Chapter Seven


Harry Keogh was miles away, his thoughts lost in the clouds that drifted like puffs of cotton wool on the blue ocean of a summer sky. Hands behind his head, a blade of sweet grass standing straight up like a tiny mast, its white tip trapped in his teeth, he hadn't said a word since they'd made love. Seagulls cried where they made white splashes in the shallows, diving for fish, and their somehow plaintive songs came up off the sea on a breeze that moved the grass on the dunes like a caress.

A caress, too, Brenda's hand where she stroked him, even though she no longer commanded the full attention of his flesh. In a little while he might want her again, but if not it wouldn't matter. In fact she liked him like this: quiet, verging on sleep, with all of his strangeness sucked out of him. He was strange, yes, but that was all part of his fascination. It was one of the reasons she loved him. And sometimes she fancied that he loved her, too. It was difficult to tell, with Harry. Most things were difficult to tell with him.

'Harry,' she said, gently tickling his ribs. 'Anybody in?'

'Umm?' the grass in his teeth gave a feeble twitch. She knew he wasn't ignoring her, knew that he simply wasn't here. Not here at all - not all of him - but somewhere else, somewhere very different. Now and then she would try to find out about that place, Harry's secret place, but so far he'd kept mum.

She sat up, buttoned her blouse, straightened her skirt, brushed sand from its pleats. 'Harry, you should do yourself up. There are people down on the beach. If they walked this way they'd see.'

'Umm,' he said again.

She did it for him, then curled beside him and kissed his forehead. Tugging his ear, she asked: 'What are you thinking? Where are you, Harry?'

'You don't want to know that,' he said. 'It's not always a nice place. I'm used to it, but you wouldn't like it.'

'I'd like it if you were there,' she said.

He turned his face towards her, squinted a little, frowned seriously. He could look very serious, she thought, sometimes - in fact most of the time. Now he shook his head. 'No, you wouldn't like it if I was there,' he said. 'You'd hate it.'

'Not if I were with you.'

'It's not a place where you can be with someone,' he told her, which was as close to the truth as he had ever come on this subject. 'It's a place for being entirely alone.'

She wanted to know more. 'Harry, I - '

'Anyway, we're here,' he cut her off. 'Nowhere else. We're here and we've just made love.'

Knowing that if she tried to probe deeper he would only retreat, she changed the subject. 'You've made love to me,' she said, 'eight hundred and eleven times.'

'I used to do that,' he said, presently.

It stopped her dead in her tracks. After a moment's thought, she said: 'Do what?'

'Count things. Anything. Tiles on a toilet wall. You know, while I was sitting there.'

She sighed, exasperated. 'I was talking about making love, Harry! Sometimes I think there isn't an ounce of romance in you.'

'There isn't now,' he agreed. 'You just had it all!' That was better. He was away from his morbid turn. That was how Brenda thought of it when Harry was vague and strange in that way of his: 'a morbid turn'. She went along with it, wrinkled her nose playfully, was glad for his humour.

'Eight hundred and eleven times' she repeated, 'in just three years! That's a lot. Do you know how long we've been going out?'

'Since we were kids,' he answered. His eyes were on the sky again and she could see he was only half interested in what she was saying. There was something on his mind, hovering on the periphery of his awareness. Knowing him, she knew it was there. Maybe one day she'd know what it was. All she knew now was that it came and went, and that this time it seemed to be taking its time going.

'But how long?' she insisted. She caught his chin in a delicate hand, turned his face towards hers.

He stared at her blankly, let his eyes focus of their own accord. 'How long? Four or five years, I suppose.'

'Six,' she said. 'Since you were twelve and I was eleven. At twelve you took me to the pictures and held my hand.'

'There you go,' he said, making an effort and coming back to earth. 'And you just accused me of being unromantic!'

'Oh?' she said. 'But I bet you can't remember the film we saw. It was Psycho. I don't know which of us was the most frightened!'

'I was,' he grinned.

