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The Severed Streets

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The Severed Streets

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Author: Paul Cornell
Publisher: Tor, 2014
Series: Detective Inspector James Quill: Book 2

1. London Falling
2. The Severed Streets
3. Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Urban Fantasy
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Synopsis

Desperate to find a case to justify the team's existence, with budget cuts and a police strike on the horizon, Quill thinks he's struck gold when a cabinet minister is murdered by an assailant who wasn't seen getting in or out of his limo. A second murder, that of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, presents a crime scene with a message... identical to that left by the original Jack the Ripper.

The new Ripper seems to have changed the MO of the old completely: he's only killing rich white men. The inquiry into just what this supernatural menace is takes Quill and his team into the corridors of power at Whitehall, to meetings with MI5, or 'the funny people' as the Met call them, and into the London occult underworld. They go undercover to a pub with a regular evening that caters to that clientele, and to an auction of objects of power at the Tate Modern.

Meanwhile, in Paul Cornell's The Severed Streets, the Ripper keeps on killing and finally the pattern of those killings gives Quill's team clues towards who's really doing this....


Excerpt

ONE

Detective Inspector James Quill liked his sleep. He liked it especially on these short summer nights when he was woken by the dawn and had had to leave the window open to get cool, and then it rained on the carpet. He would only willingly give up his sleep for his daughter, Jessica, who would on occasion wander into his and Sarah's bedroom at 3 a.m. with something very important to tell them. These days Quill, having once been made to forget Jessica through occult means, would listen to that important thing with a bit more patience. Now once again there was an unusual noise in his bedroom, and he found a smile coming to his face, sure it was her.

He blinked awake, realizing that this time the noise wasn't the voice of his child, but of his phone on the bedside table, ringing.

He lay there for a moment. There was a lovely pre-dawn light through the curtains.

'Would you please answer that,' said Sarah, 'and tell them to fuck off?'

Quill saw who was calling and answered the phone. 'Lisa Ross,' he said, 'my wife sends you her fondest regards.'

'If it's her, I actually do,' amended Sarah.

'It's the Michael Spatley murder, Jimmy.' The intelligence analyst's voice on the other end of the line sounded excited.

'Please don't tell me--?'

'Yeah. It looks like this is one of ours.'

Quill took a deep breath as he always did before quietly opening the door of his semi-detached in Enfield and stepping out into the world. He looked around cautiously as he approached his car in the driveway. This morning there didn't seem to be anything horrifying--

'Morning,' said a voice from nearby.

Quill jumped. He looked round, his heart racing.

It was the newspaper delivery guy, with a bag over his shoulder. He'd parked his van at the end of the close. Quill tried to make himself give the bloke a smile, but he'd already seen what was with him. The delivery guy was followed by a trail of small figures, giggling and nudging each other. They looked like tiny monks and wore robes that hid their faces. As Quill watched, one of them, seemingly unnoticed by the man, leaped up like a monkey onto his shoulder and whispered something in his ear. The man's expression remained unchanged. But now Quill thought he could see a burden in the eyes, something being gnawed at. 'Don't like the look of the news this morning,' said the man, his voice a monotone.

Quill nodded and went swiftly to unlock his car.

He headed for the A10, but, as always, couldn't help but look up into the sky ahead of him as he did so. Towards the reservoir, something horrifying loomed in the air. It was there every day. It had taken him a while to notice it, as was the way with the Sight--the ability to see and feel the hidden things of London that he and his team of police officers had acquired by accident less than six months ago. Once he had seen the thing, it had become more and more obvious, to the point where he now wished he could ignore it.

But, being a copper, every time he had to look.

