Saturday, 4 December 2010

Episode 67

It was the smell of coffee that finally snapped everything back into focus for Harold. Prada had just brought a pot into the living room to refill the cups of India and Mr Teeth, who had been watching Harold's recovery.

"Welcome back, old shoe," murmured Teatime, "Glad you could join us at last."

Ignoring the little monkey's sarcasm, Harold looked around the well-appointed room in some surprise. "How'd I get here?" he asked, "Last thing I remember was being near Box's friend's house – with you." he pointed at India. "Then everything went very strange."

"Strange, how?" asked India, pen poised over notebook. Othello would never forgive her if she didn't get all this down. He and Mercury had taken the car and headed off to the hospital to see Box.

"One minute everything was normal, then all of a sudden, everything just went dark and I couldn't move or see or anything, and I became really slow."


"Yeah, I imagine it would be like what you humans call tiredness, but magnified – very peculiar. I couldn't gather my thoughts or focus on anything. Anyway, what happened? How did we end up back here?"

Between them, India and Teatime filled him in on what had happened.

"So, I must have just wandered into this field thing that Box was talking about." he shook his head, "No wonder they were able to capture Baron Samedi and the others – with a thing like that it would be so easy."

"They must have been expecting to find a demon at the house," said Mr Teeth, who had kept quiet up till that moment, "else why would they have switched on their field when they got there?"

"How did they even know to go to that house?" asked Prada, "We've haven't told anybody about it. In point of fact we didn't know it existed ourselves until today."

"Maybe they found you the same way I did," replied Mr Teeth, "or at least the company I hired did, at any rate. Maybe they just followed your car and watched the house for a while."

"Let's hope it was something like that," said India, "because otherwise it means our traitor is a bit closer to home than we thought."


RolexBoy's computer pinged softly, alerting him to incoming email. He glanced casually around the room to ensure that nobody was watching him. Nobody was, so he opened the message and read quickly:

No specimen found at the address. Appears that the specimen and the OGS agents were in process of clearing out of there. Only Box was still present. He is now at Mercy Hospital. Flowers is there on damage limitation.

RolexBoy deleted the message with an irritated click of his mouse.

This was not good news: if Agent Mercury and his merry band were still on the loose, there was still a chance they could find out what was really going on. Find out and interfere. RolexBoy had no doubt that they would never understand in a million years what critical and ground-breaking work was being done.  No, they'd shut down the project before it was properly finished, thereby unwittingly depriving the world of the most beneficial scientific advance in its entire history.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Episode 66

Dr Flowers looked down at the patient in room 22b, his bald, brown head dark against the snowy whiteness of the pillows. He was still pretty drowsy after his surgery, which was to be expected. She flipped through his chart, running a practised eye over the scribbled notes and jotted numbers. How many times had she done that in her career, she wondered. She dropped the chart back into its holder at the foot of the bed and the noise caused the patient to open his eyes and stare at her blearily.

“Hello,” she said in her best bedside voice, “I’m Doctor – “ she panicked for a moment as she suddenly realised it would be stupid to used her real name. She cast around the room for inspiration but ‘electrical outlet’ or ‘IV stand’ were not going to be good choices. “Prosperity Cane,” the name of her old Gym teacher rushed into her head to save the day.

“Hmph?” said the patient thickly, smacking his lips and pulling an irritated face.

“Here,” Flowers pressed a glass of water to his lips, “Drink this and wash it round your mouth. We always give patients undergoing surgery drugs to dry up their secretions, so you won’t be able to salivate properly for a few hours, I’m afraid. Still,” she went on brightly, “at least it’s not like the old days when we just used to chloroform people and hope for the best.”

Box slurped the water gratefully. His mouth had felt cottony and his tongue felt about twice the proper size.

“Thanks,” he croaked, “Needed that.”

Flowers replaced the glass on the cabinet beside the bed and took Box’s hand. She turned it over to expose the back of it where the surgical team had conveniently left a canula in place in case emergency drugs needed to be administered post-operatively.

Reaching out, she picked up the syringe she had prepared earlier and inserted its needle into the canula.
“I’m just going to give you a little something for the pain,” she lied soothingly, as she pressed the plunger.


The late afternoon sun slanted through one of the open swiss-cheese windows and the mildest of breezes carried in with it a heady, incense-like mix of scents from the preponderance of exotic flora in Mr Teeth’s garden.

Harold was sitting on one of Mr Teeth’s sofas, still looking somewhat bewildered, although much more ‘with it’ than he had been. Teatime was still speaking to him in urgent Infernal. Phrases which sounded like ‘pastiche’, ‘curlew’ and ‘chopped liver’ surfaced occasionally in the rapid river of the little monkey’s words. Across the room, India listened with some interest, even though she could not understand a word of Infernal – no human could, since demons were not in the business of giving language lessons. One sound did pop up time and time again, though – Azuriel. She jotted it down in her notebook. She couldn’t be certain of course, but she was pretty sure that this was the demon’s actual name. What luck to have over heard it.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Episode 65

Despite the heat of the day, Agent India suddenly felt rather chilly. Her knowledge of demonkind was admittedly still rather limited as yet, but even so, she had never heard of anything like this happening before. Demons never simply stopped. On Harold’s shoulder, Teatime was still worriedly prodding and poking him in a vain attempt to stir up any kind of response, but it was as if some wicked witch had cast a spell and frozen Harold where he stood.

She fished in her pocket for her phone to call Mercury. Before she could dial the number, however, the phone rang and it was Mercury on the line.

“Oh, thank goodness!” exclaimed India, “I was just going to call you. We’re at-“

“Just a minute,” interrupted Mercury, “Where are you?”

“At Box’s friend’s house, why?”

“We’ve just had a call from Box. He’s in the hospital. Some people came to the house and he got shot getting away from them. They were in a white truck.”

“There’s a white truck here now,” said India, suddenly feeling her courage wobble the tiniest bit. Guns. Again.

“Are they aware of you?” Mercury’s voice was sharp, urgent.

“I don’t think so,” she replied, “We’re in the little street at the back of the house – I don’t think they could see us from where they are.”

“OK, you need to get out of there. Now!”

“Erm, that’s what I was calling about. Something’s happened to the demon. It’s just frozen in place. It’s like it's become a statue or something.”

“What about the monkey?”

India glanced over to see Teatime still fussing over Harold.

“He’s not affected so far as I can see, but doesn’t seem to understand it any more than I do.”

“Hmm,” said Mercury, “Box said the people in the white truck said something about a ‘field’ preventing escapes. I guess that’s what he must have meant.”

“Oh, no, I hope that doesn’t mean they know we’re here.” Said India, feeling her heart speeding up.


The rear door to the Infinity Recycling truck swung open and Moira Ibbotson poked her head in.

“OK, we’re clearing out. Might as well shut down.”

Conrad Black, who had been running the field generator, grunted acknowledgement. He would be the first to admit that his people skills were rudimentary at best, but he didn’t care: it was electronics he was passionate about, and this hunk of complex circuitry in particular. He had designed a large part of it and built most of it himself. It had worked flawlessly every time. He was as proud of it as a parent would be of a gifted child.

He gave the case a little pad as the shutdown sequence started. He turned away from the console to tidy away his notes and, as he did so, he thought he saw a faint flicker right on the edge of the display showing the field’s area of effect. Frowning, he turned back to look properly, but by then the shutdown had completed and the screen was dark.

He drummed his fingers on the console for a few moments, undecided. Should he start the machinery back up or not? On the one hand, it would be a waste of time if there had been nothing there. On the other, ff there had been a demon there and he missed it just because he couldn’t be bothered to check…

Signing, he began the startup sequence: detectors first, then the field generator itself.


Somehow India had expected Harold to weigh less than a real person. His vessel, after all, was not made of flesh and blood, but he weighed more or less what you’d expect a six-foot tall human male to weigh, worse luck.

“This is utterly ludicrous,” she muttered angrily. It was easy for Mercury to say that she had to try and get the demon out of the field’s area of effect, but it wasn’t him who was puffing and panting and losing all dignity trying to do it, was it?

She had initially tried to wrap her arms about Harold’s body just under his armpits, lean his inert form over at an angle and drag him along backwards, but she had lost her grip and he had toppled to the ground.

A mean little part of had her hoped it hurt.

Now she found herself digging in her heels and dragging Harold along a bit at a time using two handfuls of his jacket. If anybody were to see them…

One foot, heave, two feet… How far would she have to - ?

Suddenly, Harold thrashed and cried out, causing India to let go of him and fall backwards hard onto her backside.

In a flash, Harold was on his feet, looking around wildly, a glassy, panic-stricken look on his face. He spotted India sitting on the ground but his eyes flicked away from her without registering anything, he clearly did not know who she was. He was about to bolt, but Teatime sprang onto his shoulder and started talking urgently to him in rapid Infernal. India scrambled to her feet, grabbed Harold’s arm and started pulling him along the street towards where the car was parked.

“Come on!” she urged, “We have to go. Right now!”


Black looked at the screen. Nothing. Not a flicker. Must just have been his imagination or maybe just a random blip. Either way, there was nothing there now. He shut down the machine once more, satisfied that at least he’d checked properly. He opened a little sliding hatch, allowing him to talk to the two others in the front of the truck.

“… it was a total free for all, cows everywhere. Ruined the wedding completely.” Church was in the middle of saying.

“All shut down back here,” Black reported.

“OK, thanks,” said Ibbotson, who was in the driver’s seat. She started the engine and the radio came on with the ignition. The sound of Fit as a Fiddle and Ready for Love filled the truck’s cabin. Black slid the hatch closed firmly, shutting out the noise. He had never understood what people got out of music. For all the pleasure he got from it, he might as well be listening to somebody read out the contents of the phone book or recipes for casserole. Pointless.

He felt the truck lurch into life and start moving off. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Episode 64

"Dr Holton here,"

"Hello, Sally, it's Evangeline Flowers here."

"Who? I'm sorry, the line's not very good. Can you speak up a bit?"

"It's Evangeline Flowers. Can you hear me now?"

"Yes, clear as a bell now. Shrimp? Is that really you? It's been ages!"

Dr Flowers winced. Trust Sally Holton to remember that old nickname. Still...

"Yes, I know, doesn't time just fly by when you're having fun."