'Then,' she continued, 'when you were thirteen, we made a picnic in the field on Ellison's Bank. After we had eaten we fooled about a bit and you put your hand on my leg under my dress. I shouted at you and you pretended it was an accident. But the next week you did it again and I wouldn't speak to you for a fortnight.'

'I should be so unlucky now!' Harry sighed. 'Anyway, you soon enough came back for more.'

'Then you started going to school in Hartlepool and I didn't see so much of you. The winter was a long one. But the next summer was a good one - for us, anyway. One day we got a changing tent on the beach at Crimdon and went swimming. Afterwards, in the tent, when you were supposed to be drying my back, you touched me.'

'And you touched me,' he reminded her.

'And you wanted me to lie down with you.'

'But you wouldn't.'

'Not until the next year. Harry, I wasn't even fifteen! That was terrible!'

'Oh, it wasn't so bad,' he grinned. 'Not the way I remember it. But do you remember that first time?'

'Of course I do.'

'What a mess!' he chuckled ruefully. 'Like trying to pick a lock with a piece of wet blotting paper.'

She had to smile. 'You got good at it very quickly, though,' she said. 'I always wondered where you learned it all. I suppose I really wondered if someone else had shown you how.'

He had been smiling but now the smile fell from his face in a moment. 'What do you mean by that?' he said sharply.

'Why, another girl, of course!' She was startled by his abrupt change of mood. 'What did you think I meant?'

'Another girl?' he was frowning still. But slowly his look turned first to a sour smile, then an amused grin, and at the last a shaky laugh. 'Another girl!' he said again, laughing outright now. 'What, when I was eleven?'

Relieved, Brenda laughed with him. 'You're funny,' she said.

'You know,' he answered, 'it seems that all my life people have been telling me the same thing: that I'm funny. I'm not really, you know. God, sometimes I wish I knew how to be: how to have a good laugh! It's as if I don't have time, as if I've never had time. Did you ever get the feeling that if you don't laugh soon you'll scream? It's a feeling I get, I promise you.'

She shook her head. 'Sometimes I think I'll never understand you. And sometimes I think you don't want me to.' She sighed. 'It would be nice if you wanted me as much as I want you.'

He stood up, drew her to her feet and kissed her on the forehead, his way of changing the subject. 'Come on, let's walk all the way along the beach into Hartlepool. You can catch a bus back to Harden from there.'

'Walk into Hartlepool? That'll take all day!'

'We'll stop for a coffee on the beach at Crimdon,' he said. 'And we can have a swim from the sands a bit farther along. Then we'll go to my place. You can stay until this evening if you like - unless you've other plans?'

'No, I haven't - you know I haven't - but...'


Suddenly she was upset, a touch of anxiety. 'Harry, what's going to happen to us?'

'How do you mean?'

'Do you love me?'

'I think so.'

'But don't you know? I mean, I know I love you.'

They began to walk along the dunes, gradually making for the damp sands where the sea was retreating. There were people swimming in the sea down there but not many; the beach was dirty with all the debris of the coalmines to the north, a problem which had been growing for a quarter of a century. Black lorries trundled at the waterline like great amphibious beetles, where their crews shovelled up rounded nuggets of washed sea-coal like black gold. A few miles south of here it was a little cleaner, but as far as Seaton Carew coal and slag deposits marred the clean white sands. Farther south still the damage was much less, but since the mines were almost exhausted Nature would soon begin to put things right again. Still, it would take a long time for the beaches to return to their former beauty. Perhaps they never would.

'Yes,' Harry finally answered, 'I think I do love you. I mean, I know I do. It's just that I've a lot on my mind. Is that what you mean? That I don't show it enough? See, I don't know what you want me to say. Or I haven't the time to think of the right things to say.'

She clung to his arm, snuggled closer as they walked. 'Oh, you don't have to say anything. It's just that I'd hate it to end...'

'Why should it end?'

'I don't know, but I worry about it. We don't seem to be getting anywhere. My parents worry, too...'

'Oh,' he said, glumly nodding. 'Marriage, you mean?'

'No, not really,' she sighed again. 'I know how you feel about that: not yet, you keep saying. And: we're too young. I agree with you. I think my mother and father do, too. I know you like to be on your own a lot; and you're right: we are too young!'

