Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Resurrection Bureau - Part 5

Halcyon hesitated. What had he said? When it came to it the old man had pretty much talked nonsense, hadn’t he? But Young Brian nodded nevertheless when Halcyon told him Ambrosius’s odd and convoluted tale.
‘The dog headed men, that was one of the heretical Arthur stories,’ Halcyon shrugged, and Young Brian sighed. ‘Don’t you ever read a book, Ghost? The story of the cynocephali, the dog headed demons, is one of the contended Gospels of Saint Gawain. There was a lot left out of the New Testament, stuff about demons and giants that people would just laugh at now.’
‘And the Titanic, mastermind, was that in Saint Gawain’s Gospels too?’ Young Brian was Halcyon’s best friend, but his condescending attitude sometimes got on his nerves.
Young Brian grinned. ‘Nope, no Titanic in the Bible,’ he replied. ‘But the Gospels do say that whenever Merlin used his powers it was always followed by a great disaster. Remember, when Merlin brought Arthur back from death Avalon fell.’
Halcyon stared at Young Brian for several seconds, and then shook his head. ‘What a load of old crap,’ he said at last.
‘Took the words right out of my mouth, Ghost,’ Young Brian replied. ‘Game of pool? Fiver a frame?’


It rained in Northumberland. It rained a lot. When Eve stepped off the train it rained in vertical rods, when she finally caught a taxi (there appeared to be three to cover the whole county) outside the station the rain was falling horizontally, and as she sat in her hotel room trying to dry off the rain appeared to be falling in curls. She was almost certain at one point, as she looked out of her window at brown, mist obscured streets, that it hailed.
Hadn’t anyone told them it was August?
There had been the usual literature in the cramped hotel room, declaring Northumberland to be “The Avalon of the North” and “The birthplace of Lancelot”. Eve had grown up in Wanstead in London, she and her mother living above The George pub in Wanstead High Street. Chingford was the furthest she had ever travelled north. She had always assumed there were nothing but cows, factories and ruined castles once you crossed the M25.
The view out of her window did little to reassure her that she had been wrong.
She knew very little about Northumberland, accept, of course, as every school child knew, that Bamborough Castle was the birthplace of Saint Lancelot, and that his body, according to legend, had been interred at the nearby holy island of Lindisfarne. From what she had been able to tell from her taxi window, Bamborough was a large and prosperous city, not perhaps the bustling metropolis of Glastonbury – but then again, outside of New York or Paris, where was? – but, she admitted somewhat grudgingly, it was quite cosmopolitan. They even had a Starbucks.
She had very little idea of what lay between Bamborough and North London. There were a few small industrial towns, she knew; Newcastle, Sunderland, Manchester … Or were they north of here in Scotland? Eve wasn’t quite sure.
She had stopped only briefly in the hotel. The Governor had given her a very tight schedule which hadn’t been helped by the train pulling in an hour late and the lack of taxis. She hadn’t time for a shower, but had just enough time to discover that the radio stations listed on the hotel literature had no earthly connection to the stations that were actually available, to try and to fail to connect her iPad to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, drink a mouthful of the most repulsive coffee in existence, and to stare out of the window at the dismal weather.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Mid-Week Report: A dog ate my novel

Since my last post I have written nothing - this is due to a number of factor, my laptop went phut, I had to go to a funeral and also sat through the longest doctor's appointment in world history (if you look in the Guiness Book of Record you'll find a picture of me there in the doctor's waiting room, under "B" for World's Most Bored Man).
I know I keep saying that I will write more, and I will, honestly, if only because I'll have to stop writing The Resurrection Bureau at the end of November no matter how far advanced it is, and go back to try and finish writing Super Maxwell 3: The Isle of the Dead to get it published by next summer.
But I am, as always, optimistic (you can find me under "O" in the Guiness Book of Records too, for The World's Most Optimistic Man) and I am confident The Resurrection Bureau will be finished by the end of November - trust me, I used to be a boy scout.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Resurrection Bureau - Part 4

