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Neil Gaiman
I have never been to St. John's Wood. I dare not. I should be afraid of the
innumerable night of fir trees, afraid to come upon a blood red cup and
the bearing of the wings of the Eagle.
The Napoleon of Netting Hill, G. . !hesterton

If ever thou gavest hosen or shoon "hen ever# night and all Sit thou down
and put them on $nd !hrist receive th# soul
"his a#e night, this a#e night Ever# night and all %ire and fleet and
candlelight $nd !hrist receive the# soul
If ever thou gavest meat or drin& "hen ever# night and all "he fire shall
never ma&e thee shrin& $nd !hrist receive th# soul
The Lyke Wake Dirge 'traditional(

"he night before he went to )ondon, *ichard +a#hew was not en,o#ing himself.
-e had begun the evening b# en,o#ing himself. he had en,o#ed reading the
good/b#e cards, and receiving the hugs from several not entirel# unattractive #oung
ladies of his ac0uaintance1 he had en,o#ed the warnings about the evils and dangers
of )ondon, and the gift of the white umbrella with the map of the )ondon
2nderground on it that his friends had chipped in mone# to bu#1 he had en,o#ed the
first few pints of ale1 but then, with each successive pint he found that he was
en,o#ing himself significantl# less1 until now he was sitting and shivering on the
sidewal& outside the pub in a small Scottish town, weighing the relative merits of
being sic& and not being sic&, and not en,o#ing himself at all.
Inside the pub, *ichard's friends continued to celebrate his forthcoming
departure with an enthusiasm that, to *ichard, was beginning to border on the
sinister. -e sat on the sidewal& and held on tightl# to the rolled/up umbrella, and
wondered whether going south to )ondon was reall# a good idea.
34ou want to &eep a e#e out,3 said a crac&ed old voice. 3"he#'ll be moving #ou
on before #ou can sa# Jac& *obinson. 5r ta&ing #ou in, I wouldn't be surprised.3
"wo sharp e#es stared out from a bea&#, grim# face. 34ou all right63
34es, than& #ou,3 said *ichard. -e was a fresh/faced, bo#ish #oung man, with
dar&, slightl# curl# hair and large ha7el e#es1 he had a rumpled, ,ust/wo&en/up loo&
to him, which made him more attractive to the opposite se8 than he would ever
understand or believe.
"he grim# face softened. 3-ere, poor thing,3 she said, and pushed a fift#/pence
piece into *ichard's hand. 3 '5w long #ou been on the streets, then63
3I'm not homeless,3 e8plained *ichard, embarrassed, attempting to give the old
woman her coin bac&. 39leaseta&e #our mone#. I'm fine. I ,ust came out here to
get some air. I go to )ondon tomorrow,3 he added.
She peered down at him suspiciousl#, then too& bac& her fift# pence and made
it vanish beneath the la#ers of coats and shawls in which she was enveloped. 3I've
been to )ondon,3 she confided. 3I was married in )ondon. :ut he was a bad lot. +e
mam told me not to go marr#ing outside, but I was #oung and beautiful, although
#ou'd never credit it toda#, and I followed m# heart.3
3I'm sure #ou did,3 said *ichard. "he conviction that he was about to be sic&
was starting, slowl#, to fade.
3%at lot of good it done me. I been homeless, so I &now what it's li&e,3 said the
old woman. 3"hat's wh# I thought #ou was. What #ou going to )ondon for63
3I've got a ,ob,3 he told her proudl#.
3;oing what63 she as&ed.
32m, Securities,3 said *ichard.
3I was a dancer,3 said the old woman, and she tottered aw&wardl# around the
sidewal&, humming tunelessl# to herself. "hen she teetered from side to side li&e a
spinning top coming to rest, and finall# she stopped, facing *ichard. 3-old out #our
hand,3 she told him, 3and I'll tell #er fortune.3 -e did as he was told. She put her old
hand into his, and held it tightl#, and then she blin&ed a few times, li&e an owl who
had swallowed a mouse that was beginning to disagree with it. 34ou got a long wa#
to go . . . 3 she said, pu77led.
3)ondon,3 *ichard told her.
3<ot ,ust )ondon . . . 3 "he old woman paused. 3<ot an# )ondon I &now.3 It
started to rain then, softl#. 3I'm sorr#,3 she said. 3It starts with doors.3
She nodded. "he rain fell harder, pattering on the roofs and on the asphalt of the
road. 3I'd watch out for doors if I were #ou.3
*ichard stood up, a little unsteadil#. 3$ll right,3 he said, a little unsure of how
he ought to treat information of this nature. 3I will. "han&s.3
"he pub door was opened, and light and noise spilled out into the street.
3*ichard6 4ou all right63
34eah, I'm fine. I'll be bac& in a second.3 "he old lad# was alread# wobbling
down the street, into the pelting rain, getting wet. *ichard felt he had to do
something for her. he couldn't give her mone#, though. -e hurried after her, down
the narrow street, the cold rain drenching his face and hair. 3-ere,3 said *ichard. -e
fumbled with the handle of the umbrella, tr#ing to find the button that opened it.
"hen a clic&, and it blossomed into a huge white map of the )ondon 2nderground
networ&, each line drawn in a different color, ever# station mar&ed and named.
"he old woman too& the umbrella, gratefull#, and smiled her than&s. 34ou've a
good heart,3 she told him. 3Sometimes that's enough to see. #ou safe wherever #ou
go.3 "hen she shoo& her head. 3:ut mostl#, it's not.3 She clutched the umbrella
tightl# as a gust of wind threatened to tug it awa# from her or pull it inside out. She
wrapped her arms around it and bent almost double against the rain and the wind.
"hen she wal&ed awa# into the rain and the night, a round white shape covered with
the names of )ondon "ube stationsEarl's !ourt, +arble $rch, :lac&friars, White
!it#, =ictoria, $ngel, 58ford !ircus . . .
*ichard found himself pondering, drun&enl#, whether there reall# was a circus
at 58ford !ircus. a real circus with clowns, beautiful women, and dangerous beasts.
"he pub door opened once more. a blast of sound, as if the pub's volume control had
,ust been turned up high. 3*ichard, #ou idiot, it's #our blood# part#, and #ou're
missing all the fun.3 -e wal&ed bac& in the pub, the urge to be sic& lost in all the
34ou loo& li&e a drowned rat,3 said someone.
34ou've never seen a drowned rat,3 said *ichard.
Someone else handed him a large whis&#. 3-ere, get that down #ou. "hat'll
warm #ou up. 4ou &now, #ou won't be able to get real Scotch in )ondon.3
3I'm sure I will,3 sighed *ichard. Water was dripping from his hair into his
drin&. 3"he# have ever#thing in )ondon.3 $nd he downed the Scotch, and after that
someone bought him another, and then the evening blurred and bro&e up into
fragments. afterward he remembered onl# the feeling that he was about to leave
somewhere small and rationala place that made sensefor somewhere huge and
old that didn't1 and vomiting interminabl# into a gutter flowing with rainwater,
somewhere in the small hours of the morning1 and a white shape mar&ed with
strange/colored s#mbols, li&e a little round beetle, wal&ing awa# from him in the
"he ne8t morning he boarded the train for the si8/hour ,ourne# south that would
bring him to the strange gothic spires and arches of St. 9ancras Station. -is mother
gave him a small walnut ca&e that she had made for the ,ourne# and a thermos filled
with tea1 and *ichard +a#hew went to )ondon feeling li&e hell.
She had been running for four da#s now, a harum/scarum tumbling flight through
passages and tunnels. She was hungr#, and e8hausted, and more tired than a bod#
could stand, and each successive door was proving harder to open. $fter four da#s
of flight, she had found a hiding place, a tin# stone burrow, under the world, where
she would be safe, or so she pra#ed, and at last she slept.

+r. !roup had hired *oss at the last %loating +ar&et, which had been held in
Westminster $bbe#. 3"hin& of him,3 he told +r. =andemar, 3as a canar#.3
3Sings63 as&ed +r. =andemar.
3I doubt it1 I sincerel# and utterl# doubt it.3 +r. !roup ran a hand through his
lan& orange hair. 3<o, m# fine friend, I was thin&ing metaphoricall#more along
the lines of the birds the# ta&e down mines.3 +r. =andemar nodded, comprehension
dawning slowl#. #es, a canar#. +r. *oss had no other resemblance to a canar#. -e
was hugealmost as big as +r. =andemarand e8tremel# grubb#, and 0uite
hairless, and he said ver# little, although he had made a point of telling each of them
that he li&ed to &ill things, and he was good at it1 and this amused +r. !roup and
+r. =andemar. :ut he was a canar#, and he never &new it. So +r. *oss went first,
in his filth# "/shirt and his crusted blue/,eans, and !roup and =andemar wal&ed
behind him, in their elegant blac& suits.
"here are four simple wa#s for the observant to tell +r. !roup and +r.
=andemar apart. first, +r. =andemar is two and a half heads taller than +r. !roup1
second, +r. !roup has e#es of a faded china blue, while +r. =andemar's e#es are
brown1 third, while +r. =andemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand
out of the s&ulls of four ravens, +r. !roup has no obvious ,eweler#1 fourth, +r.
!roup li&es words, while +r. =andemar is alwa#s hungr#. $lso, the# loo& nothing
at all ali&e.
$ rustle in the tunnel dar&ness1 +r. =andemar's &nife was in his hand, and then
it was no longer in his hand, and it was 0uivering gentl# almost thirt# feet awa#. -e
wal&ed over to his &nife and pic&ed it up b# the hilt. "here was a gra# rat impaled
on the blade, its mouth opening and closing impotentl# as the life fled. -e crushed
its s&ull between finger and thumb.
3<ow, there's one rat that won't be telling an# more tales,3 said +r. !roup. -e
chuc&led at his own ,o&e. +r. =andemar did not respond. 3*at. "ales. Get it63
+r. =andemar pulled the rat from the blade and began to munch on it,
thoughtfull#, head first. +r. !roup slapped it out of his hands. 3Stop that,3 he said.
+r. =andemar put his &nife awa#, a little sullenl#. 3:uc& up,3 hissed +r. !roup,
encouragingl#. 3"here will alwa#s be another rat. <ow. onward. "hings to do.
9eople to damage.3

"hree #ears in )ondon had not changed *ichard, although it had changed the
wa# he perceived the cit#. *ichard had originall# imagined )ondon as a gra# cit#,
even a blac& cit#, from pictures he had seen, and he was surprised to find it filled
with color. It was a cit# of red bric& and white stone, red buses and large blac& ta8is,
bright red mailbo8es and green grass# par&s and cemeteries.
It was a cit# in which the ver# old and the aw&wardl# new ,ostled each other,
not uncomfortabl#, but without respect1 a cit# of shops and offices and restaurants
and homes, of par&s and churches, of ignored monuments and remar&abl# unpalatial
palaces1 a cit# of hundreds of districts with strange names!rouch End, !hal&
%arm, Earl's !ourt, +arble $rchand oddl# distinct identities1 a nois#, dirt#,
cheerful, troubled cit#, which fed on tourists, needed them as it despised them, in
which the average speed of transportation through the cit# had not increased in three
hundred #ears, following five hundred #ears of fitful road/widening and uns&illful
compromises between the needs of traffic, whether horse/drawn, or, more recentl#,
motori7ed, and the needs of pedestrians1 a cit# inhabited b# and teeming with people
of ever# color and manner and &ind.
When he had first arrived, he had found )ondon huge, odd, fundamentall#
incomprehensible, with onl# the "ube map, that elegant multicolored topographical
displa# of underground railwa# lines and stations, giving it an# semblance of order.
Graduall# he reali7ed that the "ube map was a hand# fiction that made life easier
but bore no resemblance to the realit# of the shape of the cit# above. It was li&e
belonging to a political part#, he thought once, proudl#, and then, having tried to
e8plain the resemblance between the "ube map and politics, at a part#, to a cluster
of bewildered strangers, he had decided in the future to leave political comment to
-e continued, slowl#, b# a process of osmosis and white &nowledge 'which is
li&e white noise, onl# more useful(, to comprehend the cit#, a process that
accelerated when he reali7ed that the actual !it# of )ondon itself was no bigger than
a s0uare mile, stretching from $ldgate in the east to %leet Street and the law courts
of the 5ld :aile# in the west, a tin# municipalit#, now home to )ondon's financial
institutions, and that that was where it had all begun.
"wo thousand #ears before, )ondon had been a little !eltic village on the north
shore of the "hames, which the *omans had encountered, then settled in. )ondon
had grown, slowl#, until, roughl# a thousand #ears later, it met the tin# *o#al !it#
of Westminster immediatel# to the west, and, once )ondon :ridge had been built,
)ondon touched the town of Southwar& directl# across the river1 and it continued to
grow, fields and woods and marshland slowl# vanishing beneath the flourishing
town, and it continued to e8pand, encountering other little villages and hamlets as it
grew, li&e Whitechapel and ;ept/ford to the east, -ammersmith and Shepherd's
:ush to the west, !amden and Islington in the north, :attersea and )ambeth across
the "hames to the south, absorbing all of them, ,ust as a pool of mercur# encounters
and incorporates smaller beads of mercur#, leaving onl# their names behind.
)ondon grew into something huge and contradictor#. It was a good place, and a
fine cit#, but there is a price to be paid for all good places, and a price that all good
places have to pa#.
$fter a while, *ichard found himself ta&ing )ondon for granted1 in time, he
began to pride himself on having visited none of the sights of )ondon 'e8cept for
the "ower of )ondon, when his $unt +aude came down to the cit# for a wee&end,
and *ichard found himself her reluctant escort(.
:ut Jessica changed all that. *ichard found himself, on otherwise sensible
wee&ends, accompan#ing her to places li&e the <ational Galler# and the "ate
Galler#, where he learned that wal&ing around museums too long hurts #our feet,
that the great art treasures of the world all blur into each other after a while, and that
it is almost be#ond the human capacit# for belief to accept how much museum
cafeterias will bra7enl# charge for a slice of ca&e and a cup of tea.
3-ere's #our tea and #our >clair,3 he told her. 3It would have cost less to bu#
one of those "intorettos.3
3;on't e8aggerate,3 said Jessica cheerfull#. 3$n#wa#, there aren't an#
"intorettos at the "ate.3
3I should have had that cherr# ca&e,3 said *ichard. 3"hen the# would have been
able to afford another =an Gogh.3
*ichard had met Jessica in %rance, on a wee&end trip to 9aris two #ears earlier1
had in fact discovered her in the )ouvre, tr#ing to find the group of his office friends
who had organi7ed the trip. Staring up at an immense sculpture, he had stepped
bac&wards into Jessica, who was admiring an e8tremel# large and historicall#
important diamond. -e tried to apologi7e to her in %rench, which he did not spea&,
gave up, and began to apologi7e in English, then tried to apologi7e in %rench for
having to apologi7e in English, until he noticed that Jessica was about as English as
it was possible for an# one person to be. :# this time she decided he should bu# her
an e8pensive %rench sandwich and some overpriced carbonated apple ,uice, b# wa#
of apolog#, and, well, that was the start of it all, reall#. -e had never been able to
convince Jessica that he wasn't the &ind of person who went to art galleries after
5n wee&ends when the# did not go to art galleries or to museums, *ichard
would trail behind Jessica as she went shopping, which she did, on the whole, in
affluent nightsbridge, a short wal& and an even shorter ta8i ride from her
apartment in a ensington mews. *ichard would accompan# Jessica on her tours of
such huge and intimidating emporia as -arrods and -arve# <ichols, stores where
Jessica was able to purchase an#thing, from ,ewelr#, to boo&s, to the wee&'s
*ichard had been awed b# Jessica, who was beautiful, and often 0uite funn#,
and was certainl# going somewhere. $nd Jessica saw in *ichard an enormous
amount of potential, which, properl# harnessed b# the right woman, would have
made him the perfect matrimonial accessor#. If onl# he were a little more focused,
she would murmur to herself, and so she gave him boo&s with titles li&e Dress for
Success and A Hundred and Twenty-Five Haits of Successful !en" and boo&s on
how to run a business li&e a militar# campaign, and *ichard alwa#s said than& #ou,
and alwa#s intended to read them. In -arve# <ichols's men's fashion department she
would pic& out for him the &inds of clothes she thought that he should wearand he
wore them, during the wee&, an#wa#1 and, a #ear to the da# after their first
encounter, she told him she thought it was time that the# went shopping for an
engagement ring.
3Wh# do #ou go out with her63 as&ed Gar#, in !orporate $ccounts, eighteen
months later. 3She's terrif#ing.3
*ichard shoo& his head. 3She's reall# sweet, once #ou get to &now her.3
Gar# put down the plastic troll doll he had pic&ed up from *ichard's des&. 3I'm
surprised she still lets #ou pla# with these.3
3"he sub,ect has never come up,3 said *ichard, pic&ing up one of the creatures
from his des&. It had a shoc& of ;a#/Glo orange hair, and a slightl# baffled
e8pression, as if it were lost.
$nd the sub,ect had indeed come up. Jessica had, however, convinced herself
that *ichard's troll collection was a mar& of endearing eccentricit#, comparable to
+r. Stoc&ton's collection of angels. Jessica was in the process of organi7ing a
traveling e8hibition of +r. Stoc&ton's angel collection, and she had come to the
conclusion that great men alwa#s collected something. In actualit# *ichard did not
reall# collect trolls. -e had found a troll on the sidewal& outside the office, and, in a
vain attempt at in,ecting a little personalit# into his wor&ing world, he had placed it
on his computer monitor. "he others had followed over the ne8t few months, gifts
from colleagues who had noticed that *ichard had a penchant for the ugl# little
creatures. -e had ta&en the gifts and positioned them, strategicall#, around his des&,
beside the telephones and the framed photograph of Jessica.
"he photograph had a #ellow 9ost/it note stuc& to it.
It was a %rida# afternoon. *ichard had noticed that events were cowards. the#
didn't occur singl#, but instead the# would run in pac&s and leap out at him all at
once. "a&e this particular %rida#, for e8ample. It was, as Jessica had pointed out to
him at least a do#en times in the last month, the most important da# of his life. So it
was unfortunate that, despite the 9ost/it note *ichard had left on his fridge door at
home, and the other 9ost/it note he had placed on the photograph of Jessica on his
des&, he had forgotten about it completel# and utterl#.
$lso, there was the Wandsworth report, which was overdue and ta&ing up most
of his head. *ichard chec&ed another row of figures1 then he noticed that page ?@
had vanished, and he set it up to print out again1 and another page down, and he
&new that if he were onl# left alone to finish it . . . if, miracle of miracles, the phone
did not ring . . . It rang. -e thumbed the spea&erphone.
3-ello6 *ichard6 "he managing director needs to &now when he'll have the
*ichard loo&ed at his watch. 3%ive minutes, S#lvia. It's almost wrapped up. I
,ust have to attach the 9 A ) pro,ection.3
3"han&s, ;ic&. I'll come down for it.3 S#lvia was, as she li&ed to e8plain, 3the
+;'s 9$,3 and she moved in an atmosphere of crisp efficienc#. -e thumbed the
spea&erphone off1 it rang again, immediatel#. 3*ichard,3 said the spea&er, with
Jessica's voice, 3it's Jessica. 4ou haven't forgotten, have #ou63
3%orgotten63 -e tried to remember what he could have forgotten. -e loo&ed at
Jessica's photograph for inspiration and found all the inspiration he could have
needed in the shape of a #ellow 9ost/it note stuc& to her forehead.
3*ichard6 9ic& up the telephone.3
-e pic&ed up the phone, reading the 9ost/it note as he did so. 3Sorr#, Jess. <o, I
hadn't forgotten. Seven 9.+., at +a +aison Italiano. Should I meet #ou there63
3Jessica, *ichard. <ot Jess.3 She paused for a moment. 3$fter what happened
last time6 I don't thin& so. 4ou reall# could get lost in #our own bac&#ard, *ichard.3
*ichard thought about pointing out that anyone could have confused the
<ational Galler# with the <ational 9ortrait Galler#, and that it wasn't she who had
spent the whole da# standing in the rain 'which was, in his opinion, ever# bit as
much fun as wal&ing around either place until his feet hurt(, but he thought better of
3I'll meet #ou at #our place,3 said Jessica. 3We can wal& down together.3
3*ight, Jess. Jessicasorr#.3
34ou have confirmed our reservation, haven't #ou, *ichard.3
34es,3 lied *ichard earnestl#. "he other line on his phone had begun to ring.
3Jessica, loo&, I . . . 3
3Good,3 said Jessica, and she bro&e the connection. -e pic&ed up the other line.
3-i ;ic&. It's me, Gar#.3 Gar# sat a few des&s down from *ichard. -e waved.
3$re we still on for drin&s6 4ou said we could go over the +erstham account.3
3Get off the blood# phone, Gar#. 5f course we are.3 *ichard put down the
phone. "here was a telephone number at the bottom of the 9ost/it note1 *ichard had
written the 9ost/it note to himself, several wee&s earlier. $nd he had made the
reservation. he was almost certain of that. :ut he had not confirmed it. -e had &ept
meaning to, but there had been so much to do and *ichard had &nown that there was
plent# of time. :ut events run in pac&s . . .
S#lvia was now standing ne8t to him. 3;ic&6 "he Wandsworth report63
3$lmost read#, S#lvia. )oo&, ,ust hold on a sec, can #ou63
-e finished punching in the number, breathed a sigh of relief when somebod#
answered, 3+a +aison. !an I help #ou63
34es,3 said *ichard. 3$ table for three, for tonight. I thin& I boo&ed it. $nd if I
did I'm confirming the reservation. $nd if I didn't, I wondered if I could boo& it.
9lease.3 <o, the# had no record of a table for tonight in the name of +a#hew. 5r
Stoc&ton. 5r :artramJessica's surname. $nd as for boo&ing a table . . .
It wasn't the words that *ichard found so unpleasant. it was the tone of voice in
which the information was transmitted. $ table for tonight should certainl# have
been boo&ed #ears beforeperhaps, it was implied, b# *ichard's parents. $ table
for tonight was impossible. if the pope, the prime minister, and the president of
%rance arrived this evening without a confirmed reservation, even the# would be
turned out into the street with a continental ,eer. 3:ut it's for m# fiancee's boss. I
&now I should have phoned before. "here are onl# three of us, can't #ou please . . . 3
"he# had put down the phone.
3*ichard63 said S#lvia. 3"he +;'s waiting.3
3;o #ou thin&,3 as&ed *ichard, 3the#'d give me a table if I phoned bac& and
offered them e8tra mone#63

In her dream the# were all together in the house. -er parents, her brother, her
bab# sister. "he# were standing together in the ballroom, staring at her. "he# were
all so pale, so grave. 9ortia, her mother, touched her chee& and told her that she was
in danger. In her dream, ;oor laughed, and said she &new. -er mother shoo& her
head. no, nonow she was in danger. Now$
;oor opened her e#es. "he door was opening, 0uietl#, 0uietl#1 she held her
breath. %ootsteps, 0uiet on the stone. %erhaps he won&t notice 'e" she thought.
%erhaps he&ll go away$ $nd then she thought, desperatel#, (&' hungry$
"he footsteps hesitated. She was well hidden, she &new, under a pile of
newspapers and rags. $nd it was possible that the intruder meant her no harm. )an&t
he hear 'y hearteat* she thought. $nd then the footsteps came closer, and she
&new what she had to do, and it scared her. $ hand pulled the covers off her, and
she loo&ed up into a blan&, utterl# hairless face, which creased into a vicious smile.
She rolled, then, and twisted, and the &nife blade, aimed at her chest, caught her in
the upper arm.
2ntil that moment, she had never thought she could do it. <ever thought she
would be brave enough, or scared enough, or desperate enough to dare. :ut she
reached up one hand to his chest, and she opened $ $ $
-e gasped, and tumbled onto her. It was wet and warm and slipper#, and she
slithered and staggered out from under the man, and she stumbled out of the room.
She caught her breath in the tunnel outside, narrow and low, as she fell against
the wall, breathing in gasps and sobs. "hat had ta&en the last of her strength1 now
she was spent. -er shoulder was beginning to throb. The knife" she thought. :ut she
was safe.
3+#, oh m#,3 said a voice from the dar&ness on her right. 3She survived +ister
*oss. Well I never, +ister =andemar.3 "he voice oo7ed. It sounded li&e gra# slime.
3Well I never either, +ister !roup,3 said a flat voice on her left.
$ light was &indled and flic&ered. 3Still,3 said +r. !roup, his e#es gleaming in
the dar& beneath the earth, 3she won't survive us.3
;oor &need him, hard, in the groin. and then she pushed herself forward, her
right hand holding her left shoulder.
$nd she ran.

*ichard waved awa# the interruption. )ife was almost under his control, now.
Just a little more time . . .
Gar# said his name again. 3;ic&6 It's si8/thirt#.3
3It's what63 9apers and pens and spreadsheets and trolls were tumbled into
*ichard's briefcase. -e snapped it shut and ran.
-e pulled his coat on as he went. Gar# was following. 3$re we going to have
that drin&, then63
*ichard paused for a moment. If ever, he decided, the# made disorgani7ation an
5l#mpic sport, he could be disorgani7ed for :ritain. 3Gar#,3 he said, 3I'm sorr#. I
blew it. I have to see Jessica tonight. We're ta&ing her boss out to dinner.3
3+ister Stoc&ton6 5f Stoc&tons6 The Stoc&ton63 *ichard nodded. "he# hurried
down the stairs. 3I'm sure #ou'll have fun,3 said Gar#, insincerel#. 3$nd how is the
!reature from the :lac& )agoon63
3Jessica's from Ilford, actuall#, Gar#. $nd she remains the light and love of m#
life, than& #ou ver# much for as&ing.3 "he# reached the lobb#, and *ichard made a
dash for the automatic doors, which spectacularl# failed to open.
3It's after si8, +ister +a#hew,3 said +r. %iggis, the building's securit# guard.
34ou have to sign out.3
3I don't need this,3 said *ichard to no one in particular, 3I reall# don't.3
+r. %iggis smelled vaguel# of medicinal liniment and was widel# rumored to
have an enc#clopedic collection of soft/core pornograph#. -e guarded the doors
with a diligence that bordered upon madness, never 0uite having lived down the
evening when an entire floor's worth of computer e0uipment upped and left, along
with two potted palms and the managing director's $8minster carpet.
3So our drin&'s off, then63
3I'm sorr#, Gar#. Is +onda# o&a# for #ou63
3Sure. +onda#'s fine. See #ou +onda#.3
+r. %iggis inspected their signatures and satisfied himself the# had no
computers, potted palms, or carpets about their persons, then he pressed a button
under his des&, and the door slid open.
3;oors,3 said *ichard.

"he underwa# branched and divided1 she pic&ed her wa# at random, duc&ing
through tunnels, running and stumbling and weaving. :ehind her strolled +r. !roup
and +r. =andemar, as calml# and cheerfull# as =ictorian dignitaries visiting the
!r#stal 9alace e8hibition. When the# arrived at a crossroads, +r. !roup would
&neel and find the nearest spot of blood, and the# would follow it. "he# were li&e
h#enas, e8hausting their pre#. "he# could wait. "he# had all the time in the world.

)uc& was with *ichard, for a change. -e caught a blac& ta8i, driven b# an
elderl# man who too& *ichard home b# an unli&el# route involving streets *ichard
had never before seen, while holding forth, as *ichard had discovered all )ondon
ta8i drivers will hold forthgiven a living, breathing, English/spea&ing passenger
on )ondon's inner/cit# traffic problems, how best to deal with crime, and thorn#
political issues of the da#. *ichard ,umped out of the cab, left a tip and his briefcase
behind, managed to flag down the cab again before it made it into the main road and
so got his briefcase bac&, then he ran up the stairs and into his apartment. -e was
alread# shedding clothes as he entered the hall. his briefcase spun across the room
and crash/landed on the sofa1 he too& his &e#s from his poc&et and placed them
carefull# on the hall table, in order to ensure he did not forget them.
"hen he dashed into the bedroom. "he bu77er sounded. *ichard, three/0uarters
of the wa# into his best suit, launched himself at the spea&er.
3*ichard6 It's Jessica. I hope #ou're read#.3
35h. 4es. :e right, down.3 -e pulled on a coat, and he ran, slamming the door
behind him. Jessica was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. She alwa#s
waited for him there. Jessica didn't li&e *ichard's apartment. it made her feel
uncomfortabl# female. "here was alwa#s the chance of finding a pair of *ichard's
underwear, well, an#where, not to mention the wandering lumps of congealed
toothpaste on the bathroom sin&. no, it was not Jessica's &ind of place.
Jessica was ver# beautiful1 so much so *ichard would occasionall# find himself
staring at her, wondering, how did she end up with 'e* $nd when the# made love
which the# did at Jessica's apartment in fashionable ensington, in Jessica's brass
bed with the crisp white linen sheets 'for Jessica's parents had told her that down
comforters were decadent(in the dar&ness, afterwards, she would hold him ver#
tightl#, and her long brown curls would tumble over his chest, and she would
whisper to him how much she loved him, and he would tell her he loved her and
alwa#s wanted to be with her, and the# both believed it to be true.

3:less me, +ister =andemar. She's slowing up.3
3Slowing up, +ister !roup.3
3She must be losing a lot of blood, +ister =.3
3)ovel# blood, +ister !. )ovel# wet blood,3
3<ot long now.3
$ clic&. the sound of a switchblade opening, empt# and lonel# and dar&.

3*ichard6 What are #ou doing63 as&ed Jessica.
3<othing, Jessica.3
34ou haven't forgotten #our &e#s again, have #ou63
3<o, Jessica.3 *ichard stopped patting himself and pushed his hands deep into
the poc&ets of his coat.
3<ow, when #ou meet +ister Stoc&ton tonight,3 said Jessica, 3#ou have to
appreciate that he's not ,ust a ver# important man. -e's also a corporate entit# in his
own right.3
3I can't wait,3 sighed *ichard.
3What was that, *ichard63
3I can't wait,3 said *ichard, rather more enthusiasticall#.
35h, please hurr# up,3 said Jessica, who was beginning to e8ude an aura of
what, in a lesser woman, might almost have been described as nerves. 3We mustn't
&eep +ister Stoc&ton waiting.3
3<o, Jess.3
3;on't call me that, *ichard. I loathe pet names. "he#'re so demeaning.3
3Spare an# change63 "he man sat in a doorwa#. -is beard was #ellow and gra#,
and his e#es were sun&en and dar&. $ hand/lettered sign hung from a piece of fra#ed
string around his nec& and rested on his chest, telling an#one with the e#es to read it
that he was homeless and hungr#. It didn't ta&e a sign to tell #ou that1 *ichard, hand
alread# in his poc&et, fumbled for a coin.
3*ichard. We haven't got the time,3 said Jessica, who gave to charit# and
invested ethicall#. 3<ow, I do want #ou to ma&e a good impression, fiance/wise. It
is vital that a future spouse ma&es a good impression.3 $nd then her face creased,
and she hugged him for a moment, and said, 35h, *ichard. I do love #ou. 4ou do
&now that, don't #ou63
$nd *ichard nodded, and he did.
Jessica chec&ed her watch and increased her pace. *ichard discreetl# flic&ed a
pound coin bac& through the air toward the man in the doorwa#, who caught it in
one grim# hand.
3"here wasn't an# problem with the reservations, was there63 as&ed Jessica.
$nd *ichard, who was not much good at l#ing when faced with a direct 0uestion,
said, 3$h.3

She had chosen wrongl#the corridor ended in a blan& wall. <ormall# that
would hardl# have given her pause, but she was so tired, so hungr#, in so much
pain . . . She leaned against the wall, feeling the bric&'s roughness against her face.
She was gulping breath, hiccuping and sobbing. -er arm was cold, and her left hand
was numb. She could go no farther, and the world was beginning to feel ver#
distant. She wanted to stop, to lie down, and to sleep for a hundred #ears.
35h, bless m# little blac& soul, +ister =andemar, do #ou see what I see63 "he
voice was soft, close. the# must have been nearer to her than she had imagined. 3I
sp#, with m# little e#e, something that's going to be3
3;ead in a minute, +ister !roup,3 said the flat voice, from above her.
35ur principal will be delighted.3
$nd the girl pulled whatever she could find deep inside her soul, from all the
pain, and the hurt, and the fear. She was spent, burnt out, and utterl# e8hausted. She
had nowhere to go, no power left, no time. 3If it's the last door I open,3 she pra#ed,
silentl#, to the "emple, to the $rch. 3Somewhere . . . an#where . . . safe . . . 3 and
then she thought, wildl#, +So'eody$+
$nd, as she began to pass out, she tried to open a door.
$s the dar&ness too& her, she heard +r. !roup's voice, as if from a long wa#
awa#. It said, 3:ugger and blast.3

Jessica and *ichard wal&ed down the sidewal& toward the restaurant. She had
her arm through his, and was wal&ing as fast as her heels permitted. -e hurried to
&eep up. Streetlights and the fronts of closed stores illuminated their path. "he#
passed a stretch of tall, looming buildings, abandoned and lonel#, bounded b# a high
bric& wall.
34ou are honestl# telling me #ou had to promise them an e8tra fift# pounds for
our table tonight6 4ou are an idiot, *ichard,3 said Jessica, her dar& e#es flashing.
3"he# had lost m# reservation. $nd the# said all the tables were boo&ed.3 "heir
steps echoed off the high walls.
3"he#'ll probabl# have us sitting b# the &itchen,3 said Jessica. 35r the door. ;id
#ou tell them it was for +ister Stoc&ton63
34es,3 replied *ichard.
Jessica sighed. She continued to drag him along, as a door opened in the wall, a
little wa# ahead of them. Someone stepped out and stood swa#ing for one long
terrible moment, and then collapsed to the concrete. *ichard shivered and stopped in
his trac&s. Jessica tugged him into motion.
3<ow, when #ou're tal&ing to +ister Stoc&ton, #ou must ma&e sure #ou don't
interrupt him. 5r disagree with himhe doesn't li&e to be disagreed with. When he
ma&es a ,o&e, laugh. If #ou're in an# doubt as to whether or not he's made a ,o&e,
loo& at me. I'll . . . mm, tap m# forefinger.3
"he# had reached the person on the sidewal&. Jessica stepped over the crumpled
form. *ichard hesitated. 3Jessica63
34ou're right. -e might thin& I'm bored,3 she mused. 3I &now,3 she said
brightl#, 3if he ma&es a ,o&e, I'll rub m# earlobe.3
3Jessica63 -e could hot believe that she was simpl# ignoring the figure at their
3What63 She was not pleased to be ,er&ed out of her reverie.
-e pointed to the sidewal&. "he person was face down, and enveloped in bul&#
clothes1 Jessica too& his arm and tugged him toward her. 35h. I see. If #ou pa# them
an# attention, *ichard, the#'ll wal& all over #ou. "he# all have homes, reall#. 5nce
she's slept it off, I'm sure she'll be fine.3 She* *ichard loo&ed down. It was a girl.
Jessica continued, 3<ow, I've told +ister Stoc&ton that we . . . 3 *ichard was down
on one &nee. 3*ichard6 What are #ou doing63
3She isn't drun&,3 said *ichard. 3She's hurt.3 -e loo&ed at his fingertips. 3She's
Jessica loo&ed down at him, nervous and pu77led. 3We're going to be late,3 she
pointed out.
3She's hurt.3
Jessica loo&ed bac& at the girl on the sidewal&. 9riorities. *ichard had no
priorities. 3*ichard. We're going to be late. Someone else will be along1 someone
else will help her.3
"he girl's face was crusted with dirt, and her clothes were wet with blood.
3She's hurt,3 he said, simpl#. "here was an e8pression on his face that Jessica hadn't
seen before.
3*ichard,3 she warned, and then she relented, a little, and offered a compromise.
3;ial BBB and call an ambulance then. Cuic&l#, now.3
Suddenl# the girl's e#es opened, white and wide in a face that was little more
than a smudge of dust and blood. 3<ot a hospital, please. "he#'ll find me. "a&e me
somewhere safe. 9lease.3 -er voice was wea&.
34ou're bleeding,3 said *ichard. -e loo&ed to see where she had come from,
but the wall was blan& and bric& and unbro&en. -e loo&ed bac& to her still form, and
as&ed, 3Wh# not a hospital63
3-elp me63 the girl whispered and her e#es closed.
$gain he as&ed her, 3Wh# don't #ou want to go to the hospital63 "his time there
was no answer at all.
3When #ou call the ambulance,3 said Jessica, 3don't give #our name. 4ou might
have to ma&e a statement or something, and then we'd be late . . . *ichard6 What are
#ou doing63
*ichard had pic&ed the girl up, cradling her in his arms. She was surprisingl#
light. 3I'm ta&ing her bac& to m# place, Jess. I can't ,ust leave her. "ell +ister
Stoc&ton I'm reall# sorr#, but it was an emergenc#. I'm sure he'll understand.3
3*ichard 5liver +a#hew,3 said Jessica, coldl#. 34ou put that girl down and
come bac& here this minute. 5r this engagement is at an end as of now. I'm warning
*ichard felt the stic&# warmth of blood soa&ing into his shirt. Sometimes, he
reali7ed, there is nothing #ou can do. -e wal&ed awa#, leaving behind Jessica, who
stood there on the sidewal&, her e#es stung with tears.

*ichard did not, at an# point on his wal&, stop to thin&. It was not something
over which he had an# volition. Somewhere in the sensible part of his head,
someonea normal, sensible *ichard +a#hewwas telling him how ridiculous he
was being. that he should ,ust have called the police, or an ambulance1 that it was
dangerous to lift an in,ured person1 that he had reall#, seriousl# upset Jessica1 that he
was going to have to sleep on the sofa tonight1 that he was ruining his onl# reall#
good suit1 that the girl smelled terrible . . . but *ichard found himself placing one
foot in front of the other, and, arms cramping and bac& hurting, ignoring the loo&s
he got from passers/b#, he ,ust &ept wal&ing. $nd after a while he was at the ground
floor door of his building, and he was stumbling up the staircase, and then he was
standing in front of the door to his apartment and reali7ing that he had left his &e#s
on the hall table, inside . . .
"he girl reached out one filth# hand to the door, and it swung open.
Never thought (&d e pleased that the door hadn&t latched properly" thought
*ichard, and he carried the girl inclosing the door behind him with his footand
put her down on his bed. -is shirtfront was soa&ed in blood.
She seemed semiconscious1 her e#es were closed, but fluttering. -e peeled off
her leather ,ac&et. "here was a long cut on her left upper arm and shoulder. *ichard
caught his breath. 3)oo&, I'm going to call a doctor,3 he said 0uietl#. 3!an #ou hear
-er e#es opened, wide and scared. 39lease, no. It'll be fine. It's not as bad as it
loo&s. I ,ust need sleep. <o doctors.3
3:ut #our arm#our shoulder3
3I'll be fine. "omorrow. 9lease63 It was little more than a whisper.
32m, I suppose, all right,3 and with sanit# beginning to assert itself, he said,
3)oo&, can I as&63
:ut she was asleep. *ichard too& an old scarf from his closet and wrapped it
firml# around her left upper arm and shoulder1 he did not want her to bleed to death
on his bed before he could get her to a doctor. $nd then he tiptoed out of his
bedroom and shut the door behind him. -e sat down on the sofa, in front of the
television, and wondered what he had done.
He is so'ewhere deep eneath the ground, in a tunnel" perhaps" or a sewer$ Light
co'es in flickers" defining the darkness" not dispelling it$ He is not alone$ There are
other people walking eside hi'" although he cannot see their faces$ They are
running" now" through the inside of the sewer" splashing through the 'ud and filth$
Droplets of water fall slowly through the air" crystal clear in the darkness$
He turns a corner" and the east is waiting for hi'$
(t is huge$ (t fills the space of the sewer, 'assive head down" ristled ody and
reath stea'ing in the chill of the air$ So'e kind of oar" he thinks at first" and then
reali#es that no oar could e so huge$ (t is the si#e of a ull" of a tiger" of an o-$
(t stares at hi'" and it pauses for a hundred years" while he lifts his spear$ He
glances at his hand" holding the spear" and oserves that it is not his hand, the ar'
is furred with dark hair" the nails are al'ost claws$
And then the east charges$
He throws his spear" ut it is already too late" and he feels the east slice his
side with ra#or-sharp tusks" feels his life slip away into the 'ud, and he reali#es he
has fallen face down into the water" which cri'sons in thick swirls of suffocating
lood$ And he tries so to screa'" he tries to wake up" ut he can reathe only 'ud
and lood and water" he can feel only pain . . .
3:ad dream63 as&ed the girl.
*ichard sat up on the couch, gasping for breath. "he curtains were still drawn,
the lights and the television still on, but he could tell, from the pale light coming in
through the crac&s, that it was morning. -e fumbled on the couch for the remote
control, which had wedged itself into the small of his bac& during the night, and he
turned off the television.
34es,3 he said. 3Sort of.3
-e wiped awa# the sleep from his e#es and too& stoc& of himself, pleased to
notice that he had at least ta&en off his shoes and ,ac&et before he had fallen asleep.
-is shirtfront was covered with dried blood and with dirt. "he homeless girl didn't
sa# an#thing. She loo&ed bad. pale, beneath the grime and brown dried blood, and
small. She was dressed in a variet# of clothes thrown over each other. odd clothes,
dirt# velvets, mudd# lace, rips and holes through which other la#ers and st#les could
be seen. She loo&ed, *ichard thought, as if she'd done a midnight raid on the -istor#
of %ashion section of the =ictoria and $lbert +useum, and was still wearing
ever#thing she'd ta&en. -er short hair was filth#, but loo&ed li&e it might have been
a dar& reddish color under the dirt.
34ou're awa&e,3 said *ichard.
3Whose baron# is this63 as&ed the girl. 3Whose fiefdom63
32m. Sorr#63
She loo&ed around her suspiciousl#. 3Where am I63
3<ewton +ansions, )ittle !omden Street . . . 3 -e stopped. She had opened the
curtains, blin&ing at the cold da#light. "he girl stared out at the rather ordinar# view
from *ichard's window, astonished, peering wide/e#ed at the cars and the buses and
the tin# sprawl of shopsa ba&er#, a drugstore and a li0uor storebelow them.
3I'm in )ondon $bove,3 she said, in a small voice.
34es, #ou're in )ondon,3 said *ichard. Aove what* he wondered. 3I thin&
ma#be #ou were in shoc& or something last night. "hat is a nast# cut on #our arm.3
-e waited for her to sa# something, to e8plain. She glanced at him, and then loo&ed
bac& down at the buses and the shops. *ichard continued. 3I, um, found #ou on the
pavement. "here was a lot of blood.3
3;on't worr#,3 she said, seriousl#. 3+ost of the blood was someone else's.3
She let the curtain fall bac&. "hen she began to unwrap the scarf, now
bloodstained and crusted, from her arm. She e8amined the cut and made a face.
3We're going to have to do something about this,3 she said. 3;o #ou want to give
me a hand63
*ichard was beginning to feel a little out of his depth. 3I don't reall# &now too
much about first aid,3 he said.
3Well,3 she said, 3if #ou're reall# s0ueamish #ou onl# have to hold the bandages
and tie the ends where I can't reach. 4ou do have bandages, don't #ou63
*ichard nodded. 35h #es,3 he said. 3In the first aid &it. In the bathroom. 2nder
the sin&.3 $nd then he went into his bedroom and changed his clothes, wondering
whether the mess on his shirt 'his best shirt, bought for him b#, oh God, Jessica, she
would have a fit( would ever come off.

"he blood# water reminded him of something, some &ind of dream he had once
had, perhaps, but he could no longer, for the life of him, remember e8actl# what. -e
pulled the plug, let the water out of the sin&, and filled it with clean water again, to
which he added a cloud# splash of li0uid disinfectant. the sharp antiseptic smell
seemed so utterl# sensible and medicinal, a remed# for the oddness of his situation,
and his visitor. "he girl leaned over the sin&, and he splashed warm water over her
arm and shoulder.
*ichard was never as s0ueamish as he thought he was. 5r rather, he was
s0ueamish when it came to blood on screen. a good 7ombie movie or even an
e8plicit medical drama would leave him huddled in a corner, h#perventilating, with
his hands over his e#es, muttering things li&e 3Just tell me when it's over.3 :ut when
it came to real blood, real pain, he simpl# did something about it. "he# cleaned out
the cutwhich was much less severe than *ichard remembered it from the night
beforeand bandaged it up, and the girl did her ver# best not to wince in the
process. $nd *ichard found himself wondering how old she was, and what she
loo&ed li&e under the grime, and wh# she was living on the streets and
3What's #our name63 she as&ed.
3*ichard. *ichard +a#hew. ;ic&.3 She nodded, as if she were committing it to
memor#. "he doorbell rang. *ichard loo&ed at the mess in the bathroom, and the
girl, and wondered how it would loo& to an outside observer. Such as, for
e8ample . . . 35h )ord,3 he said, reali7ing the worst. 3I bet it's Jess. She's going to
&ill me.3 Da'age control$ Da'age control$ 3)oo&,3 he told the girl. 34ou wait in
-e shut the door of the bathroom behind him and wal&ed down the hall. -e
opened the front door, and breathed a huge and 0uite heartfelt sigh of relief. It wasn't
Jessica. It waswhat6 +ormons6 Jehovah's Witnesses6 "he police6 -e couldn't
tell. "here were two of them, at an# rate.
"he# wore blac& suits, which were slightl# greas#, slightl# fra#ed, and even
*ichard, who counted himself among the sartoriall# d#sle8ic, felt there was
something odd about the cut of the coats. "he# were the &ind of suits that might
have been made b# a tailor two hundred #ears ago who had had a modern suit
described to him but had never actuall# seen one. "he lines were wrong, and so
were the grace notes.
A fo- and a wolf" thought *ichard, involuntaril#. "he man in front, the fo8, was
a little shorter than *ichard. -e had lan&, greas# hair, of an unli&el# orange color,
and a pallid comple8ion1 as *ichard opened the door, he smiled, widel#, and ,ust a
fraction too late, with teeth that loo&ed li&e an accident in a grave#ard. 3$ good
morrow to #ou, good sir,3 he said, 3on this fine and beautiful da#.3
3$h. -ello,3 said *ichard.
3We are conducting a personal en0uir# of a delicate nature as it were, door to
door. ;o #ou mind if we come in63
3Well, it's not ver# convenient right now,3 said *ichard. "hen he as&ed, 3$re
#ou with the police63 "he second of the visitors, a tall man, the one he had thought
of as a wolf, his gra# and blac& hair cut bristle/short, stood a little behind his friend,
holding a stac& of photocopies to his chest. -e had said nothing until this moment
,ust waited, huge and impassive. <ow he laughed, once, low and dirtil#. "here was
something unhealth# about that laugh.
3"he police6 $las,3 said the smaller man, 3we cannot claim that felicit#. $
career in law and order, although indubitabl# enticing, was not inscribed on the
cards ;ame %ortuna dealt m# brother and me. <o, we are merel# private citi7ens.
$llow me to ma&e introductions. I am +ister !roup, and this gentleman is m#
brother, +ister =andemar.3
"he# did not loo& li&e brothers. "he# did not loo& li&e an#thing *ichard had
seen before. 34our brother63 as&ed *ichard. 3Shouldn't #ou have the same name63
3I am impressed. What a brain, +ister =andemar. een and incisive isn't the
half of it. Some of us are so sharp,3 he said as he leaned in closer to *ichard, went
up on tiptoes into *ichard's face, 3we could ,ust cut ourselves.3 *ichard too& an
involuntar# step bac&wards. 3!an we come inside63 as&ed +r. !roup.
3What do #ou want63
+r. !roup sighed, in what he obviousl# imagined was a rather wistful manner.
3We are loo&ing for our sister,3 he e8plained. 3$ wa#ward child, willful and
headstrong, who has close to bro&en our poor dear widowed mother's heart.3
3*an awa#,3 e8plained +r. =andemar, 0uietl#. -e thrust a photocopied sheet
into *ichard's hands. 3She's a little . . . funn#,3 he added, and then he twirled one
finger ne8t to his temple in the universal gesture to indicate mental incapacit#.
*ichard loo&ed down at the paper. It said.
-$=E 452 SEE< "-IS GI*)6
:eneath that was a photocop#/gra# photograph of a girl who loo&ed to *ichard
li&e a cleaner, longer/haired version of the #oung lad# he had left in his bathroom.
2nder that it said.
$<SWE*S "5 "-E <$+E 5% ;5*EE<.
:I"ES $<; I!S. *2< $W$4.
"E)) 2S I% 452 S$W -E*.
W$<" -E* :$!. *EW$*; 9$4E;.
$nd below that, a telephone number. *ichard loo&ed bac& at the photograph. It
was definitel# the girl in his bathroom. 3<o,3 he said. 3I haven't seen her, I'm afraid.
I'm sorr#.3
+r. =andemar, however, was not listening. -e had raised his head and was
sniffing the air, li&e a man smelling something odd or unpleasant. *ichard reached
out to give him bac& his piece of paper, but the big man simpl# pushed past him and
wal&ed into the apartment, a wolf on the prowl. *ichard ran after him. 3What do #ou
thin& #ou are doing6 Will #ou stop that6 Get out. )oo&, #ou can't go in there3 +r.
=andemar was headed straight for the bathroom. *ichard hoped that the girl
;oreen6had had the presence of mind to loc& the bathroom door. :ut no1 it swung
open at +r. =andemar's push. -e wal&ed in, and *ichard, feeling li&e a small and
ineffectual dog #apping at the heels of a postman, followed him in.
It was not a large bathroom. It contained a bathtub, a toilet, a sin&, several
bottles of shampoo, a bar of soap, and a towel. When *ichard had left it, a couple of
minutes before, it had also contained a dirt#, blood# girl, a ver# blood# sin&, and an
open first aid &it. <ow, it was gleamingl# clean.
"here was nowhere the girl could have been hiding. +r. =andemar stepped out
of the bathroom and pushed open *ichard's bedroom door, wal&ed in, loo&ed
around. 3I don't &now what #ou thin& #ou're doing,3 said *ichard. 3:ut if #ou two
don't get out of m# apartment this minute, I'm phoning the police.3
"hen +r. =andemar, who had been in the process of e8amining *ichard's living
room, turned bac& toward *ichard, and *ichard suddenl# reali7ed that he had never
been so scared of another human being in his life.
$nd then fo8# +r. !roup said, 3Wh# #es, whatever can have come over #ou,
+ister =andemar6 It's grief for our dear sweet sibling, I'll wager, has turned his
head. <ow apologi7e to the gentleman, +ister =andemar.3
+r. =andemar nodded, and pondered for a moment. 3"hought I needed to use
the toilet,3 he said. 3;idn't. Sorr#.3
+r. !roup began to wal& down the hall, pushing +r. =andemar in front of him.
3"here. <ow, #ou'll forgive m# errant brother his lac& of social graces, I trust.
Worr# over our poor dear widowed mother, and over our sister, whom even as we
spea& is wandering the streets of )ondon unloved and uncared/for, has nigh
unhinged him, I'll be bound. :ut for all that, he's a good fellow to have at #our side.
Is't not so, stout fellow63 "he# were out of *ichard's apartment now, into the
stairwell. +r. =andemar said nothing. -e did not loo& unhinged with grief. !roup
turned bac& to *ichard and essa#ed another fo8# smile. 34ou will tell us if #ou see
her,3 he said.
3Good/b#e,3 said *ichard. "hen he closed the door and loc&ed it. $nd, for the
first time since he had lived there, he attached the securit# chain.

+r. !roup, who had cut *ichard's phone line at the first mention of calling the
police, was starting to wonder whether he had cut the right cord or not. "wentieth/
centur# telecommunications technolog# not being his strongest point. -e too& one
of the photocopies from =andemar, and positioned it on the wall of the stairwell.
3SpitD3 he said to =andemar.
+r. =andemar haw&ed a mouthful of phlegm from the bac& of his throat and
spat it neatl# onto the bac& of the handbill. +r. !roup slapped the handbill hard onto
the wall, ne8t to *ichard's door. It stuc& immediatel# and stuc& hard.
-$=E 452 SEE< "-IS GI*)6 it as&ed.
+r. !roup turned to +r. =andemar. 3;o #ou believe him63
"he# turned bac& down the stairs. 3;o I -ell,3 said +r. =andemar. 3I could
smell her.3

*ichard waited b# his front door until he heard the main door slam, several
floors below. -e started to wal& down the hall, bac& toward the bathroom, when the
phone rang loudl#, startling him. -e sprinted bac& down the hall and pic&ed up the
receiver. 3-ello63 said *ichard. 3-ello63
<o sound came out of the receiver. Instead, there was a clic&, and Jessica's
voice came out of the answering machine on the table ne8t to the phone. -er voice
said, 3*ichard6 "his is Jessica. I'm sorr# #ou're not there, because this would have
been our last conversation, and I did so want to tell #ou this to #our face.3 "he
phone, he reali7ed, was completel# dead. "he receiver trailed a foot or so of cord,
and was then neatl# cut off.
34ou embarrassed me ver# deepl# last night, *ichard,3 the voice continued. 3$s
far as I'm concerned our engagement is at an end. I have no intention of returning
the ring, nor indeed of ever seeing #ou again. :#e.3
"he tape stopped turning, there was another clic&, and the little red light began
to flash.
3:ad news63 as&ed the girl. She was standing ,ust behind him, in the &itchen
part of the apartment, with her arm neatl# bandaged. She was getting out tea bags,
putting them in mugs. "he &ettle was boiling.
34es,3 said *ichard. 3=er# bad.3 -e wal&ed over to her, handed her the -$=E
452 SEE< "-IS GI*)6 poster. 3"hat's #ou, isn't it63
She raised an e#ebrow. 3"he photograph's me.3
3$nd #ou are . . . ;oreen63
She shoo& her head. 3I'm ;oor, *ichardrichard/ma#hewdic&. +il& and sugar63
*ichard was feeling utterl# out of his league b# now. $nd he said, 3*ichard.
Just *ichard. <o sugar.3 "hen he said, 3)oo&, if it isn't a personal 0uestion, what
happened to #ou63
;oor poured the boiling water into the mugs. 34ou don't want to &now,3 she
said, simpl#.
35h, well, I'm sorr# if I3
3<o. *ichard. -onestl#, #ou don&t want to &now. It wouldn't do #ou an# good.
4ou've done more than #ou should have alread#.3
She removed the tea bags and handed him a mug of tea. -e too& it from her and
reali7ed that he was still carr#ing around the receiver. 3Well. I mean. I couldn't ,ust
have left #ou there.3
34ou could have,3 she said. 34ou didn't.3 She pressed herself up against the
wall and peered out of the window. *ichard wal&ed over to the window and loo&ed
out. $cross the street, +r. !roup and +r. =andemar were coming out of the ba&er#,
and -$=E 452 SEE< "-IS GI*)6 was stuc& in a place of prominence in its
3$re the# reall# #our brothers63 he as&ed.
39lease,3 said ;oor. 3Give me a brea&.3
-e sipped his tea and tried to pretend that ever#thing was normal. 3So where
were #ou63 he as&ed. 3Just now63
3I was here,3 she said. 3)oo&, with those two still around we have to get a
message to . . . 3 She paused. 3"o someone who can help. I don't dare leave here.3
3Well, isn't there somewhere #ou could go6 Someone that we could call63
She too& the dead receiver from his hand, wire trailing, and shoo& her head.
3+# friends aren't on the phone,3 she said. She put it bac& in its cradle, where it sat,
useless and lonel#. "hen she smiled, fast and wic&ed. 3:readcrumbs,3 she said.
3Sorr#63 said *ichard.

"here was a little window in the bac& of the bedroom that loo&ed out on an area
of roof tiles and gutters. ;oor stood on *ichard's bed to reach it, opened the
window, and sprin&led the breadcrumbs around. 3:ut I don't understand,3 said
35f course #ou don't,3 she agreed. 3<ow, shush.3 "here was a flutter of wings,
and the purple/gra#/green sheen of a pigeon. It pec&ed at the breadcrumbs, and
;oor reached out her right hand and pic&ed it up. It loo&ed at her curiousl# but
made no complaint.
"he# sat down on the bed. ;oor got *ichard to hold the pigeon, while she
attached a message to its leg, using a vivid blue rubber band that *ichard had
previousl# used to &eep his electricit# bills all in one place. *ichard was not an
enthusiastic holder of pigeons, even at the best of times. 3I don't see the point in
this,3 he e8plained. 3I mean, it's not a homing pigeon. It's ,ust a normal )ondon
pigeon. "he &ind that craps on )ord <elson.3
3"hat's right,3 said ;oor. -er chee& was gra7ed, and her dirt# reddish hair was
tangled1 tangled, but not matted. $nd her e#es . . . *ichard reali7ed that he could not
tell what color her e#es were. "he# were not blue, or green, or brown, or gra#1 the#
reminded him of fire opals. there were burning greens and blues, and even reds and
#ellows that vanished and glinted as she moved. She too& the bird from him, gentl#,
held it up, and loo&ed it in the face. It tipped its head on one side and stared bac& at
her with bead/blac& e#es. 35&a#,3 she said, and then she made a noise that sounded
li&e the li0uid burbling of pigeons. 35&a# )rrppllrr" #ou're loo&ing for the mar0uis
de !arabas. 4ou got that63
"he pigeon burbled li0uidl# bac& at her.
3$ttagirl. <ow, this is important, so #ou'd better3 "he pigeon interrupted her
with a rather impatient/sounding burble. 3I'm sorr#,3 said ;oor. 34ou &now what
#ou're doing, of course.3 She too& the bird to the window and let it go.
*ichard had watched the whole routine with some ama7ement. 3;o #ou &now,
it almost sounded li&e it understood #ou63 he said, as the bird shran& in the s&# and
vanished behind some rooftops.
3-ow about that,3 said ;oor. 3<ow. We wait.3
She went over to the boo&shelf in the corner of the bedroom, found a cop# of
!ansfield %ark *ichard had not previousl# &nown that he possessed, and went into
the living room. *ichard followed her. She settled herself on his sofa and opened the
3So is it short for ;oreen63 he as&ed.
34our name.3
3<o. It's ,ust ;oor.3
3-ow do #ou spell it63
3;/o/o/r. )i&e something #ou wal& through to go places.3
35h.3 -e had to sa# something, so he said, 3What &ind of a name is ;oor,
$nd she loo&ed at him with her odd/colored e#es, and she said, 3+# name.3
"hen she went bac& to Jane $usten.
*ichard pic&ed up the remote control and turned on the television. "hen he
changed the channel. !hanged it again. Sighed. !hanged it again. 3So, what are we
waiting for63
;oor turned the page. She didn't loo& up. 3$ repl#.3
3What &ind of a repl#63 ;oor shrugged. 35h. *ight.3 It occurred to *ichard
then that her s&in was ver# white, now that some of the dirt and blood had been
removed. -e wondered if she were pale from illness, or from loss of blood, or if she
simpl# didn't get out much, or was anemic. +a#be she'd been in prison, although
she loo&ed a bit too #oung for that. 9erhaps the big man had been telling the truth
when he had said she was mad. 3)isten, when those men came over . . . 3
3+en63 $ flash of the opal/colored e#es.
3!roup and, um, =anderbilt.3
3=andemar.3 She mused for a moment, then nodded. 3I suppose #ou could call
them men, #es. "wo legs, two arms, a head each.3
*ichard &ept tal&ing. 3When the# came in here, before. Where were #ou63
She lic&ed her finger and turned a page. 3I was here.3
3:ut3 -e stopped tal&ing, out of words. "here wasn't an#where in the
apartment that she could have hidden herself. :ut she hadn't left the apartment. :ut

"here was a scratching noise, and a dar& shape larger than a mouse scurried out
from the mess of videotapes beneath the television. 3JesusD3 said *ichard, and he
threw the remote control at it as hard as he could. It crashed into the videos with a
bang. 5f the dar& shape there was no sign.
3*ichardD3 said ;oor.
3It's o&a#,3 he e8plained. 3I thin& it was ,ust a rat or something.3
She glared at him. 35f course it was a rat. 4ou'll have scared it now, poor
thing.3 She loo&ed around the room, then made a low whistling noise between her
front teeth. 3-ello63 she called. She &nelt on the floor, !ansfield %ark abandoned.
She flashed a glance bac& at *ichard. 3If #ou've hurt it . . . 3 she threatened1
then, softl#, to the room, 3I'm sorr#, he's an idiot. -ello63
3I'm not an idiot,3 said *ichard.
3Shh,3 she said. 3-ello63 $ pin& nose and two small blac& e#es peered out from
under the sofa. "he rest of the head followed, and it scrutini7ed its surroundings
suspiciousl#. It was indeed much too big to be a mouse, *ichard was certain of that.
3-i,3 said ;oor, warml#. 3$re #ou o&a#63 She e8tended her hand. "he animal
climbed into it, then ran up her arm, nestling in the croo& of it. ;oor stro&ed its side
with her finger. It was dar& brown, with a long pin& tail. "here was something that
loo&ed li&e a folded piece of paper attached to its side.
3It's a rat,3 said *ichard.
34es, it is. $re #ou going to apologi7e63
+a#be he hadn't heard her properl#. +a#be he was the one who was going
mad. 3"o a rat63
;oor said nothing, fairl# meaningfull#. 3I'm sorr#,3 said *ichard, to the rat,
with dignit#, 3if I startled #ou.3
"he rat loo&ed up at ;oor. 3<o, he reall# does mean it,3 she said. 3-e's not ,ust
sa#ing it. So what have #ou got for me63 She fumbled at the rat's side, and pulled
out a much/folded piece of brown paper, which had been held on with something
that loo&ed to *ichard li&e a vivid blue rubber band.
She opened it up. a piece of ragged/edged brown paper, with spider# blac&
handwriting on it. She read it and nodded. 3"han& #ou,3 she said, to the rat. 3I
appreciate all #ou've done.3 It scampered down onto the couch, glared up at *ichard
for a moment, and then was gone in the shadows.
"he girl called ;oor passed the paper to *ichard. 3-ere,3 she said. 3*ead this.3

It was late afternoon in !entral )ondon, and, with autumn drawing on, it was
getting dar&. *ichard had ta&en the "ube to "ottenham !ourt *oad and was now
wal&ing west down 58ford Street, holding the piece of paper. 58ford Street was the
retail hub of )ondon, and even now the sidewal&s were pac&ed with shoppers and
+(t&s a 'essage"+ she said" when she gave it to hi'$ +Fro' the 'ar.uis de
/ichard was sure he had heard the na'e efore$ +That&s nice"+ he said$ +0ut of
postcards" was he*+
+This is .uicker$+
-e passed the lights and the noise of the =irgin megastore, and the shop that
sold souvenir )ondon police helmets and little red )ondon buses, and the place ne8t
door that sold individual slices of pi77a, and then he turned right.
+1ou have to follow the directions written on here$ Try not to let anyone follow
you$+ Then she sighed" and said" +( really shouldn&t involve you this 'uch$+
+(f ( follow these directions $ $ $ will it get you out of here faster*+
-e turned into -anwa# Street. $lthough he had ta&en onl# a few steps from the
well/lit bustle of 58ford Street, he might have been in another cit#. -anwa# Street
was empt#, forsa&en1 a narrow, dar& road, little more than an alle#wa#, filled with
gloom# record shops and closed restaurants, the onl# light spilling out from the
secretive drin&ing clubs on the upper floors of buildings. -e wal&ed along it, feeling
3 ' . . . turn right into Hanway Street" left into Hanway %lace" then right again
into 0r'e %assage$ Stop at the first streetlight you co'e to $ $ $ & Are you sure this is
-e did not remember an 5rme 9assage, although he had been to -anwa# 9lace
before. there was an underground Indian restaurant there his friend Gar# li&ed a lot.
$s far as *ichard could remember, -anwa# 9lace was a dead end. "he +andeer,
that was the restaurant. -e passed the brightl# lit front door, the restaurant's steps
leading invitingl# down into the underground, and then he turned left . . .
-e had been wrong. "here was an 5rme 9assage. -e could see the sign for it,
high on the wall.
5*+E 9$SS$GE Wl
<o wonder he hadn't noticed it before. it was scarcel# more than a narrow
alle#wa# between houses, lit b# a sputtering gas/,et. 4ou don't see man# of those
an#more, thought *ichard, and he held up his instructions to the gaslight, peering at
+ &Then turn around thrice" widdershins&*+
+Widdershins 'eans counterclockwise" /ichard$+
-e turned, three times, feeling stupid. +Look" why do ( have to do all this" 2ust to
see your friend$ ( 'ean" all this nonsense $ $ $ +
+(t&s not nonsense$ /eally$ 3ust4hu'or 'e on this" okay*+ And she had s'iled
at hi'$
-e stopped turning. "hen he wal&ed down the alle# to the end. <othing. <o
one. Just a metal garbage can, and beside it something that might have been a pile of
rags. 3-ello63 called *ichard. 3Is an#one here6 I'm ;oor's friend. -ello63
<o. "here was no one there. *ichard was relieved. <ow he could go home and
e8plain to the girl that nothing had happened. "hen he would call in the appropriate
authorities, and the# would sort it all out. -e crumpled the paper into a tight ball,
and tossed it toward the bin.
What *ichard had ta&en for a pile of rags unfolded, e8panded, stood up in one
fluid motion. $ hand caught the crumpled paper in midair.
3+ine, I believe,3 said the mar0uis de !arabas. -e wore a huge dand#ish blac&
coat that was not 0uite a froc& coat nor e8actl# a trench coat, and high blac& boots,
and, beneath his coat, ragged# clothes. -is e#es burned white in an e8tremel# dar&
face. $nd he grinned white teeth, momentaril#, as if at a private ,o&e of his own, and
bowed to *ichard, and said, 3;e !arabas, at #our service, and #ou are . . . 63
32m,3 said *ichard. 3Er. 2m.3
34ou are *ichard +a#hew, the #oung man who rescued our wounded ;oor.
-ow is she now63
3Er. She's o&a#. -er arm's still a bit3
3-er recover# time will undoubtedl# astonish us all. -er famil# had remar&able
recuperative powers. It's a wonder an#one managed to &ill them at all, isn't it63 "he
man who called himself the mar0uis de !arabas wal&ed restlessl# up and down the
alle#. *ichard could alread# tell that he was the t#pe of person who was alwa#s in
motion, li&e a great cat.
3Somebod# &illed ;oor's famil#63 as&ed *ichard.
3We're not going to get ver# far if #ou &eep repeating ever#thing I sa#, now, are
we63 said the mar0uis, who was now standing in front of *ichard. 3Sit down,3 he
ordered. *ichard loo&ed around the alle# for something to sit on. "he mar0uis put a
hand on his shoulder and sent him sprawling to the cobblestones. 3She &nows I don't
come cheap. What e8actl# is she offering me63
3What's the deal6 She sent #ou here to negotiate, #oung man. I'm not cheap, and
I never give freebies.3
*ichard shrugged, as well as he could shrug from a supine position. 3She said to
tell #ou that she wants #ou to accompan# her homewherever that isand to fi8
her up with a bod#guard.3
Even when the mar0uis was at rest, his e#es never ceased moving. 2p, down,
around, as if he were loo&ing for something, thin&ing about something. $dding,
subtracting, evaluating. *ichard wondered whether the man was 0uite sane. 3$nd
she's offering me63
3Well. <othing.3
"he mar0uis blew on his fingernails and polished them on the lapel of his
remar&able coat. "hen he turned awa#. 3She's offering 'e$ <othing.3 -e sounded
*ichard scrambled bac& up to his feet. 3Well, she didn't sa# an#thing about
mone#. She ,ust said she was going to have to owe #ou a favor.3
"he e#es flashed. 3E8actl# what &ind of favor63
3$ reall# big one,3 said *ichard. 3She said she was going to have to owe #ou a
reall# big favor.3
;e !arabas grinned to himself, a hungr# panther sighting a lost peasant child.
"hen he turned on *ichard. 3$nd #ou left her alone63 he as&ed. 3With !roup and
=andemar out there6 Well, what are #ou waiting for63 -e &nelt down and too& from
his poc&et a small metal ob,ect, which he pushed into a manhole cover at the edge of
the alle# and twisted. "he manhole cover came up easil#1 the mar0uis put awa# the
metal ob,ect and too& something out of another poc&et that reminded *ichard a little
of a long firewor&, or a flare. -e held it in one hand, ran his other hand along it, and
the far end erupted into scarlet flame.
3!an I as& a 0uestion63 said *ichard.
3!ertainl# not,3 said the mar0uis. 34ou don't as& an# 0uestions. 4ou don't get
an# answers. 4ou don't stra# from the path. 4ou don't even thin& about what's
happening to #ou right now. Got it63
3+ost important of all. no buts,3 said de !arabas. 3$nd time is of the essence.
+ove.3 -e pointed into the depths revealed b# the open manhole cover. *ichard
moved, clambering down the metal ladder set into the wall beneath the manhole,
feeling so far out of his depth that it didn't even occur to him to 0uestion an# further.

