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Authors: Chet Williamson

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BOOK: Siege of Stone
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They sat and talked, with long periods of silence in which they thought about what to do. Then Laika asked Tony a great deal about the castle, getting him to describe every small detail that he could remember. She made Joseph tell everything he knew about Colin Mackay, what he had said, and what kind of man he was.

At last Joseph said, "You know, I hate to say it, but this situation seems downright impossible. The only person who can clear us with the Company was a
traitor
to the Company and now he's dead; we've got a police inspector who also happens to be an ex-MI5 operative in our cellar, a castle full of terrorists up the road, and, worst of all, a being that we don't understand and we can't control."

"Thank God," said Tony dryly, "we're so good-looking."

"And we've got our health," said Laika.

Joseph looked at them disbelievingly as they both slowly started to laugh. Then he joined in, seeing the absurdity of it all, and even laughing at their hopelessness.

Finally, when they were all sitting there breathing hard from laughing, Laika's face went suddenly solemn. "I have a plan," she said. "But first we have to let Inspector Fraser out of the cellar."

 

M
olly Fraser was furious, and when Agent Laika Harris told her that she was free to go and turn them in to the authorities, she stormed toward the door. "But before you go," Harris said, "there are a few more things you should know. First, Richard Skye is dead. He was working for David Allan Stanley, who is also dead, along with four other men. Mulcifer, the thing in that castle that calls himself a man, caused all their deaths, just as he caused the deaths in London. Just as he'll cause the deaths of more—thousands, maybe millions—unless we can stop him. And Inspector, we're the only ones who can. With your help.
Only
us, and only with your help."

By now, Molly had turned and was listening. "Go ahead," she said, her face still angry. "Talk."

Laika Harris did. It took her two hours to tell the astonishing tale and show Molly the videotape of Mulcifer, Skye, and David Allan Stanley on the beach, and the bloodbath that followed.

If Molly had heard the story only in words, she wouldn't have believed it. But the videotape was strong evidence, and Molly couldn't deny that she had seen two people take fatal wounds and recover fully from them in minutes. The story, as absurd as it sounded, seemed to fit together with the things she had witnessed.

When Laika Harris was finished, Molly asked her and Joseph and Tony Luciano questions for over another hour. It was after midnight when the talking stopped, and Molly sat for a long time, thinking. Then Joseph Stein came over to where she sat, and crouched down next to her.

"Molly," he said slowly, "I know that I shouldn't expect you to believe any of this, but I've known you for a long, long time. I beg you to believe it. Believe it all, and help us."

"Believe the man who tried to kill me," she said flatly, her mind too full. "Who tried to kill all of us."

"The fact that I did a thing like that," Joseph replied, "proves that everything Laika just told you is the truth."

The paradoxical logic seemed nevertheless irrefutable to Molly. It was true. She had known Joseph as well as she had ever allowed herself to know anyone. All these years later, she knew that he would have given his life for her. He had nearly done it before.

She looked at Joseph, then at the others, one at a time, for nearly a minute each. "I think," she finally said, "that I have a number of telephone calls to make."

 

M
olly Fraser made her first call from her car. It was to Martin Leech, her MI5 liaison. After she had talked to him for a long time, she returned to the cottage and smiled grimly at the others.

"He's going along with us. What really got him interested was the fact that the terrorists are in the castle. He wanted to send in a team right away, but I finally convinced him that if he does that while this Mulcifer is there, he's destroying the team. He's assembling the other players now."

"How in God's name did you convince him of Mulcifer's powers?" Laika asked.

"I didn't try. I told him that our inside informant . . ." She glanced at Joseph. ". . . told us that this one man, the ringleader, had a control that would blow the whole castle to bits in the event of a strike, and MI5's team along with it, so we have to make certain that he isn't in the castle when we go in."

"You didn't tell him about Mulcifer's . . . abilities?" Joseph asked.

"I told him, but if he didn't buy everything, I wanted to make sure that there was a practical reason not to go in with guns blazing. He's getting the elements set up, though he sounded pretty dubious when I told him about some of the things we were going to need. Still and all, he's preparing it. The team and the . . . materiel will be trucked to Dennis MacLunie's land on the other side of the hill from the castle. There's a hollow further west that's not visible from the road. We could gather a small army over there, and no one would see it. It'll all be coming in disguised delivery and utility trucks that shouldn't draw any attention."

"Great," said Laika. "Still, the only way this is going to work is for Mulcifer to leave the castle so we can prepare for him—
and
if we can get Mackay to help us."

"I don't think that's going to be a problem," said Joseph. "I'd be willing to bet that after the VX attack at Stirling, Mackay will do anything to be rid of Mulcifer, even collaborate with the Sassenachs. But as for Mulcifer leaving, that's the weakest spot in the plan."

"Maybe not," said Laika, defending her idea. "Remember, the Stirling attack was a failure, at least in terms of the death count that Mulcifer certainly wanted. I suspect his dream was for the gas to sink down over the town and kill hundreds, even thousands, instead of the mere dozen it did. They'll go out again—we're counting on that—and when they do, I'm betting Mulcifer goes with them."

"He'd have two reasons," Tony agreed. "First, to make sure that his zombies don't screw things up this time, and second, to enjoy the carnage himself. The gas won't harm him, so he could stroll through the streets watching other people die. From everything you've said about him, Joseph, and from what I saw for myself on the beach, I'm sure he won't pass up the opportunity."