‘Eddie?’ Betty Weywood’s voice curled out at Halcyon like a cat’s tongue. ‘I had a dream about you last night.’
Halcyon turned and looked into Bettie Weywood’s wicked brown eyes – but oddly, the sensation he felt was not his usual one of vague erotic embarrassment, but a thrill of fear. ‘Um. Right, err...’
‘I dreamt you were speaking to a very old man by a very hot fire,’ purred Betty.
‘And did he have a cat?’ chipped in Emily.
‘A cat,’ Vera cackled. ‘And a robin too.’
Betty nodded, her large brown eyes never moving from Halycon’s, ‘A red, red robin,’ she breathed.
A red, red robin. If you get in trouble, whispered an old voice in Halcyon’s mind, do tell a robin.
The old man in the Titanic deckchair – how had he forgotten that?
‘How did you...’ he began, and a smell so noxious and noisome that Halycon felt his voice melt as if by airborne acid, surrounded him. The Weywood sisters all wrinkled their nose of various sizes and designs and leant back on their exercise bikes. ‘Hello Jack,’ said Emily as cheerily as possible.
‘Sorry son, I missed the bus,’ said Mr Tree. He was dressed in a white tracksuit splotched with grey, yellow and brown stains, a brown woollen suit jacket and a brown cloth cap. Halcyon did not want to guess at how Mr Tree had acquired those stains, but the funky smell that permanently surrounded him was a pretty good indication. ‘Any chance of a cuppa?’ he asked hopefully.

Thursday was always one of Halcyon’s busiest days, with back to back clients, starting with Mr Tree (stroke) then Mr Charles (heart attack) Mr Fyne (fractured pelvis) and finishing with Mr Trump (heart bypass, stroke, arthritis). Inevitably all of their sessions overran, or one or more of them was late, or didn’t turn up at all, which usually meant a 30 minutes phone chase for a nephew, niece, son or daughter who usually managed to stay just on the right side of exasperated and shared all of their woes with Halcyon. Halcyon really didn’t mind. He knew he could get a job at a better gym in town relatively easily, probably with more money, but he liked the old and damaged men who came to see him at Sam’s, no matter how bad their lives outside, once inside the gym it was his job to help them.
Debbie had considered his job demeaning; even though she had grudgingly acknowledged that it was “a good thing” that he was helping out those recovering from various illnesses. That was the thing about Debbie, he had realised, she was ninety per cent horrible – cold, mean spirited, thoughtless and selfish – but there had always been that ten per cent of her that had been thoughtful, kind and forgiving. But, Halcyon had begun to realised even before Debbie met Clive and his black windowed Cleo, it was very hard work loving ten per cent of someone.
So the day had passed at its usual awkward and exhausting pace at Sam’s Gym and Solarium and it wasn’t until Halcyon had stepped out of the Day-Glo green door and back into the rain that he remembered the old man in the deckchair again.
‘Eddie Ambrosius,’ he murmured, ‘middle name definitely not trouble.’
It was funny how he had forgotten about the old man. It wasn’t the usual ten pint black out forgetfulness either. Halcyon, though undoubtedly drunk at the time, remembered what had happened with perfect clarity – the old man and his tale of Titanic, the island of cat headed-women and dog-headed men, his cat Bas and the little red robin – but the memory seemed slippery somehow. The moment he stopped thinking about it the memory seemed to ping to the back of his brain as if attached to the inside of his skull by elastic, and it was very hard to start to remember it again.
Halcyon crossed the road to Sign’s Paper shop and General Dealers, the only other shop or house on the windblown hill where Sam’s gym sat, and bought a local paper. Mr Sign asked him again (as he did at least twice a week) how much it was to join the gym and what the opening times were, and assured Halcyon that he would pop in next week, and Halcyon assured him that he would give Mr Sign a tour round – though both men knew it would never happen. It was just one of those curious conversations you had with people you didn’t know, but, because you saw them every day, you felt you had to be polite to them.
Halcyon crossed back over the road and waited for his bus. He didn’t take his paper out of his pocket – he bought it out of force of habit and barely ever read it – but simply stared blankly ahead thinking about the funny old man with the forked beard and the tea cosy hat until his bus came.
He did not notice the headline on the newspaper hording outside the shop – it read simply:

