Freydis strolled in, immaculate in a silky blouse and slim jeans. “Why is a man fixing the side door?” She tossed her cute leather jacket over the back of a chair and ran a caressing hand over the coffee machine as she switched it on.
Fiona looked up from the mug of tea she was clutching. “Ian caught Callum kissing Adele, or rather, Adele kissing Callum. Apparently, Ian growled at Callum, Adele shouted at Ian, Ian growled at Adele, Callum swung at Ian, Ian gave Callum a lesson then slammed out which is what broke the door, Adele handed in her notice and went home to cry, Callum is skulking in the warehouse with a black eye and Mrs Tuesday is in late today as she has an appointment with the chiropractor.” She shuddered. “Dave can’t manage much apart from Tarot reading, Kadogan is off with Lord Ragnar doing something awful to a pit of revenants and Steve has an urgent errand to Birmingham and won’t be back until late this afternoon.”
“I see.” Freydis said, straightening the coloured grasses in the vase next to the coffee machine. “I shall be absent tomorrow as Lord Marius has agreed to meet me at Aldgate in Londinium and take me to a place where they sell coffee from all over the world.”
Fiona just nodded wearily. “That’s great. I’ve called Jeanette and she’s coming in today to help out. I’ve told her to get a taxi.”
“That is probably the most pragmatic thing to do.” Freydis started to set up the café. “Perhaps you should call Mrs Anderson. She and Mrs Tuesday do the refreshments at church.”
“I’m not sure that she would be interested.” Fiona wasn’t sure she was up to two elderly boggarts terrorising the kitchen.”
“Why don’t you call Mrs Tuesday?” Freydis suggested as she counted the bags of coffee. “She could speak plainly with Mrs Anderson and perhaps Mrs Cadwallader. Excellent – the bread and milk delivery has arrived in good time. I shall unload it. What will you do without me tomorrow?”
“I can’t imagine.” Fiona pushed herself up from the chair, put the mug down firmly and visibly pulled herself together. “But I’m not going to give in. We have two coach parties booked today, both non-normal. I’ll start the prep in the back.” After all, Fiona thought, it was better to worry about coach parties than the two werewolves scrapping in the shop.
Dave’s shoulder ached. He had jarred it in the shower this morning and it was throbbing relentlessly. He forced himself to focus. He was back in Lord Ragnar’s study with Darren, Kadogan and Miss Patience and it wasn’t the safest of places even if they were currently allies. “Steve should get the crystals back here by late afternoon. He needs to make sure that they are the ones we need. Then he and Ian can work out a good placement for them.”
“Then they can tell us where to put the stones,” Lord Ragnar said, “But I do not understand what that will do.”
Dave tried to explain for the seventh time, scratching around for the right way to frame it. “Something dark, something vampiric, is sending out energy, right?” He watched Lord Ragnar’s uncertain nod. “The crystals block that energy.” Lord Ragnar nodded again. “But we don’t want the energy building up in the crystals in case it just overflows and goes into the burials anyway, right?” Lord Ragnar’s nod was even less certain. “Now, if we put the crystals in the right places, the energy reflects back, right?” Lord Ragnar didn’t even manage a nod. “And then we may be able to track the energy back to its source.”
“Steve Adderson understands this, doesn’t he?” Lord Ragnar said, looking anxiously around his bewildered advisors.
“Try this.” Darren pulled out his key chain and a small hand mirror. “Miss Patience, please hold the mirror so that it faces me.”
Miss Patience took the mirror and held it gingerly in front of her. “Like this?”
“Turn the glass so that it directly faces me.” Darren said. “That’s it.” He shone the small LED light on his keychain directly at the mirror. The beam was clearly defined in the dim study. “Right, Miss Patience, please could you. turn the mirror to the left, nice and slow. That’s it.” The beam was now no longer just bouncing back towards Darren but now angled towards a corner where something bulbous squeaked and crawled away. He looked at Lord Ragnar and tried to frame his words to fit the elfen mind. “The light beam is not the energy that is waking the revenants, but it is a drawing that helps us to understand.”
Lord Ragnar nodded slowly. “So, these crystals would act in the manner of a mirror. And the revenants would sleep.”
“And if we can track back the path of the energy, using Science,” Darren knew when to cut short explanations to elfen, “We can find where the energy is coming from.”