It was a vortex of smashed crockery, broken furniture, all the cared-for items of a home, whirling and breaking above a particular house somewhere over there, over and over again, each beloved thing impossibly fixing itself only to be smashed again. He could never see such detail from the car, obviously, but as he'd become aware of it, he'd gained the emotional context, the feeling of rage and betrayal, the horrible intimacy of it. Those feelings were also part of what the Sight did. The detail of what he was seeing had come when he'd looked into the matter and found out about a poltergeist case that dated back to the seventies. Once he knew what he was looking at, the Sight had filled in the gaps, and now every time he drove this way he was therefore burdened by something that looked like a distant weather phenomenon but also shouted pain into his face.

The worst thing of all was that there was nothing he could do about it. The participants no longer lived around here. No crime that he was aware of had been committed. It might not even have really happened. But in some way, via some mechanism that he and his team had not yet got to grips with, London remembered it. Being remembered was one of the two ways one could gain power from some intrinsic property of the metropolis itself; the other being to make an awful sacrifice to... well, they didn't know what the sacrifice was made to, really, though they had made some worrying guesses. Quill sometimes thought that living here with the Sight was like continually wearing those Google glasses he'd read about--always seeing notations about the world. Except in this case the notes were all about ancient pain and horror.

Those little buggers in the hoods were another example. As far as he and the others could tell, they were some sort of... well, they were either a metaphorical representation of various psychiatric disorders--of human misery, basically--or they actually were that misery, and psychiatry was the metaphor. They were as common as rats, and Quill's team had quickly stopped trying to deal with every instance of them they saw in the street. They could be chased away, or the person they were tormenting could be taken away from them, but they always came back. Quill could swear that, as the summer came on, he was seeing more and more of them. At least he didn't have any following him. Yet.

He turned the car onto the A10, thankful not to have the weight of that poltergeist thing in the sky right in front of him any more. The familiar lit-up suburban bulk of the lightbulb factory loomed ahead; a few early cars were on the road. He took comfort in the ordinary these days. He switched on the radio, found some music on Radio 2. He felt guilty every time he thought about it, but he often found himself wondering if life would have been so bad had he and his team actually accepted the offer that had been made to them. That terrifying bastard whom they called the 'Smiling Man', who was almost certainly not a man at all, had used a proxy to tell them that he was willing to take away the Sight. They, being coppers, being aware that if they did that they'd spend the rest of their lives wondering what they were missing when they came across a crime scene with some hidden dimension, being aware that that smiling bastard who had been behind their first case had something enormous planned... like mugs they had all, for their differing reasons, said no.

It didn't help that the awful things they could all now see were confined to London. You could get away from it by going on a day trip to Reading. Quill and Sarah had taken Jessica to a theme park in the Midlands a couple of weekends ago, and had had what had felt like the best sleep of their lives. Sarah didn't share the Sight. She hadn't been there when Quill had touched that pile of soil in the house of serial killer--and, as it turned out, wicked witch--Mora Losley. In some way that they still didn't understand, it had been that action that activated this ability in himself and his three nearby colleagues. Sarah only knew what Quill told her, which was just about everything. On the drive back to London from their weekend break, Quill had seen Sarah's expression, how complicated it was. She was trying to hide the fact that she admired Quill's need to do his duty... but hated it too.

Quill realized that the radio was playing 'London Calling' by the Clash and angrily changed the channel to Classic FM. He didn't need his situation underlining, thank you very much. He wound down the window and immediately regretted it, but left it open for the cool air on his face. The air brought with it the smell of burning. The smell was of last night's riots and lootings, of some borough or other going up in smoke. Thanks to an interesting series of interactions between this government and certain classes of the general public, it was shaping up to be one of those summers. He and his team had been told that the Smiling Man had a 'process' that he was 'putting together', and Quill kept wondering if he was somewhere behind the violence. He could imagine a reality where the coalition in power had done a lot of the same shit, but without a response that included Londoners burning down their own communities. Really, it was down to how the initial outbreaks of violence had been mismanaged and a strained relationship between government and the Met that was leaving him increasingly incredulous.