*ichard wondered where the# were. "his didn't seem to be a sewer. 9erhaps it
was a tunnel for telephone cables, or for ver# small trains. 5r for . . . something else.
-e reali7ed that he did not &now ver# much about what went on beneath the streets
of )ondon. -e wal&ed nervousl#, worried that he'd catch his feet in something, that
he'd stumble in the dar&ness and brea& his an&le. ;e !arabas strode on ahead,
nonchalantl#, apparentl# not caring whether *ichard was with him or not. "he
crimson flame cast huge shadows on the tunnel walls.
*ichard ran to catch up. 3)et's see . . . 3 said de !arabas. 3I'll need to get her to
the mar&et. "he ne8t one's in, mm, two da#s' time, if I recall correctl#, as of course I
unfailingl# do. I can hide her until then.3
3+ar&et63 as&ed *ichard.
3"he %loating +ar&et. :ut #ou don't want to &now about that. <o more
*ichard loo&ed around. 3Well, I was going to as& #ou where we are now. :ut I
suppose #ou were going to refuse to tell me.3
"he mar0uis grinned once more. 3=er# good,3 he said, approvingl#. 34ou are in
enough trouble alread#.3
34ou can sa# that again,3 sighed *ichard. 3+# fiancee's dumped me, and I'll
probabl# have to get a new telephone3
3"emple and $rch. $ telephone is the least of #our troubles.3 ;e !arabas put
the flare down on the ground, resting it against the wall, where it continued to
sputter and flame, and he began to climb up some metal rungs set into the wall.
*ichard hesitated, and then followed him. "he rungs were cold and rusted1 he could
feel them crumbling roughl# against his hands as he climbed, fragments of rust
getting in his e#es and mouth. "he scarlet light from below was flic&ering, and then
it went out. "he# climbed in total dar&ness.
3So, are we going bac& to ;oor63 *ichard as&ed.
3Eventuall#. "here's a little something I need to organi7e first. Insurance. $nd
when we get into da#light, don't loo& down.3
3Wh# not63 as&ed *ichard. $nd then da#light hit his face, and he loo&ed down.

It was da#light 5how was it daylight* a tiny voice asked" in the ack of his head$
(t had een al'ost night when he entered the alley" what" an hour ago*6" and he was
holding onto a metal ladder that ran up the outside of a ver# high building 5ut a few
seconds ago he was cli'ing up the sa'e ladder" and he had een inside" hadn&t
he*6" and below him, he could see . . .
"in# cars. "in# buses and ta8is. "in# buildings. "rees. +iniature truc&s. "in#,
tin# people. "he# swam in and out of focus beneath him.
"o sa# that *ichard +a#hew was not ver# good at heights would be perfectl#
accurate, but it would fail to give the full picture. *ichard hated clifftops, and high
buildings. somewhere not far inside him was the fearthe star&, utter, silentl#
screaming terrorthat if he got too close to the edge, then something would ta&e
over and he would find himself wal&ing to the edge of a clifftop and stepping off
into space. It was as if he could not entirel# trust himself, and that scared *ichard
more than the simple fear of falling ever could. So he called it vertigo, and hated it
and himself, and &ept awa# from high places.
*ichard fro7e on the ladder. -is hands clamped tightl# to the rungs. -is e#es
hurt, somewhere behind the e#eballs. -e started breathing too fast, too deepl#.
3Somebod#,3 said an amused voice above him, 3wasn't listening, was he63
3I . . . 3 *ichard's throat didn't wor&. -e swallowed, moistening it. 3I can't
move.3 -is hands were sweating. What if the# sweated so much that he simpl#
slipped off into the void . . . 6
35f course #ou can move. 5r, if #ou don't #ou can sta# here, hanging onto the
side of the wall until #our hands free7e and #our legs buc&le and #ou tumble to a
mess# death a thousand feet below.3 *ichard loo&ed up at the mar0uis. -e was
loo&ing down at *ichard, and still smiling1 when he saw that *ichard was watching
him, he let go of the rungs with both his hands, and waggled his fingers at him.
*ichard felt a wave of s#mpathetic vertigo run through him. 3:astard,3 he said,
under his breath, and he let go of the rung with his right hand and moved it up eight
inches, until it found the ne8t rung. "hen he moved his right leg up one rung. "hen
he did it again, with his left hand. $fter a while he found himself at the edge of a flat
roof, and he stepped over it and collapsed.
-e was aware that the mar0uis was striding along the roof, awa# from him.
*ichard felt the rooftop with his hands, and felt the solid structure beneath him. -is
heart was pounding in his chest.
$ gruff voice some distance awa# shouted, 34ou're not wanted here, de
!arabas. Get awa#. !lear off.3
35ld :aile#,3 he heard de !arabas sa#. 34ou're loo&ing wonderfull# health#.3
$nd then footsteps, shuffled toward him, and a finger prodded him gentl# in the
ribs. 34ou all right, laddie6 I've got some stew coo&in' bac& there. 4ou want some6
It's starling.3
*ichard opened his e#es. 3<o than& #ou,3 he said. -e saw the feathers, first. -e
wasn't sure if it was a coat, or a cape, or some &ind of strange covering that had no
name, but whatever &ind of outer garment it was, it was covered thic&l# and entirel#
in feathers. $ face, &ind and creased, with gre# muttonchop whis&ers, peered out
from the top of the feathers. "he bod# beneath the face, where it was not covered
with feathers, was wound round and about with ropes. *ichard found himself
remembering a theatrical performance of /oinson )rusoe he had been ta&en to as a
child. this was what *obinson !rusoe might have loo&ed li&e, if he had been
shipwrec&ed on a rooftop instead of a desert island.
3"he# call me 5ld :aile#, lad,3 said the man. -e fumbled at a battered pair of
glasses, on a string around his nec&, and pulled them on, staring through them at
*ichard. 3I don't recogni7e #e. What baron# do #ou give fealt# to6 What's #our
*ichard pulled himself into a sitting position. "he# were on the roof of an old
building, built of brown stone, with a tower above them. Weathered gargo#les,
missing wings and limbs and, in a couple of cases, even heads, ,utted sadl# from the
corners of the tower. %rom far below he could hear the wail of a police siren, and the
muted roar of traffic. $cross the rooftop, in the shadow of the tower, was something
that loo&ed li&e a tent1 an old brown tent, much mended, spac&led white with bird
shit. -e opened his mouth to tell the old man his name.
34ou. Shut up,3 said the mar0uis de !arabas. 3;on't sa# another word.3 "hen he
turned to 5ld :aile#. 39eople who put their noses where the# aren't wanted
sometimes3he snapped his fingers, loudl#, beneath the old man's nose, ma&ing
him ,ump3lose them. <ow. 4ou've owed me a favor for twent# #ears, 5ld :aile#.
$ big favor. $nd I'm calling it in.3
"he old man blin&ed. 3I was a fool,3 he said 0uietl#.
3<o fool li&e an old fool,3 agreed the mar0uis. -e reached a hand into an inside
poc&et of his coat and pulled out a silver bo8, larger than a snuffbo8, smaller than a
cigar bo8, and a good deal more ornate than either. 3;o #ou &now what this is63
3I wish I didn't.3
34ou'll &eep it safe for me.3
3I don't want it.3
34ou don't have an# choice,3 said the mar0uis. "he old roof/man too& the silver
bo8 from him and held it, aw&wardl#, in both hands, as if it were something that
might e8plode at an# moment. "he mar0uis prodded *ichard gentl# with his s0uare/
toed blac& boot. 3*ight,3 he said. 3We'd better get a move on, hadn't we63 -e strode
off across the roof, and *ichard got to his feet and followed, &eeping well awa#
from the side of the building. "he mar0uis opened a door in the side of the tower,
beside a high cluster of chimne#s, and the# went down a poorl# lit spiral staircase.
3Who was that man63 as&ed *ichard, peering through the dim light. "heir
footsteps echoed and reverberated down the metal stairs.
"he mar0uis de !arabas snorted. 34ou haven't heard a word I've said, have
#ou6 4ou're in trouble alread#. Ever#thing #ou do, ever#thing #ou sa#, ever#thing
#ou hear, ,ust ma&es it worse. 4ou had better pra# #ou haven't stepped too far in.3
It was now completel# dar&, and *ichard stumbled slightl# as he reached the
last of the steps and found himself loo&ing for a step that wasn't there. 3+ind #our
head,3 said the mar0uis, and he opened a door. *ichard banged his forehead into
something hard and said 3ow,3 and then he stepped out through a low door,
shielding his e#es against the light.
*ichard rubbed his forehead, then he rubbed his e#es. "he door the# had ,ust
come through was the door to the broom closet in the stairwell of his apartment
building. It was filled with brooms, an elderl# mop, and a huge variet# of cleaning
fluids, powders, and wa8es. It had no stairs at the bac& of it that he could see, ,ust a
wall on which a stained old calendar hung, 0uite uselessl#unless ?B@B ever came
bac& around.
"he mar0uis was e8amining the -$=E 452 SEE< "-IS GI*)6 poster stuc&
beside *ichard's front door. 3<ot her best side,3 he said.
*ichard shut the door to the broom closet. -e too& his &e#s from his bac&
poc&et, unloc&ed his front door, and he was home. It was, he was rather relieved to
see through the &itchen windows, night/time once more.
3*ichard,3 said ;oor. 34ou did it.3 She had washed herself while he was gone,
and her la#ers of clothes loo&ed li&e she had at least made an effort to get the worst
of the filth and the blood off them. "he grime was gone from her face and hands.
-er hair, when washed, was a dar& shade of auburn, with copper and bron7e
highlights. *ichard wondered how old she was. fifteen6 Si8teen6 5lder6 -e still
couldn't tell.
She had put on the brown leather ,ac&et she had been wearing when he had
found her, huge and enveloping, li&e an old fl#ing ,ac&et, which somehow made her
loo& smaller than she was, and even more vulnerable.
3Well, #es,3 said *ichard.
"he mar0uis de !arabas went down on one &nee to the girl and lowered his
head. 3+# lad#,3 he said.
She seemed uncomfortable. 35h, do get up, de !arabas. I'm pleased #ou came.3
-e stood in one smooth movement. 3I understand,3 he said, 3that the words
favor, really, and ig have been used. In con,unction.3
3)ater.3 She wal&ed over to *ichard and too& his hands in hers. 3*ichard.
"han&s. I reall# appreciate ever#thing #ou've done. I changed the sheets on the bed.
$nd I wish there was something I could do to pa# #ou bac&.3
34ou're leaving63
She nodded. 3I'll be safe now. +ore or less. I hope. %or a little while.3
3Where are #ou going now63
She smiled gentl# and shoo& her head. 32h/uh. I'm out of #our life. $nd #ou've
been wonderful.3 She went up on tiptoes then and &issed him on the chee&, as
friends &iss friends.
3If I ever need to get in touch with #ou63
34ou don't. Ever. $nd . . . 3 and then she paused. 3)oo&, I'm sorr#, o&a#63
*ichard inspected his feet, in an aw&ward sort of wa#. 3"here's nothing to be
sorr# about,3 he said, and added, doubtfull#, 3it was fun.3 "hen he loo&ed up again.
:ut there was nobod# there.
5n Sunda# morning *ichard too& the :atmobile/shaped telephone he had been
given for !hristmas several #ears earlier b# his $unt +aude out of the drawer at the
bottom of the closet and plugged it into the wall. -e tried telephoning Jessica, but
without success. -er answering machine was turned off, as was her cellular phone.
-e supposed she had gone bac& to her parents' house in the countr#, and he had no
desire to phone her there. *ichard found Jessica's parents deepl# intimidating, each
in their separate wa#s. <either of them had entirel# approved of him as a future son/
in/law. in fact, her mother had, on one occasion, mentioned to him 0uite casuall#
how disappointed the# were b# *ichard and Jessica's engagement, and her
conviction that Jessica could, if she wanted to, do so much better.
*ichard's own parents were both dead. -is father had died 0uite suddenl# when
*ichard was still a small bo#, of a heart attac&. -is mother died ver# slowl# after
that, and once *ichard left home she simpl# faded awa#. si8 months after he moved
to )ondon he too& the train bac& up to Scotland, to spend her last two da#s in a
small count# hospital sitting beside her bed. Sometimes she had &nown him1 at other
times she had called him b# his father's name.
*ichard sat on his couch, and he brooded. "he events of the previous two da#s
became less and less real, increasingl# less li&el#. What was real was the message
that Jessica had left on his machine, telling him she did not want to see him again.
-e pla#ed it, and repla#ed it, that Sunda#, hoping each time that she would relent,
that he'd hear warmth in her voice. -e never did.
-e thought about going out and bu#ing a Sunda# paper but decided not to.
$rnold Stoc&ton, Jessica's boss, a man#/chinned, self/made caricature of a man,
owned all the Sunda# papers that *upert +urdoch had failed to bu#. -is own papers
tal&ed about him, and so did the rest. *eading a Sunda# paper would, *ichard
suspected, probabl# end up reminding him of the dinner he had failed to attend on
%rida# night. So instead *ichard had a long hot bath and a number of sandwiches,
and several cups of tea. -e watched a little Sunda# afternoon television and
constructed conversations with Jessica in his head. $t the end of each mental
dialogue the# would fall into each other's arms, ma&e wild, angr#, tear/stained and
passionate love1 and then ever#thing would be all right.

5n +onda# morning *ichard's alarm failed to go off. -e came out onto the
street at a run at ten to nine, briefcase swinging, staring up and down the road li&e a
madman, pra#ing for a ta8i. "hen he sighed with relief, because a big blac& car was
heading down the road toward him, its #ellow 3ta8i3 sign bright. -e waved at it and
"he ta8i slid gentl# past him, ignoring him completel#1 it turned a corner and
was gone.
$nother ta8i. $nother #ellow light that meant the ta8i was available. "his time
*ichard stepped out into the middle of the road to flag it down. It swerved past him
and continued on its wa#. *ichard began to swear under his breath. "hen he ran for
the nearest "ube station.
-e pulled out a poc&etful of coins, stabbed the button of the tic&et machine for a
single tic&et to !haring !ross, and thumbed his change into the slot. Ever# coin he
put in went straight through the guts of the machine and clattered into the tra# at the
bottom. <o tic&et appeared. -e tried another tic&et machine, with the same lac& of
result. $nd another. "he tic&et seller in the office was spea&ing to someone on the
telephone when *ichard went over to complain and to bu# his tic&et manuall#1 and
despiteor perhaps because of*ichard's cries of 3-e#D3 and 3E8cuse meD3 and
his desperate tapping on the plastic barrier with a coin, the man remained resolutel#
on the telephone.
3%uc& it,3 announced *ichard, and he vaulted the barrier. <o one stopped him1
no one seemed to care. -e ran, breathless and sweating, down the escalator, and
made it onto the crowded platform ,ust as a train came in.
$s a child, *ichard had had nightmares in which he simpl# wasn't there, in
which, no matter how much noise he made, no matter what he did, nobod# ever
noticed him at all. -e began to feel li&e that now, as people pushed in front of him1
he was buffeted b# the crowd, pushed this wa# and that b# commuters getting off,
b# others getting on.
-e persisted, pushing and shoving in his turn, until he was almost on the train
he had one arm insidewhen the doors began to hiss closed. -e pulled his hand
bac&, but his coat/sleeve was trapped. *ichard began to hammer on the door, and to
shout, e8pecting the driver at least to open the door enough for him to free his
sleeve. :ut instead the train began to move off, and *ichard was forced to run down
the platform, stumbling, faster and faster. -e dropped his briefcase onto the
platform, pulled desperatel# at his sleeve with his free hand. "he sleeve ripped, and
he fell forward, scraping his hand on the platform, ripping his trousers at the &nee.
*ichard climbed, a little unsteadil#, to his feet, then wal&ed bac& down the platform
and retrieved his briefcase.
-e loo&ed at his ripped sleeve and his gra7ed hand and his torn trousers. "hen
he wal&ed up the stone stairs and out of the 2nderground station. <obod# as&ed him
for a tic&et on the wa# out.

3I'm sorr# I'm late,3 said *ichard, to no one in particular in the crowded office.
"he cloc& on the office wall said that it was ?E.FE. -e dropped his briefcase on his
chair, wiped the sweat from his face with his hand&erchief. 34ou wouldn't believe
what it was li&e getting here,3 he continued. 3It was a nightmare.3
-e loo&ed down at his des&top. "here was something missing. 5r, more
precisel#, there was ever#thing missing. 3Where are m# things63 he as&ed the room,
a little more loudl#. 3Where is m# telephone6 Where are m# trolls63
-e chec&ed the des& drawers. "he# were empt# too. not even a +ars bar
wrapper or a twisted paper clip to show that *ichard had ever been there. S#lvia was
coming toward him, in conversation with two rather heft# gentlemen. *ichard
wal&ed over to her. 3S#lvia6 What's going on63
3I'm sorr#63 said S#lvia, politel#. She pointed the des& out to the heft#
gentlemen, who each too& an end of it, and began to carr# it out of the office.
3!areful now,3 she told them.
3+# des&. Where are the# ta&ing it63
S#lvia stared at him, gentl# pu77led. 3$nd #ou are . . . 63
G don&t need this shit" thought *ichard. 3*ichard,3 he said, sarcasticall#.
3*ichard +a#hew.3
3$h,3 said S#lvia. "hen her attention slid off *ichard, li&e water off an oiled
duc&, and she said, 3<o, not over there. %or heaven's sa&es,3 to the removal men,
and hurried after them as the# carried off *ichard's des&.
*ichard watched her go. "hen he wal&ed through the office until he got to
Gar#'s wor&station. Gar# was answering e/mail. *ichard loo&ed at the screen. the e/
mail Gar# seemed to be writing was both se8uall# e8plicit and addressed to
someone who was not Gar#'s girlfriend. Embarrassed, *ichard moved around to the
other side of the des&.
3Gar#. What's going on6 Is this a ,o&e or something63
Gar# loo&ed around, as if he had heard something. -e flic&ed the &e#board,
activating a screen/saver of dancing hippopotami, then he shoo& his head as if to
clear it, pic&ed up the telephone, and began to dial. *ichard slammed his hand down
on the phone, cutting Gar# off.
3)oo&, this isn't funn#. I don't &now what ever#one's pla#ing at.3 %inall#, to his
enormous relief, Gar# loo&ed up at him. *ichard continued, 3If I've been fired then
,ust tell me I've been fired, but all this pretending I'm not here . . . 3
$nd then Gar# smiled and said, 3-i. 4eah. I'm Gar# 9erunu. !an I help #ou63
3I don't thin& so,3 said *ichard, coldl#, and he wal&ed out of the office, leaving
his briefcase behind him.

*ichard's offices were on the third floor of a big, old, draft# building, ,ust off
the Strand. Jessica wor&ed about halfwa# up a large cr#stalline, mirrored structure in
the !it# of )ondon, fifteen minutes' wal& up the road.
*ichard ,ogged up that road. -e got to the Stoc&ton building in ten minutes,
wal&ed straight past the uniformed securit# guards on dut# on the ground floor,
stepped into the elevator, and went up. "he inside of the elevator was mirrored, and
he stared at himself as he went up. -is tie was half/undone and as&ew, his coat was
ripped, his pants torn, his hair was a sweat# mess . . . God, he loo&ed awful.
"here was a fluting tone, and the elevator door opened. Jessica's floor was 0uite
opulent, in an underdecorated sort of wa#. "here was a receptionist b# the elevator,
a poised and elegant creature who loo&ed li&e her ta&e/home pa# beat *ichard's
hands down. She was reading )os'opolitan$ She did not loo& up as *ichard came
3I need to tal& to Jessica :artram,3 said *ichard. 3It's important. I have to spea&
with her.3
"he receptionist ignored him, intent upon e8amining her nails. *ichard wal&ed
down the corridor until he got to Jessica's office. -e opened the door and went in.
She was standing in front of three large posters, each advertising 3$ngels over
England$ "raveling E8hibition,3 each with a different image of an angel on it.
She turned as he came in, and she smiled warml# at him.
3Jessica. "han& God. )isten, I thin& I'm going mad or something. It started
when I couldn't get a ta8i this morning, and then the office and the "ube and3 -e
showed her his ragged sleeve. 3It's li&e I've become some &ind of non/person.3 She
smiled at him some more, reassuringl#. 3)oo&,3 said *ichard. 3I'm sorr# about the
other night. Well, not about what I did, but about upsetting #ou, and . . . loo&, I'm
sorr#, and it's all cra7#, and I don't honestl# &now what to do.3
$nd Jessica nodded, and continued to smile s#mpatheticall#, and then she said,
34ou're going to thin& I'm absolutel# awful, but I have a reall# dreadful memor# for
faces. Give me a second, and I &now I'll get it.3
$nd at that point, *ichard &new that it was real, and a heav# dread settled in the
pit of his stomach. Whatever madness was happening that da# was reall# happening.
It was no ,o&e, no tric& or pran&. 3It's o&a#,3 he said, dull#. 3%orget it.3
$nd he wal&ed awa#, out the door and down the corridor. -e was almost at the
lift when she called his name.
-e turned. It had been a ,o&e. Some &ind of pett# revenge. Something he could
e8plain. 3*ichard . . . +a#bur#63 She seemed proud of herself for remembering that
3+a#hew,3 said *ichard, and he got into the elevator, and the doors sang a sad
fluting downward trill as the# closed behind him.

*ichard wal&ed bac& to his flat, upset and confused and angr#. Sometimes he
would wave at ta8is, but never with an# real hope that the# would stop, and none of
them did. -is feet hurt, and his e#es stung, and he &new that soon enough he would
wa&e up from toda# and a proper +onda#, a sensible +onda#, a decent, honest
+onda# would begin.
When he reached the apartment, he filled the bathtub with hot water, abandoned
his clothes on the bed, and, na&ed, wal&ed through the hall and climbed into the
rela8ing waters. -e had almost do7ed off when he heard a &e# turn, a door open and
close, and a smooth male voice sa#, 35f course, #ou're the first I've shown around
toda#, but I've got a list of people as long as #our arm who are interested.3
3It's not as large as I imagined, from the details #our office sent us,3 said a
3It's compact, #es. :ut I li&e to thin& of that as a virtue.3
*ichard had not bothered loc&ing the bathroom door. -e was, after all, the onl#
person there.
$ gruffer, rougher male voice said, 3"hought #ou said it was an unfurnished
apartment. )oo&s prett# damned furnished to me.3
3"he previous tenant must have left some of his accoutrements behind. %unn#.
"he# never told me an#thing about that.3
*ichard stood up in the bathtub. "hen, because he was na&ed, and the people
could wal& in at an# moment, he sat bac& down. *ather desperatel#, he loo&ed
around the bathroom for a towel. 35h loo&, George,3 said the woman in the hallwa#.
3Someone's left a towel on this chair.3
*ichard inspected and re,ected as poor towel substitutes a loofah, a half/empt#
bottle of shampoo, and a small #ellow rubber duc&. 3What's the bathroom li&e63
as&ed the woman. *ichard grabbed a washcloth and draped it in front of his crotch.
"hen he stood up, with his bac& to the wall, and prepared to be mortified. "he door
was pushed open. "hree people wal&ed into the bathroom. a #oung man in a camel/
hair coat, and a middle/aged couple. *ichard wondered if the# were as embarrassed
as he was.
3It's a bit small,3 said the woman.
3!ompact,3 corrected the camel/hair coat, smoothl#. 3Eas# to ta&e care of.3 "he
woman ran her finger along the side of the sin& and wrin&led her nose. 3I thin&
we've seen it all,3 said the middle/aged man. "he# wal&ed out of the bathroom.
3It would be ver# convenient for ever#thing,3 said the woman. $ conversation
continued in lower tones. *ichard climbed out of the bath and edged over to the
door. -e spotted the towel on the chair in the hall, and he leaned out and grabbed it.
3We'll ta&e it,3 said the woman.
34ou will63 said the camel/hair coat.
3It's ,ust what we want,3 she e8plained. 35r it will be, once we've made it
home#. !ould it be read# for Wednesda#63
35f course. We'll have all of this rubbish cleaned out of here tomorrow, no
*ichard, cold and dripping and wrapped in his towel, glared at them from the
doorwa#. 3It's not rubbish,3 he said. 3It's m# stuff.3
3We'll pic& up the &e#s from #our office, then.3
3E8cuse me,3 said *ichard, plaintivel#. 3I live here.3
"he# pushed past *ichard on their wa# to the front door. 39leasure doing
business with #ou,3 said the camel/hair coat.
3!an #ou . . . can an# of #ou hear me6 "his is m# apartment. I live here.3
3If #ou fa8 contract details to m# office3 said the gruff man, then the door
slammed behind them and *ichard stood in the hallwa# of what used to be his
apartment. -e shivered, in the silence, from the cold. 3"his,3 announced *ichard to
the world, in direct defiance of the evidence of his senses, 3is not happening.3 "he
:atphone shrilled, and its headlights flashed. *ichard pic&ed it up, waril#. 3-ello63
"he line hissed and crac&led as if the call were coming from a long wa# awa#.
"he voice at the other end of the phone was unfamiliar. 3+ister +a#hew63 it said.
3+ister *ichard +a#hew63
34es,3 he said. $nd then, delighted, 34ou can hear me. 5h than& God. Who is
3+# associate and I met #ou on Saturda#, +ister +a#hew. I was en0uiring as to
the whereabouts of a certain #oung lad#. ;o #ou remember63 "he tones were oil#,
nast#, fo8#.
35h. 4es. It's #ou.3
3+ister +a#hew. 4ou said ;oor wasn't with #ou. We have reason to believe
that #ou were embroidering the truth more than perhaps a little.3
3Well, you said #ou were her brother.3
3All men are brothers, +ister +a#hew.3
3She's not here an#more. $nd I don't &now where she is.3
3We &now that, +ister +a#hew. We are perfectl# cogni7ant of both of those
facts. $nd to be magnificentl# fran&, +ister +a#hewand I'm sure #ou want me to
be fran&, don't #ou6were I #ou, I would no longer worr# about the #oung lad#.
-er da#s are numbered, and the number in 0uestion isn't even in the double digits.3
3Wh# are #ou calling me63
3+ister +a#hew,3 said +r. !roup, helpfull#, 3do #ou &now what #our own
liver tastes li&e63 *ichard was silent. 3:ecause +ister =andemar has promised me
that he's personall# going to cut it out and stuff it into #our mouth before he slits
#our sad little throat. So #ou'll find out, won't #ou63
3I'm calling the police. 4ou can't threaten me li&e this.3
3+ister +a#hew. 4ou can call an#one #ou wish. :ut I'd hate #ou to thin& we
were ma&ing a threat. <either m#self nor +ister =andemar ma&e threats, do we
+ister =andemar63
3<o6 "hen what the hell are #ou doing63
3We're ma&ing a promise,3 said +r. !roup through the static and the echo and
the hiss. 3$nd we do &now where #ou live.3 $nd he hung up.
*ichard held the phone tightl#, staring at it, then he stabbed the nine &e# three
times. %ire, 9olice, and $mbulance. 3Emergenc# services,3 said the emergenc#
operator. 3What service do #ou re0uire63
3!an #ou put me through to the police, please6 $ man ,ust threatened to &ill me,
and I don't thin& he was ,o&ing.3
"here was a pause. -e hoped he was being put through to the police. $fter a
few moments, the voice said, 3Emergenc# services. -ello6 Is there an#one there6
-ello63 $nd then *ichard put down the phone, went into his bedroom, and put his
clothes on, because he was cold and na&ed and scared, and there wasn't reall#
an#thing else he could do.
Eventuall#, and after some deliberation, he too& the blac& sports bag from under
the bed and put soc&s into it. 2nderpants. Some "/shirts. -is passport. -is wallet.
-e was wearing ,eans, snea&ers, a thic& sweater. -e remembered the wa# the girl
who called herself ;oor had said good/b#e. "he wa# she had paused, the wa# she
had said she was sorr# . . .
34ou &new,3 he said to the empt# apartment. 34ou &new this would happen.3
-e went into the &itchen, too& some fruit from the bowl, put that into the bag. "hen
he 7ipped it up and wal&ed out onto the dar&ened street.

"he $"+ too& his card with a whirr. 9)E$SE E<"E* 452* 9I< <2+:E*,
it said. *ichard t#ped in his secret pin number ';/I/!/(. "he screen went blan&.
9)E$SE W$I", it said, and the screen went blan&. Somewhere in the depths of the
machine something grumbled and growled.
"-IS !$*; IS <5" =$)I;. 9)E$SE !5<"$!" !$*; ISS2E*. "here
was a chun&ing noise, and the card slid out again.
3Spare an# change63 said a tired voice from behind him. *ichard turned. the
man was short and old and balding, his scraggl# beard a matted tangle of #ellow and
gra#. "he lines of his face were etched deepl# in blac& dirt. -e wore a filth# coat
over the ruin of a dar& gra# sweater. -is e#es were gra# as well, and rheum#.
*ichard handed the man his card. 3-ere,3 he said. 3eep it. "here's about
fifteen hundred pounds in there, if #ou can get to it.3
"he man too& the card in his street/blac&ened hands, loo&ed at it, turned it over,
and said, flatl#, 3"han&s a bunch. "hat and si8t# pence'll get me a nice cup of
coffee.3 -e gave *ichard his card bac&, and began to wal& down the street.
*ichard pic&ed up his bag. "hen he went after the man and said, 3-e#. -ang on.
4ou can see me.3
3<othing wrong with 'y e#es,3 said the man.
3)isten,3 said *ichard, 3have #ou ever heard of a place called '"he %loating
+ar&et'6 I need to get there. "here's a girl called ;oor . . . 3 :ut the man had begun,
nervousl#, to bac& awa# from *ichard. 3)oo&, I reall# need help,3 said *ichard.
"he man stared at him, without pit#. *ichard sighed. 35&a#,3 he said. 3I'm sorr#
I troubled #ou.3 -e turned awa#, and, clenching the handle of his bag in both hands
so that the# hardl# shoo& at all, he began to wal& down the -igh Street.
35#,3 hissed the man. *ichard loo&ed bac& at him. -e was bec&oning. 3!ome
on, down here, 0uic&l# man.3 "he man hurried down some steps on the derelict
houses at the side of the roadgarbage/strewn steps, leading down to abandoned
basement apartments. *ichard stumbled after him. $t the bottom of the steps was a
door, which the man pushed open. -e waited for *ichard to go through, and shut the
door behind them. "hrough the door, the# were in dar&ness. "here was a scratch,
and the noise of a match flaring into life. the man touched the match to the wic& of
an old railwa#man's lamp, which caught, casting slightl# less light than the match
had, and the# wal&ed together through a dar& place.
It smelled must#, of damp and old bric&, of rot and the dar&. 3Where are we63
*ichard whispered. -is guide shushed him to silence. "he# reached another door set
in a wall. "he man rapped on it rh#thmicall#. "here was a pause, and then the door
swung open.
%or a moment, *ichard was blinded b# the sudden light. -e was standing in a
huge, vaulted room, an underground hall, filled with firelight and smo&e. Small fires
burned around the room. Shadow# people stood b# the flames, roasting small
animals on spits. 9eople scurried from fire to fire. It reminded him of -ellor
rather, the wa# that he had thought of -ell, as a schoolbo#. "he smo&e irritated his
lungs, and he coughed. $ hundred e#es turned, then, and stared at him. a hundred
e#es, unblin&ing and unfriendl#.
$ man scuttled toward them. -e had long hair, a patch# brown beard, and his
ragged clothes were trimmed with furorange/and/white/and/blac& fur, li&e the
coat of a calico cat. -e would have been taller than *ichard, but he wal&ed with a
pronounced stoop, his hands held up at his chest, fingers pressed together. 3What6
What is it6 What is this63 he as&ed *ichard's guide. 3Who've #ou brought us,
Iliaster6 "al&/tal&/tal&.3
3-e's from the 2pside,3 said the guide. 5(liaster* thought *ichard.( 3Was as&ing
about the )ad# ;oor. $nd the %loating +ar&et. :rought him to #ou, )ord *at/
spea&er. %igured #ou'd &now what to do with him.3 "here were now more than a
do7en of the fur/trimmed people standing around them, women and men, and even a
few children. "he# moved in scurries. moments of stillness, followed b# hast#
dashes toward *ichard.
"he )ord *at/spea&er reached inside his fur/trimmed rags and pulled out a
wic&ed/loo&ing sliver of glass, about eight inches long. Some poorl# cured fur had
been tied around the bottom half of it to form an improvised grip. %irelight glinted
from the glass blade. "he )ord *at/spea&er put the shard to *ichard's throat. 35h
#es. 4es/#es/#es,3 he cluttered, e8citedl#. 3I &now e-actly what to do with him.3
+r. !roup and +r. =andemar had set up their home in the cellar of a =ictorian
hospital, closed down ten #ears earlier because of <ational -ealth Service budget
cutbac&s. "he propert# developers, who had announced their intention of turning the
hospital into an unparalleled bloc& of uni0ue lu8ur#/living accommodations, had
faded awa# as soon as the hospital had been closed, and so it stood there, #ear after
#ear, gra# and empt# and unwanted, its windows boarded up, its doors padloc&ed
shut. "he roof was rotten, and rain dripped through the empt# hospital's interior,
spreading damp and deca# through the building. "he hospital was ranged around a
central well, which let in a certain amount of gra# and unfriendl# light.
"he basement world beneath the empt# hospital wards comprised more than a
hundred tin# rooms, some of them empt#, others containing abandoned hospital
supplies. 5ne room held a s0uat, giant metal furnace, while the ne8t room housed
the bloc&ed and waterless toilets and showers. +ost of the basement floors were
covered with a thin la#er of oil# rainwater, which reflected the dar&ness and the
deca# bac& toward the rotting ceilings.
If #ou were to wal& down the hospital steps, as far down as #ou could go,
through the abandoned shower rooms, past the staff toilets, past a room filled with
bro&en glass, where the ceiling had collapsed entirel#, leaving it open to the
stairwell above, #ou would reach a small, rusting iron staircase, from which the
once/white paint was peeling in long, damp strips. $nd if #ou went down the
staircase, and traversed the marsh# place at the bottom of the steps, and pushed #our
wa# through a half/deca#ed wooden door, #ou would find #ourself in the sub/cellar,
a huge room in which a hundred and twent# #ears of hospital waste had
accumulated, been abandoned, and, eventuall#, forgotten1 and it was here that +r.
!roup and +r. =andemar had, for the present, made their home. "he walls were
damp, and water dripped from the ceiling. 5dd things moldered in corners. some of
them had once been alive.
+r. !roup and +r. =andemar were &illing time. +r. =andemar had obtained
from somewhere a centipedea reddish orange creature, almost eight inches long,
with vicious, poisonous fangsand was letting it run over his hands, watching it as
it twined between his fingers, vanished up one sleeve, appeared a minute later out of
the other. +r. !roup was pla#ing with ra7or blades. -e had found, in a corner, a
whole bo8 of fift#/#ear/old ra7or blades, wrapped in wa8 paper, and he had been
tr#ing to thin& of things to do with them.
3If I might have #our attention, +ister =andemar,3 he said, at length. 39ipe #our
bead# e#es on this.3
+r. =andemar held the centipede's head delicatel# between a huge thumb and a
massive forefinger to stop it wriggling. -e loo&ed at +r. !roup.
+r. !roup put his left hand against a wall, fingers spread. -e too& five ra7or
blades in his right hand, too& careful aim, and threw them at the wall. Each blade
stuc& into the wall, between +r. !roup's fingers1 it was li&e a top &nife/thrower's act
in miniature. +r. !roup too& his hand awa#, leaving the blades in the wall, outlining
the place his fingers had been, and he turned to his partner for approval.
+r. =andemar was unimpressed. 3What's so clever about that, then63 he as&ed.
34ou didn't even hit one finger.3
+r. !roup sighed. 3I didn't63 he said. 3Well, slit m# gullet, #ou're right. -ow
could I have been such a ninn#63 -e pulled the ra7or blades out of the wall, one b#
one, and dropped them onto the wooden table. 3Wh# don't #ou show me how it
should have been done63
+r. =andemar nodded. -e put his centipede bac& into its empt# marmalade ,ar.
"hen he put his left hand against the wall. -e raised his right arm. his &nife, wic&ed
and sharp and perfectl# weighted, was in his right hand. -e narrowed his e#es, and
he threw. "he &nife flew through the air and thudded into the damp plaster wall
blade/first, the blade having first hit and penetrated the bac& of +r. =andemar's
hand on its wa#.
$ telephone began to ring.
+r. =andemar loo&ed around at !roup, satisfied, his hand still pinned to the
wall. 3That&s how it's done,3 he said.
"here was an old telephone in the corner of the room, an anti0ue, two/part
telephone, unused in the hospital since the ?BHEs, made of wood and :a&elite. +r,
!roup pic&ed up the earpiece, which was on a long, cloth/wrapped cord, and spo&e
into the mouthpiece, which was attached to the base. 3!roup and =andemar,3 he
said, smoothl#, 3the 5ld %irm. 5bstacles obliterated, nuisances eradicated,
bothersome limbs removed and tutelar# dentistr#.3
"he person at the other end of the phone said something. +r. !roup cringed.
+r. =andemar tugged at his left hand. It wasn't coming free.
35h. 4es, sir. 4es, indeed. $nd might I sa# how #our telephonic confabulation
brightens up and cheers our otherwise drear# and uneventful da#63 $nother pause.
35f course I'll stop toad#ing and crawling. ;elighted to. $n honor, andwhat do
we &now6 We &now that3 $n interruption1 he pic&ed his nose, reflectivel#,
patientl#, then. 3<o, we don't &now where she is at this precise moment. :ut we
don't have to. She'll be at the mar&et tonight and3 -is mouth tightened, and, 3We
have no intention of violating their mar&et truce. +ore of waiting till she has left the
mar&et and scrobbling her . . . 3 -e was silent then, and listened, nodding from time
to time.
+r. =andemar tried to pull the &nife out of the wall with his free hand, but the
&nife was stuc& 0uite fast.
3"hat might be arranged, #es,3 said +r. !roup, into the mouthpiece. 3I mean it
will be arranged. 5f course. 4es. I reali7e that. $nd, sir, perhaps we could tal& about
3 :ut the caller had hung up. +r. !roup stared at the earpiece for a moment, then
put it bac& on its hoo&. 34ou thin& #ou're so damned clever,3 he whispered. "hen he
noticed +r. =andemar's predicament and said, 3Stop that.3 -e leaned over, pulled
the &nife out of the wall and out of the bac& of +r. =andemar's hand, and put it
down on the table.
+r. =andemar shoo& his left hand and fle8ed the fingers, then wiped the
fragments of damp plaster from his &nife/blade. 3Who was that63
35ur emplo#er,3 said +r. !roup. 3It seems the other one isn't going to wor& out.
<ot old enough. It's going to have to be the ;oor female.3
3So we aren't allowed to &ill her an# more63
3"hat, +ister =andemar, would be about the short and the long of it, #es. <ow,
it seems that )ittle +iss ;oor has announced that she shall be hiring a bod#guard.
$t the mar&et. "onight.3
3So63 +r. =andemar spat on the bac& of his hand, where the &nife had gone in,
and on the palm of his hand, where the &nife had come out. -e rubbed at the spit
with a massive thumb. "he flesh closed, &nitted, was whole again.
+r. !roup pic&ed up his old coat, heav#, blac&, and shin# with age, from the
floor. -e put it on. 3So, +ister =andemar,3 he said, 3shall we not also hire ourselves
a bod#guard63
+r. =andemar slid his &nife bac& into the holster in his sleeve. -e put his coat
on as well, pushed his hands deep into the poc&ets, and was pleasantl# surprised to
find an almost untouched mouse in one poc&et. Good. -e was hungr#. "hen he
pondered +r. !roup's last statement with the intensit# of an anatomist dissecting his
one true love, and, reali7ing the flaw in his partner's logic, +r. =andemar said, 3We
don't need a bod#guard, +ister !roup. We hurt people. We don't get hurt.3
+r. !roup turned out the lights. 35h, +ister =andemar,3 he said, en,o#ing the
sound of the words, as he en,o#ed the sound of all words, 3if #ou cut us, do we not
+r. =andemar pondered this for a moment, in the dar&. "hen he said, with
perfect accurac#, 3<o.3

3$ sp# from the 2pworld,3 said the )ord *at/spea&er. 3-eh6 I should slit #ou
from gullet to gi77ard and tell fortunes with #our guts.3
3)oo&,3 said *ichard, his bac& against the wall, with the glass dagger pressed
against his $dam's apple. 3I thin& #ou're ma&ing a bit of a mista&e here. +# name is
*ichard +a#hew. I can prove who I am. I've got m# librar# cards. !redit cards.
"hings,3 he added, desperatel#.
$t the opposite end of the hall, *ichard noticed, with the dispassionate clarit#
that comes when a lunatic is about to slit #our throat with a piece of bro&en glass,
people were throwing themselves to the ground, bowing low, and remaining on the
floor. $ small blac& shape was coming toward them along the ground. 3I thin& a
moment's reflection might prove that we're all being ver# sill#,3 said *ichard. -e
had no idea what the words meant, ,ust that the# were coming out of his mouth, and
that as long as he was tal&ing, he was not dead. 3<ow, wh# don't #ou put that awa#,
ande8cuse me, that's m# bag,3 this last to a thin, bedraggled girl in her late teens
who had ta&en *ichard's bag and was roughl# tipping his possessions out onto the
"he people in the hall continued to bow, and to sta# bowed, as the small shape
came closer. It reached the group of people around *ichard, although not a one of
them noticed it. "he# were all loo&ing at *ichard.
It was a rat, which loo&ed up at *ichard, curiousl#. -e had the bi7arre and
momentar# impression that it winked one of its little blac& oildrop e#es at him. "hen
it cluttered, loudl#.
"he man with the glass dagger threw himself on his &nees. So did the people
gathered around them. So, too, after a moment's hesitation, and a little more
aw&wardl#, did the homeless man, the one the# had called Iliaster. In a moment,
*ichard was the onl# one standing. "he thin girl tugged at his elbow, and he, too,
went down on one &nee.
)ord *at/spea&er bowed so low that his long hair brushed the ground, and he
chittered bac& at the rat, wrin&ling his nose, showing his teeth, s0uea&ing and
hissing, for all the world li&e an enormous rat himself.
3)oo&, can an#bod# tell me . . . 3 muttered *ichard.
3CuietD3 said the thin girl.
"he rat steppeda little disdainfull#, it seemedinto the )ord *at/spea&er's
grubb# hand, and the man held it, respectfull#, up in front of *ichard's face. It
waved its tail languidl# as it inspected *ichard's features. 3"his is +aster )ongtail,
of the clan Gra#,3 said the )ord *at/spea&er. 3-e sa#s #ou loo&s e8ceeding familiar.
-e wants to &now if he's met #ou afore.3
*ichard loo&ed at the rat. "he rat loo&ed at *ichard. 3I suppose it's possible,3 he
3-e sa#s he was discharging an obligation to the mar0uis de !arabas.3
*ichard stared at the animal more closel#. 3It's that rat6 4es, we've met.
$ctuall#, I threw the "= remote, control at it.3 Some of the people standing around
loo&ed shoc&ed. "he thin girl actuall# s0uea&ed. *ichard hardl# noticed them1 at
least something was familiar in this madness. 3-ello, *att#,3 he said. 3Good to see
#ou again. ;o #ou &now where ;oor is63
3*att#D3 said the girl in something between a s0uea& and a horrified swallow.
She had a large, water/stained red button pinned to her ragged clothes, the &ind that
comes attached to birthda# cards. It said, in #ellow letters, I $+ ??.
)ord *at/spea&er waved his glass dagger admonishingl# at *ichard. 34ou must
not address +aster )ongtail, save through me,3 he said. "he rat s0uea&ed an order.
"he man's face fell. 3-im63 he said, loo&ing at *ichard disdainfull#. 3)oo&, I can't
spare a soul. -ow about if I simpl# slice his throat and send him down to the Sewer
%ol& . . . 3
"he rat chittered once more, decisivel#, then leapt from the man's shoulder onto
the ground and vanished into one of the man# holes that lined the walls.
"he )ord *at/spea&er stood up. $ hundred e#es were fi8ed on him. -e turned
bac& to the hall and loo&ed at his sub,ects, crouched beside their greas# fires. 3I
don't &now what #ou lot are all loo&ing at,3 he shouted. 3Who's turning the spits, eh6
4ou want the grub to burn6 "here's nothing to see. Go on. Get/get awa# with the lot
of #ou.3 *ichard stood up, nervousl#. -is left leg had gotten numb, and he rubbed
life into it, as it pric&led with pins and needles. )ord *at/spea&er loo&ed at Iliaster.
3-e's got to be ta&en to the mar&et. +aster )ongtail's orders.3
Iliaster shoo& his head, and spat onto the ground. 3Well, I'm not ta&ing him,3 he
said. 3+ore than m# life's worth, that ,ourne#. 4ou rat/spea&ers have alwa#s been
good to me, but I can't go bac& there. 4ou &now that.3
"he )ord *at/spea&er nodded. -e put his dagger awa#, in the furs of his robe.
"hen he smiled at *ichard with #ellow teeth. 34ou don't &now how luc&# #ou were,
,ust then,3 he said.
34es I do,3 said *ichard. 3I reall# do.3
3<o,3 said the man, 3#ou don't. 4ou reall# don't.3 $nd he shoo& his head and
said to himself, marvelling, 3 '*att#.' 3
"he )ord *at/spea&er too& Iliaster b# the arm, and the two of them wal&ed a
little wa# out of earshot and began to tal&, darting loo&s bac& at *ichard as the# did
"he thin girl was gulping down one of *ichard's bananas in what was, *ichard
reflected, the least erotic displa# of banana/eating he had ever seen. 34ou &now, that
was going to be m# brea&fast,3 said *ichard. She loo&ed up at him guiltil#. 3+#
name's *ichard. What's #ours63
"he girl, who, he reali7ed, had alread# managed to eat most of the fruit that
*ichard had brought with him, swallowed the last of the banana and hesitated. "hen
she half/smiled, and said something that sounded a lot li&e $naesthesia. 3I was
hungr#,3 she said.
3Well, so'm I,3 he told her.
She glanced at the little fires across the room. "hen she loo&ed bac& at *ichard.
She smiled again. 3;o #ou li&e cat63 she said.
34es,3 said *ichard. 3I 0uite li&e cats.3
$naesthesia loo&ed relieved. 3"high63 she as&ed. 35r breast63

"he girl called ;oor wal&ed down the court, followed b# the mar0uis de
!arabas. "here were a hundred other little courts and mews and alle#s in )ondon
,ust li&e this one, tin# spurs of old/time, unchanged for, three hundred #ears. Even
the smell of piss here was the same as it had been in 9ep#s's time, three hundred
#ears before. "here was still an hour until dawn, but the s&# was beginning to
lighten, turning a star&, leaden color. Strands of mist hung li&e livid ghosts on the
"he door was roughl# boarded up and covered with stained posters for forgotten
bands and long/closed nightclubs. "he two of them stopped in front of it, and the
mar0uis e#ed it, all boards and nails and posters, and he appeared unimpressed1 but
then, unimpressed was his default state.
3So this is the entrance63 he said.
She nodded. 35ne of them.3
-e folded his arms. 3Well6 Sa# '5pen sesame,' or whatever it is that #ou do.3
3I don't want to do this,3 she said. 3I'm reall# not sure that we're doing the right
3=er# well,3 he unfolded his arms. 3I'll be seeing #ou, then.3 -e turned on his
heel and began to wal& bac& the wa# that the# had come. ;oor sei7ed his arm.
34ou'd abandon me63 she as&ed. 3Just li&e that63
-e grinned, without humor. 3!ertainl#. I'm a ver# bus# man. "hings to see.
9eople to do.3
3)oo&, hold on.3 She let go of his sleeve, bit her lower lip. 3"he last time I was
here . . . 3 she trailed off.
3"he last time #ou were here, #ou found #our famil# dead. Well, there #ou are.
4ou don't have to e8plain it an#more. If we aren't going in, then our business
relationship is at an end.3
She loo&ed up at him, her elfin face pale in the pre/dawn light. 3$nd that's all63
3I could wish #ou the best of luc& in #our career, but I'm afraid I rather doubt
#ou'll live long enough to have one.3
34ou're a piece of wor&, aren't #ou63
-e said nothing. She wal&ed bac& toward the door. 3Well,3 she said. 3!ome on.
I'll ta&e us in.3 ;oor put her left hand on the boarded/up door, and with her right
hand she too& the mar0uis's huge brown hand. -er tin# fingers twined into his larger
ones. She closed her e#es.
. . . something whispered and shivered and changed . . .
. . . and the door collapsed into dar&ness.

The 'e'ory was fresh" only a few days old, Door 'oved through the House
Without Doors calling +(&' ho'e"+ and +Hello*+ She slipped fro' the anteroo' to
the dining roo'" to the lirary" to the drawing roo'7 no one answered$ She 'oved
to another roo'$
The swi''ing pool was an indoor 8ictorian structure" constructed of 'arle
and of cast iron$ Her father had found it when he was younger" aandoned and
aout to e de'olished" and he had woven it into the faric of the House Without
Doors$ %erhaps in the world outside" in London Aove" the roo' had long een
destroyed and forgotten$ Door had no idea where any of the roo's of her house
were" physically$ Her grandfather had constructed the house" taking a roo' fro'
here" a roo' fro' there" all through London" discrete and doorless7 her father had
added to it$
She walked along the side of the old swi''ing pool" pleased to e ho'e"
pu##led y the asence of her fa'ily$ And then she looked down$
There was so'eone floating in the water" trailing twin clouds of lood ehind
hi'" one fro' the throat" one fro' the groin$ (t was her rother" Arch$ His eyes
were open wide and sightless$ She reali#ed that her 'outh was open$ She could hear
herself screa'ing$

3"hat hurt,3 said the mar0uis. -e rubbed his forehead, hard, twisted his head
around on his nec&, as if he were tr#ing to ease a sudden, painful cric&.
3+emories,3 she e8plained. 3"he#'re imprinted in the walls.3
-e raised an e#ebrow. 34ou could have warned me.3
"he# were in a huge white room. Ever# wall was covered with pictures. Each
picture was of a different room. "he white room contained no doors. no openings of
an# &ind. 3Interesting decor,3 ac&nowledged the mar0uis.
3"his is the entrance hall. We can go from here to an# room in the -ouse. "he#
are all lin&ed.3
3Where are the other rooms located63
She shoo& her head. 3I don't &now. +iles awa#, probabl#. "he#'re scattered all
over the 2nderside.3
"he mar0uis had managed to cover the whole room in a series of impatient
strides. 3Cuite remar&able. $n associative house, ever# room of which is located
somewhere else. So imaginative. 4our grandfather was a man of vision, ;oor.3
3I never &new him.3 She swallowed, then continued, tal&ing to herself as much
as to him. 3We should have been safe here. <obod# should have been able to hurt
us. 5nl# m# famil# could move around it.3
3)et's hope #our father's ,ournal gives us some clues,3 he said. 3Where do we
start loo&ing63 ;oor shrugged. 34ou're certain he &ept a ,ournal63 he pressed.
She nodded. 3-e used to go into his stud#, and private the lin&s until he'd
finished dictating.3
3We'll start in the stud#, then.3
3:ut I loo&ed there. I did. I looked there. When I was cleaning up the bod# . . . 3
$nd she began to cr#, in low, raging sobs, that sounded li&e the# were being tugged
from inside her.
3"here. "here,3 said the mar0uis de !arabas, aw&wardl#, patting her shoulder.
$nd he added, for good measure, 3"here.3 -e did not comfort well.
;oor's odd/colored e#es were filled with tears. 3!an #ou . . . can #ou ,ust give
me a sec6 I'll be fine.3 -e nodded and wal&ed to the far end of the room. When he
loo&ed bac& she was still standing there, on her own, silhouetted in the white
entrance chamber filled with pictures of rooms, and she was hugging herself, and
shuddering, and cr#ing li&e a little girl.

*ichard was still upset about the loss of his bag.
"he )ord *at/spea&er remained unmoved. -e stated baldl# that the rat+aster
)ongtailhad said nothing at all about returning *ichard's things. Just that he was
to be ta&en to mar&et. "hen he told $naesthesia that she was ta&ing the 2pworlder
to the mar&et, and that, #es, it was an order. $nd to stop snivelling, and to get a
move on. -e told *ichard that if he, )ord *at/spea&er, ever saw him, *ichard,
again, then he, *ichard, would be in a great deal of trouble. -e reiterated that
*ichard did not &now how luc&# he was, and, ignoring *ichard's re0uests that he
return *ichard's stuffor at least the wallethe led them to a door and loc&ed it
behind them.
*ichard and $naesthesia wal&ed into the dar&ness side b# side.
She carried an improvised lamp made of a candle, a can, some wire, and a wide/
mouthed glass lemonade bottle. *ichard was surprised at how 0uic&l# his e#es
became used to the near dar&ness. "he# seemed to be wal&ing through a succession
of underground vaults and storage cellars. Sometimes he thought he could see
movement in far corners of the vaults, but whether human, or rat, or something else
altogether, it was alwa#s gone b# the time the# reached the place it had been. When
he tried to tal& to $naesthesia about the movements, she hissed him to silence.
-e felt a cold draught on his face. "he rat/girl s0uatted without warning, put
down her candle/lamp, and tugged and pulled hard at a metal grille set in the wall. It
opened suddenl#, sending her sprawling. She motioned *ichard to come through.
-e crouched, edged through the hole in the wall1 after about a foot, the floor stopped
completel#. 3E8cuse me,3 whispered *ichard. 3"here's a hole here.3
3It's not a big drop,3 she told him. 3Go on.3
She shut the grille behind her. She was now uncomfortabl# close to *ichard.
3-ere,3 she said. She gave him the handle of her little lamp to hold, and she
clambered down into the dar&ness. 3"here,3 she said. 3"hat wasn't that bad, was it63
-er face was a few feet below *ichard's dangling feet. 3-ere. 9ass me the lamp.3
-e lowered it down to her. She had to ,ump to ta&e it from him. 3<ow,3 she
whispered. 3!ome on.3 -e edged nervousl# forward, climbed over the edge, hung
for a moment, then let go. -e landed on his hands and feet in soft, wet mud. -e
wiped the mud off his hands onto his sweater. $ few feet forward, and $naesthesia
was opening another door. "he# went through it, and she pulled it closed behind
them. 3We can tal& now,3 she said. 3<ot loud. :ut we can. If #ou want to.3
35h. "han&s,3 said *ichard. -e couldn't thin& of an#thing to sa#. 3So. 2m.
4ou're a rat, are #ou63 he said.
She giggled, li&e a Japanese girl, covering her hand with her face as she
laughed. "hen she shoo& her head, and said, 3I should be so luc&#. I wish. <o, I'm a
rat/spea&er. We tal& to rats.3
3What, ,ust chat to them63
35h no. We do stuff for them. I mean,3 and her tone of voice implied that this
was something that might never have occurred to *ichard unassisted, 3there are
some things rats can&t do, #ou &now. I mean, not having fingers, and thumbs, an'
things. -ang on3 She pressed him against the wall, suddenl#, and clamped a filth#
hand over his mouth. "hen she blew out the candle.
<othing happened.
"hen he heard distant voices. "he# waited, in the dar&ness and the cold. *ichard
9eople wal&ed past them, tal&ing in low tones. When all sounds had died awa#,
$naesthesia too& her hand from *ichard's mouth, relit the candle, and the# wal&ed
on. 3Who were the#63 as&ed *ichard.
She shrugged. 3It dun't matter,3 she said.
3"hen what ma&es #ou thin& that the# wouldn't have been pleased to see us63
She loo&ed at him rather sadl#, li&e a mother tr#ing to e8plain to an infant that,
#es this flame was hot, too. All flames were hot. "rust her, please. 3!ome on,3 she
said. 3I &now a shortcut. We can nip through )ondon $bove for a bit.3 "he# went
up some stone steps, and the girl pushed open a door. "he# stepped through, and the
door shut behind them.
*ichard loo&ed around, pu77led. "he# were standing on the Emban&ment, the
miles/long wal&wa# that the =ictorians had built along the north shore of the
"hames, covering the drainage s#stem and the newl# created ;istrict )ine of the
2nderground, and replacing the stin&ing mudflats that had festered along the ban&s
of the "hames for the previous five hundred #ears. It was still nightor perhaps it
was night once more. -e was unsure how long the# had been wal&ing through the
underplaces and the dar&.
"here was no moon, but the night s&# was a riot of crisp and glittering autumn
stars. "here were streetlights too, and lights on buildings and on bridges, which
loo&ed li&e earthbound stars, and the# glimmered, repeated, as the# were reflected
with the cit# in the night water of the "hames. (t&s fairyland" thought *ichard.
$naesthesia blew out her candle. $nd *ichard said, 3$re #ou sure this is the
right wa#63
34es,3 she said. 39rett# sure.3
"he# were approaching a wooden bench, and the moment he set e#es on it, it
seemed to *ichard that that bench was one of the most desirable ob,ects he had ever
seen. 3!an we sit down63 he as&ed. 3Just for a minute.3
She shrugged. "he# sat down at opposite ends of the bench. 35n %rida#,3 said
*ichard, 3I was with one of the finest investment anal#st firms in )ondon.3
3What's a investment an' a thing63
3It was m# ,ob.3
She nodded, satisfied. 3*ight. $nd . . . 63
3Just reminding m#self, reall#. 4esterda# . . . it was li&e I didn't e8ist an#more,
to an#bod# up here.3
3"hat's 'cos #ou don't,3 e8plained $naesthesia. $ late/night couple, who had
been slowl# wal&ing along the Emban&ment toward them, holding hands, sat down
in the middle of the bench, between *ichard and $naesthesia, and commenced to
&iss each other, passionatel#. 3E8cuse me,3 said *ichard to them. "he man had his
hand inside the woman's sweater and was moving it around enthusiasticall#, a lone
traveler discovering an une8plored continent. 3I want m# life bac&,3 *ichard told the
3I love #ou,3 said the man to the woman.
3:ut #our wife3 she said, lic&ing the side of his face.
3%uc& her,3 said the man.
3;on' wanna fuc& her,3 said the woman, and she giggled, drun&enl#. 3Wanna
fuc& you . . . 3 She put a hand on his crotch and giggled some more.
3!ome on,3 said *ichard to $naesthesia, feeling that the bench had started to
become a less desirable neighborhood. "he# got up and wal&ed awa#. $naesthesia
peered bac&, curiousl#, at the couple on the bench, who were graduall# becoming
more hori7ontal.
*ichard said nothing. 3Something wrong63 as&ed $naesthesia.
35nl# ever#thing,3 said *ichard. 3-ave #ou alwa#s lived down there63
3<ah. I was born up here,3 she hesitated. 34ou don't want to hear about me.3
*ichard reali7ed, almost surprised, that he reall# did.
3I do. *eall#.3
She fingered the rough 0uart7 beads that hung in a nec&lace around her nec&,
and she swallowed. 3"here was me and m# mother and the twins . . . 3 she said, and
then she stopped tal&ing. -er mouth clamped shut.
3Go on,3 said *ichard. 3It's all right. *eall# it is. -onest.3
"he girl nodded. She too& a deep breath, and then she began to tal&, without
loo&ing at him as she tal&ed, her e#es fi8ed on the ground ahead of her. 3Well, m#
mother had me an' m# sisters, but she got a bit funn# in the head. 5ne da# I got
home from school, and she was cr#ing and cr#ing, and she didn't have an# clothes
on, and she was brea&ing stuff. 9lates and stuff. :ut she never hurt us. She never
did. "he lad# from the social services came and too& the twins awa#, an' I had to go
and sta# with m# aunt. She was living with this man. I didn't li&e him. $nd when
she was out of the house . . . 3 "he girl paused1 she was 0uiet for so long that
*ichard wondered if she had finished. "hen she began once more, 3$n#wa#. -e
used to hurt me. ;o other stuff. In the end, I told m# aunt, an' she started hitting me.
Said I was l#ing. Said she'd have the police on me. :ut I wasn't l#ing. So I run
awa#. It was m# birthda#.3
"he# had reached the $lbert :ridge, a &itsch monument spanning the "hames,
,oining :attersea to the south with the !helsea end of the Emban&ment, a bridge
hung with thousands of tin# white lights.
3I didn't have an#where to go. $nd it was so cold,3 said $naesthesia, and she
stopped again. 3I slept on the streets. I'd sleep in the da#, when it was a bit warmer,
and wal& around at night, ,ust to &eep moving. I was onl# eleven. Stealing bread an'
mil& off people's doorsteps to eat. -ated doing that so I started hanging around the
street mar&ets, ta&ing the rotten apples an' oranges an' things people threw awa#.
"hen I got reall# sic&. I was living under an overpass in <otting -ill. When I come
to, I was in )ondon :elow. "he rats had found me.3
3-ave #ou ever tried to return to all this63 he as&ed, gesturing. Cuiet, warm,
inhabited houses. )ate/night cars. "he real world . . . she shoo& her head. All fire
urns" little ay$ 1ou&ll learn$ 34ou can't. It's one or the other. <obod# ever gets

3I'm sorr#,3 said ;oor, hesitantl#. -er e#es were red, and she loo&ed as if she
had been vigorousl# blowing her nose and scrubbing her tears from her e#es and
"he mar0uis had been amusing himself while he waited for her to collect herself
b# pla#ing a game of &nuc&lebones with some old coins and bones he &ept in one of
the man# poc&ets of his coat. -e loo&ed up at her coldl#. 3Indeed63
She bit her lower lip. 3<o. <ot reall#. I'm not sorr#. I've been running and
hiding and running so hard that . . . this was the first chance I've reall# had to . . . 3
she stopped.
"he mar0uis swept up the coins and the bones, and returned them to their
poc&et. 3$fter #ou,3 he said. -e followed her bac& to the wall of pictures. She put
one hand on the painting of her father's stud# and too& the mar0uis's large blac&
hand with the other.
. . . realit# twisted . . .

