Friday, January 18, 2008

My profile is no longer accurate

My novel is going to be published next year by Jonathan Cape. It's an old school heroes-and-villains romance called The Kilburn Social Club, and the very basic description runs: a medical student inherits a premiership football club she doesn't much want, but her sister really does. The club and its players are wish fulfilment fantasy written by a frustrated sports fan in the same way that West Wing is wish fulfilment fantasy written by a frustrated Democrat. It takes place in an alternate present in which things are recognisable without being identifiable - there are no real people, even in code. It's about how the club is threatened by the world, and whether it can survive, and my publisher described it to the press as 'Forsyte Saga meets Footballer's Wives.' It is aimed at people who hate football as much as at sports fans. As almost all of you know (if you don't, it's because you never emailed me) my name is literally Robert Hudson, which will be the name on the book. I am, as you can imagine, extremely excited by all of this.

Monday, November 12, 2007


By which I mean, thank you very much for reading. Those who have indicated an interest, I will keep you posted as to future developments. Stay strong.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Chapter 64: So It's the End

‘Thank you, thank you, babe!’ said Victoria Beckham, jumping into David’s arms, wrapping her legs around him and kissing him with wild abandon. He tried desperately to push her off him, partly because he was gay, partly because he hated her, but mostly because he saw where I was moving. She said, ‘Why are you always rejecting me, babe, I know you…’ He finally freed one of his hands, and slapped her face. She crumpled off him in shock and he leapt towards me, but he was too late. I was already standing by the pipe-door gaping into the quasi-black hole. I glanced through it only quickly, but this was long enough for me to be dizzied. It was black in a way that made me understand how little I understood how black black can be. I thought of the dead Teacher, and the dead Rollo, and my destiny. I put my foot on the door’s lip.

‘Wait!’ said David Beckham. He held out his hands, gathered himself and put on his easy smile. ‘We can’t stop you if this is really your decision. You know a tranquilliser will probably send you over the ledge, so we can’t do that. There is no point in diving in without thinking about it, is there?’ Behind him were the bright eyes of Victoria, who had realised her mistake, and of Johnny Depp, David Tennant and Billie Piper, who were shackled to the pipe-doors.

‘Don’t listen, Mary Sue!’ called the red-haired angel. ‘Jump in, Mary Sue! I get it now – Rollo died giving you this chance to save us all!’

‘Really?’ said David Beckham. ‘I thought he died trying to kill me, almost certainly because he thought I was the Master.’

‘Aren’t you?’ I asked, edging another fraction closer to oblivion.

‘If you jump,’ he said gently, ‘we don’t open the Gates, but the Master is still alive. Eventually, however long it takes, there will be another Chosen One. Eventually, we will get another chance. And the next Chosen One might be more easily persuaded of our cause. You, with your irrational hatred of us, might therefore be humanity’s best long-term hope. For us, you jumping might be a good thing, in the long term.’

‘No!’ said Johnny Depp. ‘Don’t do what he says! Everything he says is lies. Or,’ and he gulped through the obvious pain of his shattered arm, desperately thinking aloud, ‘most of everything. Don’t be hasty. Think how he might be lying to you!’

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘I can’t believe…’

‘Oh!’ gasped Billie Piper. ‘Oh!’ and she looked at me, and then shook her head.

‘What is it?’

‘No. I’m… It’s only that I don’t want you to jump, I’m sure. I can’t bear to lose you again.’


‘I thought, well, this must be wrong but I thought that… I don’t know, but if the Master is, well, we don’t know who he is, but we also don’t know how the Gates of Hell are opened. And Rollo, who only the Teacher knew about, and we only have his word for that, or don’t we? Please tell me if I’m wrong?’ No one said anything. ‘Well, Rollo just went into the void, and he gave you a chance to join him, and maybe THAT’s what the prophecy means by the Chosen One joining the Master?’ She was hanging from her shackles with barely any support from her feet, but she was forcing her head erect so she could look at me. ‘I’m sure it isn’t, but what if it is? Are you sure, do you know that he isn’t the Master? If you say he isn’t, if you KNOW he isn’t, then I believe you, and you must do what is right.’ The effort of speaking brought her next breath out in a sobbing choke, and then she said, ‘I’m very proud of you.’

