away instinctively.

"Does he entertain you with stories of how he jerked off over Our Lord?" Selis went on "And did he seriously believe that would be the end of it? Blood and sperm. The elixirs of life. We will be having both from you my boy".

"You're evil!" Lonts yelled at them.

"One rather hopes so", said Selis "Or I've been doing it wrong all these years".

"Patsy", Adam reached up and touched Kieran's face "You're alright".

"Shouldn't I be?"

"In my dream you were all battered. We were at the Loud House again, and your face was bashed in. I'd done it".

"I think you're getting the time you hit me confused with when Angel hit me", said Kieran "Just lie back and rest now. You've been through a terrible ordeal".

"I'm so sorry Patsy, for worrying you like this. Have you had to cope alone?"

"No, Joby and Hillyard have been with me. You were out of it for nearly twenty-four hours you know".

"Where are they now?"

"Oh they had a job to do", said Kieran, evasively "They're around the resort somewhere".

"You're keeping something from me. What's happened?" Adam sat up on his elbows, but Kieran pushed him gently back down.

"Everything's under control. There's nothing you can do, so just relax".

"Patsy", said Adam, sternly "Tell me what's happened. Now".

"Lonts has gone walkabout", Kieran sighed "Now don't get all excited. He can't possibly have gone far. Ransey had only turned his back for about five minutes, so he must be around the resort somewhere".

"Lonts can get into no end of trouble in five minutes", said Adam "We've got to look for him Patsy".

"You're staying exactly where you are and that's final. You can give him a good telling-off when they find him".

The room had become very crowded. It was full of old men, rich old men, but old nonetheless. They were practically slavering at the mouth when they looked at Lonts, but this wasn't so much out of lust as greed. He was their passport to prolonging life. Through him they could be rejuvenated, and enjoy a few more years of stale existence. The Devil looks after his own. With this sacrifice, this offering, they would empower Lord Satan, and themselves at the same time. Nubile young Christian virgins were thin on the ground these days. Lonts was a precious prize indeed.

"Do you get an erection when you pray, boy?" said Selis.

"I don't know what you mean", said Lonts.

"It's a very simple question, does praying excite you so much that you get sexually stimulated?"

Lonts merely looked bewildered.

"You did insist on a virgin", said Brenfar, abruptly.

"I did not insist on one that was doo-lally!" said Selis "Take your clothes off boy".

"You heard the man", said Brenfar.

"No-o", Lonts giggled, feeling that it must be some joke "Not in front of you lot".

"Come along, you must have had to strip publicly in hospital", said Selis.

"Why do I have to get undressed?"

"Do it!" Brenfar yelled "I bet we wouldn't have had this trouble with a girl".

"No-o", Lonts burst into tears "No I won't".

"Do it!" Brenfar thundered, about an inch away from his face.

Terrified into submission, Lonts sobbed as he began to peel his shorts and tee-shirt away from his slim, nut-brown body. Selis moved closer and looked him over critically, as though he was a pedigree foal.

"We need an erection out of you boy", he said "What do you think about to achieve one? Do you pray, rub yourself, think about other boys?"

"He probably wants flogging", said Brenfar "These evangelical types are all the same. Nothing turns them on quicker than a whipping".

"I don't understand", Lonts was now thoroughly confused as well as terrified, and when this happened there was only one course of action, to scream and kick out "I want Adam! I don't want to be with you lot. Find Adam. Find him!"

"Well I do declare", said Ransey, pulling out a draw from Brenfar's desk "Quite a little collection. He could start up his own museum".

He tipped the draw out onto the desk. A small armoury of weapons fell out, from flare-pistols, to stun-guns, to old-fashioned revolvers, there was even a musket. Ransey picked up a very small, multi-charge handset, programmed when loaded to fire off several bullets at once at maximum velocity, like a miniature machine-gun.

"I can hear something", said Hillyard "That's Lonts screaming I swear it!"

"Come on", said Ransey, having finished programming the multi-charger "Let's get the bastards".

When they entered the room it was to find Lonts dodging about like a wild animal, evading the clutches of the old men, but still never making it to the door. Whenever one grabbed him he bit and kicked until they hurriedly released him again.

"Alright everyone stand still!" Ransey cried out "Anyone moves and I'll use this thing on the lot of you. Lonts, get your clothes and come over here".