"Oh, are we having fun then?" Dr Holton laughed, "I didn't get that memo. Anyway, what can your old Aunt Sally do for you?"

Trust her to remember that nickname too, thought Dr Flowers as she quickly marshalled her thoughts. Sally was as sharp as ever so it would need to be something credible. Ever since they had begun studying medicine together, Flowers had known Sally Holton to possess the twin drawbacks of being nobody's fool and of being extremely curious. She would have to tread carefully to get her help without too many awkward questions.

"Yeah, er, I was wondering if you could get me out of a bit of a hole, actually."


The lady detective, Charity Lambert, dressed in the tight-fitting leather jumpsuit she had sported on the cover of her latest adventure Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death was standing over his bed smiling down at him. In her hands were two empty bottles. He thought it was rather odd that she should be here given that a) he was in the hospital (at least he thought he was, he was no longer sure now), oh, and b) let's not forget the fact that she was a fictional character from the cheap trashy novels which were his secret guilty pleasure. Why on earth was she here? He gazed up at her, puzzled, as she leant down and opened her lusciously-painted lips to whisper something into his ear. Her voice was low, with a slightly husky quality. "Listen very carefully..." He strained to hear whatever it was she was about to impart to him, it was obviously important, maybe it was something to do with the bottles. "...I shall say this only once.."

Abruptly, she dissolved into pink fluffy clouds which cleared to reveal a nurse standing beside his bed.

"Mr Box," she said, "We're taking you down to surgery now."

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Episode 63

Dr Flowers tutted irritably as the phone rang, breaking her concentration. In her considered opinion, the telephone belonged to the category of human inventions which she earnestly wished she could live without. For one thing, its impertinent ringing always sounded so damned loud in her small office and she had never figured out how to turn down the volume. She snatched up the instrument.

"Flowers," she snapped.

"Dr Flowers, this is Haynes."


"There's been a bit of a problem,"

Here we go, she thought.

"Go on."

She listened as Haynes outlined the events that had taken place at the address RolexBoy has given them. There had been no demon present when the team had arrived. One of the people on RolexBoy's list had been there, but had fled and was now in Mercy hospital, having been injured leaving the scene.

Flowers sighed, if it wasn't one thing, it was another. First it was the uprooting of their entire operation to a more secure location, based on RolexBoy's dire predictions of discovery, now he had led them all on a wild goose-chase looking for demons which weren't there, and had exposed their operation anyway. Some 'special advisor to the project' he was turning out to be. She was momentarily at a loss for what to say.

"Where is everybody now?" she asked eventually/

"Church, Ibbotson and Black are at the house still, looking for any more information. Jones and Charter are at the hospital. Charter has managed to confirm the identity of the guy they followed there, Nathaniel Box. He's scheduled for surgery, apparently, so he won't be going anywhere for a while."

Flowers thought for a moment. "Did you say Mercy Hospital?"

"Yeah, Mercy."

"OK, tell Jones and Charter to stay put and wait for further instructions."

"What about the others?"

"Tell them to clear out when they're done."

Flowers replaced the handset and thought for a few moments. Mercy Hospital, Haynes had said. Interesting. She'd spent six years, nine months and eleven days of her life walking its fluorescent-lit wards and hallways (not that she was counting or anything). All may not be lost, after all. She flipped open her File-O-Fax, located a phone number and began to dial.


India stopped the car on Ostrich Egg Drive which led onto Goose Egg, where Box's friend's house was, and switched off the engine.

There was a short, rather defensive silence, which India broke.

"I suggest we get to the end of Goose Egg and check out the lie of the land from there. If it all looks ok, we can move in a bit closer."

Harold nodded, it sounded like a plan, and they both got out of the car.

Teatime proved his worth when they got to where Goose Egg and Ostrich Egg joined. There was a high hedge bordering the end property on Goose Egg which meant that they could not see into Goose Egg Drive itself without walking around the corner and thus possibly revealing themselves to anybody who might be lurking at the house..

"Why don't I climb to the top of that hedge for a quick recce," the little monkey suggested, as Harold and India stood debating what to do.

"Go for it," said Harold, "If there is anybody hanging around there, they almost certainly won't be looking out for a monkey."

Teatime leapt lightly from Harold's shoulder, and quickly and competently scaled the hedge, disappearing from view.

"He's a smart little monkey," said Harold, keen not to let the silence deepen into awkwardness.

"I suppose," India agreed noncommittally. As a child, she had been fascinated by how clever animals were after hearing some old professor giving a series of talks about it on National Public Radio. Of course, she knew perfectly well that Teatime wasn't just an ordinary monkey, that he'd been given an upgrade, as it were. In her opinion, therefore, he didn't really deserve any credit for his cleverness, unlike the dolphins and pigeons in the old professor's talks.

"Yes," continued Harold, "he really is a masterpiece of infernal engineering."

"I'm not sure 'masterpiece' is the word I'd use," replied India, dryly. "I think what was done to him was wrong. There are some things that shouldn't be meddled with."

"Well maybe so," replied Harold, "but some human scientists were about to do some serious meddling of their own, so you can hardly blame him for wanting to get away."

"I guess," India admitted.

At that moment, Teatime's head appeared, looking down on them from the hedge-top.

"There's a big white truck parked outside the house," he informed them. "There's no sign of Reverend Box, though, that I can see."

"I wonder if he's hiding in the house, waiting for the truck to go away." said Harold.

"Perhaps we should approach from the back and see if we can see anything."

They walked back along Ostrich Egg until they came across a little side road running parallel with Goose Egg Drive. They turned down it and were delighted to discover that the backyards of the houses on Goose Egg backed directly onto it, screened off by a high wooden fence.

"We should be about there I think," India said, stopping next to a section of fence. She tried to peer through the gaps in the planks, but could see nothing but foliage. "Would Mr Teatime care to do the honours, once more?" she asked.

"I expect he'll b–" Harold started to say, and stopped.

India turned to him questioningly.

Harold was standing completely still next to the fence, and had frozen in mid-sentence, his lips parted to say his next word. He was looking straight at her – or at least at where she had been standing before she had turned back to him. One of his hands was stretched out where he had evidently been about to reach out and touch the fence.

"What's going on?" said India, "Why has it stopped?"

"I have no idea," said Teatime in a worried voice.

"Demon?" said India, peering up into Harold's still face. "Hey! Come on!" She snapped her fingers in front of his eyes but he didn't so much as blink. "If this is one of your tricks.." she muttered.

"I really don't think it's any trick," said Teatime.

India jabbed Harold firmly in the chest with a finger. No reaction.

Teatime tugged sharply on a lock of his hair. No reaction.

"Come on, old button," he urged, "Now's not the time to fall asleep on the job."

But Harold simply stood there, the breeze ruffling his hair, as still and as lifeless as a statue.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Episode 62

India was glad that it was not a particularly long distance back to Box’s friend’s house, if it had been she was not sure her sanity would have held up. It was all very well for Mercury to say ‘take the demon with you’ but he had absolutely no idea what it felt like to be in close proximity to the thing for any length of time. It was like having an itch deep inside her brain that she could not scratch and it was driving her bananas.

As she drove along, she suddenly found herself remembering that ridiculous film You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and that (red-headed?) woman whose name she could never recall – where the two main characters hated each other at the office but fell in love over the internet. Now, what on earth had made her think of that? She gave the thought an irritated shove to the back of her mind – focus, India, focus!

For his part, Harold was glad to be out and about again and actually doing something – well, sort-of, anyway. Agent India had been the one actually tasked with looking for Reverend Box and he had been sent along, he suspected, to get him out from underfoot, as it were. He didn’t mind though, it was not like he had any devastating insights to offer or any master strategies that would solve the whole mystery. So far his only real use to the team had been as a door-opener of all things – oh, and an ad hoc bomb disposal operative. Actually, that last one was pretty cool, though he did say so himself. He smiled to himself as he stared out the window.

They were passing the construction site, so a sign proclaimed, of 64 luxury apartments with underground parking. A couple of cranes towered overhead, carefully tending their concrete nest. Always building things, these humans.

“I wonder why they call them apartments?” he said, by way of conversation.

India glanced at him and then back at the road.

“No idea,” she replied. “So you can live apart from everybody else in them, I suppose.”

“Pity they don’t build togetherments instead,” Harold said.

“I would have thought you’d relish the idea of humans all living apart in lonely misery.”

I certainly would,” piped up Teatime. “It’s no more than they deserve. Beastly creatures, most of them.”

“Well I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” declared Harold.

“Really?” India hauled on the steering wheel and made a right turn. “I thought the whole point of your existence was to increase the sum of human misery by any means possible.”

“Not at all,” replied Harold. He could answer this one with textbook accuracy, having heard it repeated many times by his fellow demons. “Our purpose is to distract mortals away from the light. Misery is often a by-product, of course, and it’s sometimes a tool, but it’s not the point of the exercise as such. We don’t hate humans, you know.” Actually, Harold knew, some demons did hate humans with a vengeance, but most regarded them as merely the material of their trade, like leather to a cobbler or iron to a blacksmith. A material to be worked on.

“Well excuse me if I don’t believe you,” sneered India, “ but it seems to me that, doing what you do, you can’t exactly have our best interests at heart, can you?”

“Hey, don’t blame me! I didn’t make the rules.”

“Ooh, now where have I heard that before?”

“It’s true, though!”

“If I may interrupt for just one moment what I’m sure is going to be a most fascinating discussion,” said Teatime loudly. “We are almost back at the house and we’ve seen no sign of Reverend Box. I suggest that, as we don’t know what has happened to him, we should park along here somewhere and approach the house cautiously, just in case.”


Box was drifting in and out of cosy cotton-wool land. At one point, he was sure he’d heard one of the nurses say something about a parachute, but there was no sign of one anywhere, so that couldn’t have been it. In the ER, they had cut his bike leathers off him to get at his injury (Darn, they’d been expensive!) and had dressed him in one of those stupid gowns with no back to them. Why’d they have to do that anyway? It was so undignified.

Box tried to focus. There was something important he should be doing. What had he been doing before ending up here?

Infinity Recycling! That was it! He needed to tell the others about the white van and the ‘field’ – whatever that was. He looked around him anxiously. Where had they put his phone?