‘Tetley? Did you see me talking to that old man last night?’
Tetley paused in the act of counting his change (a considerable challenge for Tetley at the best of times) and squinted at Halcyon around his smoking cigarette. ‘What? Old Joe, you mean?’
‘No, not him.’ Old Joe lived a semi-permanent existence under the Bitter Drayman’s dart board, a flat cap on his head and a toothless grimace indelibly on his face, as he strove to completely ignore the darts whizzing over his head, and on occasion landing in his beer. ‘I am that old man I was talking to in the garden?’
Tetley sighed and held out his hand to Halcyon, who quickly counted his change. ‘Fine,’ he confirmed. Tetley dropped his change in his jeans pocket. ‘I didn’t see no old fella. You was sitting in that garden in front of a smoking fire. Did I get those smoky bacon?’
‘In your pocket,’ Tetley gave a grunt as he discovered the crisp packet, and picked up the two pints off the counter. ‘But there was an old man there in the garden with me?’ Halcyon persisted as they walked back to the pool table together.
‘What was that, Ghost?’ asked Jaffa, taking his pint from Tetley.
‘I was just asking Tetley if he saw me talking to that old man in the garden last night,’ Halcyon said.
‘Man, you were steaming last night,’ Jaffa chuckled. He took a slurp from his pint. ‘Where are my crisps?’
‘So you didn’t see any old man?’ Halcyon asked as Tetley threw Jaffa’s crisps to him.
‘These aren’t barbecue beef!’ Jaffa exclaimed.
‘You asked for smoky bacon,’ Tetley replied.
‘You daft git, I asked for barbecue beef!’
‘No you bloody didn’t!’
Halcyon sighed and made his way around the table to where Young Brian sat in the shadowed alcove smoking a yellow cigarette, his hands shaking slightly. ‘Cheers, Eddie,’ Young Brian took his pint and Halcyon sat.
‘Did you see that old man I was talking to last night?’ Halcyon asked.
Young Brian frowned beneath his mop of curling hair. He took a sip of his pint. He took a drag on his cigarette. ‘I don’t remember that,’ he said at last. Young Brian, Halcyon knew, was fiercely intelligent, but took great care to both hide the fact, and also to damage as many brain cells as humanly possible with both alcohol and various other substances. He was sort of odd, but in a relaxed, likeable way. For instance, Young Brian never looked at you when he spoke to you, except when in the extremes of drunkenness (a frequent event) or when being extremely serious (an extremely rare event). But when he did speak it was with such languid humour that no one seemed to mind. And Young Brian was extraordinarily handsome, almost femininely beautiful, and as much as he scruffed down beneath his curly hair, his unshaven chin and his misshapen t-shirts and jeans his good looks were impossible to disguise. Halcyon had known Young Brian since secondary school, had known his dad Old Tom who had been a friend of his foster family, and though he loved him like a brother, could not help but feel slightly jealous of his good looks and easy manner. You could not help but feel slightly eclipsed by Young Brian, even though Young Brian himself would have been mystified and slightly annoyed if you ever told him so.
‘Was there something about a bird?’ Young Brian asked suddenly. ‘A bird sitting on a cat’s head? Really? I thought I’d dreamt that.’
Yes, that cat was called Bas. It belonged to the old man, he was called Eddie Ambrosius.’
‘Ambrosius?’ Young Brian raised an eyebrow, and took a slow sip of his pint, and a slow drag on his yellow cigarette. ‘That was Merlin’s name.’
‘Yeah, you know, Merlin. King Arthur’s court. Merlin, maker of saints, slayer of dragons and witches. Merlin, who put the sword in the stone, and brought Arthur back from death—‘
‘I bloody know who bloody Merlin is, don’t I!’ Halcyon exclaimed in exasperation. ‘Do you think that old man was Merlin, then?’
Young Brian grunted. ‘If he was Merlin I’m Saint Lancelot,’ he replied. ‘Still, it’s not exactly a common name, is it, Ambrosius? What did he say to you?’


