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.