Seeing him trying to struggle to a sitting position, a nurse came bustling over.

“Take it easy, Honey,” she said, pushing him gently but firmly back down into the pillow, “Just try to rest. Dr Morgan is just discussing your case with one of our surgeons. Looks like you’re going to need an operation on that leg. We won’t be long, I promise.”

“I need to make a call,” Box said. “Could you get me my phone, please?”

“Sure, Honey. Oh! Here’s Dr Morgan now.”

“Good afternoon, Mr Box!” Boomed the doctor with that brassy cheerfulness that medics all seem to employ around patients. He was a tall, greying man in his middle years, whose slightly protruding belly proclaimed him something of a stranger to hunger – or want, anyway. “Now let’s see about this leg of yours.” He continued, flipping the pages of Box’s chart. “ Our x-rays show that both of the bones in your lower leg have been badly damaged by the bullet – which is still in there, by the way – so we have no option but to operate and see if we can patch things up. I should warn you that there is a risk – a small one - that we might have to amputate if we can’t piece the bones back together. Dr Giordano will be performing the operation, though, and he’s a really first-rate surgeon. Nurse Hickey here will talk you through all the paperwork. Any questions?”

“How long am I likely to have to stay in hospital after the surgery?”

“At least a week, I’d think,” replied the doctor, “We have to make sure that everything settles in properly – we'd hate for you to come back in as a warrantee job, eh? Then you’ll be needing physical therapy for quite some time after that, I imagine. Now, I must get on.” With that, he turned and strode away. Box let his head fall back into the pillow.

This was terrible. He couldn’t afford to be out of the picture that long, but what choice did he have?

One thing was for sure, he needed to pass on what he’d found out as soon as possible.

“I really need to call and let my folks know what happened,” he said, “Can I have my phone now please?”


Across the street from the entrance to Mercy Hospital, two men sat in a white car.

“Yeah, Jackson winged him, but he got to the hospital before we could stop him and they’ve taken him inside.” One of the men explained. He was holding up his mobile so that its microphone could pick up both his and his companion’s voices and it was set on speakerphone so that they could both hear the woman on the other end.

“That’s not good.” said the woman, “Church didn’t get a look at him, so do we know who he is? Is he from RolexBoy’s list, even?”

“Well, he’s a little runty guy, he’s not black and he’s not a girl, so we’re going for him being Nathaniel Box.”

”OK,” said the woman, “Go in there and see if you can confirm it’s him while I find out what they want us to do about this mess. If they ask, tell the nurses you used to work with him or something.”

“OK, will do.” The man snapped the phone shut and turned to his companion. “Wait here while I go in.” he said, opening the car door and getting out.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Episode 61

“I hope Box gets here soon,” said Mercury, “I’m keen for us to get back to work, but I don’t want to start until everyone’s here.”

“I’ll call him,” said Othello. He dialled, listened for a while then hung up. “It’s gone to voicemail.”
“Maybe he’s on his way but can’t answer while he’s riding.” suggested India.

“Yeah, but I would have thought he’d be here by now, anyway.” said Othello.

“Maybe he got sidetracked by a garage sale on the way here or something,” joked Prada.

“Perhaps we should take the car and backtrack the route, see if we can see him.” Said India.

“Good idea,” said Mercury, “You drive, and you might as well take the demon with you, seeing as its at a loose end.”

Harold’s face lit up while Mercury’s suggestion had the exact opposite effect on India, making their two faces look like Comedy and Tragedy. Wisely, though, India didn’t say anything as Othello tossed her the car keys.


A crowded vegetable market. Everybody towering over him and no sign of Mommy in the throngs of people pushing past him without so much as a downward glance. The panic welling up and the hot, stinging tears starting. His mouth opening to begin bawling.

A taste of honey, sweet on the tongue. Abigail’s slim brown hands offering him another helping of honeycomb, fresh from the hive..

A lynx, lying in the dappled shadows, tail twitching lazily, glutted and sleepy after a kill.

The buzz of summer insects floating on the still air.

Himself, shaking and chilled to the bone, dragging himself over the frozen assault course under a lead-coloured sky which promised yet more snow, while Sgt McAllister yelled himself hoarse, letting him and everybody else in the group know in no uncertain terms that he was the single most useless maggot of a cadet it had ever been his displeasure to train.

The sudden silver flash of a fish just below the surface of the lake. His dad, showing him how to catch them, teaching him how to bait the hook and send the line far, far out over the water.

"Sir?" the mellow, husky voice broke into this dream, scattering lake, fish and dad. "Sir? Can you hear me? Can you squeeze my hand? That’s good, that’s very good . Can you open your eyes for me please?”

Box opened his eyes then quickly squeezed them shut against the harsh white light. All around him he could hear the noise of people talking, machines beeping, doors banging and general hustle and bustle.

The pain in his leg was now just a dull throb, its power to distract his attention marginal at best. His head felt like it was stuffed full of warm cotton wool and he floated in pleasant drowsiness . They must have given him something for the pain - a pretty powerful something if the vividness of the dreams was anything to go by. Box dimly remembered riding the bike into the hospital parking lot. He’d tried to stop gracefully near the entrance to the ER, but in had ended up slowing right down and pretty much just falling over sideways, unable to dismount. Still, he had reached the shelter of the hospital and they had taken him in, away from Infinity Recycling – assuming it was them who had been following in the white car.

He was safe for the moment then.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Episode 60

Good evening Campers, it's the rather late edition of the weekly wordzzle.
The agents and Harold let themselves into Mr Teeth’s house.

Othello gave a softly appreciative whistle upon surveying the interior with its cool white walls, blond wood and abstract paintings.

“The man certainly does have taste,” he said, shaking his head wonderingly.

“Are you kidding?” said Prada, scornfully, “These pictures look like they were done by a monkey – no offence, Mr Teatime.”

“None taken,” replied Teatime, “I would venture the same opinion myself. I mean to say, just look at that one over there, all bluey-grey splodges. What on earth is all that about?”

“That’s ‘Bullet the Ocean by Tom Windermere, you philistines!” said Othello, walking over to the picture.

“One of his early pieces. He was very talented.”

“Was?” asked Prada, “Was? Don’t say he died a tragic death, too! What is it with these creative types always dropping off their perches early.”

“The brightest lights burn the shortest, I guess,” said Othello. Prada made a rude noise.

“Well, he should have lived to be a hundred then, looking at this.”

“Art doesn’t have to be photographically representational, you know,” Othello began to reply with some heat, but all the chatter was cut short as the house’s front door swung open and Mr Teeth came in.

He showed them all to a large, airy room that would serve them as an office for the duration.

“Let me just clear away this junk,” he said, and began sweeping bits and pieces – a broken pencil, a candy bar wrapper or several, some screwed-up sticky notes, bent paper clips and whatnot – that littered the two large oak desks into a waste bin.

“We got wireless networking here,” he continued, “Passphrase is ‘Steamy Windows’ and when Othello raised an eyebrow, he added “Don’t ask!”

“Thanks,” said Mercury, and they began to set up.

The room was well-equipped. Apart from the desks and chairs, there was a whiteboard and dry-wipe markers, a printer/copier and one of those phones with an external speaker for conference-calls.

Harold felt a little bit left out as he was not needed in any capacity at this point: Othello was setting up his laptop at one of the desks while Mercury was writing notes on the whiteboard. India and Prada were assisting him, adding material from their own notebooks. Bored, he wandered over to the printer/copier and started to press buttons for something to do. The machine emitted a series of protesting bleeps.

“Cut that out!” snapped India, “You’ll break it.”

“Sorry,” said Harold, giving the machine an apologetic pat. “Human technology fascinates me – actually, I say ‘human’, but I’m pretty sure some of my kind had a hand in designing these things.”

“I can believe it.” Said Mr Teeth, coming into the room. “Damn thing’s given me nothing but grief since I got it,” He set down his own laptop on the other desk. “One of these days I’m gonna take it out back and shoot it, I swear.”

Mercury glanced at his watch.

“I wonder what’s keeping Box.” He said, “He should be here by now.”


Box almost lost control of the bike as pain exploded in his right leg. So they hadn’t missed, after all! Well that confirmed it – as if it needed confirming - the so-called Infinity Recycling people were definitely NOT legit.

He wrestled the veering machine back onto a straight course, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with an oncoming truck, which blared its horn at him. He risked a quick glance down at his leg. It didn’t look too bad down there – he could see a hole torn in the calf of his boot where whatever they had fired at him had gone in and there didn’t seem to be much blood as yet. Maybe the damage wasn’t too severe, just very painful.

An intersection was coming up. Carefully, Box moved his foot to see if he could still change gear, and almost lost control once more as even the tentative pressure he had applied to the gear shifter caused the pain to double. Suddenly, he felt sick and could feel a cold sweat breaking out all over. Shock. This was not good. Not good at all. He should stop before he had an accident. Fortunately, there was no other traffic at the intersection and he was able to sail straight through.

He glanced in his mirror. Was that white car following him? He tried to remember the make of the car that had stopped outside the house, but couldn’t – he’d only seen it for a few moments anyway. Ok, if the car was from Infinity, he couldn’t afford to stop or they’d catch him for sure and they were playing for keeps, that much was obvious. Neither could he just ride to Mr Jackson’s house, the whole idea of moving there was to throw RolexBoy et al off their trail so he couldn’t risk them following him there.

What to do, what to do. He was beginning to feel dizzy and lightheaded.  If he didn’t do something soon, all decisions would be taken out of his hands when he fell off the bike – as seemed more and more likely.

He made a left.

The white car turned in after him.

He made a right.

The white car followed him.

“Zeus’s Golden Gonads.” He breathed. “Gimme a break!”

There was only one thing for it. There’d be all kinds of awkward questions of course, but the way things were going, it was the only sane choice.

He made another right and headed downtown.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Episode 59

A whole squadron of butterflies was scrambling in the aerodrome of Box's stomach – it had been a long time since he'd been involved in all this cloak and dagger nonsense on a regular basis. He heard the Infinity Recycling man's hand rattle the handle of the French doors, groping for the key which he, Box, had foolishly left in the lock. The man would be inside the house in moments. Box remembered one of his old partners - Agent Solitaire, a neurotic chatter box of a man – telling him that the best defence is not to be there.