They were in the conservatory" watering the plants$ First %ortia would water a
plant" directing the flow of the water toward the soil at the ase of the plant"
avoiding the leaves and the losso's$ +Water the shoes"+ she said to her youngest
daughter$ +Not the clothes$+
(ngress had her own little watering can$ She was so proud of it$ (t was 2ust like
her 'other&s" 'ade of steel" painted right green$ As her 'other finished with each
plant" (ngress would water it with her tiny watering can$ +0n the shoes"+ she told
her 'other$ She egan laughing" then" spontaneous little-girl laughter$
And her 'other laughed too" until fo-y !r$ )roup pulled her hair ack" hard
and sudden" and cut her white throat fro' ear to ear$

3-ello, ;add#,3 said ;oor, 0uietl#.
She touched the bust of her father with her fingers, stro&ing the side of his face.
$ thin, ascetic man, almost bald. )aesar as %rospero" thought the mar0uis de
!arabas. -e felt a little sic&. "hat last image had hurt$ Still. he was in )ord 9ortico's
stud#. That was a first.
"he mar0uis too& in the room, e#es sliding from detail to detail. "he stuffed
crocodile hanging from the ceiling1 the leather/bound boo&s, an astrolabe, conve8
and concave mirrors, odd scientific instruments1 there were maps on the walls, of
lands and cities de !arabas had never heard of1 a des&, covered in handwritten
correspondence. "he white wall behind the des& was marred b# a reddish/brown
stain. "here was a small portrait of ;oor's famil# on the des&. "he mar0uis stared at
it. 34our mother and #our sister, #our father, and #our brothers. $ll dead. -ow did
you escape63 he as&ed.
She lowered her hand. 3I was luc&#. I'd gone off e8ploring for a few da#s . . .
did #ou &now there are still some *oman soldiers camped out b# the ilburn
"he mar0uis had not &nown this, which irritated him. 3-mm. -ow man#63
She shrugged. 3$ few do7en. "he# were deserters from the <ineteenth )egion, I
thin&. +# )atin's a bit patch#. $n#wa#, when I got bac& here . . . 3 She paused,
swallowed, her opal/colored e#es brimming with tears.
39ull #ourself together,3 said the mar0uis, shortl#. 3We need #our father's
,ournal. We have to find out who did this.3
She frowned at him. 3We &now who did this. It was !roup and =andemar3
-e opened a hand, waggled his fingers as he spo&e. 3"he#'re arms. -ands.
%ingers. "here's a head that ordered it, that wants #ou dead, too. "hose two don't
come cheap.3 -e loo&ed around the cluttered office. 3-is ,ournal63 said the mar0uis.
3It's not here,3 she said. 3I told #ou. I loo&ed.3
3I was under the misapprehension that #our famil# was s&illed in locating doors,
both obvious and otherwise.3
She glowered at him. "hen she closed her e#es and put her finger and thumb on
each side of the bridge of her nose. +eanwhile, the mar0uis e8amined the ob,ects on
9ortico's des&. $n in&well1 a chess/piece1 a bone die1 a gold poc&et/watch1 several
0uill/feathers and . . .
It was a small statue of a boar, or a crouching bear, or perhaps a bull. It was
hard to tell. It was the si7e of a large chess/piece, and it had been roughl# carved out
of blac& obsidian. It reminded him of something, but of what he could not sa#. -e
pic&ed it up casuall#, turned it over, curled his fingers around it.
;oor lowered her hand from her face. She loo&ed pu77led and confused.
3What's the matter63 he as&ed.
3It is here,3 she said, simpl#. She began to wal& through the stud#, head turning
first to one side and then to the other. "he mar0uis slipped the carving discreetl#
into an inside poc&et.
;oor stood before a high cabinet. 3"here,3 she said. She reached out a hand.
there was a clic&, and a small panel in the side of the cabinet swung open. ;oor
reached into the dar&ness and removed something roughl# the si7e and shape of a
small cannon/ball. She passed it to the mar0uis. It was a sphere, constructed of old
brass and polished wood, inset with polished copper and glass lenses. -e too& it
from her.
3"his is it63
She nodded.
3Well done.3
She loo&ed grave. 3I don't &now how I could have missed it before.3
34ou were upset,3 said the mar0uis. 3I was certain it would be here. $nd I am
so rarel# wrong. <ow . . . 3 he held the little wooden globe up. "he light caught the
polished glass and glinted from the brass and copper fittings. It galled him to admit
ignorance about an#thing, but he said it an#wa#. 3-ow does this wor&63

$naesthesia led *ichard into a small par& on the south side of the bridge, then
down some stone steps, set beside a wall. She relit her candle/in/a/bottle, and then
she opened a wor&man's door and closed it behind them. "he# went down some
steps, with the dar&ness all around them.
3"here's a girl named ;oor,3 said *ichard. 3She's a bit #ounger than #ou. ;o
#ou &now her63
3"he )ad# ;oor. I &now who she is.3
3So which, um, baron# is she part of63
3<o baron#. She's of the -ouse of the $rch. -er famil# used to be ver#
32sed to be6 Wh# did the# stop63
3Somebod# &illed them.3
4es, he remembered the mar0uis sa#ing something about that, now. $ rat cut
across their path. $naesthesia stopped on the steps and performed a deep curtse#.
"he rat paused. 3Sire,3 she said, to the rat. 3-i,3 said *ichard. "he rat loo&ed at
them for a heartbeat, then it darted off down the steps. 3So,3 said *ichard. 3What is
a floating mar&et63
3It's ver# big,3 she said. 3:ut rat/spea&ers hardl# ever need to go to the mar&et.
"o tell the truth3 She hesitated. 3<ah. 4ou'll laugh at me.3
3I won't,3 said *ichard, honestl#.
3Well,3 said the thin girl. 3I'm a little scared.3
3Scared6 5f the mar&et63
"he# had reached the bottom of the steps. $naesthesia hesitated and then turned
left. 35h. <o. "here's a truce in the mar&et. If an#one hurt an#one there, the whole
of )ondon :elow would be down on them li&e a ton of sewage.3
3So what are #ou scared of63
3Getting there. "he# hold it in a different place ever# time. It moves around.
$nd to get to the place it'll be tonight . . . 3 she fingered the 0uart7 beads around her
nec&, nervousl#. 3We'll have to go through a reall# nast# neighborhood.3 She did
sound scared.
*ichard suppressed the urge to put an arm around her. 3$nd where would that
be63 he as&ed. She turned to him, pushed the hair from her e#es, and told him.
3nightsbridge,3 repeated *ichard, and he began to chuc&le, gentl#.
"he girl turned awa#. 3See63 she said. 3I said #ou'd laugh.3

"he deep tunnels had been dug in the ?BHEs, for a high/speed e8tension to the
<orthern )ine of )ondon's 2nderground *ailwa# s#stem. ;uring the Second World
War troops had been 0uartered there in the thousands, their waste pumped up b#
compressed air to the level of the sewers far above. :oth sides of the runnels had
been lined with metal bun& beds for the troops to sleep on. When the war ended the
bun& beds had sta#ed, and on their wire bases cardboard bo8es were stored, each
bo8 filled with letters and files and papers. secrets, of the dullest &ind, stored down
deep, to be forgotten. "he need for econom# had closed the deep tunnels completel#
in the earl# ?BBEs. "he bo8es of secrets were removed, to be scanned and stored on
computers, or shredded, or burned.
=arne# made his home in the deepest of the deep tunnels, far beneath !amden
"own "ube. -e had piled abandoned metal bun& beds in front of the onl# entrance.
"hen he had decorated. =arne# li&ed weapons. -e made his own, out of whatever
he could find, or ta&e, or steal, parts of cars and rescued bits of machiner#, which he
turned into hoo&s and shivs, crossbows and arbalests, small mangonels and
trebuchets for brea&ing walls, cudgels, glaives and &nob/&erries. "he# hung on the
wall of the deep runnel, or sat in corners, loo&ing unfriendl#. =arne# loo&ed li&e a
bull might loo&, if the bull were to be shaved, dehorned, covered in tattoos, and
suffered from complete dental brea&down. $lso, he snored. "he oil lamp ne8t to his
head was turned down low. =arne# slept on a pile of rags, snoring and snuffling,
with the hilt of a homemade two/bladed sword on the ground beside his hand.
$ hand turned up the oil lamp.
=arne# had the two/bladed sword in his hand, and he was on his feet almost
before his e#es were open. -e blin&ed, stared around him. "here was no one there.
nothing had disturbed the pile of bun& beds bloc&ing the door. -e began to lower
the sword.
$ voice said, 39sst.3
3-h63 said =arne#.
3Surprise,3 said +r. !roup, stepping into the light.
=arne# too& a step bac&. a mista&e. "here was a &nife at his temple, the point of
the blade ne8t to his e#e. 3%urther movements are not recommended,3 said +r.
!roup, helpfull#. 3+ister =andemar might have a little accident with his old toad/
stic&er. +ost accidents do occur in the home. Is that not so, +ister =andemar63
3I don't trust statistics,3 said +r. =andemar's blan& voice. $ gloved hand
reached down from behind =arne#, crushed his sword, and dropped the twisted
thing to the floor.
3-ow are #ou, =arne#63 as&ed +r. !roup. 3Well, we trust6 4es6 In fine form,
fetloc& and fettle for the mar&et tonight6 ;o #ou &now who we are63
=arne# did the nearest thing he could to a nod that didn't actuall# involve
moving an# muscles. -e &new who !roup and =andemar were. -is e#es were
searching the walls. 4es, there. the morning/star. a spi&ed wooden ball, studded
with nails, on a chain, in the far corner of the room . . .
3"here is tal& that a certain #oung lad# will be auditioning bod#guards this
evening. -ad #ou thought of tr#ing out for the tas&63 +r. !roup pic&ed at his
tombstone teeth. 3Enunciate clearl#.3 =arne# pic&ed up the morning/star with his
mind. It was his nac&. Gentle, now . . . slowl# . . . -e edged it off the hoo& and
pulled it up toward the top of the tunnel arch . . . With his mouth, he said, 3=arne#'s
the best bravo and guard in the 2nderside. "he# sa# I'm the best since -unter's
=arne# mentall# positioned the morning/star in the shadows above and behind
+r. !roup's head. He would crush )roup&s skull first" then he&d take 8ande'ar . . .
"he morning/star plunged toward +r. !roup's head. =arne# flung himself
down, awa# from the &nife/blade at his e#e. +r. !roup did not loo& up. -e did not
turn. -e simpl# moved his head, obscenel# fast, and the morning/star crashed past
him, into the floor, where it threw up chips of bric& and concrete. +r. =andemar
pic&ed =arne# up with one hand. 3-urt him63 he as&ed his partner.
+r. !roup shoo& his head. not yet$ "o =arne#, he said, 3<ot bad. So, 'best bravo
and guard,' we want #ou to get #ourself to the mar&et tonight. We want #ou to do
whatever #ou have to, to become that certain #oung lad#'s personal bod#guard.
"hen, when #ou get the ,ob, one thing #ou don't forget. 4ou ma# guard her from the
rest of the world, but when we want her, we ta&e her. Got it63
=arne# ran his tongue over the wrec& of his teeth. 3$re #ou bribing me63 he
+r. =andemar had pic&ed up the morning/star. -e was pulling the chain apart,
with his free hand, lin& b# lin&, and dropping the bits of twisted metal onto the floor.
)hink$ 3<o,3 said +r. =andemar. )hink$ 3We're intimidating #ou.3 )hink$ 3$nd if
#ou don't do what +ister !roup sa#s, we're . . . 3 chink 3 . . . hurting #ou . . . 3 chink
3 . . . ver# badl#, before we're . . . 3 chink 3 . . . &illing #ou.3
3$h,3 said =arne#. 3"hen I'm wor&ing for #ou, aren't I63
34es, #ou are,3 said +r. !roup. 3I'm afraid we don't have an# redeeming
3"hat doesn't bother me,3 said =arne#.
3Good,3 said +r. !roup. 3Welcome aboard.3

It was a large but elegant mechanism, built of polished walnut and oa&, of brass
and glass, copper and mirrors and carved and inlaid ivor#, of 0uart7 prisms and
brass gears and springs and cogs. "he whole thing was rather larger than a wide/
screen television, although the actual screen itself was no more than si8 inches
across. $ magnif#ing lens placed across it increased the si7e of the picture. "here
was a large brass horn coming out of the sidethe &ind #ou could find on an
anti0ue gramophone. "he whole mechanism loo&ed rather li&e a combined
television and video pla#er might loo&, if it had been invented and built three
hundred #ears ago b# Sir Isaac <ewton. Which was, more or less, e8actl# what it
3Watch,3 said ;oor. She placed the wooden ball onto a platform. )ights shone
through the machine and into the ball. It began to spin around and around,
$ patrician face appeared on the small screen, vividl# colored. Slightl# out of
time, a voice came from the horn, crac&ling in mid/speech. 3 . . . that two cities
should be so near,3 said the voice, 3and #et in all things so far1 the possessors above
us, and the dispossessed, we who live below and between, who live in the crac&s.3
;oor stared at the screen, her face unreadable.
3 . . . still,3 said her father, 3I am of the opinion that what cripples us, who
inhabit the 2nderside, is our pett# factionalism. "he s#stem of baronies and
fiefdoms is both divisive and foolish.3 "he )ord 9ortico was wearing a threadbare
old smo&ing ,ac&et and a s&ullcap. -is voice seemed to be coming to them across
the centuries, not da#s or wee&s. -e coughed. 3I am not alone in this belief. "here
are those who wish to see things the wa# the# are. "here are others who want the
situation to worsen. "here are those . . . 3
3!an #ou speed it up63 as&ed the mar0uis. 3%ind the last entr#63
;oor nodded. She touched an ivor# lever at the side. the image ghosted,
fragmented, re/formed.
<ow 9ortico wore a long coat. -is s&ullcap was gone. "here was a scarlet gash
down one side of his head. -e was no longer sitting at his des&. -e was tal&ing
urgentl#, 0uietl#. 3I do not &now who will see this, who will find this. :ut whoever
#ou are, please ta&e this to m# daughter, the )ad# ;oor, if she lives . . . 3 $ static
burst wiped across the picture and the sound. "hen, 3;oor6 Girl, this is bad. I don't
&now how long I've got before the# find this room. I thin& m# poor 9ortia and #our
brother and sister are dead.3 "he sound and picture 0ualit# began to degrade.
"he mar0uis glanced at ;oor. -er face was wet. tears were brimming from her
e#es, glistening down her chee&s. She seemed unaware that she was cr#ing, made no
attempt to wipe awa# the tears. She ,ust stared at her father's image, listened to his
words. )rackle$ Wipe$ )rackle$ 3)isten to me, girl,3 said her dead father. 3Go to
Islington . . . #ou can trust Islington . . . 4ou must believe in Islington . . . 3 -e
ghosted. :lood dripped from his forehead into his e#es. -e he wiped it off. 3;oor6
$venge us. $venge #our famil#.3
$ loud bang came from the gramophone horn. 9ortico turned his head to loo&
offscreen, pu77led and nervous. 3What63 he said, and he stepped out of frame. %or a
moment, the picture remained unchanged. the des&, the blan& white wall behind it.
"hen an arc of vivid blood splashed across the wall. ;oor flic&ed a lever on the side,
blan&ing the screen, and turned awa#.
3-ere.3 "he mar0uis passed her a hand&erchief.
3"han&s.3 She wiped her face, blew her nose vigorousl#. "hen she stared into
space. Eventuall#, she said, 3Islington.3
3I've never had an# dealings with Islington,3 said the mar0uis.
3I thought it was ,ust a legend,3 she said.
3<ot at all.3 -e reached across the des&, pic&ed up the gold poc&et/watch,
thumbed it open. 3<ice wor&manship,3 he observed.
She nodded. 3It was m# father's.3
-e closed the cover with a clic&. 3"ime to go to mar&et. It starts soon. +ister
"ime is not our friend.3
She blew her nose once more, put her hands deep into the poc&ets of her leather
,ac&et. "hen she turned to him, elfin face frowning, odd/colored e#es bright. 3;o
#ou honestl# thin& we can find a bod#guard who will be able to deal with !roup and
"he mar0uis flashed his white teeth at her. 3"here's been no one since -unter
who'd even have a chance. <o, I'll settle for someone who could give #ou the time
#ou might need to get awa#.3 -e fastened the fob of the watch chain to his
waistcoat, slid the watch into his vest poc&et.
3What are #ou doing63 as&ed ;oor. 3"hat's m# father's watch.3
3-e's not using it an#more, is he63 -e ad,usted the golden chain. 3"here. "hat
loo&s rather elegant.3 -e watched the emotions flic&er across her face. 0uiet anger
and, finall#, resignation.
3We'd better go,3 was all she said.

3"he :ridge isn't ver# far now,3 said $naesthesia. *ichard hoped that was true.
"he# were now on their third candle. "he walls flic&ered and oo7ed, the passagewa#
seemed to stretch on forever. -e was astonished that the# were still under )ondon.
he was half/convinced that the# had wal&ed most of the wa# to Wales.
3I'm reall# scared,3 she continued. 3I've never crossed the bridge before.3
3I thought #ou said #ou'd been to this mar&et alread#,3 he as&ed, m#stified.
3It's the Floating +ar&et, sill#. I told #ou alread#. It moves. ;ifferent places.
)ast one I went to was held in that big cloc& tower. :ig . . . someone. $nd the ne8t
3:ig :en63 he suggested.
3+a#be. We were inside where all the big wheels went around, and that was
where I got this3 She held up her nec&lace. "he candlelight glimmered #ellow off
the shin# 0uart7. She smiled, li&e a child. 3;o #ou li&e it63 she as&ed.
3It's great. Was it e8pensive63
3I swapped some stuff for it. "hat's how things wor& down here. We swap
stuff.3 $nd then the# turned a corner, and saw the bridge. It could have been one of
the bridges over the "hames, five hundred #ears ago, thought *ichard1 a huge stone
bridge spanning out over a vast blac& chasm, into the night. :ut there was no s&#
above it, no water below. It rose into dar&ness. *ichard wondered who had built it,
and when. -e wondered how something li&e this could e8ist, beneath the cit# of
)ondon, without ever#one &nowing. -e felt a sin&ing feeling in the pit of his
stomach. -e was, he reali7ed, deepl#, patheticall# scared of the bridge itself.
3;o we have to go across it63 he as&ed. 3!an't we get to the mar&et some other
wa#63 "he# paused at the base of the bridge.
$naesthesia shoo& her head. 3We can get to the place it's in,3 she said. 3:ut the
mar&et wouldn't be there.3
3-uh6 :ut that's ridiculous. I mean, something's either there or it's not. Isn't it63
She shoo& her head. "here was a bu77 of voices from behind them, and
someone pushed *ichard to the ground. -e loo&ed up. a huge man, crudel# tattooed,
dressed in improvised rubber and leather clothes that loo&ed li&e the# had been cut
out of the inside of cars, stared bac& down at him, dispassionatel#. :ehind the huge
man were a do7en others, male and female. people who loo&ed li&e the# were on
their wa# to a particularl# low/rent costume part#. 3Somebod#,3 said =arne#, who
was not in a good mood, 3was in m# wa#. Somebod# ought to watch where he's
5nce, as a small bo# wal&ing home from school, *ichard had encountered a rat
in a ditch b# the side of the road. When the rat saw *ichard it had reared up onto its
hind legs and hissed and ,umped, terrif#ing *ichard. -e bac&ed awa# marvelling
that something so small had been so willing to fight something so much larger than
itself. <ow $naesthesia stepped between *ichard and =arne#. She was less than
half his si7e, but she glared at the big man and bared her teeth, and she hissed li&e an
angr# rat at ba#. =arne# too& a step bac&wards. -e spat at *ichard's shoes. "hen he
turned awa#, and, ta&ing the &not of people with him, he wal&ed across the bridge
and into the dar&.
3$re #ou all right63 as&ed $naesthesia, helping *ichard bac& to his feet.
3I'm fine,3 he said. 3"hat was reall# brave of #ou.3
She loo&ed down, sh#l#. 3I'm not reall# brave,3 she said. 3I'm still scared of the
bridge. Even the# were scared. "hat was wh# the# all went over together. Safet# in
3If #ou are crossing the bridge, I will go with #ou,3 said a female voice, rich as
cream and hone#, coming from behind them. *ichard was not able to place her
accent. -e turned, and standing there was a tall woman, with long, tawn# hair, and
s&in the color of burnt caramel. She wore dappled leather clothes, mottled in shades
of gra# and brown. She had a battered leather duffel bag over her shoulder. She was
carr#ing a staff, and she had a &nife at her belt and an electric flashlight strapped to
her wrist. She was also, without 0uestion, the most beautiful woman that *ichard
had ever seen.
3Safet# in numbers. 4ou're welcome to come with us,3 he said, after a moment's
hesitation. 3+# name's *ichard +a#hew. "his is $naesthesia. She's the one us who
&nows what she's doing.3 "he rat/girl preened.
"he leather woman loo&ed him up and loo&ed him down. 34ou're from )ondon
$bove,3 she told him.
34es.3 $s lost as he was in this strange other/world, he was at least learning to
pla# the game. -is mind was too numb to ma&e an# sense of where he was, or wh#
he was here, but it was capable of following the rules.
3"ravelling with a rat/spea&er. +# word.3
3I'm his guardian,3 said $naesthesia, truculentl#. 3Who are #ou6 Who do #ou
owe fealt# to63
"he woman smiled. 3I owe no man fealt#, rat/girl. -ave either of #ou crossed
<ight's :ridge before63 $naesthesia shoo& her head. 3Well. Isn't this going to be
"he# wal&ed toward the bridge. $naesthesia handed *ichard her candle/lamp.
3-ere,3 she said.
3"han&s.3 *ichard loo&ed at the woman in leather. 3Is there an#thing, reall#, to
be scared of63
35nl# the night on the bridge,3 she said.
3"he &ind in armor63
3"he &ind that comes when da# is over.3 $naesthesia's hand sought *ichard's.
-e held it tightl#, her tin# hand in his. She smiled at him, s0uee7ed his hand. $nd
then the# set foot on <ight's :ridge and *ichard began to understand dar&ness.
dar&ness as something solid and real, so much more than a simple absence of light.
-e felt it touch his s&in, 0uesting, moving, e8ploring. gliding through his mind. It
slipped into his lungs, behind his e#es, into his mouth . . .
With each step the# too& the light of the candle became dimmer. -e reali7ed the
same thing was happening to the leather woman's flashlight. It felt not so much as if
the lights were being turned down but as if the dar&ness were being turned up.
*ichard blin&ed, and opened his e#es on nothingnothing but dar&ness, complete
and utter. Sounds$ $ rustling, a s0uirming. *ichard blin&ed, blinded b# the night.
"he sounds were nastier, hungrier. *ichard imagined he could hear voices. a horde
of huge, misshapen trolls, beneath the bridge . . .
Something slithered past them in the dar&. 3What's that63 s0uea&ed $naesthesia.
-er hand was sha&ing in his.
3-ush,3 whispered the woman. 3;on't attract its attention.3
3What's happening63 whispered *ichard.
3;ar&ness is happening,3 said the leather woman, ver# 0uietl#. 3<ight is
happening. $ll the nightmares that have come out when the sun goes down, since
the cave times, when we huddled together in fear for safet# and for warmth, are
happening. <ow,3 she told them, 3now is the time to be afraid of the dar&.3 *ichard
&new that something was about to creep over his face. -e closed his e#es. it made
no difference to what he saw or felt. "he night was complete. It was then that the
hallucinations started.

He saw a figure falling toward hi' through the night" urning" its wings and
hair on fire$
-e threw up his hands. there was nothing there.
3essica looked at hi'" with conte'pt in her eyes$ He wanted to shout to her" tell
her he was sorry$
9lace one foot after another.
He was a s'all child" walking ho'e fro' school" at night" down the one road
with no streetlights$ No 'atter how 'any ti'es he did it" it never got any easier"
never got any etter$
He was deep in the sewers" lost in a layrinth$ The 9east was waiting for hi'$
He could hear a slow drip of water$ He knew the 9east was waiting$ He gripped his
spear $ $ $ Then a ru'ling ellow" deep in its throat" fro' ehind hi'$ He turned$
Slowly" agoni#ingly slowly" it charged at hi'" through the dark$
And it charged$
He died$
$nd &ept wal&ing.
Slowly" agoni#ingly slowly" it charged at hi'" over and over" through the dark$

"here was a sputter, and a flare so bright it hurt, ma&ing *ichard s0uint and
stagger. It was the candle flame, in its lemonade/bottle holder. -e had never &nown
how brightl# a single candle could burn. -e held it up, gasping and gulping and
sha&ing with relief. -is heart was pounding and shuddering in his chest.
3We would appear to have crossed successfull#,3 said the leather woman.
*ichard's heart was pounding in his chest so hard that, for a few moments, he
was unable to tal&. -e forced himself to breathe slowl#, to calm down. "he# were in
a large anteroom, e8actl# li&e the one on the other side. In fact, *ichard had the
strange feeling that it was the same room the# had ,ust left. 4et the shadows were
deeper, and there were after/images floating before *ichard's e#es, li&e those one
saw after a camera flash. 3I suppose,3 *ichard said, haltingl#, 3we weren't in an#
real danger . . . It was li&e a haunted house. $ few noises in the dar& . . . and #our
imagination does the rest. "here wasn't reall# an#thing to be scared of, was there63
"he woman loo&ed at him, almost pit#ingl#1 and *ichard reali7ed that there was
nobod# holding his hand. 3$naesthesia63
%rom the dar&ness at the crown of the bridge came a gentle noise, li&e a rustle
or a sigh. $ handful of irregular 0uart7 beads pattered down the curve of the bridge
toward them. *ichard pic&ed one up. It was from the rat/girls nec&lace. -is mouth
opened, but no sound came out. "hen he found his voice. 3We'd better. We have to
go bac&. She's . . . 3
"he woman raised her flashlight, shone it across the bridge. *ichard could see
all the wa# across the bridge. It was deserted. 3Where is she63 he as&ed.
3Gone,3 said the woman, flatl#. 3"he dar&ness too& her.3
3We've got to do something,3 said *ichard urgentl#.
3Such as63
5nce again, he opened his mouth. "his time, he found no words. -e closed it
again. -e fingered the lump of 0uart7, loo&ed at the others on the ground.
3She's gone,3 said the woman. 3"he bridge ta&es its toll. :e grateful it didn't
ta&e #ou too. <ow if #ou're going to the mar&et, it's through here, up this wa#.3 She
gestured toward a narrow passagewa# that rose up into the dimness in front of them,
barel# illuminated b# the beam of her flashlight.
*ichard did not move. -e felt numb. -e found it hard to believe that the rat girl
was gonelost, or stolen, or stra#ed, or . . . and harder to believe that the leather
woman was able to carr# on as if nothing at all out of the ordinar# had happened
as if this were utterl# usual. $naesthesia could not be dead
-e completed the thought. She could not be dead, because if she were, then it
was his fault. She had not as&ed to go with him. -e held the 0uart7 bead so tightl# it
hurt his hand, thin&ing of the pride with which $naesthesia had shown it to him, of
how fond he had become of her in the handful of hours that he had &nown her.
3$re #ou coming63
*ichard stood there in the dar&ness for a few pounding heartbeats, then he
placed the 0uart7 bead gentl# into the poc&et of his ,eans. -e followed the woman,
who was still some paces ahead of him. $s he followed her, he reali7ed that he still
did not &now her name.
9eople slipped and slid through the dar&ness about them, holding lamps, torches,
flashlights, and candles. It made *ichard thin& of documentar# films he had seen of
schools of fish, glittering and darting through the ocean . . . ;eep water, inhabited
b# things that had lost the use of their e#es.
*ichard followed the leather woman up some steps. Stone steps, edged with
metal. "he# were in an 2nderground station. "he# ,oined a line of people waiting to
slip through a grille, which had been opened a foot or so to uncover the door, which
led out onto the pavement.
Immediatel# in front of them were a couple of #oung bo#s, each with a string
tied around his wrist. "he strings were held b# a pallid, bald man, who smelled of
formaldeh#de. Immediatel# behind them in the line waited a gra#/bearded man with
a blac&/and/white &itten sitting on his shoulder. It washed itself, intentl# lic&ed the
man's ear, then curled up on his shoulder and went to sleep. "he line moved slowl#,
as, one b# one, the figures at the end slipped through the space between the grille
and the wall and edged into the night. 3Wh# are #ou going to the mar&et, *ichard
+a#hew63 as&ed the leather woman, in a low voice. *ichard still could not place
her accent. he was beginning to suspect that she was $frican or $ustralianor
perhaps she came from somewhere even more e8otic and obscure.
3I have friends I'm hoping to meet there. Well, ,ust one friend. I don't actuall#
&now man# people from this world. I was sort of getting to &now $naesthesia,
but . . . 3 he trailed off. $s&ed the 0uestion he had not dared to voice until this
moment. 3Is she dead63
"he woman shrugged. 34es. 5r as good as. I trust #our visit to the mar&et will
ma&e her loss worthwhile.3
*ichard shivered. 3I don't thin& it could,3 he said. -e felt empt#, and utterl#
alone. "he# were approaching the front of the line. 3What do #ou do63 he as&ed.
She smiled. 3I sell personal ph#sical services.3
35h,3 he said. 3What &ind of personal ph#sical services63 he as&ed.
3I rent m# bod#.3 She did not elaborate.
3$h.3 -e was too wear# to pursue it, to press her to e8plain ,ust what she
meant1 he had an idea, though. $nd then the# stepped out into the night. *ichard
loo&ed bac&. "he sign on the station said <IG-"S:*I;GE. -e didn't &now
whether to smile or to mourn. It felt li&e the small hours of the morning. *ichard
loo&ed down at his watch and was not surprised to notice that the digital face was
now completel# blan&. 9erhaps the batteries had died, or, he thought, more li&el#,
time in )ondon :elow had onl# a passing ac0uaintance with the &ind of time he was
used to. -e did not care. -e unstrapped the watch and dropped it into the nearest
garbage can.
"he odd people were crossing the road in a stream, wal&ing through the double
doors facing them. 3"here63 he said, appalled.
"he woman nodded. 3"here.3
"he building was large, and it was covered with man# thousands of burning
lights. !onspicuous coats of arms on the wall facing them proudl# proclaimed that it
sold all sorts of things b# appointment to various members of the :ritish *o#al
%amil#. *ichard, who had spent man# a footsore wee&end hour trailing behind
Jessica through ever# prominent shop in )ondon, recogni7ed it immediatel#, even
without the huge sign, proclaiming it to be, 3-arrods63
"he woman nodded. 35nl# for tonight,3 she said. 3"he ne8t mar&et could be
3:ut I mean,3 said *ichard. 3-arrods.3 It seemed almost sacrilegious to be
snea&ing into this place at night.
"he# wal&ed in through the side door. "he room was dar&. "he# passed the
ureau de change and the gift/wrapping section, through another dar&ened room
selling sunglasses and figurines, and then the# stepped into the Eg#ptian *oom.
!olor and light bro&e over *ichard li&e a wave hitting the shore. -is companion
turned to him. she #awned, catli&e, shading the vivid pin&ness of her mouth with the
bac& of her caramel hand. $nd then she smiled, and said, 3Well. 4ou're here. Safe
and, more or less, sound. I have business to attend to. %are #ou well.3 She nodded
curtl# and slipped awa# into the crowd.
*ichard stood there, alone in the throng, drin&ing it in. It was pure madnessof
that there was no doubt at all. It was loud, and brash, and insane, and it was, in man#
wa#s, 0uite wonderful. 9eople argued, haggled, shouted, sang. "he# haw&ed and
touted their wares, and loudl# declaimed the superiorit# of their merchandise. +usic
was pla#inga do7en different &inds of music, being pla#ed a do7en different wa#s
on a score of different instruments, most of them improvised, improved, improbable.
*ichard could smell food. $ll &inds of foodthe smells of curries and spices
seemed to predominate, with, beneath them, the smells of grilling meats and
mushrooms. Stalls had been set up all throughout the shop, ne8t to, or even on,
counters that, during the da#, had sold perfume, or watches, or amber, or sil&
scarves. Ever#bod# was bu#ing. Ever#bod# was selling. *ichard listened to the
mar&et cries as he began to wander through the crowds.
3)ovel# fresh dreams. %irst/class nightmares. We got 'em. Get #er lovel#
nightmares here.3
3WeaponsD $rm #ourselfD ;efend #our cellar, cave, or holeD 4ou want to hit
'em6 We got 'em. !ome on darling, come on over here . . . 3
3*ubbishD3 screamed a fat, elderl# woman, in *ichard's ear, as he passed her
malodorous stall. 3Jun&D3 she continued. 3GarbageD "rashD 5ffalD ;ebrisD !ome and
get itD <othing whole or undamagedD !rap, tripe, and useless piles of shit. 4ou
&now #ou want it.3
$ man in armor beat a small drum and chanted, 3)ost 9ropert#. *oll up, roll up,
and see for #ourself. )ost propert#. <one of #our found things here. Ever#thing
guaranteed properl# lost.3
*ichard wandered through the huge rooms of the store, li&e a man in a trance.
-e was unable to even guess how man# people there were at the night mar&et. $
thousand6 "wo thousand6 %ive thousand6
5ne stall was piled high with bottles, full bottles and empt# bottles of ever#
shape and ever# si7e, from bottles of boo7e to one huge glimmering bottle that could
have contained nothing but a captive d,inn1 another sold lamps with candles, made
of man# &inds of wa8 and tallow1 a man thrust what appeared to be a child's severed
hand clutching a candle toward him as he passed, muttering, 3-and of Glor#, sir6
Send 'em up the wooden hill to :edfordshire. Guaranteed to wor&.3 *ichard hurried
past, not wishing to find out what a -and of Glor# was, nor how it wor&ed1 he
passed a stall selling glittering gold and silver ,ewelr#, another selling ,ewelr# made
from what loo&ed li&e the valves and wires of anti0ue radios1 there were stalls that
sold ever# manner of boo& and maga7ine1 others that sold clothesold clothes
patched, and mended, and made strange1 several tattooists1 something that he was
almost certain was a small slave mar&et 'he &ept well clear of this(1 a dentist's chair,
with a hand/operated manual drill, with a line of miserable people standing beside it,
waiting to have their teeth pulled or filled b# a #oung man who seemed to be having
altogether too good a time1 a bent old man selling unli&el# things that might have
been hats and might have been modern art1 something that loo&ed ver# much li&e a
portable shower facilit#1 even a blac&smith's . . .
$nd ever# few stalls there would be somebod# selling food. Some of them had
food coo&ing over open fires. curries, and potatoes, and chestnuts, and huge
mushrooms, and e8otic breads. *ichard found himself wondering wh# the smo&e
from the fires didn't set off the building's sprin&ler s#stem. "hen he found himself
wondering wh# no one was looting the store. wh# set up their own little stalls6 Wh#
not ,ust ta&e things from the shop itself6 -e &new better, at this point, than to ris&
as&ing an#one . . . -e seemed mar&ed as a man from )ondon $bove, and thus
worth# of great suspicion.
"here was something deepl# tribal about the people, *ichard decided. -e tried
to pic& out distinct groups. there were the ones who loo&ed li&e the# had escaped
from a historical reenactment societ#1 the ones who reminded him of hippies1 the
albino people in gra# clothes and dar& glasses1 the polished, dangerous ones in smart
suits and blac& gloves1 the huge, almost identical women who wal&ed together in
twos and threes, and nodded when the# saw each other1 the tangle/haired ones who
loo&ed li&e the# probabl# lived in sewers and who smelled li&e hell1 and a hundred
other t#pes and &inds . . .
-e wondered how normal )ondonhis )ondonwould loo& to an alien, and
that made him bold. -e began to as& them, as he went, 3E8cuse me6 I'm loo&ing for
a man named de !arabas and a girl called ;oor. ;o #ou &now where I'd find them63
9eople shoo& their heads, apologi7ed, averted their e#es, moved awa#.
*ichard too& a step bac& and stepped on someone's foot. Someone was well
over seven feet tall, and was covered in tuft# ginger/colored hair. Someone's teeth
had been sharpened to points. Someone pic&ed *ichard up with a hand the si7e of a
sheep's head, and put *ichard's head so close to someone's mouth that *ichard
almost gagged. 3I'm reall# sorr#,3 said *ichard. 3II'm loo&ing for a girl named
;oor. ;o #ou &now3 :ut someone dropped him onto the floor and moved on.
$nother whiff of coo&ing food wafted across the floor, and *ichard, who had
managed to forget how hungr# he was ever since he had declined the prime cut of
tomcathe could not thin& how man# hours beforenow found his mouth
watering, and his thin&ing processes beginning to grind to a halt.
"he iron/haired woman running the ne8t food stall he approached did not reach
to *ichard's waist. When *ichard tried to tal& to her, she shoo& her head, drew a
finger across her lips. She could not tal&, or did not tal&, or did not want to tal&.
*ichard found himself conducting the negotiations for a cottage cheese and lettuce
sandwich and a cup of what loo&ed and smelled li&e home/brewed lemonade, in
sign language. -is food cost him a ballpoint pen, and a boo& of matches he had
forgotten he had. "he little woman must have felt that she had got b# far the better
of the deal, for, as he too& his food, she threw in a couple of small, nutt# coo&ies.
*ichard stood in the middle of the throng, listening to the musicsomeone was,
for no reason that *ichard could easil# discern, singing the l#rics of 3Greensleeves3
to the tune of 34a&&et#/4a&3watching the bi7arre ba7aar unfold around him, and
eating his sandwiches.
$s he finished the last of the sandwiches, he reali7ed that he had no idea how
an#thing he had ,ust eaten had tasted1 and he resolved to slow down, and chew the
coo&ies more slowl#. -e sipped the lemonade, ma&ing it last. 34ou need a bird,
sir63 as&ed a cheer# voice, close at hand. 3I got roo&s and ravens, crows and
starlings. %ine, wise birds. "ast# and wise. :rilliant.3
*ichard said, 3<o, than& #ou3 and turned around.
"he hand/painted sign above the stall said.
5); :$I)E4'S :I*;S $<; I<%5*+$"I5<
"here were other, smaller, signs scattered about.
452 W$<"S I", WE <5WS I", and 452 W5<'" %I<; $ 9)2+9E*
S"$*)I<GDDDD and W-E< I"'S "I+E %5* $ *55, I"'S "I+E %5* 5);
:$I)E4DD *ichard found himself thin&ing of the man he had seen when he had first
come to )ondon, who used to stand outside )eicester S0uare "ube station with a
huge hand/painted sandwich board that e8horted the world to 3)ess )ust "hrough
)ess 9rotein, Eggs, +eat, :eans, !heese and Sitting.3
:irds hopped and fluttered about small cages that loo&ed as if the# had been
woven out of "= antennae. 3Information, then63 continued 5ld :aile#, warming to
his own sales/pitch. 3*oof/maps6 -istor#6 Secret and m#sterious &nowledge6 If I
don't &nows it, it's probabl# better forgot. "hat's what I sa#s.3 "he old man still wore
his feathered coat, was still wrapped about with ropes and cords. -e blin&ed at
*ichard, then pulled on the pair of spectacles tied about his nec& with string. -e
inspected *ichard carefull# through them. 3-ang onI &nows #ou. 4ou was with
the mar0uis de !arabas. 5n the rooftops. *emember6 Eh6 I'm 5ld :aile#.
*emember me63 -e thrust out his hand, pumped *ichard's hand furiousl#.
3$ctuall#,3 said *ichard, 3I'm loo&ing for the mar0uis. $nd for a #oung lad#
named ;oor. I thin& the#'re probabl# together.3
"he old man did a little ,ig, causing several feathers to detach themselves from
his coat1 this provo&ed a chorus of raucous disapproval from the various birds
around them. 3InformationD InformationD3 he announced to the crowded room. 3See6
I told 'em. ;iversif#, I said. Diversify: 4ou can't sell roo&s for the stewpot forever
an#wa#, the# taste li&e boiled slipper. $nd the#'re so stupid. "hic& as custard. 4ou
ever eaten roo&63 *ichard shoo& his head. "hat was something he could be certain
of, at an# rate. 3What'll #ou give me63 as&ed 5ld :aile#.
3Sorr#63 said *ichard, aw&wardl# leaping from ice floe to ice floe in the stream
of the old man's consciousness.
3If'n I give #e #our information. What'll I get63
3I don't have an# mone#,3 said *ichard. 3$nd I ,ust gave m# pen awa#.3
-e began to pull out the contents of *ichard's poc&ets. 3"here,3 said 5ld :aile#.
3+# han&ie63 as&ed *ichard. It was not a particularl# clean hand&erchief1 it had
been a present from his $unt +aude, on his last birthda#. 5ld :aile# sei7ed it and
waved it above his head, happil#.
3<ever #ou fear, laddie,3 he sang, triumphantl#. 34our 0uest is at an end. Go
down there, through that door. 4ou can't miss them. "he#'re auditioning.3 -e was
pointing towards -arrods' e8tensive networ& of %ood -alls. $ roo& cawed
maliciousl#. 3<one of #our bea&,3 said 5ld :aile#, to the roo&. $nd, to *ichard, he
said, 3"han&'ee for the little flag.3 -e ,igged around his stall, delighted, waving
*ichard's hand&erchief to and fro.
Auditioning* thought *ichard. $nd then he smiled. It didn't matter. -is 0uest,
as the mad old roof/man had put it, was at an end. -e wal&ed toward the %ood -alls.

%ashion, in bod#guards, seemed to be ever#thing. "he# all had a nac& of one
&ind or another, and each of them was desperate to demonstrate it to the world. $t
the moment, *uislip was facing off against the %op With <o <ame.
"he %op With <o <ame loo&ed somewhat li&e an earl# eighteenth/centur# ra&e,
one who hadn't been able to find real ra&e clothes and had had to ma&e do with what
he could find at the Salvation $rm# store. -is face was powdered to white, his lips
painted red. *uislip, the %op's opponent, resembled a bad dream one might have if
one fell asleep watching sumo wrestling on the television with a :ob +arle# record
pla#ing in the bac&ground. -e was a huge *astafarian who loo&ed li&e nothing so
much as an obese and enormous bab#.
"he# were standing face to face, in the middle of a cleared circle of spectators
and other bod#guards and sightseers. <either man moved a muscle. "he %op was a
good head taller than *uislip. 5n the other hand, *uislip loo&ed as if he weighed as
much as four fops, each of them carr#ing a large leather suitcase entirel# filled with
lard. "he# stared at each other, without brea&ing e#e contact.
"he mar0uis de !arabas tapped ;oor on the shoulder and pointed. Something
was about to happen.
5ne moment there were two men standing impassivel#, ,ust loo&ing at each
other, then the %op's head roc&ed bac&, as if he'd ,ust been hit in the face. $ small,
reddish purple bruise appeared on his chee&. -e pursed his lips and fluttered his
e#elashes. 3)a,3 he said, then stretched his rouged lips wide, in a ghastl# parod# of a
"he %op gestured. *uislip staggered, and clutched his stomach.
"he %op With <o <ame smir&ed outrageousl#, waggled his fingers, and blew
&isses to several spectators. *uislip stared angril# at the %op, redoubling his mental
assault. :lood began to drip from the %op's lips. -is left e#e started to swell. -e
staggered. "he audience muttered appreciativel#.
3It's not as impressive as it loo&s,3 whispered the mar0uis to ;oor.
"he %op With <o <ame stumbled, suddenl#, going onto his &nees, as if
someone were forcing him down, and fell, aw&wardl#, to the floor. "hen he ,er&ed,
as if someone had ,ust &ic&ed him, hard, in the stomach. *uislip loo&ed triumphant.
"he spectators clapped, politel#. "he %op writhed and spat blood onto the sawdust
on the floor of -arrods' %ish and +eat -all. -e was dragged off into the corner b#
some friends, and was violentl# sic&.
3<e8t,3 said the mar0uis.
"he ne8t would/be bod#guard was again thinner than *uislip 'being about the
si7e of two and a half fops, carr#ing but a single suitcase filled with lard between
them(. -e was covered in tattoos and dressed in clothes that loo&ed li&e the# had
been stitched together from old car seats and rubber mats. -e was shaven/headed,
and he sneered at the world through rotten teeth. 3I'm =arne#,3 he said, and he
haw&ed, and spat green on the sawdust. -e wal&ed into the ring.
3When #ou're read#, gentlemen,3 said the mar0uis.
*uislip stamped his bare feet on the floor, sumo/li&e, one/two, one/two, and
commenced to stare hard at =arne#. $ small cut opened on =arne#'s forehead, and
blood began to drip from it into one e#e. =arne# ignored it1 and instead appeared to
be concentrating on his right arm. -e pulled his arm up slowl#, li&e a man fighting a
great deal of pressure. "hen he slammed his fist into *uislip's nose, which began to
spurt blood. *uislip drew one long, horrible breath, and hit the ground with the
sound of half a ton of wet liver being dropped into a bathtub. =arne# giggled.
*uislip slowl# pulled himself bac& to his feet blood from his nose soa&ing his
mouth and chest, dripping onto the sawdust. =arne# wiped the blood from his
forehead and bared his ruined mouth at the world in an appalling grin. 3!ome on,3
he said. 3%at bastard. -it me again.3
3"hat one's promising,3 muttered the mar0uis.
;oor raised an e#ebrow. 3-e doesn't loo& ver# nice.3
3Nice in a bod#guard,3 lectured the mar0uis, 3is about as useful as the abilit# to
regurgitate whole lobsters. -e loo&s dangerous.3 "here was a murmur of
appreciation, then, as =arne# did something rather fast and painful to *uislip,
something that involved the sudden connection of =arne#'s leather/bound foot and
*uislip's testicles. "he murmur was the &ind of restrained and deepl# unenthusiastic
applause one normall# onl# hears in England on sleep# sunn# Sunda# afternoons, at
village cric&et matches. "he mar0uis clapped politel# with the rest of them. 3=er#
good, sir,3 he said.
=arne# loo&ed at ;oor, and he win&ed at her, almost proprietaril#, before he
returned his attention to *uislip. ;oor shivered.

*ichard heard the clapping and wal&ed toward it.
%ive almost identicall# dressed, pale #oung women wal&ed past him. "he# wore
long dresses made of velvet, each dress as dar& as night, one each of dar& green,
dar& chocolate, ro#al blue, dar& blood, and pure blac&. Each woman had blac& hair
and wore silver ,ewelr#1 each was perfectl# coifed, perfectl# made up. "he# moved
silentl#. *ichard was aware onl# of a swish of heav# velvet as the# went past, a
swish that sounded almost li&e a sigh. "he last of the women, the one dressed in
utter blac&, the palest and the most beautiful, smiled at *ichard. -e smiled bac& at
her, waril#. "hen he wal&ed on toward the audition.
It was being held in the %ish and +eat -all, on the open area of floor beneath
-arrods' fish sculpture. "he audience had their bac& to him, were standing two or
three people deep. *ichard wondered if he would easil# be able to find ;oor and the
mar0uis. and then the crowd parted, and he saw them both, sitting on the glass top of
the smo&ed/salmon counter. -e opened his mouth to shout out ;oor's name1 and as
he did so, he reali7ed wh# the crowd had parted, as an enormous dreadloc&ed man,
na&ed but for a green, #ellow, and red cloth wrapped li&e a diaper around his
middle, came catapulting through the crowd, as if tossed b# a giant, landing s0uarel#
on top of him.

3*ichard63 she said.
-e opened his e#es. "he face swam in and out of focus. %ire opal/colored e#es,
peering into his, from a pale, elfin face.
3;oor63 he said.
She loo&ed furious1 she loo&ed be#ond fur#. 3"emple and $rch, *ichard. I don't
elieve it. What are #ou doing here63
3It's nice to see #ou, too,3 said *ichard, wea&l#. -e sat up and wondered if he
was suffering from a concussion. -e wondered how he'd &now if he was, and he
wondered wh# he had ever thought that ;oor would have been pleased to see him.
She stared intentl# at her nails, nostrils flaring, as if she did not trust herself to sa#
an#thing else.
"he big man with the ver# bad teeth, the man who had &noc&ed *ichard over on
the bridge, was fighting with a dwarf. "he# were fighting with crowbars, and the
fight was not as une0ual as one might have imagined. "he dwarf was preternaturall#
fast. he rolled, he struc&, he bounced, he dove1 his ever# movement made =arne#
appear lumbering and aw&ward b# comparison.
*ichard turned to the mar0uis, who was watching the fight intentl#. 3What is
happening63 he as&ed.
"he mar0uis spared him a glance, and then returned his ga7e to the action in
front of them. +1ou"+ he said, 3are out of #our league, in deep shit, and, I would
imagine, a few hours awa# from an untimel# and undoubtedl# mess# end. We" on
the other hand, are auditioning bod#guards.3 =arne# connected his crowbar with the
dwarf, who instantl# stopped bouncing and darting, and instantl# began l#ing
insensible. 3I thin& we've seen enough,3 said the mar0uis, loudl#. 3"han& #ou all.
+ister =arne#, if #ou could wait behind63
3Wh# did #ou have to come here63 ;oor said to *ichard, frostil#.
3I didn't reall# have much choice,3 said *ichard.
She sighed. "he mar0uis was wal&ing around the perimeter, dismissing the
various bod#guards who had alread# auditioned, distributing a few words of praise
here, of advice there. =arne# waited patientl#, off to one side. *ichard essa#ed a
smile at ;oor. It was ignored. 3-ow did #ou get to the mar&et63 she as&ed.
3"here are these rat people3 *ichard began.
3*at/spea&ers,3 she said.
3$nd #ou see, the rat who brought us the mar0uis's message3
3+aster )ongtail,3 she said.
3Well, he told them the# had to get me here.3
She raised an e#ebrow, coc&ed her head slightl# on one side. 3$ rat/spea&er
brought #ou here63
-e nodded. 3+ost of the wa#. -er name was $naesthesia. She . . . well,
something happened to her. 5n the bridge. "his other lad# brought me the rest of the
wa# here. I thin& she was a . . . #ou &now.3 -e hesitated, then said it. 3-oo&er.3
"he mar0uis had returned. -e stood in front of =arne#, who loo&ed obscenel#
pleased with himself. 3Weapons e8pertise63 as&ed the mar0uis.
3Whew,3 said =arne#. 39ut it li&e this. If #ou can cut someone with it, blow
someone's head off with it, brea& a bone with it, or ma&e a nast# hole in someone
with it, then =arne#'s the master of it.3
39revious satisfied emplo#ers include63
35l#mpia, the Shepherd Cueen, the !rouch Enders. I done securit# for the +a#
%air for a bit, as well.3
3Well,3 said the mar0uis de !arabas. 3We're all ver# impressed with #our s&ill.3
3I had heard,3 said a female voice, 3that #ou had put out a call for bod#guards.
<ot for enthusiastic amateurs.3 -er s&in was the color of burnt caramel, and her
smile would have stopped a revolution. She was dressed entirel# in soft mottled gra#
and brown leathers. *ichard recogni7ed her immediatel#.
3"hat's her,3 *ichard whispered to ;oor. 3"he hoo&er.3
3=arne#,3 said =arne#, affronted, 3is the best guard and bravo in the 2nderside.
Ever#one &nows that.3
"he woman loo&ed at the mar0uis. 34ou've finished the trials63 she as&ed.
34es,3 said =arne#.
3<ot necessaril#,3 said the mar0uis.
3"hen,3 she told him. 3I would li&e to audition.3 "here was a beat before the
mar0uis de !arabas said, 3=er# well,3 and stepped bac&ward.
=arne# was undoubtedl# dangerous, not to mention a bull#, a sadist, and
activel# harmful to the ph#sical health of those around him. What he was not,
though, was particularl# 0uic& on the upta&e. -e stared at the mar0uis as the penn#
dropped, and dropped, and &ept on dropping. %inall#, in disbelief, he as&ed, 3I have
to fight her63
34es,3 said the leather woman. 32nless #ou'd li&e a little nap, first.3 =arne#
began to laugh. a manic giggle. -e stopped laughing a moment later, when the
woman &ic&ed him, hard, in the solar ple8us, and he toppled li&e a tree.
<ear his hand, on the floor, was the crowbar he had used in the fight with the
dwarf. -e grabbed it, slammed it into the woman's faceor would have, had she not
duc&ed out of the wa#. She clapped her open hands onto his ears, ver# fast. "he
crowbar went fl#ing across the room. Still reeling from the pain in his ears, =arne#
pulled a &nife from his boot. -e was not entirel# sure what happened after that. onl#
that the world swung out from under him, and then he was l#ing, face down, on the
ground, with blood coming from his ears, and his own &nife at his throat, while the
mar0uis de !arabas was sa#ing, 3EnoughD3
"he woman loo&ed up, still holding =arne#'s &nife to his throat. 3Well63 she
3=er# impressive,3 said the mar0uis. ;oor nodded.
*ichard was thunderstruc&. it had been li&e watching Emma 9eel, :ruce )ee,
and a particularl# vicious tornado, all rolled into one and sprin&led with a generous
helping of a mongoose &illing a &ing cobra. "hat was how she had moved. "hat was
how she had fought.
*ichard normall# found displa#s of real violence unnerving. :ut he found
watching this woman in action e8hilarating, as if she were finding a part of him he
had not &nown e8isted. It seemed utterl# right, in this unreal mirror of the )ondon
he had &nown, that she should be here and that she should be fighting so
dangerousl# and so well.
She was part of )ondon :elow. -e understood that now. $nd as he thought
that, he thought about )ondon $bove, and a world in which no one fought li&e this
no one needed to fight li&e thisa world of safet# and of sanit# and, for a
moment, the homesic&ness engulfed him li&e a fever.
"he woman loo&ed down at =arne#. 3"han& #ou, +ister =arne#,3 she said,
politel#. 3I'm afraid we won't be needing #our services after all.3 She got off him,
and put his &nife awa# in her belt.
3$nd #ou are called63 as&ed the mar0uis.
3I'm called -unter,3 she said.
<obod# said an#thing. "hen ;oor spo&e, hesitantl#, 3The -unter63
3"hat's right,3 said -unter, and she brushed the dust of the floor from her
leather leggings. 3I'm bac&.3
%rom somewhere a bell sounded, twice, a deep bonging noise that made
*ichard's teeth vibrate. 3%ive minutes,3 muttered the mar0uis. "hen he said, to the
remains of the crowd, 3I thin& we've found our bod#guard. "han& #ou all ver#
much. <othing more to see.3
-unter wal&ed over to ;oor, and loo&ed her up and down. 3!an #ou stop
people from &illing me63 as&ed ;oor. -unter inclined her head toward *ichard. 3I
saved his life three times toda#, crossing the bridge, coming to the mar&et.3
=arne#, who had stumbled to his feet, pic&ed up the crowbar with his mind. "he
mar0uis watched him do it1 he said nothing.
"he ghost of a smile hovered about ;oor's lips. 3"hat's funn#,3 she said.
3*ichard thought #ou were a3
-unter never found out what *ichard thought she was. "he bar came hurtling
toward her head. She simpl# reached out a hand and caught it. it thwapped"
satisf#ingl#, into the palm of her hand.
She wal&ed over to =arne#. 3Is this #ours63 she as&ed. -e bared his teeth at her,
#ellow and blac& and brown. 3*ight now,3 said -unter, 3we're under +ar&et "ruce.
:ut if #ou tr# something li&e that again, I'll waive the truce, and I'll brea& off both
#our arms and ma&e #ou carr# them home in #our teeth. <ow,3 she continued,
bending his wrist behind his bac&, 3sa# sorr#, nicel#.3
35w,3 said =arne#.
34es63 she said, encouragingl#.
-e spat it out as if it were cho&ing him. 3I'm sorr#.3 She let him go. =arne#
bac&ed awa# to a safe distance, plainl# scared and furious, watching -unter. When
he reached the door to the %ood -alls, he hesitated, and shouted, 34ou're dead.
4ou're fuc&ing dead, #ou areD3 in a voice that hovered on the edge of tears, and then
he turned, and he ran from the room.
3$mateurs,3 sighed -unter.

"he# wal&ed bac& through the store the wa# that *ichard had come. "he bell he
had heard was now tolling deepl# and continuall#. When the# came upon it, he saw
that it was a huge brass bell, suspended on a wooden frame, with a rope suspended
from the clapper. It was being tolled b# a large blac& man, wearing the blac& robes
of a ;ominican mon&, and it had been set up ne8t to -arrods' gourmet ,ell# bean
Impressive as the mar&et had been to watch, *ichard found the speed at which it
was being dismantled, bro&en down, and put awa# even more impressive. $ll
evidence that it had ever been there was vanishing. stalls were being ta&en apart,
loaded onto people's bac&s, hauled off into the streets. *ichard noticed 5ld :aile#,
his arms filled with his crude signs and with bird cages, stumbling out of the store.
"he old man waved happil# at *ichard and vanished off into the night.
"he crowds thinned, the mar&et vanished, and almost instantl# the ground floor
of -arrods loo&ed as usual, as sedate, elegant, and clean as an# time he had wal&ed
around it in Jessica's wa&e on a Saturda# afternoon. It was as if the mar&et had never
3-unter,3 said the mar0uis. 3I've heard of #ou, of course. Where have #ou been,
all this time63
3-unting,3 she said, simpl#. "hen, to ;oor. 3!an #ou ta&e orders63
;oor nodded. 3If I have to.3
3Good. "hen ma#be I can &eep #ou alive,3 said -unter. 3If I ta&e the ,ob.3
"he mar0uis stopped. -is e#es flic&ered over her, distrustfull#. 34ou said, if
#ou ta&e the ,ob . . . 63
-unter opened the door, and the# stepped out onto the pavement of )ondon at
night. It had rained while the# had been at the mar&et, and the streetlights now
glimmered on the wet tarmac. 3I've ta&en it,3 said -unter.
*ichard stared at the glistening street. It all seemed so normal, so 0uiet, so sane.
%or a moment, he felt that all he needed to get his life bac& would be to hail a ta8i
and tell it to ta&e him home. $nd then he would sleep the night through in his own
bed. :ut a ta8i would not see him or stop for him, and he had nowhere to go, even if
one did.
3I'm tired,3 he said.
<o one said an#thing. ;oor would not meet his e#es, the mar0uis was
cheerfull# ignoring him, and -unter was treating him as an irrelevance. -e felt li&e
a small child, unwanted, following the bigger children around, and that made him
irritated. 3)oo&,3 he said, clearing his throat, 3I &now #ou are all ver# bus# people.
:ut what about me63
"he mar0uis turned and stared at him, e#es huge and white in his dar& face.
34ou63 he said. 3What about #ou63
3Well,3 said *ichard. 3-ow do I get bac& to normal again6 It's li&e I've wal&ed
into a nightmare. )ast wee& ever#thing made sense, and now nothing ma&es
sense . . . 3 -e trailed off. Swallowed. 3I want to &now how to get m# life bac&,3 he
34ou won't get it bac& traveling with us, *ichard,3 said ;oor. 3It's going to be
hard enough for #ou an#wa#. I . . . I reall# am sorr#.3
-unter, in the lead, &nelt down on the pavement. She too& a small metal rod
from her belt and used it to unloc& the cover to a sewer. She pulled up the sewer
cover, loo&ed into it waril#, climbed down, then ushered ;oor into the sewer. ;oor
did not loo& at *ichard as she went down. "he mar0uis scratched the side of his
nose. 34oung man,3 he said, 3understand this. there are two )ondons. "here's
)ondon $bovethat's where #ou livedand then there's )ondon :elowthe
2ndersideinhabited b# the people who fell through the crac&s in the world. <ow
#ou're one of them. Good night.3
-e began to climb down the sewer ladder. *ichard said, 3Wait,3 and caught the
sewer cover before it could close. -e followed the mar0uis down. It smelled li&e
drains at the top of the sewera dead, soap#, cabbage# smell. -e e8pected it to get
worse as he went down, but instead the smell 0uic&l# dissipated as he approached
the floor of the sewer. Gra# water ran, shallow but fast, along the bottom of the
bric& tunnel. *ichard stepped into it. -e could see the lights of the others up ahead,
and he ran and splashed down the tunnel until he caught up with them.
3Go awa#,3 said the mar0uis.
3<o,3 he said.
;oor glanced up at him. 3I am reall# sorr#, *ichard,3 she said.
"he mar0uis stepped between *ichard and ;oor. 34ou can't go bac& to #our old
home or #our old ,ob or #our old life,3 he said to *ichard, almost gentl#. 3<one of
those things e8ist. 2p there, you don't e8ist.3 "he# had reached a ,unction. a place
where three tunnels came together. ;oor and -unter set off along one of them, the
one that was empt# of water, and the# did not loo& bac&. "he mar0uis lingered.
34ou'll ,ust have to ma&e the best of it down here,3 he said to *ichard, 3in the
sewers and the magic and the dar&.3 $nd then he smiled, hugel#, whitel#. a
gleaming grin, monumental in its insincerit#. 3Welldelightful to see #ou again.
:est of luc&. If #ou can survive for the ne8t da# or two,3 he confided, 3#ou might
even ma&e it through a whole month.3 $nd with that he turned and strode off
through the sewer, after ;oor and -unter.
*ichard leaned against a wall and listened to their footsteps, echoing awa#, and
to the rush of the water running past on its wa# to the pumping stations of East
)ondon, and the sewage wor&s. 3Shit,3 he said. $nd then, to his surprise, for the
first time since his father died, alone in the dar&, *ichard +a#hew began to cr#.

"he 2nderground station was 0uite empt#, and 0uite dar&. =arne# wal&ed
through it, &eeping close to walls, darting nervous loo&s behind him, and in front of
him, and from side to side. -e had pic&ed the station at random, had headed for it
over the rooftops and through the shadows, ma&ing certain that he was not being
followed. -e was not heading bac& to his lair in the !amden "own deep tunnels.
"oo ris&#. "here were other places where =arne# had cached weapons and food. -e
would go to ground for a little while, until this all blew over.
-e stopped beside a tic&et machine and listened, in the dar&ness. absolute
silence. *eassured that he was alone, he allowed himself to rela8. -e stopped at the
top of the spiral staircase and drew a deep breath.
$n oil# voice from beside him said conversationall#, 3=arne#'s the finest bravo
and guard in the 2nderside. Ever#one &nows that. +ister =arne# told us so
himself.3 $ voice from the other side of him responded, dull#, 3It's not nice to lie,
+ister !roup.3
In the pitch dar&ness, +r. !roup e8panded on his theme. 3It isn't, +ister
=andemar. I have to sa#, I regard it as a personal betra#al, and I was deepl#
wounded b# it. $nd disappointed. When #ou don't have an# redeeming features, #ou
don't ta&e particularl# &indl# to disappointment, do #ou, +ister =andemar63
3<ot &indl# at all, +ister !roup.3
=arne# threw himself forward, and ran, headlong, in the dar&, down the spiral
staircase. $ voice from the top of the stairs, +r. !roup's. 3*eall#,3 it said, 3we
ought to loo& upon it as a merc# &illing.3
"he sound of =arne#'s feet clattered off the metal railings, echoed throughout
the stairwell. -e puffed, and he panted, his shoulders glancing off the walls,
tumbling blindl# downwards in the dar&. -e reached the bottom of the steps, ne8t to
the sign warning travelers that there were HIB steps up to the top, and onl# health#
people should even thin& about attempting it. Ever#one else, suggested the sign,
should use the elevator.
The elevator*
Something clan&ed, and the elevator doors opened, magnificentl# slowl#,
flooding the passagewa# with light. =arne# fumbled for his &nife. cursed, when he
reali7ed the -unter/bitch still had it. -e reached for the machete in his shoulder
sheath. It was gone.
-e heard a polite cough behind him, and he turned.
+r. =andemar was sitting on the steps, at the bottom of the spiral staircase. -e
was pic&ing his fingernails with =arne#'s machete.
$nd then +r, !roup fell upon him, all teeth and talons and little blades1 and
=arne# never had a chance to scream. 3:#e,3 said +r. =andemar, impassivel#, and
he continued paring his nails. $fter that the blood began to flow. Wet, red blood in
enormous 0uantities, for =arne# was a big man, and he had been &eeping it all
inside. When +r. !roup and +r. =andemar were finished, however, one would
have been hard put even to notice the slight stain on the floor at the bottom of the
spiral staircase.
"he ne8t time the floors were washed, it was gone forever.

-unter was in the lead. ;oor wal&ed in the middle. "he mar0uis de !arabas
too& up the rear. <one of them had said a word since leaving *ichard half an hour
;oor stopped, suddenl#. 3We can't do this,3 she said, flatl#. 3We can't leave him
bac& there.3
35f course we can,3 said the mar0uis. 3We did.3
She shoo& her head. She had felt guilt# and stupid ever since she saw *ichard,
l#ing on his bac& beneath *uislip, at the audition. She was tired of it.
3;on't be foolish,3 said the mar0uis.
3-e saved m# life,3 she told him. 3-e could have left me on the sidewal&. -e
It was her fault. She &new that was true. She had opened a door to someone who
could help her, and help her he had. -e had ta&en her somewhere warm, and he had
cared for her, and he had brought her help. "he action of helping her had tumbled
him from his world into hers.
It was foolish to even thin& about bringing him with them. "he# could not
afford to bring someone with them. she was unsure that the three of them would be
able to ta&e care of themselves on the ,ourne# that confronted them.
She wondered, briefl#, if it were simpl# the door that she had opened, that had
ta&en her to him, which had allowed him to notice her, or if there were, somehow,
more to it than that.
"he mar0uis raised an e#ebrow. he was detached, removed, a creature of pure
iron#. 3+# dear #oung lad#,3 he said. 3We are not bringing a guest along on this
3;on't patroni7e me, de !arabas,3 said ;oor. She was so tired. 3$nd I thin& I
can decide who comes with us. 4ou are wor&ing for me, aren't #ou6 5r is it the
other wa# around63 -er sorrow and e8haustion had drained her of her patience. She
needed de !arabasshe couldn't afford to drive him awa# but she had reached
her limit.
;e !arabas stared at her, coldl# angr#. 3-e is not coming with us,3 he stated,
flatl#. 3$n#wa#, he's probabl# dead b# now.3

*ichard was not dead. -e was sitting in the dar&, on a ledge, on the side of a
storm drain, wondering what to do, wondering how much further out of his league
he could possibl# get. -is life so far, he decided, had prepared him perfectl# for a
,ob in Securities, for shopping at the supermar&et, for watching soccer on the
television on the wee&ends, for turning up the thermostat if he got cold. It had
magnificentl# failed to prepare him for a life as an un/person on the roofs and in the
sewers of )ondon, for a life in the cold and the wet and the dar&.
$ light glimmered. %ootsteps came toward him. If, he decided, it was a bunch of
murderers, cannibals, or monsters, he would not even put up a fight. )et them end it
all for him1 he'd had enough. -e stared down into the dar&, to the place where his
feet should be. "he footsteps came closer.
3*ichard63 "he voice was ;oor's. -e ,umped. "hen he studiousl# ignored her.
(f it weren&t for you" he thought . . . 3*ichard63
-e didn't loo& up. 3What63 he said.
3)oo&,3 she said. 34ou reall# wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for me,3 1ou
can say that again" he thought. 3$nd I don't thin& #ou'll be an# safer with us. :ut.
Well.3 She stopped. $ deep breath. 3I'm sorr#. I reall# am. $re #ou coining63
-e loo&ed at her then. a small creature with huge e#es staring at him urgentl#
from a heart/shaped, pale face. 5&a#, he said to himself. I guess I'm not 0uite read#
to ,ust give up and die. 3Well, I don't have an#where else to be right now,3 he said,
with a studied unconcern that bordered on h#steria. 3Wh# not63
-er face changed. She threw her arms around his chest and hugged him, tightl#.
3$nd we will tr# to get #ou bac& home again,3 she said. 39romise. 5nce we've
found what I'm loo&ing for.3 -e wondered if she meant it, suspected, for the first
time, that what she was offering might be impossible. :ut he pushed that thought
out of his head. "he# began to wal& down the tunnel. *ichard could see -unter and
the mar0uis waiting for them at the tunnel's mouth. "he mar0uis loo&ed as if he had
been forced to swallow a pulped lemon.
3What are #ou loo&ing for, an#wa#63, as&ed *ichard, cheering up a little.
;oor too& a deep breath, and answered after a long pause. 3It's a long stor#,3
she said, solemnl#. 3*ight now we're loo&ing for an angel named Islington.3 It was
then that *ichard began to laugh1 he couldn't help himself. "here was h#steria in
there, certainl#, but there was also the e8haustion of someone who had managed,
somehow, to believe several do7en impossible things in the last twent#/four hours,
without ever getting a proper brea&fast. -is laughter echoed down the tunnels.
3$n angel63 he said, giggling helplessl#. 3!alled Islington63
3We've got a long wa# to go,3 said ;oor.
$nd *ichard shoo& his head, and felt wrung out, and emptied, and fla#ed. 3$n
angel,3 he whispered, h#stericall#, to the tunnels and the dar&. 3$n angel.3

"here were candles all over the Great -all. candles stood b# the iron pillars that
held the roof up1 candles waited b# the waterfall that ran down one wall and into the
small roc&/pool below1 candles clustered on the sides of the roc& wall1 candles
huddled on the floor1 candles were set into candlestic&s b# the huge door that stood
between two dar& iron pillars. "he door was built of polished blac& flint set into a
silver base that had tarnished, over the centuries, almost to blac&. "he candles were
unlit1 but as the tall form wal&ed past, the# flic&ered into flame. <o hand touched
them1 no fires touched their wic&s.
"he figure's robe was simple, and white1 or more than white. $ color, or an
absence of all colors, so bright as to be startling. Its feet were bare on the cold roc&
floor of the Great -all. Its face was pale and wise, and gentle1 and, perhaps, a little
It was ver# beautiful.
Soon ever# candle in the -all was burning. It paused b# the roc&/pool1 &nelt
beside the water, cupped its hands, lowered them into the clear water, raised them,
and dran&. "he water was cold, but ver# pure. When it had finished drin&ing the
water it closed its e#es for a moment, as if in benediction. "hen it stood up, and
wal&ed awa#, bac& through the -all, the wa# it had come1 and the candles went out
as it passed, as the# had done for tens of thousands of #ears. It had no wings1 but
still, it was, unmista&abl#, an angel.
Islington left the Great -all1 and the last of the candles went out, and the
dar&ness returned.
*ichard wrote a diar# entr# in his head.
Dear Diary" he began. 0n Friday ( had a 2o" a fiancee" a ho'e" and a life that
'ade sense$ 5Well" as 'uch as any life 'akes sense$6 Then ( found an in2ured girl
leeding on the pave'ent" and ( tried to e a ;ood Sa'aritan$ Now (&ve got no
fiancee" no ho'e" no 2o" and (&' walking around a couple of hundred feet under
the streets of London with the pro2ected life e-pectancy of a suicidal fruit fly$ 3"his
wa#,3 said the mar0uis, gesturing elegantl#, his filth# lace cuff flowing.
3;on't all these tunnels loo& the same63 as&ed *ichard, tabling his diar# entr#
for the moment. 3-ow can #ou tell which is which63
34ou can't,3 said the mar0uis, sadl#. 3We're hopelessl# lost. We'll never be seen
again. In a couple of da#s we'll be &illing each other for food.3
3*eall#63 -e hated himself for rising to the bait, even as he said it.
3<o.3 "he mar0uis's e8pression said that torturing this poor fool was too eas# to
even be amusing. *ichard found that he cared less and less what these people
thought of him, however. E8cept, perhaps, for ;oor.
-e went bac& to writing his mental diar#. There are hundreds of people in this
other London$ Thousands 'aye$ %eople who co'e fro' here" or people who have
fallen through the cracks$ (&' wandering around with a girl called Door" her
odyguard" and her psychotic grand vi#ier$ We slept last night in a s'all tunnel that
Door said was once a section of /egency sewer$ The odyguard was awake when (
went to sleep" and awake when they woke 'e up$ ( don&t think she ever sleeps$ We
had so'e fruitcake for reakfast7 the 'ar.uis had a large lu'p of it in his pocket$
Why would anyone have a large lu'p of fruitcake in his pocket* !y shoes dried out
'ostly while ( slept$
( want to go ho'e$ "hen he mentall# underlined the last sentence three times,
rewrote it in huge letters in red in&, and circled it before putting a number of
e8clamation mar&s ne8t to it in his mental margin.
$t least the tunnel the# were now wal&ing down was dr#. It was a high/tech
tunnel. all silver# pipes and white walls. "he mar0uis and ;oor wal&ed together, in
front. *ichard tended to sta# a couple of paces behind them. -unter moved about.
sometimes she was behind them, sometimes to one side of them or to the other,
often a little wa# in front, merging with the shadows. She made no sound when she
moved, which *ichard found rather disconcerting.
"here was a crac& of light ahead of them. 3"here we go,3 said the mar0uis.
3:an& Station. Good place to start loo&ing.3
34ou're out of #our mind,3 said *ichard. -e did not mean it to be heard, but the
most sotto of voces carried and echoed in the dar&ness.
3Indeed63 said the mar0uis. "he ground began to rumble. an 2nderground train
was somewhere close at hand.
3*ichard, ,ust leave it,3 said ;oor.
:ut it was coming out of his mouth. 3Well,3 he said. 34ou're both being sill#.
"here are no such things as angels.3
"he mar0uis nodded, said, 3$h. 4es. I understand #ou now. "here are no such
things as angels. Just as there is no )ondon :elow, no rat/spea&ers, no shepherds in
Shepherd's :ush.3
3"here are no shepherds in Shepherd's :ush. I've been there. It's ,ust houses and
stores and roads and the ::!. "hat's all,3 pointed out *ichard, flatl#.
3"here are shepherds,3 said -unter, from the dar&ness ,ust ne8t to *ichard's ear.
39ra# #ou never meet them.3 She sounded perfectl# serious.
3Well,3 said *ichard, 3I still don't believe that there are floc&s of angels
wandering about down here.3
3"here aren't,3 said the mar0uis. 3Just one.3 "he# had reached the end of the
tunnel. "here was a loc&ed door in front of them. "he mar0uis stood bac&. 3+#
lad#63 he said, to ;oor. She rested a hand on it, for a moment. "he door opened,
3+a#be,3 *ichard said, persisting, 3we're thin&ing of different things. "he
angels I have in mind are all wings, haloes, trumpets, peace/on/earth/goodwill/unto/
3"hat's right,3 said ;oor. 34ou got it. $ngels.3 "he# went through the door.
*ichard shut his e#es, involuntaril#, at the sudden flood of light. it stabbed into his
head li&e a migraine. $s his e#es became used to the light, *ichard found, to his
surprise, that he &new where he was. the# were in the long pedestrian tunnel that
lin&s +onument and :an& "ube stations. "here were commuters wandering through
the tunnels, none of whom gave the four of them even a first loo&. "he per&# wail of
a sa8ophone echoed along the tunnel. :urt :acharach and -al ;avid's 3I'll <ever
%all In )ove $gain,3 being pla#ed more or less competentl#. "he# wal&ed toward
:an& Station.
3Who are we loo&ing for again, then63 he as&ed, more or less innocentl#. 3"he
$ngel Gabriel6 *aphael6 +ichael63
"he# were passing a "ube map. "he mar0uis tapped $ngel Station with one
long dar& finger. Islington.
*ichard had passed through $ngel Station hundreds of times. It was in trend#
Islington, a district filled with anti0ue shops and places to eat. -e &new ver# little
about angels, but he was almost certain that Islington's tube stop was named after a
pub, or a landmar&. -e changed the sub,ect. 34ou &now, when I tried to get on a
"ube train a couple of da#s ago, it wouldn't let me.3
34ou ,ust have to let them &now who's boss, that's all,3 said -unter, softl#, from
behind him.
;oor chewed her lower lip. 3"his train we're loo&ing for will let us on,3 she
said. 3If we can find it.3 -er words were almost drowned out b# music coming from
somewhere nearb#. "he# went down a handful of steps and turned a corner.
"he sa8ophone pla#er had his coat in front of him, on the floor of the tunnel. 5n
the coat were a few coins, which loo&ed as if the man had placed them there himself
to persuade passersb# that ever#one was doing it. <obod# was fooled.
"he sa8ophone pla#er was e8tremel# tall1 he had shoulder/length dar& hair and
a long, for&ed dar& beard, which framed deep/set e#es and a serious nose. -e wore a
ragged "/shirt and oil/stained blue ,eans. $s the travelers reached him, he stopped
pla#ing, shoo& the spit from the sa8ophone mouthpiece, replaced it, and sounded the
first notes the old Julie )ondon song, 3!r# +e $ *iver.3
Now" you say you&re sorry $ $ $
*ichard reali7ed, with surprise, that the man could see themand also that he
was doing his best to pretend that he couldn't. "he mar0uis stopped in front of him.
"he wail of the sa8ophone trailed off in a nervous s0uea&. "he mar0uis flashed a
cold grin. 3It's )ear, isn't it63 he as&ed.
"he man nodded, waril#. -is fingers stro&ed the &e#s of his sa8ophone. 3We're
loo&ing for Earl's !ourt,3 continued the mar0uis. 3Would #ou happen to have such a
thing as a train schedule about #our person63
*ichard was beginning to catch on. -e assumed that the Earl's !ourt he referred
to wasn't the familiar "ube station he had waited in innumerable times, reading a
paper, or ,ust da#dreaming. "he man named )ear moistened his lips with the tip of
his tongue. 3 'S not impossible. What'd be in it for me, if I did63
"he mar0uis thrust his hands deep into the poc&ets of his coat. "hen he smiled,
li&e a cat who had ,ust been entrusted with the &e#s to a home for wa#ward but
plump canaries. 3"he# sa#,3 he said, idl#, as if he were simpl# passing the time,
3that +erlin's master :laise once wrote a reel so beguiling that it would charm the
coins from the poc&ets of an#one who heard it.3
)ear's e#es narrowed. 3"hat'd be worth more than ,ust a train schedule,3 he said.
3If #ou actuall# had it.3
"he mar0uis did a perfectl# good impression of someone reali7ing, 'y" it
would" wouldn&t it* 3Well, then,3 he said, magnanimousl#, 3I suppose #ou would
have to owe me, wouldn't #ou63
)ear nodded, reluctantl#. -e fumbled in his bac& poc&et, pulled out a much/
folded scrap of paper, and held it up. "he mar0uis reached for it. )ear moved his
hand awa#. 3)et me hear the reel first, #ou old tric&ster,3 he said. 3$nd it had better
"he mar0uis raised an e#ebrow. -e darted a hand into, one of the inside poc&ets
of his coat1 when he pulled it out again it was holding a penn#whistle and a small
cr#stal ball. -e loo&ed at the cr#stal ball, made the &ind of 3hmmm3 noise that
means, 3ah, so that's where that went,3 and he put it awa# again. "hen he fle8ed his
fingers, put the penn#whistle to his lips, and began to pla# an odd, rollic&ing tune
that leapt and twisted and sang. It made *ichard feel as if he were thirteen #ears old
again, listening to the "op "went# on his best friend's transistor radio at school
during lunch hour, bac& when pop music had mattered as it onl# can in #our earl#
teenage #ears. the mar0uis's reel was ever#thing he had ever wanted to hear in a
song . . .
$ handful of coins chin&ed onto )ear's coat, thrown b# passers/b#, who wal&ed
on with a smile on their faces and a spring in their step. "he mar0uis lowered his
penn#whistle. 3I owe #ou, then, #ou old rascal,3 said )ear, nodding.
34es. 4ou do.3 "he mar0uis too& the paperthe train schedulefrom )ear,
and scanned it, and nodded. 3:ut a word to the wise. ;on't overuse it. $ little goes a
ver# long wa#.3
$nd the four of them wal&ed awa#, down the long corridor, surrounded b#
posters advertising films and underwear, and the occasional official/loo&ing notices
warning musicians pla#ing for coins to move awa# from the station, listening to the
sob of the sa8ophone, and to the sound of mone# landing on a coat.
"he mar0uis led them to a !entral )ine platform. *ichard wal&ed over to the
edge of the platform and loo&ed down. -e wondered, as he alwa#s did, which one
the live rail was1 and decided, as he alwa#s did, that it was the one farthest from the
platform, with the large whitish porcelain insulators, between it and the ground1 and
then he found himself smiling, involuntaril#, at a tin# dar& gra# mouse who was
bravel# prowling the trac&s, three feet below him, in a mous#, 0uest for abandoned
sandwiches and dropped potato chips.
$ voice came over the loudspea&er, that formal, disembodied male voice that
warned 3+ind the Gap.3 It was intended to &eep unwar# passengers from stepping
into the space between the train and the platform. *ichard, li&e most )ondoners,
barel# heard it an#moreit was li&e aural wallpaper. :ut suddenl#, -unter's hand
was on his arm. 3+ind the Gap,3 she said urgentl#, to *ichard. 3Stand bac& over
there. :# the wall.3
3What63 said *ichard.
3I said"+ said -unter, 3mind the3
$nd then it erupted over the side of the platform. It was diaphanous, dreamli&e,
a ghost/thing, the color of blac& smo&e, and it welled up li&e sil& under water, and,
moving astonishingl# fast while still seeming to drift almost in slow motion, it
wrapped itself tightl# around *ichard's an&le. It stung, even through the fabric of his
)evi's. "he thing pulled him toward the edge of the platform, and he staggered.
-e reali7ed, as if from a distance, that -unter had pulled out her staff and was
smac&ing the tentacle of smo&e with it, hard, repeatedl#.
"here was a farawa# screaming noise, thin and mindless, li&e an idiot child
deprived of its to#. "he smo&e/tentacle let go of *ichard's an&le and slid bac& over
the edge of the platform, and it was gone. -unter too& *ichard b# the scruff of the
nec& and pulled him toward the bac& wall, where *ichard slumped against it. -e
was trembling, and the world seemed suddenl# utterl# unreal. "he color had been
suc&ed from his ,eans wherever the thing had touched him, ma&ing them loo& as if
the#'d been ineptl# bleached. -e pulled up the trouser leg. tin# purple welts were
coming up on the s&in of his an&le and calf. 3What . . . 3 he tried to sa#, but nothing
came out. -e swallowed, and tried again. 3What was that63
-unter loo&ed down at him impassivel#. -er face could have been carved from
brown wood. 3I don't thin& it has a name,3 she said. 3"he# live in the gaps. I did
warn #ou.3
3I've . . . never seen one before.3
34ou weren't part of the 2nderside before,3 said -unter. 3Just wait b# the wall.
It's safer.3
"he mar0uis was chec&ing the time on a large gold poc&et/watch. -e returned it
to his waistcoat poc&et, consulted the paper )ear had given him, and nodded,
satisfied. 3We're in luc&,3 he pronounced. 3"he Earl's !ourt train should be coming
through here in about half an hour.3
3Earl's !ourt Station isn't on the !entral )ine,3 pointed out *ichard.
"he mar0uis stared at *ichard, openl# amused. 3What a refreshing mind #ou
have, #oung man,3 he said. 3"here reall# is nothing 0uite li&e total ignorance, is
"he warm wind began to blow. $n 2nderground train pulled up at the station.
9eople got off and other people got on, going about the business of their lives, and
*ichard watched them with env#. 3+ind the Gap,3 intoned the recorded voice.
3Stand clear of the doors. +ind the Gap.3 ;oor too& one loo& at *ichard. "hen,
apparentl# worried about what she was seeing, she wal&ed over to him, and she too&
his hand. -e was ver# pale, and his breath was coming shallow and fast. 3+ind the
Gap,3 boomed the recorded voice again. 3I'm fine,3 lied *ichard bravel#, to no one
in particular.