“So, this is Science as well as magic? How truly wonderful. Ian Tait is an asset as he understands both. We must talk to Kieran Latimer about him. Where is he?”
Kadogan held up an apologetic hand. “There’s been an incident at the White Hart. We’re not sure where he is.”
Ian forced himself back into the White Hart. He had failed. After all this time, all this effort, he had failed. He was just a worthless stray. He took a deep breath. He needed to speak to Kadogan or Steve and work out what was going to happen next. He had apologised to Callum, who had understood. Ian nearly stumbled. That understanding had bitten into him harder than any tooth. Callum had begged him to try and stay, to keep as his leader. Ian understood. Callum could get a reputation as a bit of a dog with the ladies and then he would never get accepted into any decent pack. But what could he do? How could he stay at the White Hart now?
Fiona looked up as he walked in. Ian’s heart hurt. How could he have let Fiona down after all she had done for him. She had been supportive and kind, even when he first came here and all she knew was that he was a werewolf that had summoned a demon.
“Ian, I’m glad you’re okay. Come and have a quick word in the office.” Fiona gave a quick nod to Mrs Tuesday and ran up the stairs to the office. Ian trudged after her, following her into the small room and closing the door. He couldn’t bear anyone hearing what was likely to be said. He stood there, waiting.
“Ian, Callum explained everything to me.” Fiona said quietly. To Ian’s shock she wrapped her arms around him in the most comforting, sisterly hug he had ever had. For a moment he froze, then pulled away.
“I can’t let you near me. What if I break like I did this morning? What if I hurt you.” Ian’s heart broke at the thought of it. “I can’t be trusted.”
Fiona took a firm hold of his hand. “After speaking to Kadogan, Callum and Mrs Tuesday, you acted exactly how Kieran Latimer would have acted, you enforced the pack order, which you need, and then Callum rang and said you had spoken to him. I know I don’t really understand, but I want you to know that I’m okay with you, that you’re okay here, that as long as there aren’t too many fights, it’s all good.”
Ian sank into the hard office chair and stared at Fiona. “But what if I hurt you?”
“What if you don’t?” Fiona perched on the desk. “You have been an absolute lifeline to the White Hart, I’d trust you with my life, Mrs Tuesday would trust you with her life and that is saying something and while I don’t understand, you are still okay. Just don’t break too many doors.”
Ian struggled to frame words. He didn’t deserve this. “But what am I going to do?”
“I’ve managed a quick phone call with Steve, and we’ve decided that you’re going to take the rest of the day off. Mrs Tuesday suggested that you do some hard labour, but I think something relaxing might be better. Then Steve and Kadogan work hard to find you a partner.” Fiona shifted uncomfortably. “I really don’t understand that bit. But I hope that tomorrow you’ll be able to come into work, get back to normal and don’t worry.” Fiona squeezed Ian’s hand. “We all love you here. Even Adele says it’s okay and she will be in tomorrow.”
“I don’t deserve this.” Ian shook his head, his ears ringing and his heart pounding. He struggled to catch his breath. “What if I go bad?”
“We’ll worry about that if it happens. Now go out and relax!” Fiona gave his hand another squeeze. “I had better give them a hand downstairs. Take your time.”
“I need to be back here tonight to help Steve with the crystals.” Ian said, sitting up a little straighter. “Your husband is a good man, but he can’t do maths.”
“I can’t argue with that.” Fiona said. “I’m the one who keeps the accounts and he can never keep his trading straight.”
“And we need everyone we can get with these revenants.” Ian said, a hint of colour coming back into his face.
“We really do.” Fiona agreed.
Ian frowned. “I could dig over Jeanette’s garden for her. I think she may have bitten off more than she can chew, and it would be a shame if she fell behind after helping out the White Hart.”
“Have a word with her.” Fiona said, standing up. “Now I had better get back to the shop before Mrs Tuesday comes to find me.”
Luke stared out of the kitchen window. Ian was working with steady purpose as he dug over the beds in the garden. There was something going on, Luke could tell, as he watched Ian methodically and relentlessly attack his task. He didn’t look like a man who wanted to be interrupted. Ian looked like a man trying to work out some inner demon. Luke tapped restlessly on the window ledge. On the other hand, when was he going to get a better opportunity? Jeanette was busy in York and wouldn’t be back for a few hours. He didn’t have a deadline until next week. There was little chance of interruptions.