Lonts stood, frozen with terror. Joby pushed his way through the old men, scooped up Lonts's discarded garments from the bed, and then dragged the boy over to the doorway.

"Get him out of here Joby", Ransey directed.

"What about you?" said Joby.

"I've got business to attend to, and it's best if Lonts doesn't see it".

Joby tugged Lonts out of the room. Hillyard hovered, uncertain what to do.

"So this is where the aged Satanists fled when the vampires were destroyed?" said Ransey "You keep your flimsy grip on life by donating bodies to your Lord Satan. I bet they get a bit thin on the ground here. No wonder you all look so old and feeble. But how many young travellers have you lured into this room?"

"With each sacrifice Satan's spirit gets stronger", said Brenfar "One day he will walk again. We will raise the body of Angel and..."

"Not if I can help it you won't", said Kieran, suddenly appearing next to Ransey.

The old men shrank back against the far wall.

"I thought it was only the vampires did that", said Kieran "Anyway, has it never occurred to you jerks that Angel might not want resurrecting? He told me when I last saw him that he had no wish to continue, he was tired of destruction".

"Don't listen to him!" Brenfar screamed at the old men. Suddenly he lunged violently at Kieran. Without hesitation Ransey pumped a volley of bullets into his chest, causing his torso to disappear under a welter of blood and innards. Brenfar rocked on the balls of his feet for some moments, like a grotesque children's toy that had just been wound up. After he had fallen there was an unnatural silence in the room.

Hillyard helped Kieran to tie the old men and the eunuch together, back-to-back, and then united them as one to a length of high tungsten rope (also gleaned from Brenfar's office) to a hook in the ceiling. This was undoubtedly what their victims had been hung from whilst the Devil-worshippers butchered them. The three doors between them and the outside world were then double-locked.

"We can't just leave 'em to rot though", said Hillyard "Or can we?"

"They were going to sacrifice Lonts to prolong their miserable lives", said Kieran "Just like they've probably done to every young person that has had the sheer bad luck to stumble into this place. They should have all been dead years ago, but they kept going out of sheer greed. It wasn't even a love of life that kept them coming back for more, just a resentment that anyone else should come along and have it instead. So they sacrificed the lives of young men in the belief that it would keep them alive".

"It seems to have worked".

"Could have, or it could have all been the power of suggestion, like the hex on Adam. Either way it's pretty powerful. Yet more destruction", Kieran sighed "The followers of Angel. After everything they've done, I don't much care what happens to them. They can have their precious life, what good it'll do them now. Here endeth the lesson".

"Have you seen anything of Brenfar this morning?" asked the barman, in a disgruntled fashion "I've been trying to ring through to his office for hours, and I just get a Not Receiving signal".

"There's been a problem", said Ransey "Amongst the waxworks ... I mean the guests. It's kept him a bit preoccupied".

"I'd go and check myself", said the barman "But I'm not allowed in there, or any pat of the rock come to that. The only time I went in he went mad at me. Don't know why, it's not as if I don't know what goes on. But he's a fanatic when it comes to secrecy is Brenfar. Don't trust anyone".

"You know about the customers that disappeared?" said Joby.

"Course I do. I alert him when one comes in. That's why he demanded to see you lot as soon as you arrived".

"And so that wasn't because Kieran is the Vanquisher then?" said Ransey.

"No. Brenfar may have recognised him straight away, but I didn't. Or at least I didn't want to, see? I don't believe Our Lord was defeated by him", said the barman "Only temporarily put out of action, earthed at the lighthouse. All we have to do is resurrect Angel again, at an appropriate time when the Devil can get in his body as he did before. Or at least that's what Brenfar tells me anyway".

"Is he thick or is he thick!" said Joby, as he tramped with Ransey and Hillyard back across the compound in the dusk "He must swallow everything Brenfar told him as though it's Gospel".

"Don't knock it", said Ransey "It works to our advantage. If the rest of the staff are as dumb as him, and from what I've seen of them it very much looks that way, we can be out of here and gone before it's even occurred to them that Brenfar and all his ancient guests have disappeared".

"Talking of escaping", said Hillyard "I'm going to sort out a wagon and a couple of horses. It'll be best if we can start travelling tonight".

Adam despatched Kieran and Lonts to help Hillyard sort out the new transport, in order that he could talk alone with Ransey in his bungalow.

