Bluey #1 A Net.Trenchcoat Brigade title Family Matters Written by and copyright 1997 Saxon Brenton --------------------------------------------------------------------- Cover shows a man with a shock of curly red hair. He's wearing a brown stockman's raincoat for a trenchcoat and taking a puff from a cigarette. --------------------------------------------------------------------- The bus trundled along the road, passing through the green English countryside. It stopped, and a man who looked like he was in his late twenties got off. As the bus drove away Bluey took a look at sky, which was beginning to clear after a morning when it had been heavy and grey with the promise of rain. He took out a packet of cigarettes, lit one, then shouldered his small backpack, and set out along a lane. Just over hour an hour later he came to the rose covered cottage that was his destination. He paused at the gate, examining the place. It'd been over three years since he was here last, but it still looked the same. In fact, it still looked much the same as when he'd first seen it, seventy years ago. No surprise there; Uncle Raymond had not been much of a one for change. He'd been in the same place since before the war. In fact, it was here that Uncle Ray had taken part in the Great Circles that had helped keep Hitler out of Britain after Dunkirk. Another example of his cleaving to the status quo. Bluey finished off his cigarette, then crushed it out under his heel. It was funny really, how those members of the Family who weren't interested in preying off humanity - what few of them there were - were so interested in keeping things the same. But it was not really that strange if you stopped to think about it. Change involved risk. He opened the gate and walked up the path that meandering its way to the front door. He knocked and waited. Then knocked again. A half minute later he wondered if Raymond might have gone down to the village for milk or something. Mentally he shrugged and walked back down the path, took the spare key out from under one of the cobblestones by the birdbath and let himself into the house. Bluey frowned. The place looked for the most part as though it were still being lived in. Raymond's favourite chess set sat on the table and a few books were lying about untidily. But the room was musty after an extended period without cleaning. It looked like there was a week's worth of dust. He glanced around sharply as his nasty suspicious nature kicked into gear. Uncle Ray had written to Bluey in Australia early last week, asking him to come and visit. He hadn't specified any particular reason, but the two of them had always gotten on well despite the years that had sometimes gone past between them seeing each other. Partly it was because they were both personae non gratae with the rest of the Family. Bluey simply hadn't thought anything of it, any more than he had all the other times he'd received invites to come over. Now the young looking man stood in the center of the front room, with beams of mid afternoon sunlight lancing clearly through the dust kicked up by his entry. In his mind he oriented himself towards the East, then rotated his awareness anti-clockwise to follow the path of the antipodean sun, looking for signs of trouble. The house itself was warded with... well, 'stealth measures' was as good a description as any. It provided a measure of anonymity, which was rather important when you had a family of night monsters out to kill you. Bluey used much the same thing, in fact. The problem, of course, was that those same measures made it hard to detect much of anything. It was like trying to look through a thin fog; it didn't actually hide anything that you knew was there, but it obscured the area into dullness. If you weren't intimately familiar with every- thing hereabouts it made it damn near impossible to tell what was out of place and what was not. A simple but effective home ground advantage. Bluey had a fair idea of the set-up of what Raymond's house and grounds were like. Both physically and psychically. Just not well enough to make a mental map in his mind's eye. No matter, he could make do. Systematically he scanned the area, looking in at the world from Yesod, the first sephirah above the material world. There was... nothing. He blinked, and scratched the back of his neck. Dismissing the Sight, he looked about the front room distractedly, a bemused frown on his face, feeling a bit silly at the paranoia. But only a bit. There were times in the past when a bloody good shot of paranoia had come in handy. Oh well, sod it. Maybe Raymond'd gone out and won a public commendation for throttling Jeremey Beadle, or gotten caught up in a cross-dressing party for members of parliament, or something. Still and all, it looked like _something_ was up, he felt pretty sure about that. Which meant there was only one thing to do. Bluey picked up his backpack and walked into the kitchen, where he plonked it on the table, opened it, and began rummaging at the bottom for something that he'd have preferred to stay at the bottom. If he could have