'You keep saying that,' he said, 'but still we end up going round in circles.'

She looked downcast. 'It's just that... well, the way you are, I never know what's what. If only you'd tell me what it is that preoccupies you so. I know there's something, but you won't say.'

He looked about to say something, changed his mind. Brenda held her breath, let it go when it became apparent he'd backed off. She tried elimination.

'I know it's not your writing, because you were like this long before you started to write. In fact, as long as I've known you. If only - '

'Brenda!' he stopped, grabbed her in his arms, dragged

her to a halt. He seemed breathless, unable to speak, to say what he wanted to say. It frightened her.

'Yes, Harry? What is it?'

He gulped, drew breath, started to walk again. She caught up with him, grabbed his hand. 'Harry?'

He wouldn't look at her, but he said:

'Brenda, I... I want to talk to you.'

'But I want you to!' she said.

Again he stopped walking, drew her into an embrace, stared out to sea over her shoulder. 'It's a queer subject, that's all...'

She took the initiative, broke away, led him by the hand along the beach. 'Right. We walk, you talk, I listen. Queer subject? I don't mind. There, I've done my bit. Your turn.'

He nodded, glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, coughed to clear his throat and said: 'Brenda, have you ever wondered what people think about when they're dead? I mean, what their thoughts are when they lie there in their graves.'

She felt goose-flesh come up on her neck and at the top of her spine. Even with the sun hot on her, the utterly emotionless tone of his voice coupled with what he had said chilled her to the marrow. 'Have I ever wondered - ?'

'I said it was a queer subject,' he hurriedly reminded her.

She didn't know what to say to him, how to answer him. She gave an involuntary shudder. He couldn't be serious, could he? Or was this something he was working on? That must be it: it was a story he was writing!

Brenda was disappointed. A story, that's all. On the other hand, perhaps she had been wrong to neglect his writing as the source of his moodiness. Maybe he was that way because there was no one to talk to. Everyone knew that he was precocious; his writing was brilliant, the work of a mature man. Was that it? Was it simply that he had too much bottled up inside, and no way to let it out?

'Harry,' she said, 'you should have told me it was your writing!'

'My writing?' his eyebrows went up.

'A story,' she said. That's what it is, isn't it?'

He began to shake his head, then changed it to a nod. And smiling, he nodded more rapidly. 'You guessed it,' he said. 'A story. But a weird one. I'm having difficulty pulling it together. If I could talk about it - '

'But you can, to me.'

'So let's talk. It might give me some more ideas, or tell me what's wrong with the ideas I've got now.'

They carried on walking, hand in hand. 'Right,' she said, and after frowning for a moment, 'happy thoughts.'


'The dead, in their graves. I think they'd think happy thoughts. That would be the equivalent of heaven, you know.'

'People who were unhappy in their lives don't think anything,' he told her, matter-of-factly. 'They're just glad to be out of it, mostly.'

'Ah! You mean that you're going to have categories of dead people: they won't be all the same or think the same thoughts.'

He nodded. 'That's right. Why should they? They didn't think the same thoughts when they were alive, did they? Oh, some of them are happy, with nothing to complain of. But there are others who lie there sick with hatred, because they know the ones who killed them live on, unpunished.'

'Harry, that's an awful idea! What sort of story is it, anyway? It has to be a ghost story.'

He licked his lips, nodded again. 'Something like that, yes. It's about a man who can talk to people in their graves. He can hear them, in his head, and know what they're thinking. Yes, and he can talk to them.'

'I still think it's terrible,' she said. 'I mean, it's horrible! But the idea is good. And these dead people actually talk to him? But why would they want to?'

'Because they're lonely. See, there's no one else like this man. As far as he knows, he's the only one who can do it. They don't have anyone else to talk to.'

'Wouldn't that drive him mad? I mean, all those voices in his head at the same time, all yammering for his attention?'