The news came on the radio, and he made himself listen. Sporadic looting, protests against the cuts and austerity measures. Cars on fire and bottles being thrown at police. 'The postal ballot on strike action by the Police Federation--'

Quill told the radio to piss off as he changed the channel again. He could understand the frustration felt by his fellow officers, really he could. Every move, every sensible decision that the Met made to get to the cause of the unrest and damp it down seemed to be instantly overturned and criticized by either the mayor's office or the Home Office. To the 'lid', the uniformed police officer on the street, what that meant was that you got spit in your face and then found out that you were going back the next night for more of exactly the same, when it was obvious to you and your mates--spread out and targets for missiles as you were--that the situation wasn't going to get any better. The other police forces of Britain had their own difficult relations with this government, knew where the Met was coming from and wanted to support their colleagues.

But strike action? His old police dad, Marty, had been on the phone from Essex, making sure Quill wasn't having any of that. It was against all the traditions of the Met. Against the law, even--coppers didn't have the right. Besides, Quill's team's speciality, standing against the powers of darkness, seemed a bit too urgent to allow for industrial action.

He realized he was passing the cemetery on his right. He always tried not to glance over there, and always failed. Graveyards were usually, in his team's experience, a bad idea. This one was full of greenish lights that danced between the graves, and there were a couple of swaying figures, one an emaciated husk with glowing eyes who had taken to... yes, there he was again this morning, like every morning.

Quill tiredly raised his hand to return the wave.

Forty minutes later, Quill got out of his car at Belgravia police station. The sky was getting properly light now. He found Ross standing under one of the big fluorescent car park lights, moths fluttering around it. She had been watching the first batch of last night's Toff protestors, the ones whom the police presumably had no legal reason to keep, stumbling from the building. They had those Halloweenstyle costumes of theirs bundled under their arms. A few of them were, even now, giving each other high fives and laughing. But most of them looked grim. Quill looked at their emotion and again felt distant copper annoyance at bloody people. He used to joke that without people his job would be a lot easier. But now he supposed he couldn't even say that. 'What have we got?' he asked.

She looked round at him. Maybe she was his team's intelligence analyst, a civilian, but what they'd been through together had brought them as close as Quill had ever felt to any fellow officer. He owed her the life of his child. There was something about the paleness of Ross' left eye compared to her right, about the broken angle of her nose, that made it always look as if she'd just been in a fight. Her hair was cut short to the point where sometimes it looked as if she'd just taken a razor to it. She was biting her bottom lip in that skewed smile of hers, which only appeared once in a blue moon, and which Quill had started to associate with the game, as they say, being afoot. 'Maybe just the op we've been looking for,' she said.

Quill had caught up with the Spatley case before he'd left the house. The headline on the first edition of the Herald had read, 'Murdered by the Mob'. Michael Spatley, chief secretary to the Treasury, had been cornered in his car by anti-government protestors, who had forced their way in and eviscerated him. The story had been the lead on the BBC ten o'clock bulletin last night, but Quill had gone to bed thinking, ironically, that he was glad that it wasn't his problem.

'Why is it one of ours?'

Ross led him towards the doors of the nick. 'I have search strings set up in the Crime Reporting Information System, and I check them four times a day. A locked report came through on my page of results late last night, with the heading directing me to the extension of one DCI Jason Forrest. I couldn't read it, but if it set off my searches it must contain some extreme words, like "impossible". Around 2 a.m. it showed up on the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System too, so it's a murder. I checked where this bloke Forrest works, and it's this nick, which is also the obvious one for a suspect in the Spatley case to be brought back to. I got excited and called you.'

Quill wanted to slap her on the shoulder or fist-bump her or something, but the very urge was against his copper nature. His was a squad created within the budget of a detective superintendent, its objectives hidden from the mainstream of the Metropolitan Police while cut after cut reduced the operational capacity of every other Met department, and the riots and the protests and the outbursts of dissent in the force's own ranks were pushing the system to breaking point. His team needed a new target nominal--a new operation--before people in senior positions started asking questions about why they existed.