Luke swallowed. He’d missed his chance before because he had lost his nerve. What did he say? This was far harder than fighting the vampire. He took a deep breath. It was just as necessary. He couldn’t keep going on his own. Besides, Ian looked like he knew what he was doing, which was more than Luke did. He had to take this chance.
Ian looked up as Luke came out. He knocked some dark soil off the spade and straightened up. “Hi, Jeanette said it was okay to come out here and get some exercise. It makes a change from the gym.” He noted Luke’s tense expression and pale face. “Is everything alright?”
“I saw you kill a vampire.” Luke said. For a heartbeat he closed his eyes. What a way to start a conversation.
Ian thrust the spade into the ground and looked steadily at Luke. “Would you like to explain some more?”
“It was last week, at the back of the White Hart. You fought a vampire and then staked it. Then you put the bones in a bag.” Luke tried to keep breathing. “You were really calm.”
Ian brushed the dirt off his hands. “Did you go to the police?”
Luke shook his head. “I don’t think that they would believe me.”
“Let’s go inside and talk about this. Have you spoken to anyone else about this?” Ian picked up the spade and propped it inside one of the polytunnels.
Luke’s mind raced. Was Ian asking to know if Luke could safely be eliminated. That’s what it always meant in the films. Did anyone else know? If they didn’t then there was nothing to stop someone knowing inconvenient truths vanishing. Luke remembered the economy of effort Ian had used against the vampire. He was far more battle hardened than Luke. This could go very wrong. “No, I haven’t spoken to anyone else.”
“I could do with a cuppa.” Ian said, leading the way inside. “And you will need one. I’ll let you make them while I go and wash my hands.”
Jeanette muttered darkly to herself as she changed the till roll. Both the till and the till roll were designed to be easy to change, but they weren’t co-operating.
Freydis looked over her shoulder. “Is it meant to look like that?”
“No.” Jeanette tried folding the edge over. It didn’t help. “Can you pass me the scissors please?”
Freydis handed over the scissors and watched Jeanette snip off the crinkled end of the till roll. “But now we have less till roll.”
“It can’t be helped.” Jeanette tried again. Finally, the paper behaved, and she snapped the cover in place. “Right.”
“That till seems to have a mind of its own.” Mrs Tuesday said from the café.
“Do you think it is possessed by an evil spirit?” Freydis asked casually as she wandered back to the coffee machine.
“You would have to ask Darren.” Mrs Tuesday said. “These days everything seems to be possessed.”
Jeanette looked at them and decided to steer the subject away from haunted tills. “I’ve never been on any of the Ghost walks. There are a few in York, aren’t there? Are they any good?”
“I haven’t been on any myself.” Mrs Tuesday said. “If my back behaves we can maybe go on one together and see what they are like.”
“It may be a good idea to wait for a little while.” Freydis suggested. “A lot of the regular ghosts are staying out of the way with all the latest activity.”
Jeanette stared at Freydis. Who said things like that? She was almost relieved to see Ferdi as he came in with a wide grin on his ugly face.
“Hello, ladies. May I have a wonderful beverage from the angel of the coffee machine.” Ferdi bowed low to Freydis who giggled. “Black, two sugars.”
“I shall conjure an Americano straight away.” Freydis reached for a cup. “On the house, of course.”
“That is very generous of you, sweetheart.” Ferdi leaned against the counter. “Is the boss in?”
“I think Steve has just got back from Birmingham.” Jeanette said. “I can go and get him for you.”
“Thank you, darling. And where is the lovely Adele? Don’t tell me she’s spoken for.” Ferdi sauntered over to the café.
“She’s spoken for,” Mrs Tuesday grinned. “Jeanette is single.”
“I’m not looking for anyone special right at this moment.” Jeanette said quickly.
“If she was she would probably take up with Ian Tait.” Freydis said, handing Ferdi his coffee. “I am sure you will enjoy this coffee. It is blended Arabica.”
“But it won’t be as sweet as you, sweetheart.” Ferdi said.
“I’ll go and get Steve.” Jeanette said, making her escape.
“Hi, Ferdi.” Steve had left his jacket in the back room and he had rolled up his shirt sleeves. “I’m not in a good place to talk right now. I’ve had a foul journey up from Birmingham, there was breakdown at Junction 41 and then I got caught by roadworks. I’ve got a lot of magic to do later and not all of it is straightforward.”