Harry gave a wry smile. 'It doesn't happen like that,' he said. 'See, normally they just lie there, thinking. The body goes - I mean, you know, it rots - eventually becomes dust. But the mind goes on. Don't ask me how, that's something I won't try to explain. It's simply that the mind is the conscious and the subconscious control centre of a person, and after he dies it carries on - but only on the subconscious level. Like he's sleeping; and in fact he is sleeping, in a way. It's just that he won't wake up again. So you see, the necroscope only talks to the people he wants to talk to.'


That's my name for such a person. A man who looks into the minds of the dead...'

'I see,' said Brenda, frowning. 'At least, I think I do. So happy people just lie there remembering all the good things, or thinking happy thoughts. And unhappy people, they just switch off?'

'Something like that. Malicious people think bad things, and murderers think murderous thoughts, and so on: their own particular sorts of hell, if you like. But these are the ordinary people, with ordinary thoughts. I mean, their thoughts run on a low level. Let's say that in life their thoughts were pretty mundane. I'm not putting them down; they just weren't very bright, that's all. But there are extraordinary people, too: creative people, great thinkers, architects, mathematicians, authors, the real intellectuals. And what do you suppose they do?'

Brenda looked at him, trying to gauge his thoughts. She paused to pick up a bright, sea-washed pebble. And in a little while: 'I suppose they'd go on doing their thing,' she said. 'If they were, say, great thinkers in their lives, then they'd just go on sort of thinking their special thoughts.'

'Right!' said Harry emphatically. 'That's exactly what they do. The bridge-builders go on building their bridges - in their heads. Beautiful, airy things that span entire oceans! The musicians write wonderful songs and melodies. The mathematicians develop abstract theories and polish them until they are crystal things even a child could understand, and yet so astonishing that they hold the secrets of the universe. They improve upon what they were doing when they were alive. They carry their ideas to the limits of perfection, finishing all the unfinished thoughts they never had time for when they lived. And no distractions, no outside interference, no one to bother or confuse or concern them.'

'The way you tell it,' she said, 'it sounds nice. But do you think that's how it really is?'

'Of course,' he nodded, and quickly checked himself. 'In my story, anyway. I mean, how would I know what it's really like?'

'I was just being silly,' she told him. 'Of course it's not really like that. Anyway, I still don't see why these dead people would want to talk to your, er, necroscope. Wouldn't he be a distraction? Wouldn't he annoy them, butting in like that on all their great schemes?'

'No,' Harry shook his head. 'On the contrary. It's human nature, see? What's the good of doing something wonderful if you can't tell or show anyone what you've done? That's why they enjoy talking to the necroscope. He can appreciate their genius. He's the only one who can do that! Also, he's sympathetic - he wants to know about their wonderful discoveries, the fantastic inventions they've designed, which won't be invented in the real world for a thousand years!'

Brenda suddenly saw something in what he'd said. 'But that's a wonderful idea, Harry! It's not morbid at all, as I first thought. Why, the necroscope could "invent" their inventions for them! He could build their bridges, make their music, write their unwritten masterpieces! Is that what's going to happen? In your story, I mean?'

He turned his face away, stood gazing far out to sea, and said: 'Something like that, I suppose. That's what I haven't worked out yet...'

Then for a while they were silent, and shortly afterwards they came to Crimdon and stopped for a coffee in a little cafe at the foot of the beach banks.

Harry lay sleeping on his bed, stark naked, the sheets thrown back. It was a very warm evening and the sun, sinking, continued to stream its golden fire in through the high windows of his tiny flat. Seeing the fine sheen of sweat where it made his brow damp, Brenda drew the thin curtains across the garret windows to cut down on the sunlight. As the shadow fell across his face he groaned and mumbled something, but Brenda couldn't catch what he said. Quietly dressing, she thought back on the day. She thought back to other times, too, allowing her memory full rein as she examined the years she and Harry had known each other. Today had been good. And at last Harry had talked to her about... well, about things. He'd opened up a little and got some of it off his chest and out of his system. And since their long talk about his story he'd been a lot easier in himself, happy almost. Just what it would take to make him truly happy - Brenda could hardly imagine the nature of such a thing. He said it was that he had 'a lot on his mind'. A lot of what? His writing? Possibly. But she had never known him to be truly happy. Or if he had been it hadn't shown much...