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Mid-Week Report: A crisis of confidence

A fellow author told me earlier this week that it probably wasn't a good idea to publish the whole of The Resurrection Bureau completely online, as there is little chance of online books ever being published by a mainstream publisher.
I felt a distinct moment of panic. Well, actually, I spent a distinct 48 hours of panic. Then I figured - actually I don't really care. The whole idea of The Resurrection Bureau was to challenge myself, and to give you something fun to read in instalments - something you haven't been able to do since Sherlock Holmes in Strand magazine.
I don't really want your money, and I don't really care if TRB is ever published - if you want to go out and buy Super Maxwell 3 next year, God bless you!
So The Resurrection Bureau will continue - and - thank Merlin - I now have a beginning, a middle and an end - which I certainly did not have a couple of weeks ago.
So on we go - and be careful never to whisper a secret to a crow - you'll find out why very soon...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Resurrection Bureau - part 3


Rain fell in heavy bursts against Halcyon’s kitchen window, which rattled feebly. ‘Thank Lance,’ he murmured, sipping on a warm bottle of coke. The last thing in the world he needed in his current state was a hot, sunny day – wind, rain and general bitter cold were just the thing for your average four alarm hangover.
Halcyon started most of his days just exactly like this, stood naked in front of his window drinking warm coke and contemplating the black spots in his memories of the night before. It had been this way for years now, and the only variation was that occasionally he awoke with either Jaffa, Young Brian or Tetley (occasionally all three) asleep on his sofa, floor, or sometimes in his bed with him.
It had begun to worry Halcyon a little. He was twenty-two years old now, and while he did not consider himself to be old, he knew that he was not exactly a kid anymore either. He had known Jaffa since he was five, when they had met in the Green Ginger Orphanage, and Tetley and Young Brian he had since age eleven, when they had met at their first day of High Castle comprehensive school. None of them had married, and none of them had serious girlfriends (apart from Halcyon’s brief and painful relationship with Debbie, which Halcyon, at least, had thought was serious). Neither had any of them particularly well defined career paths. Jaffa worked at a call centre, Tetley had his own window cleaning round and Young Brian was an occasional painter and decorator, and almost full time pool hustler. In fact, Halcyon realised, of the four of them he had by far the most “career-y” job – and he had only fallen into that because a detached retina had ended his boxing career at aged nineteen.
A year ago, maybe even six months ago, he had stood in front of the window with his warm drink and his thoughts had turned to where he and the boys were going on Saturday night (though “Saturday Night” was more a state of mind, than an actual “night”, and as such tended to be quite fluid – there were, generally, four or five Saturday Nights in the average week), or the match, or what he would watch on telly tonight – now, well...
Now he looked at his bedsit, and the red stone horseshoe of the flats that surrounded him, and across the dirty rooftops and the gray sky, and he heard the sound of the busses and the honks of impatient cars and the distant hoot of fog horns, and he felt, more than anything else, like a man in a cage.
He knew what the lads thought. They thought it was all down to Debbie, but that wasn’t true. Well ... It wasn’t totally true. She had hurt him badly, and even now when he saw her with her new boyfriend Clive with his Corsa with its blacked out windows and his job at the council, it hurt him still ... But oddly, despite his occasional drunken ramble past her house on a night, he had long since realised that he really didn’t want Debbie back. She was as bad as the brick walls and plastic windows. It hadn’t worked out with Debbie because she had wanted Halcyon to be something he wasn’t – and Halcyon had wanted to be something other than what he was.
But what that was, what else he could possibly be, Eddie Halcyon had absolutely no idea.

