“Son, that book can destroy lives. The government can’t be confident with a boy hiding it under his bed.”
Dylan was awoken by voices. His eyes flashed open and he sat up and turned to the curtain. It was still light outside, though he guessed from the texture of the light that the day must be winding down.
Rubbing his eyes, he tried to clear the fog from his mind. Since the long spell in Wilfred’s body, all he wanted to do was sleep. Thankfully the nightmares had stopped, and he had nothing much to do until Wilfred’s death was confirmed and they could start the ball rolling with the will, so he was spending most of his time lazing in bed.
When the voices rose, he pushed himself off the bed and shuffled to the top of the stairs.
“… said they have to tread carefully,” said an unfamiliar voice. It was a man’s voice, cultured and slightly gruff.
“Was that it?” Kane asked.
“It’s unlikely we’ll hear more. National security being what it is.”
“Jesus. I don’t know about this. They need to put an end to it. Now.”
“They do know what they’re doing, young man.”
“I know … I just can’t help thinking they should be doing more.”
“That’s only natural, given the circumstances. You’re worried; I can understand that. But please, trust the process. No nasties are coming after you; that’s one thing I can guarantee.”
There was a pause. “How can you guarantee that if they don’t know about Dylan and me? You haven’t told them about us, have you?”
“No, no. Don’t worry on that account. I simply meant the NSO have the suspected felons under surveillance. They would let me know if they were up to anything untoward.”
“Suspected felons? Who are they? I only know about Snyder and Gilles.”
“They haven’t gone into any detail, naturally. But they assured me they are following up all leads, including those they garnered from the search of the farmhouse and study.”
“I suppose that’s a start.”
Intrigued by the conversation, Dylan went downstairs. Entering the kitchen, he found Kane sitting at the table with an elderly man, dressed like a wedding guest in a black suit and red-striped bow tie. The man was drinking from a sky-blue teacup embossed with gold: his mother’s favourite china. His brother was fingering the handle of similar cup, this one full of tea.
Kane noticed him first. “Hey bro,” he piped. “Did we wake you? Sorry about that.”
He frowned at the old man. “Who’s that?”
Kane got to his feet. “Dylan, this is Simon – Professor Orwell. He’s come to pick up the book.”
The professor pushed out his chair and stood too, stretching a hand towards Dylan. He was tall and angular, with hair and beard as white as snow. His heavy-lidded eyes were too blue for a man of his age. “Pleasure to meet you, son. I’ve been updating your brother on events at the farm. An eye popping situation, to say the least. I doubt in all my years I’ve come across anything so incredible.”
Dylan looked at the outstretched hand, which was covered in wiry white hairs and blue veins and freckles. “Why do you want the Necromonicon?”
“NSO wants it,” answered Kane. “National Security Office.”
“So why aren’t they here asking for it?”
“I’m acting as their agent – in all civilian affairs.”
“The NSO has people trained to take care of it,” said Kane.
“The book is dangerous,” added Simon. “It needs to be kept under lock and key.”
“Which is what we’ve done.”
The professor sputtered a laugh. “Son, that book can destroy lives. It’s a ticking time bomb. The government can’t be confident with a boy hiding it under his bed.”
Dylan ignored the jibe.
“It needs to be in protective custody.”
Dylan yawned, stretching his arms out to the side.
Simon glared at him. “Are you listening to me? The book is dangerous.”
“I get that.”
“I’m not confident you do. You’ve no idea what you’ve gotten yourself involved in. We’re not playing games here, young man.”
Stepping past them to the fridge, Dylan pulled open the door, glanced around inside and took out a carton of iced coffee. “I’ve been living inside an old man’s body,” he said as he opened the carton; “bringing dead things back to life; fighting a Messenger from another dimension. Don’t tell me what I don’t know.”
Simon bowed his head. “My apologies, Dylan. That came out all wrong. I only meant there is an historical context that few people would understand or can even imagine. The Necromonicon holds the key to dark magics that could end the world as we know it. That’s the stakes we’re dealing with.”
Dylan leant his back against the kitchen counter. The man was pompous and hadn’t told him anything he didn’t already know. “The book is dangerous. I get it.”