But there, she'd side-tracked herself. She went back to today.

After Crimdon they'd walked on for another mile to a more or less deserted part of the beach where they'd gone swimming in their underwear. From a distance no one would be able to tell; it would be thought they wore costumes. After a little while, as they fooled about in the water, some old beach-combing tramp had come on the scene and it had been time to go. Dressing before the old boy could get really close, they'd dried out as they covered the last leg of their walk. In Hartlepool, a bus ride from the old part of the town to the 'new' had carried them almost to the door of the three-storey Victorian house where Harry had his garret flat, and there Brenda had made sandwiches for them before they'd showered and made love. The sex they'd shared had been delicious, with both of them still tasting a little of the sea's salt, all glowing from the sun and radiating their heat, and all seeming very right and natural. She liked Harry best in the summer, for then he wasn't so pale and his thin frame seemed somehow more muscular.

Not that he was in any way weak or weedy; Harry was well able to look after himself and hardly the type to accept sand kicked in his face. Twice Brenda had seen him deal with would-be bullies, and they had been the ones to go away nursing cuts and bruises. She secretly prided herself that on both occasions she had been the spur to his anger. Harry was indifferent towards jibes aimed at himself - he could always ignore them, put them down to the ignorance of louts-but he would not accept insults or insinuations directed at Brenda, or at himself when she was with him. At times like that he seemed almost to become another person, a harder, faster, more capable person entirely. And yet even his mastery of self-defence mystified her; it was just another of those things in which he had grown inexplicably expert. Like his lovemaking, and his writing. Brenda looked at them in that order:

Harry had been sixteen when he first made love to her when they first did it properly, anyway - but he'd been eager for it long before that. And as she had pointed out on the beach, he had very quickly got to be very good at it. Innocent in all such things, Brenda had thought there was only one way to do it, but Harry's sexual repertoire had seemed inexhaustible. And it was perfectly true: she had often wondered if someone else had shown him how.

In the end she'd stopped worrying about it, putting it down to the fact that he was precocious. For some unexplained reason there were skills in which Harry Keogh excelled - in which he excelled naturally, without any prior knowledge or intensive instruction. His writing:

Harry had once admitted that his English had used to let him down badly; it had very nearly stopped him going on to the Tech. to complete his schooling, when he'd completely messed up the English examination paper.

Well, however much that had been the case then, it certainly wasn't so now. Perhaps it was that he'd worked hard at it, but when? Brenda had never seen him studying or swotting-up his English; he had never seemed to study I anything much. And yet here he was, eighteen years old and an author, and so prolific that he was published under four pseudonyms! Only short stories so far, but three a week at least - and all of them snapped up - and she knew that he was now working on a novel.

His battered, second-hand typewriter stood on a small table close to the window. Once when she'd dropped in to see him unexpectedly, Harry had been working. It was one of the few occasions when Brenda had actually seen him at work. Coming upstairs, she had heard the intermittent clatter of the keys of his machine, and creeping into his tiny entrance hall she'd poked her head round the door. Lost in thought, smiling to himself -even muttering to himself, she'd fancied - Harry's chin had been propped in his hands where he sat at the table. Then he had straightened up to tap out a few more two-fingered lines, only pausing to nod and smile at some private thought, and gaze out of the garret window and across the road.

Then she had knocked on the door, startling him, and entered the room; Harry had greeted her, put away his work and that had been that - except that she had glanced at the sheet of paper in the typewriter and had seen typed at its head: Diary of a Seventeenth-Century Rake.

It was only later that she'd wondered what Harry could possibly know about the seventeenth century (what, Harry? with his limited knowledge of history, which as it happened had always been his very worst subject?) or, for that matter, rakes...

She was all done with dressing now and tip-toed across the room to apply a little make-up to her face in front of a wall mirror. This took her close to his table, and again she glanced at the typewriter and the uncompleted sheet it contained. Obviously he was still hard at his novel: the A4 sheet was numbered P.213 and in the left-hand upper corner bore the legend Diary of... etc.