Sound advice.

Box looked up from where he was crouching behind the kitchen counter. The door from the kitchen to the garage was about ten feet away. Quietly and quickly, he began to move towards the door, keeping an eye on the kitchen window to ensure that the woman that had rung the front door bell didn't see him moving and raise the alarm.

As he dodged through the garage door, he heard the squeak of the French doors opening. He'd not had a moment to waste then. He carefully, oh-so carefully, eased the door so that it was nearly, but not completely closed, and listened.

He heard the man walk from the living room into the hall, straight past the kitchen door and then there came the sound of the front door opening.

"Doesn't seem to be anybody here but us chickens," said the man, and Box heard the woman walk into the house.

"Doesn't mean there isn't, Church," she replied, ignoring his tongue-in-cheek manner. "RolexBoy's info is usually good and these things are capable of hiding in plain sight if it suits them. With the field up, it can't get away, so all we have to do is find it. Here, take this and do the downstairs and I'll do the upstairs."

What 'this' was, Box couldn't see, of course, but soon he could hear Church moving around the living room and every now and then there was an electronic beep. The woman had trotted up the stairs and Box could hear her moving around up there, too. Were they using some kind of scanning device? If so, what were they scanning for? And what was this 'field' the woman had mentioned?

Box could feel his heart pounding. It wouldn't take long for Church to work his way round the living room and kitchen. If he was to make his escape, it would have to be soon.

The bike was parked where he'd left it, facing towards the back of the garage, which was awkward. If he was going to ride it out the front, he would have to turn it around, which would take precious time. Then there was the garage door itself. He had the remote control in his pocket, but the door would take a while to open enough for him to get out and that would also give plenty of warning to the Infinity Recycling people that something was up.

He glanced around the garage. Its shelves were a typical dumping ground of domestic bric-a-brac: candles, matches, half-used tins of paint, barbecue charcoal, lighter fluid, rags, an old car battery, a tow-rope. For a moment, Box considered using some of the combustibles to create a diversion, but quickly dismissed the idea as too dangerous (plus the house belonged to a friend, after all). Then his eye fell on something he had not noticed before. A hand-lettered placard bearing the slogan 'Save Our Schools' was leaning up against... another door! The garage had a door into the back yard, then.

Box quickly moved the placard out of the way. The door looked just about wide enough. He tried the door handle. Locked. Box scanned around desperately. There, on the wall, a key hanging on a nail. Box grabbed it and fitted it quickly into the lock. At first it seemed to be stuck but with a grunt, Box managed to get it to turn. He shouldered the door open and grabbed the handlebars of the bike to wheel it out.

At that moment, the door from the kitchen opened and Church stepped through. His eyes were fixed on some kind of hand-held device so it took a moment for Box's presence in the garage to register.

A moment was all Box needed.

A half-used tin of 'Hint of Peach' completed its short ballistic trajectory and struck Church cleanly in the face. Startled, dazed and in pain, he staggered backwards with a roar. Crashing into the shelves behind him, he managed to dislodge their contents which showered down on him in an impressive display which, if someone had filmed it, would have been a sure fire hit on YouTube.

Not waiting around to admire his handiwork, Box quickly lugged the bike out through the door. Once outside, he jumped aboard, fired it up and with a roar was quickly round the side of the house and heading down the drive to the road.

In the bike's mirrors, he saw the doors of the big white Infinity Recycling truck fly open and a couple of white overall-clad figures leap out. One of then seemed to be pointing something at him, but they were too late by a country mile.

He grinned. Ha! Still a little life in the old dog yet, then!

He was still grinning when the pain hit.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Episode 58

Agents Mercury, Othello and Prada, along with Harold and Teatime stood outside the entrance to Mr Teeth’s palatial home. India had gone over to the ornamental pool to fish for the keys.

“Who would have thought Mr Jackson would have such refined tastes,” said Othello, casting an appreciative eye over the bold pink lines of the house with its randomly placed circular Swiss-cheese-hole windows. “If I’m not mistaken, this is the work of Nina Roden.”

“Who?” asked Prada.

“Nina Roden,” replied Othello, “An English architect, worked out of Los Angeles. She liked to design buildings that look ‘edible’. She did the McCleod Higher Education Centre .”

“I don’t think I know it,” said Prada,

“The Chocolate Bar?” Othello prompted.

“Oh, right! That one!” laughed Prada, “I’d say she succeeded there – it really does look kind of yummy.”

“Yeah,” sighed Othello, “Pity she didn’t live to see it finished. She died of a brain tumour a couple of years back. Nobody even knew she had it: one day she was running round like the Energizer Bunny, the next – “ he made a gesture of hopelessness. “She left a lot of really exciting buildings behind, though. I guess they’re her eulogy in a way.”

“It must be nice to leave behind something lasting.” Said Prada, thoughtfully, “I wonder what people’ll say about me when I’m gone, nothing extra-special, I bet. My parents think I’m in the noble and estimable profession of Day Trading , for goodness sake! Hardly the stuff of legend!”

“You’ve never told them what you do?” said Othello.

“Are you kidding?” laughed Prada, “They’d freak out. They don’t believe in demons or anything like that. Listen, when all my kindergarten friends were getting bedtime stories full of magic elves, dragons and princesses, my dad would send me off to sleep with the Wall Street Journal!”

“That must have been awful,” said Mercury, appalled.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Prada brightly, “I made my first million on the stock exchange before I was eighteen.”

Just then, India returned with a dripping plastic bag containing the house keys. She stopped in her tracks at the sight of the stunned looks on the faces of everyone but Prada, who was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“OK,” she said eagerly, “What’d I miss?”

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Episode 57

It did not take long for Mercury, India, Othello and Prada to get their stuff together, each had only brought with them an overnight bag with a change of clothes and some toiletries, as was usual when out on a mission. Harold had only Teatime and his rucksack, and Box had just a single rucksack of his own.

“You go on ahead,” Box said to the others, “I just need to straighten the place up a bit, leave it nice and tidy.”

The others climbed into the OGS car and set off.

Box went quickly from room to room, humming to himself, making sure there was no mess anywhere. Satisfied, he returned to the kitchen and filled the sink with hot water to wash the few cups and plates that had been used. Someone had left an empty can on the counter – McKinleys Classic Carrot Soup. The label showed a stereotyped fierce-looking Scotsman (‘Auld’ Jock McKinley, himself, apparently), complete with red hair, improbably bushy eyebrows, bagpipes and kilt, against a backdrop of green fields and grey mountains. Shaking his head at the tacky ways of marketing types, Box dropped it into the trash. The soup had probably been manufactured in that well-known outpost of Scotland known as Mexico.

The washing up completed, Box surveyed the kitchen: all evidence of occupation had been cleared away. He scribbled a quick note of thanks to the house’s owner on the little message pad next to the phone. Right, time to get moving, he told himself. He shrugged himself into his bike jacket, donned his rucksack, and picked up his helmet and keys. As he did so, however, a movement out in the street caught his eye.

A white truck had just parked outside. Against the greys and browns of the houses opposite, it stood out like a polar bear in a coal cellar. Behind it, a car in the same company livery – Infinity Recycling Inc – also pulled up and stopped.

A pleasant-looking blonde woman and a young man got out of the car and started up the drive towards the house.


“You just wait till you see Mr Jackson’s place,” said Harold, as Mercury piloted the car through the afternoon traffic. “It’s got everything: a gym, a pool, a grand piano even, although I suspect nobody ever plays it, which is a crime in my book.”

“So, he cleared his busy diary to take you on a guided tour, did he?” said Prada, somewhat sceptically.

“No,” laughed Harold, “Some of the doors were open and you’d have to be blind not to have seen the stuff he’s got. State-of-the-art sound system, plasma TV”

“The Devil looks after his own, I suppose,” said Othello.

“Not so’s you’d notice,” replied Harold, wryly.

Othello raised an eyebrow, “Really? So why’d you side with him then?” The sudden turn in the conversation caught Harold off-balance.

“I didn’t, not really.’ He sighed, not even remotely prepared to pour out his life story to these humans. “It’s complicated, and now isn’t really the time…”

Othello, clearly disappointed that more information was not forthcoming, nevertheless took the hint and turned back to face the front.

Agent India stared out the window at the passing cars and lorries, her expression neutral. If the demon had been telling the truth about not really siding with the Devil, then how come it had wound up in the Basement with all the other Fallen?


Box heard the man and woman’s footsteps approach, and the doorbell sounded its cheesy rendition of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. He had crouched down behind the kitchen counter where he could not be seen should the mysterious callers decide to try peeking in at the window. His bike was still in the garage and the OGS car had gone. There was nothing to suggest that the house was anything but empty. With any luck, they would see that and go away.

The doorbell sounded again. By Zeus’s ears, they’re persistent, thought Box. There’s nobody here but us chickens…nobody here at all.

He heard the woman’s voice ordering the young man to try round the back. Box glanced into the living room. He had locked the French doors, hadn’t he? He was pretty sure he had. He hoped he had. He didn’t have time to check, the young man would be reaching the back of the house about now. Suddenly, the handle on the French door rattled as the man tried it – rattled, and held!

Box allowed the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding to escape with a quiet hiss. He had locked it then.

The sound of smashing glass took him completely by surprise.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Episode 56

“Mr Jackson, we’d like to take you up on your offer – or at least some of it anyway,” said Mercury.

“OK,” rumbled the big man, “What do you need?”

“We’d like a place to work from, somewhere private where we won’t be disturbed – preferably with an internet connection.”

Mr Teeth produced a small note book and began writing. “Anything else?”

“That’s it for now, but we might need an extra car later, maybe if that’s alright.”

“OK, then,” Mr teeth said, tearing a page out of the notebook and holding it out to Mercury, “Go to this address, It’s my own place and it’s plenty big enough for all of us. Now I have some business to attend to, so I’ll meet you there when I’m done in about an hour. Key’s in a plastic bag in the pond – look for the mermaid statue.”

“OK ,” said Mercury , “and thanks, your help is much appreciated.”

Mr Teeth grunted acknowledgement and left.