"I feel like I've been summoned to see the Chief Elder", said Ransey, standing in the bathroom doorway whilst Adam walked around tiredly, filling up water bottles "I hope you feel up to travelling".

"I'm fine", said Adam "Just a bit lacking in energy. I've heard about everything that happened, and I want to thank you for saving Patsy and Lonts".

"There's no need to be so formal".

"I think there is", said Adam "You see, I feel I don't know you anymore Ransey".

"What are you talking about Adam?"

"Where the hell did a mousy-haired bespectacled accountant learn to shoot in cold blood like that?"

"Would you rather I'd stood aside and let the bastards have their way?"

"Of course not, but I want to know who you really are".

"You know who I really am. I've lived with you for the past year-and-a-half! Do you think I'd have kept any secrets from all of you whilst we were living on the island?"

"Oh sleepers did that sort of thing all the time", said Adam "They could live a fake life for years, and fool everyone into trusting them".

"And you think that's what I am? A sleeper? That all this time I've been travelling with you, living with you, almost dying with you for crying out loud, that I was really spying for Gabriel!"

"Are you?"

"No I am not. I'm on your side. I ran away from Gabriel to work for Kieran. Just because I'm a dab hand with a gun doesn't necessarily make me evil. I've never lied to you. I've never so much as once tried to harm any of you, and I'm not likely to start now".

"You are a bit of a mystery to us though".

"You lot are all a fucking mystery to me", said Ransey "Has it never occurred to you that I was risking a lot chucking in my towel with you, particularly as two of my former colleagues died after doing so?"

"Alright", said Adam "I accept that you've never lied to us, but there are some things you just haven't told us, isn't that so?"

"I wasn't always just an accountant".

"Now we're getting to it".

"In my teens I was one of a small band of men who were being groomed by the Ministry as ..." Ransey blushed "As professional assassins".

"To assassinate what?" Adam exclaimed "A killer attack of computer bugs!"

"I was chosen precisely because I did look so unlikely", said Ransey "After all, if you want someone to find out information, track someone, and then kill them, you don't want some seven-foot thug with grazes on his knuckles from where he's been walking. It'd look too obvious".

"Who were you tracking?"

"Before Kieran appeared on the scene, the Ministry were desperate to get rid of the vampires. They tried just about everything to destroy the bastards. But in those days it was believed there were moles working from inside the Ministry, passing classified information to the vampires that the government badly wanted to keep from them. Such as finding a vaccine for the Virus that kind of thing. It was my job to find out who these moles were and eliminate them".

"And did you?"

"All except the real bastard we were trailing for years. Tomce. Who I believe you met".

"Yes we did have that pleasure".

"At the same time all this was going on I was also working for Gabriel. But purely as his accountant. Occasionally I passed information to the Ministry about his business dealings, but that was it. The real important stuff, such as what Gabriel got up to at Mundaba Heights, he kept too close to his chest".

"So you have been trained to kill? In cold blood?"

"It's not quite as simple as that. I'm not a psychopath. I don't get pleasure out of it, and I don't kill for the sake of it. I have to truly believe I'm ridding the world of dross to do it".

"Plenty of serial-killers have mistakenly believed that too".

"I'm not a serial-killer, whatever you may think", said Ransey "And I am on your side".

"You don't know how relieved I am to hear you say that".

The bar never shut, but they knew the fat barman usually lay down on one of the ripped benches for a cat-nap at around three a.m. They knew this because he tended to tell customers about it at great length, to illustrate how hard he worked. So, at three a.m. they stole out of the resort with a wagon pulled by one horse, whilst Kieran rode the spare one. They had muffled the hooves to avoid any confrontation with whoever else might still be at large in the resort, and only paused to unmuffle them several miles up the road.

On their way they had passed a nomad walking in the opposite direction. He ignored their greeting and carried on walking, his head and face swathed in scarves against the cold desert night air.

"Spooky character", said Joby "Perhaps he's been out in the desert so long he doesn't trust anyone".

"Well at least if he's heading for the bar he should be safe there now", said Kieran.

"Hope so", said Joby "As long as no one lets the waxworks out".

From the horizon the cowled figure turned and stared back along the road he had just walked. He stood and watched as the wagon moved onwards, as though it was going to disappear into the huge orange moon that overhung them all. He smiled beneath his scarf. He could wait.

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