Brenda wound the sheet up a little and read what written - or at least started to. Then, blushing, she averted her eyes, stared out the window. It was hot stuff: very polished, very stylish, extremely randy! Out of the corner of her eye she glanced at the sheet again. She loved seventeenth-century romances and Harry's style was perfect - but this wasn't a romance and his material was frankly pornographic.

Only then did she notice what she was looking at through the window: the old cemetery across the road. The graveyard, four hundred years old, with its great horse-chestnuts, glossy shrubbery and flower borders, its leaning, weathered headstones and generally well-tended pebble plots. And as she gazed, so she wondered at Harry's choice of a dwelling-place. There were better flats around, all over town, but he had told her that he liked the view'. And it was only now that she'd realised what the view was. Oh, pretty enough in the summer, certainly, but a graveyard for all that!

Behind her Harry once again mouthed something and turned on his side. She crossed to where he lay and smiled gently down on him, then drew a sheet over his lower half. In the shade now, he was starting to shiver a little. In any case, she would soon have to wake him; it was time she got on her way. Her parents liked her to be in while it was still daylight, on those occasions when they didn't know where she was. But first she would make some coffee. As she began to turn away Harry spoke yet again, and this time his words were very clear:

'Don't worry, Ma. I'm a big boy now. I can take care of myself. You can rest easy...' He paused and even sleeping seemed to adopt an attitude of listening. Then:

'No, I've told you before, Ma - he didn't hurt me. Why should he? Anyway, I went to Auntie and Uncle. They looked after me. Now I'm grown up. And very soon now, maybe when you know I'm okay, then you'll be able to rest easy...'

Another pause, a brief period of listening, and: 'But why can't you, Ma?'

Then more incoherent mumbling before '... I can't! Too far away. I know you're trying to tell me something but... just a whisper, Ma. I hear some of it but... don'tknow what... make out what you're saying. Maybe if I come to see you, come to where you are...' Harry was restless now and sweating profusely for all that he shivered. Looking at him, Brenda became a little worried. Was it some kind of fever? Sweat gathered in the hollow above the middle of his upper lip; it formed droplets on his forehead and made his hair damp; his hands jerked and twitched beneath the sheet. She reached out a hand and touched him. 'Harry?' 'What! he burst awake, his eyes snapping open and staring fixedly, his entire body going rigid as an iron bar. 'Who...?'

'Harry, Harry! It's only me. You were nightmaring.' Brenda cradled him in her arms and he let her, curling up and throwing his arms about her. 'It was about your Mam, Harry. Listen, you're all right now. Let me go and make some coffee.'

She hugged him tighter for a moment, then gently released herself and stood up. His eyes, still wide open, followed her as she moved to the alcove where he had his rudimentary kitchen. 'About my mother?' he said.

Spooning instant coffee into mugs, she nodded. She filled the electric kettle and switched it on. 'You called her "Ma", and you were talking to her.'

He uncurled himself and sat up, brushing his fingers dazedly through his hair. 'What did I say?'

She shook her head. 'Nothing much. Mainly mumbo-jumbo. You told her you were grown up now, and that she should rest easy. It was just a nightmare, Harry.'

By the time the coffee was ready he had dressed himself. They said no more about his nightmare but drank their coffees; then he walked her down to the bus-stop for Harden, where they waited in silence until the bus came. At the last, before she boarded, he kissed her lightly on the cheek. 'See you soon' he said.

Tomorrow?' Tomorrow was Sunday.

'No, during the week. I'll come up for you. 'Bye, love.'

She got a seat at the back of the bus and watched Harry through the rear window where he stood alone at the stop. As the bus began to round a bend he turned on his heel and walked along the pavement away from his flat. Wondering where he was headed, Brenda kept watching him as long as she could. The last she saw of him was when he turned in through the gates of the cemetery, with the sun's last rays burning in his hair.

Then the bus was round the bend and Harry was out of sight.