'And you were awake at 2 a.m. because... ?'

Her poker face was immediately back. Quill sighed to see it. After they'd defeated Mora Losley and thus solved the mystery that had loomed over Ross for her whole life, the analyst had opened up for a few weeks, become more talkative, cracked a few jokes, even. It had been wonderful to see. But now the cloud was back. 'I'm still working through those documents we found in the ruins in Docklands.'

She was also, thought Quill, probably still considering the plight of her deceased dad, who, in the course of the team's first--and so far only--op, she'd discovered to be residing in Hell. Whatever Hell was. Quill was pretty sure it didn't map onto conventional thoughts about damnation. Ross had told them that she was aiming, in the fullness of time, to do something about getting her dad out of there, if they ever found a mechanism to do so. Whether or not she'd made any progress on that was between her and her copious notebooks. 'Okay, but--'

'That's my own time, Jimmy.'

Quill raised his hands in surrender, and indicated for her to proceed.

'Witnesses are saying to the press that the doors of the car weren't opened at any point, meaning that the government service driver, whom I've discovered was one Brian Tunstall, must be the only suspect, presumably the "thirty-eight-year-old male" the Major Investigation Team have announced they've arrested in connection. The words that set off my searches might well be contained in his interview statement.'

'Terrific.' Quill took out his phone. 'You get our two comrades over here. I am about to wake a detective superintendent.'

The first result of Quill's call to his superior was that a hassledlooking lid came out of the nick, found Quill and Ross, and checked them through into the canteen. As in any nick, the canteen smelt of comforting grease and echoed with the clatter of cutlery and the sound of music radio from the kitchens. To venture any further into this bureaucracy, they were going to need their political muscle here with them. The food hall was full of uniforms looking pissed off, having just come off a shift where half of them would have been beaten on by protestors and rioters. Ross kept looking at her phone. 'Now they've made an arrest, I'm waiting for those "the mob did it" stories on the news websites to change. They might give us more information to go on.'

'In the meantime,' said Quill, 'there exist in this world bacon sarnies.'

Forty-five minutes later, Kev Sefton arrived, dressed like his undercover self, in hoodie and trainers, but with the holdall he now carried everywhere. Quill suspected that, given the riots, the detective constable must have been stopped a few times lately and searched for the crime of being black in the wrong suburb. Quill just hoped Sefton flashed his warrant card before the uniforms found the collection of occult, or what they'd taken to simply calling 'London', items that he now regularly carried in that holdall. In their line of work, as Sefton had discovered, some ancient horse brass with a provenance in the metropolis could be much handier in terms of repelling evil than garlic. If Ross had a boxer's nose, Sefton had the rest of that body shape, compact and hard. As Quill had discovered, what went with that physique was a detective's intellect that was willing to believe in extraordinary possibilities, which could lead Sefton to think about the horrifying reality they'd discovered--to a degree that the rest of the team, Quill included, weren't yet capable of. It was as if he had an undercover officer's adaptability that could extend itself beyond reality. Quill had started to think of him as his weird-London-shit officer. He got the feeling that that role was letting Sefton breathe, that all his life he'd been waiting for a chance like this.

'I thought this might be one of ours,' he said, sitting down.

'Do you mean that you did some sort of... ?' Quill still didn't have the language to form that kind of question, so he contented himself with spreading his hands like a stage illusionist, indicating the sort of occult London thing that he supposed Sefton now did.

'I wish I had some sort of...' Sefton returned the gesture with a smile.

Quill was pleased to see that. He knew that Sefton liked to try and keep a positive surface going, but that being the one to deal with the London shit, especially when they'd made relatively little progress, weighed heavily on him. He had had adventures on his own that, while he'd described them to the team in every possible detail, he'd added had been like 'something out of a dream'. Which wasn't your normal copper description of encountering a potential informant.