“Then you can release it to me and I will assure its security.”
He drank from the carton. The milk was ice cold and he grimaced as he felt a brain freeze coming on. Bunching up his face until the feeling subsided, he grunted, “How will you do that?”
“What do you mean?”
“You heard me.”
“I’m afraid I don’t –”
“How can we be sure someone else won’t get corrupted by it?”
“That, Mr Gates, is none of your concern.”
“It is, as long as I’ve got the book.”
“It’s none of your concern full stop. The NSO and I have a wealth of experience and resources at our disposal and we are well aware of how to handle artefacts of this nature.”
“Artefacts? It’s not an artefact. You don’t know the half of it.”
“I know everything about the Necromonicon.”
“I doubt that.”
“I’ve studied it for decades. You’ve had it for five minutes and you have the nerve to lecture me on its power. Do you know how offensive that is?”
“I’m asking a simple question. How can you guarantee you – or anybody else – won’t get corrupted by it?”
“I repeat: I’ve studied the Necromonicon for decades –”
“Then why are you here? If you already have a copy, what do you need ours for?”
Simon’s face went red. “The book is dangerous. If you were hiding a nuclear bomb, I would be here for the same reason.”
“No, the NSO would be here. Sounds to me like you’re here to get your hands on what’s in the Necromonicon, not bury it. If you’ve studied it for so many decades, I don’t see why you need my copy.” Feeling he was gaining the upper hand, he added, “Unless you don’t have your own. Have you ever seen the Necromonicon? Outside of pictures in a text book?”
Simon approached him. “The book does not belong to you. I suggest you hand it over right now.”
Dylan glanced at his brother, who was sitting there with a bemused smile on his face. He took another drink of iced coffee, deliberately slowly to frustrate their visitor and show he wasn’t afraid of him.
“How do we know you won’t pick up where Wilfred left off?” he asked as Simon moved uncomfortably close.
“Dylan!” cried Kane, trying hard to frown. He raised his palms. “Sorry, Professor. Our mother always said Dylan is too honest for his own good.”
Simon released a tight smile. “Don’t mention it, Kane,” he said without turning around. “I understand completely. Your brother has had a series of terrible scares. Traumatising for one so young and impressionable. Now, I really must be getting back to the office.” He held out his hands. “If you don’t mind, Dylan … the book?”
Kane crossed to the dishwasher, opened the door, reached out a hand and froze. The dishwasher was empty.
“Dylan,” he said over his shoulder. “Where –?” At Dylan’s smirk, he asked, “What have you done with it?”
Dylan took the opportunity to slip out of Simon’s shadow. “It’s in a safe place.”
“I said I would take care of it.”
“By giving it away?”
“The professor is working with the National Security Office. They need the book.”
“How do we know any of that is true?”
“Professor Orwell is a world-renowned academic. I’ve been to his office. At the university. I’ve seen his students. Of course you can trust him.”
Dylan was reading the ingredients on the side of the carton of iced coffee. He was trying to see how much caffeine was in it. Maybe if he drank enough, it would help him stay awake. The carton didn’t say, and he felt like going back upstairs to bed, so he guessed it wasn’t much.
Kane asked again: “Where’s the book, Dylan?”
“Son,” interjected Simon, “this is a state affair now. You could get into a world of trouble for impeding a lawful request.”
“Why haven’t you asked me about all the things Wilfred Waite did to me?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Dylan put the carton down on the table. “You seem to be more interested in the book than me.”
“Your brother told me about what happened with you.”
“You’re happy hearing about it second hand? Do you think I told Kane everything? … and that he remembered every little detail? That sounds strange for a world-renowned academic.”
“Dylan,” said Kane, “Professor Orwell is in a hurry. He knows enough to work with the authorities and make sure nothing else gets loose. This isn’t all about you.”
Dylan felt a stab of anger at his brother’s dismissive attitude. It was all about him. He’d been there at the start; he’d assisted in all kinds of incantations; he was Wilfred’s chosen one – the chosen one of the gods, if Wilfred was to be believed. It was everyone else who were the bit players.