"he central court#ard of +r. !roup and +r. =andemar's hospital was a dan&
and cheerless place. *agged grass grew up through the abandoned des&s, rubber
tires, and bits of office furniture. "he overall impression given b# the area was that a
decade before 'perhaps out of boredom, perhaps out of frustration, perhaps even as a
statement, or as performance art( a number of people had thrown the contents of
their offices out of their windows, high above, and had left them there on the ground
to rot.
"here was bro&en glass there, as well, bro&en glass in abundance. "here were
also several mattresses, some of which loo&ed li&e the# had at some point been set
on fire. Grass grew up through the springs. $n entire ecolog# had evolved around
the ornamental fountain in the center of the well, which had for a long time been
neither particularl# ornamental nor a fountain. $ crac&ed and lea&ing water pipe
nearb# had, with the aid of some rainwater, transformed it into a breeding ground
for a number of little frogs who plopped about cheerfull#, re,oicing in their freedom
from an# non/airborne natural predators. !rows and blac&birds and even occasional
seagulls, however, regarded the place as a cat/free delicatessen, speciali7ing in
Slugs sprawled indolentl# under the springs of the burnt mattresses1 snails left
slime trails across the bro&en glass1 large blac& beetles scuttled industriousl# over
smashed gra# plastic telephones and m#steriousl# mutilated :arbie dolls.
+r. !roup and +r. =andemar had come up for a change of air. "he# were
wal&ing slowl# around the perimeter of the central #ard, bro&en glass crunching
beneath their feet1 the# loo&ed li&e shadows in their fra#ed blac& suits. +r. !roup
was in a cold fur#. -e was wal&ing twice as fast as +r. =andemar, circling him, and
almost dancing in his anger. $t times, as if unable to contain the rage inside, +r.
!roup would fling himself at the hospital wall, ph#sicall# attac& it with his fists and
feet, as if it were a poor substitute for a real person. +r. =andemar, on the other
hand, simpl# wal&ed. It was too consistent, too stead# and ine8orable a wal& to be
described as a stroll. ;eath wal&ed li&e +r. =andemar. +r. =andemar watched +r.
!roup, impassivel#, as +r. !roup &ic&ed a sheet of glass that had been leaning
against a wall. It shattered with a satisf#ing crash.
3I, +ister =andemar,3 said +r. !roup, surve#ing the wrec&age, 3I, for one,
have had almost as much as I'm willing to ta&e. $lmost. 9uss#footing, trifling,
loll#gagging, shill#/shall#ing . . . whe#/faced toadI could pop out his e#es with
m# thumbs . . . 3
+r. =andemar shoo& his head. 3<ot #et,3 he said. 3-e's our boss. %or this ,ob.
$fter we've been paid, ma#be we could have some fun on our own time.3 +r. !roup
spat on the ground. 3-e's a worthless, conniving dunderhead . . . We should butcher
the bitch. $nnul, cancel, inhume, and amorti7e her.3
$ telephone began to ring, loudl#. +r. !roup and +r. =andemar loo&ed
around, pu77led. Eventuall# +r. =andemar found the telephone, halfwa# down a
pile of rubble on top of a scree of water/stained medical records. :ro&en wires
trailed from the bac& of it. -e pic&ed it up and passed it to +r. !roup. 3%or #ou,3 he
said. +r. =andemar did not li&e telephones.
3+ister !roup here,3 said !roup. "hen, obse0uiousl#, 35h. It's #ou, sir . . . 3 $
pause. 3$t present, as #ou re0uested, she is wal&ing around, free as a dais#. I'm
afraid #our bod#guard idea went down li&e a dead baboon . . . =arne#6 4es, he's
0uite dead.3 $nother pause.
3Sir, I am commencing to have certain conceptual problems with the role of
m#self and m# partner in these shenanigans.3 "here was a third pause, and +r.
!roup went paler than pale. 32nprofessional63 he as&ed, mildl#. 32s63 -e curled
his hand into a fist, which he slammed, hard, into the side of a bric& wall. "here was
no change, however, in his tone of voice as he said, 3Sir. +ight I with due respect
remind #ou that +ister =andemar and m#self burned down the !it# of "ro#6 We
brought the :lac& 9lague to %landers. We have assassinated a do7en &ings, five
popes, half a hundred heroes and two accredited gods. 5ur last commission before
this was the torturing to death of an entire monaster# in si8teenth/centur# "uscan#.
We are utterly professional.3
+r. =andemar, who had been amusing himself b# catching little frogs and
seeing how man# he could stuff into his mouth at a time, said, with his mouth full,
3I li&ed doing that . . . 3
3+# point63 as&ed +r. !roup, and he flic&ed some imaginar# dust from his
threadbare blac& suit, ignoring the real dust as he did so. 3+# point is that we are
assassins. We are cutthroats. We &ill.3 -e listened to something, then said, 3Well,
what about the 2pworlder6 Wh# can't we &ill him63 +r. !roup twitched, spat once
more, and &ic&ed the wall, as he stood there holding the rust/stained, half/bro&en
3Scare her* We're cutthroats, not scarecrows.3 $ pause. -e too& a deep breath.
34es, I understand, but I don't li&e it.3 "he person at the other end of the phone had
hung up. +r. !roup loo&ed down at the telephone. "hen he hefted it in one hand and
proceeded methodicall# to smash it into shards of plastic and metal b# banging it
against the wall.
+r. =andemar wal&ed over. -e had found a large blac& slug with a bright
orange underbell#, and he was chewing it, li&e a fat cigar. "he slug was tr#ing to
crawl awa# down +r. =andemar's chin. 3Who was that63 as&ed +r. =andemar.
3Who the hell do #ou thin& it was63
+r. =andemar chewed, thoughtfull#, then suc&ed the slug into his mouth. 3$
scarecrow man63 he ventured.
35ur emplo#er.3
3"hat was going to be m# ne8t guess.3
3Scarecrows,3 spat +r. !roup, disgusted. -e was moving from a red rage to an
oil# gra# sul&.
+r. =andemar swallowed the contents of his mouth and wiped his lips on his
sleeve. 3:est wa# to scare crows,3 said +r. =andemar, 3#ou ,ust creep up behind
them and put #our hand round their little crow nec&s and s0uee7e until the# don't
move an#more. "hat scares the stuffing out of them.3
$nd then he was silent1 and from far above the# heard the sound of crows
fl#ing, cawing angril#.
3!rows. %amil# )orvidae$ !ollective noun,3 intoned +r. !roup, relishing the
sound of the word, 3a murder.3

*ichard waited against the wall, ne8t to ;oor. She said ver# little1 she chewed
her fingernails, ran her hands through her reddish hair until it was stic&ing up in all
directions, then tried to push it bac& down again. She was certainl# unli&e an#one he
had ever &nown. When she noticed him loo&ing at her, she shrugged and shimmied
down further into her la#ers of clothes, deeper into her leather ,ac&et. -er face
loo&ed out at the world from inside the ,ac&et. "he e8pression on her face made
*ichard thin& of a beautiful homeless child he had seen, the previous winter, behind
!ovent Garden. he had not been certain whether it was a girl or a bo#. Its mother
was begging, pleading with the passers/b# for coins to feed the child and the infant
that she carried in her arms. :ut the child stared out at the world and said nothing,
although it must have been cold and hungr#. It ,ust stared.
-unter stood b# ;oor, loo&ing bac& and forth down the platform. "he mar0uis
had told them where to wait, and then he had slipped awa#. %rom somewhere,
*ichard heard a bab# begin to cr#. "he mar0uis slipped out of an e8it/onl# door and
wal&ed toward them. -e was chewing on a piece of cand#.
3-aving fun63 as&ed *ichard. $ train was coming toward them, its approach
heralded b# a gust of warm wind.
3Just ta&ing care of business,3 said the mar0uis. -e consulted the piece of paper
and his watch. -e pointed to a place on the platform. 3"his should be the Earl's
!ourt train. Stand behind me here, #ou three.3 "hen, as the 2nderground traina
rather boring/loo&ing, normal train, *ichard was disappointed to observerumbled
and rattled its wa# into the station, the mar0uis leaned across *ichard and said to
;oor, 3+# lad#6 "here is something that perhaps I should have mentioned earlier.3
She turned her odd/colored e#es on him. 34es63
3Well,3 he said, 3the earl might not be entirely pleased to see me.3
"he train slowed down and stopped. "he car that had pulled up in front of
*ichard was 0uite empt#. its lights were turned off, it was blea& and empt# and
dar&. %rom time to time *ichard had noticed cars li&e this one, loc&ed and shadow#,
on "ube trains, and he had wondered what purpose the# served. "he other doors on
the train hissed open, and passengers got on and got off. "he doors of the dar&ened
car remained closed. "he mar0uis drummed on the door with his fist, an intricate
rh#thmic rap. <othing happened. *ichard was ,ust wondering if the train would now
pull out without them on it, when the door of the dar& car was pushed open from the
inside. It opened about si8 inches, and an elderl#, bespectacled face peered out at
3Who &noc&s63 he said.
"hrough the opening, *ichard could see flames burning, and people, and smo&e
inside the car. "hrough the glass in the doors, however, he still saw a dar& and
empt# carriage. 3"he )ad# ;oor,3 announced the mar0uis, smoothl#, 3and her
"he door slid open all the wa#, and the# were inside Earl's !ourt.
"here was straw scattered on the floor, over a la#er of rushes. "here was an open log
fire, sputtering and bla7ing in a large fireplace. "here were a few chic&ens, strutting
and pec&ing on the floor. "here were seats with hand/embroidered cushions on
them, and there were tapestries covering the windows and the doors.
*ichard stumbled forward as the train lurched out of the station. -e reached out,
grabbed hold of the nearest person, and regained his balance. "he nearest person
happened to be a short, gra#, elderl# man/at/arms, who would have loo&ed, *ichard
decided, e8actl# li&e a recentl# retired minor official were it not for the tin hat, the
surcoat, the rather clumsil# &nitted chain mail, and the spear1 instead he loo&ed li&e
a recentl# retired minor official who had, somewhat against his will, been dragooned
into his local amateur dramatic societ#, where he had been forced to pla# a man/at/
"he little gra# man blin&ed shortsightedl# at *ichard as *ichard grabbed him,
and then he said, lugubriousl#, 3Sorr# about that.3
3+# fault,3 said *ichard.
3I &now,3 said the man.
$n enormous Irish wolfhound padded down the aisle and stopped beside a lute
pla#er, who sat on the floor pic&ing at a melod# in a desultor# fashion. "he
wolfhound glared at *ichard, snorted with disdain, then la# down and went to sleep.
$t the far end of the carriage an elderl# falconer, with a hooded falcon on his wrist,
was e8changing pleasantries with a small &not of damsels of a certain age. Some
passengers obviousl# stared at the four travelers1 others, ,ust as obviousl#, ignored
them. It was, *ichard reali7ed, as if someone had ta&en a small medieval court and
put it, as best the# could, in one car of an 2nderground train.
$ herald raised his bugle to his lips and pla#ed a tuneless blast, as an immense,
elderl# man, in a huge fur/lined dressing gown and carpet slippers, staggered
through the connecting door from the ne8t compartment, his arm resting on the
shoulder of a ,ester in shabb# motle#. "he old man was larger than life in ever#
wa#. he wore an e#e/patch over his left e#e, which had the effect of ma&ing him
loo& slightl# helpless, and unbalanced, li&e a one/e#ed haw&. "here were fragments
of food in his red/gra# beard, and what appeared to be pa,ama pants were visible at
the bottom of his shabb# fur gown. That" thought *ichard, correctl#, 'ust e the
earl$ "he earl's ,ester was an elderl# man with a pinched, humorless mouth and a
painted face. -e led the earl to a throneli&e carved wooden seat in which, a trifle
unsteadil#, the earl sat down. "he wolfhound got up, padded down the length of the
carriage, and settled itself at the earl's slippered feet. <arl&s )ourt" thought *ichard.
0f course$ $nd then he began to wonder whether there was a baron in :arons !ourt
"ube station, or a *aven in *avenscourt or, . . .
"he little old man/at/arms coughed asthmaticall# and said, 3*ight then, #ou lot.
State #our business.3 ;oor stepped forward. She held her head up high, suddenl#
seeming taller and more at ease than *ichard had previousl# seen her, and she said,
3We see& an audience with -is Grace the Earl.3
"he earl called down the carriage. 3What did the little girl sa#, -alvard63 he
as&ed. *ichard wondered if he was deaf.
-alvard, the elderl# man/at/arms, shuffled around and cupped his hand to his
mouth. 3"he# see& an audience, 4our Grace,3 he shouted, over the rattle of the train.
"he earl pushed aside his thic& fur cap and scratched his head, meditativel#. -e
was balding underneath his cap. 3"he# do6 $n audience6 -ow splendid. Who are
the#, -alvard63
-alvard turned bac& to them. 3-e wants to &now who #ou all are. eep it short,
though. ;on't go on.3 3I am the )ad# ;oor,3 announced ;oor. 3"he )ord 9ortico
was m# father.3
"he earl brightened at this, leaned forward, peered through the smo&e with his
one good e#e. 3;id she sa# she was 9ortico's oldest girl63 he as&ed the ,ester.
34us, #our grace.3
"he earl bec&oned to ;oor. 3!ome here,3 he said. 3!ome/come/come. )et me
loo& at #ou.3 She wal&ed down the swa#ing carriage, grabbing the thic& rope straps
that hung from the ceiling as she went, to &eep her balance. When she stood before
the earl's wooden chair, she curtse#ed. -e scratched at his beard and stared at her.
3We were all 0uite devastated to hear of #our father's unfortunate3 said the earl,
and then he interrupted himself, and said, 3Well, all #our famil#, it was a3 and he
trailed off, and said, 34ou &now I had warmest regards for him, did a bit of business
together . . . good old 9ortico . . . full of ideas . . . 3 -e stopped. "hen he tapped the
,ester on the shoulder and whispered, in a 0uerulous boom, loud enough that it could
be heard easil# over the noise of the train, 3Go and ma&e ,o&es at them, "oole#.
Earn #our &eep.3
"he earl's fool staggered up the aisle with an arthritic step. -e stopped in front
of *ichard. 3$nd who might #ou be63 he as&ed.
3+e63 said *ichard. 32m. +e6 +# name6 It's *ichard. *ichard +a#hew.3
+!e*+ s0uea&ed the fool, in an elderl#, rather theatrical imitation of *ichard's
Scottish accent. 3!e* 2m. !e* )a, nuncle. "is not a man, but a mooncalf.3 "he
courtiers sniggered, dustil#.
3$nd I,3 de !arabas told the ,ester, with a blinding smile, 3call m#self the
mar0uis de !arabas.3 "he fool blin&ed.
3;e !arabas the thief63 as&ed the ,ester. 3;e !arabas the bod#snatcher6 ;e
!arabas the traitor63 -e turned to the courtiers around them. 3:ut this cannot be de
!arabas. %or wh#6 :ecause de !arabas has long since been banished from the earl's
presence. 9erhaps it is instead a strange new species of stoat" who grew particularl#
large.3 "he courtiers tittered uneasil#, and a low bu77 of troubled conversation
began. "he earl said nothing, but his lips were pressed together tightl#, and he had
begun to tremble.
3I am called -unter,3 said -unter to the ,ester. "he courtiers were silent then.
"he ,ester opened his mouth, as if he were going to sa# something, and then he
loo&ed at her, and he closed his mouth again. $ hint of a smile pla#ed at the corner
of -unter's perfect lips. 3Go on,3 she said. 3Sa# something funn#.3
"he ,ester stared at the trailing toes of his shoes. "hen he muttered, 3+# hound
hath no nose.3
"he earl, who had been staring at the mar0uis de !arabas with e#es li&e a slow/
burning fuse, now e8ploded to his feet, a gra#/bearded volcano, an elderl# berser&er.
-is head brushed the roof of the carriage. -e pointed at the mar0uis and shouted,
spittle fl#ing, 3I will not stand for it, I will not. +a&e him come forward.3
-alvard waggled a gloom# spear at the mar0uis, who sauntered to the front of
the train, until he stood beside ;oor in front of the earl's throne. "he wolfhound
growled in the bac& of its throat.
34ou,3 said the earl, stabbing the air with a huge, &notted finger. 3I &now #ou,
de !arabas. I haven't forgotten. I ma# be old, but I haven't forgotten.3
"he mar0uis bowed. 3+ight I remind 4our Grace,3 he said urbanel#, 3that we
had a deal6 I negotiated the peace treat# between #our people and the *aven's !ourt.
$nd in return #ou agreed to provide a little favor.3 So there is a raven&s court"
thought *ichard. -e wondered what it was li&e.
3$ little favor63 said the earl. -e turned a deep beet red color. 3Is that what #ou
call it6 I lost a do7en men to #our foolishness in the retreat from White !it#. I lost
an e#e.3
3$nd if #ou don't mind m# sa#ing so, 4our Grace,3 said the mar0uis,
graciousl#, 3that is a ver# fetching patch. It sets off #our face perfectl#.3
3I swore . . . 3 fulminated the earl, beard bristling, 3I swore . . . that if #ou ever
set foot in m# domain I would . . . 3 he trailed off. Shoo& his head, confused and
forgetful. "hen he continued. 3It'll come bac& to me. I do not forget.3
3-e might not be entirel# pleased to see #ou63 whispered ;oor to de !arabas.
3Well, he's not,3 he muttered bac&.
;oor stepped forward once more. 34our Grace,3 she said, loudl#, clearl#, 3de
!arabas is here with me as m# guest and m# companion. %or the fellowship there
has ever been between #our famil# and mine, for the friendship between m# father
3-e abused m# hospitalit#,3 boomed the earl. 3I swore that . . . if he ever again
entered m# domain I would have him gutted and dried . . . li&e, li&e something that
had been gutted, first . . . li&e . . . 3
39erchancethen dried a &ipper, m# lord63 suggested the ,ester.
"he earl shrugged. 3It is of no matter. Guards, sei7e him.3 $nd the# did. While
neither of the guards would ever see si8t# again, each of them was holding a
crossbow, pointed at the mar0uis, and their hands did not tremble, neither with age
nor with fear. *ichard loo&ed at -unter. She seemed untroubled b# this. she was
watching it almost with amusement, li&e someone attending the theater.
;oor folded her arms and stood taller, putting her head bac&, raising her pointed
chin. She loo&ed less li&e a ragged street pi8ie1 more li&e someone used to getting
her own wa#. "he opal e#es flashed. 34our Grace, the mar0uis is with me as m#
companion, on m# 0uest. 5ur families have been friends for a long time now3
34es. "he# have,3 interrupted the earl, helpfull#. 3-undreds of #ears. -undreds
and hundreds. new #our grandfather, too. %unn# old fellow. :it vague,3 he
3:ut I am forced to sa# that I will regard an act of violence against m#
companion as an act of aggression against m#self and m# house.3 "he girl stared up
at the old man. -e towered over her. "he# stood for some moments, fro7en. -e
tugged on his red/and/gra# beard, agitatedl#, then he thrust out his lower lip li&e a
small child. 3I will not have him here,3 he said.
"he mar0uis too& out the golden poc&et/watch that he had found in 9ortico's
stud#. -e e8amined it, carelessl#. "hen he turned to ;oor and said, as if none of the
events around them had occurred. 3+# lad#, I will obviousl# be of more use to #ou
off this train than on. $nd I have other avenues to e8plore.3
3<o,3 she said. 3If #ou go, we all go.3
3I don't thin& so,3 said the mar0uis. 3-unter will loo& after #ou as long as #ou
sta# in )ondon :elow. I'll meet #ou at the ne8t mar&et. ;on't do an#thing too stupid
in the meantime.3 "he train was coming into a station,
;oor fi8ed the earl with her loo&. there was something more ancient and
powerful in that glance than her #oung #ears would have seemed to allow. *ichard
noticed that the room fell 0uiet whenever she spo&e. 3Will #ou let him go in peace,
4our Grace63 she as&ed.
"he earl ran his hands over his face, rubbed his good e#e and his e#e/patch,
then loo&ed bac& at her. 3Just ma&e him go,3 said the earl. -e loo&ed at the mar0uis.
3<e8t time . . . 3 he ran a thic& old finger across his $dam's apple 3 . . . &ipper.3
"he mar0uis bowed low. 3I'll see m#self out,3 he said to the guards, and stepped
toward the open door. -alvard raised his crossbow and pointed it toward the
mar0uis's bac&. -unter reached out her hand and pushed the end of the crossbow
bac& down toward the floor. "he mar0uis stepped onto the platform, turned and
waved with an elaborate flourish. "he door hissed closed behind him.
"he earl sat down on his huge chair at the end of the car. -e said nothing. "he
train rattled and lurched through the dar& tunnel. 3Where are m# manners63
muttered the earl to himself. -e loo&ed at them with one staring e#e. "hen he said it
again, in a desperate boom that *ichard could feel in his stomach, li&e a bass
drumbeat. +Where are 'y 'anners*+ -e motioned one of the elderl# men/at/arms
to him. 3"he# will be hungr# after their ,ourne#, ;agvard. "hirst#, too, I shouldn't
34es, 4our Grace.3
3Stop the trainD3 called the earl. "he doors hissed open, and ;agvard scuttled
off onto a platform. *ichard watched the people on the platform. <o one came into
their car. <o one seemed to notice that an#thing was at all unusual.
;agvard wal&ed over to a vending machine on the side of the platform. -e too&
off his metal helmet. "hen he rapped, with one mailed glove, on the side of the
machine. 35rders from the earl,3 he said. 3!hoc'lits.3 $ ratcheting whirr came from
deep in the guts of the machine, and it began to spit out do7ens of !adbur#'s %ruit
and <ut chocolate bars, one after another. ;agvard held his helmet below the
opening to catch them. "he doors began to close. -alvard put the handle of his pi&e
between the doors, and the# opened again and began bumping open and shut on the
pi&e handle. +%lease stand clear of the doors"+ said a loudspea&er voice. +The train
cannot leave until the doors are all closed$+
"he earl was staring at ;oor lopsidedl#, with his one good e#e. 3So. What
brings #ou here to me63 he as&ed.
She lic&ed her lips. 3Well, indirectl#, 4our Grace, m# father's death.3
-e nodded, slowl#. 34es. 4ou see& vengeance. Cuite right, too.3 -e coughed,
then recited, in a basso profundo, 39rave the attling lade" flashes the furious fire"
steel sword sheathed in hated heart" cri'sons the $ $ $ the $ $ $ something. 4es.3
3=engeance63 ;oor thought for a moment. 34es. "hat was what m# father said.
:ut I mostl# ,ust want to understand what happened, and to protect m#self. +#
famil# had no enemies.3 ;agvard staggered bac& onto the train then, his helmet
filled with chocolate bars and cans of !o&e1 the doors were permitted to close, and
the train moved off once more.

)ear's coat, still on the floor of the tunnel, was covered in coins and bills, now,
but it was also covered with shoes&ic&ing the coins, smearing and tearing the
bills, ripping the fabric of the coat. )ear had begun to cr#. 39lease. Wh# won't #ou
leave me alone63 he begged. -e was bac&ed against the wall of the passage1 blood
ran down his face and dripped crimson into his beard. -is sa8ophone hung limpl#,
aw&wardl#, on his chest, dented and scraped.
-e was surrounded b# a small crowd of peoplemore than twent#, less than
fift#ever# one of them shoving and pushing, in a mindless mob, their e#es blan&
and staring, each man and woman desperatel# fighting and clawing in order to give
)ear their mone#. "here was blood on the tiled wall, where )ear had &noc&ed his
head. )ear flailed out at one middle/aged woman, her purse wide open, a fistful of
five/pound notes thrust out at him. She clawed at his face in her eagerness to give
him her mone#. -e twisted to avoid her fingernails and fell to the tunnel floor.
Someone stepped on his hand. -is face was pushed into a slurr# of coins. -e
began to sob, and to curse. 3I told #ou not to overuse that tune,3 said an elegant
voice, nearb#. 3<aught#.3
3-elp me,3 gasped )ear.
3Well, there is a counter/charm,3 admitted the voice, almost reluctantl#.
"he crowd was pressing closer now. $ flung fift#/pence coin opened )ear's
chee&. -e curled into a fetal ball, hugging himself, bur#ing his face in his &nees.
39la# it, damn #ou,3 sobbed )ear. 3Whatever #ou want . . . ,ust ma&e them stop . . .
$ penn#whistle piping began softl#, and echoed down the passage. $ simple
phrase, repeated over and over, slightl# different ever# time. the de !arabas
variations. "he footsteps were moving awa#. Shuffling, at first, then pic&ing up
pace. moving awa# from him. )ear opened his e#es. "he mar0uis de !arabas was
leaning against the wall, pla#ing the penn#whistle. When he saw )ear loo&ing at
him he too& the whistle from his lips and replaced it in an inside poc&et of his coat.
-e tossed )ear a lace/edged hand&erchief of patched linen. )ear wiped the blood
from his forehead and face. 3"he# would have &illed me,3 he said, accusingl#.
3I did warn #ou,3 said de !arabas. 3Just count #ourself luc&# that I was coming
bac& this wa#.3 -e helped )ear into a sitting position. 3<ow,3 he said. 3I thin& #ou
owe me another favor.3
)ear pic&ed up his coattorn and mudd# and imprinted with the mar&s of
man# feetfrom the passage floor. -e suddenl# felt ver# cold, and he wrapped the
shredded coat around his shoulders. !oins fell, and bills fluttered to the floor. -e let
them lie. 3Was I reall# luc&#6 5r did #ou set me up63
"he mar0uis loo&ed almost offended. 3I don't &now how #ou could even bring
#ourself to thin& such a thing.3
'3!os I &now #ou. "hat's how. So what is it that #ou want me to do this time6
"heft6 $rson63 )ear sounded resigned, and a little sad. $nd then, 3+urder63
;e !arabas reached down and too& bac& his hand&erchief. 3"heft, I'm afraid.
4ou were right the first time,3 he said, with a smile. 3I find m#self in rather urgent
need of a piece of "'ang d#nast# sculpture.3 )ear shivered. "hen, slowl#, he nodded.

*ichard was handed a bar of !adbur#'s %ruit and <ut chocolate and a large
silver goblet, ornamented around the rim with what appeared to *ichard to be
sapphires. "he goblet was filled with !oca/!ola. "he ,ester, whose name seemed to
be "oole#, cleared his throat loudl#. 3I would li&e to propose a toast to our guests,3
he said. 3$ child, a bravo, a fool. +a# the# each get what the# deserve.3
3Which one am I63 whispered *ichard to -unter.
3"he fool, of course,3 she said.
3In the old da#s,3 said -alvard dismall#, after sipping his !o&e, 3we had wine. I
prefer wine. It's not as stic&#.3
3;o all the machines ,ust give #ou things li&e that63 as&ed *ichard.
35h #es,3 said the old man. 3"he# listen to the earl, #'see. -e rules the
2nderground. "he bit with the trains. -e's lord of the !entral, the !ircle, the
Jubilee, the =ictorious, the :a&erloowell, all of them e8cept the 2nderside )ine.3
3What's the 2nderside )ine63 as&ed *ichard. -alvard shoo& his head and
pursed his lips. -unter brushed *ichard's shoulder with her fingers. 3*emember
what I told #ou about the shepherds of Shepherd's :ush63
34ou said I didn't want to meet them, and there were some things I was
probabl# better off not &nowing.3
3Good,3 she said, 3So now #ou can add the 2nderside )ine to the list of those
;oor came bac& down the carriage toward them. She was smiling. 3"he earl's
agreed to help us,3 she said. 3!ome on. -e's meeting us in the librar#.3 *ichard
began to follow, as he reali7ed that the 0uestion What librar#6 had not risen to his
lips. "he longer he was here, the more he too& at face value. Instead, he followed
;oor toward the earl's empt# throne, and round the bac& of it, and through the
connecting door behind it, and into the librar#. It was a huge stone room, with a high
wooden ceiling. Each wall was covered with shelves. Each shelf was laden with
ob,ects. there were boo&s, #es. :ut the shelves were filled with a host of other
things. tennis rac&ets, hoc&e# stic&s, umbrellas, a spade, a noteboo& computer, a
wooden leg, several mugs, do7ens of shoes, pairs of binoculars, a small log, si8
glove puppets, a lava lamp, various !;s, records ')9s, JIs, and @Ks(, cassette tapes
and eight/trac&s, dice, to# cars, assorted pairs of dentures, watches, flashlights, four
garden gnomes of assorted si7es 'two fishing, one of them mooning, the last
smo&ing a cigar(, piles of newspapers, maga7ines, grimoires, three/legged stools, a
bo8 of cigars, a plastic nodding/head $lsatian, soc&s . . . the room was a tin# empire
of lost propert#.
3"his is his real domain,3 muttered -unter. 3"hings lost. "hings forgotten.3
"here were windows set in the stone wall. "hrough them, *ichard could see the
rattling dar&ness and the passing lights of the 2nderground tunnels. "he earl was
sitting on the floor with his legs spla#ed, patting the wolfhound and scratching it
underneath the chin. "he ,ester stood beside him, loo&ing embarrassed. "he earl
clambered to his feet when he saw them. -is forehead creased. 3$h. "here #ou are.
<ow, there was a reason I as&ed #ou here, it'll come to me . . . 3 -e tugged at his
red/gra# beard, a tin# gesture from such a huge man.
3"he $ngel Islington, 4our Grace,3 said ;oor politel#.
35h #es. 4our father had a lot of ideas for changes, #ou &now. $s&ed me about
them. I don't trust change. I sent him to Islington.3 -e stopped. :lin&ed his one e#e.
3;id I tell #ou this alread#63
34es, 4our Grace. $nd how can we get to Islington63
"he earl nodded as if ;oor had said something profound. 35nl# once b# the
0uic& wa#. $fter that #ou have to go the long wa# down. ;angerous.3
;oor said, patientl#, 3$nd the 0uic& wa# is . . . 63
3<o, no. <eed to be an opener to use it. 5nl# good for 9ortico's famil#.3 -e
rested a huge hand on her shoulder. "hen his hand slid up to her chee&. 3:etter off
sta#ing here with me. eep an old man warm at night, eh63 -e leered at her and
touched her tangle of hair with his old fingers. -unter too& a step toward ;oor.
;oor gestured with her hand. <o. Not yet$
;oor loo&ed up at the earl, and said, 34our Grace, I a' 9ortico's oldest
daughter. -ow do I get to the $ngel Islington63 *ichard found himself ama7ed that
;oor was able to &eep her temper in the face of the earl's losing battle with temporal
"he earl win&ed his single e#e in a solemn blin&. an old haw&, his head tipped
on one side. "hen he too& his hand from her hair. 3So #ou are. So #ou are. 9ortico's
daughter. -ow is #our dear father6 eeping well, I hope6 %ine man. Good man.3
3-ow do we get to the $ngel Islington63 said ;oor, but now there was a
tremble in her voice.
3-mm6 2se the $ngelus, of course.3
*ichard found himself imagining the earl si8t#, eight#, five hundred #ears ago.
a might# warrior, a cunning strategist, a great lover of women, a fine friend, a
terrif#ing foe. "here was still the wrec&age of that man in there somewhere. "hat
was what made him so terrible, and so sad. "he earl fumbled on the shelves, moving
pens and pipes and peashooters, little gargo#les and dead leaves. "hen, li&e an aged
cat stumbling on a mouse, he sei7ed a small, rolled/up scroll, and handed it to the
girl. 3-ere #'go, lassie,3 said the earl. 3$ll in here. $nd I suppose we'd better drop
#ou off where #ou need to go3
34ou'll drop us off63 as&ed *ichard. 3In a train63
"he earl loo&ed around for the source of the sound, focused on *ichard, and
smiled enormousl#. 35h, thin& nothing of it,3 he boomed. 3$n#thing for 9ortico's
daughter.3 ;oor clutched the scroll tightl#, triumphantl#.
*ichard could feel the train beginning to slow, and he, and ;oor, and -unter
were led out of the stone room and bac& into the car. *ichard peered out at the
platform, as the# slowed down.
3E8cuse me. What station is this63 he as&ed. "he train had stopped, facing one
of the station signs. :*I"IS- +2SE2+, it said. Somehow, this was one oddit# too
man#. -e could accept 3+ind the Gap3 and the Earl's !ourt, and even the strange
librar#. :ut damn it, li&e all )ondoners, he &new his "ube map, and this was going
too far. 3"here isn't a :ritish +useum Station,3 said *ichard, firml#.
3"here isn't63 boomed the earl. 3"hen, mm, then #ou must be ver# careful as
#ou get off the train.3 $nd he guffawed, delightedl#, and tapped his ,ester on the
shoulder. 3-ear that, "oole#6 I am as funn# as #ou are.3
"he ,ester smiled as blea& a smile as ever was seen. 3+# sides are splitting, m#
ribs are crac&ing, and m# mirth is positivel# uncontainable, 4our Grace,3 he said.
"he doors hissed open. ;oor smiled up at the earl. 3"han& #ou,3 she said. 35ff,
off,3 said the vast old man, shooing ;oor and *ichard and -unter out of the warm,
smo&# carriage onto the empt# platform. $nd then the doors closed, and the train
moved awa#, and *ichard found himself staring at a sign which, no matter how
man# times he blin&ednor even if he loo&ed awa# from it and loo&ed bac&
suddenl# to ta&e it b# surprisestill obstinatel# persisted in sa#ing.
:*I"IS- +2SE2+
It was earl# evening, and the cloudless s&# was transmuting from ro#al blue to a
deep violet, with a smudge of fire orange and lime green over 9addington, four
miles to the west, where, from 5ld :aile#'s perspective an#wa#, the sun had
recentl# set.
Skies" thought 5ld :aile#, in a satisfied sort of a wa#. <ever a two of them
ali&e. <ot b# da# nor not b# night, neither. -e was a bit of a connoisseur of s&ies,
was 5ld :aile#, and this was a good 'un. "he old man had pitched his tent for the
night on a roof opposite St. 9aul's !athedral, in the center of the !it# of )ondon.
-e was fond of St. 9aul's, and it, at least, had changed little in the last three
hundred #ears. It had been built in white 9ortland stone, which had, before it was
even completed, begun to turn blac& from the soot and the filth in the smo&#
)ondon air and now, following the cleaning of )ondon in the ?B@Es, was more or
less white again1 but it was still St. 9aul's. -e was not sure that the same could be
said for the rest of the !it# of )ondon. he peered over the roof, stared awa# from his
beloved S&#, down to the sodium/lit pavement below. -e could see securit#
cameras affi8ed to a wall, and a few cars, and one late office wor&er, loc&ing a door
and then wal&ing toward the "ube. 9rrr$ Even the thought of going underground
made 5ld :aile# shudder. -e was a roof/man and proud of it1 had fled the world at
ground level so long ago . . .
5ld :aile# remembered when people had actuall# lived here in the !it#, not ,ust
wor&ed1 when the# had lived and lusted and laughed, built ramshac&le houses one
leaning against the ne8t, each house filled with nois# people. Wh#, the noise and the
mess and the stin&s and the songs from the alle# across the wa# 'then &nown, at
least collo0uiall#, as Shitten $lle#( had been legendar# in their time, but no one
lived in the !it# now. It was a cold and cheerless place of offices, of people who
wor&ed in the da# and went home to somewhere else at night. It was not a place for
living an#more. -e even missed the stin&s.
"he last smudge of orange sun faded into nocturnal purple. "he old man
covered the cages, so the birds could get their beaut# sleep. "he# grumbled, then
slept. 5ld :aile# scratched his nose, after which he went into his tent and fetched a
blac&ened stew/pot, some water, some carrots and potatoes, salt, and a well/hanged
pair of dead, pluc&ed starlings. -e wal&ed out onto the roof, lit a small fire in a soot/
blac&ened coffee can, and was putting his stew on to coo& when he became aware
that someone was watching him from the shadows b# a chimne# stac&.
-e pic&ed up his toasting for& and waved it threateningl# at the chimne# stac&.
3Who's there63
"he mar0uis de !arabas stepped out of the shadows, bowed perfunctoril#, and
smiled gloriousl#. 5ld :aile# lowered his toasting for&. 35h,3 he said. 3It's #ou.
Well, what do #ou want6 nowledge6 5r birds63
"he mar0uis wal&ed over, pic&ed a slice of raw carrot from 5ld :aile#'s stew,
and munched it. 3Information, actuall#,3 he said.
5ld :aile# chortled. 3-ah,3 he said. 3"here's a first. Ehh63 "hen he leaned
toward the mar0uis. 3What'll #ou trade for it63
3What do #ou need63
3+a#be I should do what #ou do. I should as& for another favor. $n investment
for one da# down the road.3 5ld :aile# grinned.
3+uch too e8pensive, in the long run,3 said the mar0uis, without humor.
5ld :aile# nodded. <ow the sun had gone down, it was getting ver# cold, ver#
fast. 3Shoes, then,3 he said. 3$nd a balaclava hat.3 -e inspected his fingerless
gloves. the# were more hole than glove. 3$nd new gloveses. It's going to be a
bastard winter.3
3=er# well. I'll bring them to #ou.3 "he mar0uis de !arabas put his hand into an
inside poc&et and produced, li&e a magician producing a rose from thin air, the blac&
animal figure he had ta&en from 9ortico's stud#. 3<ow. What can #ou tell me about
5ld :aile# pulled on his glasses. -e too& the ob,ect from de !arabas. It was
cold to the touch. -e sat down on an air/conditioning unit, then, turning the blac&
obsidian statue over and over in his hand, he announced. 3It's the Great :east of
)ondon.3 "he mar0uis said nothing. -is e#es flic&ered from the statue to 5ld
:aile#, impatientl#. 5ld :aile#, en,o#ing the mar0uis's minor discomfort, continued
at his own pace. 3<ow, the# sa# that bac& in first ing !harlie's da#him 'as got
his head all chopped off, sill# buggerbefore the fire and the plague, this was, there
was a butcher lived down b# the %leet ;itch, had some poor creature he was going
to fatten up for !hristmas. Some sa#s it was a piglet, and some sa#s it wusn't, and
there's someand I list meself as one of themthat wusn't never properl# certain.
5ne night in ;ecember the beast runned awa#, ran into the %leet ;itch, and
vanished into the sewers. $nd it fed on the sewage, and it grew, and it grew. $nd it
got meaner, and nastier. "he#'d send in hunting parties after it, from time to time.3
"he mar0uis pursed his lips. 3It must have died three hundred #ears ago.3
5ld :aile# shoo& his head. 3"hings li&e that, the#'re too vicious to die. "oo old
and big and nast#.3
"he mar0uis sighed. 3I thought it was ,ust a legend,3 he said. 3)i&e the
alligators in the sewers of <ew 4or& !it#.3
5ld :aile# nodded, sagel#. 3What, the big white buggers6 "he#'re down there. I
had a friend lost a head to one of them.3 $ moment of silence. 5ld :aile# handed
the statue bac& to the mar0uis. "hen he raised his hand and snapped it, li&e a
crocodile head, at de !arabas. 3It was o&a#,3 gurned 5ld :aile# with a grin that was
most terrible to behold. 3-e had another.3
"he mar0uis sniffed, uncertain whether or not 5ld :aile# was pulling his leg.
-e made the statue of the :east vanish inside his coat once more.
3-ang on,3 said 5ld :aile#. -e went bac& inside his brown tent and returned
holding the ornate silver bo8 the mar0uis had given him on their previous meeting.
-e held it out to the mar0uis. 3-ow about this then63 he as&ed. 3$re #ou read# to
ta&e it bac&6 It fair gives me the creep# shivers, having it around.3
"he mar0uis wal&ed to the edge of the roof, dropped the eight feet to the ne8t
building. 3I'll ta&e it bac&, when all this is over,3 he called. 3)et us hope that #ou
don't have to use it.3
5ld :aile# leaned over. 3-ow will I &now if I do63
34ou'll &now,3 called the mar0uis. 3$nd the rats will tell #ou what to do with
it.3 $nd with that he was over the side of the building, slipping down, using
drainpipes and ledges as handholds.
3-ope I never finds out, that's all I can sa#,3 said 5ld :aile# to himself. "hen a
thought struc& him. 3-o#,3 he called out to the night and the !it#. 3;on't forget the
shoeses and the glovesesD3

"he advertisements on the walls were for refreshing and health/giving malted
drin&s, for two/shilling da# e8cursions b# train to the seaside, for &ippered herrings,
moustache wa8 and bootblac&. "he# were smo&e/blac&ened relics of the late
twenties or the earl# thirties. *ichard stared at them in disbelief. It seemed
completel# abandoned. a forgotten place. 3It is :ritish +useum Station,3 admitted
*ichard. 3:ut . . . but there never was a :ritish +useum Station. "his is all wrong.3
3It was closed down in about ?BFF, and sealed off,3 said ;oor.
3-ow i#arre,3 said *ichard. It was li&e wal&ing through histor#. -e could hear
trains echoing through tunnels nearb#, felt the push of air as the# passed. 3$re there
man# stations li&e this63
3$bout fift#,3 said -unter. 3"he# aren't all accessible, though. <ot even to us.3
"here was a movement in the shadows at the edge of the platform. 3-ello,3 said
;oor. 3-ow are #ou63 She went down into a crouch. $ brown rat stepped out into
the light. It sniffed at ;oor's hand.
3"han& #ouD3 said ;oor, cheerfull#. 3I'm glad you aren't dead, too.3
*ichard edged over. 32m, ;oor. !ould #ou tell the rat something for me63
"he rat turned its head toward him. 3+iss Whis&ers sa#s that if there's an#thing
#ou've got to sa# to her, #ou can tell it to her #ourself,3 said ;oor.
3+iss Whis&ers63
;oor shrugged. 3It's a literal translation,3 she said. 3It sounds better in rat.3
*ichard did not doubt it. 32m. -ello . . . +iss Whis&ers . . . )oo&, there was
one of #our rat/spea&er people, a girl named $naesthesia. She was ta&ing me to the
mar&et. We were crossing this bridge in the dar&, and she ,ust never made it across.3
"he rat interrupted him, with a sharp s.uee$ ;oor began to tal&, hesitantl#, li&e
a simultaneous translator. 3She sa#s . . . that the rats do not blame #ou for the loss.
4our guide was . . . mm . . . ta&en b# the night . . . as tribute.3
"he rat s0uea&ed again. 3Sometimes the# come bac& . . . 3 said ;oor. 3She has
ta&en note of #our concern . . . and than&s #ou for it.3 "he rat nodded to *ichard,
blin&ed her bead/blac& e#es, then leapt to the floor and scurried bac& into the dar&.
3<ice rat,3 said ;oor. -er disposition seemed to have improved remar&abl#, now
that she had the scroll. 32p there,3 she said, indicating an archwa# effectivel#
bloc&ed b# an iron door.
"he# wal&ed over to it. *ichard pushed against the metal, but it was loc&ed
from the other side. 3)oo&s li&e it's been sealed up,3 said *ichard. 3We'll need
special tools.3
;oor smiled, suddenl#1 her face seemed to be illuminated. %or a moment, her
elfin face became beautiful. 3*ichard,3 she said. 3+# famil#. We're openers. It's, our
"alent. )oo& . . . 3 She reached out a grubb# hand, touched the door. %or a long
moment nothing happened, then there was a loud crash from the other side of the
door, and a chunk from their side. ;oor pushed against the door and, with a fierce
s0ueal from the rusted hinges, it opened. ;oor turned up the collar of her leather
,ac&et and thrust her hands deep into the poc&ets. -unter shone her flashlight into
the blac&ness be#ond the doorwa#. a flight of stone steps, going up, into the dar&.
3-unter. !an #ou ta&e the rear63 as&ed ;oor. 3I'll go on in front. *ichard can ta&e
the middle.3
She wal&ed up a couple of steps. -unter sta#ed where she was. +Lady*+ said
-unter. 34ou are going to )ondon $bove63
3"hat's right,3 said ;oor. 3We're going to the :ritish +useum.3
-unter bit her lower lip. "hen she shoo& her head. 3I must sta# in )ondon
:elow,3 she said. "here was a tremble in her voice. *ichard reali7ed that this was
the first time he had ever seen -unter displa# an# emotion other than effortless
competence or, occasionall#, tolerant amusement.
3-unter,3 said ;oor, bewildered. 34ou're m# bod#guard.3
-unter loo&ed ill at ease. 3I am #our bod#guard in )ondon :elow,3 she said. 3I
cannot go with #ou to )ondon $bove.3
3:ut #ou have to.3
3+# lad#. I cannot. I thought #ou understood. "he mar0uis &nows.3 Hunter will
look after you as long as you stay in London 9elow" thought *ichard. 1es$
3<o,3 said ;oor, her pointed chin pushed out and up, her odd/colored e#es
narrowed. 3I don't understand. What is it63 she added, scornfull#. 3Some &ind of
curse or something63 -unter hesitated, lic&ed her lips, then nodded. It was as if she
were admitting to having some sociall# embarrassing disease.
3)oo&, -unter,3 *ichard heard his own voice sa#ing, 3don't be sill#.3 %or a
moment he thought she was about to hit him, which would have been bad, or even to
start cr#ing, which would have been much, much worse. "hen she too& a deep
breath, and said, in measured tones, 3I will wal& b# #our side when #ou are in
)ondon :elow, m# lad#, and I shall guard #our bod# from all harm that might befall
#ou. :ut do not as& me to follow #ou to )ondon $bove. I cannot.3 She folded her
arms beneath her breasts, planted her legs a little apart, and loo&ed for all the
underworld li&e a statue of a woman not going an#where, cast in brass and in bron7e
and in burnt caramel.
3*ight,3 said ;oor. 3!ome on, *ichard.3 $nd she set off up the steps.
3)oo&,3 said *ichard. 3Wh# don't we sta# down here6 We can find the mar0uis,
and then all set off together, and3 ;oor was disappearing into the dar&ness above
him. -unter was planted at the foot of the stairs.
3I shall wait here until she returns,3 -unter told him. 34ou ma# go, or sta#, as
#ou will.3
*ichard chased up the steps, as fast as he could, in the dar&. Soon he saw ;oor's
lamp/light above him. 3Wait,3 he panted. 39lease.3 She stopped, and waited for him
to catch up. $nd then, when he had caught up, and was standing ne8t to her on a
claustrophobicall# small landing, she waited for him to catch his breath. 34ou can't
,ust go running off li&e that,3 said *ichard. ;oor said nothing1 the line of her lips
became slightl# more compressed1 the angle of her chin was ever/so/slightl# raised.
3She's #our bod#guard,3 he pointed out.
;oor began to wal& up the ne8t flight of steps. *ichard followed her. 3Well,
we'll be bac& soon enough,3 said ;oor. 3She can start guarding me again then.3
"he air was close, dan& and oppressive. *ichard wondered how #ou could tell if
the air was bad, in the absence of a canar#, and he contented himself with hoping
that it wasn't. 3I thin& the mar0uis probabl# did &now. $bout her curse, or whatever
it is,3 he said.
34es,3 she said. 3I e8pect he did.3
3-e . . . 3 *ichard began. 3"he mar0uis. Well, #ou &now, to be honest, he seems
a little bit dodg# to me.3
;oor stopped. "he steps dead/ended in a rough bric& wall. 3+m,3 she agreed.
3-e's a little bit dodg# in the same wa# that rats are a little bit covered in fur.3
3"hen wh# go to him for help6 Wasn't there someone else who could have
helped #ou63
3We'll tal& about it later.3 She opened the scroll the earl had given her, glanced
over the spider# handwriting, then rolled it bac& up. 3We'll be fine,3 she said,
decisivel#. 3It's all in here. We've ,ust got to get into the :ritish +useum. We find
the $ngelus, we get out. Eas#. <othing to it. !lose #our e#es.3
*ichard closed his e#es, obedientl#. 3<othing to it,3 he repeated. 3When people
sa# that on films, it alwa#s means that something awful is going to happen.3
-e felt a bree7e against his face. Something in the 0ualit# of the dar&ness
be#ond his closed e#elids changed. 3So what's #our point63 as&ed ;oor. "he
acoustics had altered as well. the# were in a bigger room. 34ou can open #our e#es
-e opened his e#es. "he# were on the other side of the wall, he assumed, in
what appeared to be a ,un& room. <ot ,ust an# old ,un& room, though. there was
something rather strange and special about the 0ualit# of this ,un&. It was the &ind of
magnificent, rare, strange, and e8pensive ,un& one would onl# e8pect to see
somewhere li&e . . . 3$re we in the :ritish +useum63 he as&ed. She frowned, and
seemed to be thin&ing, or listening. 3<ot e8actl#. We're ver# near. I thin& this must
be some &ind of storage space or something.3 She reached up to touch the fabric of a
suit of anti0ue clothing, displa#ed on a wa8 dumm#.
3I wish we'd sta#ed bac& with the bod#guard3 said *ichard.
;oor tipped her head on one side and loo&ed at him gravel#. 3$nd what do #ou
need guarding from, *ichard +a#hew63
3<othing,3 he admitted. $nd then the# turned the corner, and he said, 3Well . . .
ma#be them,3 and, at the same time, ;oor said, 3Shit.3 +r. !roup and +r.
=andemar were standing on plinths on each side of the aisle down which the#
"he# reminded *ichard horridl# of an e8hibition of contemporar# art Jessica
had once ta&en him to. an e8citing #oung artist had announced that he would brea&
down all the "aboos of $rt, and to this end, had embar&ed on a campaign of
s#stematic grave robber#, displa#ing the thirt# most interesting results of his
depredations in glass cases. "he e8hibit was closed after the artist sold Stolen
)adaver Nu'er => to an advertising agenc# for a si8/figure sum, and the relatives
of Stolen !adaver <umber HI, seeing a photo of the sculpture in the Sun" had sued
both for a share of the proceeds and to change the name of the art piece to <dgar
Fospring" ?@?@-?@AB Loving Husand" Father and Cncle$ /est in %eace" Daddy$
*ichard had stared at the glass/bound corpses in their stained suits and damaged
dresses with horror. he hated himself for loo&ing, but he had not been able to turn
+r. !roup smiled li&e a sna&e with a crescent moon stuc& in its mouth, and his
resemblance to Stolen !adavers <umbers ? to FE was, if an#thing, increased b# this.
3What63 said the smiling +r. !roup. 3<o +ister 'I'm So !lever and now
Ever#thing' +ar0uis6 <o '5h, didn't I tell #ou6 WhoopsD I can't go upstairs6'
-unter63 -e paused, for dramatic effect. 3So paint me gra# and call me a dire wolf
if it isn't two little lost lambs, out on their own, after dar&.3
34ou could call me a wolf, too, +ister !roup,3 said +r. =andemar, helpfull#.
+r. !roup clambered down from his plinth. 3$ gentle word in #our wooll# ears,
little lamb&ins,3 he said. *ichard loo&ed around them. "here had to be somewhere
the# could run. -e reached down, clasped ;oor's hand, and loo&ed around,
3<o, please. Sta# ,ust where #ou are,3 said +r. !roup. 3We li&e #ou li&e that.
$nd we don't want to have to hurt #ou.3
3We do,3 said +r. =andemar.
3Well, #es, +ister =andemar, once #ou put it li&e that. We want to hurt #ou
both. We want to hurt #ou a lot. :ut that's not wh# we're here right now. We're here
to ma&e things more interesting. 4ou see, when things get dull, m# partner and I
become restive and, hard as #ou ma# find this to believe, we lose our sunn# and
delightful dispositions.3
+r. =andemar showed them his teeth, demonstrating his sunn# and delightful
disposition. It was un0uestionabl# the most horrible thing that *ichard had ever
3)eave us alone,3 said ;oor. -er voice was clear and stead#. *ichard s0uee7ed
her hand. If she could be brave, so could he. 3If #ou want to hurt her,3 he said,
3#ou'll have to &ill me first.3
+r. =andemar seemed genuinel# pleased b# this. 3$ll right,3 he said. 3"han&s.3
3$nd we'll hurt #ou, too,3 said +r. !roup.
3<ot #et, though,3 said +r. =andemar.
34ou see,3 e8plained +r. !roup, in a voice li&e rancid butter, 3right now, we're
,ust here to worr# #ou.3
+r. =andemar's voice was a night wind blowing over a desert of bones. 3+a&e
#ou suffer,3 he said. 3Spoil #our da#.3
+r. !roup sat down at the base of +r. =andemar's plinth. 34ou visited Earl's
!ourt toda#,3 he said, in what *ichard suspected he fondl# imagined were light and
conversational tones.
3So63 said ;oor. She was edging awa# from them, now.
+r. !roup smiled. 3-ow did we &now that6 -ow did we &now where to find
#ou now63
3!an get to #ou an# time at all,3 said +r. =andemar, almost in a whisper.
34ou've been sold out, little lad#bird,3 said +r. !roup to ;oorand, *ichard
reali7ed, to ;oor alone. 3"here's a traitor in #our nest. $ cuc&oo.3
3!ome on,3 she said, and she ran. *ichard ran with her, through the hall filled
with ,un&, toward a door. $t ;oor's touch, it opened.
3:id them farewell, +ister =andemar,3 said +r. !roup's voice, from behind
3:#e b#e,3 said +r. =andemar.
3<o/no,3 corrected +r. !roup. +Au revoir$+ -e made a noise thenthe cuck-
koo cuck-koo that a cuc&oo might ma&e, if it were five and a half feet high and had a
wea&ness for human fleshwhile +r. =andemar, truer to his nature, threw bac& his
bullet head and howled li&e a wolf, ghostl# and feral and mad.

"he# were outside, in the open air, at night, running down a pavement in
:loomsbur#'s *ussell Street. *ichard thought his heart would pound its wa# through
his chest. $ large blac& car went b#. "he :ritish +useum was on the other side of
some high, blac&/painted railings. ;iscreet concealed lights illuminated the outside
of the high white =ictorian building, the huge pillars of the facade, the steps up to
the front door. "his was the repositor# of so man# of the world's treasures, looted
and found and rescued and donated over hundreds of #ears.
"he# reached a gate in the railings. ;oor grabbed it with both hands and pushed
against it. <othing happened. 3!an't #ou ma&e it open63 as&ed *ichard.
3What does it loo& li&e I'm tr#ing to do63 she snapped bac&, an unfamiliar edge
to her voice. $ few hundred feet down the pavement, at the main gate, large cars
were drawing up, couples in smart clothes were climbing out, wal&ing along the
drive toward the museum.
3;own there,3 said *ichard. 3"he main gate.3
;oor nodded. She loo&ed behind them. 3"hose two don't seem to be following
us,3 she said. "he# hurried toward the main gate.
3$re #ou all right63 as&ed *ichard. 3What happened ,ust then63
;oor hunched deep into her leather ,ac&et. She was loo&ing paler than usual,
which was e8tremel# pale indeed, and there were dar& semicircles beneath her e#es.
3I'm tired,3 she said, flatl#. 35pened too man# doors toda#. "a&es a lot out of me,
each time. I need a little time to recover. Something to eat, and I'll be fine.3
"here was a guard on the gate, minutel# e8amining the engraved invitations that
each of the well/shaven men in dinner ,ac&ets and the fragrant women in evening
dresses needed to present, then tic&ing their names off on a list, before allowing
them through. $ uniformed policeman beside him surve#ed the guests implacabl#.
*ichard and ;oor wal&ed through the gate, and no one glanced at them twice. "here
was a line of people standing on the stone steps that led up to the museum doors,
and *ichard and ;oor ,oined the line. $ white/haired man, accompanied b# a
woman bravel# wearing a min& coat, ,oined the line immediatel# and neatl# behind
them. $ thought struc& *ichard. 3!an the# see us63 he as&ed.
;oor turned to the gentleman behind them in the line. She stared up at him.
3-ello,3 she said.
"he man loo&ed around, a pu77led e8pression on his face, as if he was unsure
what had attracted his attention. "hen he caught sight of ;oor, standing ,ust in front
of him. 3-ello . . . 63 he said.
3I'm ;oor,3 she told him. 3"his is *ichard.3
35h . . . 3 said the man. "hen he fumbled in an inner poc&et, pulled out a cigar
case, and forgot all about them. 3"here. See63 said ;oor.
3I thin& so,3 he replied. "he# said nothing for some time, as the line moved
slowl# toward the single open glass door at the museum's main entrance. ;oor
loo&ed at the writing on her scroll, as if she needed to reassure herself of something.
"hen *ichard said, 3$ traitor63
3"he# were ,ust winding us up,3 said ;oor. 3Trying to upset us.3
3;oing a blood# good ,ob of it, too,3 said *ichard. $nd the# wal&ed through the
open door, and then the# were in the :ritish +useum.

+r. =andemar was hungr#, so the# wal&ed bac& through "rafalgar S0uare.
3Scare her,3 muttered +r. !roup, disgustedl#. 3Scare her$ "hat we should be
brought to this.3
+r. =andemar had found half a shrimp and lettuce sandwich in a garbage can,
and was gentl# tearing it into small pieces, which he was tossing down onto the
flagstones in front of him, attracting a small floc& of hungr# late/night pigeons.
3Should have followed m# idea,3 said +r. =andemar. 3Would have scared her lots
more if I'd pulled his head off while she wasn't loo&ing, then put m# hand up
through his throat and wiggled m# fingers about. "he# alwa#s scream,3 he confided,
3when the e#eballs fall out.3 -e demonstrated with his right hand.
+r. !roup was having none of it. 3Wh# get so s0ueamish at this stage in the
game63 he as&ed.
3I'm not s0ueamish, +ister !roup,3 said +r. =andemar. 3I li&e it when the
e#eballs fall out. 9eepers and tarriwags.3 +ore gra# pigeons strutted over to pec& at
the fragments of bread and shrimp, and to disregard the lettuce.
3<ot #ou,3 said +r. !roup. 3"he boss. ill her, &idnap her, scare her. Wh#
doesn't he ma&e up his mind63
+r. =andemar ran out of the sandwich he had been using as bait, and now he
made a dash into the crowd of pigeons, who too& to the wing with some clac&ing
noises and the occasional grumbling coo. 3Well caught, +ister =andemar,3 said +r.
!roup, approvingl#. +r. =andemar was holding a surprised and upset pigeon, which
grumbled and fidgeted in his grasp and pec&ed ineffectivel# at his fingers.
+r. !roup sighed, dramaticall#. 3Well, an#wa#. We've certainl# put the cat
amongst the pigeons now,3 he said, with relish. +r. =andemar held the pigeon up to
his face. "here was a crunching noise, as he bit off its head and commenced to

"he securit# guards were directing the museum's guests to a hallwa# that
seemed to be functioning as some &ind of holding area. ;oor ignored the guards
entirel# and set off into the museum halls with *ichard trailing along behind her.
"he# went through the Eg#ptian rooms, up several flights of bac& stairs, and into a
room mar&ed Earl# English.
3$ccording to this scroll,3 she said, 3the $ngelus is in this room somewhere.3
"hen ;oor loo&ed down at her scroll some more and loo&ed around the hall, more
carefull#. She made a face. 3"ch,3 she e8plained, and too& off bac& down the stairs,
the wa# the# had come. *ichard had an intense feeling of dD2E vu" before reali7ing
that, #es, of course this felt familiar. it was how he had spent his wee&ends in the
Jessica da#s. Which were starting to seem, alread#, li&e things that had happened to
someone else a long, long time ago.
3"he $ngelus wasn't in that room, then63 as&ed *ichard.
3<o, it wasn't there,3 said ;oor, a little more fiercel# than *ichard felt the
0uestion had actuall# warranted.
35h,3 he said. 3I onl# wondered.3 "he# went into another room. *ichard
wondered if he were starting to hallucinate. 3I can hear music,3 he said. It sounded
li&e a string 0uartet.
3"he part#,3 said ;oor.
*ight. "he people in the dinner ,ac&ets the# had lined up with. <o, the $ngelus
didn't seem to be here either. ;oor wal&ed into the ne8t hall, and *ichard trailed in
her wa&e. -e wished he could be of more use. 3"his $ngelus,3 he said. 3What does
it loo& li&e63
%or a moment he thought she was going to reprimand him simpl# for as&ing.
:ut she stopped, rubbed her forehead. 3"his ,ust sa#s it's got a picture of an angel on
it. :ut it can't be that hard to find. $fter all,3 she added, hopefull#, 3how man#
things with angels on them are there here63
Jessica was under a little pressure. She was worried, and nervous, and ,itter#. She
had catalogued the collection, arranged with the :ritish +useum to host the
e8hibition, organi7ed the restoration of the prime e8hibit, assisted in hanging and
e8hibiting the collection, and put together the list of invitees to the fabulous launch.
It was ,ust as well she didn't have a bo#friend, she would tell her friends. "here'd be
no time for one even if she had one. Still, it would be nice, she thought, when she
got a moment. someone to go to galleries with on the wee&ends. Someone to . . .
<o. She did not go to that place in her head. She could no more pin it down than
she could put her finger on a bead of mercur#, and she refocused on the e8hibition.
Even now, at the last minute, there were so man# things that could go wrong. +an#
a horse had fallen at the final hurdle. +an# an overconfident general had seen
certain victor# turn to defeat in the closing minutes of a battle. Jessica was simpl#
going to ensure that nothing went wrong. She was wearing a green sil& dress, an off/
the/shoulder general marshalling her troops and stoicall# pretending that +r.
Stoc&ton was not half an hour late.
-er troops consisted of a head waiter, a do7en serving staff, three women from
the caterers, a string 0uartet, and her assistant, a #oung man named !larence.
She inspected the drin&s table. 3We're fine for champagne6 4es63 "he head
waiter pointed to the crate of champagne beneath the table. 3$nd spar&ling mineral
water63 $nother nod. $nother crate. Jessica pursed her lips. 3What about plain
mineral water6 :ubbles aren't ever#bod#'s cup of tea, #ou &now.3 "he# had plent#
of plain mineral water. Good.
"he string 0uartet was warming up. "he# were not 0uite loud enough to drown
the noise coming from the hallwa# outside. It was the noise of a small but affluent
crowd. the grumbling of ladies in min& coats, and men, who, were it not for the <5
S+5I<G signs on the wallsand perhaps the advice of their doctorswould be
smo&ing cigars1 the grumbling of ,ournalists and celebrities who could smell the
canapes, vol/au/vents, sundr# nibbles, and free champagne.
!larence was tal&ing to someone on his portable phone, a slimline piece of fold/
out engineering that made the Star Trek communicators loo& bul&# and old/
fashioned. -e turned it off, pushed down the antenna, put it into the $rmani poc&et
of his $rmani suit, where it did not even ma&e a bulge. -e smiled, reassuringl#.
3Jessica, +ister Stoc&ton's driver's phoned from the car. "he#'re still running a
couple of minutes late. <othing to worr# about.3
3<othing to worr# about,3 echoed Jessica. ;oomed. Doo'ed$ "he whole thing
was going to be a disaster. Her disaster. She pic&ed up a glass of champagne from
the table, emptied it, and handed the empt# glass to the wine waiter.
!larence tipped his head on one side, listening to the grumbling reverberation
from the hallwa# outside. "he crowd wanted in$ -e loo&ed at his watch, then loo&ed
at Jessica 0uestioningl#, a captain 0uer#ing his general. (nto the 8alley of Death"
then" boss6 3+ister Stoc&ton is on his wa#, !larence,3 Jessica said, calml#. 3-e has
re0uested a private viewing before the event begins.3
3Shall I go out and see how the#'re doing63
3<o,3 she said, decisivel#. "hen, ,ust as decisivel#, 34es.3 %ood and drin& dealt
with, Jessica turned to the string 0uartet and as&ed them, for the third time that
evening, e8actl# what the# planned to pla#.
!larence opened the double doors to chec& on the crowd. It was worse than he
had thought. there had to be more than a hundred people in the hall. $nd the#
weren't ,ust people. "he# were 9eople. Some of them were even 9ersonalities.
3E8cuse me,3 said the chairman of the $rts !ouncil. 3"he invitations said eight
o'cloc& sharp. It's twent# past eight alread#.3
3We'll ,ust be a few more minutes,3 reassured !larence, smoothl#. 3Securit#
$ woman in a hat bore down on him. -er voice was stentorian, bull#ing, and
decidedl# parliamentar#. 34oung man,3 she announced. 3;o #ou &now who I am63
3<ot reall#, no,3 lied !larence, who &new e8actl# who all of them were. 3-old
onI'll see if an#one in here does.3 -e shut the door behind him. 3Jessica6 "he#'re
going to riot.3
3;on't e8aggerate, !larence.3 She was moving around the room li&e a green sil&
whirlwind, positioning her serving staff, with their tra#s of canapes or drin&s, in
strategic corners of the hall1 chec&ing the public/address s#stem, the podium, the
curtain, and the pull/rope. 3I can see the headlines now,3 said !larence, unfolding an
imaginar# newspaper. 3 &;eritol 9illionaires )rush !arketing 9ae in !useu'
)anape Dash Horror$& 3
Somebod# began &noc&ing at the door. "he volume in the hallwa# began to
increase. Somebod# was sa#ing, ver# loudl#, 3E8cuse me. 2m. E8cuse me.3
Someone else was informing the crowd that it was a disgrace, 0uite simpl# a
disgrace, no other word for it. 3E8ecutive decision,3 said !larence, suddenl#. 3I'm
letting them in.3
Jessica shouted, 3<oD If #ou3
:ut it was too late. "he doors were open, and the horde was pushing its wa#
into the hall. "he e8pression on Jessica's face morphed from one of horror to one of
charmed delight. She shimmered toward the door. 3:aroness,3 she said, with a
happ# smile. 3I can't tell #ou how delighted we are that #ou were able to come to
our little e8hibition this evening. +ister Stoc&ton's been unavoidabl# dela#ed, but
he'll be here momentaril#. 9lease, have some canapes . . . 3 5ver the baroness's
min&/draped shoulder, !larence win&ed at her, cheerfull#. Jessica ran through all
the bad words she &new in her head. $s soon as the baroness had headed for the vol/
au/vents, Jessica wal&ed over to !larence and, in a whisper, and still smiling, called
him several of them.