Harry did not come to see her during the week, and Brenda's work began to suffer at the ladies' hairdressing salon in Harden. By Thursday she was thoroughly worried about him; on Friday night she cried and her father said she was a fool for him. 'That lad's bloody weird!' he declared. 'Our Brenda, you must be soft!' And he wouldn't hear of her going down to Hartlepool that night. 'Not on a Friday night, my girl, when all the lads have their beer money. You can go and see your daft Harry tomorrow!'

Tomorrow seemed ages coming and Brenda hardly slept at all, but Saturday morning bright and early she took a bus in to town and went up to Harry's flat. She had her own key and let herself in but he wasn't to be found. In the typewriter was a sheet of paper with yesterday's date and a simple message:

Brenda -

I've gone up to Edinburgh for the weekend. I've people to see up there. I'll be back Monday at the latest and I'll see you then - promise. Sorry I didn't see you during the week -I had a lot on my mind and wouldn't have been much fun.

Love, Harry

The last two words meant a lot to her and so she forgave him the rest. Anyway, Monday wasn't so very far away - but who could he possibly have to see in Edinburgh? He had a step-father up there, who hadn't once seen him since he was a child, but who else? No one that Brenda knew of. Other relatives that she didn't know of? Maybe. And then there had been his mother, except she had been drowned when he was little more than a baby.

Drowned, yes, but Harry had been talking to her in his sleep...

Brenda shook herself. Why, some of her ideas were almost as morbid as Harry's! All graveyards and death and maggots. No, of course he wouldn't be going to see his mother, for they'd never found her body. There would be no grave for him to visit.

The thought didn't improve Brenda's state of mind. Instead it drove her to do something she would never normally consider. She carefully went through Harry's file of manuscripts, checking every story whether it was complete or barely started. She didn't really know what she was looking for, but by the

time she was through she knew what she had failed to find.

Nowhere in all his work had she come across a story about a necroscope.

So, either Harry hadn't started the story yet -

Or he was a liar -

Or -

Or what was bothering her was something entirely different.

As Brenda Cowell stood in a shaft of morning sunlight in Harry's flat, pondering the strangeness of the man she was involved with, one hundred and twenty miles away Harry Keogh himself stood in the same sunlight on the banks of a drowsy river in Scotland and looked across it at the big house where it stood at the head of a large, overgrown garden. There had been a time when the place was well maintained, but that was a long time ago and Harry couldn't remember it. He had been too young, an infant, and there were many things he couldn't remember. But he remembered his mother. Somewhere, deep in his subconscious mind, he had never forgotten about her -and she had never forgotten about him. And she still worried about him.

Harry stared at the house for a long time, then at the river. Its waters moved slowly, swirling, cool and inviting. Or inviting to most. A grassy bank with a few reeds; deep green water, and just here, a pebbly bottom; and somewhere down there, lodged in the slime-slick pebbles where it had lain for most of Harry's years -

A ring. A man's ring. A cat's-eye stone set in thick gold. Harry staggered at the river's edge. He deliberately flopped down to save himself from falling. The sun shone on him but he was cold. The blue sky reeled, became the grey, liquid flurry of slushy water.

He was under the water, trying to fight his way up through a hole in the ice.

Then the face seen through the ice, its trembling jelly lips turning up at their corners in a grimace - or a smile! The hands coming down into the water, holding him under and on one of them that ring. The cat's-eye ring, on the second finger of the right hand! And Harry tearing at those hands, clawing at them, ripping the strong flesh in his frenzy. The gold ring coming loose, spiralling down past him into the murk and the icy deeps. Blood from the torn hands turning the swirling water red - red against the black of Harry's dying.

No, not his dying, hers! His mother's!

Waterlogged, he/she sank; and the current dragging them along under the ice, turning and tumbling them; and who'll look after Harry now? Poor little Harry...

The nightmare receded, its rush and gurgle diminishing in his mind, leaving him gasping for air where he clawed at the grassy bank. Then he curled on his side and was violently ill. This was it; it was here. This was where it had happened. This was where she had died. Where she had been murdered. Right here!

But -

Where was she now?