he'd have left the damn thing at home, but he more or less had to keep it on hand because you never knew when you were going to run into Weird Shit. Half a minute later he had his trenchcoat on. It was a Drizzabone, a dark brown stockman's raincape. The next thing that he did was almost as important. He put the kettle on to make a cup of tea. Only then did he begin to move around the house, looking for anything that might give a hint as to why Raymond was gone. Half an hour of searching sans two minutes of tea making later he came to the conclusion that there were no tangible clues. He'd vaguely hoped that maybe there'd be some hint of what had happened, but in this he was disappointed. Undaunted, he revisited Raymond's study and sorted through his Uncle's papers until he found his diary and organiser calendar. He did the same in the attic sanctum for Raymond's arcane diary. Then he sat down in the kitchen with another cuppa and began to sift through the paperwork. By sundown he was still reading, with occasional breaks to make more tea. Now he got up and stood at the window - arms folded - staring out over the heathland, watching the moon rise, and just thinking. There was almost nothing in Raymond's journals. Or at least, nothing concrete. If anything Raymond had become more terse in his writings over the past few months, less communicative. This nagged at Bluey. Presumably he hadn't been simply attacked by any of the Family, otherwise he would have been tracked back to here, and there was no sign of a break-in and ransacking. What other options were there? Had Raymond known something? Something he felt he couldn't put to paper in personal records? That seemed bloody odd. There was something missing here, he was sure of it. Disgruntled, he went back to reading, this time picking up Raymond's arcane diary. He started at the back and flipped forward, scanning entries. When he got to the date where all the other writings began to become terse he paused with interest and bafflment. There was a memo to beware the Ying. Bluey frowned. The Ying?! The Servants of Ying? Fruitcake cultists of one of the Other Gods? Those Ying? They had a fifties fetish and a predilection for doing unspeakable things with hot beverages that was almost enough to put you off drinking tea. Mind you, the Ying could twist almost anything into a blasphemous obscenity. Same with the rest of the Other Gods and their cultists, come to think of it... He read the memo through. It was short, and in essence noted that Raymond believed that the Ying were working in the same area, and might become involved. It ended with a reminder to increase the wardings. Bluey nodded at that last bit; the Ying had an uncanny tendency to turn up unexpectedly whenever something related to them. There was even a small group of the Servants who specialised in just that - the Thynne Men. The memo didn't give any details of what the two groups had in common though. And it didn't explain why there was no other mention of it elsewhere. Bloody hell. And then, at the edge of his hearing, Bluey caught the sounds of a rapid oncoming rush of feet. Far too rapid to be human, or even corporeal for that matter. His eyes widened. The Ying _did_ hav a tendency of turning up whenever something involved them. Almost instinctively he grabbed his backpack up with his free hand, holding it in front of him as he leapt through the window. Behind him the house erupted into a fireball as something detonated in the attic, sending great plumes of flame spitting out every upstairs window and blowing the upstairs ceilings down into the ground floor. Bluey rolled with the blast and began running for the far edge of the garden. He spent some five minutes there, in what he hoped would be a defensible position, before he came to the conclusion that there wouldn't be any follow-up. That suited him fine. Only then did he fully turn his attention back to house, which was now in the process of being razed by the fire. He'd better leave before the fire brigade or any of the other locals turned up. He licked his lips and made his way back to where he'd dropped his backpack a few meters from the house, shouldered it, and moved back to the edge of the garden. There he spent a few minutes tightening up his own wardings before slipping away into the night. He had to get to London. There were some goons he wanted to have a little talk with. Next Issue: 'Ying Tong' --------------------------------------------------------------------- Character Credits: All characters created by and copyright 1997 Saxon Brenton. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Add Notes: This series is something I've had floating around in draft form since about late 1995, or thereabouts. The main reason it's being started _now_ is in anticipation ofBack to the Index.
a project of Mea's that's coming up. Anyway, I don't think I'll be giving too much away by saying that the inspiration from it ultimately derives from two sources: The first is issue 40 of Neil Gaiman's _Sandman_, 'Parliament Of Rooks'. The second is Ray Bradbury's short story 'Homecoming'.