*ichard fro7e. $ securit# guard was coming straight toward them, the beam of
his flashlight flashing from side to side. *ichard loo&ed around for somewhere to
"oo late. $nother guard was wal&ing their wa#, past the huge statues of dead
Gree& gods, flashlight beam swinging. 3$ll right63 called the first guard. "he other
guard &ept coming, and stopped ,ust beside *ichard and ;oor.
3I suppose,3 she said. 3I've alread# had to stop a couple of idiots in suits from
carving their initials on the *osetta stone. I hate these functions.3
"he first guard shone his flashlight straight into *ichard's e#es, then let the
beam slide off, s&ittering over shadows. 3I &eep telling #ou,3 he said, with the
satisfied relish of an# true prophet, 3it's The !as.ue of the /ed Death all over again.
$ decadent elite part#, while civili7ation crumbles about their ears.3 -e pic&ed his
nose, wiped it on the leather sole of his well/polished blac& boot.
"he second guard sighed. 3"han& #ou, Gerald. *ight, bac& on patrol.3
"he guards wal&ed out of the hall together. 3)ast one of these events we found
someone had pu&ed in a sarcophagus,3 said one of the guards, and then the door
closed behind them.
3If #ou're part of )ondon :elow,3 said ;oor to *ichard, in a conversational
voice, as the# wal&ed, side b# side, into the ne8t hall, 3the# normall# don't even
notice #ou e8ist unless #ou stop and tal& to them. $nd even then, the# forget #ou
prett# 0uic&l#.3
3:ut ( saw #ou,3 said *ichard. It had been bothering him for a while.
3I &now,3 said ;oor. 3Isn't that odd63
3Ever#thing's odd,3 said *ichard, with feeling. "he string music was getting
louder. "he surges of an8iet# were somehow worse up here in )ondon $bove,
where he was forced to reconcile these two universes. $t least below, he could ,ust
proceed dreamli&e, putting one foot in front of the other li&e a sleepwal&er.
3"he $ngelus is through there,3 announced ;oor, interrupting his reverie,
pointing to the direction from which the music was coming.
3-ow do #ou &now63
3I &now,3 she said, with utter certaint#. 3!ome on.3 "he# stepped out of the
dar&ness into a lighted corridor. "here was a huge sign hanging across the corridor.
It said.
$<GE)S 5=E* E<G)$<;
$< EL-I:I"I5< $" "-E :*I"IS- +2SE2+
Sponsored y Stocktons %L)
"he# crossed the corridor and wal&ed through an open door, into a large room
in which a part# was going on.

"here was a string 0uartet pla#ing, and a number of serving staff were providing
a roomful of well/dressed people with food and drin&. "here was a small stage in
one corner of the room, with a podium on it, beside a high curtain.
"he room was completel# filled with angels.
"here were statues of angels on tin# plinths. "here were paintings of angels on
the walls. "here were angel frescoes. "here were huge angels and tin# angels, stiff
angels and amiable angels, angels with wings and haloes and angels with neither,
warli&e angels and peaceable angels. "here were modern angels and classical
angels. -undreds upon hundreds of angels of ever# si7e and shape. Western angels,
+iddle Eastern angels, Eastern angels. +ichelangelo angels. Joel 9eter Wit&in
angels, 9icasso angels, War/hoi angels. +r. Stoc&ton's angel collection was
3indiscriminate to the point of trashiness, but certainl# impressive in its eclecticism3
5Ti'e 0ut6$
3Would #ou thin&,3 *ichard as&ed, 3that I was being pic&# if I pointed out that
tr#ing to find something with an angel on it in here is going to be li&e tr#ing to find
a needle in an oh m# God it's Jessica.3 *ichard felt the blood drain from his face.
2ntil now he had thought that that was simpl# a figure of speech. -e hadn't thought
it actuall# happened in real life.
3Someone #ou &new63 as&ed ;oor. *ichard nodded. 3She was m#. Well. We
were going to be married. We've been together for a couple of #ears. She was with
me when I found #ou. She was the one on the. She left that message. 5n the
answering machine.3 -e pointed across the room. Jessica was ma&ing animated
conversation with Sir $ndrew )lo#d Webber, :ob Geldof, and a bespectacled
gentleman who loo&ed suspiciousl# li&e a Saatchi. Ever# few minutes she chec&ed
her watch and glanced toward the door.
3-er63 said ;oor, recogni7ing the woman. "hen, obviousl# feeling that she
should sa# something nice about someone *ichard had cared for, she said, 3Well,
she's ver# . . . 3 and she paused, and thought, and then said, 3 . . . clean.3
*ichard stared across the room. 3Will she . . . is she going to be upset that we're
3I doubt it,3 said ;oor. 3%ran&l#, unless #ou do something stupid, li&e tal& to
her, she probabl# won't even notice #ou.3 $nd then, with more enthusiasm, she said,
3%oodD3 She descended on the canapes li&e a small, smut/nosed girl in a too/large
leather ,ac&et who had not eaten properl# for sometime. Enormous 0uantities of
food were immediatel# crammed into her mouth, masticated and swallowed, while,
at the same time, the more substantial sandwiches were wrapped in paper nap&ins
and placed into her poc&ets. "hen, with a paper plate heaped high with chic&en legs,
melon slices, mushroom vol/au/vents, caviar puffs, and small venison sausages, she
began to circle the room, staring intentl# at each and ever# angelic artefact.
*ichard trailed along behind her, with a :rie and fennel sandwich and a glass of
freshl# s0uee7ed orange ,uice.

Jessica was deepl# pu77led. She had noticed *ichard, and having noticed him,
she had noticed ;oor. "here was something familiar about them both. it was li&e a
tic&le at the bac& of her throat, impossible to get rid of, utterl# irritating.
It reminded Jessica of something her mother had once told her about, of how
Jessica's mother had, one evening, encountered a woman she had &nown all her life
had been to school with, had served on the parish council withand how her
mother, encountering the woman at a part#, had suddenl# reali7ed that she was
unable to recall the woman's name, although she &new the woman had a husband in
publishing named Eric and a golden retriever named +a,or. It had left Jessica's
mother 0uite disgruntled.
It was driving Jessica to distraction. 3Who are those people63 she as&ed
3"hem6 Well, he&s the new editor of 8ogue" she's the arts correspondent of the
New 1ork Ti'es$ "he one between them is ate +oss, I thin& . . . 3
3<o, not them,3 said Jessica. 3The'$ "here.3
!larence loo&ed in the place that she was pointing. -m6 5h. The'$ -e couldn't
understand how he had failed to see them before. 5ld age, he thought1 he would
soon be twent#/three. 3Journalists63 he said, without much conviction. 3"he# do
loo& rather trendoid. Grunge chic6 9lease. I &now I invited The Face . . . 3
3I know him,3 said Jessica, frustrated. "hen +r. Stoc&ton's chauffeur phoned
from -olborn to sa# that he was almost at the :ritish +useum, and *ichard slid out
of her head, li&e mercur# tric&ling through her fingers.
3See an#thing63 as&ed *ichard. ;oor shoo& her head and swallowed a mouthful
of hastil# chewed chic&en leg. 3It's li&e pla#ing 'Spot the 9igeon' in "rafalgar
S0uare,3 she said. 3"here's nothing that feels li&e the $ngelus. "he paper said I'd
&now it if I saw it.3 $nd she wandered off, inspecting angels, pushing her wa# past a
!aptain of Industr#, the ;eput# )eader of the 5pposition, and the -ighest/9aid !all
Girl in the South of England. *ichard turned awa# and found himself face/to/face
with Jessica. -er hair was piled on her head, and it framed her face perfectl# in
cor&screws of chestnut curls. She was ver# beautiful. She was smiling at him1 it was
the smile that did it. 3-ello Jessica,3 he said. 3-ow are #ou63
3-ello. 4ou won't believe this,3 she said, 3but m# assistant failed to ma&e a note
of #our newspaper, +ister uh.3
39aper63 said *ichard.
3;id I sa# newspaper63 said Jessica, with a tin&ling, sweet, and self/deprecating
laugh. 3+aga7ine . . . television station. 4ou are with the media63
34ou're loo&ing ver# fine, Jessica,3 said *ichard.
34ou have the advantage of me,3 she said, smiling roguishl#.
34ou're Jessica :artram. 4ou're a mar&eting e8ecutive at Stoc&tons. 4ou're
twent#/si8. 4our birthda# is $pril the twent#/third, and in the throes of e8treme
passion #ou have a tendenc# to hum the +on&ees song 'I'm a :eliever' . . . 3
Jessica was no longer smiling. 3Is this some &ind of ,o&e63 she as&ed, coldl#.
35h, and we've been engaged for the last eighteen months,3 said *ichard.
Jessica smiled nervousl#. 9erhaps this reall# was some &ind of ,o&e. one of
those ,o&es that ever#one else seemed to get and she never did. 3I rather thin& I'd
&now if I'd been engaged to someone for eighteen months, +ister um,3 said Jessica.
3+a#hew,3 said *ichard helpfull#. 3*ichard +a#hew. 4ou dumped me, and I
don't e8ist an#more.3
Jessica waved, urgentl#, at no one in particular all the wa# across the room. 3:e
right there,3 she called, desperatel#, and she began to bac& awa#.
+(&' a eliever"+ sang *ichard, cheerfull#, +( couldn&t leave her if ( tried $ $ $ +
Jessica snatched a glass of champagne from a passing tra#, downed it in a gulp.
$t the far end of the room she could see +r. Stoc&ton's chauffeur, and where +r.
Stoc&ton's chauffeur was . . .
She headed toward the doors. 3So who was he63 as&ed !larence, edging
alongside her.
34our m#ster# man.3
3I don't &now3 she admitted. "hen she said, 3)oo&, ma#be #ou ought to call
35&a#. Wh#63
3Just . . . ,ust get me securit#,3 and then +r. $rnold Stoc&ton entered the hall,
and ever#thing else went out of her head.

E8pansive, he was, and e8pensive, a -ogarth cartoon of a man, enormous of
girth, man#/chinned and broad/stomached. -e was over si8t#1 his hair was gra# and
silver, and it was cut too long in the bac&, because it made people uncomfortable
that his hair was too long, and +r. Stoc&ton li&ed ma&ing people uncomfortable.
!ompared to $rnold Stoc&ton, *upert +urdoch was a shad# little pips0uea&, and
the late *obert +a8well was a beached whale. $rnold Stoc&ton was a pit bull,
which was how caricaturists often chose to draw him. Stoc&tons owned a little bit of
ever#thing. satellites, newspapers, record companies, amusement par&s, boo&s,
maga7ines, comics, television stations, film companies.
3I'll ma&e the speech now,3 said +r. Stoc&ton, to Jessica, b# wa# of
introduction. 3"hen I'll bugger off. !ome bac& some other time, when there aren't all
these stuffed shirts about.3
3*ight,3 said Jessica. 34es. "he speech now. 5f course.3
$nd she led him up onto the little stage, up to the podium. She tin&ed her
fingernail against a glass, for silence. <obod# heard her, so she said, 3E8cuse me,3
into the microphone. "his time the conversation 0uieted. 3)adies and gentlemen.
-onored guests. I'd li&e to welcome all of #ou to the :ritish +useum,3 she said, 3to
the Stoc&ton/sponsored e8hibition '$ngels over England,' and to the man behind it
all, our chief e8ecutive and chairman of the board, +ister $rnold Stoc&ton.3 "he
guests applauded, none of them in an# doubt as to who had assembled the collection
of angels, or, for that matter, paid for their champagne.
+r. Stoc&ton cleared his throat. 35&a#,3 he said. 3"his won't ta&e long. When I
was a small bo#, I used to come to the :ritish +useum on Saturda#s, because it was
free, and we didn't have much mone#. :ut I'd come up the big steps to the museum,
and I'd come down to this room round the bac& and loo& up at this angel. It was li&e
it &new what I was thin&ing.3
Just at that moment, !larence came bac& in, a couple of securit# guards beside
him. -e pointed to *ichard, who had stopped to listen to +r. Stoc&ton's speech.
;oor was still e8amining e8hibits. 3<o, hi',3 !larence &ept sa#ing to the guards, in
an undertone. 3<o, loo&, there. 4es6 Hi'.3
3$n#wa#. )i&e an#thing that's not cared for,3 continued +r. Stoc&ton, 3it
deca#ed, fell apart under the stresses and strains of modern times. Went rotten. Went
bad. Well, it's ta&en a shitload of mone#,3 he paused, to let it sin& inif he, $rnold
Stoc&ton, thought it was a shitload, then a shitload it certainl# was3and a do7en
craftsmen have spent a great deal of time restoring it and fi8ing it up. $fter this the
e8hibition'll be going to $merica, and then around the world, so it ma#be can
inspire some other little penniless brat to start his own communications empire.3
-e loo&ed around. "urning to Jessica, he muttered, 3What do I do now63 She
pointed to the pull/rope, at the side of the curtain. +r. Stoc&ton pulled the rope. "he
curtain billowed and opened, revealing an old door behind it.
$gain, there was a small flurr# of activit# in !larence's corner of the room. 3<o.
Hi',3 said !larence. 3%or heaven's sa&e. $re #ou blind63
It loo&ed li&e it had once been the door to a cathedral. It was the height of two
men, and wide enough for a pon# to wal& through. !arved into the wood of the
door, and painted with red and white and gold leaf, was an e8traordinar# angel. It
stared out at the world with blan& medieval e#es. "here was an impressed gasp from
the guests, then the# began to applaud.
+The Angelus$+ ;oor tugged at *ichard's sleeve. 3"hat's itD *ichard, come on.3
She ran for the stage.
3E8cuse me, sir,3 said a guard to *ichard. 3+ight we see #our invitation63 said
another, ta&ing *ichard firml# but discreetl# b# the arm. 3$nd do #ou have an#
3<o,3 said *ichard.
;oor was up on the stage. *ichard tried to #an& free and follow her, hoping that
the guards would forget about him. "he# didn't. now that he had been brought to
their attention the# were going to proceed to treat him as the# might an# other
shabb#, unwashed, somewhat unshaven gate/crasher. "he guard who was holding
*ichard increased his grip on his arm, muttering, 3<one of that.3
;oor paused on the stage, wondering how to ma&e the guards let *ichard go.
"hen she did the onl# thing she could thin& of. She went over to the microphone,
went up on tiptoes, and she screamed, as loudl# as she possibl# could, into the
public/address s#stem. She had a remar&able scream. it could, with no artificial
assistance, go through #our head li&e a new power drill with a bone/saw attachment.
$nd amplified . . . It was simpl# unearthl#.
$ waitress dropped her tra# of drin&s. -eads turned. -ands covered ears. $ll
conversation stopped. 9eople stared at the stage in pu77lement and horror. $nd
*ichard made a brea& for it. 3Sorr#,3 he said to the stunned guard, as he #an&ed his
arm out of the man's grip, and fled. 3Wrong )ondon.3 -e reached the stage, grabbed
;oor's outstretched left hand. -er right hand touched the $ngelus, the enormous
cathedral door. "ouched it, and opened it.
"his time no one dropped an# drin&s. "he# were fro7en, staring, utterl#
overwhelmedand, momentaril#, blinded. "he $ngelus had opened, and light, from
behind the door, had flooded the room with radiance. 9eople covered their e#es
then, hesitantl#, opened them again, and simpl# stared. It was as if firewor&s had
been let off in the room. <ot indoor firewor&s, strange crawling things that sputter
and smell bad1 nor even the &ind of firewor&s that #ou set off in #our bac& #ard1 but
the &ind of industrial/strength firewor&s that get fired up high enough to cause a
potential menace to the airwa#s. the &ind of firewor&s that end a da# at ;isne#
World, or that give the fire marshals headaches at 9in& %lo#d concerts. It was a
moment of pure magic.
"he audience stared, entranced and ama7ed. "he onl# noise to be heard was the
gentle, gasping almost/groan of wonderment that people ma&e when the# watch
firewor&s. the sound of awe. "hen a grubb# #oung man and a dirt#/faced girl in a
huge leather ,ac&et wal&ed into the light show and vanished. "he door closed,
behind them. "he light show was over.
$nd ever#thing was normal again. "he guests, and guards, and serving staff,
blin&ed, shoo& their respective heads, and, having dealt with something entirel#
outside of their e8perience, agreed, somehow, without a word, that it had simpl#
never happened. "he string 0uartet began to pla# once more.
+r. Stoc&ton wal&ed off, nodding brus0uel# to various ac0uaintances as he did
so. Jessica wal&ed over, to !larence. 3What,3 she as&ed, 0uietl#, 3are those securit#
guards doing in here63
"he guards in 0uestion were standing among the guests, loo&ing around as if
the# were themselves unsure what the# were doing there. !larence began to e8plain
,ust what the guards were doing there1 and then he reali7ed he had absolutel# no
idea. 3I'll deal with it,3 said !larence, efficientl#.
Jessica nodded. She loo&ed out over her part# and smiled benignl#. It was all
going rather well.

*ichard and ;oor wal&ed into the light. $nd then it was dar&, and chill, and
*ichard was blin&ing at the retinal afterimage of the light, which left him almost
blinded. a ghostl# series of orange/green splotches that slowl# faded, as his e#es
accustomed themselves to the dar&ness that surrounded them.
"he# were in a huge hall, carved from roc&. Iron pillars, blac& and rust/dusted,
held up the roof, went off into the distant dar&, perhaps for miles. %rom somewhere
he could hear the gentle splash of water. a fountain, perhaps, or a spring. ;oor was
still holding his hand, tightl#. In the distance, a tin# flame flic&ered and flared. $nd
another, and then another. it was a host of candles, flic&ering into flame, *ichard
reali7ed. $nd wal&ing toward them, through the candles, was a tall figure, dressed in
a simple white robe.
"he figure seemed to be moving slowl#, but it must have been wal&ing ver#
fast, as it was onl# seconds before it was standing beside them. It had golden hair
and a pale face. It was not much taller than *ichard, but it made him feel li&e a little
child. It was not a man1 it was not a woman. It was ver# beautiful. Its voice was
0uiet. It said, 3"he )ad# ;oor, #es63
;oor said, 34es.3
$ gentle smile. It nodded its head to her, almost humbl#. 3It is an honor finall#
to meet #ou and #our companion. I am the $ngel Islington.3 Its e#es were clear and
wide. Its robes were not white, as *ichard had initiall# thought. the# seemed to have
been woven from light$
*ichard did not believe in angels, he never had. -e was damned if he was going
to start now. Still, it was much easier not to believe in something when it was not
actuall# loo&ing directl# at #ou and sa#ing #our name. 3*ichard +a#hew,3 it said.
34ou, too, are welcome here, in m# halls.3 It turned awa#. 39lease,3 it said. 3%ollow
*ichard and ;oor followed the angel through the caverns. "he candles
e8tinguished themselves behind them.

"he mar0uis de !arabas strode through the empt# hospital, bro&en glass and old
s#ringes crunching beneath his s0uare/toed blac& motorc#cle boots. -e stepped
through a double door that led into a bac& staircase. -e went down the stair's, to the
cellars beneath the hospital.
-e wal&ed through the rooms beneath the building, stepping fastidiousl# around
the heaps of moldering rubbish. -e wal&ed through the showers and the toilets,
down an old iron staircase, through a wet, swamp# place1 and then pulled open a
half/rotted wooden door, and went inside. -e loo&ed around the room in which he
found himself1 he inspected, with magnificent disdain, the half/eaten &itten and the
heap of ra7or blades. "hen he cleared the debris off a chair, sat down, comfortabl#,
lu8uriantl#, in the dan&ness of the cellar, and closed his e#es.
Eventuall# the door to the cellar was opened and people came in.
"he mar0uis de !arabas opened his e#es and #awned. "hen he flashed +r.
!roup and +r. =andemar a huge smile. 3-ello bo#s,3 said de !arabas. 3I thought it
high time I came down here to tal& to #ou in person.3
3;o #ou drin& wine63 it as&ed.
*ichard nodded.
3I had a little wine once,3 said ;oor, hesitantl#. 3+# father. -e. $t dinner.
Would let us taste it.3
"he $ngel Islington lifted the bottle. it loo&ed li&e some &ind of decanter.
*ichard wondered if the bottle was made of glass1 it refracted and reflected the
candlelight so strangel#. 9erhaps it was some &ind of cr#stal, or one huge diamond.
It even made it seem that the wine inside was glowing, as if it were made of light.
"he angel too& the top off the cr#stal and poured an inch of the li0uid inside it
into a wine glass. It was a white wine, but a wine unli&e an# *ichard had ever seen.
It threw light around the caverns, li&e sunlight on a swimming pool.
;oor and *ichard sat around an age/blac&ened wooden table, on huge wooden
chairs, and said nothing. 3"his wine,3 said Islington, 3is the last bottle of its &ind. I
was given a do7en bottles b# one of #our ancestors.3
It handed the glass to ;oor, and began to pour another inch of the glowing wine
from the decanter into another glass. It did this reverentl#, almost lovingl#, li&e a
priest performing a ritual. 3It was a welcome gift. "his was, oh, thirt#, fort#
thousand #ears ago. Cuite a while ago, at an# rate.3 It passed the wine glass to
*ichard. 3I suppose that #ou could accuse me of s0uandering something I should
treasure,3 it told them. 3:ut I receive guests so rarel#. $nd the wa# here is hard.3
3"he $ngelus . . . 3 murmured ;oor.
34ou traveled here using the $ngelus, #es. :ut that wa# wor&s onl# once for
each traveler.3 "he angel raised its glass high, staring at the light. 3;rin& it
carefull#,3 it advised them. 3It is most potent.3 It sat down at the table, between
*ichard and ;oor. 3When one tastes it,3 it said, wistfull#, 3I li&e to imagine that one
is actuall# tasting the sunlight of b#gone da#s.3 It held up its glass. 3$ toast. to
former glories.3
3%ormer glories,3 chorused *ichard and ;oor. $nd then, a little waril#, the#
tasted the wine, sipping it, not drin&ing.
3It's ama7ing,3 said ;oor.
3It reall# is,3 said *ichard. 3I thought old wines turned to vinegar when the#
were e8posed to air.3
"he angel shoo& its head. 3<ot this one. It is all a matter of the t#pe of grape
and the place it was grown. "his &ind of grape, alas, perished when the vine#ard
vanished beneath the waves.3
3It's magical,3 said ;oor, sipping the li0uid light. 3I've never tasted an#thing
li&e it.3
3$nd #ou never will again,3 said Islington. 3"here is no more wine from
Somewhere inside *ichard a small, reasonable voice pointed out that there
never was an $tlantis, and, thus emboldened, went on to state that there were no
such things as angels, and that furthermore, most of his e8periences of the last few
da#s had been impossible. *ichard ignored it. -e was learning, aw&wardl#, to trust
his instincts, and to reali7e that the simplest and most li&el# e8planations for what
he had seen and e8perienced recentl# were the ones that had been offered to him
no matter how unli&el# the# might seem. -e opened his mouth and tasted the wine
once more. It made him feel happy$ It made him thin& of s&ies bigger and bluer than
an# he had ever seen, a golden sun hanging huge in the s&#1 ever#thing simpler,
ever#thing younger than the world he &new.
"here was a waterfall to the left of them1 clear water ran down the roc& and
collected in the roc&/pool. "o the right of them was a door, set between two iron
pillars. the door was made of polished flint set in a metal that was almost blac&.
34ou reall# claim to be an angel63 *ichard as&ed. 3I mean, #ou've actuall# met
God and ever#thing63
Islington smiled. 3I claim nothing, *ichard,3 it said. 3:ut I am an angel.3
34ou honor us,3 said ;oor.
3<o. 4ou do me much honor b# coming here. 4our father was a good man,
;oor, and a friend to me. I was deepl# saddened b# his death.3
3-e said . . . in his ,ournal . . . he said I should come to #ou. -e said I could
trust #ou.3
3I onl# hope that I can be worth# of that trust.3 "he angel sipped its wine.
3)ondon :elow is the second cit# that I have cared for. "he first san& beneath the
waves, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I &now what pain is, and loss.
4ou have m# s#mpathies. What would #ou li&e to &now63
;oor paused. 3+# famil# . . . the# were &illed b# !roup and =andemar. :ut
who ordered it6 I want . . . I want to &now why.3
"he angel nodded. 3+an# secrets find their wa# down to me,3 it said. 3+an#
rumors, and half/truths, and echoes.3 "hen it turned to *ichard. 3$nd #ou6 What do
#ou want, *ichard +a#hew63
*ichard shrugged. 3I want m# life bac&. $nd m# apartment. $nd m# ,ob.3
3"hat can happen,3 said the angel.
34eah. *ight,3 said *ichard flatl#.
3;o #ou doubt me, *ichard +a#hew63 as&ed the $ngel Islington.
*ichard loo&ed into its e#es. "he# were a luminescent gra#, e#es as old as the
universe, e#es that had seen gala8ies congeal from stardust ten million, million #ears
ago1 *ichard shoo& his head. Islington smiled at him, &indl#. 3It will not be eas#,
and #ou and #our companions will face some ver# real difficulties, both in the tas&,
and in the return. :ut there could be a wa# that we can learn. a &e# to all of our
It got up, and wal&ed over to a small roc& shelf, where it pic&ed up a figurine,
one of several on the shelf. It was a small blac& statuette depicting some &ind of
animal, made of volcanic glass. "he angel handed it to ;oor. 3"his will bring #ou
safel# through the last stage of #our ,ourne# bac& to me,3 it said. 3"he rest is up to
3What do #ou want us to do63 as&ed *ichard.
3"he :lac& %riars are custodians of a &e#,3 it said. 3:ring it to me.3
3$nd #ou can use it to find out who &illed m# famil#63 as&ed ;oor.
3I hope so,3 said the angel. *ichard finished his glass of wine. -e felt it
warming him, running through him. -e had the strange feeling that if he loo&ed
down at his fingers he would be able to see the wine glowing through them. $s if he
were made of light . . .
3Good luc&,3 whispered the $ngel Islington. "here was a rushing sound, li&e a
wind soughing across a lost forest, or the beating of might# wings.

*ichard and ;oor were sitting on the floor in a room in the :ritish +useum,
staring up at a carved painting of an angel on a cathedral door. "he room was dar&
and empt#. "he part# had been over for a long time. "he s&# outside was beginning
to lighten. *ichard stood up, then leaned down, and helped ;oor up.
3:lac& %riars63 he as&ed. ;oor nodded.
-e had crossed :lac&friars :ridge, in the !it# of )ondon, man# times, and he
had often passed through :lac&friars station, but he had learned b# now not to
assume an#thing. 39eople.3
*ichard wal&ed over to the $ngelus. -e ran a finger down its painted robe. 3;o
#ou thin& he can reall# do it6 Get me m# life bac&63
3I've never heard of such a thing. :ut I don't thin& he would have lied to us. -e
is an angel.3
;oor opened her hand, loo&ed at the statue of the :east. 3+# father had one of
these,3 she said, sadl#. She put it deep in one of the poc&ets of her brown leather
3Well,3 said *ichard. 3We're not going to get the &e# bac& b# loll#gagging
around here, are we63 "he# wal&ed through the empt# museum corridors.
3So what do #ou &now about this &e# then63 as&ed *ichard.
3<othing,3 said ;oor. "he# had reached the main doors of the museum. 3I've
heard of the :lac& %riars, but I've never actuall# had an#thing to do with them.3 She
pressed her fingers against a seriousl# loc&ed glass door, which swung open at her
3$ bunch of mon&s . . . 3 said *ichard, thoughtfull#. 3I bet if we ,ust tell them
it's for an angel, a real one, the#'ll give us the sacred &e#, andand throw in the
magic can/opener and the ama7ing whistling cor&screw, as a surprise bonus.3 -e
began to laugh. -e wondered if the wine was still affecting him.
34ou're in good spirits,3 said ;oor.
-e nodded, enthusiasticall#. 3I'm going to go home. Ever#thing is going to be
normal again. :oring again. Wonderful again.3 *ichard loo&ed at the stone steps
that lead up the :ritish +useum, and decided that the# were made to be danced
down b# %red $staire and Ginger *ogers. $nd seeing that neither of them happened
to be available, he began to dance down the steps, doing a %red $staire
impersonation, while humming something appro8imatel# halfwa# between 39uttin'
on the *it73 and 3"op -at, White "ie, and "ails.3 34a/ta/ta/da/da/ta/ta/#a,3 he sang,
soft/shoeing down the steps and up again.
;oor stood at the top of the steps, staring at him in horror. "hen she began to
giggle, helplessl#. -e loo&ed up at her and doffed his imaginar# white sil& top hat to
her, mimed tossing it high in the air, catching it, and putting it bac& on his head.
3"wit,3 said ;oor, and smiled at him. In response, *ichard grabbed her hand
and continued dancing up and down the steps. ;oor hesitated for a moment, then
she, too, began to dance. She danced much better than *ichard did. $t the bottom of
the steps the# tumbled, breathless and e8hausted and giggling, into each other's
*ichard felt his world spin.
-e felt her heart beating against his chest. "he moment began to transmute, and
he wondered if there was something he should do. -e wondered if he should &iss
her. -e wondered if he wanted to &iss her, and he reali7ed that he trul# did not
&now. -e loo&ed into her ama7ing e#es. ;oor put her head on one side, and pulled
free. She pulled up the collar on her brown leather ,ac&et, pulled it around her.
armor and protection.
3)et's go and find our bod#guard,3 said ;oor. $nd the# wal&ed awa# together,
down the sidewal&, toward :ritish +useum Station, stumbling onl# a little from
time to time.

3What,3 as&ed +r. !roup, 3do #ou want63
3What,3 as&ed the mar0uis de !arabas, a little more rhetoricall#, 3does an#one
3;ead things,3 suggested +r. =andemar. 3E8tra teeth.3
3I thought perhaps we could ma&e a deal,3 said the mar0uis.
+r. !roup began to laugh. It sounded li&e a piece of blac&board being dragged
over the nails of a wall of severed fingers. 35h, +essire +ar0uis. I thin& I can
confidentl# state, with no ris& of contradiction from an# parties here present, that
#ou have ta&en leave of whatever senses #ou are reputed to have had. 4ou are,3 he
confided, 3if #ou will permit the vulgarism, completel# off #our head.3
3Sa# the word,3 said +r. =andemar, who was now standing behind the
mar0uis's chair, 3and it'll be off his nec& before #ou can sa# Jac& etch.3
"he mar0uis breathed heavil# on his fingernails and polished them on the lapel
of his coat. 3I have alwa#s felt,3 he said, 3that violence was the last refuge of the
incompetent, and empt# threats the final sanctuar# of the terminall# inept.3
+r. !roup glared. 3What are #ou doing here63 he hissed.
"he mar0uis de !arabas stretched, li&e a big cat. a l#n8, perhaps, or a huge
blac& panther1 and at the end of the stretch he was standing up, with his hands thrust
deep in the poc&ets of his magnificent coat. 34ou are,3 he said, idl# and
conversationall#, 3I understand, +ister !roup, a collector of "'ang d#nast#
3-ow did #ou &now that63
39eople tell me things. I'm approachable.3 "he mar0uis's smile was pure,
untroubled, guileless. the smile of a man selling #ou a used :ible.
3Even if I were . . . 3 began +r. !roup.
3If #ou were,3 said the mar0uis de !arabas, 3#ou might be interested in this.3
-e too& one hand out of his poc&et and displa#ed it to +r. !roup. 2ntil earlier that
evening it had sat in a glass case in the vaults of one of )ondon's leading merchant
ban&s. It was listed in certain catalogues as The Spirit of Autu'n 5;rave Figure6$ It
was roughl# eight inches high. a piece of gla7ed potter# that had been shaped and
painted and fired while Europe was in the ;ar& $ges, si8 hundred #ears before
!olumbus's first vo#age.
+r. !roup hissed, involuntaril#, and reached for it. "he mar0uis pulled it out of
reach, cradled it to his chest. 3<o no,3 said the mar0uis. 3It's not as simple as that.3
3<o63 as&ed +r. !roup. 3:ut what's to stop us ta&ing it, and leaving pieces of
#ou all over the 2nderside6 We've never dismembered a mar0uis before.3
3-ave,3 said +r. =andemar. 3In 4or&. In the fourteenth centur#. In the rain.3
3-e wasn't a mar0uis,3 said +r. !roup. 3-e was the earl of E8eter.3
3$nd mar0uis of Westmorland.3 +r. =andemar loo&ed rather pleased with
+r. !roup sniffed. 3What's to stop us hac&ing #ou into as man# pieces as we
hac&ed the mar0uis of Westmorland63 he as&ed.
;e !arabas too& his other hand out of his poc&et. It held a small hammer. -e
tossed the hammer in the air and caught it b# the handle, ending with the hammer
poised over the china figurine. 35h, please,3 he said. 3<o more sill# threats. I thin&
I'd feel better if #ou were both standing bac& over there.3
+r. =andemar shot a loo& at +r. !roup, who nodded, almost imperceptibl#.
"here was a tremble in the air, and +r. =andemar was standing beside +r. !roup,
who smiled li&e a s&ull. 3I have indeed been &nown to purchase the occasional
"'ang piece,3 he admitted. 3Is that for sale63
3We don't go in so much for bu#ing and selling here in the 2nderside, +ister
!roup. :arter. E8change. "hat's what we loo& for. :ut #es, indeed, this desirable
little piece is certainl# up for grabs.3
+r. !roup pursed his lips. -e folded his arms. -e unfolded them. -e ran one
hand through his greas# hair. "hen, 3<ame #our price,3 said +r. !roup. "he
mar0uis let himself breathe a deep, relieved, and almost audible sigh. It was possible
that he was going to be able to pull this whole grandiose ruse off, after all. 3%irst,
three answers to three 0uestions,3 he said.
!roup nodded. 3Each wa#. We get three answers too.3
3%air enough,3 said the mar0uis. 3Secondl#, I get safe conduct out of here. $nd
#ou agree to give me at least an hour's head start.3
!roup nodded violentl#. 3$greed. $s& #our first 0uestion.3 -is ga7e was fi8ed
on the statue.
3%irst 0uestion. Who are #ou wor&ing for63
35h, that's an eas# one,3 said +r. !roup. 3"hat's a simple answer. We are
wor&ing for our emplo#er, who wishes to remain nameless.3
3-mph. Wh# did #ou &ill ;oor's famil#63
35rders from our emplo#er,3 said +r. !roup, his smile becoming more fo8# b#
the moment.
3Wh# didn't #ou &ill ;oor, when #ou had a chance63
:efore +r. !roup could answer, +r. =andemar said, 3Got to &eep her alive.
She's the onl# one that can open the door.3
+r. !roup glared up at his associate. 3"hat's it,3 he said. 3"ell him ever#thing,
wh# don't #ou63
3I wanted a turn,3 muttered +r. =andemar.
3*ight,3 said +r. !roup. 3So #ou've got three answers, for all the good that will
do #ou. +# first 0uestion. wh# are #ou protecting her63
3-er father saved m# life,3 said the mar0uis, honestl#. 3I never paid off m# debt
to him. I prefer debts to be in m# favor.3
3I've got a 0uestion,3 said +r. =andemar.
3$s have I, +r. =andemar. "he 2pworlder, *ichard +a#hew. Wh# is he
traveling with her6 Wh# does she permit it63
3Sentimentalit# on her part,3 said the mar0uis de !arabas. -e wondered, as he
said it, if that was the whole truth. -e had begun to wonder whether there might,
perhaps, be more to the upworlder than met the e#e.
3<ow me,3 said +r. =andemar. 3What number am I thin&ing of63
3I beg #our pardon63
3What number am I thin&ing of63 repeated +r. =andemar. 3It's between one
and a lot,3 he added, helpfull#.
3Seven,3 said the mar0uis. +r. =andemar nodded, impressed. +r. !roup began,
3Where is the3 but the mar0uis shoo& his head. 32h/uh,3 he said. 3<ow we're
getting greed#.3
"here was a moment of utter silence, in that dan& cellar. "hen once more water
dripped, and maggots rustled1 and the mar0uis said, 3$n hour's head start,
35f course,3 said +r. !roup. "he mar0uis de !arabas tossed the figurine to +r.
!roup, who caught it eagerl#, li&e an addict catching a plastic baggie filled with
white powder of dubious legalit#. $nd then, without a bac&ward glance, the mar0uis
left the cellar.
+r. !roup e8amined the figurine minutel#, turning it over and over in his
hands, a ;ic&ensian curator of the +useum of the ;amned contemplating a pri7e
e8hibit. -is tongue flic&ed out, from time to time, li&e a sna&e's. $ perceptible flush
appeared on his pallid chee&s. 35h, fine, fine',3 he whispered. 3"'ang d#nast#
indeed. "welve hundred #ears old, the finest potter# figurines ever made on this
earth. "his was created b# ai )ung, finest of potters. there is not a twin to it in
e8istence. E8amine the color of the gla7e1 the sense of proportion1 the life . . . 3 -e
was smiling now, li&e a bab#1 the innocent smile loo&ed lost and confused on the
shad# terrain of +r. !roup's face. 3It adds a little wonder and beaut# to the world.3
$nd then he grinned, too widel#, and lowered his face to the figurine, and
crushed its head in his teeth, chomping and chewing wildl#, swallowing in lumps.
-is teeth ground the china to a fine powder, which dusted the lower part of his face.
-e gloried in its destruction, throwing himself into it with the strange madness
and uncontrolled blood lust of a fo8 in a henhouse. $nd then, when the statue was
nothing but dust, he turned to +r. =andemar. -e seemed strangel# mellow, almost
languid. 3-ow long did we sa# we'd give him63
3$n hour.3
3+mm. $nd how long has it been63
3Si8 minutes.3
+r. !roup lowered his head. -e ran a finger across his chin, lic&ed the
powdered cla# from his fingertip. 34ou follow him, +ister =andemar,3 said +r.
!roup. 3I need a little more time in which to savor the occasion.3

-unter could hear them wal&ing down the steps. She was standing in the
shadows, with her arms folded, in the same position she had been in when the# left
her. *ichard was humming loudl#. ;oor was giggling helplessl#1 then she would
stop, and tell *ichard to be 0uiet. "hen she would start giggling again. "he# wal&ed
past -unter without noticing her. She stepped out of the shadows, and said, 34ou
have been gone for eight hours.3 It was a statement of fact, without reproach or
;oor blin&ed at her. 3It didn't see' that long.3 -unter said nothing.
*ichard grinned wearil# at her. 3;on't #ou want to &now what happened6 Well,
we got ambushed b# +ister !roup and +ister =andemar. 2nfortunatel# we didn't
have a bod#guard around. Still, I gave them a good run for their mone#.3
-unter raised a perfect e#ebrow. 3I am in awe of #our pugilistic talents,3 she
said cooll#.
;oor giggled. 3-e's &idding. $ctuall#the# &illed us.3
3$s an e8pert in the termination of bodil# functions,3 -unter said, 3I must beg
to differ. 4ou are neither of #ou dead. $t a guess, #ou are both ver# drun&.3
;oor stuc& her tongue out at her bod#guard. 3<onsense. "ouched hardl# a drop.
That much.3 She held out two fingers to show how tin# an amount 3that much3 was.
3Just went to a party"+ said *ichard, 3and saw Jessica and saw a real angel and
got a little blac& pig and came bac& here.3
3Just a little drin&,3 continued ;oor, intentl#. 35ld, old drin&. "iiiin# little
drin&. =er# small. $lmost not there.3 She began to hiccup. "hen she giggled again.
$ hiccup interrupted her, and she sat down suddenl# on the platform. 3I thin& ma#be
we are a bit smashed,3 she said, soberl#. "hen she closed her e#es, and began,
solemnl#, to snore.

"he mar0uis de !arabas was running through the underwa#s as if all the hounds
of -ell had his scent and were on his trail. -e was splashing through si8 gra# inches
of the "#burn, the hangman's river, &ept safe in the dar&ness in a bric& sewer
beneath 9ar& )ane on its wa# south to :uc&ingham 9alace. -e had been running for
seventeen minutes.
"hirt# feet below +arble $rch, he paused. "he sewer divided into two
branches. "he mar0uis de !arabas ran down the left/hand branch.
Several minutes later, +r. =andemar wal&ed through the sewer. $nd when he
reached the ,unction he, too, paused for a few moments, sniffing the air. $nd then
he, too, wal&ed down the left/hand branch.

-unter dropped *ichard +a#hew's unconscious bod# into a pile of straw, with a
grunt. -e rolled in the straw, said something that sounded li&e 3%orth/ril b,ugl#
mobble wug,3 and went bac& to sleep. She put ;oor down in the straw ne8t to him,
more gentl#. "hen she stood beside ;oor, in the dar& stables under the ground, on
guard still.

"he mar0uis de !arabas was e8hausted. -e leaned against the tunnel wall and
stared at the steps that went up ahead of him. "hen he pulled out the golden poc&et/
watch and loo&ed at the time. "hirt#/five minutes had passed since he had fled the
hospital cellar.
3Is it an hour #et63 as&ed +r. =andemar. -e was sitting on the steps ahead of
the mar0uis, pic&ing his nails with a &nife.
3<ot even close,3 gasped the mar0uis.
3%elt li&e an hour,3 said +r. =andemar, helpfull#.
"here was a shiver in the world, and +r. !roup stood behind the mar0uis de
!arabas. -e still had powder on his chin. ;e !arabas stared at +r. !roup. -e turned
bac& to loo& at +r. =andemar. $nd then, spontaneousl#, the mar0uis de !arabas
began to laugh. +r. !roup smiled. 34ou find us funn#, +essire +ar0uis, do #ou
not6 $ source of amusement. Is that not so6 With our prett# clothes, and our
convoluted circumlocutions3
+r. =andemar murmured, 3I haven't got a circumlo . . . 3
3and our little sillinesses of manner and behavior. $nd perhaps we are
+r. !roup raised one finger then, and waggled it at de !arabas. 3:ut #ou must
never imagine,3 he continued, 3that ,ust because something is funn#, +essire
+ar0uis, it is not also dangerous.3
$nd +r. =andemar threw his &nife at the mar0uis, hard and accuratel#. It hit
him, hilt first, on the temple. -is e#es rolled up in his head, and his &nees buc&led.
3!ircumlocution,3 said +r. !roup to +r. =andemar. 3It's a wa# of spea&ing around
something. $ digression. =erbosit#.3
+r. =andemar pic&ed up the mar0uis de !arabas b# his waistband and dragged
him up the stairs, his head bump/bump/bumping on each step as the# went, and +r.
=andemar nodded. 3I wondered,3 he said.

Watching their dreams, now, as the# sleep.
-unter sleeps standing up.
In her dream, -unter is in the undercit# beneath :ang&o&. It is partl# a ma7e,
and partl# a forest, for the wilderness of "hailand has retreated deep beneath the
ground, under the airport and the hotels and the streets. "he world smells of spice
and dried mango, and it also smells, not unpleasantl#, of se8. It is humid, and she is
sweating. It is dar&, bro&en b# phosphorescent patches on the wall, greenish gre#
fungi that give light enough to fool the e#e, light enough to wal& b#.
In her dream -unter moves silent as a ghost through the wet tunnels, pushing
her wa# through vegetation. She holds a weighted throwing stic& in her right hand1 a
leather shield covers her left forearm.
She smells it, in her dream, acrid and animal, and she pauses beside a wall of
ruined masonr#, and she waits, part of the shadows, one with the dar&ness. -unting,
li&e life, -unter believes, consists chiefl# of waiting. In -unter's dream, however,
she does not wait. 2pon her arrival, it comes through the underbrush, a fur# of
brown and of white, undulating gentl#, li&e a wet/furred sna&e, its red e#es bright
and peering through the dar&ness, its teeth li&e needles, a carnivore and a &iller. "he
creature is e8tinct in the world above. It weighs almost three hundred pounds, and is
a little over fifteen feet long, from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail.
$s it passes her, she hisses li&e a sna&e, and, momentaril#, old instincts &ic&ing
in, it free7es. $nd then it leaps at her, nothing but hate and sharp teeth. She
remembers, then, in her dream, that this had happened before, and that when it had
happened, that time in the past, she had pushed the leather arm/shield into its mouth
and crushed its s&ull with the leaden throwing stic& ta&ing care not to damage the
pelt. She had given the Great Weasel's pelt to a girl who had caught her e#e, and the
girl had been appropriatel# grateful.
:ut now, in her dream, that is not happening. Instead, the weasel is reaching out
a forepaw toward her, and she is dropping her throwing stic& and ta&ing its paw.
$nd then and there, in the undercit# beneath :ang&o&, the# are dancing together, in
one intricate unending dance. and -unter is watching them from outside herself, and
she is admiring the elaborate movements the# ma&e as the# move, tail and legs and
arms and fingers and e#es and hair all tumbling and twisting powerfull# and
strangel# into the underneath and out across forever.
"here is a tin# noise in the wa&ing world, a dreaming whimper from the child
;oor, and -unter moves from sleeping to wa&ing fluidl# and instantl#1 she is alert
once more, and on guard. She forgets her dream entirel# upon wa&ing.

;oor is dreaming of her father.
In her dream, he is showing her how to open things. -e pic&s up an orange, and
gestures. in one smooth movement it inverts, and twists. the orange flesh is on the
outside, now, and the s&in is in the center, on the inside. 0ne 'ust always 'aintain
parity" her father tells her, peeling off an inside/out orange segment for her. %arity"
sy''etry" topology, these will e our su2ects for the 'onths to co'e" Door$ 9ut
the 'ost i'portant thing for you to understand is this, all things want to open$ 1ou
'ust feel that need" and use it$ -er father's hair is brown and thic&, as it was a
decade before his death, and he has an eas# smile, which she remembers but which
time had diminished as the #ears went on.
In her dream, he passes her a padloc&. She ta&es it from him. -er hands are the
si7e and shape of her hands toda#, although she &nows that, in truth, this occurred
when she was a tin# child, that she is ta&ing moments and conversations and lessons
from over a do7en #ears and is compressing them into one lesson. 0pen it" he tells
She holds it in her hand, feeling the cold metal, feeling the weight of the loc& in
her hands. Something is bothering her. "here is something she has to &now. ;oor
learned to open some time after she learned to wal&. She remembers her mother
holding her tightl#, opening a door from ;oor's bedroom to the pla#room,
remembers watching her brother $rch separating lin&ed silver rings, ,oining them
bac& together.
She tries to open the padloc&. She fumbles at it with her fingers, and with her
mind. <othing happens. She throws the padloc& down onto the floor and begins to
cr#. -er father reaches down and pic&s up the padloc&, puts it bac& into her hand.
-is long finger brushes awa# a tear from her chee&.
/e'e'er" he tells her, the padlock wants to open$ All you have to do is let it do
what it wants$
It sits there in her hand, cold and inert and heav#. $nd then, suddenl#, she
understands, and, somewhere in her heart, she lets it be what it wants to be. "here is
a loud clic&, and the padloc& opens. -er father is smiling. There" she sa#s.
;ood girl" sa#s her father. That&s all there is to opening$ <verything else is 2ust
She reali7es what it is that is bothering her. Father* she as&s. 1our 2ournal$
Who put it away* Who could have hidden it* :ut he is receding from her, and
alread# she is forgetting. She calls to him, but he cannot hear her, and although she
can hear his voice in the distance, she can no longer ma&e out what he is sa#ing.
In the wa&ing world, ;oor whimpers softl#. "hen she rolls over, cradles her arm
around her face, snorts once, twice, then sleeps once more, sleeps without dreaming.

/ichard knows it waits for the'$ <ach tunnel he goes down" each turning" each
ranch he walks" the feeling grows in urgency and weight$ He knows it is there"
waiting" and the sense of i'pending catastrophe increases with every step$ He
knows that it should have een a relief when he turns the final corner" and sees it
standing there" fra'ed in the tunnel" waiting for hi'$ (nstead he feels only dread$ (n
his drea' it is the si#e of the world, there is nothing left in the world ut the 9east"
its flanks stea'ing" roken spars and 2uts of old weapons prickling fro' its hide$
There is dried lood on its horns and on its tusks$ (t is gross" and vast" and evil$ And
then it charges$
He raises his hand 5ut it isn&t his hand6 and he throws the spear at the
He sees its eyes" wet and vicious and gloating" as they float toward hi'" all in a
fraction of a second that eco'es a tiny forever$ And then it is upon hi' $ $ $
"he water was cold, and it hit *ichard's face li&e a slap. -is e#es ,er&ed open,
and he caught his breath. -unter was loo&ing down at him. She was holding a large
wooden buc&et. It was empt#. -e reached up one hand. -is hair was soa&ed, and his
face was wet. -e wiped the water from his e#es and shivered with cold.
34ou didn't have to do that,3 said *ichard. -is mouth tasted li&e several small
animals had been using it as a rest room. -e tried to stand, and then he sat down
again, suddenl#. 35oh,3 he e8plained. 3-ow's #our head63 as&ed -unter,
3It's been better,3 said *ichard.
-unter pic&ed up another wooden buc&et, this one filled with water, and hauled
it across the stable floor. 3I don't &now what #ou dran&,3 she said. 3:ut it must have
been potent.3 -unter dipped her hand into the buc&et and flic&ed it at ;oor's face,
spra#ing her with water. ;oor's e#es flic&ered.
3<o wonder $tlantis san&,3 muttered *ichard. 3If the# all felt li&e this in the
morning it was probabl# a relief. Where are we63
-unter flic&ed another handful of water at ;oor's face. 3In the stables of a
friend,3 she said. *ichard loo&ed around. "he place did loo& a little li&e a stable. -e
wondered if it were for horsesand if so, what &ind of horses would live beneath
the ground6 "here was a device painted on the wall. the letter S 'or was it a sna&e6
*ichard could not tell( circled b# seven stars.
;oor reached a tentative hand up to her head and touched it, e8perimentall#, as
if she were unsure ,ust what she might find. 35oh,3 she said, in a near/whisper.
3"emple and $rch. $m I dead63
3<o,3 said -unter.
-unter helped her to a standing position. 3Well,3 said ;oor, sleepil#, 3he did
warn us it was strong.3 $nd then ;oor wo&e up completel#, ver# hard, ver# fast.
She grabbed *ichard's shoulder, pointed to the device on the wall, the sna&# S with
the stars surrounding it. She gasped. 3Serpentine,3 she said to *ichard, to -unter.
3"hat's Serpentine's crest. *ichard, get upD We have to runbefore she finds out
we're here . . . 3
3$nd do #ou thin&,3 as&ed a dr# voice from the doorwa#, 3that #ou could enter
Serpentine's house without Serpentine &nowing, child63
;oor pushed herself bac& against the wood of the stable wall. She was
trembling. *ichard reali7ed, through the pounding in his head, that he had never
seen ;oor so actuall# and obviousl# scared before. Serpentine stood in the doorwa#.
She was wearing a white leather corset and high white leather boots, and the
remains of what loo&ed li&e it had once, long ago, been a sil&/and/lace confection of
a white wedding dress, now shredded and dirt/stained and torn. She towered above
them all. her shoc& of gra#ing hair brushed the door lintel. -er e#es were sharp, and
her mouth was a cruel slash in an imperious face. She loo&ed at ;oor as if she too&
terror as her due1 as if she had become so used to fear that she now e8pected it, even
li&ed it.
3!alm #ourself,3 said -unter.
3:ut she's Serpentine,3 wailed ;oor. 35f the Seven Sisters.3
Serpentine inclined her head, cordiall#. "hen she stepped out of the doorwa#
and wal&ed toward them. :ehind her was a thin woman with a severe face and long
dar& hair, wearing a blac& dress pinched wasp/thin at the waist. "he woman said
nothing. Serpentine wal&ed over to -unter. 3-unter wor&ed for me long ago,3 said
Serpentine. She reached out a white finger and gentl# stro&ed -unter's brown chee&
with it, a gesture of affection and possession. $nd then, 34ou've &ept #our loo&s
better than I, -unter.3 -unter loo&ed down. 3-er friends are m# friends, child,3 said
Serpentine. 34ou are ;oor63
34es,3 said ;oor, dr#/mouthed.
Serpentine turned on *ichard. 3$nd what are #ou63 she as&ed, unimpressed.
3*ichard,3 said *ichard.
3I am Serpentine,3 she told him, graciousl#.
3So I gathered,3 said *ichard.
3"here is food waiting for all of #ou,3 said Serpentine, 3should #ou wish to
brea& #our fast.3
35h God no,3 whimpered *ichard politel#. ;oor said nothing. She was still
bac&ed against the wall, still trembling gentl#, li&e a leaf in an autumn bree7e. "he
fact that -unter had clearl# brought them here as a safe haven was doing nothing to
assuage her fear.
3What is there to eat63 as&ed -unter.
Serpentine loo&ed at the/wasp/waisted woman in the doorwa#. 3Well63 she
as&ed. "he woman smiled the chilliest smile *ichard had ever seen cross a human
face, then she said, 3%ried eggs poached eggs pic&led eggs curried venison pic&led
onions pic&led herrings smo&ed herrings salted herrings mushroom stew salted
bacon stuffed cabbage calves/foot ,ell#3
*ichard opened his. mouth to plead with her to stop, but it was too late. -e was
suddenl#, violentl#, awfull# sic&.
-e wanted someone to hold him, to tell him that ever#thing would be all right,
that he'd soon be feeling better1 someone to give him an aspirin and a glass of water,
and show him bac& to his bed. :ut nobod# did1 and his bed was another life awa#.
-e washed the sic& from his face and hands with water from the buc&et. "hen he
washed out his mouth. "hen, swa#ing gentl#, he followed the four women to

39ass the calves/foot ,ell#,3 said -unter, with her mouth full. Serpentine's
dining room was on what appeared to be the smallest 2nderground platform that
*ichard had ever seen. It was about twelve feet long, and much of that space was
ta&en up with a dinner table. $ white damas& cloth was laid on the table, and a
formal silver dinner/service on that. "he table was piled high with evil/smelling
foodstuffs. "he pic&led 0uails' eggs, thought *ichard, smelled the worst.
-is s&in felt clamm#, and his e#es felt li&e the# had been put in their soc&ets
wrong, while his s&ull gave him the general impression that someone had removed it
while he had slept and swapped it for another two or three si7es too small. $n
2nderground train went past a few feet from them1 the wind of its passage whipped
at the table. "he noise of its passage went through *ichard's head li&e a hot &nife
through brains. *ichard groaned.
34our hero is unable to hold his wine, I see,3 observed Serpentine,
3-e's not m# hero,3 said ;oor.
3I'm afraid he is. 4ou learn to recogni7e the t#pe. Something in the e#es,
perhaps.3 She turned to the woman in blac&, who appeared to be some &ind of
ma,ordomo. 3$ restorative for the gentleman.3 "he woman smiled thinl# and glided
;oor pic&ed at a mushroom dish. 3We are ver# grateful for all this, )ad#
Serpentine,3 she said.
Serpentine sniffed. 3Just Serpentine, child. I have no time for sill# honorifics
and imaginar# titles. So. 4ou're 9ortico's oldest girl.3
Serpentine dipped her finger in the brin# sauce that held what appeared to be
several small eels. She lic&ed her finger, nodded approvingl#. 3I had little time for
#our father. $ll that foolishness about uniting the 2nderside. Stuff and nonsense.
Sill# man. Just as&ing for trouble. "he last time I saw #our father, I told him that if
he ever came bac& here, I'd turn him into a blindworm.3 She turned to ;oor. 3-ow
is #our father, b# the wa#63
3-e's dead,3 said ;oor.
Serpentine loo&ed perfectl# satisfied. 3See63 she said. 3+# point e8actl#.3 ;oor
said nothing. Serpentine pic&ed at something that was moving in her gra# hair. She
e8amined it closel#, crushed it between finger and thumb, and dropped it onto the
platform. "hen she turned to -unter, who was demolishing a small hill of pic&led
herrings. 34ou're :east/hunting then63 she said. -unter nodded, her mouth full.
34ou'll need the spear, of course,3 said Serpentine.
"he wasp/waisted woman was now standing ne8t to *ichard, holding a small
tra#. 5n the tra# was a small glass, containing an aggressivel# emerald/colored
li0uid. *ichard stared at it, then loo&ed at ;oor.
3What are #ou giving him63 as&ed ;oor.
3<othing that will hurt him,3 said Serpentine, with a frost# smile. 34ou are
*ichard &noc&ed bac& the green li0uid, which tasted of th#me and peppermint
and winter mornings. -e felt it go down and prepared himself to tr# to &eep it from
coming bac& up again. Instead he too& a deep breath and reali7ed, with a little
surprise, that his head no longer hurt, and that he was starving.

5ld :aile# was not, intrinsicall#, one of those people put in the world to tell
,o&es. ;espite this handicap, he persisted in tr#ing. -e loved to tell shagg#/dog
stories of inordinate length, which would end in a sad pun although, often as not,
5ld :aile# would be unable to remember it b# the time he got there. "he onl# public
for 5ld :aile#'s ,o&es consisted of a small captive audience of birds, who,
particularl# the roo&s, viewed his ,o&es as deep and philosophical parables
containing profound and penetrating insights into what it meant to be human, and
who would actuall# as& him, from time to time, to tell them another of his amusing
3$ll right, all right, all right,3 5ld :aile# was sa#ing. 3Stop me if #ou've heard
this one before. "here was a man wal&ed into a bar. <o, he wasn't a man. "hat's the
,o&e. Sorr#. -e was a horse. $ horse . . . no . . . a piece of string. "hree pieces of
string. *ight. "hree pieces of string wal& into a bar.3
$ huge old roo& croa&ed a 0uestion. 5ld :aile# rubbed his chin, then shrugged.
3"he# ,ust do. It's a ,o&e. "he# can wal& in the ,o&e. -e as&s for a drin& for himself
and one for each of his friends. $nd the barman sa#s, 'We don't serve pieces of
string here.' "o one of the pieces of string. So. It goes bac& to its friends and sa#s,
'"he# don't serve strings here' $nd it's a ,o&e, so the middle one does it too, three of
them, #ou see, then the last one, he ties himself around the middle and he pulls the
end of him all out. $nd he orders a drin&.3 "he roo& croa&ed again, sagel#. 3"hree
drin&s. *ight. $nd the barman sa#s, 'here, aren't #ou one of those pieces of string6'
$nd he sa#s, the piece of string, he sa#s, '<o.'I'm a fra#ed &not.' Afraid not" #'see, a
frayed knot$ 9un. =er#, ver# funn#.3
"he starlings made polite noises. "he roo&s nodded their heads, put their heads
on one side. "hen the oldest roo& cawed at 5ld :aile#. 3$nother6 I'm not made of
hilarit#, #'&now. )et me thin& . . . 3
"here was a noise from the tent, a deep, pulsing noise, li&e the beating of a
distant heart. 5ld :aile# hurried into his tent. "he noise was coming from an old
wooden chest in which 5ld :aile# &ept those things he most pri7ed. -e opened the
chest. "he throbbing noise became much louder. "he small silver bo8 was sitting on
the top of 5ld :aile#'s treasures. -e reached down one gnarl# hand and pic&ed it up.
$ red light rh#thmicall# pulsed and glowed inside it, li&e a heartbeat, and shone out
through the silver filigree, and through the crac&s and fastenings. 3-e's in trouble,3
said 5ld :aile#.
"he oldest roo& cawed a 0uestion. 3<o. It's not a ,o&e. It's the mar0uis,3 said
5ld :aile#. 3-e's in deep trouble.3

*ichard was halfwa# through his second plate of brea&fast when Serpentine
pushed her chair bac& from the table.
3I thin& I have had m# fill of hospitalit#,3 she said. 3!hild, #oung man, good
da#. -unter . . . 3 she paused. "hen she ran one clawli&e finger along the line of
-unter's ,aw. 3-unter, #ou are alwa#s welcome here.3 She nodded to them,
imperiousl#, and stood up and wal&ed awa#, followed b# her wasp/waisted butler.
3We should leave now,3 said -unter. She stood up from the table, and ;oor and
*ichard, more reluctantl#, followed her.
"he# wal&ed along a corridor that was too thin to allow more than one of them
to pass at a time. "he# went up some stone steps. "he# crossed an iron bridge in the
dar&ness, while 2nderground trains echoed b# beneath them. "hen the# entered
what seemed li&e an endless networ& of underground vaults that smelled of damp
and deca#, of bric& and stone and time. 3"hat was #our old boss, eh6 She seemed
nice enough,3 said *ichard to -unter. -unter said nothing.
;oor, who had been somewhat subdued, said, 3When the# want to ma&e
children behave themselves in the 2nderside, the# tell them, ':ehave, or Serpentine
will ta&e #ou.' 3
35h,3 said *ichard. 3$nd #ou wor&ed for her, -unter63
3I wor&ed for all the Seven Sisters.3
3I thought that the# hadn't spo&en to each other for, oh, at least thirt# #ears,3
said ;oor.
3Cuite possibl#. :ut the# were still tal&ing then.3
3-ow old are #ou63 as&ed ;oor. *ichard was pleased she had as&ed1 he would
never have dared.
3$s old as m# tongue,3 said -unter, priml#, 3and a little older than m# teeth.3
3$n#wa#,3 said *ichard, in the untroubled tone of voice of one whose hangover
had left him and who &new that, somewhere far above them, someone was having a
beautiful da#, 3that was o&a#. <ice food. $nd no one was tr#ing to &ill us.3
3I'm sure that will remed# itself as the da# goes on,3 said -unter, accuratel#.
3Which wa# to the :lac& %riars, m# lad#63
;oor paused and concentrated. 3We'll go the river wa#,3 she said. 35ver here.3

3Is he coming round #et63 as&ed +r. !roup.
+r. =andemar prodded the mar0uis's prone bod# with one long finger. "he
breathing was shallow. 3<ot #et, +ister !roup. I thin& I bro&e him.3
34ou must be more careful with #our to#s, +ister =andemar,3 said +r. !roup.
3So what are #ou after63 *ichard as&ed -unter. "he three of them were wal&ing,
with e8treme care, along the ban& of an underground river. "he ban& was slipper#, a
narrow path along dar& roc& and sharp masonr#. *ichard watched with respect as
the gra# water rushed and tumbled, within arm's reach. "his was not the &ind of
river #ou fell into and got out of again1 it was the other &ind.
3Well,3 he said. 39ersonall#, I'm tr#ing to get bac& to the real )ondon, and m#
old life. ;oor wants to find out who &illed her famil#. What are #ou after63 "he#
edged along the ban&, a step at a time, -unter in the lead. She said nothing in repl#.
"he river slowed and fed into a small underground la&e. "he# wal&ed beside the
water, their lamps reflecting in the blac& surface, their reflections smudged b# the
river mist. 3So what is it63 as&ed *ichard. -e did not e8pect an# &ind of answer.
-unter's voice was 0uiet and intense. She did not brea& her step as she spo&e. 3I
fought in the sewers beneath <ew 4or& with the great blind white alligator/&ing. -e
was thirt# feet long, fat from sewage and fierce in battle. $nd I bested him, and I
&illed him. -is e#es were li&e huge pearls in the dar&ness.3 -er strangel# accented
voice echoed in the underground, twined in the mist, in the night beneath the Earth.
3I fought the bear that stal&ed the cit# beneath :erlin. -e had &illed a thousand
men, and his claws were stained brown and blac& from the dried blood of a hundred
#ears, but he fell to me. -e whispered words in a human tongue as he died.3 "he
mist hung low on the la&e. *ichard fancied that he could see the creatures she spo&e
of, white shapes writhing in the vapor.
3"here was a blac& tiger in the undercit# of !alcutta. $ man/eater, brilliant and
bitter, the si7e of a small elephant. $ tiger is a worth# adversar#. I too& him with m#
bare hands.3 *ichard glanced at ;oor. She was listening to -unter intentl#. this was
news to her too, then. 3$nd I shall sla# the :east of )ondon. "he# sa# his hide
bristles with swords and spears and &nives stuc& in him b# those who have tried and
failed. -is tus&s are ra7ors, and his hooves are thunderbolts. I will &ill him, or I will
die in the attempt.3
-er e#es shone as she spo&e of her pre#. "he river mist had become a thic&
#ellow fog.
$ bell was struc&, a little wa# awa#, three times, the sound carr#ing across the
water. "he world began to lighten. *ichard thought he could see the s0uat shapes of
buildings around them. "he #ellow/green fog became thic&er. it tasted of ash, and
soot, and the grime of a thousand urban #ears. It clung to their lamps, muffling the
light. 3What is this63 he as&ed.
3)ondon fog,3 said -unter.
3:ut the# stopped #ears ago, didn't the#6 !lean $ir $ct, smo&eless fuels, all
that63 *ichard found himself remembering the Sherloc& -olmes boo&s of his
childhood. 3What did the# call them again63
39ea/soupers,3 said ;oor. 3)ondon 9articulars. "hic& #ellow river fogs, mi8ed
with coal/smo&e and whatever rubbish was going into the air for the last five
centuries. -asn't been one in the 2pworld for, oh, fort# #ears now. We get the
ghosts of them down here. +m. <ot ghosts. +ore li&e echoes.3 *ichard breathed in
a strand of the #ellow/green fog and began to cough. 3"hat doesn't sound good,3
said ;oor.
3%og in m# throat,3 said *ichard. "he ground was becoming stic&ier, muddier.
it suc&ed at *ichard's feet as he wal&ed. 3Still,3 he said, to reassure himself, 3a little
fog never hurt an#one.3
;oor loo&ed up at him with big pi8ie e#es. 3"here was one in ?BIH that the#
rec&on &illed four thousand people.3
39eople from here63 he as&ed. 32nder )ondon63
34our people,3 said -unter. *ichard was willing to believe it. -e thought about
holding his breath, but the fog was getting thic&er. "he ground was becoming
mushier. 3I don't understand,3 he as&ed. 3Wh# do #ou have fogs down here, when
we don't have them up there an#more63
;oor scratched her nose. 3"here are little poc&ets of old time in )ondon, where
things and places sta# the same, li&e bubbles in amber,3 she e8plained. 3"here's a lot
of time in )ondon, and it has to go somewhereit doesn't all get used up at once.3
3I ma# still be hung over,3 sighed *ichard. 3"hat almost made sense.3

"he abbot had &nown that this da# would bring pilgrims. "he &nowledge was a
part of his dreams1 it surrounded him, li&e the dar&ness. So the da# became one of
waiting, which was, he &new, a sin. moments were to be e8perienced1 waiting was a
sin against both the time that was still to come and the moments one was currentl#
disregarding. Still, he was waiting. "hrough each of the da#'s services, through their
scant meals, the abbot was listening intentl#, waiting for the bell to sound, waiting
to &now who and how man#.
-e found himself hoping for a clean death. "he last pilgrim had lasted for
almost a #ear, a gibbering, screaming thing. "he abbot regarded his own blindness
as neither a blessing nor a curse. it simpl# was7 but even so, he had been grateful he
had never been able to see the poor creature's face. :rother Jet, who had cared for
the creature, still wo&e in the night, screaming, with its twisted face before him.
"he bell tolled late in the afternoon, three times. "he abbot was in the shrine, on
his &nees, contemplating their charge. -e pulled himself to his feet and made his
wa# to the corridor, where he waited. 3%ather63 "he voice was that of :rother
3Who guards the bridge63 the abbot as&ed him. -is voice was surprisingl# deep
and melodious for such an old man.
3Sable,3 came the repl# from the dar&ness. "he abbot reached out a hand,
grasped the #oung man's elbow, and wal&ed beside him, slowl#, through the
corridors of the abbe#.