‘Morning Sam.’
Sam gave a grunt, it was, Halcyon knew, Sam’s version of a hail and hearty good morning. It was when he gave you a snort you were in trouble.
Halcyon hung up his coat where it dangled wetly on its own. Sam never wore a coat, even in the snow. He considered the wearing of a coat to be effeminate, and the carrying of an umbrella to constitute an actual declaration of man love. Halcyon looked out of the window of Sam’s office while he dried his hair with a putrid green towel. The gym was almost entirely empty, except for Iron George, who was, as always, grimly pumping iron wearing a scowl and a massive pair of headphones. The Weywood sisters were all sat on exercise bikes in the window, and all three waved at Halcyon and he waved back, soliciting the usual dirty cackle from all three.
‘Is Mr Tree in yet, Sam?’
‘You see him?’ Sam grunted, not looking up from his computer screen, electric reflection playing across his glaring eyes and bristling black moustache.
Sam, Halcyon knew, considered himself permanently on the brink of financial ruin, and spent almost all of his time checking and rechecking the finances of Sam’s Gym and Solarium. In fact the gym was the only one within twenty miles of the city centre the either didn’t cost a small fortune to run, or wasn’t run by petty thieves, and as such was immensely popular among older people and young women. It was, Halcyon suspected, a small gold mine for Sam – but Sam, with his thinning hair and thickening waistline created by hours in front of his computer, viewed the gym as a huge and almost unbearable burden.
Sam had come second place in the 1987 World’s Strongest Man competition. The second place label still rankled with him, and had, in Sam’s eyes, been the chief architect of all his woes. He had, he believed, made bad decisions about the location (on a windy hill on the outskirts of the city), pricing policy (£1.50 a session, £1 if you were a member, fifty pence for pensioners and the unemployed) and clientele (few of whom paid more than 50p) of his gym. In Halcyon’s opinion Sam’s greatest error of judgement had been choosing a colour scheme of gangrene green, puss yellow and battleships gray for the gym.
‘I’ll go and see how the sisters are doing,’ Halcyon said, draping the vile green towel over the back of his chair.
‘I wouldn’t,’ Sam grunted. But Halcyon didn’t need telling that, Sam was thick muscle from the chest up, and thick fat from the chest down, and very rarely left his chair, never mind his office. ‘Toilet needs cleaning,’ he added grimly.
‘Right.’ Halcyon exited quickly, before the conversation turned to one of Sam’s favourite topics, The High Cost of Plumbing. It was among Sam’s top three favourite topics, alongside; Some Bastard’s Parked In My Spot, and Why Can’t Bastards Clean Their Shoes Before They Come In, The Bastards.

‘Good morning Vera, Emily, Betty.’
‘Good morning Eddie!’ trilled the Weywood sisters.
The Weywood sisters looked very little like each other, but were, they had assured Halcyon often, devoted sisters. Vera, the eldest (or at least Halcyon guessed she was, they never discussed their age) was a whip-thin woman with a beak of a nose and a candy floss explosion of red-brown hair billowing from the top of her head; Emily, who Halcyon always imagined to be the youngest of the sisters, was a fat little woman with a pale complexion, button nose, a love of pink clothing, hair and lipstick, and a slippery curly wig; Betty, Halcyon thought, probably shouldn’t be paying 50p. If she was a pensioner she certainly had looked after herself, Halcyon found it hard to believe she was over fifty. Betty was curvaceous, and dark skinned with large brown eyes twinkling behind big curling eyelashes. All three of the sisters were dressed in tracksuits – Vera’s sky blue, Emily’s bubblegum pink, and Betty’s chestnut brown, and were spinning, with very little consideration for any thought of exercise, on the big exercise bikes in the window.
‘Are you looking after us today, Eddie?’ chirped Emily with a giggle.
‘I’m supposed to be looking after Mr Tree--’
‘Lazy old sod,’ snapped Vera.
‘He has had a stroke, Vera,’ Emily said, as reproachful as a chipmunk.
‘He was a lazy old sod before he had the stroke,’ Vera replied waspishly. ‘I knew him when he worked at the gas board, spent all his time smoking fags and picking horses in his van.’
‘He did, as Merlin is my witness.’
‘Well,’ Halcyon didn’t quite know what to say to that, ‘Hee still needs his physical therapy, so I’d better—‘
‘Eddie?’ Betty Weywood’s voice curled out at Halcyon like a cat’s tongue. ‘I had a dream about you last night.’