‘What do you think of that?’ I said to Johnny Depp, and the angels in the cage.

The red-haired angel said, ‘I'm sorry. I don't know. The only thing you can control is going through the door. If you don’t do that, you’re in their hands. There’s nothing anyone of us can do to save you, or stop them. And you know what Victoria will do to you.’

‘That is true,’ said Johnny Depp. The prophecy says you join the Master of your own volition, but if you refuse… There have been many different interpretations of free will over the millennia. A surprising number of them say that if you do something while you are being tortured, you are still acting out of free will because you made the free decision not keep on being tortured.’

‘That’s not very comforting.’

‘I know, Mary Sue. But you asked us, and we are tied up. There’s nothing we can do to help you now except tell you the truth.’

‘I wouldn’t torture you,’ smiled Victoria Beckham, acting as badly as usual. ‘I’d never do that.’

‘You know what real torture is, Victoria,’ I said. ‘In love with a man who hates you, and who is gay.’

‘That’s just media lies!’ she hissed.

‘No it isn’t. I’ve seen him have sex with Matt Damon.’

‘He never did!’ she spat. ‘You’re a filthy liar with a dirty sick mind.’ Her face was contorted, half with anger and half with denial.

‘He loved having sex with Matt Damon. They had both kinds, oral and normal-for-gays.’ And now, at long last, she finally took three enraged steps towards me and away from the pipe doors. I had done it. This was the opening I had been trying to create by taunting her, and it was my last desperate throw of the dice, and I hoped I understood everything I’d seen. My heart started beating even faster, and Victoria took another step towards me, still ranting, ‘It makes me so crazy. If you only knew…’ And that was that for her. Her face froze into a rictus of absolute surprise as David Tennant’s magic glittery sword swept through her tiny neck.

A moment later, I had moved away from the door, and David Tennant had disarmed David Beckham. They pair stood face to face. David Beckham smiled. ‘Tranquillise them both!’ he shouted to the rafters. ‘Quick, do it now!’ But nothing happened.

David Tennant shrugged ruefully. ‘Rollo and I dealt with them a while ago,’ he said. 'Are you alright, Mary Sue?’ I was gasping with relief. When Rollo had told me to move forward rather than slumbering in the tents of my fathers, and held a knife to my neck, and I had STILL trusted him, I had finally understood why. When, under the guise of pummelling David Tennant in a gesture of futile fury against a traitor, I had noticed him surreptitiously loosing David Tennant’s shackles, I’d realised for certain that he was going to sacrifice himself for me, and what that meant. David Tennant turned to David Beckham and watched David Beckham struggling to catch up. Eventually he did so, and David Tennant nodded. ‘Yup,’ he said. ‘Rollo was Mary Sue’s father. He’s always watched over her.’

‘But you!’ he said. ‘You and her!’ he added, gesturing to Billie Piper.

‘Oh that!’ said David Tennant casually. ‘That was just acting.’


Billie Piper was sobbing with relief. ‘Oh my God! Thank God! Thank you, Mary Sue, thank you. Let me go and we can…’

‘I rather think not,’ said David Tennant, and let the silence build before adding, ‘Master.’

‘What?!’ said Billie Piper. ‘It’s not true! It’s not true, Mary Sue! He’s the Master. He’s trying to trick you!’

David Tennant looked her straight in the eyes and said, ‘When Billie Piper, the real Billie, Mary Sue’s mother, was sixteen, the Teacher took Rollo and me to meet with her.’

‘No!' said Billie. 'The Teacher never met me. She never let me see her. I never even knew she was a woman!’

‘We told Billie that the Master was desperate to find her. We had discovered that the Master wanted to take over her identity, however much surgery that required, as a way of getting close to the Teacher, to Mary Sue and to Mary Sue’s father. We told her we could keep her identity secret if she wanted. But, if she was prepared to sacrifice herself, to let herself be taken, then we would always know where the Master was. We could control what the Master knew. And so it came to pass. For a decade, I have played the part of your father while the Master has pretended to be your mother. Rollo has protected you many times, and then today he sacrificed himself for you, and for this world we love, just like your mother, your unbelievably brave, real mother, sacrificed herself a decade ago. And now, all you have to do is press the button and she goes into the vortex.’