“Thank you, Kane,” said Simon. Then to Dylan: “I’m not a novice in these matters, son. I was researching cults and the occult well before you were born. What seems fresh and new to you is my bread and butter. When all this is over, we can re-group and discuss your experiences. I would be very interested in adding your stories to my body of research.” His face brightened. “And Arika, my research assistant; she has a special interest in the Dark farm. You like Arika, don’t you? She talks about you boys all the time. In fact, I will arrange an interview with her as soon as I get back.”
“What will you do with it?”
“The Necromonicon. What will you do with it?”
“Oh, the book. That, my boy, is for the government to decide.”
“The government? The same government that spends a trillion dollars a year finding new ways to kill people?”
Simon straightened his back and clenched his fists. “Don’t be a child!” he sputtered. “Give me the book! Right this moment!”
Dylan fell into the closest chair, stretched out his legs and placed his hands palms down on the table top.
“Professor,” said Kane, “Dylan is the most stubborn person I know. He won’t give you the book.”
Simon jabbed a finger in Dylan’s face. “I could have you arrested for this, boy.”
Picking up the carton, Dylan drank the rest of the iced coffee, then aimed the empty carton at the sink, which was filled to the brim with dishes and rubbish. “Hey, man,” he said, throwing it, wincing when it hit a plate and bounced to the floor; “knock yourself out.”
Twenty minutes later, Kane approached Dylan’s door. Rapping on it, he pushed into the room without waiting for an answer.
The room was empty. Going to the bed, he spied Dylan sitting on the roof of the porch. It was a habit he’d had since giving up nappies, a habit that used to drive their mother mad. Dylan was staring at a pile of papers in his hands; Kane could see it was Wilfred Waite’s will.
“You’re not getting the book,” he said without looking up.
“I don’t want the book.”
“Good. Because you’re not getting it.”
“I think you were right.”
Dylan glanced over his shoulder. “I saw him leave. He seemed pretty pissed.”
“To put it mildly.”
“Do you think he’ll dob us in to the cops?”
Kane leaned both hands on the window sill. “I don’t think so. He wants to keep this quiet as much as we do.”
“What about the NSO?”
“If the NSO comes, we’ll deal with it then. No point worrying about something before it happens.”
“They could storm the house when we’re asleep and make us disappear.”
“You’ve been watching too much TV.”
“I kinda told him you’d left packages with five of your closest friends, to be sent to reporters if any weird shit happened to you.”
Dylan laughed. “Who’s the one been watching too much TV?”
“Obviously not the professor. He went white when I told him that.”
“I don’t like him.”
“You don’t like anyone.”
“I like Arika.”
“Really? You like the domineering femme fatale type?”
“Okay,” said Kane, straightening, “do I got a fight on my hands?”
“For Arika’s affections.”
“Nah; wouldn’t be fair: cool computer whizkid versus brainless jock.” Dylan glanced at him. “And you’re welcome.”
“For being the reason you and Arika met.”
“You mean when you raised a demon from hell and almost killed everyone in Quorn?”
“You’re jumping the gun, mate. I can’t see a smart girl like that falling for a village hick like me.”
When Dylan returned his attention to the will, Kane asked, “You think she likes me?”
“Can’t keep her eyes off you.”
“Stop it. You’re jerking me.”
“Going into the catacombs like that, to rescue me. Never giving up. Getting us all out alive. She thinks you’re a hero.”
Kane felt his face go red.
Dylan lowered the will. His face was slowly turning red too. He was breathing heavily, staring out at the Waldrons’ trees across the road. “What you did for me, Kane: I’ll never forget it. I just wanted you to know that.”
Stepping over the window sill, Kane pretended to look in both Dylan’s eyes. “Are you sure that’s my little brother in there?”
He sat next to him. “You seem more … grounded.”
“Being inside an old man can do that.”
Kane grimaced. “You probably shouldn’t say that too loudly, bro.”
When Dylan didn’t react to his joke, he said, “Hey Dylan: are you gonna be alright?”
His brother looked down at the will. “You know,” he said, smiling at the papers in his hands; “I think I probably am.”