To be continued...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Mid-week report: Big Brother, Tiffany Aching and a sticky bed

My plan to belt out 35 pages a week has gone slightly awry...Now, dear reader, I could lie to you and tell you that this is due to writers block, but actually it is due to a conspiracy of telly, good books and cold, wet mornings.
At the moment I am writing around 10-15 pages a week, which for me isn't bad, but obviously I'll never reach my target of finishing The Resurrection Bureau by the end of November at this rate.
But I am addicted to Big Brother - I know it's rubbish, but so are custard creams and I'm addicted to those too - so writing on a evening is out at least for the rest of this week. The weather is horrible at the moment, so I'm not getting up at 6.30 and writing for an hour as I normally do. Also I just bought I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett's brilliant new Tiffany Aching book - and I can not go to bed until I've read at least chapter, so late night writing is out - but I'll have read that by the end of the week too.
But don't worry, give me a couple of weeks to pull it together and I will be meeting my targets. After all I'm writing this for you, not for a publishers, not for an agent, but just for me and you - trust me, together we'll make it!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Resurrection Bureau - part 2


‘So, what do I call you? Guinie, or Guin, or maybe G-Girl—‘
‘Eve,’ Eve interrupted. ‘Please call me Eve.’ She did her best to make the “please” not sound like “call me G-Girl, call me it just ONCE, and I will beat you repeatedly around the face and neck” - and she must have succeeded because John Crichton grinned like the Cheshire Cat, and said:
‘And is there an Adam at home?’
Eve was momentarily lost for words. ‘I beg your pardon?’
John Crichton held up both hands. ‘Or an Adamena, maybe? Hey, we’re very progressive here at the Bureau. Equal rights and proud. We’re a top ten employer in the Stonewall equality chart. So ... You’re a lesbian, right?’ Eve opened her mouth, and all that came out was a croak. ‘No need to answer,’ John Crichton said with a cheerful wink. ‘We are great believers in privacy at the Bureau. So ... Let’s talk about you duties, shall we?’
Eve sat up straight. She could just about bring herself to believe that her new boss, John Crichton, had been joking. That was the problem with managers, Eve thought, they all thought they had sparkling wit, good looks and talent, and they expected you to think it too. ‘Yes Mr Crichton,’ Eve began, ‘In London my duties included managing the portfolios of—‘
‘Can I just stop you there, Eve,’ Crichton leant over the desk and held up a finger inches from Eve’s face. Eve resisted the temptation to bite it off. ‘My name is not Mr Crichton, it is not boss, it is not chief, it is not gaffer, and it definitely is not “governor”,’ he said this last word with a cheeky “Cockerney” accent, and, to Eve’s amazement and considerable discomfort, he stood and did a little shuffling jig, with his thumbs thrust into imaginary waistcoat pockets. ‘My name is John, and this,’ he swept around a hand to indicate the large floor to ceiling window behind his desk. ‘Is not London.’
Eve felt her dislike of her new governor (and now he had said it in that ridiculous fake Cockney accent Eve realised she would always think of John Crichton as the Governor) soften as she looked out at the remarkable view. Crichton’s office was at the very top floor of the largest building in Excalibur Wharf. The Wharf, Eve knew, was as detested as it was admired. In ten short years it had become the financial centre of Britannia, but it had also become the focus of vilification and contempt, and Eve could understand why. From the window, beyond the manmade lake created by diverting the River Brue and starving the former farmlands that once surrounded Excalibur Wharf’s massive shining office blocks, the ancient tumbledown houses of Glastonbury grew, and beyond those the walls of Avalon began. Avalon City was over 100 square miles of museums, churches and banks owned by holy father church. Avalon was an independent sovereign state, legally a separate country from Britannia within its borders, and it was, Eve knew, the wealthiest and most secure place in the world. From where she sat she could see Glastonbury Tor, and beneath that, its golden dome shining in the sun, the Church of Arthur the Saviour sat in the centre of Saint Lancelot’s Square.