‘No!’ said Billie desperately. ‘You can’t possibly believe this! I’m your mother! If anyone is the Master here, it’s David Tennant. He was a demon, and he seduced me! Who would the Master trust to do that? No one, so it must have been the Master himself!’

‘The Teacher was ahead of you,’ said David Tennant. ‘She always has been. Why did you think this would be any different?’

‘They’re trying to make you kill me for no reason!’ shrieked Billie Piper. ‘The Teacher was never ahead of the Master, she was a stupid suicidal lunatic, and here is the proof, me, your poor mother, strung up like a chicken!’ She wasn’t sagging any more. She was straining against the shackles. She saw me take this in and said, ‘No way! This is the strength that comes from being on the edge of death. You cannot be misled by this man. This evil man. If you do this, the world ends.’

Johnny Depp said, ‘If David Tennant is the Master, then where is David Beckham?’ He was gone. Miss Smallbone, and David Tennant, and Rollo and Victoria and probably all the rest of them, could make use of any distraction to appear or disappear. I suppose it’s a very useful skill you can pick up if you have millennia to practice it in. David Tennant instantly formed a human shield between me and the direction David Beckham had presumably vanished into. He said, ‘He won’t try anything, he'll just run. In the end, Beckham's the kind of wordy coward who calls it pragmatism.'

'Then why are you...'

'Better safe than sorry, Mary Sue.’

And I thought of Sir Conn, who said he trusted me. And of the poor, brave Teacher, who said she trusted me. And of Rollo, who said he trusted me. And they had all three also said I would have to trust myself in the end. And I thought of the things I had seen, of who was dead and how they died, and which ones had died to save me. I thought of funny Jeremy Clarkson and valorous Vanessa Paradis, and the others I didn’t have time to know. And I felt David Tennant, his back against my back, who wasn't my father any more, and I looked into the eyes of Billie Piper, and I didn’t see my mother, so I pressed the button, sent her into oblivion, and the world didn’t end.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Chapter 63: The World is Advancing

Rollo’s left arm was over my shoulder and wrapped across my heart, and I could feel his calm steady breathing against my back. Absurdly, my body felt as if it was being protected rather than threatened. I had looked into Rollo’s eyes and, trusting myself to know what I saw, I had trusted him absolutely. But his knife was at my throat! How could I still feel this trust? And then, in a flash of realisation, I understood. I trusted Rollo more than I trusted myself, because I knew he would do the right thing, whatever the cost, whatever he himself wanted, because it was right, and sometimes that would mean he could be strong when other people were weak.

I am writing this, of course, but how do you know when? Or what I am now? Or who?

‘Thank God you’re there, whoever you really are,’ said the red-haired angel, her palms white against the transparent wall of her cage. ‘I’m sorry, Mary Sue, but we’ve lost. It’s all we can do.’

‘There’s always hope,’ said Rollo.

‘YOU are the hope,’ said the angel. ‘You’re the insurance policy. Don’t worry about us, just kill her and run.’

‘No!’ shouted Johnny Depp. ‘Don’t kill her! The Teacher never told me to kill her, that was one of Beckham’s lies. Mary Sue hasn’t agreed to join them!’

‘That’s true,’ said Billie Piper, growing paler with every passing moment, as if all the blood was being drained out of her, ragged in my father’s arms. ‘She hasn’t joined them. Don’t kill her. I… All I want is you not to kill my little girl. But I am lost and gone, and was a long time ago. I…’ and her head drooped, too heavy for her neck.

‘Do you want me to deal with him?’ said Victoria Beckham.

‘Don’t be a moron,’ said David Beckham.

‘You can be so hurtful sometimes, even though I know you don’t mean it.’

‘Shut up, Victoria. You couldn’t touch him without killing her. We couldn’t even tranquillise him fast enough.’ He looked at Rollo, hands on hips. ‘It seems we are at an impasse, whoever you are, Rollo is it?, unless you really do want to murder the Chosen One. But I don’t think that’s it. If you did, she’d be dead by now. You gain nothing by playing for time. Surely you realise that you’re never getting out of here alive?’