“So, not only are we working with demons, we’ve taken up with criminals now as well?” India had been against accepting Mr Teeth’s help from the start
“Agent India,” said Mercury. There was just a hint of a snap in his voice and his use of her formal title caused her mouth to shut with an almost audible snap. “We’ve been through this and, as squad leader, I am making this decision and I will take responsibility for it.” He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Look, we’re all still tired. Let’s get packed up and get out of here as soon as we can.”

“Ooh, I think your charm must be working at last, old sock,” whispered Teatime gleefully, “You apparently rank slightly above the local criminal fraternity now – a step up, if I’m any judge.”

“Well, it had to happen sooner or later,” grinned Harold. “What with me being so irresistible and all.”


Dr Evangeline Flowers quickly scanned the document Haynes was holding out to her and scrawled her signature on the bottom. She sighed as he took the clipboard back and walked away. Was this what her life had come to? Scribbling on documents and organising the movement of boxes, crates and tanks?

It hadn’t always been like this, of course. She’d never been a ‘sugar and spice, all things nice’ kind of girl – had only ever wanted to be a neurosurgeon like her beloved father. She’d done well enough at med school to get an internship in a good teaching hospital – she’d even made Resident there and was looking at Attending in a couple of years, hospital politics permitting.

Then she’d slipped over on – of all the stupid things - some mixed nuts she’d spilt in her own kitchen, and had broken her arm, broken it badly enough to cause permanent nerve damage, leaving her right hand just a bit less sensitive and precise than the left. Not a big injury and, for anyone else, not even an inconvenience, really, but it was an earthquake of magnitude ten toppling the bricks and mortar of her ambition. Unable to bear the thought of having to start over in some other specialism, she’d turned to research. She’d done well at that too, and had found it fascinating in its own way - there were, after all, still plenty of diseases out there that needed to be conquered or at least understood properly.

She hadn’t been able to believe her luck when she’d got the call. Her own lab, her own staff and a budget she’d only been able to dream of before. All this to do pure research into why certain people had certain abilities and how they might be replicated technologically. That’s what they had told her, anyway.

And it was sort of true, she supposed. She cast a practised eye over the row of blinking lights on the side of tank three – all nominal.

Only the ’people’ hadn’t exactly been people.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Episode 55

To her annoyance, Agent India’s teeth were itching again. That could only mean one thing.

“The demon’s back,” she announced gloomily, heading for the front door. She knew she was being a bit irrational, the demon was helping them after all and if it had really disappeared, the investigation would have suffered a setback. It wasn’t like they had a back-up demon in the cupboard all ready to go that they could use to … Now that was an idea! Perhaps they were going about this whole thing entirely too passively. Maybe there was a way to force the hand of whoever was behind all this.

She yanked open the door - and stepped back in surprise.

The demon was there just as she expected, grinning all over its stupid face like it was pleased to see her. Behind it, however, stood a huge African-American man - a veritable inverted pyramid of immaculately-tailored muscle.

“Hi,” said Harold, “I’m back. Can we come in?”

Wordlessly, India stepped aside and allowed the two to enter.

“And so,” said Harold, having related the events of his life in the last few hours, “The long and the short of it is: Mr Jackson has decided to offer us his help.”

“Well, that’s a kind offer, Mr Jackson,” began Mercury, “What exactly did you have in mind?”

“I can get you stuff you might need: vehicles, guns, people, place to work from.”

“I see,” said Mercury, somewhat nonplussed by the big man’s openness, “We don’t tend to use guns in our operations, they don’t work on demons and they can always be taken away and turned against us. While, we are definitely having some internal difficulties with our organisation, I don’t think - ”

“Your traitor?” interrupted Mr Teeth, “Yeah, Harold told me about that. Look, if he’s as deep in your outfit as you suspect, you should drop right off the grid until this is all over, or until you can figure out who he is. If you don’t, he’s gonna be bird-dogging you at every step. It ain’t gonna matter how clever you are or how much preparation and planning you put in, he’s gonna know about it and is gonna rip your operation apart like wet toilet paper. I can give you anything your outfit could. I know a few people in this town.”

“I have to say,” piped up Teatime, causing Mr Teeth’s eyebrows to shoot up in surprise, “That I think Mr Jackson has rather hit the nail on the head. I vote he join our little gang.”

“You never told me bout any talking monkey,” he said, looking at Harold, “And you didn’t have him with you before. What’s the deal?”

“My father sent him,” explained Harold, “to investigate the disappearances. That was before I met these lovely people, of course.” He directed a sunny grin at the OGS agents, at which India rolled her eyes in disgust, “ He’s very smart and being so small, is very good at hiding. He rides on my shoulder so he can talk to me without people noticing.”

“Hmmph,” rumbled Mr teeth, “I guess it’s a good job your father didn’t send you a talking orang-utan then.”

There was a small amount of rather tentative laughter at this, as the others weighed up what Mr Teeth had said, and decided that the dour black man-mountain had actually made a funny of sorts.

“Anyway,” Mr Teeth continued, “I’m offering you a safe place and whatever you need to get the job done.”
The others looked at each other.

“Do you mind if we discuss it for a minute,” said Mercury. Mr Teeth shrugged his massive shoulders and walked out into the garden.


“Infinity Recycling. Ernesto speaking. How may I direct your call?” There was just a hint of Spanish in the man’s accent.

“I have some greasy dishes that need to be dealt with,” said the caller. Ernesto didn’t miss a beat. “Putting you through now,” he said. There followed a series of electronic clicks and a ringing tone which was soon cut short.

“Special Projects, Haynes here.”

“This is RolexBoy. I have a specimen for you.”

“Really?” Haynes didn’t much like RolexBoy. Sure, he had his uses and had ultimately been responsible for the formation of the Special Projects group, but he was still an arrogant, over-privileged, young pup.

“Nothing’s showed up on the network or we’d have known.” He said.

“This one’s not been up here before and is a bit weedy, so won’t have high enough C.”

“Can I ask how you know about it then?” Haynes’s voice leaked a little irritation. He was busy, dammit!

“I’ve seen it and spoken to it. It’s real” replied RolexBoy.

“I’m not sure we need another specimen just now – especially if it’s low C. Dr Flowers and the rest of us are up to our eyeballs in the move. Maybe after we get set up in the new place?” Haynes was hoping that RolexBoy would take the hint and ring off, but he didn’t.

“You need to collect this one,” he said, “Because it has got together with a group of OGS and they are intent on tracking you guys down. “

“I see,” Haynes was sensible enough to know that they could not afford any loose ends on this project “Do you know where it is now?”

“Yes, 1472 Goose Egg Drive.” Haynes scribbled it down.

“OK, I’ll talk to Dr Flowers and see if we can get a team over there today.”

“Good,” said RolexBoy, “I’m emailing over pictures and details now.

Sure enough, the computer beeped for an incoming email. Haynes opened it up and studied the pictures and text for a while, before tapping a few numbers into a desk phone.

“Dr Flowers?” he said when the call was picked up. “Haynes here. We’ve still got a holding tank here haven’t we? Only I think we’re going to need it.”

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Episode 54

His name was Steve Corner and he had been in telecoms ever since he’d managed to escape the dunghill town (as he privately thought of it) of Cold-Stone, Missouri. Although he’d been armed only with his high school diploma when he escaped, he’d impressed the hiring manager at Rainbow Telecom enough to get a place as a trainee engineer. He’d been bright and hard-working, and in a few short years had made it to Lead Systems Engineer, a good, well-paid position.

This morning, he was whistling Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head’ softly to himself as he sat down in front of his computer and logged in for another shift. His inbox was bulging with all the usual work requests, chasers for work requests, company Health & Safety bulletins and the like. One email, however, caught his eye. It was from a sender he hadn’t heard from in a while and had really hoped not to have to hear from ever again.

The sender was RolexBoy99. Steve sighed: they’d been trainees together and close friends once upon a time. So much so that RolexBoy had been the one he’d turned to when he’d hit and killed a pedestrian one night while driving home from a night out. There’d been no witnesses and Steve had fled the scene, terrified of what he’d done. RolexBoy had been supportive, had even urged him to go the cops at first, but had stood by him even when he hadn’t.

After a few months, RolexBoy had moved to another job and that had been that – until the emails started. They had always been just simple requests, getting Steve to alter RolexBoy’s phone records and reduce his bill, give him unlimited texts, that kind of thing. This one was different, though.

Hi Steve

One last favour – and I do mean the last one ever this time, buddy. I need the text of all messages sent to and from these numbers since 00:00 this morning


Do this for me and you’ll never hear from me again, promise.


Accessing subscribers’ messages without authorisation was cause for instant dismissal, of course, but Steve’s heart leapt at the thought of never having to give in to RolexBoy’s blackmail attempts ever again.

His hands fairly flew over the keyboard in an effortless dance of access codes and menu-shortcuts. Soon he had the information on screen. There was very little activity, as it tuned out. All of the traffic, it seemed, had been between just one of the numbers in RolexBoy’s list and one other.

There were several outbound calls – not answered, evidently, then an exchange of texts, starting with an outgoing one:

07993345276: All safe here. Please call or text as soon as possible. Othello.
07744332257: Safe also. Box says there is a traitor in OGS. Meet us at 1472 Goose Egg Drive. H
07744332257: Do you have an ETA? H
07744332257: Do you have an ETA? H
07744332257: Do you have an ETA? H
07993345276: On our way. O.

Out of curiosity, Steve called up the subscriber names for the two numbers. The first one was registered to Aunt Aggie’s Family Cheesecake Company, the second to a Mr Raymond Donnelley.
Not recognising any of the names, Steve shrugged and pasted all the information into a reply email and hit send. Now maybe RolexBoy would finally leave him alone. He started whistling again.

Seconds later, a tinny little computer speaker beeped to alert its user to an incoming email. The user shut down the game of solitaire with which he had been amusing himself and opened up the message.

It was a good thing he was currently the sole occupant of the room – his air-punch and whispered exclamation of Yessss! would have raised more than one eyebrow.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Episode 53

"So what do we do now?" Prada wanted to know. "The demon's disappeared and, let's face it, we're no nearer to solving this thing than we were before."

"Can you not track him down," asked Teatime, "the same way you did when he and I were on the run from you before?"

"No," sighed India, "We were only able to catch up with you that time because I planted a tracking device in the demon's backpack – which, as you can see, is sitting right over there."