"here was no solid ground1 there was no la&e. "heir feet were splashing through
some &ind of marsh, in the #ellow fog. 3"his,3 announced *ichard, 3is disgusting.3
It was seeping through his shoes, invading his soc&s, and ma&ing a much closer
ac0uaintance with his toes than *ichard was entirel# happ# with.
"here was a bridge ahead of them, rising up out of the marsh. $ figure, dressed
in blac&, waited at the foot of the bridge. -e wore the blac& robes of a ;ominican
mon&. -is s&in was the dar& brown of old mahogan#. -e was a tall man, and he
held a wooden staff as tall as he was. 3-old fast,3 he called. 3"ell me #our names,
and #our stations.3
3I am the )ad# ;oor,3 said ;oor. 3I am 9ortico's daughter, of the -ouse of the
3I am -unter. I am her bod#guard.3
3*ichard +a#hew,3 said *ichard. 3Wet.3
3$nd #ou wish to pass63
*ichard stepped forward. 34es, we do actuall#. We're here for a &e#.3 "he
mon& said nothing. -e lifted his staff and pushed *ichard gentl# in the chest with it.
*ichard's feet slid out from under him, and he landed in the mudd# water. "he mon&
waited a few moments, to see if *ichard would swing up and begin to fight. *ichard
didn't. -unter did.
*ichard pulled himself up from the mud, and watched, mouth open, as the mon&
and -unter fought with 0uarter/staves. "he mon& was good. -e was bigger than
-unter, and, *ichard suspected, stronger. -unter, on the other hand, was faster than
the mon&. "he wooden staves clac&ed and whapped in the mist.
"he mon&'s staff made sudden contact with -unter's midriff. She stumbled in
the mud. -e came in closetoo closeas he discovered that her stumble had been
a feint and her staff slammed into him, hard and precisel#, on the bac&s of his &nees,
and his legs no longer held his weight. "he man tumbled into the wet mud, and
-unter rested the tip of her staff on the bac& of his nec&.
3Enough,3 called a voice from the bridge.
-unter too& a step bac&. She stood beside *ichard and ;oor once more. She
had not even bro&en a sweat. "he big mon& got up from the mud. -is lip was
bleeding. -e bowed low to -unter, then wal&ed to the foot of the bridge.
3Who are the#, :rother Sable63 called the voice.
3"he )ad# ;oor, )ord 9ortico's daughter, of the -ouse of the $rch1 -unter, her
bod#guard, and *ichard +a#hew, their companion,3 said :rother Sable, through
bruised lips. 3She bested me in fair fight, :rother %uliginous.3
3)et them come up,3 said the voice.
-unter led the wa# up the bridge. $t the ape8 of the bridge, another mon& was
waiting for them. :rother %uliginous. -e was #ounger and smaller than the first
mon& the# had met, but he was dressed the same wa#. -is s&in was a deep, rich
brown. "here were other blac&/clad figures, ,ust barel# visible, further into the
#ellow fog. "hese were the :lac& %riars, then, *ichard reali7ed. "he second mon&
stared at the three of them for a second, and then recited.
+( turn 'y head" and you 'ay go where you want$
( turn it again" you will stay till you rot$
( have no face" ut ( live or die y 'y crooked teeth4who a' (*+
;oor too& a step forward. She lic&ed her lips and half closed her e#es. 3I turn
m# head . . . 3 she said, pu77ling to herself. 3!roo&ed teeth . . . go where #ou . . . 3
"hen a smile spread over her face. She stared up at :rother %uliginous. 3$ &e#,3 she
said. 3"he answer is, #ou're a &e#.3
3$ wise one,3 ac&nowledged :rother %uliginous. 3"hat's two steps ta&en. 5ne
more to ta&e.3
$ ver# old man stepped out of the #ellow fog and wal&ed cautiousl# toward
them, his gnarled hand holding onto the stone side of the bridge. -e stopped when
he reached :rother %uliginous. -is e#es were a glaucous blue/white, thic& with
cataracts. *ichard li&ed him on sight. 3-ow man# of them are there63 he as&ed the
#ounger man, in a deep and reassuring voice.
3"hree, %ather $bbot.3
3$nd has one of them bested the first gate&eeper63
34es, %ather $bbot.3
3$nd did one of them answer the second gate&eeper correctl#63
34es, %ather $bbot.3
"here was regret in the old man's voice. 3So, one of them is left to face the
5rdeal of the e#. )et him or her stand forward now.3
;oor said, 35h no.3
-unter said, 3)et me ta&e his place. I will face the ordeal.3
:rother %uliginous shoo& his head. 3We cannot permit that.3
When *ichard was a small bo# he had been ta&en, as part of a school trip, to a
local castle. With his class he had climbed the man# steps to the highest point in the
castle, a partl# ruined tower. "he# had clustered together at the top, while the
teacher pointed out to them the whole of the countr#side, spread out below. Even at
that age, *ichard had not been ver# good at heights. -e had clutched the safet# rail,
and closed his e#es, and tried not to loo& down. "he teacher had told them that the
drop from the top of the old tower to the bottom of the hill it overloo&ed was three
hundred feet1 then she told them that a penn#, dropped from the top of the tower,
would have enough force to penetrate the s&ull of a man at the bottom of the hill,
that it would crac& a s&ull li&e a bullet. "hat night *ichard la# in bed, unable to
sleep for imagining the penn# falling with the power of a thunderbolt. Still loo&ing
li&e a penn#, but such a murderous penn#, when it dropped . . .
An ordeal$
"he penn# dropped for *ichard. It was a thunderbolt sort of a penn#.
3-ang on a sec,3 he said. 3:ac& up. +m/mm. ordeal. Someone's got an ordeal
waiting for them. Somebod# who didn't have a little fight down in the mud, and
didn't get to answer the riddle . . . 3 -e was babbling. -e could hear himself
babbling, and he ,ust didn't care.
3"his ordeal of #ours,3 *ichard as&ed the abbot. 3-ow much of an ordeal is it63
3"his wa# now,3 said the abbot.
34ou don't want him,3 said ;oor. 3"a&e one of us.3
3"hree of #ou come. "here are three tests. Each of #ou faces one test. that is
fair,3 said the abbot. 3If he passes the ordeal, he will return to #ou.3
$ light bree7e eased the fog. "he other dar& figures were holding crossbows.
Each crossbow was pointed at *ichard, or -unter, or ;oor. "he friars closed ran&s,
cutting *ichard off from -unter and from ;oor.
3We're loo&ing for a &e#3 said *ichard to the abbot, in a low voice.
34es,3 said the abbot, placidl#.
3It's for an angel,3 e8plained *ichard.
34es,3 said the abbot. -e reached out a hand, found the croo& of :rother
%uliginous's arm.
*ichard lowered his voice. 3)oo&, #ou can't sa# no to an angel, especiall# a man
of the cloth li&e #ourself . . . wh# don't we ,ust s&ip the ordeal6 4ou could ,ust hand
it over.3
"he abbot began to wal& down the curve of the bridge. "here was a door, open
at the bottom. *ichard followed him. Sometimes there is nothing #ou can do. 3When
our order was founded,3 said the abbot, 3we were entrusted with the &e#. It is one of
the holiest, and the most powerful, of all sacred relics. We must pass it on, but onl#
to the one who passes the ordeal and proves worth#.3
"he# wal&ed through winding narrow corridors, *ichard leaving a trail of wet
mud behind him. 3If I fail the ordeal, then we don't get the &e#, do we63
3<o, m# son.3
*ichard thought about this for a moment. 3!ould I come bac& later for a second
:rother %uliginous coughed. 3<ot reall#, m# son,3 said the abbot. 3If that
should happen, #ou will in all probabilit# be . . . 3 he paused, and then said, 3be#ond
caring. :ut do not fret, perhaps #ou will be the one to win the &e#, eh63 "here was a
ghastl# attempt at reassurance in his voice, more terrif#ing than an# attempt to scare
him could have been.
34ou would &ill me63
"he abbot stared ahead with blue/mil& e#es. "here was a touch of reproof in his
voice. 3We are hol# men,3 he said. 3<o, it is the ordeal that &ills #ou.3
"he# wal&ed down a flight of steps, into a low, cr#ptli&e room with oddl#
decorated walls. 3<ow,3 said the abbot. 3SmileD3
"here was the electric fi77 of a camera flash going off, blinding *ichard for a
moment. When he could see again, :rother %uliginous was lowering a battered old
9olaroid camera and was #an&ing out the photograph. "he friar waited until it had
developed, and then he pinned it to the wall. 3"his is our wall of those who failed,3
sighed the abbot, 3to ensure that the# are none of them forgotten. "hat is our burden
also. memorial.3
*ichard stared at the faces. $ few 9olaroids1 twent# or thirt# other photographic
snapshots, some sepia prints and daguerreot#pes1 and, after that, pencil s&etches,
and watercolors, and miniatures. "he# went all the wa# along one wall. "he friars
had been at this a ver# long time.

;oor shivered. 3I'm so stupid,3 she muttered. 3I should have &nown. "hree of
us. I should never have come straight here.3
-unter's head was moving from side to side. She had noted the position of each
of the friars and each of the crossbows1 she had calculated the odds of getting ;oor
over the side of the bridge first unharmed, then with onl# minor in,uries, and lastl#
with ma,or in,ur# to herself, but onl# minor in,ur# to ;oor. She was now
recalculating. 3$nd what would #ou have done differentl# if #ou had &nown63 she
3I wouldn't have brought hi' here, for a start,3 said ;oor. 3I'd have found the
-unter put her head on one side. 34ou trust him63 she as&ed, directl#, and ;oor
&new she was tal&ing of de !arabas, not *ichard.
34es,3 said ;oor. 3I more or less trust him.3
Door had een five years old for 2ust two days$ The 'arket was eing held in
the ;ardens at Few on that day" and her father had taken her with hi'" as a
irthday treat$ (t was her first 'arket$ They were in the utterfly house" surrounded
y rightly colored wings" iridescent weightless things that entranced and
fascinated her" when her father crouched down eside her$ +Door*+ he said$ +Turn
around slowly" and look over there$+
She turned" and looked$ A dark-skinned 'an wearing a ig coat" his lack hair
tied ehind hi' in a long pony tail" was standing y the door" talking to two golden-
skinned twins" a young 'an and a young wo'an$ The young wo'an was crying" in
the way that grown-ups cry" keeping it inside as 'uch as they can" and hating it
when it still pushes out at the edges" 'aking the' ugly and funny-looking on the
way$ Door turned ack to the utterflies$ +1ou saw hi'*+ asked her father$ She
nodded$ +He calls hi'self the 'ar.uis de )araas"+ he said$ +He&s a fraud and a
cheat and possily even so'ething of a 'onster$ (f you&re ever in troule" go to hi'$
He will protect you" girl$ He has to$+
Door looked ack at the 'an$ He had a hand on the shoulder of each of the
twins and was leading the' fro' the roo'7 ut he glanced ack over his shoulder"
as he left" and he looked straight at her" and s'iled an enor'ous s'ile7 and then he
winked at her$
"he friars who surrounded them were dar& ghosts in the fog. ;oor raised her
voice. 3E8cuse me, brother,3 she called to :rother Sable. 3:ut our friend, who's
gone to get the &e#. If he fails, what happens to us63
-e too& a step toward them, hesitated, and then said, 3We escort #ou awa# from
here, and we let #ou go.3
3What about *ichard63 she as&ed. :eneath his cowl, she could see him sha&ing
his head, sadl#, finall#. 3I should have brought the mar0uis,3 said ;oor1 and she
wondered where he was, and what he was doing.

"he mar0uis de !arabas was being crucified on a large L/shaped wooden
construction +r. =andemar had &noc&ed together from several old pallets, part of a
chair and a wooden gate. -e had also used most of a large bo8 of rusting nails.
It had been a ver# long time since the# had crucified an#bod#.
"he mar0uis de !arabas's arms and legs, were spread into a wide L shape.
*ust# nails went into his hands and feet. -e was also roped around the waist. $fter
e8periencing terrible pain, he was now, more or less, unconscious. "he whole
construction dangled in the air, from several ropes, in a room that had once been the
hospital staff cafeteria. 5n the ground below, +r. !roup had assembled a large
mound of sharp ob,ects, ranging from ra7ors and &itchen &nives to abandoned
scalpels and lancets. "here was even a po&er, from the furnace room.
3Wh# don't #ou see how he's doing, +ister =andemar63 as&ed +r. !roup.
+r. =andemar reached out his hammer, and prodded the mar0uis
e8perimentall# with it.
"he mar0uis de !arabas was not a good man, and he &new himself well enough
to be perfectl# certain that he was not a brave man. -e had long since decided that
the world, $bove or :elow, was a place that wished to be deceived, and, to this end,
he had named himself from a lie in a fair# tale, and created himselfhis clothes, his
manner, his carriageas a grand ,o&e.
"here was a dull pain at his wrists and his feet, and he was finding it harder and
harder to breathe. "here was nothing more to be gained b# feigning
unconsciousness, and he raised his head, as best he could, and spat a gob of scarlet
blood into +r. =aldemar's face.
It was a brave thing to do, he thought. $nd a stupid one. 9erhaps the# would
have let him die 0uietl#, if he had not done that. <ow, he had no doubt, the# would
hurt him more.
$nd perhaps his death would come the 0uic&er for it.

"he open &ettle was boiling fiercel#. *ichard watched the bubbling water, and
the thic& steam, and wondered what the# were going to do with it. -is imagination
was able to provide an# number of answers, most of which would have been
unimaginabl# painful, none of which turned out to be correct.
"he boiling water was poured into a pot, to which :rother %uliginous added
three spoons of dried, shredded leaves. "he resultant li0uid was poured from the pot
through a tea strainer, into three china cups. "he abbot raised his blind head, sniffed
the air, and smiled. 3"he first part of the 5rdeal of the e#,3 he said, 3is the nice cup
of tea. ;o #ou ta&e sugar63
3<o, than& #ou,3 said *ichard, waril#.
:rother %uliginous added a little mil& to the tea, and passed a cup and saucer to
*ichard. 3Is it poisoned63 he as&ed.
"he abbot loo&ed almost offended. 3Good gracious, no.3
*ichard sipped the tea, which tasted more or less e8actl# li&e tea alwa#s tasted.
3:ut this is part of the ordeal63
:rother %uliginous too& the abbot's hands and placed a cup of tea in them. 3In a
manner of spea&ing,3 said the abbot. 3We alwa#s li&e to give the see&ers a cup of
tea before the# start. 9art of the ordeal for us. <ot for #ou.3 -e sipped his own tea,
and a beatific smile spread across his ancient face. 3*ather nice tea, all things
*ichard put down his teacup, almost untouched. 3Would #ou mind,3 he as&ed,
3if we ,ust began the ordeal63
3<ot at all,3 said the abbot. 3<ot at all.3 -e stood up, and the three of them
wal&ed toward a door, at the far end of the room.
3Is there . . . 3 *ichard paused, tr#ing to decide what he was tr#ing to as&. "hen
he said, 3Is there an#thing #ou can tell me about the ordeal63
"he abbot shoo& his head. "here reall# was nothing to sa#. he led the see&ers to
the door. $nd then he would wait, for an hour, or two, in the corridor outside. "hen
he would go bac& in, and remove the remains of the see&er from the shrine, and inter
it in the vaults. $nd sometimes, which was worse, the# would not be dead, although
#ou could not call what was left of them alive" and those unfortunates the :lac&
%riars cared for as best the# could.
3*ight,3 said *ichard. $nd he smiled, unconvincingl#, and added, 3Well, lead
on, +acduff.3
:rother %uliginous pulled bac& the bolts on the door. "he# opened with a crash,
li&e twin gunshots. -e pulled the door open. *ichard stepped through it. :rother
%uliginous pushed the door closed behind him, and swung the bolts bac& into place.
-e led the abbot bac& to his chair and placed the cup of tea bac& in the old man's
hand. "he abbot sipped his tea, in silence. $nd then he said, with honest regret in his
voice, 3It's 'la# on, +acduff' actuall#. :ut I hadn't the heart to correct him. -e
sounded li&e such a nice #oung man.3
*ichard +a#hew wal&ed down the underground platform. It was a ;istrict )ine
station. the sign said :)$!%*I$*S. "he platform was empt#. Somewhere in the
distance an 2nderground train roared and rattled, driving a ghost/wind along the
platform, which scattered a cop# of the tabloid Sun into its component pages, four/
color breasts and blac&/and/white invective scurr#ing and tumbling off the platform
and down onto the rails.
*ichard wal&ed the length of the platform. "hen he sat down on a bench and
waited for something to happen.
<othing happened.
-e rubbed his head and felt slightl# sic&. "here were footsteps on the platform,
near him, and he loo&ed up to see a prim little girl wal&ing past him, hand in hand
with a woman who loo&ed li&e a larger, older version of the girl. "he# glanced at
him and then, rather obviousl#, loo&ed awa#. 3;on't get too near to him, +elanie,3
advised the woman, in a ver# audible whisper.
+elanie loo&ed at *ichard, staring in the wa# children stare, without
embarrassment or self consciousness. "hen she loo&ed bac& at her mother. 3Wh# do
people li&e that sta# alive63 she as&ed, curiousl#.
3<ot enough guts to end it all,3 e8plained her mother.
+elanie ris&ed another glance at *ichard. 39athetic,3 she said. "heir feet
pattered awa# down the platform, and soon the# were gone. -e wondered if he had
imagined it. -e tried to remember wh# he was standing on this platform. Was he
waiting for a "ube train6 Where was he going6 -e &new the answer was somewhere
in his head, somewhere close at hand, but he could not touch it, could not bring it
bac& from the lost places. -e sat there, alone and wondering. Was he dreaming6
With his hands he felt the hard red plastic seat beneath him, stamped the platform
with mud/encrusted shoes 'where had the mud come from6(, touched his face . . .
<o. "his was no dream. Wherever he was, was real. -e felt odd. detached, and
depressed, and horribl#, strangel# saddened. Someone sat down ne8t to him.
*ichard did not loo& up, did not turn his head.
3-ello,3 said a familiar voice. 3-ow are #ou, ;ic&6 4ou all right63
*ichard loo&ed up. -e felt his face creasing into a smile, hope hitting him li&e a
blow to the chest.
3Gar#63 he as&ed, scared. "hen, 34ou can see me63
Gar# grinned. 34ou alwa#s were a &idder,3 he said. 3%unn# man, funn#.3
Gar# was wearing a suit and tie. -e was cleanshaven, and had not a hair out of
place. *ichard reali7ed what he must loo& li&e. mudd#, unshaven, rumpled . . .
3Gar#6 I . . . listen, I &now what I must loo& li&e. I can e8plain.3 -e thought for a
moment. 3<o . . . I can't. <ot reall#.3
3It's o&a#,3 said Gar# reassuringl#. -is voice was soothing, sane. 3<ot sure how
to tell #ou this. :it aw&ward.3 -e paused. 3)oo&,3 he e8plained. 3I'm not reall#
34es, #ou are,3 said *ichard. Gar# shoo& his head, s#mpatheticall#. 3<o,3 he
said. 3I'm not. I'm #ou. "al&ing to #ourself.3
*ichard wondered vaguel# if this was one of Gar#'s ,o&es. 3+a#be this will
help,3 said Gar#. -e raised his hands to his face, pushed at it, molded, shaped. -is
face oo7ed li&e warm Sill# 9utt#.
3Is that better63 said the person who had been Gar#, in a voice that was ,arringl#
familiar. *ichard &new the new face. he had shaved it most wee&da# mornings since
he had left school1 he had brushed its teeth, combed its hair, and, on occasion,
wished it loo&ed more li&e "om !ruise's, or John )ennon's, or an#one else's, reall#.
It was, of course, his face. 34ou're sitting on :lac&friars Station at rush hour,3 said
the other *ichard, casuall#. 34ou're tal&ing to #ourself. $nd #ou &now what the#
sa# about people who tal& to themselves. It's ,ust that #ou're starting to edge a little
closer to sanit#, now.3
"he damp, mudd# *ichard stared into the face of the clean, well/dressed
*ichard, and he said, 3I don't &now who #ou are or what #ou're tr#ing to do. :ut #ou
aren't even ver# convincing. #ou don't reall# loo& li&e me.3 -e was l#ing, and he
&new it.
-is other self smiled encouragingl#, and shoo& his head. 3I'm #ou, *ichard,3 he
said. 3I'm whatever's left of #our sanit# . . . 3
It was not the embarrassing echo of his voice he heard on answering machines,
on tapes and home videos, that horrid parod# of a voice that passed for his. the man
spo&e with *ichard's true voice, the voice he heard in his head when he spo&e,
resonant and real.
3!oncentrateD3 shouted the man with *ichard's face. 3)oo& at this place, tr# to
see the people, tr# to see the truth . . . #ou're alread# the closest to realit# that #ou've
been in a wee& . . . 3
3"his is bullshit,3 said *ichard, flatl#, desperatel#. -e shoo& his head, den#ing
ever#thing his other self was sa#ing, but, still, he loo&ed at the platform, wondering
what it was he was meant to be seeing. "hen something flic&ered, at the corner of
his vision1 he followed it with his head, but it was gone.
3)oo&,3 whispered his double. 3See.3
3See what63 -e was standing on an empt#, diml# lit station platform, a lonel#
mausoleum of a place. $nd then . . .
"he noise and the light struc& him li&e a bottle across the face. he was standing
on :lac&friars Station, in the middle of the rush hour. 9eople bustled b# him. a riot
of noise and light, of shoving, moving humanit#. "here was an 2nderground train
waiting at the platform, and, reflected in its window, *ichard could see himself. -e
loo&ed cra#y7 he had a wee&'s growth of beard1 food was crusted around his mouth1
one e#e had recentl# been blac&ened, and a boil, an angr# red carbuncle, was
coming up on the side of his nose1 he was filth#, covered in a blac&, encrusted dirt
which filled his pores and lived under his fingernails1 his e#es were red and blear#,
his hair was matted and snarled. -e was a cra7# homeless person, standing on a
platform of a bus# 2nderground station, in the heart of the rush hour. *ichard buried
his face deep in his hands. When he raised his face, the other people were gone. "he
platform was dar& again, and he was alone. -e sat down on a bench and closed his
e#es. $ hand found his hand, held it for some moments, and then s0uee7ed it. $
woman's hand. he could smell a familiar perfume.
"he other *ichard sat on his left, and now Jessica sat on his right, holding his
hand in hers, loo&ing at him compassionatel#. -e had never seen that e8pression on
her face before.
3Jess63 he said.
Jessica shoo& her head. She let go of his hand. 3I'm afraid not,3 she said. 3I'm
still #ou. :ut #ou have to listen, darling. 4ou're the closest to realit# #ou've been3
34ou people &eep sa#ing, the closest to realit#, the closest to sanit#, I don't
&now what #ou . . . 3 -e paused. Something came bac& to him, then. -e loo&ed at
the other version of himself, at the woman he had loved. 3Is this part of the ordeal63
he demanded.
35rdeal63 as&ed Jessica. She e8changed a concerned glance with the/other/
34es. 5rdeal. With the :lac& %riars who live under )ondon,3 *ichard said. $s
he said it, it became more real, 3"here's a &e# I have to get for this angel called
Islington. If I get him the &e#, he'll send me home again . . . 3 -is mouth dried up,
and he could tal& no longer.
3)isten to #ourself,3 said the other *ichard, gentl#. 3!an't #ou tell how
ridiculous all this sounds63 Jessica loo&ed as if she were tr#ing not to cr#. -er e#es
glistened. 34ou're not going through an ordeal, *ichard. 4ou#ou had some &ind
of nervous brea&down. $ couple of wee&s ago. I thin& #ou ,ust crac&ed up. I bro&e
off our engagement#ou'd been acting so strangel#, it was li&e #ou were a different
person, II couldn't cope . . . "hen #ou vanished . . . 3 "he tears began to run down
her chee&s, and she stopped tal&ing to blow her nose on a tissue.
"he other *ichard began to spea&. 3I wandered, alone and cra7#, through the
streets of )ondon, sleeping under bridges, eating food from garbage cans. Shivering
and lost and alone. +uttering to m#self, tal&ing to people who weren't there . . . 3
3I'm so sorr#, *ichard,3 said Jessica. She was cr#ing, now, her face contorted
and unattractive. -er mascara was beginning to run, and her nose was red. -e had
never seen her hurting before, and he reali7ed how much he wanted to ta&e her pain
awa#. *ichard reached out for her, to tr# to hold her, to comfort and reassure her,
but the world slid and twisted and changed . . .
Someone stumbled into him, cursed and wal&ed awa#. *ichard was l#ing prone
on the platform, in the rush/hour glare. "he side of his face was stic&# and cold. -e
pulled his head up off the ground. -e had been l#ing in a pool of his own vomit. $t
least, he hoped it was his own. 9assersb# stared at him with revulsion, or, after one
flic& of the e#es, did not loo& at him again.
-e wiped at his face with his hands and tried to get up, but he could no longer
remember how. *ichard began to whimper. -e shut his e#es tightl#, and he &ept
them shut. When he opened them, thirt# seconds, or an hour, or a da# later, the
platform was in semidar&ness. -e climbed to his feet. "here was nobod# there.
3-ello63 he called. 3-elp me. 9lease.3
Gar# was sitting on the bench, watching him. 3What, #ou still need someone to
tell #ou what to do63 Gar# got up and wal&ed over to where *ichard was standing.
3*ichard,3 he said, urgentl#. 3I'm #ou. "he onl# advice I can give #ou is what #ou're
telling #ourself. 5nl#, ma#be #ou're too scared to listen.3
34ou aren't me,3 said *ichard, but he no longer believed it.
3"ouch me,3 said Gar#.
*ichard reached a hand out. his hand pushed into Gar#'s face, s0uashing and
distorting it, as if it were pushing into warm bubble gum. *ichard felt nothing in the
air around his hand. -e pulled his fingers out of Gar#'s face.
3See63 said Gar#. 3I'm not here. $ll there is, is #ou, wal&ing up and down the
platform, tal&ing to #ourself, tr#ing to get up the courage to . . . 3
*ichard had not meant to sa# an#thing1 but his mouth moved and he heard his
voice sa#ing, 3"r#ing to get up the courage to do what63
$ deep voice came over the loudspea&er, and echoed, distorted, down the
platform. +London Transport would like to apologi#e for the delay$ This is due to an
incident at 9lackfriars Station$+ 3"o do that,3 said Gar#, inclining his head.
3:ecome an incident at :lac&friars Station. "o end it all. 4our life's a ,o#less,
loveless, empt# sham. 4ou've got no friends3
3I've got #ou,3 whispered *ichard. Gar# appraised *ichard with fran& e#es.
3I thin& #ou're an asshole,3 he said, honestl#. 3$ complete ,o&e.3
3I've got ;oor, and -unter, and $naesthesia.3
Gar# smiled. "here was real pit# in the smile, and it hurt *ichard more than
hatred or enmit# could ever have done. 3+ore imaginar# 'friends6 We all used to
laugh at #ou round the office for those trolls. *emember them6 5n #our des&.3 -e
laughed. *ichard started to laugh, too. It was all too horrible. there was nothing else
to do but laugh. $fter some time he stopped laughing. Gar# put his hand into his
poc&et and produced a small plastic troll. It had fri77# purple hair, and it had once
sat on the top of *ichard's computer screen. 3-ere,3 said Gar#. -e tossed the troll to
*ichard. *ichard tried to catch it1 he reached out his hands, but it fell through them
as if the# were not there. -e went down onto his hands and &nees on the empt#
platform, fumbling for the troll. It seemed to him, then, as if it were the onl#
fragment he had of his real life. that if he could onl# get the troll bac&, perhaps he
could get ever#thing bac& . . .
It was rush hour again. $ train disgorged hundreds of people onto the platform,
and hundreds of others tried to get on, and *ichard was down on his hands and
&nees, being &ic&ed and buffeted b# the commuters. Somebod# stepped on his
fingers, hard. -e screamed shrill#, and stuc& his fingers into his mouth,
instinctivel#, li&e a burned child1 the# tasted disgusting. -e did not care. he could
see the troll at the platform's edge, now onl# ten feet awa#, and he crawled, slowl#,
on all fours, through the crowd, across the platform. 9eople swore at him1 the# got
in his wa#1 the# buffeted him. -e had never imagined that ten feet could be such a
long distance to travel.
*ichard heard a high/pitched voice giggling, as he crawled, and he wondered
who it could belong to. It was a disturbing giggle, nast# and strange. -e wondered
what manner of cra7# person could giggle li&e that. -e swallowed, and the giggling
stopped, and then he &new.
-e was almost at the edge of the platform. $n elderl# woman stepped onto the
train, and as she did so, her foot &noc&ed the purple/haired troll down into the
dar&ness, down into the gap between the train and the platform. 3<o,3 said *ichard.
-e was still laughing, an aw&ward, whee7ing laugh, but tears stung his e#es and
spilled down his chee&s. -e rubbed his e#es with his hands, ma&ing them sting even
"he platform was deserted and dar& again. -e climbed to his feet and wal&ed,
unsteadil#, the last few feet, to the edge of the platform. -e could see it there, down
on the trac&s, b# the third rail. a small splash of purple, his troll. -e loo&ed ahead of
him. there were enormous posters stuc& to the wall on the other side of the trac&s.
"he posters advertised credit cards and sports shoes and holida#s in !#prus. $s he
loo&ed the words on the posters twisted and mutated.
<ew messages.
E<; I" $)) was one of them.
92" 452*SE)% 52" 5% 452* +ISE*4.
:E $ +$<;5 452*SE)% I<.
-$=E $ %$"$) $!!I;E<" "5;$4.
-e nodded. -e was tal&ing to himself. "he posters did not reall# sa# that. 4es,
he was tal&ing to himself1 and it was time that he listened. -e could hear the rattling
of a train, not far awa#, coming toward the station. *ichard clenched his teeth, and
swa#ed bac& and forth, as if he were still being buffeted b# commuters, although he
was alone on the platform.
"he train was coming toward him1 its headlights shining out from the tunnel
li&e the e#es of a monstrous dragon in a childhood nightmare. $nd he understood
then ,ust how little effort it would ta&e to ma&e the pain stopto ta&e all the pain he
ever had had, all the pain he ever would have, and ma&e it all go awa# for ever and
ever. -e pushed his hands deep into his poc&ets, and too& a deep breath. It would be
so eas#. $ moment of pain, and then it would all be over and done . . .
"here was something in his poc&et. -e felt it with his fingers. something
smooth and hard and roughl# spherical. -e pulled it out of his poc&et, and e8amined
it. a 0uart7 bead. -e remembered pic&ing it up, then. -e had been on the far side of
<ight's :ridge. "he bead had been part of $naesthesia's nec&lace.
$nd from somewhere, in his head or out of it, he thought he heard the rat/girl
sa#, 3*ichard. -old on.3 -e did not &now if there was an#one helping him at that
moment. -e suspected that he was, trul#, tal&ing to himself. "hat this was the real
him spea&ing, and he was, finall#, listening.
-e nodded and put the bead bac& into his poc&et. $nd he stood on the platform
and waited for the train to come in. It arrived at the platform, slowed, came to a full
"he train doors hissed open. "he carriage was filled with ever# manner and &ind
of people, all of whom were, unmista&abl#, 0uite dead. "here were fresh corpses,
with ragged cuts in their throats or bullet holes in their temples. "here were old,
desiccated bodies. "here were strap/hanging cadavers, covered with cobwebs, and
cancerous things lolling in their seats. Each corpse seemed, as much as one could
tell, to have died b# its own hand. Some were male, and some were female. *ichard
thought he had seen some of those faces, pinned to a long wall1 but he could no
longer remember where he had seen them, could not remember when. "he carriage
smelled li&e a morgue might at the end of a long, hot summer during the course of
which the refrigeration e0uipment had failed for good.
*ichard had no idea who he was, an#more1 no idea what was or what was not
true1 nor whether he was brave or cowardl#, mad or sane, but he &new the ne8t thing
he had to do. -e stepped onto the train, and all the lights went out.

"he bolts were drawn bac&. "wo loud bangs echoed through the room. "he door
to the tin# shrine was pushed open, letting in lamplight from the hall outside.
It was a small room with a high arched ceiling. $ silver &e# hung from a thread,
attached to the highest point of the ceiling. "he wind caused b# the opening of the
door made the &e# swing bac& and forth, and then spin slowl#, first one wa#, and
then the other. "he abbot held :rother %uliginous's arm, and the two men wal&ed
into the shrine, side b# side. "hen the abbot let go of the brother's arm, and said,
3"a&e the bod#, :rother %uliginous.3
3:ut. :ut %ather . . . 3
3What is it63
:rother %uliginous went down on one &nee. "he abbot could hear fingers
against cloth and s&in. 3-e's not dead.3
"he abbot sighed. It was an evil thing to thin&, he &new, but he honestl# felt it
was so much &inder if the# died outright. "his was so much worse. 35ne of those,
eh63 he said. 3$h well, we will loo& after the poor creature until it passes on to its
ultimate reward. )ead it to the infirmar#.3
$nd a wea& voice said, 0uietl#, but firml#, 3I am not a poor creature.3 "he
abbot heard someone stand up1 heard :rother %uliginous's sharp inta&e of breath.
3I . . . I thin& I got through it,3 said *ichard +a#hew's voice, suddenl# uncertain.
32nless this is more of the ordeal.3
3<o, m# son,3 said the abbot. "here was something in his voice that might have
been awe, and might have been regret.
"here was silence. 3I . . . I thin& I will have that cup of tea now, if #ou don't
mind,3 said *ichard.
35f course,3 said the abbot. 3"his wa#.3 *ichard stared at the old man. "he
glaucous e#es ga7ed out at nothing at all. -e seemed pleased that *ichard was alive,
but . . .
3E8cuse me63 said :rother %uliginous, respectfull#, to *ichard, brea&ing his
train of thought. 3;on't forget #our &e#.3
35h. 4es. "han&s.3 -e had forgotten about the &e#. -e reached out and closed
his hand upon the cold silver &e#, rotating slowl# on its thread. -e tugged, and the
thread snapped easil#.
*ichard opened his hand, and the &e# stared up at him from his palm. 3:# m#
croo&ed teeth,3 as&ed *ichard, remembering, 3who am I63
-e put it into his poc&et, ne8t to the small 0uart7 bead, and together the# left
that place.

"he fog had begun to thin. -unter was pleased. She was confident now that,
should it become necessar#, she could get the )ad# ;oor awa# from the friars
entirel# unharmed and get herself awa# with onl# minor flesh wounds.
"here was a flurr# of movement on the far side of the bridge. 3Something's
happening,3 said -unter to ;oor, under her breath. 3Get read# to ma&e a run for it.3
"he friars drew bac&. *ichard +a#hew, the 2pworlder, came toward them
through the fog, wal&ing beside the abbot. *ichard loo&ed different, somehow . . .
-unter scrutini7ed him, tr#ing to wor& out what had changed. -is center of balance
had moved lower, become more centered. <o . . . it was more than that. -e loo&ed
less bo#ish. -e loo&ed as if he had begun to grow up.
3Still alive then63 said -unter. -e nodded1 put his hand into his poc&et, and
pulled out a silver &e#. -e tossed it to ;oor, who caught it, then flung herself at
him, wrapping her arms around him, s0uee7ing him as tightl# as she could.
"hen ;oor let go of *ichard and ran to the abbot. 3I can't tell #ou how much
this means to us,3 she said to him.
-e smiled, wea&l# but graciousl#. 3+a# the "emple and the $rch be with #ou
all, on #our ,ourne# through the 2nderside,3 he said.
;oor curtse#ed, and then, clutching the &e# tightl# in her hand, she went bac&
to *ichard, and to -unter. "he three travelers wal&ed down the bridge, and awa#.
"he friars stood on the bridge until the# were out of sight, lost in the old fog of the
world beneath the world.
3We have lost the &e#,3 said the abbot to himself, as much as to an# of them.
3God help us all.3
"he $ngel Islington was dreaming $ dar& and rushing dream.
-uge waves were rising and crashing over the cit#1 the night s&# was rent with
for&s of white lightning from hori7on to hori7on1 the rain fell in sheets, the cit#
trembled1 fires started near the great amphitheater and spread, 0uic&l#, through the
cit#, def#ing the storm. Islington was loo&ing down on ever#thing from far above,
hovering in the air, as one hovers in dreams, as it had hovered in those long/ago
times. "here were buildings in that cit# that were man# hundreds of feet high, but
the# were dwarfed b# the gra#/green $tlantic waves. $nd then it heard the people
scream. "here were four million people in $tlantis, and, in its dream, Islington
heard each and ever# one of their voices, clearl# and distinctl#, as, one b# one, the#
screamed, and cho&ed, and burned, and drowned, and died. "he waves swallowed
the cit#, and, at length, the storm subsided.
When dawn bro&e, there was nothing to indicate there had ever been a cit# there
at all, let alone an island twice the si7e of Greece. <othing of $tlantis remained but
the water/bloated bodies of children, of women and of men, floating on the cold
morning waves1 bodies the seagulls, gra# and white, were alread# beginning to pic&
with their cruel bea&s.
$nd Islington wo&e. It was standing in the octagon of iron pillars, beside the
great blac& door, made of flint and tarnished silver. It touched the cold smoothness
of the flint, the chill of the metal. It touched the table. It ran its finger lightl# along
the walls. "hen it wal&ed through chambers of its hall, one after another, touching
things, as if to reassure itself of their e8istence, to convince itself it was here, and
now. It followed patterns, as it wal&ed, smooth channels its bare feet had worn, over
the centuries, in the roc&. It stopped when it reached the roc&/pool, &neeling down
and letting its fingers touch the cold water.
"here was a ripple in the water, which began with its fingertips and echoed out
to the edges. "he reflections in the pool, of the angel itself and the candle flames
that framed it, shimmered and transformed. It was loo&ing into a cellar. "he angel
concentrated for a moment1 it could hear a telephone ring, somewhere in the
+r. !roup wal&ed over to the telephone and pic&ed up the receiver. -e loo&ed
rather pleased with himself. 3!roup and =andemar,3 he bar&ed. 3E#es gouged,
noses twisted, tongues pierced, chins cleft, throats slit.3
3+ister !roup,3 said the angel. 3"he# now have the &e#. I want the girl called
;oor &ept safe on her ,ourne# bac& to me.3
3Safe,3 repeated +r. !roup, unimpressed. 3*ight. We'll &eep her safe. What a
marvelous ideasuch originalit#. 9ositivel# astounding. +ost people would be
content with hiring assassins for e8ecutions, sl# &illings, vile murders even. 5nl#
#ou, sir, would hire the two finest cutthroats in the whole of space and time, and
then as& them to ensure a little girl remains unharmed.3
3See that she is, +ister !roup. <othing is to hurt her. 9ermit her to be harmed
in an# wa# and #ou will displease me deepl#. ;o #ou understand63
34es.3 !roup shifted uncomfortabl#.
3Is there an#thing else63 as&ed Islington.
34es, sir.3 !roup coughed into his hand. 3;o #ou remember the mar0uis de
35f course.3
3I ta&e it that there is no such similar prohibition on e8tirpating the
mar0uis . . . 63
3<ot an# longer,3 said the angel. 3Just protect the girl.3
It removed its hand from the water. "he reflection was now merel# candle
flames and an angel of astonishing, perfectl# androg#nous, beaut#. "he $ngel
Islington stood up and returned to its inner chambers to await its eventual visitors.

3What did he sa#63 as&ed +r. =andemar.
3-e said, +ister =andemar, that we should feel free to do whatsoever we
wished to the mar0uis.3
=andemar nodded. 3;id that include &illing him painfull#63 he as&ed, a little
34es, +ister =andemar, I would sa#, on reflection, it did.3
3"hat's good, +ister !roup. Wouldn't li&e another telling/off.3 -e loo&ed up at
the blood# thing hanging above them. 3:etter get rid of the bod#, then.3

5ne of the front wheels on the supermar&et shopping cart s0uea&ed, and it had a
pronounced tendenc# to pull to the left. +r. =andemar had found the metal cart on a
grassed/in traffic island, near the hospital. It was, he had reali7ed on seeing it, ,ust
the right si7e for moving a bod#. -e could have carried the bod#, of course1 but then
it could have bled on him, or dripped other fluids. $nd he onl# had the one suit. So
he pushed the shopping cart with the bod# of the mar0uis de !arabas in it through
the storm drain, and the cart went s.uee" s.uee and pulled to the left. -e wished that
+r. !roup would push the shopping cart, for a change. :ut +r. !roup was tal&ing.
34ou &now, +ister =andemar,3 he was sa#ing, 3I am currentl# too over,o#ed, too
delighted, not to mention too utterl# and illimitabl# ecstatic, to grouse, gripe or
grumblehaving finall# been permitted to do what we do best'3
+r. =andemar negotiated a particularl# aw&ward corner. 3ill someone, #ou
mean63 he as&ed.
+r. !roup beamed. 3ill someone I mean indeed, +ister =andemar, brave soul,
glittering, noble fellow. -owever, b# now #ou must have sensed a lur&ing 'but'
s&ul&ing beneath m# happ#, blithe, and chipper e8terior. $ minuscule ve8ation, li&e
the teeniest lump of raw liver stic&ing to the inside of m# boot. 4ou must, I have no
doubt, be sa#ing to #ourself, '$ll is not well in +ister !roup's breast. I shall induce
him to unburden himself to me.' 3
+r. =andemar pondered this while he forced open the round iron door between
the storm drain and the sewer and clambered through. "hen he manhandled the wire
cart with the mar0uis de !arabas's bod# through the doorwa#. $nd then, more or
less certain that he had been thin&ing nothing of the sort, he said, 3<o.3
+r. !roup ignored this, and continued, 3 . . . $nd, were I then, in response to
#our pleadings, to divulge to #ou what ve8es me, I would confess that m# soul is
ir&ed b# the necessit# to hide our light under a bushel. We should be hanging the
former mar0uis's sad remains from the highest gibbet in )ondon :elow. <ot tossing
it awa#, li&e a used . . . 3 -e paused, searching for the e8act simile.
3*at63 suggested +r. =andemar. 3"humbscrew6 Spleen63 S.uee" s.uee went
the wheels of the shopping cart.
3$h well,3 said +r. !roup. In front of them was a deep channel of brown water.
;rifting on the water's surface were off/white suds of foam, used condoms, and
occasional fragments of toilet paper. +r. =andemar stopped the shopping cart. +r.
!roup leaned down and pic&ed up the mar0uis's head b# the hair, hissing into its
dead ear, 3"he sooner this business is over and done with, the happier I'll be. "here's
other times and other places that would properl# appreciate two pair of dab hands
with the garrotting wire and the boning &nife.3
"hen he stood up. 3Goodnight, good mar0uis. ;on't forget to write.3
+r. =andemar tipped over the cart, and the mar0uis's corpse tumbled out and
splashed into the brown water below them. $nd then, because he had come to
disli&e it intensel#, +r. =andemar pushed the shopping cart into the sewer as well,
and watched the current carr# it awa#.
"hen +r. !roup held his lamp up high, and he stared out at the place in which
the# stood. 3It is saddening to reflect,3 said +r. !roup, 3that there are fol& wal&ing
the streets above who will never &now the beaut# of these sewers, +ister =andemar.
"hese red/bric& cathedrals beneath their feet.3
3!raftsmanship,3 agreed +r. =andemar.
"he# turned their bac&s on the brown water and made their wa# bac& into the
tunnels. 3With cities, as with people, +ister =andemar,3 said +r. !roup,
fastidiousl#, 3the condition of the bowels is all/important.3

;oor tied the &e# around her nec& with a piece of string that she found in one of
the poc&ets of her leather ,ac&et. 3"hat's not going to be safe,3 said *ichard. "he girl
made a face at him. 3Well,3 he said. 3It's not.3
She shrugged. 35&a#,3 she said. 3I'll get a chain for it when we get to the
mar&et.3 "he# were wal&ing through a ma7e of caves, deep tunnels hac&ed from the
limestone that seemed almost prehistoric.
*ichard chuc&led. 3What's so funn#63 ;oor as&ed.
-e grinned. 3I was ,ust thin&ing of the e8pression on the mar0uis's face when
we tell him we got the &e# from the friars without his help.3
3I'm sure he'll have something sardonic to sa# about it,3 she said. 3$nd then,
bac& to the angel. :# the 'long and dangerous wa#.' Whatever that is.3
*ichard admired the paintings on the cave walls. *ussets and ochres and
siennas outlined charging boars and fleeing ga7elles, wooll# mastodons and giant
sloths. he imagined that the paintings had to be thousands of #ears old, but then the#
turned a corner, and he noticed that, in the same st#le, there were lorries, house cats,
cars, andmar&edl# inferior to the other images, as if onl# glimpsed infre0uentl#,
and from a long wa# awa#airplanes.
<one of the paintings were ver# high off the ground. -e wondered if the
painters were a race of subterranean <eanderthal p#gmies. It was as li&el# as
an#thing else in this strange world. 3So where is the ne8t mar&et63 he as&ed.
3<o idea,3 said ;oor. 3-unter63
-unter slipped out of the shadows. 3I don't &now.3
$ small figure dashed past them, going bac& the wa# the# had come. $ few
moments later another couple of tin# figures came toward them in fell pursuit.
-unter whipped out a hand as the# passed, snagging a small bo# b# the ear. 35w,3
he said, in the manner of small bo#s. 3)et me goD She stole m# paintbrush.3
3"hat's right,3 said a piping voice from further down the corridor. 3She did.3
3I didn't,3 came an even higher and more piping voice, from even further down
the corridor.
-unter pointed to the paintings on the cave wall. 34ou did these63 she as&ed.
"he bo# had the towering arrogance onl# seen in the greatest of artists and all
nine/#ear/old bo#s. 34eah,3 he said, truculentl#. 3Some of them.3
3<ot bad,3 said -unter. "he bo# glared at her.
3Where's the ne8t %loating +ar&et63 as&ed ;oor.
3:elfast,3 said the bo#. 3"onight.3
3"han&s,3 said ;oor. 3-ope #ou get #our paintbrush bac&. )et him go, -unter.3
-unter let go of the bo#'s ear. -e did not move. -e loo&ed her up and down,
then made a face, to indicate that he was, without an# 0uestion at all, unimpressed.
31ou&re -unter63 he as&ed. She smiled down at him, modestl#. -e sniffed. 31ou&re
the best bod#guard in the 2nderside63
3So the# tell me.3
"he bo# reached one hand bac& and forward again, in one smooth movement.
-e stopped, pu77led, and opened his hand, e8amined his palm. "hen he loo&ed up at
-unter, confused. -unter opened her hand to reveal a small switchblade with a
wic&ed edge. She held it up, out of the bo#'s reach. -e wrin&led his nose. 3-ow'd
#ou do that63
3Scram,3 said -unter. She closed the &nife and tossed it bac& to the bo#, who
too& off down the corridor without a bac&ward glance, in pursuit of his paintbrush.

"he bod# of the mar0uis de !arabas drifted east, through the deep sewer, face
)ondon's sewers had begun their lives as rivers and streams, flowing north to
south 'and, south of the "hames, south to north( carr#ing garbage, animal carcasses,
and the contents of chamber pots into the "hames, which would, for the most part,
carr# the offending substances out to sea. "his s#stem had more or less wor&ed for
man# #ears, until, in ?KIK, the enormous volume of effluent produced b# the people
and industries of )ondon, combined with a rather hot summer, produced a
phenomenon &nown at the time as the Great Stin&. the "hames itself had become an
open sewer. 9eople who could leave )ondon, left it1 the ones who sta#ed wrapped
cloths doused in carbolic around their faces and tried not to breathe through their
noses. 9arliament was forced to recess earl# in ?KIK, and the following #ear it
ordered that a programme of sewer/building begin. "he thousands of miles of
sewers that were built were constructed with a gentle slope from the west to the east,
and, somewhere be#ond Greenwich, the# were pumped into the "hames Estuar#,
and the sewage was swept off into the <orth Sea. It was this ,ourne# that the bod# of
the late mar0uis de !arabas was ma&ing, traveling west to east, toward the sunrise
and the sewage wor&s.
*ats on a high bric& ledge, doing the things that rats do when no people are
watching, saw the bod# go b#. "he largest of them, a big blac& male, chittered. $
smaller brown female chittered bac&, then she leapt down from the ledge onto the
mar0uis's bac& and rode it down the sewer a little wa#, sniffing at the hair and the
coat, tasting the blood, and then, precariousl#, leaning over, and scrutini7ing what
could be seen of the face.
She hopped off the head into the filth# water and swam industriousl# to the
side, where she clambered up the slipper# bric&wor&. She hurried bac& a long a
beam, and re,oined her companions.

3:elfast63 as&ed *ichard.
;oor smiled, impishl#, and would sa# nothing more than, 34ou'll see,3 when he
pressed her about it.
-e changed his tac&. 3-ow do #ou &now that &id was telling #ou the truth about
the mar&et63 he as&ed.
3It's not something an#one down here ever lies about. I . . . don't thin& we can
lie about it.3 She paused. 3"he mar&et's special.3
3-ow did that &id &now where it was63
3Someone told him,3 said -unter.
*ichard brooded on this for a moment. 3-ow did the# &now63
3Someone told them,3 e8plained ;oor.
3:ut . . . 3 -e wondered who chose the locations in the first place, how the
&nowledge was spread, tr#ing to frame the 0uestion in such a wa# that he did not
sound stupid.
$ rich female voice as&ed from the dar&ness, 3-ss. $n# idea when the ne8t
mar&et is63
She stepped into the light. She wore silver ,ewelr#, and her dar& hair was
perfectl# coifed. She was ver# pale, and her long dress was ,et blac& velvet. *ichard
&new immediatel# that he had seen her before, but it too& him a few moments to
place her. the first %loating +ar&et, that was itin -arrods. She had smiled at him.
3"onight,3 said -unter. 3:elfast.3
3"han& #ou,3 said the woman. She had the most ama7ing e#es, thought *ichard.
"he# were the color of fo8gloves.
3I'll see #ou there,3 she said, and she loo&ed at *ichard as she said it. "hen she
loo&ed awa#, a little sh#l#1 she stepped into the shadows, and she was gone.
3Who was that63 as&ed *ichard.
3"he# call themselves =elvets,3 said ;oor. 3"he# sleep down here during the
da#, and wal& the 2p/world at night.3
3$re the# dangerous63 as&ed *ichard.
3Ever#bod#'s dangerous,3 said -unter.
3)oo&,3 said *ichard. 3Going bac& to the mar&et. Who decides where it gets
held, and when6 $nd how do the first people find out where it's being held63 -unter
shrugged. 3;oor63 he as&ed.
3I've never thought about it.3 "he# turned a corner. ;oor held up her lamp. 3<ot
bad at all,3 said ;oor.
3$nd fast, too,3 said -unter. She touched the painting on the roc& wall with her
fingertip. "he paint was still wet. It was a painting of -unter and ;oor and *ichard.
It was not flattering.

"he blac& rat entered the lair of the Golden deferentiall#, his head lowered, ears
bac&. -e crawled forward, s0ueeing and chittering.
"he Golden had made their lair in a pile of bones. "his pile of bones had once
belonged to a wooll# mammoth, bac& in the cold times when the great hair# beasts
wal&ed across the snow# tundra of the south of England as if, in the opinion of the
Golden, the# owned the place. "his particular mammoth, at least, had been
disabused of that idea rather thoroughl# and 0uite terminall# b# the Golden.
"he blac& rat made its obeisance at the base of the bone pile. "hen he la# on his
bac& with his throat e8posed, closed his e#es, and waited. $fter a while a chittering
from above told him that he could roll over.
5ne of the Golden crawled out of the mammoth s&ull, on top of the heap of
bones. It crawled along the old ivor# tus&, a golden/furred rat with copper/colored
e#es, the si7e of a large house cat.
"he blac& rat spo&e. "he Golden thought, briefl#, and chattered an order. "he
blac& rat rolled on his bac&, e8posing his throat again, for a moment. "hen a twist
and a wriggle, and he was on his wa#.

"here had been Sewer %ol& before the Great Stin&, of course, living in the
Eli7abethan sewers, or the *estoration sewers, or the *egenc# sewers, as more and
more of )ondon's waterwa#s were forced into pipes and covered passages, as the
e8panding population produced more filth, more rubbish, more effluent1 but after
the Great Stin&, after the great plan of =ictorian sewer/building, that was when the
Sewer %ol& came into their own. "he# could be found an#where in the length and
breadth of the sewers, but the# made their permanent homes in some of the
churchli&e red/bric& vaults toward the east, at the confluence of man# of the
churning foam# waters. "here the# would sit, rods and nets and improvised hoo&s
beside them, and watch the surface of the brown water.
"he# wore clothesbrown and green clothes, covered in a thic& la#er of
something that might have been mold and might have been a petrochemical oo7e,
and might, conceivabl#, have been something much worse. "he# wore their hair
long and matted. "he# smelled more or less as one would imagine. 5ld storm
lanterns were hung about the tunnel. <obod# &new what the Sewer %ol& used for
fuel, but their lanterns burned with a rather no8ious blue/and/green flame.
It was not &nown how the Sewer %ol& communicated among themselves. In
their few dealings with the outside world, the# used a &ind of sign language. "he#
lived in a world of gurgles and drips, the men, the women, and the silent little sewer
;unni&in spotted something in the water. -e was the chief of the Sewer %ol&,
the wisest and the oldest. -e &new the sewers better than their original builders did.
;unni&in reached for a long shrimping net1 one practiced hand movement and he
was fishing out a rather bedraggled mobile telephone from the water. -e wal&ed
over to a small heap of rubbish in the corner and put the telephone down with the
rest of their haul. "he da#'s catch so far consisted of two odd gloves, a shoe, a cat
s&ull, a sodden pac&et of cigarettes, an artificial leg, a dead coc&er spaniel, a pair of
antlers 'mounted(, and the bottom half of a bab# carriage.
It had not been a good da#. $nd tonight was a mar&et night, in the open air. So
;unni&in &ept his e#es on the water. 4ou never &new what would turn up.

5ld :aile# was hanging his wash out to dr#. :lan&ets and sheets fluttered and
blew in the wind on the top of !entre 9oint, the ugl# and distinctive si8ties
s&#scraper that mar&s the eastern end of 58ford Street, far above "ottenham !ourt
*oad Station. 5ld :aile# did not care ver# much for !entre 9oint itself, but, as he'd
often tell the birds, the view from the top was without compare, and, furthermore,
the top of !entre 9oint was one of the few places in the West End of )ondon where
#ou did not have to loo& at !entre 9oint itself.
"he wind ripped feathers from 5ld :aile#'s coat and blew them awa#, off over
)ondon. -e did not mind. $s he also often told his birds, there were more where
those came from.
$ large blac& rat crawled out through a ripped air/vent cover, loo&ed around,
then came over to 5ld :aile#'s bird/spattered tent. It ran up the side of the tent, then
along the top of 5ld :aile#'s washing line. It s0uealed at him, urgentl#.
3Slower, slower,3 said 5ld :aile#. "he rat repeated itself, at a lower pitch, but
,ust as urgentl#. 3:less me,3 said 5ld :aile#. -e ran into his tent and returned with
weaponshis toasting for& and a coal shovel. "hen he hurried bac& into the tent
again and came out with some bargaining tools. $nd then he wal&ed bac& into the
tent for the last time, and opened his wooden chest, and poc&eted the silver bo8. 3I
reall# don't have time for this tomfooler#,3 he told the rat, on his final e8it from the
tent. 3I'm a ver# bus# man. :irds don't catch themselves, #'&now.3
"he rat s0uea&ed at him. 5ld :aile# was unfastening the coil of rope around his
middle. 3Well,3 he told the rat, 3there's others could get the bod#. I'm not as #oung
as I was. I don't li&e the under/places. I'm a roof/man, I am, born and bred.3
"he rat made a rude noise.
3+ore haste, less speed,3 replied 5ld :aile#. 3I'm goin'. 4oung whippersnapper.
I &new #our great/great/grandfather, #oung feller/me/rat, so don't #ou tr# putting on
airs . . . <ow, where's the mar&et going to be63 "he rat told him. "hen 5ld :aile#
put the rat in his poc&et and climbed over the side of the building.

Sitting on the ledge beside the sewer, in his plastic lawn chair, ;unni&in was
overcome b# a presentiment of wealth and prosperit#. -e could feel it drifting from
west to east, toward them.
-e clapped his hands, loudl#. 5ther men ran to him, and the women, and the
children, sei7ing hoo&s and nets and lines as the# did so. "he# assembled along the
slipper# sewer ledge, in the sputtering green light of their lanterns. ;unni&in
pointed, and the# waited, in silence, which is how the Sewer %ol& wait.
"he bod# of the mar0uis de !arabas came floating facedown along the sewer,
the current carr#ing him as slow and statel# as a funeral barge. "he# pulled it in
with their hoo&s and their nets, in silence, and soon had it up on the ledge. "he#
removed the coat, the boots, the gold poc&et/watch, and the contents of the coat
poc&ets, although the# left the rest of the clothes on the corpse.
;unni&in beamed at the loot. -e clapped again, and the Sewer %ol& began to
read# themselves for the mar&et. <ow the# trul# had something of value to sell.

3$re #ou sure the mar0uis will be at the mar&et63 *ichard as&ed ;oor, as the
path began, slowl#, to climb.
3-e won't let us down,3 she said, as confidentl# as she could. 3I'm sure he'll be
-+S 9elfast is a gunship of ??,EEE tons, commissioned in ?BFB, which saw active
service in the Second World War. Since then it has been moored on the south ban&
of the "hames, in postcard/land, between "ower :ridge and )ondon :ridge,
opposite the "ower of )ondon. %rom its dec& one can see St. 9aul's !athedral and
the gilt top of the columnli&e +onument to the Great %ire of )ondon erected, as so
much of )ondon was erected, b# !hristopher Wren. "he ship serves as a floating
museum, as a memorial, as a training ground.
"here is a wal&wa# onto the ship from the shore, and the# came down the
wal&wa# in their twos and threes, and in their do7ens. "he# set up their stalls as
earl# as the# could, all the tribes of )ondon :elow, united both b# the +ar&et "ruce
and b# a mutual desire to pitch their own stalls as far as possible from the Sewer
%ol&'s stall.
It had been agreed well over a centur# before that the Sewer %ol& could onl# set
up a stall at those mar&ets held in the open air. ;unni&in and his fol& dumped their
boot# in a large pile on a rubber sheet, beneath a large gun tower. <obod# ever
came to the Sewer %ol&'s stall immediatel#. but toward the end of the mar&et the#
would come, the bargain hunters, the curious, and those few fortunate individuals
blessed with no sense of smell.
*ichard and -unter and ;oor pushed their wa# through the crowds on the dec&.
*ichard reali7ed that he had somehow lost the need to stop and stare. "he people
here were no less strange than at the last %loating +ar&et, but, he supposed, he was
ever# bit as strange to them, wasn't he6 -e loo&ed around, scanning the faces in the
crowd as the# wal&ed, hunting for the mar0uis's ironic smile. 3I don't see him,3 he
"he# were approaching a smith's stall, where a man who could easil# have
passed for a small mountain, if one were to overloo& the shagg# brown beard, tossed
a lump of red/molten metal from a bra7ier onto an anvil. *ichard had never seen a
real anvil before. -e could feel the heat from the molten metal and the bra7ier from
a do7en feet awa#.
3eep loo&ing. ;e !arabas'll turn up,3 said ;oor, loo&ing behind them. 3)i&e a
bad penn#.3 She thought for a moment, and added, 3What e8actl# is a bad penn#
an#wa#63 $nd then, before *ichard could answer, she s0uealed, 3-ammersmithD3
"he bearded mountain/man loo&ed up, stopped hitting the molten metal, and
roared, 3:# the "emple and the $rch. )ad# ;oorD3 "hen he pic&ed her up, as if she
weighed no more than a mouse.
3-ello, -ammersmith,3 said ;oor. 3I hoped #ou'd be here.3
3<ever miss a mar&et, lad#,3 he thundered, cheerfull#. "hen he confided, li&e an
e8plosion with a secret, 3"his's where the business is, #'see. <ow,3 he said,
recollecting the cooling lump of metal on his anvil, 3,ust #ou wait here a moment.3
-e put ;oor down at e#e level, on the top of his booth,, seven feet above the dec&.
-e banged the lump of metal with his hammer, twisting it as he did so with
implements *ichard assumed, correctl#, were tongs. 2nder the hammer blows it
changed from a shapeless blob of orange metal into a perfect blac& rose. It was a
wor& of astonishing delicac#, each petal perfect and distinct. -ammersmith dipped
the rose into a buc&et of cold water beside the anvil. it hissed and steamed. "hen he
pulled it out of the buc&et, wiped it, and handed it to a fat man in chain mail who
was standing, patientl#, to one side1 the fat man professed himself well satisfied and
gave -ammersmith, in return, a green plastic +ar&s and Spencer shopping bag,
filled with various &inds of cheese.
3-ammersmith63 said ;oor, from her perch. 3"hese are m# friends.3
-ammersmith enveloped *ichard's hand in one several si7es up. -is handsha&e
was enthusiastic, but ver# gentle, as if he had, in the past, had a number of accidents
sha&ing hands and had practiced it until he got it right. 3!harmed,3 he boomed.
3*ichard,3 said *ichard.
-ammersmith loo&ed delighted. 3*ichardD %ine nameD I had a horse called
*ichard.3 -e let go of *ichard's hand, turned to -unter, and said, 3$nd #ou are . . .
-unter6 -unterD $s I live, breathe, and defecateD It isD3 -ammersmith blushed li&e a
schoolbo#. -e spat on his hand and attempted, aw&wardl#, to plaster his hair bac&.
"hen he stuc& his hand out and reali7ed that he had ,ust spat on it, and he wiped it
on his leather apron, and shifted his weight from foot to foot.
3-ammersmith,3 said -unter, with a perfect caramel smile.
3-ammersmith63 as&ed ;oor. 3Will #ou help me down63
-e loo&ed shamefaced. 3:eg pardon, lad#,3 he said, and lifted her down. It
came to *ichard then that -ammersmith had &nown ;oor as a small child, and he
found himself feeling unaccountabl# ,ealous of the huge man. 3<ow,3
-ammersmith was sa#ing to ;oor, 3What can I do for #ou63
3!ouple of things,3 she said. 3:ut first of all3 She turned to *ichard.
3*ichard6 I've got a ,ob for #ou.3
-unter raised an e#ebrow. 3%or him63
;oor nodded. 3%or both of #ou. Will #ou go and find us some food6 9lease63
*ichard felt oddl# proud. -e had proved himself in the ordeal. -e was 5ne of
"hem. -e would Go, and he would :ring :ac& %ood. -e puffed out his chest.
3I am #our bod#guard. I sta# b# #our side,3 said -unter.
;oor grinned. -er e#es flashed. 3In the mar&et6 It's o&a#, -unter. +ar&et "ruce
holds. <o one's going to touch me here. $nd *ichard needs loo&ing after more than
I do.3 *ichard deflated, but no one was watching.
3$nd what if someone violates the "ruce63 as&ed -unter.
-ammersmith shivered, despite the heat of his bra7ier. 3=iolate the +ar&et
"ruce6 :rrrr.3
3It's not going to happen. Go on. :oth of #ou. !urr#, please. $nd get me some
papadums, please. Spic# ones.3
-unter ran her hand through her hair. "hen she turned and wal&ed off into the
crowd, and *ichard went with her. 3So what would happen if someone violated
+ar&et "ruce63 as&ed *ichard, as the# pushed through the crowds.
-unter thought about this for a moment. 3"he last time it happened was about
three hundred #ears ago. $ couple of friends got into an argument over a woman, in
the mar&et. $ &nife was pulled and one of them died. "he other fled.3
3What happened to him6 Was he &illed63
-unter shoo& her head. 3Cuite the opposite. -e still wishes he had been the one
to have died.3
3-e's still alive63
-unter pursed her lips. 3Ish,3 she said, after a while. 3$live/ish.3
$ moment passed, then +%hew"+ *ichard thought he was going to be ill. 3What's
thatthat stin&63
3Sewer %ol&.3
*ichard averted his head and tried not to breathe through his nose until the#
were well awa# from the Sewer %ol&'s stall.
3$n# sign of the mar0uis #et63 he as&ed. -unter shoo& her head. She could
have reached out her hand and touched him. "he# went up a gangplan&, toward the
food stalls, and more welcoming aromas.

5ld :aile# found the Sewer %ol& with little difficult#, following his nose.
-e &new what he had to do, and he too& a certain pleasure in ma&ing a bit of a
performance of it, ostentatiousl# e8amining the dead coc&er spaniel, the artificial
leg, and the damp and mold# portable telephone, and sha&ing his head dolorousl# at
each of them. "hen he made a point of noticing the mar0uis's bod#. -e scratched his
nose. -e put on his spectacles and peered at it. -e nodded to himself, gluml#,
hoping to give the vague impression of being a man in need of a corpse who was
disappointed b# the selection but was going to have to ma&e do with what the# had.
"hen he bec&oned to ;unni&in, and pointed to the corpse.
;unni&in opened his hands wide, smiled beatificall#, and ga7ed up toward the
heavens, conve#ing the bliss with which the mar0uis's remains had entered their life.
-e put a hand to his forehead, lowered it, and loo&ed devastated, in order to conve#
the traged# that losing such a remar&able corpse would be.
5ld :aile# put a hand in his poc&et and produced a half/used stic& of deodorant.
-e handed it to ;unni&in, who s0uinted at it, lic&ed it, and handed it bac&,
unimpressed. 5ld :aile# poc&eted it. -e loo&ed bac& at the corpse of the mar0uis de
!arabas, half/dressed, barefoot, still damp from its ,ourne# through the sewers. "he
bod# was ashen, drained of blood from man# cuts, small and large, and the s&in was
wrin&led and pruneli&e from its time in the water.
"hen he pulled out a bottle, three/0uarters filled with a #ellow li0uid, and
passed it to ;unni&in. ;unni&in loo&ed at it suspiciousl#. "he Sewer %ol& &now
what a bottle of !hanel <o. I loo&s li&e, and the# gathered around ;unni&in,
staring. !arefull#, self/importantl#, he unscrewed the top of the bottle and dabbed
the tiniest amount on his wrist. "hen, with a gravit# the finest 9arisian parfu'ier
would have envied, ;unni&in sniffed. "hen he nodded his head, enthusiasticall#,
and approached 5ld :aile# to embrace him and conclude the deal. "he old man
averted his face and held his breath until the embrace was concluded.
5ld :aile# held up one finger and tried his best to mime that he was not so
#oung as once he was and that, dead or not, the mar0uis de !arabas was a bit on the
heav# side. ;unni&in pic&ed his nose thoughtfull#, and then, with a hand gesture
indicating not onl# magnanimit# but also a foolish and misplaced generosit# that
would, obviousl#, send him, ;unni&in, and the rest of the Sewer %ol&, to the
poorhouse, he had one of the #ounger Sewer %ol& tie the corpse to the bottom half
of the old bab# carriage.
"he old roof/man covered the bod# with a cloth, and he pulled it awa# from the
Sewer %ol&, across the crowded dec&.

35ne portion of vegetable curr#, please,3 said *ichard, to the woman at the
curr# stall. 3$nd, um, I was wondering. "he meat curr#. What &ind of meat is it,
then63 "he woman told him. 35h,3 said *ichard. 3*ight. 2m. :etter ,ust ma&e that
vegetable curries all round.3
3-ello again,3 said a rich voice beside him. It was the pale woman the# had met
in the caves, with the blac& dress and the fo8glove e#es.
3-ullo,3 said *ichard, with a smile. 35h, and some papadums, please. 4ou,
um. -ere for curr#63
She fi8ed him with her violet ga7e and said, in moc& :ela )ugosi, 3I do not
eat . . . curr#.3 $nd then she laughed, a lavish, delighted laugh, and *ichard found
himself reali7ing how long it had been since he had shared a ,o&e with a woman.
35h. 2m. *ichard. *ichard +a#hew.3 -e stuc& out his hand. She touched it
with her own hand, in something a little li&e a handsha&e. -er fingers were ver#
cold, but then, late at night, at the end of autumn, on a ship out on the "hames,
ever#thing is ver# cold.
3)amia,3 she said. 3I'm a =elvet.3
3$h,3 he said. 3*ight. $re there a lot of #ou63
3$ few,3 she said.
*ichard collected the containers with the curr#. 3What do #ou do63 he as&ed.
3When I'm not loo&ing for food,3 she said, with a smile, 3I'm a guide. I &now
ever# inch of the 2nderside.3
-unter, who *ichard could have sworn had been over on the other side of the
stall, was standing ne8t to )amia. She said, 3-e's not #ours.3
)amia smiled sweetl#. 3I'll be the ,udge of that,3 she said.
*ichard said, 3-unter, this is )amia. She's a =elcro.3
3=el/vet,3 corrected )amia, sweetl#.
3She's a guide.3
3I'll ta&e #ou wherever #ou want to go.3
-unter too& the bag with the food in it from *ichard. 3"ime to go bac&,3 she
3Well,3 said *ichard. 3If we're off to see the #ou/&now/what, ma#be she could
-unter said nothing1 instead, she loo&ed at *ichard. -ad she loo&ed at him that
wa# the da# before, he would have dropped the sub,ect. :ut that was then. 3)et's see
what ;oor thin&s,3 said *ichard. 3$n# sign of the mar0uis63
3<ot #et,3 said -unter.