Harry allowed his feet to lead him, following the course of the river downstream. Where the channel narrowed a little, he crossed a small wooden bridge and continued on down the bank. Garden hedges came down close to the river's edge here, so that he walked a narrow, often overgrown path between fences on the one hand and reeds and water on the other. And in a little while he came to a place where the bank had been worn away, forming an over-hanging bite not ten feet across. Above the still water in the pool, the path ended where the fence leaned dangerously riverward, but Harry knew he need look no further. This was where she lay.

Anyone watching him from the bank opposite would have seen the beginning of a strange thing then. Harry sat down with his feet dangling over the shallow, muddy pool, put his chin in his hands, stared deep into the water. And minutes later, if anyone had been closer, he would have been witness to something stranger still: tears from this young man's staring, unblinking eyes which dripped from the tip of his nose in a steady stream to add their substance to the river's.

And for the first time in his adult life Harry Keogh met his mother, talked to her 'face to face', and was able to verify the terrible things his dreams and her restless messages had caused him to more than suspect for so many years. And while they talked he cried - tears of sadness, and some of gladness at first; then of remorse and frustration, that he'd had to wait so long for this day; then of white anger as things began to make more sense to him. Finally he told her what he intended to do.

Upon which the wondering observer, had there been one, would have seen the strangest thing of all. For when Mary Keogh knew her son's plans she became even more afraid for him and voiced her fears, and she made Harry promise that he would do nothing rash. He couldn't deny her pleading, answered with a nod of his head. She didn't believe him, cried out after him as he stood up and moved away. And for a moment - the merest second - it seemed the bottom of the pool shuddered, shaking the water and sending ripples coursing outward from its centre. Then the pool was still again.

Harry didn't see this for already he was making for the bridge, returning to the spot where it had happened all those years ago. The place where his gentle mother had been murdered.

He found a place where the reeds grew tall, checked that he was completely alone, stripped down to his shorts and stepped to the river's edge. A moment later he was in the water, diving deep, then making for the middle where the current ran swiftest. Even there the river's pull was barely noticeable, and after twenty minutes of diving and delving amongst the pebbles of the bottom he found what he was looking for. It lay within a few inches of the spot where he'd first thought it might be, tarnished and a little slimy, but unmistakably a ring. The gold gleamed through on the instant he rubbed it, and the cat's-eye stone held its cold, unwinking stare as of old. Harry had never actually seen the ring before that moment when his groping fingers found it - not consciously, anyway - but he knew it at once. It was that familiar. Nor did it seem odd to him that he'd known where to look. Stranger far if the ring had not been there.

On the bank of the river he finished cleaning it, slid it on to the index finger of his left hand which it fitted a little loosely but was not so slack that he might lose it, and turned it thoughtfully between his fingers, getting the feel of it. It felt cold even under the hot sun, cold as the day its owner had lost it.

Then Harry dressed and headed for Bonnyrigg. From there he'd catch a bus into Edinburgh and take the first train home to Hartlepool. His work here was done - for now.

Now that he had found his mother he would have no trouble reaching her again, no matter how far he wandered, and he would be able to calm her fears and give her a little of the peace she'd sought for so long. She would no longer need to worry about little Harry.

Before leaving the spot by the river, however, he paused to look again at the big house where it stood well back from the opposite bank; and he stared at its old gables and wild gardens for long, long moments. His step-father still lived and worked there, he knew. Yes, and it would not be too long before Harry paid him a visit.

But before that there was much he would have to do. Viktor Shukshin was a dangerous man, a murderer, and Harry must be careful how he approached him. He intended that his step-father should pay the price for his mother's death - that he must be punished in full - but the punishment would have to fit the crime. And no use at all to simply accuse the man, for what proof was there after all these years? No, Harry must set a trap, and bait it, and Shukshin must find it irresistible. But no hurry, none at all, for Harry had time on his side. Time would allow him to become expert in many things, and indeed he had much to learn. For what good to be a necroscope if he could make no use of it? As to how he would use his talent after he had avenged his mother's death: that remained to be seen. It would be as it would be.

But right now his instructors were waiting for him and they were the best in the world. Yes, and they knew far more now than ever they had known when they were alive.

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