"We're not completely out of leads yet," said Othello. "We've still got our traitor to find plus something that occurred to me while we were sitting around with those UPS guys." He turned to Reverend Box.

"You said you worked on project Dynamo with another agent - Mark Rainbow. If he's still around then maybe whoever is trying to revive the project has approached him. Do you know where he is now? Maybe would could talk to him."

Box looked less than happy at this turn in the line of enquiry. He scratched one of his large ears for a moment before answering.

"Rainbow and I didn't exactly part on the best of terms." he began, "We'd worked on the project for ages, thrown our whole lives and a lot of OGS resource into it, and had got pretty frustrated at our lack of progress. Then he had this crazy idea that instead of Dismissing the next demon OGS came across, we should just Bind it and keep it around for study. I was totally against it – as was the OGS hierarchy when I told them, so the project was canned. Our relationship became more than a little frayed after that, shall we say. The way he saw it, I'd sabotaged his life's work, but it would have been far too dangerous – a Bound demon is still a demon after all."

Prada, who had been fiddling with her phone as Box talked, suddenly spoke up.

"Your Mr Rainbow wouldn't be related to the Rainbows of Rainbow Industries, would he?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, he is," replied Box, "He's Jonathon Rainbow's younger brother and because of him OGS was able to buy quite a lot of equipment from Rainbow Industries for the Dynamo Project. When it was canned I think he got some heat from his older brother for allowing a lucrative arrangement to come to an end."

"That's very interesting," said Othello, "I don't know why we didn't think about this before. Rainbow is well-connected and might well be motivated to try to complete his life's work, wouldn't you say?"

"It's possible, I suppose," admitted Box, scratching his ear again, "But, last I heard, he was badly injured in a climbing accident at Casino Rocks. There's a part of it called Tumbling Angel, where you have to climb along hanging upside down from a roof-crack like Yosemite's Separate Reality. His safety wasn't hammered in hard enough and he fell a good forty feet. He was lucky to be alive, but the accident left him paralysed and, while his mind's OK, he's permanently on a ventilator now. I suppose he could be trying to finish the project, have one last throw of the dice, as it were, but it seems unlikely."

"He could have handed over the project to someone he trusted, though, someone able-bodied, maybe." said Othello. "Rainbow could be bankrolling it and providing guidance..?"

"I guess," Box acknowledged doubtfully.

"We have to check him out, surely." said Prada, "If only to eliminate him."

"And what of our traitor," added Teatime, "If this Rainbow chappie is really behind everything then our traitor must be connected to him in some way, keeping him informed of our movements and so forth. Is it worth looking again at those files you downloaded - or at Rainbow's own file for that matter?"

"Monkey's got a point," said Mercury, "It's something tangible to look for at any rate." He stifled a yawn. "It's been a long time since any of us slept. I suggest some of us take a nap while the others get another cup of coffee and start searching the records. We can take turns."

"Shouldn't somebody keep watch?" asked India.

"Fat lot of good it did us last time," said Prada. Then, seeing a faint bloom of red blossom under Othello's dark skin, she patted his shoulder, "Sorry, Othello, that was out of line."

"It's OK," he sighed, "I shouldn't have opened the door, it was stupid."

"Well, those guys got what they wanted, so I don't suppose we'll be seeing them again." said India. "I'll keep an eye out though, just in case. Let me just go and splash some cold water on my face first."

Meanwhile, Othello had booted his computer and was accessing the OGS system once more using Opal's password.

"What was Rainbow's codename as an agent?" he asked Box.

"Oh, it was Wood," replied Box, "after Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones. He was a huge fan of theirs, always playing their stuff while we were working. Boy, if I never have to hear Rip This Joint again it'll be too soon."

Othello's fingers tapped keys and brought up Agent Wood's file. An image of the agent stared out at him from the screen. Othello frowned.

"What's up?" asked Box, seeing the change in Othello's expression.

"It's probably the tiredness kicking in but there's something really familiar about that face and yet I'm pretty certain I've never met this guy."

"Well, he does resemble his older brother, Jonathon." said box, "You've probably seen him in the media about a million times."

"I suppose that could be it," said Othello, "But I'm sure I've seen a face like this just recently, but I can't put my finger on who it is or where it was." His fingers drummed lightly on the table as he tried to remember. "Nope," he said, after a while, "It's not coming back to me."

At that moment, the doorbell rang.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Episode 52

Mr Teeth placed his glasses on the desk as Harold sat down opposite him. They'd been an impulse purchase when he'd stopped at the drugstore for some whey powder on the way here. Far from fixing his reading problems, however, all the glasses had done thus far was to give him a headache. He resisted the urge to rub the spot between his eyes.

"You can leave us," he informed the two fake UPS guys. "Tell Mr Peck to send me his final bill."

The one called Jeff grunted assent and the two men left the room, closing the door quietly.

There was a pregnant pause as Mr Teeth regarded Harold for a moment, noting the latter's change of clothes since the last time they'd met at Baron Samedi's. The little punk was still going with the scruffy look, it seemed, in contrast to his own businesslike dark suit and tie. Over the years, Mr Teeth had come to believe that his hugely muscular frame made much more of an impact on people when he dressed smartly. Jeans and t-shirts were all well and good when putting pressure on some kid in a back alley, but Mr Teeth himself rarely needed that kind of muscle these days - not that he didn't like to keep up the training, of course.

He leaned forward, steepling his fingers. The desk creaked slightly as he rested his elbows upon it.

"I've gone to a lot of trouble and expense to get you here," he said, "So I'll cut to the chase: I can see why you'd want to torch the club after we threw you out, but what have you done with my boss?"

So that's what it was all about! Harold was relieved. It seemed he wasn't about to be 'disappeared' after all. He remembered seeing Mr Teeth on the TV news saying he thought he knew who had burned down the club, but had never for a moment thought he was actually going to follow up on his suspicions – especially not to the extent of hiring people to kidnap him. He decided that the truth would be the best bet in this situation.

"Well," Harold said, "first of all, I didn't burn down your club and I have absolutely no idea where Baron Samedi is or what happened to him. I was actually in the middle of trying to find that out when your people waved guns at my friends and dragged me over here."

"You expect me to believe that?" said Mr Teeth.

Harold shrugged, "It's the truth. I wasn't even in town that night."

Mr Teeth did vaguely remember Mr Peck telling him that Harold had been seen getting on a train the day of the fire, but had decided that the little punk must have sneaked back into town on a later train or something. Who else could it have been?

Before he could pursue this line of thought any further, the silence was broken by the voice of Eddie Cochran singing I'm a-gonna raise a fuss, I'm a-gonna raise a holler.... It was Mr Teeth's phone. He picked it up, glanced irritatedly at the caller id and shut it off, putting an abrupt end to Mr Cochran's summertime blues.

"Look," said Harold, "I can prove I wasn't in town,"

So saying, Harold twisted his wrists apart, snapping the already weakened plastic cable-tie securing them. Seeing the sudden movement, Mr Teeth jumped out of his chair, gun in hand, pointing at Harold's head. Harold quickly held up his own hands to forestall any unpleasantness. Mr Teeth couldn't actually kill him, of course, but he'd already had to repair a considerable amount of damage to his vessel recently and he doubted Mr Teeth would be understanding enough to offer him pizza like the Reverend Box had.

"I'm just getting something out of my wallet," He said.

Mr Teeth lowered the gun slowly,

"You should have said what you were doing first," he grumbled, sitting down again.

Harold fished out his wallet. If he remembered rightly, it should still be in there tucked behind the bills. Yes!

"Look at this," Harold said, holding out a crumpled piece of paper.

"What is it," asked Mr Teeth, taking it.

"The bill from the Motel I was staying at that night."

Mr Teeth unfolded the paper and studied it for a few moments.

"You could have got this anywhere, it doesn't prove anything."

"You could always call them. I'm pretty certain they'll remember me, I left in rather a hurry and there was some damage." One kicked-in door, one smashed bathroom window...

Mt Teeth picked up his phone and, keeping a wary eye on Harold, dialled the Sleep-E-Zee Motel.


The Listener was awake again. No, that was too strong a word. The Listener was aware again. The voices were back, just on the edge of its hearing.

"If you don't believe me, just google 'parallel parking accident', the video's hilarious!" This was a new voice, quite deep and clearly amused at something.

"OK, if we can just focus on the job here please, people," This was the mosquito-voiced Dr Flowers, the Listener seemed to remember. "OK, careful now. Haynes, bring that dolly a bit closer will you? That's it. OK. Now lift."

"Ok, Doc, this'll be a slam dunk!"

There came a metallic whining noise and the Listener felt an unpleasant change in its world. A sort of slow invisible shimmering ran through its being like ink diffusing languidly through water. The whining stopped abruptly and the shimmering began to subside.

"Easy there," said another voice, deeper this time, "it's not quite centred. Haynes, move it a bit to the left will you?"

The machine-whine came again and with it the unsettling swirling feeling. Each swirl was almost enough to scatter the Listener's consciousness to oblivion. It was all it could do to hold on to the tatters of its self, to keep them integrated. The Listener wanted the swirling to stop. There had been a time when it could have made it stop, it thought. When was that? Memories hovered just out of reach, each one a faded postcard too indistinct to make out. Given time, though, the Listener felt sure it could make sense of them. Given time.

Suddenly, the Listener's world lurched and the voices were all shouting at once.

"Haynes, you idiot! I said LEFT!"

"Watch it!"


The whining noise cut off.

"Sorry, Doc, the damn tank swung when I wasn't expecting it," said a voice (Haynes's?), "I've got it now. I've got it."

"Alright," this was the Flowers voice again - it sounded very nervous. "Just slide the dolly a bit further under and let it down more slowly this time. There's absolutely no rush."

Another whine and swirl, albeit much shorter this time.

"That's got it," said one of the deeper voices, "Dead centre now, Doc."

"OK," said the Flowers voice, "Now unhook the chains and let's get it loaded into the truck, but for goodness sake, take it slowly!"

The world moved again, in a different way this time and, exhausted, the Listener allowed the swirling to carry it away into the dark.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Episode 51

The UPS truck rattled to a halt and the driver turned off the ignition. After the racket of the truck's diesel engine, the quiet was sudden, and Harold was surprised to hear birdsong coming from somewhere nearby. They were here, then – wherever 'here' was.