'Right then!' That was Tony Costain, marching in as if he owned the place as always, dressed to the nines as always, in a retro leather coat that emphasized his tall, slim loomingness. The detective sergeant was the other black former undercover police officer on the team. If Costain smiled at you, and you knew who he really was, you wondered what he was hiding, because here was a copper who'd been willing to sell on drugs and guns he'd nicked from the gang he'd been undercover in. Still, Quill felt he'd treated Costain too roughly on occasion. He had felt for Costain when he'd developed a desperate desire not to go to Hell and had decided that from now on he was going to clean up his act, having caught a glimpse of the Hell he was certain was waiting for him. It felt like something that didn't sit well with the man, though: an abstinence that chafed on him every day. Costain, basically, didn't want to be a good boy. Quill had never said it out loud, but he'd started to think of this consummate actor's ability to step in and out of the dark side, to bring on the dodgy stuff, as a positive asset to the team. He had found himself hoping that, should push come to shove, Costain could find it in himself to do, perhaps, extreme violence and leave redemption until later. 'You look like you got some sleep,' he said.

'The sleep of the just,' Costain nodded.

'The just what?'

Costain gave Quill exactly the sort of smile he'd been anticipating.

'There you are, James, with the bacon sarnies.' Detective Superintendent Lofthouse had entered. The smart, angular middleaged woman looked exhausted, as always, while never actually seeming tired. 'Someone's fetching one for me, and a gallon of coffee to go with it.' She sat down with them and lowered her voice. 'I've had a word with the senior investigating officer on the Spatley case, Jason Forrest, and he, despite his puzzlement, you will be pleased to hear, has expressed his trust in his old mate, me, by asking to talk to you at the earliest opportunity. You and I are to take the lift to the third floor.'

'Thank you, ma'am.' Quill found himself sitting straighter in his chair and glanced around at his team to see them all reacting similarly. None of them quite knew how to deal with their boss these days.

Three months ago, Quill's team had used a pair of 'vanes' that had been employed to attack Quill with some sort of weaponized poltergeist but could also be utilized as dowsing equipment. With these they had found a ruined building in London's Docklands. It was something like a temple, the remains standing absurdly on an open space between office blocks by the river. There had been ornate chairs and a big marble table that had been cracked in two. A pentagram had been inscribed on both that table and the ground underneath. Quill had swiftly realized that only they could see this building, that passers-by were looking at his team searching the ruins as if they were performing some sort of avant-garde mime. They'd discovered a few details of a group that called itself the Continuing Projects Team, people who, they'd been startled to find, showed up not at all on internet searches. Quill's team had already seen what a huge amount of energy it took to make one person be forgotten by a handful of people. The idea that a group of prominent people could be made to vanish so completely from public memory was staggering. They had found an empty personnel file that these people had kept, and on the cover of it had been the name 'Detective Superintendent Lofthouse', and then she had stepped from the shadows, holding an ancient key that Quill had recognized as having been on her charm bracelet. 'This,' she had said, 'explains a lot.'

Quill and the others had been bursting with questions. She'd shaken her head in answer to all of them.

'I know you lot are doing something... impossible,' she'd said finally. 'I realized that a while back.'

Quill had pointed at the key. 'What does that have to do with this? Did you know the people who worked here?'

She had raised her hands to shut him down. 'It's only because you say so that I know there is something here. I can't tell you anything more, James. I know less than you do.' She'd asked for a detailed description of the ruins, walking through them with a look on her face that said she was willing herself to sense something there, but couldn't. There was pain in that expression, Quill had realized. She'd handled the key as she'd looked around at what to her was just an empty area of Docklands pavement, reflexively toying with the object. Then, when she'd been satisfied that she'd been told everything, she'd looked once more to Quill. Her expression drew on their old friendship, hoping he'd understand. 'I'm sorry,' she'd said. 'I know you want more from me. For now, please, just accept. Be certain you can always rely on me. From now on, tell me about your operations. I'll believe you. But I can't tell you why.'