It was a sight that few people saw, Eve knew. She had visited Avalon City with her mother as one of hundreds of thousands of tourists when she was a child, and from nowhere within Avalon City could you see the Tor – you had to literally climb beyond the roof tops of the dozens of churches to see it – and of course, no one but the priests were allowed anywhere near the Tor except on Stone Week and at Arthur Mass.
And currently Glastonbury Tor was eclipsed by the painfully fashionable skinny black suit and tie of her new Governor, Mr John Crichton.
‘Are you religious, Eve?’ Crichton indicated the chain around Eve’s throat as he sat at his desk once again.
‘I’m not really...’ Eve hesitated. The question, one that she was rarely asked these days, always had the effect of instantly conjuring up a picture of Eve’s mother in her mind. Blood on her embroidered dress cuffs. ‘No, not really.’ She replied, but could not stop herself from fingering the thin gold cruciform medallion hanging from a chain around her neck, a tiny golden Excalibur.
‘Many people assume that the Bureau is a religious organisation, or at the very least is backed by a religious body. It is not.’ Eve sat up straight, it seemed, at last, that the Governors meandering induction had come to the point. ‘The Resurrection Bureau is an essentially humanist, non-religious body.’ He pointed slickly to Eve’s Excalibur pendant, like a gun fighter drawing a bead. ‘We leave saving people’s souls to the Knights.’
Crichton began telling her in depth about the Resurrection Bureau, and Eve tuned out. It was nothing Eve couldn’t have – and had – read in the charity’s promotional literature. Eve had worked as a fundraiser for almost five years now, first with Barnardo’s and then with Great Ormond Street children’s hospital. From selling raffle tickets and organising rubber duck races she had moved on to handling the accounts of major multi-national companies and a scattering of actors and pop stars. Some of these stars had wanted to dodge the tax man or a bad reputation, but a surprisingly high percentage of them were committed to giving something back to their fellow man. At least it had surprised the deeply cynical Eve Finbar. The Resurrection Bureau, despite its peculiar name, was not a particularly extraordinary charity. The only slightly odd thing about it was that its main business was to support and engage with religious groups and individuals, while maintaining a completely humanist philosophy, as Crichton had said. The two things seemed at odds to Eve – a completely non-religious charity that exclusively funded religious endeavours. And oddly, despite reading through reams of literature and drilling deep into the internet sites that weren’t just ridiculous knitted together conspiracy theories, Eve could find no explanation for this apparent contradiction.
‘—field work is of course a major part of that process.’
Eve blinked. ‘I beg your pardon?’
John Crichton smiled. ‘It is the philosophy of the Resurrection Bureau, Miss Finbar, that every employee of this organisation fully understands all aspect of this charity’s work, and therefore—‘
‘Gov—Mr Crich – John,’ Eve gritted her teeth. ‘I am not a social worker, or an expert in mental illness,’ she said slowly, ‘I am an account manager, and I really don’t think I’d have the skills—‘
‘Please don’t interrupt me again, Eve,’ Crichton said. His voice was soft, and there was an easy smile on his face as he said it – but Eve looked into Crichton’s eyes and felt her mouth go dry. ‘Since the Bureau was created, many of hundreds of years ago now, we have tried to instil in our employees a total understanding of the workings of our charity. A total understanding, Miss Finbar.’ These words were snapped out with a cold efficiency that Eve would never have suspected from her initial impressions of John Crichton. Then he grinned, and gave her a wink. ‘Don’t worry, Eve, it’s just a couple of days of our working life once a year, and it’s nothing that will upset you or make you uncomfortable.’ He hoisted a thumb upwards, and whispered conspiratorially: ‘Got to keep the boss happy.’
Eve smiled, and nodded, and said “Yes of course” with a hint of a knowing laugh in her voice. She didn’t mention that the Governor’s office was on the top floor of Excalibur House, so God only knew where the Resurrection Bureau’s boss sat.