5ld :aile# had dragged the corpse down the gangplan& tied to its bab# carriage/
base, li&e a ghastl# Gu# %aw&es, one of the effigies that, not so ver# long ago, the
children of )ondon had wheeled and dragged around in earl# <ovember, displa#ing
to passersb# before tossing them to their flaming demise on the bonfires of the fifth
of <ovember, :onfire <ight. -e pulled the corpse over "ower :ridge, and,
muttering and complaining, he hauled it up the hill past the "ower of )ondon. -e
made his wa# west toward "ower -ill Station and stopped a little before the station,
beside a large gra# ,ut of wall. It wasn't a roof, thought 5ld :aile#, but it would do.
It was one of the last remnants of the )ondon Wall. "he )ondon Wall, according to
tradition, was built on the orders of the *oman Emperor !onstantine the Great, in
the third centur# $.;., at the re0uest of his mother -elena. $t that point, )ondon
was one of the few great cities of the Empire that did not #et have a magnificent
wall. When it was finished it enclosed the small cit# completel#1 it was thirt# feet
high, and eight feet wide, and was, unarguabl#, the )ondon Wall.
It was no longer thirt# feet high, the ground level having risen since
!onstantine's mother's da# 'most of the original )ondon Wall is fifteen feet below
street level toda#(, and it no longer enclosed the cit#. :ut it was still an imposing
lump of wall. 5ld :aile# nodded vigorousl# to himself. -e fastened a length of rope
to the bab# carriage, and he scrambled up the wall1 then, grunting and 'bless/me'/
ing, he hauled the mar0uis up to the top of the wall. -e untied the bod# from the
carriage wheels and laid it gentl# out on its bac&, arms at its side. "here were
wounds on the bod# that were still oo7ing. It was ver# dead. 34ou stupid bugger,3
whispered 5ld :aile#, sadl#. 3What did #ou want to get #ourself &illed for,
"he moon was bright and small and high in the cold night, and autumn
constellations spec&led the blue/blac& s&# li&e the dust of crushed diamonds. $
nightingale fluttered onto the wall, e8amined the corpse of the mar0uis de !arabas,
and chirruped sweetl#. 3<one of #our bea&,3 said 5ld :aile#, gruffl#. 34ou birds
don't smell li&e flipping roses, neither.3 "he bird chirped a melodious nightingale
obscenit# at him, and flew off into the night.
5ld :aile# reached into his poc&et and pulled out the blac& rat, who had gone to
sleep. It stared about it sleepil#, then #awned, displa#ing a vast and ratt# e8panse of
piebald tongue. 39ersonall#,3 said 5ld :aile# to the blac& rat, 3I'll be happ# if I
never smell an#thing ever again.3 -e put it down b# his feet on the stones of
)ondon Wall, and it chittered at him, and gestured with its front paws. 5ld :aile#
sighed. !arefull#, he too& the silver bo8 out of his poc&et, and, from an inner
poc&et, he pulled the toasting for&.
-e placed the silver bo8 on de !arabas's chest, then, nervousl#, he reached out
the toasting for&, and flipped open the lid of the bo8. Inside the silver bo8, on a nest
of red velvet, was a large duc&'s egg, pale blue green in the moonlight. 5ld :aile#
raised the toasting for&, closed his e#es, and brought it down on the egg.
"here was a whup as it imploded. "here was a great stillness for several seconds
after that1 then the wind began. It had no direction, but seemed somehow to be
coming from ever#where, a swirling sudden gale. %allen leaves, newspaper pages,
all the cit#'s detritus blew up from the ground and was driven through the air. "he
wind touched the surface of the "hames and carried the cold water into the s&# in a
fine and driving spra#. It was a dangerous, cra7# wind. "he stall holders on the dec&
of the 9elfast cursed it and clutched their possessions to &eep them from blowing
$nd then, when it seemed that the wind would become so strong that it would
blow the world awa# and blow the stars awa# and send the people tumbling through
the air li&e so man# desiccated autumn leaves
Just then
it was over, and the leaves, and the papers, and the plastic shopping bags,
tumbled to the earth, and the road, and the water.
-igh on the remnant of the )ondon Wall, the silence that followed the wind
was, in its wa#, as loud as the wind had been. It was bro&en b# a cough1 a horrid,
wet coughing. "his was followed b# the sound of someone aw&wardl# rolling over1
and then the sound of someone being sic&.
"he mar0uis de !arabas vomited sewer water over the side of the )ondon Wall,
staining the gra# stones with brown foulness. It too& a long time to purge the water
from his bod#. $nd then he said, in a hoarse voice that was little more than a
grinding whisper, 3I thin& m# throat's been cut. -ave #ou an#thing to bind it with63
5ld :aile# fumbled in his poc&ets and pulled out a grubb# length of cloth. -e
passed it to the mar0uis, who wrapped it around his throat a few times and then tied
it tight. 5ld :aile# found himself reminded, incongruousl#, of the high/wrapped
:eau :rummel collars of the *egenc# dandies. 3$n#thing to drin&63 croa&ed the
5ld :aile# pulled out his hip/flas& and unscrewed the top, and passed it to the
mar0uis, who swigged bac& a mouthful, then winced with pain, and coughed
wea&l#. "he blac& rat, who had watched all this with interest, now began to climb
down the fragment of wall and awa#. It would tell the Golden. all favors had been
repaid, all debts were done.
"he mar0uis gave 5ld :aile# bac& his hip/flas&. 5ld :aile# put it awa#. 3-ow
are #e feeling63 he as&ed.
3I've felt better.3 "he mar0uis sat up, shivering. -is nose was running, and his
e#es flic&ered about. he was staring at the world as if he had never seen it before.
3What did #ou have to go and get #ourself &illed for, an#wa#, that's what I want
to &now,3 as&ed 5ld :aile#.
3Information,3 whispered the mar0uis. 39eople tell #ou so much more when
the# &now #ou're ,ust about to be dead. $nd then the# tal& around #ou, when #ou
3"hen #ou found out what #ou wanted to &now63
"he mar0uis fingered the wounds in his arms and his legs, 35h #es. +ost of it. I
have more than an in&ling of what this affair is actuall# about.3 "hen he closed his
e#es once more, and wrapped his arms about himself, and swa#ed, slowl#, bac& and
3What's it li&e then63 as&ed 5ld :aile#. 3:eing dead63
"he mar0uis sighed. $nd then he twisted his lips up into a smile, and with a
glitter of his old self, he replied, 3)ive long enough, 5ld :aile#, and #ou can find
out for #ourself.3
5ld :aile# loo&ed disappointed. 3:astard. $fter all I done to bring #ou bac&
from that dread bourne from which there is no returning. Well usuall# no returning.3
"he mar0uis de !arabas loo&ed up at him. -is e#es were ver# white in the
moonlight. $nd he whispered, 3What's it li&e being dead6 It's ver# cold, m# friend.
=er# dar&, and ver# cold.3

;oor held up the chain. "he silver &e# hung from it, red and orange in the light
of -ammersmith's bra7ier. She smiled. 3%ine wor&, -ammersmith.3
3"han& #ou, lad#.3
She hung the chain around her nec& and hid the &e# awa# inside her la#ers of
clothes. 3What would #ou li&e in return63
"he smith loo&ed abashed. 3I hardl# want to presume upon #our good nature . . .
3 he mumbled.
;oor made her 3get on with it3 face. -e bent down and produced a blac& bo8
from beneath a pile of metalwor&ing tools. It was made of dar& wood, inlaid with
ivor# and mother/of/pearl, and was the si7e of a large dictionar#. -e turned it over
and over in his hands. 3It's a pu77le/bo8,3 he e8plained. 3I too& it in return for some
smithing a handful of #ears bac&. I can't get it to open, though I've tried so hard.3
;oor too& the bo8 and ran her fingers over the smooth surface. 3I'm not
surprised #ou haven't been able to open it. "he mechanism's all ,ammed. It's
completel# fused shut.3
-ammersmith loo&ed glum. 3So I'll never find out what's in it.3
;oor made an amused face. -er fingers e8plored the surface of the bo8. $ rod
slid/out of the side of the bo8. She half/pushed the rod bac& into the bo8, then
twisted. "here was a clunk from deep inside it, and a door opened in the side.
3-ere,3 said ;oor.
3+# lad#,3 said -ammersmith. -e too& the bo8 from her and pulled the door
open all the wa#. "here was a drawer inside the bo8, which he pulled open. "he
small toad, in the drawer, croa&ed and loo&ed about itself with copper e#es,
incuriousl#. -ammersmith's face fell. 3I was hoping it would be diamonds and
pearls,3 he said.
;oor reached out a hand and stro&ed the toad's head. 3-e's got prett# e#es,3 she
said. 3eep him, -ammersmith. -e'll bring #ou luc&. $nd than& #ou again. I &now I
can rel# on #our discretion.3
34ou can rel# on me, lad#,3 said -ammersmith, earnestl#.

"he# sat together on the top of the )ondon Wall, not spea&ing. 5ld :aile#
slowl# lowered the bab# carriage wheels to the ground below them. 3Where's the
mar&et63 as&ed the mar0uis.
5ld :aile# pointed to the gunship. 35ver there.3
3;oor and the others. "he#'ll be e8pecting me.3
34ou aren't in an# condition to go an#where.3 "he mar0uis coughed, painfull#.
It sounded, to 5ld :aile#, li&e there was still plent# of sewer in his lungs. 3I've
made a long enough ,ourne# toda#,3 de !arabas whispered. 3$ little farther won't
hurt.3 -e e8amined his hands, fle8ed the fingers slowl#, as if to see whether or not
the# would do as he wished. $nd then he twisted his bod# around, and began,
aw&wardl#, to climb down the side of the wall. :ut before he did so, he said,
hoarsel# and perhaps a little sadl#, 3It would seem, 5ld :aile#, that I owe #ou a

When *ichard returned with the curries, ;oor ran to him and threw her arms
around him. She hugged him tightl#, and even patted his bottom, before sei7ing the
paper bag from him and pulling it open with enthusiasm. She too& a container of
vegetable curr# and began, happil#, to eat.
3"han&s,3 said ;oor, with her mouth full. 3$n# sign of the mar0uis #et63
3<one,3 said -unter.
3!roup and =andemar63
34umm# curr#. "his is reall# good.3
3Got the chain all right63 as&ed *ichard. ;oor pulled the chain up from around
her nec&, enough to show it was there, and she let it fall again, the weight of the &e#
pulling it bac& down.
3;oor,3 said *ichard, 3this is )amia. She's a guide. She sa#s she can ta&e us
an#where in the 2nderside.3
3$n#where63 ;oor munched a papadum.
3$n#where,3 said )amia.
;oor put her head on one side. 3;o #ou &now where the $ngel Islington is63
)amia blin&ed, slowl#, long lashes covering and revealing her fo8glove/colored
e#es. 3Islington63 she said. 34ou can't go there . . . 3
3;o #ou &now63
3;own Street,3 said )amia. 3"he end of ;own Street. :ut it's not safe.3
-unter had been watching this conversation, arms folded and unimpressed.
<ow she said, 3We don't need a guide.3
3Well,3 said *ichard, 3I thin& we do. "he mar0uis isn't around an#where. We
&now it's going to be a dangerous ,ourne#. We have to get the . . . the thing I got . . .
to the $ngel. $nd then he'll tell ;oor about her famil#, and he'll tell me how to get
)amia loo&ed up at -unter with delight. 3$nd he can give #ou brains,3 she said,
cheerfull#, 3and me a heart.3
;oor wiped the last of the curr# from her bowl with her fingers, and lic&ed
them. 3We'll be fine, ,ust the three of us, *ichard. We cannot afford a guide.3
)amia bridled. 3I'll ta&e m# pa#ment from him, not #ou.3
3$nd what pa#ment would #our &ind demand63 as&ed -unter.
3"hat,3 said )amia with a sweet smile, 3is for me to &now and him to wonder.3
;oor shoo& her head. 3I reall# don't thin& so.3
*ichard snorted. 34ou ,ust don't li&e it that I'm figuring ever#thing out for once,
instead of following blindl# behind #ou, going where I'm told.3
3"hat's not it at all.3
*ichard turned to -unter. 3Well, -unter. ;o you &now the wa# to Islington63
-unter shoo& her head.
;oor sighed. 3We should get a move on. ;own Street, #ou sa#63
)amia smiled with plum/colored lips. 34es, lad#.3
:# the time the mar0uis reached the mar&et the# were gone.
"he# wal&ed off the ship, down the long gangplan&, and onto the shore, where the#
went down some steps, through a long, unlit underpass, and up again. )amia strode
confidentl# ahead of them. She brought them out in a small, cobbled alle#. Gaslights
burned and sputtered on the walls.
3"hird door along,3 she said.
"he# stopped in front of the door. "here was a brass plate on it, which said.
"-E *54$) S5!IE"4
%5* "-E 9*E=E<"I5< 5% !*2E)"4
"5 -52SES
$nd beneath that, in smaller letters.
;5W< S"*EE". 9)E$SE <5!.
34ou get to the street through the house63 as&ed *ichard.
3<o,3 said )amia. 3"he street is in the house.3 *ichard &noc&ed on the door.
<othing happened. "he# waited, and the# shivered from the earl# morning cold.
*ichard &noc&ed again. %inall#, he rang the doorbell. "he door was opened b# a
sleep#/loo&ing footman, wearing a powdered, croo&ed wig and scarlet liver#. -e
loo&ed at the motle# rabble on his doorstep with an e8pression that indicated that
the# had not been worth getting out of bed for.
3!an I help #ou63 said the footman. *ichard had been told to fuc& off and die
with more warmth and good humor.
3;own Street,3 said )amia, imperiousl#.
3"his wa#,3 sighed the footman. 3If #ou'll wipe #our feet.3
"he# wal&ed through an impressive lobb#. "hen the# waited while the footman
lit each of the candles on a candelabra. "he# went down some impressive, richl#
carpeted stairs. "he# went down a flight of less impressive, less richl# carpeted
stairs. "he# went down a flight of entirel# unimpressive stairs carpeted in a
threadbare brown sac&ing, and, finall#, the# went down a flight of drab wooden
stairs with no carpet on them at all.
$t the bottom of those stairs was an anti0ue service elevator, with a sign on it.
"he sign said.
52" 5% 5*;E*
"he footman ignored the sign and pulled open the wire outer door with a
metallic thud. )amia than&ed him, politel#, and stepped into the elevator. "he others
followed. "he footman turned his bac& on them. *ichard watched him through the
wire mesh, clutching his candelabra, going bac& up the wooden stairs. "here was a
short row of blac& buttons on the wall of the elevator. )amia pressed the bottom/
most button. "he metal lattice door closed automaticall#, with a bang. $ motor
engaged, and the elevator began, slowl#, crea&il#, to descend. "he four of them
stood pac&ed in the elevator. *ichard reali7ed that he could smell each of the
women in the elevator with him. ;oor smelled mostl# of curr#1 -unter smelled, not
unpleasantl#, of sweat, in a wa# that made him thin& of great cats in cages at 7oos1
while )amia smelled, into8icatingl#, of hone#suc&le and lil# of the valle# and mus&.
"he elevator continued to descend. *ichard was sweating, in a clamm# cold
sweat, and digging his fingernails deep into his palms. In the most conversational
tones he could muster, he said, 3<ow would be a ver# bad time to discover that one
was claustrophobic, wouldn't it63
34es,3 said ;oor.
3"hen I won't,3 said *ichard. $nd the# went down.
%inall#, there was a ,er&, and a clun&, and a ratcheting noise, and the elevator
stopped. -unter pulled open the door, loo&ed about, and then stepped out onto a
narrow ledge.
*ichard loo&ed out of the open elevator door. "he# were hanging in the air, at
the top of something that reminded *ichard of a painting he had once seen of the
"ower of :abel, or rather of how the "ower of :abel might have loo&ed were it
inside out. It was an enormous and ornate spiral path, carved out of roc&, which
went down and down around a central well. )ights flic&ered diml#, here and there in
the walls, beside the paths, and, far, far below them, tin# fires were burning. It was
at the top of the central well, a few thousand feet above solid ground, that the
elevator was hanging. It swa#ed a little.
*ichard too& a deep breath and followed the others onto the wooden ledge.
"hen, although he &new it was a bad idea, he loo&ed down. "here was nothing but a
wooden board between him and the roc& floor, thousands of feet below. "here was a
long plan& stretched between the ledge on which the# stood and the top of the roc&#
path, twent# feet awa#. 3$nd I suppose,3 he said, with a great deal less insouciance
than he imagined, 3this wouldn't be a good time to point out that I'm reall# bad at
3It's safe,3 said )amia. 35r it was the last time I was here. Watch.3 She wal&ed
across the board, a rustle of blac& velvet. She could have balanced a do7en boo&s on
her head and never dropped one. When she reached the stone path at the side, she
stopped, and turned, and smiled at them encouragingl#. -unter followed her across,
then turned, and waited beside her on the edge.
3See63 said ;oor. She reached out a hand, s0uee7ed *ichard's arm. 3It's fine.3
*ichard nodded, and swallowed. Fine$ ;oor wal&ed across. She did not seem to be
en,o#ing herself1 but she crossed, nonetheless. "he three women waited for *ichard,
who stood there. *ichard noticed after a while that he did not seem to be starting to
wal& across the wooden plan&, despite the 3wal&D3 commands he was sending to his
%ar above them, a button was pressed. *ichard heard the thunk and the distant
grinding of an elderl# electric motor. "he door of the elevator slammed closed
behind him, leaving *ichard standing, precariousl#, on a narrow wooden platform,
no wider than a plan& itself.
3*ichardD3 shouted ;oor. 3+oveD3
"he elevator began to ascend. *ichard stepped off the sha&ing platform, and
onto the wooden board1 then his legs turned to ,ell# beneath him, and he found
himself on all fours on the plan&, holding on for dear life. "here was a tin#, rational
part of his mind that wondered about the elevator. who had called it bac& up, and
wh#6 "he rest of his mind, however, was engaged in telling all his limbs to clutch
the plan& rigidl#, and in screaming, at the top of its mental voice, 3I don't want to
die.3 *ichard closed his e#es as tightl# as he could, certain that if he opened them,
and saw the roc& wall below him, he would simpl# let go of the plan&, and fall, and
fall, and
3I'm not scared of falling,3 he told himself. 3"he part I'm scared of is where #ou
finish falling.3 :ut he &new he was l#ing to himself. It was the fall he was scared of
afraid of flailing and tumbling helplessl# through the air, down to the roc& floor
far below, &nowing there was nothing he could do to save himself, no miracle that
would save him . . .
-e slowl# became aware that someone was tal&ing to him.
3Just climb along the plan&, *ichard,3 someone was sa#ing.
3I . . . can't,3 he whispered.
34ou went through worse than this to get the &e#, *ichard,3 someone said. It
was ;oor tal&ing.
3I'm reall# not ver# good at heights,3 he said, obstinatel#, his face pressed
against the wooden board, his teeth chartering. "hen, 3I want to go home.3 -e felt
the wood of the plan& pressing against his face. $nd then the plan& began to sha&e.
-unter's voice said, 3I'm reall# not sure how much weight the board will bear. 4ou
two put #our weight here.3 "he plan& vibrated as someone moved along it, toward
him. -e clung to it, with his e#es closed. "hen -unter said, 0uietl#, confidentl#, in
his ear, 3*ichard63
3Just edge forward, *ichard. $ bit at a time. !ome on . . . 3 -er caramel fingers
stro&ed his white/&nuc&led hand, clasping the plan&. 3!ome on.3
-e too& a deep breath, and inched forward. $nd fro7e again. 34ou're doing
fine,3 said -unter. 3"hat's good. !ome on.3 $nd, inch b# inch, creep b# crawl, she
tal&ed *ichard along the plan&, and then, at the end of the plan&, she simpl# pic&ed
him up, her hands beneath his arms, and placed him on solid ground.
3"han& #ou,3 he said. -e could not thin& of an#thing else to sa# to -unter that
would be big enough to cover what she had ,ust done for him. -e said it again.
3"han& #ou.3 $nd then he said, to all of them, 3I'm sorr#.3
;oor loo&ed up at him. 3It's o&a#,3 she said. 34ou're safe now.3 *ichard loo&ed
at the winding spiral road beneath the world, going down, and down1 and he loo&ed
at -unter and ;oor and )amia1 and he laughed until he wept.
3What,3 ;oor demanded, when, at length, he had stopped laughing, 3is so
+Safe"+ he said, simpl#. ;oor stared at him, and then she, too, smiled. 3So where
do we go now63 *ichard as&ed.
3;own,3 said )amia. "he# began to wal& down ;own Street. -unter was in the
lead, with ;oor beside her. *ichard wal&ed ne8t to )amia, breathing in the lil#/of/
the/valle#/hone#suc&le scent of her, and en,o#ing her compan#.
3I reall# appreciate #ou coming with us,3 he told her. 3:eing a guide. I hope it's
not going to be bad luc& for #ou or an#thing.3
She fi8ed him with her fo8glove/colored e#es. 3Wh# should it be bad luc&63
3;o #ou &now who the rat/spea&ers are63
35f course.3
3"here was a rat/spea&er girl named $naesthesia. She. Well, we got to be sort
of friends, and she was guiding me somewhere. $nd then she got stolen. 5n <ight's
:ridge. I &eep wondering what happened to her.3
She smiled at him s#mpatheticall#. 3+# people have stories about that. Some of
them ma# even be true.3
34ou'll have to tell me about them,3 he said. It was cold. -is breath was
steaming in the chill# air.
35ne da#,3 she said. -er breath did not steam. 3It's ver# good of #ou, ta&ing me
with #ou.3
3)east we could do.3
;oor and -unter went around the curve in front of them, and went out of sight.
34ou &now,3 said *ichard, 3the other two are getting a bit ahead of us. We might
want to hurr#.3
3)et them go,3 she said, gentl#. 3We'll catch up.3 It was, thought *ichard,
peculiarl# li&e going to a movie with a girl as a teenager. 5r rather, li&e wal&ing
home afterwards. stopping at bus shelters, or beside walls, to snatch a &iss, a hast#
fumble of s&in and a tangle of tongues, then hurr#ing on to catch up with #our
friends . . .
)amia ran a cold finger down his chee&. 34ou're so warm,3 she said,
admiringl#. /3It must be wonderful to have so much warmth.3
*ichard tried to loo& modest. 3It's not something I thin& about much, reall#,3 he
admitted. -e heard, distantl#, from above, the metallic slam of the elevator door.
)amia loo&ed up at him, pleadingl#, sweetl#. 3Would #ou give me some of #our
heat, *ichard63 she as&ed. 3I'm so cold.3
*ichard wondered if he should &iss her. 3What6 I . . . 3
She loo&ed disappointed. 3;on't #ou li&e me63 she as&ed. -e hoped,
desperatel#, that he had not hurt her feelings.
35f course I li&e #ou,3 he heard his voice sa#ing. 34ou're ver# nice.3
3$nd #ou aren't using all #our heat, are #ou63 she pointed out, reasonabl#.
3I suppose not . . . 3
3$nd #ou said #ou'd pa# me for being #our guide. $nd it's what I want, as m#
pa#ment. Warmth. !an I have some63
$n#thing she wanted. $n#thing. "he hone#suc&le and the lil# of the valle#
wrapped around him, and his e#es saw nothing but her pale s&in and her dar& plum/
bloom lips, and her ,et blac& hair. -e nodded. Somewhere inside him something was
screaming1 but whatever it was, it could wait. She reached up her hands to his face
and pulled it gentl# down toward her. "hen she &issed him, long and languorousl#.
"here was a moment of initial shoc& at the chill of her lips, and the cold of her
tongue, and then he succumbed to her &iss entirel#.
$fter some time, she pulled bac&.
-e could feel the ice on his lips. -e stumbled bac& against the wall. -e tried to
blin&, but his e#es felt as if the# were fro7en open. She loo&ed up at him and smiled
delightedl#, her s&in flushed and pin& and her lips, scarlet1 her breath steamed in the
cold air. She lic&ed her red lips with a warm crimson tongue. -is world began to go
dar&. -e thought he saw a blac& shape at the edge of his vision.
3+ore,3 she said. $nd she reached out to him.

-e watched the =elvet pull *ichard to her for the first &iss, watched the rime
and the frost spread over *ichard's s&in. -e watched her pull bac&, happil#. $nd
then he wal&ed up behind her, and, as she moved in to finish what she had begun, he
reached out and sei7ed her, hard, b# the nec&, and lifted her off the ground.
3Give it bac&,3 he rasped in her ear. 3Give him bac& his life.3 "he =elvet
reacted li&e a &itten who had ,ust been dropped into a bathtub, wriggling and hissing
and spitting and scratching. It did her no good. she was held tight b# the throat.
34ou can't ma&e me,3 she said, in decidedl# unmusical tones.
-e increased the pressure. 3Give him his life bac&,3 he told her, hoarsel# and
honestl#, 3or I'll brea& #our nec&.3 She winced. -e pushed her toward *ichard,
fro7en and crumpled against the roc& wall.
She too& *ichard's hand, and breathed into his nose and mouth. =apor came
from her mouth, and tric&led into his. "he ice on his s&in began to thaw, the rime on
his hair to vanish. -e s0uee7ed her nec& again. 3$ll of it, )amia.3 She hissed, then,
e8tremel# grudgingl#, and opened her mouth once more. $ final puff of steam
drifted from her mouth to his, and vanished inside him. *ichard blin&ed. "he ice on
his e#es had melted to tears, and the# were running down his chee&s. 3What did #ou
do to me63 he as&ed.
3She was drin&ing #our life,3 said the mar0uis de !arabas, in a hoarse whisper.
3"a&ing #our warmth. "urning #ou into a cold thing li&e her.3
)amia's face twisted, li&e a tin# child deprived of a favorite to#. -er fo8glove
e#es flashed. 3I need it more than he does,3 she wailed.
3I thought #ou li&ed me,3 said *ichard, stupidl#.
"he mar0uis pic&ed )amia up, one/handed, and brought her face close to his.
3Go near him again, #ou or an# of the =elvet !hildren, and I'll come b# da# to #our
cavern, while #ou sleep, and I'll burn it to the ground. 2nderstand63
)amia nodded. -e let go of her, and she dropped to the floor. "hen she pulled
herself up to her full si7e, which was not terribl# tall, threw bac& her head, and spat,
hard, into the mar0uis's face. She pic&ed up the front of her blac& velvet dress and
ran up the slope, and awa#, her footsteps echoing through the winding roc& path of
;own Street, while her ice/cold spittle ran down the mar0uis's chee&. -e wiped it
awa# with the bac& of his hand.
3She was going to &ill me,3 stammered *ichard.
3<ot immediatel#,3 said the mar0uis, dismissivel#. 34ou would have died
eventuall#, though, when she finished eating #our life.3
*ichard stared at the mar0uis. -is s&in was filth#, and he seemed ashen beneath
the dar& of his s&in. -is coat was gone. instead, he wore an old blan&et wrapped
about his shoulders, li&e a poncho, with something bul&#*ichard could not tell
what strapped beneath it. -e was barefoot, and, in what *ichard too& to be some
&ind of bi7arre fashion affectation, there was a discolored cloth wrapped all the wa#
around his throat.
3We were loo&ing for #ou,3 said *ichard.
3$nd now #ou've found me,3 croa&ed the mar0uis, dril#.
3We were e8pecting to see #ou at the mar&et.3
34es. Well. Some people thought I was dead. I was forced to &eep a low
3Wh# . . . wh# did some people thin& #ou were dead63
"he mar0uis loo&ed at *ichard with e#es that had seen too much and gone too
far. 3:ecause the# &illed me,3 he said. 3!ome on, the others can't be too far ahead.3
*ichard loo&ed over the side of the path, across the central well. -e could see
;oor and -unter, across the well, on the level below. "he# were loo&ing around
for him, he assumed. -e called to them, shouted and waved, but the sound did not
carr#. "he mar0uis laid a hand upon *ichard's arm. 3)oo&,3 he said. -e pointed to
the level beneath ;oor and -unter. Something moved. *ichard s0uinted. he could
ma&e out two figures, standing in the shadows. 3!roup and =andemar,3 said the
mar0uis. 3It's a trap.3
3What do we do63
3*unD3 said the mar0uis. 3Warn them. I can't run #et . . . go, damn #ouD3
$nd *ichard ran. -e ran as fast as he could, as hard as he could, down the
sloping stone road under the world. -e felt a sudden stabbing pain in his chest. a
stitch. $nd he pushed himself on, and still he ran.
-e turned a corner, and he saw them all. 3-unterD ;oorD3 he gasped, breathless.
3StopD Watch outD3
;oor turned. +r. !roup and +r. =andemar stepped out from behind a pillar.
+r. =andemar #an&ed ;oor's hands behind her bac& and bound them in one
movement with a n#lon strip. +r. !roup was holding something long and thin in a
brown cloth cover, li&e the &ind *ichard's father had used to carr# his fishing poles
in. -unter stood there, her mouth open. *ichard shouted, 3-unter. Cuic&l#.3
She nodded, spun around, and &ic&ed out one foot, in a smooth, almost balletic,
-er foot caught *ichard s0uarel# in the stomach. -e fell to the floor several feet
awa#, winded and breathless and hurt. 3-unter63 he gasped.
3I'm afraid so,3 said -unter, and she turned awa#. *ichard felt sic&, and
saddened. "he betra#al hurt him as much as the blow.
+r. !roup and +r. =andemar ignored *ichard and -unter entirel#. +r.
=andemar was trussing ;oor's arms, while +r. !roup stood and watched. 3;on't
thin& of us as murderers and cutthroats, miss,3 +r. !roup was sa#ing,
conversationall#. 3"hin& of us as an escort service.3
-unter stood beside the roc& face, loo&ing at none of them, and *ichard la# on
the roc& floor and writhed and tried, somehow, to suc& air bac& into his lungs. +r.
!roup turned bac& to ;oor and smiled, showing man# teeth. 34ou see, )ad# ;oor.
We are going to ma&e sure #ou get safel# to #our destination.3
;oor ignored him. 3-unter,3 she called, 3what's happening63 -unter did not
move, nor did she answer.
+r. !roup beamed, proudl#. 3:efore -unter agreed to wor& for #ou, she agreed
to wor& for our principal. "a&ing care of #ou.3
3We told #ou,3 crowed +r. =andemar. 3We told #ou one of #ou was a traitor.3
-e threw bac& his head, and howled li&e a wolf.
3I thought #ou were tal&ing about the mar0uis,3 said ;oor.
+r. !roup scratched his head of orange hair, theatricall#. 3"al&ing of the
mar0uis, I wonder where he is. -e's a bit late" isn't he, +ister =andemar63
3=er# late indeed, +ister !roup. $s late as he possibl# could be.3
+r. !roup coughed sententiousl# and delivered his punch line. 3"hen from now
on, we'll have to call him the late mar0uis de !arabas. I'm afraid he's ever/so/
3;ead as a doornail,3 finished +r. =andemar. *ichard finall# managed to get
enough air into his lungs to gasp, 34ou traitorous bitch.3
-unter glanced at the ground. 3<o hard feelings,3 she whispered.
3"he &e# #ou obtained from the :lac& %riars,3 said +r. !roup to ;oor. 3Who
has it63
3I do,3 gasped *ichard. 34ou can search me, if #ou li&e. )oo&.3 -e fumbled in
his poc&etsnoticing something hard and unfamiliar in his bac& poc&et, but there
was no time to investigate that nowand he pulled out the front/door &e# of his old
flat. -e dragged himself to his feet and staggered over to +r. !roup and +r.
=andemar. 3-ere.3
+r. !roup reached over and too& the &e# from him. 3Good gracious me,3 he
said1 scarcel# glancing at it. 3I find m#self utterl# ta&en in b# his cunning plo#,
+ister =andemar.3 -e passed the &e# to +r. =andemar, who held it up between
finger and thumb, and crushed it li&e brass foil. 3%ooled again, +ister !roup,3 he
3-urt him, +ister =andemar,3 said +r. !roup.
3With pleasure, +ister !roup,3 said +r. =andemar, and he &ic&ed *ichard in
the &neecap. *ichard fell to the ground, in agon#. $s if from a long wa# awa#, he
could hear +r. =andemar's voice1 it appeared to be lecturing him. 39eople thin& it's
how hard #ou &ic& that hurts,3 +r. =andemar's voice was sa#ing. 3:ut it's not how
hard #ou &ic&. It's where. I mean, this's reall# a ver# gentle &ic& . . . 3 something
slammed into *ichard's left shoulder. -is left arm went numb, and a purple/white
blossom of pain opened up in his shoulder. It felt li&e his whole arm was on fire, and
free7ing, as if someone had ,abbed an electrical prod deep into his flesh, and turned
up the current as high as it would go. -e whimpered. $nd +r. =andemar was
sa#ing, 3 . . . but it hurts ,ust as much as this4which is much harder . . . 3 and the
boot rammed into *ichard's side li&e a cannonball. -e could hear himself
3I've got the &e#,3 he heard ;oor sa#.
3If onl# #ou had a Swiss arm# &nife,3 +r. =andemar told *ichard, helpfull#, 3I
could show #ou what I do with all the different bits. Even the bottle/opener, and the
thing for getting stones out of horses' hooves.3
3)eave him, +ister =andemar. "here will be time enough for Swiss arm#
&nives. ;oes she have the to&en63 +r. !roup fumbled in ;oor's poc&ets, and too&
out the carved obsidian figure. the tin# :east the angel had given her.
-unter's voice was low and resonant. 3What about me6 Where's m# pa#ment63
+r. !roup sniffed. -e tossed her the fishing pole case. She caught it one/
handed. 3Good hunting,3 said +r. !roup. "hen he and +r. =andemar turned and
wal&ed off down the twisting slope of ;own Street, with ;oor between them.
*ichard la# on the floor and watched them go, with a terrible feeling of despair
spreading outward from his heart.
-unter &nelt on the ground and began to undo the straps on the case. -er e#es
were wide and shining. *ichard ached. 3What is it63 he as&ed. 3"hirt# pieces of
silver63 She pulled it, slowl#, from its fabric cover, her fingers caressing it, stro&ing
it, loving it. 3$ spear,3 she said, simpl#.
It was made of a bron7e/colored metal1 the blade was long, and it curved li&e a
kris" sharp on one side, serrated on the other1 there were faces carved into the side of
the haft, which was green with verdigris, and decorated with strange designs and
odd curlicues. It was about five feet long, from the tip of the blade to the end of the
haft. -unter touched it, almost fearfull#, as if it was the most beautiful thing she had
ever seen.
34ou sold ;oor out for a spear,3 said *ichard. -unter said nothing. She wetted
a fingertip with her pin& tongue, then gentl# ran it across the side of the head of the
spear, testing the edge on the blade1 and then she smiled, as if she were satisfied
with what she felt. 3$re #ou going to &ill me63 *ichard as&ed. -e was surprised to
find himself no longer scared of deathor at least, he reali7ed, he was not scared of
that death.
She turned her head, then, and loo&ed at him. She loo&ed more alive than he had
ever seen her1 more beautiful, and more dangerous. 3$nd what &ind of challenge
would I have hunting #ou, *ichard +a#hew63 she as&ed, with a vivid smile. 3I have
bigger game to &ill.3
3"his is #our Great/:east/of/)ondon/hunting spear, isn't it63 he said.
She loo&ed at the spear in a wa# that no woman had ever loo&ed at *ichard.
3"he# sa# that nothing can stand against it.3
3:ut ;oor trusted #ou. I trusted #ou.3
She was no longer smiling. 3Enough.3
Slowl#, the pain was beginning to abate, dwindling to a dull ache in his
shoulder and his side and his &nee. 3So who are #ou wor&ing for6 Where are the#
ta&ing her6 Who's behind all this63
3"ell him, -unter,3 rasped the mar0uis de !arabas. -e was holding a crossbow
pointed at -unter. -is bare feet were planted on the ground1 his face was
3I wondered whether #ou were as dead as !roup and =andemar claimed #ou
were,3 said -unter, barel# turning her head. 34ou struc& me as a hard man to &ill.3
-e inclined his head, in an ironic bow, but his e#es did not move, and his hands
remained stead#. 3$nd #ou stri&e me that wa# too, dear lad#. :ut a crossbow bolt to
the throat, and a fall of several thousand feet ma# prove me wrong, eh6 9ut the spear
down and step bac&.3 She placed the spear on the floor, gentl#, lovingl#1 then she
stood up and stepped bac& from it. 34ou ma# as well tell him, -unter,3 said the
mar0uis. 3I &now1 I found out the hard wa#. "ell him who's behind all this.3
3Islington,3 she said.
*ichard shoo& his head, as if he were tr#ing to brush awa# a fl#. 3It can't be,3 he
said. 3I mean, I've met Islington. -e's an angel.3 $nd then, almost desperatel#, he
as&ed, 3Wh#63
"he mar0uis's e#es had not left -unter, nor had the point of the crossbow
wavered. 3I wish I &new. :ut Islington is at the bottom of ;own Street, and at the
bottom of this mess. $nd between us and Islington is the lab#rinth and the :east.
*ichard, ta&e the spear. -unter, wal& in front of me, please.3
*ichard pic&ed up the spear, and then, aw&wardl#, using the spear to lean on, he
pulled himself up to a standing position. 34ou want her to come with us63 he as&ed,
3Would #ou prefer her behind us63 as&ed the mar0uis, dril#.
34ou could &ill her,3 said *ichard.
3I will, if there are no other alternatives,3 said the mar0uis, 3but I would hate to
remove an option, before it was entirel# necessar#. $n#wa#, death is so final, isn't
3Is it63 as&ed *ichard.
3Sometimes,3 said the mar0uis de !arabas. $nd the# went down.
"he# wal&ed for hours in silence, following the winding stone road downwards.
*ichard was still in pain1 he was limping, and e8periencing a strange mental and
ph#sical turmoil. feelings of defeat and betra#al roiled within him, which, combined
with the near loss of his life to )amia, the damage inflicted b# +r. =andemar, and
his e8periences on the plan& far above, left him utterl# wrec&ed. 4et, he was certain
that his e8periences of the last da# paled into something small and insignificant
when placed beside whatever the mar0uis had e8perienced. So he said nothing.
"he mar0uis &ept silent, as ever# word he uttered hurt his throat. -e was
content to let it heal, and to concentrate on -unter. -e &new that, should he let his
attention flag for even a moment, she would &now it, and she would be awa#, or she
would turn on them. So he said nothing.
-unter wal&ed a little ahead of them. She, also, said nothing.
$fter some hours, the# reached the bottom of ;own Street. "he street ended in
a vast !#clopean gatewa#built of enormous rough stone bloc&s. ;iants uilt that
gate" thought *ichard, half/remembered tales of long/dead &ings of m#thical
)ondon churning in his head, tales of ing :ran and of the giants Gog and +agog,
with hands the si7e of oa& trees, and severed heads as big as hills. "he portal itself
had long since rusted and crumbled awa#. %ragments of it could be seen in the mud
beneath their feet, dangling uselessl# from a rusted hinge on the side of the gate.
"he hinge was taller than *ichard.
"he mar0uis gestured for -unter to stop. -e moistened his lips, and said, 3"his
gate mar&s the end of ;own Street, and the beginning of the lab#rinth. $nd be#ond
the lab#rinth waits the $ngel Islington. $nd in the lab#rinth is the :east.3
3I still don't understand,3 said *ichard. 3Islington. I actuall# met him. It. -im.
-e's an angel. I mean, a real angel.3
"he mar0uis smiled, without humor. 3When angels go bad, *ichard, the# go
worse than an#one. *emember, )ucifer used to be an angel.3
-unter watched *ichard with nut brown e#es. 3"he place #ou visited is
Islington's citadel, and also its prison,3 she said. It was the first thing she had said in
hours. 3It cannot leave.3
"he mar0uis addressed her directl#. 3I assume that the lab#rinth and the :east
are there to discourage visitors.3
She inclined her head. 3So I would assume also.3
*ichard turned on the mar0uis, all his anger and impotence and frustration
spewing out of him in one angr# blast. 3Wh# are #ou even tal&ing to her6 Wh# is
she still with us6 She was a traitorshe tried to ma&e us thin& that #ou were the
3$nd I saved #our life, *ichard +a#hew,3 said -unter, 0uietl#. 3+an# times.
5n the bridge. $t the gap. 5n the board up there.3 She loo&ed into his e#es, and it
was *ichard who loo&ed awa#.
Something echoed through the tunnels. a bellow, or a roar. "he hairs on the
bac& of *ichard's nec& pric&led. It was far awa#, but that was the onl# thing about it
in which he could ta&e an# comfort. -e &new that sound. he had heard it in his
dreams, but now it sounded neither li&e a bull nor li&e a boar1 it sounded li&e a lion1
it sounded li&e a dragon.
3"he lab#rinth is one of the oldest places in )ondon :elow,3 said the mar0uis.
3:efore ing )ud founded the village on the "hames marshes, there was a lab#rinth
3<o :east, though,3 said *ichard.
3<ot then.3
*ichard hesitated. "he distant roaring began again. 3I . . . I thin& I've had
dreams about the :east,3 he said.
"he mar0uis raised an e#ebrow. 3What &ind of dreams63
3:ad ones,3 said *ichard.
"he mar0uis thought about this, e#es flic&ering. $nd then he said, 3)oo&,
*ichard. I'm ta&ing -unter. :ut if #ou want to wait here, well, no one could accuse
#ou of cowardice.3
*ichard shoo& his head. Sometimes there is nothing #ou can do. 3I'm not
turning bac&. <ot now. "he#'ve got ;oor.3
3*ight,3 said the mar0uis. 3Well then. Shall we go63
-unter's perfect caramel lips twisted into a sneer. 34ou'd have to be mad to go
in there,3 she said. 3Without the angel's to&en #ou could never find #our wa#. <ever
get past the boar.3
"he mar0uis reached his hand under his poncho blan&et and produced the little
obsidian statue he had ta&en from ;oor's father's stud#. 35ne of these, #ou mean63
he as&ed. "he mar0uis felt, then, that much of what he had gone through in the
previous wee& was made up for b# the e8pression on -unter's face. "he# went
through the gate, into the lab#rinth.

;oor's arms were bound behind her bac&, and +r. =andemar wal&ed behind
her, one huge beringed hand resting on her shoulder, pushing her along. +r. !roup
scuttled on ahead of them, holding the talisman he had ta&en from her on high, and
peering edgil# from side to side, li&e a particularl# pompous weasel on its wa# to
raid the henhouse.
"he lab#rinth itself was a place of pure madness. It was built of lost fragments
of )ondon $bove. alle#s and roads and corridors and sewers that had fallen through
the crac&s over the millennia, and entered the world of the lost and the forgotten.
"he two men and the girl wal&ed over cobbles, and through mud, and through dung
of various &inds, and over rotting wooden boards. "he# wal&ed through da#light and
night, through gaslit streets, and sodium/lit streets, and streets lit with burning
rushes and lin&s. It was an ever/changing place. and each path divided and circled
and doubled bac& on itself.
+r. !roup felt the tug of the talisman, and let it ta&e him where it wanted to go.
"he# wal&ed down a tin# alle#wa#, which had once been part of a =ictorian
3roo&er#3a slum comprised in e0ual parts of theft and penn# gin, of twopenn#/
halfpenn# s0ualor and threepenn# se8and the# heard it, snuffling and snorting
somewhere nearb#. $nd then it bellowed, deep and dar&. +r. !roup hesitated,
before hurr#ing forward, up a short wooden staircase1 and then, at the end of the
alle#, he stopped, s0uinting about him, before he led them down some steps into a
long stone tunnel that had once run across the %leet +arshes, in the "emplars' time.
;oor said, 34ou're afraid, aren't #ou63 !roup glared at her. 3-ush #our tongue.3 She
smiled, although she did not feel li&e smiling. 34ou're scared that #our safe/conduct
to&en won't get #ou past the :east. What are #ou planning now6 "o &idnap
Islington6 Sell both of us to the highest bidder63
3Cuiet,3 said +r. =andemar. :ut +r. !roup simpl# chuc&led1 and ;oor &new
then that the $ngel Islington was not her friend.
She began to shout. 3-e#D :eastD -ereD3 +r. =andemar cuffed her head and
&noc&ed her against the wall. 3Said to be 0uiet,3 he told her, calml#. She tasted
blood in her mouth and spat scarlet on the mud. "hen she parted her lips to begin
shouting once more. +r. =andemar, anticipating this, had ta&en a hand&erchief from
his poc&et, and he forced it into her mouth. She tried to bite his thumb as he did so,
but it made no appreciable impression on him.
3<ow #ou'll be 0uiet,3 he told her. +r. =andemar was ver# proud of his
hand&erchief, which was spattered with green and brown and blac& and had
originall# belonged to an overweight snuff dealer in the ?KHEs, who had died of
apople8# and been buried with his hand&erchief in his poc&et. +r. =andemar still
occasionall# found fragments of snuff merchant in it, but it was, he felt, a fine
hand&erchief for all that. "he# continued in silence.

*ichard made another entr# in his mental diar#. Today" he thought, (&ve
survived walking the plank" the kiss of death" and a lecture on inflicting pain$ /ight
now" (&' on 'y way through a layrinth with a 'ad astard who ca'e ack fro'
the dead and a odyguard who turned out to e a $ $ $ whatever the opposite of a
odyguard is$ ( a' so far out of 'y depth that $ $ $ +etaphors failed him, then. -e
had gone be#ond the world of metaphor and simile into the place of things that are"
and it was changing him.
"he# were wading through a narrow passage of wet, marsh# ground, between
dar& stone walls. "he mar0uis held both the to&en and the crossbow, and he too&
care to wal&, at all times, about ten feet behind -unter. *ichard, in the lead, was
carr#ing -unter's :east spear and a #ellow flare the mar0uis had produced from
beneath his blan&et, which illuminated the stone walls and the mud, and he wal&ed
well in front of -unter. "he marshland stan&, and huge mos0uitoes had begun to
settle upon *ichard's arms and legs and face, biting him painfull# and raising huge,
itching welts. <either -unter nor the mar0uis so much as mentioned the mos0uitoes.
*ichard was beginning to suspect that the# were 0uite lost. It did not help his
mood an# that there were a large number of dead people in the marsh. leather#
preserved bodies, discolored s&eletal bones, and pallid, water/swollen corpses. -e
wondered how long the corpses had been there, and whether the# had been &illed b#
the :east or b# the mos0uitoes. -e said nothing as the# wal&ed on for another five
minutes and eleven mos0uito bites, and then he called out, 3I thin& we're lost. We've
been through this wa# before.3
"he mar0uis held up the to&en. 3<o. We're fine,3 he said. 3"he to&en is leading
us straight. !lever little thing.3
34eah,3 said *ichard, who was not impressed. 3=er# clever.3
It was then that the mar0uis stepped, barefoot, on the shattered rib cage of a
half/buried corpse, puncturing his heel, and causing him to stumble. "he little blac&
statue went fl#ing through the air and tumbled into the blac& marsh with the
satisfied plop of a leaping fish returning to the water. "he mar0uis righted himself
and pointed the crossbow at -unter's bac&.
3*ichard,3 he called. 3I dropped it. !an #ou come bac& here63 *ichard wal&ed
bac&, holding the flare high, hoping for the glint of flame on obsidian, seeing
nothing but wet mud. 3Get down into the mud and loo&,3 said the mar0uis.
*ichard groaned.
34ou've dreamed of the :east, *ichard,3 said the mar0uis. 3;o #ou reall# want
to encounter it63
*ichard thought about this for not ver# long, then he pushed the haft of the
bron7e spear into the surface of the marsh and stood the flare up into the mud beside
it, illuminating the surface of the marsh with a fitful amber light. -e got down on his
hands and &nees in the bog, searching for the statue. -e ran his hands over the
surface of the marsh, hoping not to encounter an# dead faces or hands. 3It's
hopeless. It could be an#where.3
3eep loo&ing,3 said the mar0uis.
*ichard tried to remember how he usuall# found things. %irst he let his mind go
as blan& as he could, then he let his ga7e wander over the surface of the marsh,
purposelessl#, idl#. Something glittered on the bogg# surface, five feet to his left. It
was the :east statue. 3I can see it,3 called *ichard.
-e floundered toward it through the mud. "he little glass# beast was head/down
in a puddle of dar& water. 9erhaps the mud was disturbed b# *ichard's approach1
more li&el#, as *ichard was convinced forever after, it was ,ust the sheer cussedness
of the material world. Whatever the cause, he was almost ne8t to the little statue
when the marsh made a noise that sounded li&e a giant stomach rumbling, and a
large bubble of gas floated up and popped no8iousl# and obscenel# beside the
talisman, which vanished beneath the water.
*ichard reached the place where the talisman had been and pushed his arms
deep into the mud, searching for it wildl#, not caring what else his fingers might
encounter. It was no use. It was gone forever. 3What do we do now63 as&ed
"he mar0uis sighed. 3Get bac& over here, and we'll figure out something.3
*ichard said, 0uietl#, 3"oo late.3
It was coming toward them so slowl#, so ponderousl# that he thought for a
fragment of a second that it was old, sic&, even d#ing. "hat was his first thought.
$nd then he reali7ed how much ground it was covering as it approached, mud and
foul water splashing up from its hooves as it ran, and he reali7ed how wrong he had
been in thin&ing it slow. "hirt# feet awa# from them the :east slowed, and stopped,
with a grunt. Its flan&s were steaming. It bellowed, in triumph, and in challenge.
"here were bro&en spears, and shattered swords, and rusted &nives, bristling from its
sides and bac&. "he #ellow flare light glinted in its red e#es, and on its tus&s, and its
It lowered its massive head. It was some &ind of boar, thought *ichard, and then
reali7ed that that had to be nonsense. no boar could be so huge. It was the si7e of an
o8, of a bull elephant, of a lifetime. It stared at them, and it paused for a hundred
#ears, which transpired in a do7en heartbeats.
-unter &nelt, in one fluid motion, and pulled up the spear from the %leet +arsh,
which released it with a suc&ing noise. $nd, in a voice that was pure ,o#, she said,
34es. $t last.3
She had forgotten them all1 forgotten *ichard down in the mud, and the mar0uis
and his foolish crossbow, and the world. She was delighted and transported, in a
perfect place, the world she lived for. -er world contained two things. -unter, and
the :east. "he :east &new that too. It was the perfect match, the hunter and the
hunted. $nd who was who, and which was which, onl# time would reveal1 time and
the dance.
"he :east charged.
-unter waited until she could see the white spittle dripping from its mouth, and
as it lowered its head she stabbed up with the spear1 but, as she tried to sin& the
spear into its side, she understood that she had moved ,ust a fraction of a second too
late, and the spear went tumbling out of her numbed hands, and a tus& sharper than
the sharpest ra7or blade opened her side. $nd as she fell beneath its monstrous
weight, she felt its sharp hooves crushing down on her arm, and her hip, and her
ribs. $nd then it was gone, vanished bac& into the dar&ness, and the dance was

+r. !roup was more relieved than he would have admitted to be through the
lab#rinth. :ut he and +r. =andemar were through it, unharmed, as was their pre#.
"here was a roc& face in front of them, an oa&en double door set in the roc& face,
and an oval mirror set in the right/hand door.
+r. !roup touched the mirror with one grim# hand. "he surface of the mirror
clouded at his touch, seethed for a moment, bubbling and roiling li&e a vat of boiling
0uic&silver, and then was still. "he $ngel Islington loo&ed out at them. +r. !roup
cleared his throat. 3Good morning, sir. It is us, and we have the #oung lad# #ou sent
us to fetch for #ou.3
3$nd the &e#63 "he angel's gentle voice seemed to come from all around them.
3-anging around her swanli&e nec&,3 said +r. !roup, a little more an8iousl#
than he intended to.
3"hen enter,3 said the angel. "he oa& doors swung open at his words, and the#
went in.

It had all happened so fast. "he :east had come out of the dar&ness, -unter had
snatched the spear, and it had charged her and disappeared bac& into the dar&ness.
*ichard strained to hear the :east. -e could hear nothing but, somewhere close
to him, the slow drip" drip of water, and the high, maddening whine of mos0uitoes.
-unter la# on her bac& in the mud. 5ne arm was twisted at a peculiar angle. -e
crawled toward her, through the mire. 3-unter63 he whispered. 3!an #ou hear me63
"here was a pause. $nd then, a whisper so faint he thought for a moment he had
imagined it, 34es.3
"he mar0uis was still some #ards awa#, standing stoc&/still beside a wall. <ow
he called out, 3*ichardsta# where #ou are. "he creature's ,ust biding its time. It'll
be bac&.3
*ichard ignored him. -e spo&e to -unter. 3$re #ou . . . 3 he paused. It seemed
such a stupid thing to sa#. -e said it an#wa#. 3$re #ou going to be all right63 She
laughed, then, with blood/flec&ed lips, and shoo& her head. 3$re there an# medical
people down here63 he as&ed the mar0uis.
3<ot in the sense #ou're thin&ing of. We have some healers, a handful of leeches
and chirurgeons . . . 3
-unter coughed, then, and winced. :right red, arterial blood tric&led from the
corner of her mouth. "he mar0uis edged a little closer. 3;o #ou &eep #our life
hidden an#where, -unter63 he as&ed.
3I'm a hunter,3 she whispered, disdainfull#. 3We don't go in for that &ind of
thing . . . 3 She pulled air into her lungs with an effort, then e8haled, as if the simple
effort of breathing were becoming too much for her. 3*ichard, have #ou ever used a
3"a&e it,3 she whispered.
3:ut . . . 3
3;o it.3 -er voice was low and urgent. 39ic& it up. -old it at the blunt end.3
*ichard pic&ed up the fallen spear. -e held it at the blunt end. 3I &new that
part,3 he told her.
$ glimmer of a smile breathed across her face. 3I &now.3
3)oo&,3 said *ichard, feeling, not for the first time, li&e the onl# sane person in
a madhouse. 3Wh# don't we ,ust sta# ver# 0uiet. +a#be it'll go awa#. We'll tr# to
get #ou some help.3 $nd, not for the first time, the person he was tal&ing to ignored
him utterl#.
3I did a bad thing, *ichard +a#hew,3 she whispered, sadl#. 3I did a ver# bad
thing. :ecause I wanted to be the one to &ill the :east. :ecause I needed the spear.3
$nd then, impossibl#, she began to haul herself to her feet. *ichard had not reali7ed
how badl# she had been in,ured1 nor could he now imagine what pain she must be
in. he could see her right arm hanging uselessl#, a white shard of bone protruding
horribl# from the s&in. :lood ran from a cut in her side. -er rib cage loo&ed wrong$
3Stop it,3 he hissed, futilel#. 3Get down.3
With her left hand she pulled a &nife from her belt, put it into her right hand,
closed the nerveless fingers around the hilt. 3I did a bad thing,3 she repeated. 3$nd
now I ma&e amends.3
She began humming, then. -umming high and humming low, until she found
the note that made the walls and the pipes and the room reverberate, and she
hummed that note until it felt li&e the entire lab#rinth must be echoing to her hum.
$nd then, suc&ing the air into her shattered rib cage, she shouted, 3-e#. :ig bo#6
Where are #ou63 "here came no repl#. <o noise but the low drip of water. Even the
mos0uitoes were 0uiet.
3+a#be it's . . . gone awa#,3 said *ichard, gripping the spear so tightl# that it
hurt his hands.
3I doubt it,3 muttered the mar0uis.
3!ome on, #ou bastard,3 -unter screamed. 3$re #ou scared63
"here was a deep bellow from off front of them, and the :east came out of the
dar&, and it charged once more. "his time there could be no room for mista&es. 3"he
dance,3 whispered -unter. 3"he dance is not #et over.3
$s the :east came toward her, its horns lowered, she shouted, 3<ow*ichard.
Stri&eD 2nder and upD NowD3 before the :east hit her and her words turned into a
wordless scream.
*ichard saw the :east come out from the dar&ness, into the light of the flare. It
all happened ver# slowl#. It was li&e a dream. It was li&e all his dreams. "he :east
was so close he could smell the shit/and/blood animal stench of it, so close he could
feel its warmth. $nd *ichard stabbed with the spear, as hard as he could, pushing up
into its side and letting it sin& in.
$ bellow, then, or a roar, of anguish, and hatred, and pain. $nd then silence.
-e could hear his heart, thudding in his ears, and he could hear water dripping.
"he mos0uitoes began to whine once more. -e reali7ed he was still holding tight to
the haft of the spear, although the blade of it was buried deep within the bod# of the
immobile :east. -e let go of it, and staggered around the beast, loo&ing for -unter.
She was trapped beneath the :east. It occurred to him that if he moved her, pulling
her out from under it, he might cause her death, so instead he pushed, as hard as he
could, against the warm dead flan&s of the :east, tr#ing to move it. It was li&e tr#ing
to push/start a Sherman tan&, but eventuall#, aw&wardl#, he tumbled it half/off her.
-unter la# on her bac&, staring up at the dar&ness above them. -er e#es were
open, and unfocussed, and *ichard &new, somehow, that the# saw nothing at all.
3-unter63 he said.
3I'm still here, *ichard +a#hew.3 -er voice sounded almost detached. She
made no effort to find him with her e#es, no effort to focus. 3Is it dead63
3I thin& so. It's not moving.3
$nd then she laughed1 it was a strange sort of laugh, as if she had ,ust heard the
funniest ,o&e that ever the world told a hunter. $nd, between her spasms of laughter,
and the wet, rac&ing coughs that interrupted them, she shared the ,o&e with him.
34ou &illed the :east,3 she said. 3So now #ou're the greatest hunter in )ondon
:elow. "he Warrior . . . 3 $nd then she stopped laughing. 3I can't feel m# hands.
"a&e m# right hand.3 *ichard fumbled under the :east's bod#, and wrapped his
hand around -unter's chill fingers. "he# felt so small, suddenl#. 3Is there still a
&nife in m# hand63 she whispered.
34es.3 -e could feel it, cold and stic&#.
3"a&e the &nife. She's #ours.3
3I don't want #our . . . 3
+Take her$+ -e pried the &nife free from her fingers. 3She's #ours now,3
whispered -unter. <othing was moving, save her lips1 and her e#es were clouding.
3She's alwa#s loo&ed after me. !lean m# blood off her, though . . . mustn't rust the
blade . . . a hunter alwa#s loo&s after her weapons.3 She gulped air. 3<ow . . . touch
the :east's blood . . . to #our e#es and tongue . . . 3
*ichard was not sure that he had heard her correctl#, nor that he believed what
he had heard. 3What63
*ichard had not noticed the mar0uis approach, but now he spo&e intentl# into
*ichard's ear. 3;o it, *ichard. She's right. It'll get #ou through the lab#rinth. ;o it.3
*ichard put his hand down to the spear, ran it up the haft until he felt the :east's
hide and the warm stic&iness of the :east's blood. %eeling slightl# foolish, he
touched his hand to his tongue, tasting the salt of the creature's blood. it did not, to
his surprise, revolt him. It tasted utterl# natural, li&e tasting an ocean. -e touched
his blood# fingers to his e#es, where the blood stung li&e sweat.
"hen, 3I did it,3 he told her.
3"hat's good,3 whispered -unter. She said nothing more.
"he mar0uis de !arabas reached out his hand and closed her e#es. *ichard
wiped -unter's &nife on his shirt. It was what she had told him to do. It saved having
to thin&.
3:etter get a move on,3 said the mar0uis, standing up.
3We can't ,ust leave her here.3
3We can. We can come bac& for the bod# later.3
*ichard polished the blade as hard as he could on his shirt. -e was cr#ing, now,
but he had not noticed. 3$nd if there isn't an# later63
3"hen we'll ,ust have to hope that someone disposes of all our remains.
Including the )ad# ;oor's. $nd she must be getting tired of waiting for us.3 *ichard
loo&ed down. -e wiped the last of -unter's blood off her &nife, and put it through
his belt. "hen he nodded. 34ou go,3 said de !arabas. 3I'll follow as fast as I can.3
*ichard hesitated1 and then, as best he could, he ran.

9erhaps it was the :east's blood that did it1 he certainl# had no other
e8planation. Whatever the reason, he ran straight and true through the lab#rinth,
which no longer held an# m#steries for him. -e felt that he &new ever# twist, ever#
path, ever# alle# and lane and runnel of it. -e ran, stumbling and falling, and still
running, e8hausted, through the lab#rinth, his blood pounding in his temples. $
rh#me coursed through his head, as he ran, pounding and echoing to the rh#thm of
his feet. It was something he had heard as a child.
This aye night" this aye night
<very night and all
Fire and fleet and candlelight
And )hrist receive thy soul$
"he words went around and around, dirgeli&e, in his head. Fire and fleet and
candlelight $ $ $
$t the end of the lab#rinth was a sheer granite cliff, and set in the cliff were
high wooden double doors. "here was an oval mirror hanging on one of the doors.
"he doors were closed. -e touched the wood, and the door opened, silentl#, to his
*ichard went inside.
*ichard followed the path between the burning candles, which led him through the
angel's vault to the Great -all. -e recogni7ed his surroundings. this was where the#
had drun& Islington's wine. an octagon of iron pillars supporting the stone roof
above them, the huge blac& stone and metal door, the old wooden table, the candles.
;oor was chained up, spread/eagled between two pillars beside the flint and
silver door. She stared at him as he came in, her odd/colored pi8ie e#es wide and
scared. "he $ngel Islington, standing beside her, turned and smiled at *ichard as he
entered. "hat was the most chilling thing of all. the gentle compassion, the
sweetness of that smile.
3!ome in, *ichard +a#hew. !ome in,3 said the $ngel Islington. 3;ear me. 4ou
do loo& a mess.3 "here was honest concern in its voice. *ichard hesitated. 39lease.3
"he angel gestured, curling a white forefinger, urging him further in. 3I thin& we all
&now each other. 4ou &now the )ad# ;oor, of course, and m# associates, +ister
!roup, +ister =andemar.3 *ichard turned. !roup and =andemar were standing on
each side of him. +r. =andemar smiled at him. +r. !roup did not. 3I was hoping
#ou would show up,3 continued the angel. It tipped its head on one side, and as&ed,
3:# the b#e, where is -unter63
3She's dead,3 said *ichard. -e heard ;oor gasp.
35h. "he poor dear,3 said Islington. It shoo& its head sadl#, obviousl# regretting
the senseless loss of human life, the frailt# of all mortals born to suffer and to die.
3Still,3 said +r. !roup chirpil#. 3!an't ma&e an omelette without &illing a few
*ichard ignored them, as best he could. 3;oor6 $re #ou all right63
3+ore or less, than&s. So far.3 -er lower lip was swollen, and there was a bruise
on her chee&.
3I am afraid,3 said Islington, 3that +iss ;oor was proving a little intransigent. I
was ,ust discussing having +ister !roup and +ister =andemar . . . 3 It paused.
"here were obviousl# some things it found distasteful actuall# to sa#.
3"orture her,3 suggested +r. =andemar, helpfull#.
3We are,3 said +r. !roup, 3after all, famed across the entiret# of creation for
our s&ill in the e8crutiator# arts.3
3Good at hurting people,3 clarified +r. =andemar.
"he angel continued, staring intentl# at *ichard as it spo&e, as if it had heard
neither of them. 3:ut then, +iss ;oor does not stri&e me as someone who will
easil# change her mind.3
3Give us time enough,3 said +r. !roup. 3We'd brea& her.3
3Into little wet pieces,3 said +r. =andemar.
Islington shoo& his head and smiled indulgentl# at this displa# of enthusiasm.
3<o time,3 it said to *ichard, 3no time. -owever, she does stri&e me as someone
who would indeed act to end the pain and suffering of a friend, a fellow mortal, such
as #ourself, *ichard . . . 3 +r. !roup hit *ichard in the stomach, then. a vicious
rabbit punch to the gut, and *ichard doubled up. -e felt +r. =andemar's fingers on
the bac& of his nec&, pulling him bac& to a standing position.
3:ut it's wrong,3 said ;oor.
Islington loo&ed thoughtful. 3Wrong63 it said, pu77led and amused.
+r. !roup pulled *ichard's head close to his, and smiled his grave#ard smile.
3-e's traveled so far be#ond right and wrong he couldn't see them with a telescope
on a nice clear night,3 he confided. 3<ow +ister =andemar, if #ou'll do the
+r. =andemar too& *ichard's left hand in his. -e too& *ichard's little finger
between his huge fingers and bent it bac& until it bro&e. *ichard cried out.
"he angel turned, slowl#. It seemed distracted b# something. It blin&ed its pearl
gra# e#es. 3"here's someone else out there. +ister !roup63 "here was a dar&
shimmer where +r. !roup had been, and he was there no longer.