‘I don’t know. I’m pretty good.’

‘Big words, Rollo, but what is it that you want?’

‘There’s more to life than staying alive,’ said Rollo past my ear as he started to move forward, pushing me in front of him like a shield. ‘Don’t do anything stupid. And I want you to shackle Tennant and Piper.’


‘This isn’t a negotiation. The Teacher was the Teacher because she didn’t take risks, but she grew tired, and the mantle passed to me.’ The two grey-jacketed goons tied up David and Billie, and the Rollo said, ‘I presume you have a tranquilliser gun yourself?’ David Beckham nodded. ‘Shoot both the henchmen.’ He did. ‘Now your wife.’ Victoria crumpled with a dart in her chest. All the time, we were slowly edging towards them.

‘Stop it!’ cried the red-haired angel. ‘What are you trying to do? Kill her! It’s all there is!’

‘No, Red,’ said Johnny Depp. ‘The Teacher didn’t want her dead. The Teacher wanted her to kill the Master, because this was our chance. With no Master, the Gates to Hell will NEVER be opened. It’s a prize worth winning.’

‘You’re a lunatic!’ spat the red-haired angel. ‘You’ve all gone mad! This is a war! We don’t even know who the Master is. We do know the Teacher was deceived. We know that Mary Sue can’t kill the Master anyway unless her parents sacrifice themselves, which they haven’t done. I don’t like it any more than you do, but we’ve lost this one. All we can hope is that tomorrow will not be worse than today, and you can make that happen. The world is fine, and you can keep it fine. Or you can make a mistake, and everything is destroyed. That’s all the options you have, so what are you doing, who are you?’ She was no longer looking at Rollo, she was looking at me. ‘Think about what I’m saying, Mary Sue. Think about it! The only sane thing he can do is kill you, but if he doesn’t kill you, he is either insane, or he isn’t who he said he is. Don’t join them, whatever they say. I’m begging you this: keep tomorrow the same as today!’

‘Tomorrow will not be the same as today,’ said Rollo softly. ‘That’s already gone. The world knows who we are. And the Teacher is gone.’

David Beckham said, ‘Yes! That’s the hard truth, Mary Sue. The world knows us and we are different. They will envy and fear us, you must be able to see that? We will be hunted. We will not be suffered to live. We will be thrown, one by one, into this machine. It will be a genocide.’
‘And nothing so ghastly will happen to humanity if she falls for your lies, and we regain the powers we never had the strength of will to control?’ said Rollo.

‘Of course not,’ said David Beckham. ‘I’ve already made that clear. Once we are returned to our power, what incentive will there be? It would be like mankind conducting a genocide against cattle.’

‘There it is, exactly,’ said Rollo, shaking his head. ‘You will think of them as cattle. You do not seek a relationship of equals, or of mutual progress, or compassion. Those are the things we desire, that we owe this world which has become our home.’

‘This world is not our “home” and we owe it nothing, but I assure you that we will not be tyrannical overlords. We will simply be beyond this petty debate, and deep down you know it, Rollo, and so do you, Mary Sue. Your parents have already accepted the inevitable. And the prophecy is very clear. You join the Master, and the Gates of Hell open.’

‘Unless…’ began Rollo, and we were now ten feet from David Beckham.

‘No,’ said David Beckham. ‘There is no “unless”. There has been no parental sacrifice. Your Teacher was wrong, and the Master was right.’

‘The Teacher was right about one thing,’ said Rollo, gripping more tightly. ‘We must always be ready to move on, to leave things behind us. Slumber not in the tents of your fathers, Mary Sue, for the world is advancing.’ And he looked at me again, said that he loved me, and smiled as if he expected me to understand, and I did at last, and I knew why he needed to do what he was going to do. I nodded to him.

‘Where is the Master?’ I said to David Beckham. ‘If I have to join the Master, then surely I have to know who…’ Rollo swung me behind him and rolled across the floor past the comatose demon guards, sweeping his knife across their throats as he did so. He had almost reached a stunned and scrambling David Beckham when his legs were swept from under him by a bony foot in strappy heels.