Before they could say anything more, she'd marched off into the night.

Quill had understood at that moment that Ross had had that expression on her face that he'd come to associate with some immediate deduction or revelation. 'Oh,' she'd said. 'Oh.'

'That, from her,' Costain said, 'always ends with us getting told something true but deeply shitty.'

'Even with the Sight,' said Ross, 'Jimmy still forgot his daughter. He couldn't process any of the clues to her presence in the physical world. He just ignored them. So how come we can see that document listing the people who worked here, who otherwise have been completely forgotten?' She hadn't given them a moment to think about an answer. 'For the same reason that these ruins have been left. Deliberately. For people like us, who can see things like this, to notice.'

'As a sign, a warning,' said Sefton, nodding urgently. 'That's why all we've found is a list of those people and nothing else. Having found that document, we now know it's possible for people like these, people like us, to be not just killed, not just wiped out, but actually erased from everyone's memories.'

'It's a display of power,' said Costain.

'She--' Ross indicated where Lofthouse had gone--'knows more about that situation than we do. But if we want to keep this unit going, we can't ask her about it.'

'"Just accept",' repeated Quill, sighing. 'Does she know any coppers, do you think?'

In the three months since, they hadn't found out anything further. DeSouza and Raymonde, the firm of architects that owned the land upon which the temple stood, when interviewed, had no more knowledge of the Continuing Projects Team than anyone else. Ross' examination of the documents found at the scene revealed them to be mostly about architecture. She had shown the others what looked to be learned debates about how 'the side of a building does turn the water' written in a brown and curly hand that looked like something from the seventeenth century, and printed pamphlets from before that arguing lost causes in dense language. Those who'd curated this material seemed not to have understood it much more than Quill's group did. There were only gestures in the direction of a filing system or index. Nor could they find any useful occult objects in the ruins. On closer examination it had become clear that, as Ross had speculated, scavengers had been through the place and taken anything useful.

Lofthouse had set up regular meetings between herself and Quill, and had listened with great interest to his reports of things which she should think impossible. True to his word, he had not asked her any questions. It meant that he left every such meeting feeling exactly as tense around her as he was feeling now.

He picked up his bacon sandwich for a last bite before they had to go and meet the man in charge of the Spatley case and glanced to his team, trying to keep the wryness out of his voice. 'Good to have you onboard, ma'am,' he said, 'as always.'

Detective Chief Inspector Jason Forrest had a body like a rugby player's, wore a bespoke suit and had an old scar down his left cheek. He looked as if he'd been persuaded at gunpoint to let Quill and Lofthouse into his office this morning. He asked a lot of questions about the exact purpose of Quill's 'special squad' and rolled his eyes at the imprecise answers he received. 'Come on, why should I ask you lot to help with my investigation?'

'Because if there are features you find hard to explain--' began Lofthouse.

'How do you know that?' He sounded bemused to the point of anger.

Lofthouse looked to Quill. Quill told him about Ross' search strings.

The DCI's expression grew even more nonplussed. 'Why are you interested in words like "impossible"?'

Quill had his explanation prepared. 'Following the Losley case, we've been specializing in crimes with an occult element to the motive.' The look on Forrest's face suggested that Quill was barking up the right tree. 'We've been given access to... advanced sensor... techniques, the details of which we can't go into. It gives us a bit of an edge.'

'You jammy buggers. We could do with that technology for the riots.'

'We're trying it out. Maybe other units will get it soon.' 'Cos you'd really enjoy that.

Forrest considered for a moment longer, looked again to Lofthouse and finally gave in. 'All right, I'll formally request that your team assist in the investigation. You'll get access to the crime scene after it's been forensicated, and to witness statements and evidence. I'll be overjoyed for you to help out my very stretched staff by interviewing persons of interest. I've already lined up searches at Spatley's offices, both in Whitehall and the Commons, but if you can think of anywhere else to search, I'll okay that too.'