"he mar0uis de !arabas was flattened against the side of the red granite cliff,
staring at the oa& doors that led into Islington's dwelling.
9lans and plots whirled through his head, each scheme fi77ling out uselessl# as
he imagined it. -e had thought he would have &nown what to do when he got to this
point, and he was discovering, to his disgust, that he had absolutel# no idea. "here
were no more favors to call in, no levers to press or buttons to push, so he
scrutini7ed the doors and wondered whether the# were guarded, whether the angel
would &now if the# were opened. "here had to be an obvious solution he was
missing, if onl# he thought hard enough. perhaps something would occur to him. $t
least, he thought, slightl# cheered, he had surprise on his side.
"hat was until he felt the cold point of a sharp &nife placed against his throat,
and he heard +r. !roup's oil# voice whispering in his ear. 3I alread# &illed #ou once
toda#,3 it was sa#ing. 3What does it ta&e to teach some people63

*ichard was manacled and chained between a pair of iron pillars when +r.
!roup returned, prodding the mar0uis de !arabas with his &nife. "he angel loo&ed
at the mar0uis, with disappointment on its face, then, gentl#, it shoo& its beautiful
head. 34ou told me he was dead,3 it said.
3-e is,3 said +r. =andemar.
3-e was,3 corrected +r. !roup.
"he angel's voice was a fraction less gentle and less caring. 3I will not be lied
to,3 it said.
3We don't lie,3 said +r. !roup, affronted.
3;o,3 said +r. =andemar.
+r. !roup ran a grim# hand through his filth# orange hair, in e8asperation.
3Indeed we do. :ut not this time.3
"he pain in *ichard's hand showed no indication of subsiding. 3-ow can #ou
behave li&e this63 he as&ed, angril#. 34ou're an angel.3
3What did I tell #ou, *ichard63 as&ed the mar0uis, dril#.
*ichard thought. 34ou said, )ucifer was an angel.3
Islington smiled superciliousl#. 3)ucifer63 it said. 3)ucifer was an idiot. It
wound up lord and master of nothing at all.3
"he mar0uis grinned. 3$nd #ou wound up lord and master of two thugs and a
roomful of candles63
"he angel lic&ed its lips. 3"he# told me it was m# punishment for $tlantis. I
told them there was nothing more I could have done. "he whole affair was . . . 3 it
paused, as if it were hunting for the correct word. $nd then it said, with regret,
3:ut millions of people were &illed,3 said ;oor.
Islington clasped its hands in front of its chest, as if it were posing for a
!hristmas card. 3"hese things happen,3 it e8plained, reasonabl#.
35f course the# do,3 said the mar0uis, mildl#, the iron# implicit in his words,
not in his voice. 3!ities sin& ever# da#. $nd #ou had nothing to do with it63
It was as if the lid had been pulled off something dar& and writhing. a place of
derangement and fur# and utter viciousness1 and, in a time of scar# things, it was the
most frightening thing *ichard had seen. "he angel's serene beaut# crac&ed1 its e#es
flashed1 and it screamed at them, cra7#/scar# and uncontrolled, utterl# certain in its
righteousness, +They deserved it$+
"here was a moment of silence. $nd then the angel lowered its head, and
sighed, and raised its head, and said, ver# 0uietl# and with deep regret, 3Just one of
those things.3 "hen it pointed to the mar0uis. 3!hain him up,3 it said.
!roup and =andemar fastened manacles around the mar0uis's wrists, and
chained the manacles securel# to the pillars beside *ichard. "he angel had turned its
attention bac& to ;oor. It wal&ed over to her, reached out its hand, placed it beneath
her pointed chin, and raised her head, to stare into her e#es. 34our famil#,3 it said,
gentl#. 34ou come from a ver# unusual famil#. Cuite remar&able.3
3"hen wh# did #ou have us &illed63
3<ot all of #ou,3 it said. *ichard thought it was tal&ing about ;oor, but then it
said, 3"here was alwa#s the possibilit# that #ou might not have . . . wor&ed out as
well as #ou did.3 It released her chin and stro&ed her face with long, white fingers,
and it said, 34our famil# can open doors. "he# can create doors where there were no
doors. "he# can unloc& doors that are loc&ed. 5pen doors that were never meant to
be opened.3 It ran its fingers down her nec&, gentl#, as if it were caressing her, then
closed its hand on the &e# about her nec&. 3When I was sentenced here, the# gave
me the door to m# prison. $nd the# too& the &e# to the door, and put it down here
too. $n e80uisite form of torture.3 It tugged, gentl#, on the chain, pulling it out from
under ;oor's la#ers of sil& and cotton and lace, revealing the silver &e#1 and then it
ran its fingers over the &e#, as if it were e8ploring her secret places.
*ichard &new, then. 3"he :lac& %riars were &eeping the &e# safe from #ou,3 he
Islington let go of the &e#. ;oor was chained up beside the door made of blac&
flint and tarnished silver. "he angel wal&ed to it, and placed a hand on it, white
against the blac&ness of the door. 3%rom me,3 agreed Islington. 3$ &e#. $ door. $n
opener of the door. "here must be the three, #ou see. a particularl# refined sort of
,o&e. "he idea being that when the# decided I had earned forgiveness and m#
freedom, the# would send me an opener, and give me the &e#. I ,ust decided to ta&e
matters into m# own hands, and will be leaving a little earl#.3
It turned bac& to ;oor. 5nce more it caressed the &e#. "hen it closed its hand
about the &e# and tugged, hard. "he chain snapped. ;oor winced. 3I spo&e first to
#our father, ;oor,3 the angel continued. 3-e worried about the 2nderside. -e
wanted to unite )ondon :elow, to unite the baronies and fiefdomsperhaps even to
forge some &ind of bond with )ondon $bove. I told him I would help him, if he
would help me. "hen I told him the nature of the help I needed, and he laughed at
me.3 It repeated the words, as if it still found them impossible to believe. 3-e
laughed. $t me.3
;oor shoo& her head. 34ou &illed him because he turned #ou down63
3I didn't &ill him,3 Islington corrected her, gentl#. 3I had him &illed.3
3:ut he told me I could trust #ou. -e told me to come here. In his ,ournal.3
+r. !roup began to giggle. 3-e didn't,3 he said. 3-e never did. "hat was us.
What was it he actuall# said, +ister =andemar63
3;oor, child, fear Islington,3 said +r. =andemar, with her father's voice. "he
voice was e8act. 3Islington's got to be behind all this. It's dangerous, ;oor &eep
awa# from it3
Islington caressed her chee&, with the &e#. 3I thought m# version would get #ou
here a little faster.3
3We too& the ,ournal,3 said +r. !roup. 3We fi8ed it, and we returned it.3
3Where does the door lead to63 called *ichard.
3-ome,3 said the angel.
$nd Islington said nothing, but it smiled.
3So, #ou figure the# won't notice #ou're bac&63 sneered the mar0uis. 3Just, '5h
loo&, there's another angel, here, grab a harp and on with the hosannas'63
Islington's gra# e#es were bright. 3<ot for me the smooth agonies of adulation,
of h#mns and halos and self/satisfied pra#ers,3 it said. 3I have . . . m# own agenda.3
3Well, now #ou've got the &e#,3 said ;oor.
3$nd I have #ou,3 said the angel. 34ou're the opener. Without #ou the &e# is
useless. 5pen the door for me.3
34ou &illed her famil#,3 said *ichard. 34ou've had her hunted through )ondon
:elow. <ow #ou want her to open a door for #ou so #ou can single/handedl# invade
-eaven6 4ou're not much of a ,udge of character, are #ou6 She'll never do it.3
"he angel loo&ed at him then, with e#es older than the +il&# Wa#. "hen it said,
3$h me,3 and turned its bac&, as if it were ill/prepared to watch the unpleasantness
that was about to occur.
3-urt him some more, +ister =andemar,3 said +r. !roup. 3!ut off his ear.3
+r. =andemar raised his hand. It was empt#. -e ,er&ed his arm, almost
imperceptibl#, and now he was holding a &nife. 3"old #ou one da# #ou'd find out
what #our own liver tastes li&e,3 he said to *ichard. 3"oda#'s going to be #our luc&#
da#.3 -e slid the &nife blade gentl# beneath *ichard's earlobe. *ichard felt no pain
perhaps, he thought, he had felt too much pain alread# that da#, perhaps the blade
was too sharp to hurt. :ut he felt the warm blood drip, wetl#, from his ear down his
nec&. ;oor was watching him, and her elfin face and huge opal/colored e#es filled
his vision. -e tried to send her mental messages. Hold out$ Don&t let the' 'ake you
do this$ (&ll e fine$ "hen +r. =andemar put a little pressure on the &nife, and
*ichard bit bac& a scream. -e tried to stop his face from grimacing, but another ,ab
from the blade ,er&ed a grimace and a moan from him.
3Stop them,3 said ;oor. 3I'll open #our door.3
Islington gestured, curtl#, and +r. =andemar sighed piteousl# and put his &nife
awa#. "he warm blood dripped down *ichard's nec& and pooled and puddled in the
hollow of his clavicle. +r. !roup wal&ed over to ;oor and unloc&ed the right/hand
manacle. She stood there, rubbing her wrist, framed b# the pillars. She was still
chained to the pillar on the left, but she now had a certain amount of freedom of
movement. She put her hand out for the &e#. 3*emember,3 said Islington. 3I have
#our friends.3
;oor loo&ed at him with utter contempt, ever# inch )ord 9ortico's oldest
daughter. 3Give me the &e#,3 she said. "he angel passed her the silver &e#.
3;oor,3 called *ichard. 3;on't do it. ;on't set it free. We don't matter.3
3$ctuall#,3 said the mar0uis, 3I matter ver# much. :ut I have to agree. ;on't do
She loo&ed from *ichard to the mar0uis, her e#es lingering on their manacled
hands, on the heav# chains that bound them to the blac& iron pillars. She loo&ed
ver# vulnerable1 and then she turned awa#, and wal&ed to the limit of her own chain,
until she stood in front of the blac& door made of flint and tarnished silver. "here
was no &e#hole. She put the palm of her right hand on the door, and closed her e#es,
let the door tell her where it opened, what it could do, finding those places inside
herself that corresponded with the door. When she pulled her hand awa#, there was
a &e#hole that had not been there before. $ white light lanced out from behind the
&e#hole, sharp and bright as a laser in the candlelit dar&ness of the hall.
"he girl pushed the silver &e# into the &e#hole. "here was a pause, and then she
turned it in the loc&. Something went clic&, and there was a chiming noise, and
suddenl# the door was framed in light. 3When I am gone,3 said the angel, ver#
0uietl#, to +r. !roup and +r. =andemar, with charm, and with &indness, and with
compassion, 3&ill them all, howsoever, #ou wish.3 It turned bac& to the door, which
;oor was pulling open. it was opening slowl#, as if there was great resistance. She
was sweating.
3So #our emplo#er's leaving,3 said the mar0uis to +r. !roup. 3I hope #ou've
both been paid in full.3
!roup peered at the mar0uis, and said, 3What63
3Well,3 said *ichard, wondering what the mar0uis was tr#ing to do, but willing
to pla# along, 3#ou don't thin& #ou're ever going to see him again, do #ou63
+r. =andemar blin&ed, slowl#, li&e an anti0ue camera, and said, 3What63
+r. !roup scratched his chin. 3"he corpses/to/be have a point,3 he said to +r.
=andemar. -e wal&ed toward the angel, who stood, arms folded, in front of the
door. 3Sir6 It might be wise for #ou to settle up, before #ou commence the ne8t
stage of #our travels.3
"he angel turned, and loo&ed down at him as if he were less important than the
least spec& of dirt. "hen it turned awa#. *ichard wondered what it was
contemplating. 3It is of no matter now,3 said the angel. 3Soon, all the rewards #our
revolting little minds can conceive of will be #ours. When I have m# throne.3
3Jam tomorrow, eh63 said *ichard.
3;on't li&e ,am,3 said +r. =andemar. 3+a&es me belch.3
+r. !roup waggled a finger at +r. =andemar, 3-e's welching out on us,3 he
said. 34ou don't welch on +ister !roup and +ister =andemar, me buc&o. We
collect our debts.3
+r. =andemar wal&ed over to where +r. !roup was standing. 3In full,3 he said.
3With interest,3 bar&ed +r. !roup.
3$nd meat hoo&s,3 said +r. =andemar
3%rom -eaven63 called *ichard, from behind them. +r. !roup and +r.
=andemar wal&ed toward the contemplative angel. 3-e#D3 said +r. !roup.
"he door had opened, onl# a crac&, but it was open. )ight flooded through the
crac& in the door. "he angel too& a step forward. It was as if it were dreaming with
its e#es wide open. "he light from the crac& in the door bathed its face, and it dran&
it in li&e wine. 3-ave no fear,3 it said. 3%or when the vastness of creation is mine,
and the# gather about m# throne to sing hosannas to m# name, I shall reward the
worth# and cast down those who are hateful in m# sight.3
With an effort, ;oor wrenched the blac& door full# open. "he view through the
door was blinding in its intensit#. a swirling maelstrom of color and light. *ichard
s0uinted his e#es, and turned his head awa# from the glare, all vicious orange and
retinal purple. (s that what Heaven looks like* (t see's 'ore like Hell$
$nd then he felt the wind. $ candle flew past his head, and vanished through
the door. $nd then another. $nd then the air was filled with candles, all spinning
and tumbling through the air, heading for the light. If was as if the whole room were
being suc&ed through the door. It was more than a wind, though. *ichard &new that.
-is wrists began to hurt where the# were manacledit was as if, suddenl#, he
weighed twice as much as he ever had before. $nd then his perspective changed.
"he view through the doorwa# it was loo&ing down, it was not merel# the wind
that was pulling ever#thing toward the door. It was gravit#. "he wind was onl# the
air in the hall being suc&ed into the place on the other side of the door. -e wondered
what was on the other side of the doorthe surface of a star, perhaps, or the event
hori7on of a blac& hole, or something he could not even imagine.
Islington grabbed hold of the pillar beside the door, and held on desperatel#.
3"hat's not -eaven,3 it shouted, gra# e#es flashing, spittle on its perfect lips. 34ou
mad little witch. What have #ou done63
;oor was clutching the chains that held her to the blac& pillar, white/&nuc&led.
"here was triumph in her e#es. +r. =andemar had caught hold of a table leg, while
+r. !roup, in his turn, had caught hold of +r. =andemar. 3It wasn't the real &e#,3
said ;oor, triumphantl#, over the roar of the wind. 3"hat was ,ust a cop# of the &e#
I had -ammersmith ma&e in the mar&et.3
3:ut it opened the door,3 screamed the angel.
3<o,3 said the girl with the opal e#es, distantl#. 3I opened a door. $s far and
hard awa# as I could, I opened a door.3
"here was no longer an# trace of &indness or compassion on the angel's face1
onl# hatred, pure and honest and cold. 3I will &ill #ou,3 it told her.
3)i&e #ou &illed m# famil#6 I don't thin& #ou're going to &ill an#one an#more.3
"he angel was hanging onto the pillar with pale fingers, but its bod# was at a
ninet#/degree angle to the room, and was most of the wa# through the door. It
loo&ed both comical and dreadful. It lic&ed its lips. 3Stop it,3 it pleaded. 3!lose the
door. I'll tell #ou where #our sister is . . . She's still alive . . . 3 ;oor flinched.
$nd Islington was suc&ed through the door, a tin#, plummeting figure,
shrin&ing as it tumbled into the blinding gulf be#ond. "he pull was getting stronger.
*ichard pra#ed that his chains and manacles would hold. he could feel himself
being suc&ed toward the opening, and, from the corner of his e#e, he could see the
mar0uis dangling from his chains, li&e a string/puppet being suc&ed up b# a vacuum
"he table, the leg of which +r. =andemar was holding tightl#, flew through the
air and ,ammed in the open doorwa#. +r. !roup and +r. =andemar were dangling
out of the door. +r. !roup, who was clinging, 0uite literall#, to +r. =andemar's
coattails, too& a deep breath and began slowl# to clamber, hand over hand, up +r.
=andemar's bac&. "he table crea&ed. +r. !roup loo&ed at ;oor, and he smiled li&e
a fo8. 3I &illed #our famil#,3 said +r. !roup. 3<ot him. $nd now I'mfinall#
going to finish the . . . 3
It was at that moment that the fabric of +r. =andemar's dar& suit gave wa#. +r.
!roup tumbled, screaming, into the void, clutching a long strip of blac& material.
+r. =andemar loo&ed down at the flailing figure of +r. !roup as it fell awa# from
them. -e, too, loo&ed over at ;oor, but there was no menace in his ga7e. -e
shrugged, as best as one can shrug while holding on to a table leg for dear life, and
then he said, mildl#, 3:#e/b#e,3 and let go of the table leg.
Silentl# he plunged through the door, into the light, shrin&ing as he fell, heading
for the tin# figure of +r. !roup. Soon the two shapes merged into one little blob of
blac&ness in a sea of churning purple and white and orange light, and then the blac&
dot, too, was gone. It made some sort of sense, *ichard thought. the# were a team,
after all.
It was getting harder to breathe. *ichard felt gidd# and light/headed. "he table
in the doorwa# splintered and was suc&ed awa# through the door. 5ne of *ichard's
manacles popped open, and his right arm whipped free. -e grabbed the chain
holding the left hand, and gripped it as tightl# as he could, grateful that the bro&en
finger was on the hand that was still in the manacle1 even so, red and blue flashes of
pain were shooting up his left arm. -e could hear himself, distantl#, shouting in
-e could not breathe. White blotches of light e8ploded behind his e#es. -e
could feel the chain beginning to give wa# . . .
"he sound of the blac& door slamming closed filled his whole world. *ichard
fell violentl# bac& against the cold iron pillar, and slumped to the floor. "here was
silence, then, in the hallsilence, and utter dar&ness, in the Great -all under the
earth. *ichard closed his e#es. it made no difference to the dar&ness, and he opened
his e#es once more.
"he hush was bro&en b# the mar0uis's voice, as&ing, dril#, 3So where did #ou
send them63 $nd then *ichard heard a girl's voice tal&ing. -e &new it had to be
;oor's, but it sounded so #oung, li&e the voice of a tin# child at bedtime, at the end
of a long and e8hausting da#. 3I don't &now . . . a long wa# awa#. I'm . . . ver# tired
now. I . . . 3
3;oor,3 said the mar0uis. 3Snap out of it.3 it was good that he was sa#ing it,
thought *ichard, somebod# had to, and *ichard could no longer remember how to
tal&. "here was a clic&, then, in the dar&ness. the sound of a manacle opening,
followed b# the sound of chains falling against a metal pillar. "hen the sound of a
match being struc&. $ candle was lit. it burned wea&l#, and flic&ered in the thin air.
Fire and fleet and candlelight" thought *ichard, and he could not remember wh#.
;oor wal&ed, unsteadil#, to the mar0uis, holding her candle. She reached out a
hand, touched his chains, and his manacles clic&ed open. -e rubbed his wrists. "hen
she wal&ed over to *ichard, and touched his single remaining manacle. It fell open.
;oor sighed, then, and sat down beside him. -e reached out his good arm and
cradled her head, holding her close to him. -e roc&ed her slowl# bac& and forth,
crooning a wordless lullab#. It was cold, cold, there in the angel's empt# hall1 but
soon the warmth of unconsciousness reached out and enveloped them both.
"he mar0uis de !arabas watched the sleeping children. "he idea of sleepof
returning, even for a short time, to a state so horribl# close to deathscared him
more than he would have ever believed. :ut, eventuall#, even he put his head down
on his arm, and closed his e#es.
$nd then there were none.
"he )ad# Serpentine, who was, but for 5l#mpia, the oldest of the Seven Sisters,
wal&ed through the lab#rinth be#ond ;own Street, her head held high, her white
leather boots s0uashing through the dan& mud. "his was, after all, the furthest she
had been from her house in over a hundred #ears. -er wasp/waisted ma,ordomo,
dressed from head to foot all in blac& leather, wal&ed ahead of her, holding a large
carriage/lamp. "wo of Serpentine's other women, similarl# dressed, wal&ed behind
her at a respectful distance.
"he ripped lace train of Serpentine's dress dragged in the mire behind her, but
she paid it no mind. She saw something glinting in the lamplight ahead of them,
and, beside it, a dar& and bul&# shape.
3"here it is,3 she said.
"he two women who had been wal&ing, behind her hurried forward, splashing
through the marsh, and as Serpentine's butler approached, bringing with her a
swinging circle of warm light, the shape resolved into ob,ects. "he light had been
glinting from a long bron7e spear. -unter's bod#, twisted and blood# and wretched,
la# on its bac&, half/buried in the mud, in a large pool of scarlet gore, its legs
trapped beneath the bod# of an enormous boar/li&e creature. -er e#es were closed.
Serpentine's women hauled the bod# out from under the :east, and la# it in the
mud. Serpentine &nelt in the wet mire and ran one finger down -unter's cold chee&,
until it reached her blood/blac&ened lips, where she let it linger for some moments.
"hen she stood up. 3:ring the spear,3 said Serpentine.
5ne of the women pic&ed up -unter's bod#1 the other pulled the spear from the
carcass of the :east and put it over her shoulder. $nd then the four figures turned,
and went bac& the wa# the# had come1 a silent procession deep beneath the world.
"he lamplight flic&ered on Serpentine's ravaged face as she wal&ed1 but it revealed
no emotion of an# &ind, neither happ# nor sad.
%or a moment, upon wa&ing, he had <5 idea at all who he was. It was a
tremendousl# liberating feeling, as if he were free to be whatever he wanted to be.
he could be an#one at allable to tr# on an# identit#1 he could be a man or a
woman, a rat or a bird, a monster or a god. $nd then someone made a rustling noise,
and he wo&e up the rest of the wa#, and in wa&ing he found that he was *ichard
+a#hew, whoever that was, whatever that meant. -e was *ichard +a#hew, and he
did not &now where he was.
"here was crisp linen pressed against his face. -e hurt all over1 in some places
the little finger on his left hand, for e8amplemore than others.
Someone was nearb#. *ichard could hear breathing, and the hesitant rustling
noises of a person in the same room he was in, tr#ing to be discreet. *ichard raised
his head, and discovered, in the raising, more places that hurt. Some of them hurt
ver# badl#. %ar awa#rooms and rooms awa#people were singing. "he song was
so distant and 0uiet he &new he would lose it if he opened, his e#es. a deep,
melodious chanting . . .
-e opened his e#es. "he room was small, and diml# lit. -e was on a low bed,
and the rustling sound he had heard was made b# a cowled figure in a blac& robe,
with his bac& to *ichard. "he blac& figure was dusting the room, with an
incongruousl# brightl# colored feather duster. 3Where am I63 as&ed *ichard.
"he blac& figure nearl# dropped its feather duster, then it turned, revealing a
ver# nervous, thin, dar& brown face. 3Would #ou li&e some water63 the :lac& %riar
as&ed, in the manner of one who has been told that if the patient wa&es up, he is to
be as&ed if he would li&e some water, and has been repeating it to himself over and
over for the last fort# minutes to ma&e sure that he didn't forget.
3I . . . 3 and *ichard reali7ed that he was most dreadfull# thirst#. -e sat up in
the bed. 34es, I would. "han& #ou ver# much.3 "he friar poured some water from a
battered metal ,ug into a battered metal cup and passed it to *ichard. *ichard sipped
the water slowl#, restraining the impulse to gulp it down. It was cr#stal cold and
clear and tasted li&e diamonds and ice.
*ichard loo&ed down at himself. -is clothes were gone. -e had been dressed in
a long robe, li&e one of the :lac& %riars' habits, but gra#. -is bro&en finger had been
splinted and neatl# bandaged. -e raised a finger to his ear1 there was a bandage on
it, and what felt li&e stitches beneath the bandage. 34ou're one of the :lac& %riars,3
said *ichard.
34es, sir.3
3-ow did I get here6 Where are m# friends63
"he friar pointed to the corridor, wordlessl# and nervousl#. *ichard got out of
the bed. -e chec&ed under his gra# robe. he was na&ed. -is torso and legs were
covered in a variet# of deep indigo and purple bruises, all of which seemed to have
been rubbed with some &ind of ointment. it smelt li&e cough s#rup and buttered
toast. -is right &nee was bandaged. -e wondered where his clothes were. "here
were sandals beside the bed, and he put them on, then he wal&ed out into the
corridor. "he abbot was coming down the passage toward him, holding onto the arm
of :rother %uliginous, his blind e#es pearlescent in the dar&ness beneath his cowl.
34ou are awa&e, then, *ichard +a#hew,3 said the abbot. 3-ow do #ou feel63
*ichard made a face. 3+# hand . . . 3
3We set #our finger. It had been bro&en. We tended #our bruises and #our cuts.
$nd #ou needed rest, which we gave #ou.3
3Where's ;oor6 $nd the mar0uis6 -ow did we get here63
3I had #ou brought here,3 said the abbot. "he two friars began to wal& down the
corridor, and *ichard wal&ed with them.
3-unter,3 said *ichard. 3;id #ou bring bac& her bod#63
"he abbot shoo& his head. 3"here was no bod#. 5nl# the :east.3
3$h, um. +# clothes . . . 3 "he# came to the door of a cell, much li&e the one
*ichard had wo&en in. ;oor was sitting on the edge of her bed, reading a cop# of
!ansfield %ark that *ichard was certain the friars had not previousl# &nown that
the# had. She, too, wore a gra# mon&'s robe, which was much, much too big for her,
almost comicall# so. She loo&ed up as the# entered. 3-ello,3 she said. 34ou've been
asleep for ages. -ow are #ou feeling63
3%ine, I thin&. -ow are #ou63
She smiled. It was not a ver# convincing smile. 3$ bit sha&#,3 she admitted.
"here was a loud rattling in the corridor, and *ichard turned to see the mar0uis de
!arabas being wheeled toward them in a ric&et# and anti0ue wheelchair. "he
wheelchair was being pushed b# a large :lac& %riar. *ichard wondered how the
mar0uis managed to ma&e being pushed around in a wheelchair loo& li&e a romantic
and swashbuc&ling thing to do. "he mar0uis honored them with an enormous smile.
3Good evening, friends,3 he said.
3<ow,3 said the abbot, 3that #ou are all here, we must tal&.3
-e led them to a large room, warmed b# a roaring scrap wood fire. "he#
arranged themselves around a table. "he abbot gestured for them all to sit down. -e
felt for his chair and sat down in it. "hen he sent :rother %uliginous and :rother
"enebrae 'who had been pushing the mar0uis's wheelchair( out of the room.
3So,3 said the abbot. 3"o business. Where is Islington63
;oor shrugged. 3$s far awa# as I could send him. -alfwa# across space and
3I see,3 said the abbot. $nd then he said, 3Good.3
3Wh# didn't #ou warn us about him63 as&ed *ichard.
3"hat was not our responsibilit#.3
*ichard snorted. 3What happens now63 he as&ed them all.
"he abbot said nothing.
3-appens6 In what wa#63 as&ed ;oor.
3Well, #ou wanted to avenge #our famil#. $nd #ou have. $nd #ou've sent
ever#one involved off to some distant corner of nowhere. I mean, no one's going to
tr# and &ill #ou an#more, are the#63
3<ot for right now,3 said ;oor, seriousl#.
3$nd #ou63 *ichard as&ed the mar0uis de !arabas. 3-ave #ou got what #ou
"he mar0uis nodded. 3I believe so. +# debt to )ord 9ortico has been paid in
full, and the )ad# ;oor owes me a significant favor.3
*ichard loo&ed to ;oor. She nodded. 3So what about me63 he as&ed.
3Well,3 said ;oor. 3We couldn't have done it without #ou.3
3"hat's not what I meant. What about getting me bac& home63
"he mar0uis raised an e#ebrow. 3Who do #ou thin& she isthe Wi7ard of 576
We can't send #ou home. "his is #our home.3
;oor said, 3I tried to tell #ou that before, *ichard.3
3"here has to be a wa#,3 said *ichard, and he slammed his left hand down on
the table, hard, for emphasis. It hurt his finger, but he &ept his face composed. $nd
then he said, 35w,3 but he said it ver# 0uietl#, because he had gone through much
3Where is the &e#63 as&ed the abbot.
*ichard inclined his head. 3;oor,3 he said.
She shoo& her pi8# head. 3I don't have it,3 she told him. 3I slipped it bac& into
#our poc&et at the last mar&et. When #ou brought the curr#.3
*ichard opened his mouth, and then he closed it again. "hen he opened it and
said, 34ou mean, when I told !roup and =andemar that I had it, and the# were
welcome to search me . . . I had it63 She nodded. -e remembered the hard ob,ect in
his bac& poc&et, on ;own Street1 remembered her hugging him on the ship . . .
"he abbot reached out. -is wrin&led brown fingers pic&ed up a small bell from
the table, which he shoo&, summoning :rother %uliginous. 3:ring me the Warrior's
trousers,3 he said. %uliginous nodded and left.
3I'm no warrior,3 said *ichard.
"he $bbot smiled gentl#. 34ou &illed the :east,3 he e8plained, almost
regretfull#. 34ou are the Warrior.3
*ichard folded his arms, e8asperated. 3So, after all this, I still don't get to go
home, but as a consolation pri7e I've made it onto some &ind of archaic underground
honors list63
"he mar0uis loo&ed uns#mpathetic. 34ou can't go bac& to )ondon $bove. $
few individuals manage a &ind of half/life#ou've met Iliaster and )ear. :ut that's
the best #ou could hope for, and it isn't a good life.3
;oor reached out a hand, and touched *ichard's arm. 3I'm sorr#,3 she told him.
3:ut loo& at all the good #ou've done. 4ou got the &e# for us.3
3Well,3 he as&ed, 3what was the point of that6 4ou ,ust forged a new &e#3
:rother %uliginous reappeared, carr#ing *ichard's ,eans1 the# were ripped, and
covered in mud, and splashed with dried blood, and the# stan&. "he friar handed the
trousers to the abbot, who commenced to go through the poc&ets. ;oor smiled,
sweetl#. 3I couldn't have had -ammersmith cop# it without the original,3 she
reminded him.
"he abbot cleared his throat. 34ou are all ver# stupid people,3 he told them,
graciousl#, 3and #ou do not &now an#thing at all.3 -e held up the silver &e#. It
glinted in the firelight. 3*ichard passed the 5rdeal of the e#. -e is its master, until
he returns it to our &eeping. "he &e# has power.3
3It's the &e# to -eaven . . . 3 said *ichard, unsure of what the abbot was getting
at, of what point he was tr#ing to ma&e.
"he old man's voice was deep and melodious. 3"he &e# is the &e# to all realit#.
If *ichard wants to return to )ondon $bove, then the &e# will ta&e him bac& to
)ondon $bove.3
3It's that simple63 as&ed *ichard. "he old man nodded his blind head, beneath
the shadows of his cowl. 3"hen when could we do this63
3$s soon as #ou are read#,3 said the abbot.

"he friars had washed and repaired his clothes and returned them to him.
:rother %uliginous led him through the abbe#, up a vertiginous series of ladders and
steps, up into the bell tower. "here was a heav# wooden trapdoor in the top of the
tower. :rother %uliginous unloc&ed it, and the two men pushed through it and found
themselves in a narrow tunnel, thic&l# cobwebbed, with metal rungs set in the side
of one wall. "he# climbed the rungs, going up for what seemed li&e thousands of
feet, and came out on a dust# 2nderground station platform.
<IG-"I<G$)E )$<E
said the old signs on the wall. :rother %uliginous wished *ichard well and told
him to wait there and he would be collected, and then he clambered down the side of
the wall, and he was gone.
*ichard sat on the platform for twent# minutes. -e wondered what &ind of
station this was. it seemed neither abandoned, li&e :ritish +useum, nor real, li&e
:lac&friars. instead it was a ghost/station, an imaginar# place, forgotten and strange.
-e wondered wh# the mar0uis had not said good/b#e. When *ichard had as&ed
;oor, she had said that she didn't &now, but that ma#be good/b#es were something
else, li&e comforting people, at which the mar0uis wasn't much good. "hen she told
him that she had something in her e#e, and she gave him a paper with his
instructions on, and she went awa#.
Something waved from the dar&ness of the tunnel. something white. It was a
hand&erchief on a stic&. 3-ello63 called *ichard.
"he feather/wrapped roundness of 5ld :aile# stepped out of the gloom, loo&ing
self/conscious and ill at ease. -e was waving *ichard's hand&erchief, and he was
sweating. 3It's me little flag,3 he said, pointing to the hand&erchief.
3I'm glad it's come in useful.3
5ld :aile# grinned uneasil#. 3*ight. Just wanted to sa#. Something I got for
#ou. -ere #ou go.3 -e thrust a hand into a coat poc&et and pulled out a long blac&
feather with a blue/purple/green sheen to it1 red thread had been wound around the
0uill end of the feather.
32m. Well, than&s,3 said *ichard, unsure of what he ought to do with it.
3It's a feather,3 e8plained 5ld :aile#. 3$nd a good one. +emento. Souvenir.
eepsa&e. $nd it's free. $ gift. +e to #ou. :it of a than&/#ou.3
34es. Well. =er# &ind of #ou.3
*ichard put it in his poc&et. $ warm wind blew through the tunnel. a train was
coming. 3"his'll be #our train now,3 said 5ld :aile#. 3I don't ta&e trains, me. Give
me a good roof an# da#.3 -e shoo& *ichard's hand, and fled.
"he train pulled in at the station, its headlights were turned off, and there was
nobod# standing in the driver's compartment in the front. It came to a full stop. all
the carriages were dar&, and no doors opened. *ichard &noc&ed on the door in front
of him, hoping that it was the correct one. "he door gaped open, flooding the
imaginar# station with warm #ellow light. "wo small, elderl# gentlemen holding
long, copper/colored bugles stepped off the train and onto the platform. *ichard
recogni7ed them. ;agvard and -alvard, from Earl's !ourt1 although he could no
longer recall, if he had ever &nown, which gentleman was which. "he# put their
bugles to their lips and performed a ragged, but sincere, fanfare. *ichard got onto
the train, and the# wal&ed in behind him.
"he earl was sitting at the end of the carriage, petting the enormous Irish
wolfhound. "he ,ester "oole#, thought *ichard, that was his namestood beside
him. 5ther than that, and the two men/at/arms, the carriage was deserted. 3Who is
it63 as&ed the earl.
3It's him, sire,3 said his ,ester. 3*ichard +a#hew. "he one who &illed the
3"he Warrior63 "he Earl scratched his red/gra# beard thoughtfull#. 3:ring him
*ichard wal&ed down to the earl's chair. "he earl e#ed him up and down
pensivel# and gave no indication that he remembered ever meeting *ichard before.
3"hought #ou'd be taller,3 said the earl, at length.
3Well, better get on with it.3 "he old man stood up and addressed the empt# car.
3Good evening. -ere to honor #oung +a#flower. What was it the bard said63 $nd
then he recited, in a rh#thmic alliterative boom, 3)ri'son the cuts in the carcass"
Fast falls the foe" Dauntless devout defender" 9ravest of oys $ $ $ <ot reall# a bo#
an#more, though, is he, "oole#63
3<ot particularl#, 4our Grace.3
"he earl reached out his hand. 3Give me #our sword, bo#.3
*ichard put his hand to his belt and pulled out the &nife that -unter had given
him. 3Will this do63 he as&ed.
34es/#es,3 said the old man, ta&ing the &nife from him.
3neel,3 said "oole#, in a stage whisper, pointing to the train floor. *ichard
went down on one &nee1 the earl tapped him gentl# on each shoulder with the &nife.
3$rise,3 he bellowed, 3Sir *ichard of +a#bur#. With this &nife I do give to #ou the
freedom of the 2nderside. +a# #ou be allowed to wal& freel#, without let or
hindrance . . . and so on and so forth . . . et cetera . . . blah blah blah,3 he trailed of
3"han&s,3 said *ichard. 3It's +a#hew, actuall#.3 :ut the train was coming to a
3"his is where #ou get off,3 said the earl. -e gave *ichard his &nife-unter's
&nifeonce more, patted him on the bac&, and pointed toward the door.

"he place that *ichard got off was not an 2nderground station. It was above
ground, and it reminded *ichard a little of St. 9ancras Stationthere was something
similarl# oversi7ed and moc&/Gothic about the architecture. :ut there was also a
wrongness that somehow mar&ed it as part of )ondon :elow. "he light was that
strange, strained gra# one onl# sees shortl# before dawn and for a few moments
after sunset, the times when the world washes out into gloom, and color and distance
become impossible to ,udge.
"here was a man sitting on a wooden bench, watching him1 and *ichard
approached him, cautiousl#, unable to tell, in the gloaming, who the man was,
whether it was someone he had met before. *ichard was still holding -unter's &nife
his &nife and now he gripped the hilt more tightl#, for reassurance. "he man
loo&ed up as *ichard approached, and he sprang to his feet. -e tugged at his
foreloc&, something *ichard had previousl# onl# seen done on television
adaptations of classic novels. -e loo&ed both comical and unpleasant. *ichard
recogni7ed the man as the )ord *at/spea&er.
3Well/well. 4es/#es,3 said the rat/spea&er, agitatedl#, beginning in mid/
sentence, 3Just to sa#, the girl $naesthesia. <o hard feelings. "he rats are #our
friends, still. $nd the rat/spea&ers. 4ou come to us. We'll do #ou all right.3
3"han&s,3 said *ichard. Anaesthesia will take hi'" he thought. She&s
"he )ord *at/spea&er fumbled on the bench, and presented *ichard with a
blac& vin#l 7ip/up sports bag. It was e8tremel# familiar. 3It's all there. Ever#thing.
"a&e a loo&.3 *ichard opened the bag. $ll his possessions were in there, including,
on top of some neatl# folded ,eans, his wallet. -e 7ipped the bag up, threw it over
his shoulder, and wal&ed awa# from the man, without a than&/#ou or a bac&ward
*ichard wal&ed out of the station and down some gra# stone steps. $ll was
silent. $ll was empt#. ;ead autumn leaves blew across an open court, a flurr# of
#ellow and ochre and brown, a sudden burst of muted color in the dim light. *ichard
crossed the court and wal&ed down some steps into an underpass. "here was a
fluttering in the half/dar&, and, waril#, he turned. "here were about a do7en of them,
in the corridor behind him, and the# slipped toward him almost silentl#, ,ust a rustle
of dar& velvet, and, here and there, the clin& of silver ,eweler#. "he rustle of the
leaves had been so much louder than these pale women. "he# watched him with
hungr# e#es.
-e was scared, then. -e had the &nife, true, but he could no more fight with it
than he could ,ump across the "hames. -e hoped that, if the# attac&ed, he might be
able to scare them awa# with it. -e could smell hone#suc&le, and lil# of the valle#,
and mus&.
)amia edged her wa# to the front of the =elvets, and stepped forward. *ichard
raised the &nife, nervousl#, remembering the chill# passion of her embrace, how
pleasant it was and how cold. She smiled at him, and inclined her head, sweetl#.
"hen she &issed her fingertips, and blew the &iss toward *ichard.
-e shivered. Something fluttered in the dar&ness of the underpass1 and when he
loo&ed again, there was nothing but shadows.

"hrough the underpass, and *ichard wal&ed up some steps, and found himself
at the top of a small grass# hill. It was dawn, and he could ,ust ma&e out details of
the countr#side around him. almost leafless oa&, and ash, and beech trees, readil#
identifiable b# the shapes of their trun&s. $ wide, clean river meandered gentl#
through the green countr#side. $s he loo&ed around, he reali7ed that he was on an
island of some &indtwo smaller rivers ran into the larger one, cutting him off on
his little hill, from the mainland. -e &new then, without &nowing how, but with total
certaint#, that he was still in )ondon, but )ondon as it had been perhaps three
thousand #ears ago, or more, before ever the first stone of the first human habitation
was laid upon a stone.
-e un7ipped his bag and put the &nife awa# in it, beside his wallet. "hen he
7ipped it up again. "he s&# was starting to lighten, but the light was odd. It was
younger" somehow, than the sunlight he was familiar withpurer, perhaps. $n
orange/red sun rose in the east, where ;oc&lands would one da# be, and *ichard
watched the dawn brea&ing over forests and marshes that he &ept thin&ing of as
Greenwich and ent and the sea.
3-ello,3 said ;oor. -e had not seen her approach. She was wearing different
clothes beneath her battered brown leather ,ac&et. the# were still la#ered and ripped
and patched, though, in taffeta and lace and sil& and brocade. -er short red hair
shone in the dawn li&e burnished copper.
3-ello,3 said *ichard. She stood beside him and twined her small fingers into
his right hand, the hand that was holding the sports bag. 3Where are we63 he as&ed.
35n the awesome and terrible island of Westminster,3 she told him. It sounded
as if she were 0uoting from somewhere, but he did not believe he had ever heard
that phrase before. "he# began to wal& together over the long grass, wet and white
with melting frost. "heir footprints left a dar& green trail in the grass behind them,
showing where the# had come from.
3)oo&,3 said ;oor. 3With the angel gone, there's a lot of sorting out to do in
)ondon :elow. $nd there's onl# me to do it. +# father wanted to unite )ondon
:elow . . . I suppose I ought to tr# to finish what he started.3 "he# were wal&ing
north, awa# from the "hames, hand in hand. White seagulls wheeled and called in
the s&# above them. 3*ichard, #ou heard what Islington said to us about &eeping m#
sister alive, ,ust in case. I ma# not be the onl# one of m# famil# left. $nd #ou've
saved m# life. +ore than once.3 She paused, and then, all in a rush, blurted, 34ou've
been a reall# good friend to me, *ichard. $nd I've sort of got to li&e having #ou
around. 9lease don't go.3
-e s0uee7ed her hand in his, gentl#. 3Well,3 he said, 3I've sort of got to li&e
having #ou around, too. :ut I don't belong in this world. In m# )ondon . . . well, the
most dangerous thing #ou ever have to watch out for is a ta8i in a bit of a hurr#. I
li&e #ou, too. I li&e #ou an awful lot. :ut I have to go home.3
She loo&ed up at him with her odd/colored e#es, green and blue and flame.
3"hen we won't ever see each other again,3 she said.
3I suppose we won't.3
3"han&s for ever#thing #ou did,3 she said, seriousl#. "hen she threw her arms
around him, and she s0uee7ed him tightl# enough that the bruises on his ribs hurt,
and he hugged her bac&, ,ust as tightl#, ma&ing all of his bruises complain violentl#,
and he simpl# didn't care.
3Well,3 he said, eventuall#. 3It was ver# nice &nowing #ou.3 She was blin&ing
hard. -e wondered if she were going to tell him again that she had something in her
e#e. Instead she said, 3$re #ou read#63
-e nodded.
3-ave #ou got the &e#63
-e put down his bag and rummaged in his bac& poc&et with his good hand. -e
too& out the &e# and handed it to her. She held it out in front of her, as if it were
being inserted in an imaginar# door. 35&a#,3 she said. 3Just wal&. ;on't loo& bac&.3
-e began wal&ing down a small hill, awa# from the blue waters of the "hames.
$ gra# gull swooped past. $t the bottom of the hill, he loo&ed bac&. She stood at the
top of the hill, silhouetted b# the rising sun. -er chee&s were glistening. "he orange
sunlight gleamed on the &e#. ;oor turned it, with one decisive motion.

"he world went dar&, and a low roar filled *ichard's head, li&e the maddened
growling of a thousand enraged beasts.
"he world went dar&, and a low roar filled *ichard's head, li&e the maddened
growling of a thousand enraged beasts. -e blin&ed at the dar&ness, held tight to his
bag. -e wondered if he had been foolish, putting the &nife awa#. Some people
brushed past him in the dar&. *ichard started awa# from them. "here were steps in
front of him1 *ichard began to ascend, and, as he did so, the world began to resolve,
to ta&e shape and to re/form.
"he growling was the roar of traffic, and he was coming out of an underpass in
"rafalgar S0uare. "he s&# was the perfect untroubled blue of a television screen,
tuned to a dead channel.
It was midmorning, on a warm 5ctober da#, and he stood in the s0uare holding
his bag and blin&ing at the sunlight. :lac& ta8is and red buses and multicolored cars
roared and careened about the s0uare, while tourists threw handfuls of pigeon feed
down for the legions of tubb# pigeons and too& their snapshots of <elson's !olumn
and the huge )andseer lions that flan&ed it. -e wal&ed through the s0uare,
wondering if he was real or not. "he Japanese tourists ignored him. -e tried tal&ing
to a prett# fairhaired girl, who laughed, and shoo& her head, and said something in a
language *ichard thought might have been Italian, but was actuall# %innish.
"here was a small child of indeterminate se8, staring at some pigeons while
orall# demolishing a chocolate bar. -e crouched down ne8t to it. 32r -ello, &iddie,3
said *ichard. "he child suc&ed its chocolate bar intentl# and gave no indication of
recogni7ing *ichard as another human being. 3-ello,3 repeated *ichard, a slight
note of desperation creeping into his voice. 3!an #ou see me6 iddie6 -ello6 "wo
small e#es glared at him from a chocolate covered face. $nd then its lower lip began
to tremble, and the child fled, throwing its arms around the legs of the nearest adult
female, and wailing 3+omm#6 "his man's bothering me. -e's bothering me.3
"he child's mother turned on *ichard with a formidable scowl. 3What are #ou
doing,3 she demanded, 3bothering our )eslie6 "here are places for people li&e #ou.3
*ichard began to smile. It was a huge and happ# smile. 3I reall# am most
frightfull# sorr#,3 he said, grinning li&e a !heshire cat. $nd then, clutching his bag,
he ran through "rafalgar S0uare, accompanied b# bursts of sudden pigeons, who
too& to the air in astonishment.

-e too& his cashcard out of his wallet, and he put it into the cash machine. It
recogni7ed his four/digit pin number, advised him to &eep it a secret and not
disclose it to an#one, and as&ed what &ind of service he would li&e. -e as&ed for
cash, and it gave him cash in abundance. -e punched the air in delight, and then,
embarrassed, pretended that he had been hailing a cab.
$ cab stopped for himit stoppedDfor himDand he climbed in, and sat in
the bac&, and beamed. -e as&ed the driver to ta&e him to his office. $nd when the
cab driver pointed out that it would almost be 0uic&er to wal&, *ichard grinned even
wider, and said he did not care. $nd as soon as the# were underwa# he as&ed
practicall# beggedthe cab driver to regale him, *ichard, with his opinions on
Inner/!it# "raffic 9roblems, -ow :est to ;eal with !rime, and "horn# 9olitical
Issues of the ;a#. "he cab driver accused *ichard of 3ta&ing the +ic&e#,3 and
sul&ed for all of the five/minute ,ourne# up the Strand. *ichard did not care. -e
tipped the man ridiculousl# an#wa#. $nd then he wal&ed into his office.
$s he entered the building, he felt the smile begin to leave his face. Each step he
too& left him more an8ious, more uneas#. What if he still had no ,ob6 What did it
matter if small, chocolate/covered children and cab drivers could see him, if it
turned out that, b# some appalling mischance, he remained invisible to his
+r. %iggis, the securit# guard, loo&ed up from a cop# of Naughty Teenage
Ny'phets" which he had hidden inside his cop# of the Sun" and he sniffed. 3+orning
+ister +a#hew,3 he said. It was not a welcoming 3morning.3 It was the &ind of
3morning3 that implied that the spea&er reall# did not care if the recipient lived or
diednor indeed, for that matter, if it was even morning.
3%iggisD3 e8claimed *ichard, in delight. 3$nd hello to #ou too, +ister %iggis,
#ou e8ceptional securit# guardD3
<obod# had ever said an#thing remotel# li&e that to +r. %iggis before, not even
na&ed ladies in his imagination1 %iggis stared suspiciousl# at *ichard until he got
into the elevator and vanished from sight, then he returned his attention to the
naught# teenage n#mphets, none of whom, he was beginning to suspect, was ever
li&el# to see twent#/nine again, lollipops or no lollipops.
*ichard got out of the elevator and wal&ed, slightl# hesitantl#, down the
corridor. <verything will e all right" he told himself, if only 'y desk is there$ (f 'y
desk is there" everything will e fine$ -e wal&ed into the large room full of cubicles
he had wor&ed in for three #ears. 9eople were wor&ing at des&s, tal&ing on
telephones, rummaging through filing cabinets, drin&ing bad tea and worse coffee. It
was his office. $nd there was the place b# the window, where his des& had once
been, which was now occupied b# a gra# cluster of filing cabinets and a #ucca plant.
-e was about to turn and run when someone handed him a cup of tea in a St#rofoam
3"he return of the prodigal, eh63 said Gar#. 3-ere #ou go.3
3-ello Gar#,3 said *ichard. 3Where's m# des&63
3"his wa#,3 said Gar#. 3-ow was +a,orca63
3;on't #ou alwa#s go to +a,orca63 as&ed Gar#. "he# were wal&ing up the bac&
stairs that led to the fourth floor.
3<ot this time,3 said *ichard.
3I was going to sa#,3 said Gar#. 3<ot much of a tan.3
3<o,3 agreed *ichard. 3Well. 4ou &now. I needed a change.3
Gar# nodded. -e pointed to a door that had, for as long as *ichard had been
there, been the door to the e8ecutive files and supplies room. 3$ change6 Well,
#ou've certainl# got one now. $nd ma# I be the first to congratulate #ou63 "he
pla0ue on the door said.
*. :. +$4-EW
J2<I5* 9$*"<E*
3)uc&# bastard,3 said Gar#, affectionatel#.
-e wandered off, and *ichard went through the door, utterl# bemused. "he
room was no longer an e8ecutive supplies and file room. it had been emptied of files
and supplies, and painted in gra# and blac& and white, and recarpeted. In the center
of the office was a large des&. -e e8amined it. it was, unmista&abl#, his ver# own
des&. -is trolls had all been neatl# put awa# in one of the des& drawers, and he too&
them all out, and arranged them around the office. -e had his own window, with a
nice view of the sludge/brown river and the South :an& of the "hames, be#ond.
"here was even a large green plant, with huge wa8# leaves, of the &ind that loo&s
artificial but isn't. -is old, dust#, cream/colored computer terminal had been
replaced with a much slee&er, cleaner blac& computer terminal, which too& up less
des& space.
-e wal&ed over to the window and sipped his tea, staring out at the dirt# brown
34ou've found ever#thing all right, then63 -e loo&ed up. !risp, and efficient,
S#lvia, the +;'s 9$, was standing in the doorwa#. She smiled when she saw him.
32m. 4es. )oo&, there are things I have to ta&e care of at home . . . d'#ou thin&
it'd be all right if I too& the rest of the da# off and3
3Suit #ourself. 4ou aren't meant to be bac& in till tomorrow an#wa#.3
3I'm not63 he as&ed. 3*ight.3
S#lvia frowned. 3What happened to #our finger63
3I bro&e it,3 he told her.
She loo&ed at his hand with concern. 34ou weren't in a fight, were #ou63
She grinned. 3Just teasing. I suppose #ou shut it in a door. "hat's what m# sister
3<o,3 *ichard began to admit, 3I was in a fi . . . 3 S#lvia raised an e#ebrow. 3$
door,3 he finished lamel#.
-e went to the building he had once lived in b# ta8i. -e was not sure that he
trusted himself to travel b# the 2nderground. <ot #et. -aving no door &e#, he
&noc&ed at the door of his flat and was more than disappointed when it was opened
b# the woman *ichard last remembered meeting, or rather, failing to meet, in his
bathroom. -e introduced himself as the previous tenant, and 0uic&l# established that
a( he, *ichard, no longer lived there, and b( she, +rs. :uchanan, had no idea what
had happened to an# of his personal possessions. *ichard too& some notes, and then
he said good/b#e ver# nicel#, and too& another blac& ta8i to go and see a man in a
camel/hair coat.
"he smooth man in the camel/hair coat was not wearing his camel/hair coat,
and was, in fact, a good deal less smooth than the last time *ichard had encountered
him. "he# were sitting in his office, and he had listened to *ichard's list of
complaints with the e8pression of someone who has recentl# and accidentall#
swallowed whole a live spider and has ,ust begun to feel it s0uirm.
3Well, #es,3 he admitted, after loo&ing at the files. 3"here does seem to have
been some &ind of problem, now #ou mention it. I can't 0uite see how it could have
3I don't thin& it matters how it happened,3 said *ichard, reasonabl#. 3"he fact of
the matter is that while I was awa# for a few wee&s, #ou rented m# apartment to,3 he
consulted his notes, 3George and $dele :uchanan. Who have no intention of
"he man closed the file. 3Well,3 he said. 3+ista&es do happen. -uman error.
I'm afraid there's nothing we can do about it.3
"he old *ichard, the one who had lived in what was now the :uchanans' home,
would have crumbled at this point, apologi7ed for being a nuisance, and gone awa#.
Instead, *ichard said, 3*eall#6 <othing #ou can do about it6 4ou rented a propert# I
was legall# renting from #our compan# to someone else, and in the process lost all
m# personal possessions, and there's nothing #ou can do about it6 <ow, I happen to
thin&, and I'm sure m# law#er will also thin&, that there is a great deal #ou can do
about it.3
"he man without the camel/hair coat loo&ed as if the spider was beginning to
crawl bac& up his throat. 3:ut we don't have an# other vacant apartments li&e #ours
in the building,3 he said. 3"here's onl# the penthouse suite.3
3"hat,3 *ichard told the man, coldl#, 3would be fine . . . 3 "he man rela8ed.
3 . . . for living accommodation. <ow,3 said *ichard, 3let's tal& about compensation
for m# lost possessions.3

"he new apartment was much nicer than the one he had left behind. It had more
windows, and a balcon#, a spacious lounge, and a proper spare bedroom. *ichard
prowled it, dissatisfied. "he man/without/a/camel/hair/coat had, e8tremel#
grudgingl#, had the apartment furnished with a bed, a sofa, several chairs, and a
television set. *ichard put -unter's &nife on the mantelpiece. -e bought a ta&e/awa#
curr# from the Indian restaurant across the road, sat on the carpeted floor of his new
apartment, and ate it, wondering if he had ever reall# eaten curr# late at night in a
street/mar&et held on the dec& of a gunship moored b# "ower :ridge. It did not
seem ver# li&el#, now that he thought about it.
"he doorbell rang. -e got up and answered the door. 3We found a lot of #our
stuff, +r. +a#hew,3 said the man who was once more wearing his camel/hair coat.
3"urned out it'd been put into storage. *ight, bring the stuff in, lads.3
$ couple of burl# men hauled in several large wooden pac&ing cases, filled with
*ichard's stuff, and deposited them on the carpet in the middle of the living room.
3"han&s,3 said *ichard. -e reached into the first bo8, unwrapped the first
paper/covered ob,ect, which turned out to be a framed photograph of Jessica. -e
stared at it for some moments, and then he put it down again in the case. -e found
the bo8 with his clothes in it, removed them, and put them awa# in his bedroom, but
the other bo8es sat, untouched, in the middle of the living room floor. $s the da#s
went on, he felt increasingl# guilt# about not unpac&ing them. :ut he did not unpac&

-e was in his office, sitting at his des&, staring out of the window, when the
intercom bu77ed. 3*ichard63 said S#lvia. 3"he +; wants a meeting in his office in
twent# minutes to discuss the Wandsworth report.3
3I'll be there,3 he said. "hen, because he had nothing else to do for the ne8t ten
minutes, he pic&ed up an orange troll and menaced a slightl# smaller green/haired
troll with it. 3I am the greatest warrior of )ondon :elow. 9repare to die,3 he said, in
a dangerous trollish voice, waggling the orange troll. "hen he pic&ed up the green/
haired troll, and said, in a smaller trollish voice, 3$haD :ut first #ou shall drin& the
nice cup of tea . . . 3
Someone &noc&ed on the door, and, guiltil#, he put down the trolls. 3!ome in.3
"he door opened, and Jessica came in, and stood in the doorwa#. She loo&ed
nervous. -e had forgotten 0uite how beautiful she was. 3-ello *ichard,3 she said.
3-ello Jess,3 said *ichard, and then he corrected himself. 3Sorr#Jessica.3
She smiled, and tossed her hair. 35h, Jess is fine,3 she said, and loo&ed as if she
almost meant it. 3JessicaJess. <obod#'s called me Jess for ages. I rather miss it.3
3So,3 said *ichard, 3what brings, do I have the honor, #ou, um.3
3Just wanted to see #ou, reall#.3
-e was not sure what he ought to sa#. 3"hat's nice,3 he said.
She closed the door to his office and too& a few steps toward him. 3*ichard.
4ou &now something strange6 I remember calling the engagement off. :ut I hardl#
remember what we were arguing about.3
3It's not important, though. Is it63 She loo&ed around the office. 34ou got a
3I'm happ# for #ou.3 She put a hand into the poc&et of her coat and pulled out a
small brown bo8. She put it down on *ichard's des&. -e opened the bo8, although
he &new what was inside it. 3It's our engagement ring. I thought that, well, ma#be,
I'd give it bac& to #ou, and then, well, if things wor&ed out, well, perhaps one da#
#ou'd give it bac& to me.3 It glittered in the sunlight. the most mone# he had ever
spent on an#thing. -e closed the bo8, and gave it bac& to her. 34ou &eep it, Jessica,3
he said. $nd then, 3I'm sorr#.3
She bit her lower lip. 3;id #ou meet someone63 -e hesitated. -e thought of
)amia, and -unter, and $naesthesia, and even ;oor, but none of them were
someones in the wa# that she meant. 3<o. <o one else,3 he said. $nd then, reali7ing
it was true as he said it, 3I've ,ust changed, that's all.3
-is intercom bu77ed. 3*ichard6 We're waiting for #ou.3 -e pressed the button.
3:e right down, S#lvia.3
-e loo&ed at Jessica. She said nothing. 9erhaps there was nothing she could
trust herself to sa#. She wal&ed awa#, and she closed the door 0uietl# behind her.
*ichard pic&ed up the papers he would need, with one hand. -e ran the other
hand across his face, as if he were wiping something awa#. sorrow, perhaps, or
tears, or Jessica.

-e started ta&ing the "ube again, to and from wor&, although he soon found that
he had stopped bu#ing newspapers to read on his ,ourne# in the morning and the
evening, and instead of reading he would scan the faces of the other people on the
train, faces of ever# &ind and color, and wonder if the# were all from )ondon
$bove, wonder what went on behind their e#es.
;uring the evening rush hour, a few da#s after his encounter with Jessica, he
thought he saw )amia across the carriage, with her bac& to him, her dar& hair piled
high on her head and her dress long and blac&. -is heart began to pound in his chest.
-e pushed his wa# toward her through the crowded compartment. $s he got closer,
the train pulled into a station, the doors hissed open, and she stepped off. :ut it was
not )amia. Just another #oung )ondon goth/girl, he reali7ed, disappointed, off for a
night on the town.

5ne Saturda# afternoon he saw a large brown rat, sitting on top of the plastic
garbage cans at the bac& of <ewton +ansions, cleaning its whis&ers and loo&ing as
if it owned the world. $t *ichard's approach it leapt down onto the pavement and
waited in the shadow of the garbage cans, staring up at him with war# bead/blac&
*ichard crouched down. 3-ello,3 he said, gentl#. 3;o we &now each other63
"he rat made no &ind of response that *ichard was able to perceive, but it did not
run awa#. 3+# name is *ichard +a#hew,3 he continued, in a low voice. 3I'm not
actuall# a rat/spea&er, but I, um, &now a few rats, well, I've met some, and I
wondered if #ou were familiar with the )ad# ;oor3
-e heard a shoe scrape behind him, and he turned to see the :uchanans loo&ing
at him curiousl#. 3-ave #ou . . . lost something63 as&ed +rs. :uchanan. *ichard
heard, but ignored, her husband's gruff whisper of 3Just his marbles.3
3<o,3 said *ichard, honestl#, 3I was, um, sa#ing hello to a . . . 3 "he rat scurried
off and awa#.
3Was that a rat63 bar&ed George :uchanan. 3I'll complain to the council. It's a
disgrace. :ut that's )ondon for #ou, isn't it63
4es, agreed *ichard. It was. It reall# was.

*ichard's possessions continued to sit untouched in the wooden pac&ing cases in
the middle of the living room floor.
-e had not #et turned on the television. -e would come home at night, and eat,
then he would stand at the window, loo&ing out over )ondon, at the cars and the
rooftops and the lights, as the late autumn twilight turned into night, and the lights
came on all over the cit#. -e would watch, standing alone in his dar&ened flat, until
the cit#'s lights began to be turned off. Eventuall#, reluctantl#, he would undress,
and climb into bed, and go to sleep.
S#lvia came into his office one %rida# afternoon. -e was opening envelopes,
using his &nife-unter's &nifeas a letter/opener. 3*ichard63 she said. 3I was
wondering. $re #ou getting out much, these da#s63 -e shoo& his head. 3Well, a
bunch of us are going out this evening. ;o #ou fanc# coming along63
32m. Sure,3 he said. 34es. I'd love it.3
-e hated it.
"here were eight of them. S#lvia and her #oung man, who had something to do
with vintage cars, Gar# from !orporate $ccounts, who had recentl# bro&en up with
his girlfriend, due to what Gar# persisted in describing as a slight misunderstanding
'he had thought she would be rather more understanding about his sleeping with her
best friend than she had in fact turned out to be(, several perfectl# nice people and
friends of nice people, and the new girl from !omputer Services.
%irst the# saw a film on the huge screen of the 5deon, )eicester S0uare. "he
good gu# won in the end, and there were plent# of e8plosions and fl#ing ob,ects on
the wa#. S#lvia decided that *ichard should sit ne8t to the girl from !omputer
Services, as, she e8plained, she was new to the compan# and did not &now man#
"he# wal&ed down to 5ld !ompton Street, on the edge of Soho, where the
tawdr# and the chic sit side b# side to the benefit of both, and the# ate at )a *eache,
filling up on couscous and do7ens of marvelous plates of e8otic food, which covered
their table and spilled over onto an unused table nearb#, and the# wal&ed from there
to a small pub S#lvia li&ed in nearb# :erwic& Street, and the# had a few drin&s, and
the# chatted.
"he new girl from !omputer Services smiled at *ichard a lot, as the evening
went on, and he had nothing at all to sa# to her. -e bought a round of drin&s for the
part#, and the girl from !omputer Services helped him carr# them from the bar bac&
to their table. Gar# went off to the men's room, and the girl from !omputer Services
came and sat ne8t to *ichard, ta&ing his place. *ichard's head was filled with the
clin& of glasses, and the blare of the ,u&ebo8, and the sharp smell of beer and spilt
:acardi and cigarette smo&e. -e tried to listen to the conversations going on at the
table, and he found that he could no longer concentrate on what an#one was sa#ing,
and, which was worse, that he was not interested in an# of what he was able to hear.
$nd it came to him then, as clearl# and as certainl# as if he had been watching it
on the big screen at the 5deon, )eicester S0uare. the rest of his life. -e would go
home tonight with the girl from !omputer Services, and the# would ma&e gentle
love, and tomorrow, it being Saturda#, the# would spend the morning in bed. $nd
then the# would get up, and together the# would remove his possessions from the
pac&ing cases, and put them awa#. In a #ear, or a little less, he would marr# the girl
from !omputer Services, and get another promotion, and the# would have two
children, a bo# and a girl, and the# would move out to the suburbs, to -arrow or
!ro#don or -ampstead or even as far awa# as distant *eading.
$nd it would not be a bad life. -e &new that, too. Sometimes there is nothing
#ou can do.
When Gar# came bac& from the toilet, he loo&ed around in pu77lement.
Ever#one was there e8cept . . . 3;ic&63 he as&ed 3-as an#one seen *ichard63
"he girl from !omputer Services shrugged.

Gar# went outside, to :erwic& Street. "he cold of the night air was li&e a splash
of water to his face. -e could taste winter in the air. -e called, 3;ic&6 -e#6
35ver here.3
*ichard was leaning against a wall, in the shadows. 3Just getting a breath of
fresh air.3
3$re #ou all right63 as&ed Gar#.
34es,3 said *ichard. 3<o. I don't &now.3
3Well,3 said Gar#, 3that covers #our options. ;o #ou want to tal& about it63
*ichard loo&ed at him seriousl#. 34ou'll laugh at me.3
3I'll do that an#wa#.3
*ichard loo&ed at Gar#. "hen Gar# was relieved to see him smile, and he &new
that the# were still friends. Gar# loo&ed bac& at the pub. "hen he put his hands into
his coat poc&ets. 3!ome on,3 he said. 3)et's wal&. 4ou can get it off #our chest.
Then I'll laugh at #ou.3
3:astard,3 said *ichard, sounding a lot more li&e *ichard than he had in recent
3It's what friends are for.3
"he# began to amble off, under the streetlights. 3)oo&, Gar#,3 *ichard began.
3;o #ou ever wonder if this is all there is63
*ichard gestured vaguel#, ta&ing in ever#thing. 3Wor&. -ome. "he pub.
+eeting girls. )iving in the cit#. )ife. Is that all there is63
3I thin& that sums it up, #es,3 said Gar#.
*ichard sighed. 3Well,3 he said, 3for a start, I didn't go to +a,orca. I mean, I
really didn't go to +a,orca.3

*ichard tal&ed as the# wal&ed up and down the warren of tin# Soho bac& streets
between *egent Street and the !haring !ross *oad. -e tal&ed, and tal&ed,
beginning with finding a girl bleeding on the pavement, and tr#ing to help, because
he couldn't ,ust leave her there, and what happened ne8t. $nd when the# got too
cold to wal& the# went into an all/night greas# spoon cafe. It was a proper one, the
&ind that coo&ed ever#thing in lard, and served cups of serious tea in large chipped
white mugs shin# with bacon grease. *ichard and Gar# sat and *ichard tal&ed while
Gar# listened, and then the# ordered fried eggs and ba&ed beans and toast and sat
and ate them, while *ichard continued to tal&, and Gar# continued to listen. "he#
mopped up the last of their egg #ol&s with the toast. "he# dran& more tea, until
eventuall# *ichard said, 3 . . . and then ;oor did something with the &e#, and I was
bac& again. In )ondon $bove. Well, the real )ondon. $nd, well, #ou &now the rest.3
"here was a silence. 3"hat's all,3 said *ichard. -e finished his tea.
Gar# scratched his head. 3)oo&,3 he said, at length. 3Is this real6 <ot some &ind
of horrible ,o&e6 I mean, somebod# with a camera isn't about to leap out from
behind a screen or something and tell me I'm on )andid )a'era63
3I sincerel# hope not,3 said *ichard. 34ou . . . do #ou believe me63
Gar# loo&ed at the bill on their table, counted out pound coins, and dropped
them onto the %ormica, where the# sat beside a plastic tomato &etchup container in
the shape of an oversi7ed tomato, old &etchup ca&ed blac& about its no77le. 3I
believe that, well, so'ething happened to #ou, obviousl# . . . )oo&, more to the
point, do you believe it63
*ichard stared up at him. "here were dar& circles beneath *ichard's e#es. 3;o I
believe it6 I don't &now an#more. I did. I was there. "here was a part in there when
#ou turned up, #ou &now.3
34ou didn't mention that before.3
3It was a prett# horrid part. 4ou told me that I'd gone mad and I was ,ust
wandering around )ondon hallucinating.3
"he# wal&ed out of the cafe and wal&ed south, toward 9iccadill#. 3Well,3 said
Gar#, 3#ou must admit, it sounds more li&el# than #our magical )ondon underneath,
where the people who fall through the crac&s go. I've passed the people who fall
through the crac&s, *ichard. the# sleep in shop doorwa#s all down the Strand. "he#
don't go to a special )ondon. "he# free7e to death in the winter.3
*ichard said nothing.
Gar# continued. 3I thin& ma#be #ou got some &ind of blow on the head. 5r
ma#be some &ind of shoc& when Jessica chuc&ed #ou. %or a while #ou went a little
cra7#. "hen #ou got better.3
*ichard shivered. 34ou &now what scares me6 I thin& #ou could be right.3
3So life isn't e8citing63 continued Gar#. 3Great. Give me boredom. $t least I
&now where I'm going to eat and sleep tonight. I'll still have a ,ob on +onda#.
4eah63 -e turned and loo&ed at *ichard.
*ichard nodded, hesitantl#. 34eah.3
Gar# loo&ed at his watch. 3:lood# hell,3 he e8claimed. 3It's after two o'cloc&.
)et's hope there are still a few ta8is about.3 "he# wal&ed into :rewer Street, at the
9iccadill# end of Soho, wandering past the lights of the peep shows and the strip
clubs. Gar# was tal&ing about ta8is. -e was not sa#ing an#thing original, or even
interesting. -e was simpl# fulfilling his obligation as a )ondoner to grumble about
ta8is. 3 . . . -ad his light on and ever#thing,3 he was sa#ing, 3I told him where I
wanted to go, he said, sorr#, I'm on m# wa# home, I said, where do all #ou ta8i
drivers live an#wa#6 $nd wh# don't an# of #ou live near me6 "he tric& is to get in
first, then tell them #ou live south of the river, I mean, what was he tr#ing to tell
me6 "he wa# he was carr#ing on, :attersea might as well have been in blood#
atmandu . . . 3
*ichard had tuned him out. When the# reached Windmill Street, *ichard
crossed the road and stared into the window of the =intage +aga7ine Shop,
e8amining the cartoonish models of forgotten film stars and the old posters and
comics and maga7ines on displa#. It had been a glimpse into a world of adventure
and imagination. $nd it was not true. -e told himself that.
3So, what do #ou thin&63 Gar# as&ed.
*ichard ,er&ed bac& to the present. 35f what63
Gar# reali7ed *ichard had not heard a word he had said. -e said it again. 3If
there aren't an# ta8is we could get night buses.3
34eah,3 said *ichard. 3Great. %ine.3
Gar# grimaced. 34ou worr# me.3
"he# wal&ed down Windmill Street, toward 9iccadill#. *ichard thrust his hands
deep into his poc&ets. -e loo&ed pu77led for a moment, and pulled out a rather
crumpled blac& crow's feather, with red thread tied around the 0uill.
3What's that63 as&ed Gar#.
3It's a3 -e stopped. 3It's ,ust a feather. 4ou're right. It's onl# rubbish.3 -e
dropped the feather in the gutter at the curb, and did not loo& bac&.
Gar# hesitated. "hen he said, pic&ing his words with care, 3-ave #ou thought
about seeing somebod#63
3See somebod#6 )oo&, I'm not cra7#, Gar#.3
3$re #ou sure about that63 $ ta8i came toward them, #ellow for/hire light
3<o,3 said *ichard, honestl#. 3-ere's a ta8i. 4ou ta&e it. I'll ta&e the ne8t one.3
3"han&s.3 Gar# waved down the ta8i and climbed into the bac& before telling
the driver that he wished to go to :attersea. -e pulled down the window, and, as the
ta8i pulled out, he said, 3*ichardthis is realit#. Get used to it. It's all there is. See
#ou on +onda#.3
*ichard waved at him and watched the ta8i drive awa#. "hen he turned around
and wal&ed slowl# awa# from the lights of 9iccadill#, bac& up toward :rewer
Street. "here was no longer a feather b# the curb. *ichard paused beside an old
woman, fast asleep in a shop doorwa#. She was covered with a ripped old blan&et,
and her few possessionstwo small ,un&/filled cardboard bo8es and a dirt#, once/
white umbrellawere tied together with string beside her, and the string was tied
around her wrist, to &eep an#one from stealing them while she slept. She wore a
wool hat, of no particular color.
-e pulled out his wallet, found a ten/pound note, and bent down to slide the
folded note into the woman's hand. -er e#es opened, and she ,er&ed awa&e. She
blin&ed at the mone# with old e#es. 3What's this63 she said, sleepil#, displeased at
having been wo&en. 3eep it,3 said *ichard.
She unfolded the mone#, then pushed it up her sleeve. 3Whatch#ouwant63 she
as&ed *ichard, suspiciousl#.
3<othing,3 said *ichard. 3I reall# don't want an#thing. <othing at all.3 $nd then
he reali7ed how true that was1 and how dreadful a thing it had become. 3-ave #ou
ever got ever#thing #ou ever wanted6 $nd then reali7ed it wasn't what #ou wanted
at all63
3!an't sa# that I have,3 she said, pic&ing the sleep from the corner of her e#es.
3I thought I wanted this,3 said *ichard. 3I thought I wanted a nice, normal life. I
mean, ma#be I am cra7#. I mean, ma#be. :ut if this is all there is, then I don't want
to be sane. 4ou &now63 She shoo& her head. -e reached into his inside poc&et.
34ou see this63 he said. -e held up the &nife. 3-unter gave this to me as she died,3
he told her.
3;on't hurt me,3 said the old lad#. 3I ain't done nuffing.3
-e heard a strange intensit# in his own voice. 3I wiped her blood from the
blade. $ hunter loo&s after her weapons. "he earl &nighted me with it. -e gave me
the freedom of the 2nderside.3
3I don't &now an#fing about that,3 she said. 39lease. 9ut it awa#. "hat's a good
*ichard hefted the &nife. "hen he lunged toward the bric& wall, ne8t to the
doorwa# in which the woman had been sleeping. -e slashed three times, once
hori7ontall#, twice verticall#. 3What #ou doin'63 as&ed the woman, waril#.
3+a&ing a door,3 he told her.
She sniffed. 34ou ought to put that thing awa#. If the police see #ou the#'ll run
#ou in for offensive weapons.3
*ichard loo&ed at the outline of a doorwa# he had scratched on the wall. -e put
his &nife bac& into his poc&et, and he began to hammer on the wall with his fists.
3-e#D Is there an#one there6 !an #ou hear me6 It's me*ichard. ;oor6 Someone63
-e hurt his hands, but he &ept banging and flailing at the bric&wor&.
$nd then the madness left him, and he stopped.
3Sorr#,3 he said to the old lad#.
She did not answer. She had either gone bac& to sleep or, more probabl#,
pretended to go bac& to sleep. Elderl# snores, real or feigned, came from the
doorwa#. *ichard sat down on the pavement, and wondered how someone could
ma&e such a mess of their life as he had made of his. "hen he loo&ed bac& at the
doorwa# he had scratched on the wall.
"here was a door/shaped hole in the wall, where he had scratched his outline.
"here was a man standing in the doorwa#, with his arms folded theatricall#. -e
stood there until he was certain that *ichard had seen him. $nd then he #awned
hugel#, covering his mouth with a dar& hand.
"he mar0uis de !arabas raised an e#ebrow. 3Well63 he said, irritabl#. 3$re #ou
*ichard stared at him for a heartbeat.
"hen *ichard nodded, without trusting himself to spea&, and stood up. $nd the#
wal&ed awa# together through the hole in the wall, bac& into the dar&ness, leaving
nothing behind them1 not even the doorwa#.