The back doors of the truck were opened and the occupants got out. Wherever here was, it was certainly nice. A long curving gravel drive wound its way up from the main road through a grove of scented orange trees. In front of a large house, fountains played noisily up and down in a large shallow pool the size of a small lake. The house itself looked like one of those experimental projects that architects like to feature in their portfolios to impress rich clients – it was a bold statement in wedding-cake pink stucco. Here and there, circular windows had been dotted, seemingly at random, giving the whole thing a curious Swiss cheese look. As he was marched up the gleaming white marble steps leading to the house's huge front doors, Harold could not help but think that there were worse places to end one's days – if it came to that..


Teatime worked on the delicate operation of freeing the stupid human OGS leader with as much speed and as little blood-loss as possible. Once or twice, he had to control a sudden desire to bite the man's hand – the old un-reconstructed monkey in him coming out, no doubt. He hated being this close to humans, they smelled horrid and had big, frightening hands that could grab and hold onto a little monkey like him and do whatever horrible pointless experiments they wanted - and had done just that in the past.

Finally the last bit of plastic parted and the job was done. Mercury briefly rubbed his wrists where the cable-tie had dug into his skin, thanked Teatime, and went into the kitchen to find some scissors or a knife to free the others.

Teatime looked up to see the other agents looking at him with a quizzical expression.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Have I got something in my teeth?"

"Oh, nothing, "said Prada, "We just didn't realise monkeys could growl, that's all."


The interior of the house was cool, pale and fashionably minimalist in decor. The tasteful monotony of cream walls and blond wood floor was relieved here and there by vividly–coloured abstract paintings. To Harold's untrained eye they looked more like the frantic daubings of a chimpanzee than the subtle expression of some deep artistic truth, but then Harold would be the first to admit that his knowledge of painting was marginal at best.

'Jeff', the fake UPS worker, knocked politely on one of the pale wooden doors leading off the hallway, then opened it to allow Harold and the other UPS guy to enter.

Whatever Harold, in his current, rather paranoid state had been expecting, it certainly wasn't the sight of an african-american man-mountain sitting behind a desk, a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles perched with incongruous delicacy on his nose, fingers tapping away on a computer keyboard.

Mr Teeth removed his glasses and used them to point to a chair.

"Siddown," he growled, "You got some explainin' to do."

Friday, 30 July 2010

Episode 50

Teatime was not happy with the range of options currently open to him. On the one hand, he felt it would be sensible to stay with the stupid OGS humans and help them locate Harold – they had tracked him down once before, after all, maybe they could do it again. On the other hand, if these fake UPS fellows were part of the organisation responsible for the disappearances of various infernal and heavenly folk, then this was the first real break the investigation had had, and therefore it might be useful to try and get them to take him along with them.

The first option was the safest for himself, but it was argumentative whether it would bring results. The second option was more personally risky, but would give him a better chance of finding out more about what was going on – oh, and maybe of rescuing the amiable dullard as well. Well, there was nothing for it, he decided to take a gamble and see if anybody wanted a nice, cute, pet monkey.

Loathing himself for what he was about to do, Teatime ventured out from behind the sofa and attempted to look like something that even the Disney Channel would reject as being too gooey. He minced his way to the centre of the floor, where Garcia and/or Thompson would be sure to see him. Garcia spotted him first.

“Where’d he come from?”

“Who?” Thompson had been gazing out into the back garden and had his back to the room, his dump truck sized body blocking out a fair portion of daylight.

“The monkey here,”

Thompson turned around in time to see a small grey-furred monkey, clad in waistcoat and tiny bowler hat capering and simpering on the charcoal-coloured carpet.

“Must be a pet. Don’t let it distract you.”

India and the others could only look on helplessly. Garcia had ordered them all to sit on the floor with their backs against the wall, and had sternly warned against any talking. What on earth was the monkey-thing up to?

“Aw, he’s not doing any harm,” said Garcia, “Are ya, little fella?”

Upon being addressed directly, Teatime cocked his head to one side and assumed his most hopeful expression. This might just work…

“Ha!” laughed Garcia, “It’s like he understands what I’m saying.”

“Cut it out, Garcia, we’re working here.” Thompson aimed a grumpy half-hearted kick at Teatime, more to scare him than anything else. Seeing he was not likely to make any further headway, the little monkey scuttled over to where the OGS agents were sitting, insinuating himself between India and Prada.


What was it the humans said when they were nervous? I’ve got fireflies in my digestive system? No, it was more earthy than that. Oh, yeah, that was it: butterflies in my stomach! Harold did not have a stomach as such, but he was certainly a little nervous about what his immediate fate would be. Much more powerful demons and angels than he had been made to vanish into thin air somehow, and now it looked as though he might be next.

Well, Teatime wasn’t here to help now, so he’d have to shift for himself if he was going to get out of this in one piece. He had been prodded at gunpoint into the back of the UPS truck where another fake UPS person was waiting. He supposed he could have made a run for it then – it wasn’t as if they could have killed him, but there were the humans and Teatime to consider. Some demon he was, worrying about the safety of mortals. He could imagine what his father would say about that – the words would be sharp and at considerable volume.

There were no windows in the back of the truck so Harold had no idea where they were headed. The vehicle rattled along, swaying around corners and lurching to a stop at the occasional traffic light. Harold applied his attention to the plastic cable tie securing his wrists and began to cause the plastic to soften. Carefully does it, he warned himself, the humans must believe the tie was still intact. When he had finished, a few bumpy minutes later, he knew the cable tie would offer no more resistance when pulled apart than chocolate to a hot knife. Now he just had to await the right moment.


Garcia looked at his watch. “OK. We’re done here, let’s go.” He stood up and, followed by Thompson, walked out of the room. The agents heard the front door slam, followed shortly after by the sound of a car engine starting up and driving away.

The agents looked at one another.

“Well that was weird,” said Prada, clambering to her feet. “I thought we were at least going to be killed or something, not just ignored for an hour.”

“Oh, Gee, you want me to call them back?” said India sarcastically.

“OK, people, focus.” Said Mercury, “First, we need to get untied. Mr Teatime, could you possibly assist us?”

“I’m not sure I can, old bean,” said the monkey, hopping up onto the table. “I think your human knives and scissors will be too big for me to wield.” He waved his tiny black hands.

“Well, could you not, you know, gnaw the plastic or something?” This was Prada.

“Gnaw the plastic?” Teatime was scandalised, “Gnaw the plastic? Like some common animal?”


“Very well,” he sighed, “But I’m only doing one of you then that one can free the others. Now, who’s it to be?” Honestly, he thought disgustedly, they’d never have asked a human to do such a demeaning thing.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Episode 49

“So, are we happy with this list?” asked Mercury. Othello and Box indicated their agreement. They had, between them, worked their way through the complete list of OGS agent files Othello had downloaded from the OGS system – some one hundred personnel files.

“So who’ve we got?” asked Prada from her place at the window.

“Agents Cobalt, Sabre, Callisto, Oak and Ruby.”

“Ruby?” Prada was incredulous, “You’re kidding right? I went to his birthday barbecue last month. I taught his daughters jump rope. He’s solid, I’d bet my life on it.”

“You’re probably right,” said Mercury soothingly, “but at this stage we’re just pulling out anyone with anything unusual in their background. Ruby’s family is significantly wealthy, so he might be able to buy stuff other folks couldn’t. The family owns a chain of jewellery stores. Remember, we’re not accusing anyone of anything yet.”

“Cobalt’s background is in mining, that’s why he’s on the list,” added Othello, “he might have been able to get his hands on explosives.”

“And Sabre?” asked Prada, “What’s your justification for including her?”

“She has a gap in her history of about six months, which is very unusual - OGS is usually very thorough. It’s probably nothing, but nobody else had any gaps.”

“And Oak had a fairly long-running bit part in a soap opera.” Othello again.

“How is that relevant? I know some soap operas are criminally bad, but, even so.”

“Well, I suppose we’re clutching at straws here,” explained Othello, “but I was thinking about acting ability and how someone who was good at dissembling might be our traitor.”

Harold was only half listening to the agents’ discussion, he was enjoying looking at the garden. Box’s mysterious friend obviously had green fingers if this pleasant and well-kept space was anything to go by. At this time of the year, many of the plants were in bloom, adding splashes of colour here and there and the plants themselves looked to be in a lot better shape than the hot-housed, wilted specimens Harold had sometimes seen on sale in filling station forecourts. Of course, this garden, as fine as it was, was not a patch on that other one, the very first one… He stopped his thoughts right there, before they could take a turn down a rocky and painful road, to coin a figure of speech.

He wished he could be more help with the task in hand. Spotting a traitor in one’s midst was never easy, such a one was hardly likely to leave any obvious clues. Of course, Harold himself did not know any OGS agents apart from the ones in the room, their boss, Opal, and that young agent, Moon. All of them seemed super-duper squeaky-clean to him. Humans were masters of deception though, so you could never tell. He smiled to himself: talk about calling the kettle black.

“What’s tickling you?” asked Teatime, seeing Harold’s grin.

“Oh, nothing much,” Harold replied, “just the huge and fascinating ironies of life.”

“I do wonder about you sometimes, old sock, I really do.”

The doorbell rang.

“It’s a delivery guy,” said Prada quietly, “I’ve been watching him. He’s just been to the house across the street, but it looks like they’re not at home. I guess he’s looking to see if we’ll take in the package. Ours is the only house with a car in the driveway, so he probably thinks there’s someone here.”

“Does he look legit?” asked Box.

“He’s wearing a UPS uniform and his truck has the right livery.”

“I’ll get rid of him,” said Othello, standing up.

“Why don’t we just ignore him?” said India, “Surely that would be safest.”

Othello was already at the door. From the living room, they heard a brief low-voiced conversation. Othello then came back into the room, followed very closely by the UPS guy, who had a silenced gun pressed into the small of Othello’s back.

“Everybody keep calm and nobody will get hurt,” he said loudly and clearly. He gave Othello a push. “Face down, on the floor, all of you.” His voice dropped to a more normal level as they scrambled to comply, he was addressing an unseen colleague via an earpiece, evidently. “OK, I’m in. Garcia. Thompson. You’re up. Andrews, inform Mr Peck.”