Two hours later Eve found herself at platform 5 of Glastonbury station looking at her tickets with a stunned expression.
In Crichton’s office Eve had moved to pull her diary out of her handbag, and the Governor had said, ‘You won’t be needing that.’
He wasn’t kidding. He had handed her return train tickets to Northumberland which she saw to her considerable astonishment she was scheduled to board in less than three hours. She had told Crichton she wasn’t sure if she could make the necessary arrangements – but, of course, the Governor knew she was single, he knew she was new to Glastonbury with no friends, no ties, and a suitcase half unpacked from her move from London.
All it taken had been a fast elevator from the top floor, a town car from the office to her apartment to the train station, and now, somehow she was here, about to board the first train in a five hour journey north.
‘They never mentioned this at the interview,’ she murmured.
‘I beg your pardon?’
Eve looked around and saw a small, elderly man in a raincoat was looking around at her questioningly. ‘Sorry, I was just thinking out loud...’ the little man turned, and she saw he wore a dog collar, a short sword was at his side and a six inch square of plate armour hung over his chest. The little man was a Knight, ‘...Sorry, father,’ she finished.
‘That’s quite all right,’ the little man replied jovially. ‘Are you heading far, I see you only have a small bag?’
Eve looked at her bag. It was small. More than likely she would have to buy some more clothes – that was definitely going on the company credit card. Assuming they had decent clothes shops that far north...
‘I’m going to Northumberland,’ she replied, and before the little man could ask, she added, ‘Business trip.’
‘Well, I wish you a safe journey,’ the little man said. He reached up and stroked his beard which, peculiarly, ended in two white forks. ‘Lovely country Northumberland. The home of one of our greatest saints, of course, Saint Lancelot’s family castle, Bamborough.’
‘Yes,’ Eve sighed inwardly, and looked urgently up and down platform 5. ‘As I say, I’m on a business trip, Mr...?’
She said it before she had realised, it was force of habit, too many years at charity drives and meet and greets – now she had given the little Knight the perfect opportunity to talk for hours.
‘My name is Merlin,’ said the little man, ‘But of course, that’s my middle name.’ He chuckled. ‘Well, I must be off Guinevere. Lovely to meet you,’ and he shook her warmly by the hand.
‘My name’s not—‘ she began, but the little man, middle name Merlin, had already turned on his heel and marched away. In a second he had vanished into the crowed platform.
As her train pulled into the station it finally occurred to Eve to stop fuming over the fact that the little man had used her hated full name, and wonder how he had known her name in the first place.
Eve stepped on the train, found a quiet carriage, fired up her iPad and tried her best to remember exactly why she had been employed by the Resurrection Bureau.
She thought no more about the priest Knight with the middle name Merlin, and she certainly did not notice him walking past her carriage two hours into her journey north, nor did she notice that he appeared to be wearing a brown tea cosy on his head

To be continued...