I pressed in behind the cabinet as a crackling orb of purple flame passed more or less where my head had been. It cast the corridor in a sweep of indigo light, to then explode and char the end wall of the corridor.
That was Malachi’s Globe of Ruin, a signature spell of this particular bunch of necromantic dicks. I didn’t know the exact sect of baalists they were mind: could be Esdraelons; or Esdraelonians; Gilboan Witnesses of the Accursed Mountain; the House of Ashtaroth…
Anyways, while I was ruminating on all cultists great and small I dug out and chucked a chymical bag in return at the corridor wall, just above where he sheltered behind his own cabinet, before ducking back. There was a pffff of impact. The powder, the dust of Morpheus – courtesy of the alchemy of yours truly – would be raining down and onto him. (Good stuff that if you fancy a snooze – like nytol on steroids).
I took a peek to make sure he was down and…
…NOOOPE – I pulled my head back sharpish as another ball of aetheric flame rushed past.
It wasn’t like I wasn’t crapping myself but the old instincts kick in; I’d dealt with these sorts before. Okay, not often alone. But I knew what I was doing and I wasn’t going down to some bog-standard cultic minion. No way, no how, not this Marwood – which is what I’m called by-the-by.
My mind span the options and what I knew of his sort; also – perhaps less usefully – what might happen if they got hold of me.
See there’s various folk up to no good with the applied hokum, self-serving types who’d probably sell their siblings if not their mothers.
Then there’s the actively villainous: ruthless bastards who commit evils mundane and supernatural as a matter of course. On the scale between these and the former it was diminishing odds on – and degrees of – how well you’d come out if they took you alive rather than vice versa.
But these guys… These guys were warped. Indoctrinated, warped and nasty, the last folk at whose ‘mercy’ you’d want to be. Also, they’re very proud of their heritage. And I had a hunch that these were the bunch who traced theirs back to the biblical Witch of Endor.
(Ooop – there came-went another off-colour firey missile.)
Mind the Witch of Endor is not, as might first be imagined, a wiccan of a short, furry race on a sanctuary moon a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. She was, if she ever was at all, an Old Testamental necromancer, a baalob, or at least a medium of serious talent. She probably wasn’t a bad old bird herself, not compared to the bastards who’d appropriated her. Either way they take great exception to anyone mocking their assumed lineage – it’s a really, really bad idea.
‘Oi, Wicket!’ I called out, ‘Isn’t it true that you lot were founded by Yuri Geller?’
Something was screamed in old Canaanite (a variety I couldn’t understand, though I doubted it was a wish for my general well-being). Then came the patter of footsteps along with the image of a raised athame, a ceremonial knife, ready to plunge into muggins here.
It seemed an appropriate moment to lob a chymical bomb straight in his face.
He teetered. He coughed white powder from his mouth.
He dropped down not dead.
I gave myself a moment but his unconscious body wasn’t going to lug itself into one of the empty rooms and out of site, more’s the pity. I was determined to learn a spell for that one of these days.
The address I’d been sent to was a little north of Marylebone. I checked it on arrival, in case I’d got it wrong.
It was one of those old men’s cafes, the kind you get in concentrations of an expat community (and make you muse suspiciously on how the proprietor pays the damn rent on its semi-prime location). Net curtains were drawn, I guessed as much to keep the sun off the old lads as for privacy – though the latter intent was rather undermined by the front door being wide open. There were indeed some ten or so old boys inside, playing cards or dominos and rumbling to one another in an east-European accent which, as it turned out, was Slovakian.
I went in and stood there stupidly. Eyes looked up… and back to the game at hand.
Then I said: ‘Uh, I’m here to speak to… Jozef Kovac?’
I don’t know why I asked it as a question because it wasn’t and wasn’t answered anyway.
There was a snigger in the quiet, a young man amongst the elders. One of the latter glanced to him and his hand of cards came up slightly, defensively, in unconscious acknowledgement of a rebuke of some kind. That was all I got.
But then I noticed a chap, old but younger than the others at his table, nodding to an empty chair. I took it and opened my mouth to address him but he shook his head and looked back to his dominoes as the older boys hadn’t stopped doing since I’d entered.
Was I meant to join in, pick up the unused dominos and take a turn? I figured otherwise. I didn’t know how to play anyway. Dominoes were for lining up and knocking down, not playing some kids game.
(In fact I’d probably have done just that had I been sat with anyone else who showed this little interest in my presence; but I didn’t and wouldn’t so I settled for plan B and sat there like a pillock.)
They muttered to one another in Slovakian, hard to tell whether observation or disparagement and also, in either case, if I was the subject. The final tiles were placed unhurriedly, to be followed by a growled exchange that sounded deadly serious but was broken with the rough laughter of each man in turn.
Whatever respect or awkwardness had held me back evaporated then – I was damn well going to speak…
I didn’t get as far as ‘um’ before the curmudgeonly old fossil to my right spoke in thickly accented English.
‘I know where you from. Is about time someone come.’
Too many indignant reposts were fighting to get out for any one to do so. Instead I said ‘Well I’m not here officially…’
He uttered something in Slovakian and received a muttered reply from across the table which, again, could have been everything or nothing to do with me.
‘Still,’ he said.
‘Okay, look I’m here and if you want to tell me…’
He stood then, hefting himself upright with the aid of an unusual walking stick, engraved in some fashion down its length, its top carved into some kind of axe shape.
‘Show,’ he said, ‘I will show you.’
He exchanged some leisurely Slovak grumbling and I received a nod of goodbye from the younger old geezer. Then we were out, into the sun, strolling southward down the street.
Mr Kovac would be kith, a member of London’s supernormal community. Not a magician though, not a member of the Worshipful Company of that esoteric profession as I was.
‘I tell them many times it is too quiet this place,’ he noted. Then (actually answering a question) said: ‘yes someone came. And they went again. And nothing. Still, it is too quiet.’
I couldn’t comment and didn’t (which was unusual in itself), not on the Company’s response or lack of, neither what they or I were meant to do about a building being ‘too quiet’ – or how it could be for that matter.
But I had a feeling there was something to check here. So that’s what I’d do, check. Check and move on: Job done.