'Thank you, sir,' said Quill. It was already occurring to him that his lot would not need just to find different places to search, but to go over the same places, given their advantage of having the Sight.

'So, here's the problem.' Forrest opened the file on his desk and placed some gruesome crime scene photos in front of Quill and Lofthouse. 'We have a car surrounded by witnesses for the whole time frame in which a murder could have been committed. We have CCTV footage of that car throughout. We have enormous coverage of the incident on Twitter, loads of social media photos. No one gets in, no one gets out. One of the two men in the car is brutally murdered. The other maintains he didn't do it. Incredibly, we have some reason to believe his account--because we can't find the weapon. The driver, Tunstall, has some of Spatley's DNA on him, but only what you'd expect from him getting in the back to try and help Spatley after the attack, as he told us he did. I suspect,' he finished, looking up from the photos, 'this may well be how the word "impossible" popped up.'

Quill was making a determined effort not to smile; his target nominal had appeared on the horizon. There was something in the photos that was literally shining out at him, which Forrest and Lofthouse could not see. His team had, brilliantly, finally, a case of their own. 'Is there any chance, sir,' he said, 'that my team could take a look at that CCTV footage?'

'This lot can't work out what we're about,' said Costain, as a young female detective constable closed the door of an office behind Quill's team and left them to it. 'We could be an elite squad, we might be irrelevant. I got halfway to convincing that young officer of the former.'

'You didn't say a word to her,' said Ross, switching on a PC.

'It was how I walked.'

'Oh, I'd let myself forget that for just a second. You're such a people person.'

Costain's front remained intact. 'One of us has to be. But, being serious, thank you for noting that.'

Ross didn't make eye contact with him as she set up the PC to view the footage. That holier-than-thou carefulness that Costain often adopted these days in his fear of going to Hell seemed to annoy her more than it did Quill and Sefton.

When it appeared onscreen, Quill's team moved in close to see the images that might give them new purpose. Only Lofthouse held back. They were looking down on a car caught in a traffic jam, protestors swarming around it, some of them looking up at the camera and covering their faces further. A couple of bricks were thrown towards it, but nothing hit it, thank God. Many of the protestors were done up in that Toff mask and cape.

Then something different came walking through the crowd, approaching the car from the left. Quill's team all leaned forward at the same moment.

The figure flowed past the protestors, its presence pushing them aside, its passing going unfelt.

'That's also someone in a Toff outfit,' said Sefton.

It was. But it was blazing white, obviously a thing of the Sight. It was like watching an infrared image of a warm body in a cold room.

'The trouble is,' said Ross, 'you can't see much detail.'

Quill looked over his shoulder to check with Lofthouse.

'I can't see anything,' she said. 'Which I suppose is good news.'

He looked back to the image. The figure was pushing itself up against the side of the car, still getting no reaction from those around it. It started easing its way into the vehicle, until it had completely vanished inside. They watched for a few moments as nothing much happened, horribly aware of what had been reported, but seeing nothing through the tinted windows.

Suddenly, the figure burst out from the right-hand side of the car. It left a spatter of silver as it went. Quill recognized that stuff, whatever it was, as what he'd seen shining out of the car crime scene photos, a liquid that had been deposited all over the seats. With the grace of a dancer, the figure leaped onto the heads of the crowd, and then it was jumping into the air--

It was literally gone in a flash.

Quill's team all looked at each other, excitement in their expressions.

'Well?' asked Lofthouse.

'We have set eyes on our target nominal, ma'am.'

'Excellent. I want to be kept in touch with all developments. As soon as possible, I want your proposed terms of reference for a new operation.'

Quill was sure his team would have applauded, if that was the sort of thing coppers did. For the first time in weeks, there was an eager look about them.

Copyright © 2014 by Paul Cornell


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