‘Ha!’ said Victoria Beckham. ‘Because my David loves me, he shot me in the breast he knows is fake, so I have been pretending to be asleep. We planned this in advance because we are INTIMATE. And now, you will die.’ Rollo fought well, but everywhere he moved, Victoria was faster and more brutal. ‘The Chosen One has to join us, and she will. It’s been explained that it must be voluntary, but I can show her things that will help make her volunteer. You should have killed her when you had the chance. You are weak, like all the angels.’ Rollo stumbled sideways and her next kick landed him on the floor next to David Tennant and Billie Piper. Rollo struggled to his feet, gripping onto David Tennant’s shackled body. Rollo knew he had lost his fight, and he stared at David Tennant, who smiled back, raised his eyebrow and shrugged. In a pathetic gesture, Victoria standing behind him and smirking, Rollo pummelled the helpless David Tennant, landing five thudding blows with his raw right fist. Then he swung himself hopelessly back to face Victoria Beckham, and in the act of swinging, stumbled towards the door through which the Teacher had recently be sent to her awful final death. Victoria kicked out, but for once he was too fast for her, Instead of avoiding her foot, he clung to it as it crashed into his side, and as she strove to free herself, he fumbled at the door’s catch, looked at me once more, and wrenched himself backwards towards the void, Victoria with him. But at the very final moment, David Beckham kicked Rollo’s hands and he let go of Victoria. Rollo teetered one final time, looked at me, and toppled backwards, the echo of his agony as his self was stripped apart joining Miss Smallbone’s in the giant room’s eerie silence.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chapter 63: The World is Advancing (teaser)

Rollo’s left arm was over my shoulder and wrapped across my heart, and I could feel his calm steady breathing against my back. Absurdly, my body felt as if it was being protected rather than threatened. I had looked into Rollo’s eyes and, trusting myself to know what I saw, I had trusted him absolutely. But his knife was at my throat! How could I still feel this trust? And then, in a flash of realisation, I understood. I trusted Rollo more than I trusted myself, because I knew he would do the right thing, whatever the cost, whatever he himself wanted, because it was right, and sometimes that would mean he could be strong when other people were weak.

I am writing this, of course, but how do you know when? Or what I am now? Or who?

Chapter 62: True Love Knows No Reason (Part 2)

The Teacher was shackled to the pipe containing the quasi-black hole, one green button from oblivion. When she gave herself up, Johnny Depp shouted, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it!’ which he would have had to do whether or not he was a traitor, to keep up the pretence. The other angels had pleaded. The red-haired angel cried, ‘Johnny’s a soldier, Teacher. We’re soldiers. We die for you, you don’t die for us. You’re too important.’ By the end of this, as the two large grey-suited men grabbed hold of Miss Smallbone, who looked lost and alone, the red-haired angels voice was despair.

‘But this is the end,’ the Teacher smiled. ‘No one lives forever, not even… Not even me. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you especially, Mary Sue. Remember: this is the end, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost, not while David is still out there. I will soon be gone, but I have trained my replacement well. I’m so tired, and this way, if… If we do not lose, David Beckham, then Johnny will survive to see Vanessa again, and they deserve that. And, after the things I have done, I deserve to… I am not proud of all the things I have done. Mary Sue will explain.’ She shook her head, and looked defiantly around her, her voice returning to its natural timbre – simple and utterly commanding. Even though she was cuffed immobile, all of the demons took a half step back and their hands went to their guns. ‘I am confident that Mary Sue will have the chance to explain what I have done, and I hope you will understand, and know that I am sorry. Remember this for then: I am doing this now because…’ She looked again at Johnny Depp. ‘Partly it is because it is the least I owe you, and partly it is because I love you, and I have always loved you.’

Johnny Depp’s eyes suddenly flickered in recognition. ‘You! It’s… I can’t believe it. You survived our expulsion to earth! It was you all this time! I presumed you had…’

‘It was better that way. I’m sorry.’ And she turned her face away from him.