“Stevie, it’s good to see you.” Ferdi grinned even wider. “I thought I would stop by and see what your rates are for bulk deliveries of rose petals.”
“What?” Steve stared.
“I’m setting up a deal and I need around a hundred kilos of rose petals. It’s quite a specialist order, and there are a lot of places online that can do them, but I know I can count on you for quality and a decent credit line.” Ferdi stirred sugar into his coffee.
Freydis leaned on the café counter. “What can you possibly want with rose petals?” she asked.
Steve sighed. “You’re going to fake alien sightings, aren’t you?”
“I’ve got the elfen on standby and a ghost writer already half way through the first draft. All I need is the rose petals at the right price.”
Steve shook his head. “I don’t think we can run credit. We took a big hit with the fire. But for the sake of the sale I can manage a discount for bulk.”
“You are permitting the faking of aliens?” Freydis asked as Mrs Tuesday started to laugh in the background.
“I can’t stop him with the aliens, so I may as well get the sale of the rose petals.” Steve said. “And at least we don’t have to deal with the publication.”
Steve had spread some large scale maps of York out in one of the back rooms at the White Hart when Ian walked in, fresh from the shower. Steve looked up briefly. “Are you okay?”
Ian shrugged. “I need a girl. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I need a partner. First things first, though. I’ve found our vampire hunter.”
Steve stood up quickly. “What happened?”
“Do you remember Mr and Mrs Appuck stripped down a car after the owner had upset them?” Ian asked.
Darren looked up from the crystals he had been praying over. “Hang on, slim lad, dark hair?”
“From the sound of it, he was skinny then, but he’s been working out.” Ian grinned. “It’s a guy called Luke Fawcett, Jeanette’s lodger. The business with the Appucks shocked him. To be fair, dealing with the Appucks is traumatic for anyone. He wasn’t the ring leader, but he was along with the lads and I think he got the shock of his life. He remembered a lot of the stuff he had seen in here, and, of course, all the horror stories Mrs Tuesday was trying to sell. The Appucks were a bit too much for him.”
“He’s not wrong.” Darren said fervently. He had had the Appucks in his congregation for years and they were a hazard to any minister. “I think I saw him in the car park once.”
“He said he had been back, and that he had spoken to someone who recommended church.” Ian grinned even more. “So he got religion, started working out and was bracing himself to take on the den of evil that is the White Hart.”
Steve groaned. “We’re not going to have a situation, are we?”
“He’s having a tough time with it.” Ian said. “And who can he talk to? He’s convinced that Darren is in league with our evil…”
“Great.” Darren said. “Though I’m not sure he’s wrong. I’m getting caught up in a lot of magic these days, and it’s not really my place.”
“I know,” Ian was sympathetic. “But who else can Luke ask? Any other source is likely to tell him that vampires don’t exist, curses are all about psychology, and has he been taking anything illegal. I’ve arranged for him to meet Dave tomorrow.”
“What did you tell him?” Darren asked.
“I told him about non-normals, the difference between the revenants and vampires, some of the stuff that’s been happening, the White Hart…” Ian thought for a moment. “I think I covered the basics. He saw me destroy one of the revenants and he knows that I’m a werewolf. I don’t think he’s watched too many films so we have a chance.”
“Is he willing to help out?” Darren put the crystals on the table and for a moment his weariness shone through. “Because we need all the help we can get.”
“I think he’s keen to help.” Ian said. “But he’s not sure about Dean.”
“Nobody’s sure about Dean.” Steve said, smoothing out the maps.
Ian exchanged a glance with Darren. “At least Luke is willing to pitch in. We can see how it goes.” He took a deep breath. “Any news about girlfriends?”
Steve shook his head. “I’ve picked up quite a bit of chatter about all sorts of lonely hearts, but nothing that would suit you. I’m not suggesting you match up with a boggart or an elfen.”
Ian shuddered. “I’m not against boggarts in most ways, but I’m not…” Words failed him.
“Absolutely.” Steve said. “And an elfen would drive you nuts.”
“That’s what they are born to do.” Darren said. “Freydis is bad enough to work with. I mean, she’s doing okay with the coffee machine and that, and is less temperamental than most, but can you imagine her ‘little ways’ at the breakfast table?” There was a collective shudder.
“I’ll keep looking,” Steve said. “But right now lets work out the placement of these crystals.”