"So we set up surveillance again ASAP on the castle," said Laika. "But the last time the van got out, we didn't see it."

"Mulcifer said something to Mackay about needing to get out unseen," Joseph said. "Apparently they've got a way, probably onto the beach from the castle cellars. If they went that way before, they'll do it again. Let's watch from the bluff where you shot the videotape. That should give us a good unseen vantage point."

"Tony and I will have to follow the van," said Laika. "We can't take a chance on getting you too close to Mulcifer again, Joseph. He thinks we're dead, and that's how I like it." She turned to Molly Fraser. "Inspector, Tony and I will have to be ready to take off after them with the dummies. Could you give us surveillance from the bluff until—and
if
—the van leaves?"

"But how will we know if Mulcifer's in the van?" Joseph asked.

Laika thought for a moment. "They can leave the castle unseen, but they've got to leave the peninsula by the main road." She turned quickly to Tony. "Can you set up a camera alongside the road that can image the occupants of the van through the front window, so that Joseph can see it on a monitor here in the cottage?"

"Sure. I'll do it now, while it's still dark, set it up alongside the road about two miles south of Castle Dirk. That should give us enough time to be ready to tail them when they come by here, and if they use an access road to the beach south of the castle, there's no way it's going to be more than two miles from it."

"And that means," Laika said, turning back to Molly, "that there's no other surveillance necessary. Good. I'd rather have you with us, Inspector."

"Make it Molly," she said.

 

W
hile Laika went with Tony to set up the camera on the road, Joseph and Molly drove to the MacLunie property and waited for the vehicles to start arriving. Joseph was, as always, amazed at the efficiency of bureaucracies when speed was truly called for.

A reinforced van, capable of carrying the dozen hundred-pound canisters they had requested, arrived at 0400 hours. Laika and Tony showed up at 0415. They had set up the camera, and had first returned to the cottage to make sure everything was operational.

Two trucks with the strike force pulled in between five and six. The rest of the materiel had been held at Gairloch, where it would wait until they had taken the castle. Martin Leech climbed out of the first van with the soldiers, and went up to Molly. "God, I don't know why I trust you enough to do all this," he said.

"Because I've never steered you wrong before," she replied. "Here's the tape," she said, handing it to him. "Take a look and then bring it back." She nodded toward the three operatives. "They need it."

"They're hardly in a position to be making demands," Leech said.

"Just watch it, Martin. After you do, I think you'll be ready to do nearly anything they want."

Leech's frown deepened, and he went into the van and closed the door behind him. Joseph knew that he probably had the equipment in there to make a duplicate, and would do so as he watched.
Fine
, he thought. There'd be no way to keep this all from MI5 anyway. Let Langley work it out with them later, assuming the operation was successful, which was still dubious.

When Martin Leech came back out, his face was pale, and he handed the video cassette back to Molly, who gave it to Laika. Then Molly explained the present camera surveillance to Leech, and remained there while the three operatives returned to the cottage in the van holding the canisters.

"I hope to hell they pass muster—if we get to that point," Tony said. "Mulcifer's got to stay away from the castle long enough to set everything up."

"They'll pass," Joseph said. "These were original tanks. They just filled them with something to give them weight."

"What?" Tony asked.

"They didn't say."

Dawn was just creeping over the hills to the east as they established their final base at the cottage. Tony made a big pot of coffee, then filled a thermos and put it in the van with the canisters. Then they took turns watching the monitor that showed the wireless feed from the camera set amid brush by the roadside two miles south of the castle. The two who weren't watching sat in nearby easy chairs, closed their eyes, and tried to get a few minutes of sleep.

It didn't come easy, but they didn't have that long to wait for something to happen.

Chapter 48
 

"E
ven though you may not know it down there," Mulcifer called, "it's a beautiful day in the beautiful country of Scotland. The sun is shining, the temperature is quite acceptable, and best of all, there's a light breeze. Not a heavy wind, not a dead calm, but a light breeze and no rain, so whatever might be wafted into the gentle Scottish air will blow hither and yon, assuring an even distribution."

Colin Mackay looked up the neck of the bottle dungeon and wished that his arms were twenty feet long so that he could reach up and yank the smiling bastard above down into the pit with him. Still, he said nothing. At least he could keep that pleasure from the demon.

"I'll be going on this little jaunt, and I'll be taking four of your associates along, so if you'd like to say goodbye to them now, you'd best do so. There's no absolute guarantee they'll be returning. They might
like
Edinburgh. I think it's definitely a two-canister city, don't you?"

Christ
, Colin thought.
Edinburgh, that fine old city
. He could keep silent no longer. "Lads!" he cried up to whoever might be able to listen and act. "Push him in! Don't go along with him, push him in down here with me and then close it off!"

"No no no," Mulcifer admonished. "There's only one man among them who could do that, and he's down there, Mackay. Besides, I'd just walk right through the wall to escape. You need more than rock to hold my vengeance—and my joy. Goodbye, Mackay. I'll be leaving your friend Rob and a few others to tend to your needs. And when I return, don't worry, I'll fill you in on every little detail of what happened on this magnificent Scottish day . . ."

There followed the sound of the trapdoor fitting into place, and then silence. Colin Mackay fell back on the mattress and buried his face in his hands. He would have done anything to stop Mulcifer, would have given his life and his soul, if he even had one left. But there was nothing he could do but wait.

BOOK: Siege of Stone
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