A few moments later, Garcia and Thompson appeared. They too, were sporting UPS livery, earpieces – and guns.

“What’s going on?” demanded Mercury, “who are you people?”

“No talking.” Replied the first fake-UPS guy, whose name-tag identified him as Jeff. “Garcia. Get all their phones and those computers. Thompson, tie them up.”

Harold had briefly considered rushing Jeff before the others appeared. Bullets would not kill him after all, but, in a rare bout of think first and act later, he realised that there was a high risk of the gun going off and injuring or even killing one of the humans. By the time he had worked though this logic, the moment had passed anyway, so he followed Jeff’s instructions. Teatime jumped off his shoulder and ran behind the sofa, doing his best to act the dumb-monkey-who-is-no-threat-whatsoever-to-anyone-no-sir.

Garcia and Thompson were briskly efficient, and soon everybody was phone-free and wearing the latest in plastic cable-tie bracelets.

“OK, good,” said Jeff, when they had finished, “Now you, blond guy in the leather jacket. On your feet, you’re with me. The rest of you stay nice and quiet for my colleagues here.”

Harold got to his feet with some trepidation. Was he about to join Baron Samedi, Susan, Illyriel and all the rest?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Episode 48

“I’m pleased to see you‘ve taken on board the gravity of the situation, Doctor Flowers.” The voice was deep, but thin and tinny, as though it came from a long distance away.

“I certainly have,” replied a second voice – Flowers’s, presumably. “Arranging the logistics of the move is pure aggravation, but a sensible precaution given what we’ve been hearing.” This second voice was higher-pitched, distorted to almost a mosquito-whine. The listener could barely make out the words, but the words were all that existed in the listener’s world – there was neither light nor shade, neither warmth nor cold, and – up till now, at least – there had been no sound. Memories stirred lazily in the depths of the listener’s mind, like fish in the depths of a frozen pond. It had not always been like this. The listener struggled to recall what exactly it had been like, but the effort was exhausting. The first voice was speaking again.

“Have you done the ten o’clocks yet?”

“I was Just about to do them, sir. Would you care to see?”

“Yes, I would, actually. Lead the way.”

The voices fell silent, leaving the listener alone to wonder if it had imagined them.


“I wonder how long this heat wave is going to continue,” grumbled Prada from her post by the front window, “it wouldn’t be so bad if we had air-con or something.”

A couple of hours had passed and the mysterious telephone truck was still parked, apparently deserted.

Behind her, in the living room, Othello stood up and stretched, a few joints popping as he did so.

“Seen anything yet?” asked Box, who was indulging his sweet tooth with the jar of jelly beans from the kitchen.

“Nothing that jumps out at me,” sighed Othello.

“Me neither,” added Mercury, sitting back from his computer and rubbing his eyes. “Let’s take a break and come back to this, my head’s buzzing.”

“I could take over if you like,” offered Box. Mercury gave him a be-my-guest wave and wandered into the kitchen in search of a cooling drink.

Remembering not to stand in full view, Harold wandered over to where India was watching the back garden.

“I could watch for a while if you need a break.” He said. India favoured him with a killer stare, but then seemed to reconsider and, mumbling her thanks, walked after Mercury.

“I think she’s thawing,” Harold whispered gleefully to Teatime. “She didn’t even insult me that time.”

“I think the final hours of the universe will be but a distant memory before she ever warms to you, old button.” Teatime replied

“I live in hope.” Grinned Harold.

“Then it’s a jolly good thing you’re immortal.” Was the monkey’s dry response.


The voices were back, closer and louder this time. With an effort, the listener dragged together the shreds of its diffuse attention and tried to focus on what was being said.

“…pioneering work was first done in Scotland,” the one the listener dimly remembered was called Flowers was saying.

“Oh, yes,” agreed the first, as yet, unnamed voice, “Shark-something and Webber, or something, wasn’t it?”

“Sharkey and Webster, sir, yes.” replied Flowers. “Brilliant researchers, both, but sadly not given the credit they deserve. It was tragic the way they were killed before they could publish, truly… Oh hello.”

“What is it?”

The voices were very close now; the listener did not have to struggle at all to make them out.

“The reading’s are a bit high on this one.” Flowers explained, “Could you just hold on to this for me, while I change the settings? We don’t want to go the way of Shark-something and Webber, now do we?”

The two voices laughed together quietly for a moment. There followed a rapid series of clicks and suddenly the listener forgot itself once again.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Episode 47

“… and I used to dream that the spiders living under my floor boards would come out at night and lay eggs in the carpet,” Prada was saying as Harold re-entered the living room with the coffee tray, “Took me years to work up the nerve to walk barefoot in that house. Ah, coffee!”

Harold smoothly placed the tray of cups and the coffeepot on the table.

“Right,” said Mercury, “Down to business. The way I see it, we have two things to worry about: our original investigation into the disappearances, and the fact that there may be someone in our midst working against us.”

“No ‘may be’ about it,” muttered Box into his coffee cup.

“This could actually work somewhat to our advantage,” piped up Teatime.

“How could that possibly work to our advantage?” said Prada, disbelievingly, “All it’s done so far is messed up our investigation.”

“Well,” said the little monkey, “Our ‘traitor’ is a definite link to Enigma – in fact, the only real link we have. If we can identify him – or her – then we may be able to use that to get to the bottom of things.”

“Yes,” agreed Othello, “That’s a good point. Thinking about it, I bet Agent Emerald was killed because he was either getting too close to the traitor or had uncovered something about the resurrection of project Dynamo.”

“I’m willing to bet,” chipped in Mercury, “that Emerald had some suspicions of his own and felt threatened, else why go to the trouble of setting up clues in his apartment the way he did?”

“Pity he didn’t leave any clues as to who he thought the traitor was.” Said India.

“Maybe he did,” said Othello, “but we didn’t know to look for them. Let’s face it, we almost didn’t find the Dynamo clues. Maybe if we went back there and looked again…?”

“It’s an idea,” agreed Mercury. “We have to be careful about the places we go, though. We don’t want to find any more presents waiting for us.”

“That’s a point,” said Teatime, “Who at OGS would have known where we were going?”

Othello pursed his lips, “Our mission wasn’t exactly secret, so anyone who could log onto our system could pull up our case notes and plans. Plus, we haven’t exactly kept our verbal discussions private – anyone could have overheard them.”

”Are we assuming then that our traitor is local – based at Aunt Aggie’s?” asked Prada.

“I think so, although we should beware of leaping to that conclusion too readily,” replied Othello, “Emerald worked out of Aunt Aggie’s, though, as do we. Add to that the apparent speed with which our traitor was able to organise his little surprise party and it’s a not unreasonable assumption – at least for now.”

“Whoever it was also moved quite quickly to intimidate Reverend Box,” said Harold.

“Yeah,” growled Box, “The guy was dressed in a nice suit and tie – I thought it was one of you at first, having arranged to meet you. Wouldn’t have let him in otherwise.”

“What exactly did he look like?” Mercury asked.

“He was about five-nine, average build. Black hair, brown eyes.”

Othello got out his laptop and brought it purring to life. “Give me a minute here,” he said, “There’s a site on the web that lets you do your own e-fits. It might be useful.”

About twenty minutes of clicking, pointing, pursed lips, wrinkled foreheads, tutting, squinting sideways and correcting later, a face stared out at them from the computer screen.

“Don’t recognise him at all.” Said Mercury. “If he’s OGS, he’s not from around here.”

“That would have been too easy,” grumbled Prada.

“I’m not sure he was actually OGS anyway,” said Box, “More likely, he was someone hired to warn me off helping you. Makes sense to use hired help when you think about it, nobody can point the finger at you later on.”

“How annoyingly far-sighted of him,” said Teatime. “He must have access to a fair amount of resources to hire his own goons – and have bombs planted on request. You chaps do background checks on your people don’t you? Are those records kept anywhere we could get to them?”

“We do conduct background checks and there are records, of course, but they’re only accessible to Directors. Why do you ask?” Said Mercury,

“Well, our traitor might have things in his background – occupational connections, maybe, or family ones – that might give us a clue.”

“There must be a hundred agents working out of Aunt Aggie's,” said Mercury, “Even if we could access their records, it would take time to go through each one’s background. Anyway, we can't access them, so it’s not an option.”

“It might be,” said Othello. The others looked at him. “A while back, Director Opal was having some computer problems and I helped him out. I had to use his password to log in.” Othello’s fingers did a rapid QWERTY two-step. “I told him to change it immediately after, but I’m betting….” His fingers danced some more, tapping in m-o-o-n-s-h-i-n-e-2-1. The login screen, bearing the crossed crook and key of the OGS crest, disappeared, to be replaced by a menu. “Gotta love human nature,” sang Othello, “His last password ended in two-zero. I just knew he’d do the absolute minimum to change it. Now, let’s see… It should be possible to download the records onto my laptop. Box, do you still have your laptop?”

“I do,” replied Box, “I’ll just go and get it.” He disappeared upstairs.

“ If I copy the records to a CD and give them to Box, then two people can work on the records at the same time on two machines. I don’t want to have to stay logged in here for any length of time – if Opal tried to log in now, he’d be told that he was already logged on. The system only allows a user to be logged on once at any one time.” He dug in his laptop bag, retrieved a CD, flipped open the transparent jewel case and placed the shiny disc into the computer’s drive.

A short time later, Box came trotting back down the stairs, laptop in hand.

“I don’t want to worry anyone” he said, “but when I was upstairs, I looked out the bedroom window and there’s a telephone company truck parked just down the street.”

“What of it?” said Mercury.

“It’s only just turned seven a.m.” The little man said, “Since when did the telephone company ever show up this early in the morning?”

“Might be nothing,” said Mercury, “Maybe we should keep a lookout, though, in case. Prada, you take the front. India, the back. Is that CD ready?”

Othello handed the CD to Box and explained quickly what they were about. Box started up his machine. Othello began scanning records on his computer while Mercury did the same on Box’s.

Having nothing else to do, Harold wandered over to where Prada was looking out of the front windows.

“Don’t stand in full view,” she scolded, “stand so the curtain hides you.”

“Sorry,” he said, “Haven’t exactly been trained for this.”

Outside in the street, all was quiet.