‘Well,’ said David Beckham, ‘that was all very touching. And now I have a little surprise for everyone. You all see how your precious Teacher has given herself up for Johnny Depp, believing he is not a spy? I know, because I know these things, that deep down, you fear that she has made a terrible, catastrophic, final mistake. Well, let me put your mutual minds at rest. Johnny Depp is not our spy.’

‘Who is?’ said the red-haired girl.

‘I am,’ said David Tennant stepping onto a platform above us. ‘I am sorry, Teacher.’

I felt everything falling away. ‘Yes, indeed,' said David Beckham. 'Your precious, deceitful little David Tennant has led the other "rescue party" into its appointed trap. I wouldn’t want you to die thinking there was any hope. Teacher, I cannot understand why the Master was so worried about you.’

‘You’ll learn,’ said Miss Smallbone, quietly and impossibly sad. ‘In the very end, everyone learns. I’m ready.’

‘I doubt that very much. Now let’s see if this black hole works.’ David Beckham pressed the button, and Miss Smallbone swung into the pipe. Her short scream filled the room for a long time, more horrible than anything I and possibly begin to describe, as if someone was scraping a nail down a blackboard in every atom of my body. When I think of that moment, I can still hear and feel the echoes of it. David Beckham, trying to pretend he wasn’t shaken, held a device to the side of the pipe, and said, ‘It works.’

David Tennant climbed down the ladder into the main hall. He moved slowly, reluctantly, not as if he’d done something wrong, but as if he were embarrassed. He looked at me, and said, ‘I do love you, Mary Sue. The Teacher didn’t understand. This will be the best thing, in the end.’ I knew other things were happening and being said, but that was all I heard clearly, because my mind was almost filled with him, with wanting to trust him. Dimly I was aware of the vicious fury of the caged angels, and David Beckham’s sardonic replies that there was no help coming, that all their friends were sleeping, and that David Tennant was returning to his real people, the demons he had fought alongside for long millennia, and who he had never really turned away from. Then David Tennant said, ‘No, David Beckham. I turned away from you. I will not have my love for Guinevere belittled. I do love your mother, Mary Sue.’

‘Then why?’ I said.

‘Because I have her,’ said Victoria Beckham, dragging a battered and bleeding Billie Piper onto the platform alongside her husband. It looked as if she was using every piece of her strength simply to breath. ‘Pathetic creature that she is. And David Tennant, like a good dog, knows his master. Don’t you boy.’

‘His master!’ I said. ‘Are you the Master?’

David Beckham guffawed instinctively, and then said, ‘Sorry, Victoria, but that was funny. I mean, you are an idiot.’

‘I know you’re joking, babe,’ said Victoria, ‘but you can be really hurtful sometimes.’
David Tennant was in the middle of the hall. When Billie Piper managed to lift her head to see what was going on, she said, ‘Oh God, no David, no, don’t do it. Don’t do it for me! You should have left me! What have you done?’

‘It’s too late,’ David said rushing to her.

‘No!’ she said, trying to resist him. Then. ‘No, David!’ But her voice was not as emphatic as it might have been, and now she was holding her hands to him, trembling with the need to touch him. They looked into each others’ eyes in the way that should have given the game away long ago, but maybe cameras can’t capture it, in the final analysis, and anyway, there are none so blind as they that cannot see. I didn’t for one second feel like a daughter witnessing her parents in a moment of joy. I felt many other things, which included sadness, anger, rage and jealousy. I think I can be forgiven for having been conflicted. Then David Tennant turned and said to me, and the other angels, all the while keeping hold of my mother’s hand. ‘It’s over,’ he said. ‘They’ve won. Or, I mean, WE’ve won, our RACE has won. But that doesn’t mean the end of all you hold dear. It just means something new is starting. They haven’t killed you because they know that you will be powerful in the new world, the world after the Gate opens. They don’t expect you to agree with them then, they are not morally facile, and they know that life is always conflict, but the time has come for our restoration.’ He seemed to be speaking mostly to me. ‘The prophecy says that for you to kill the Master, your mother and I must sacrifice ourselves for you, Mary Sue, and we haven’t. You WILL join the Master, and it will not be the catastrophe you have been told. Great power can do great good. But you have to agree willingly. That is why you are not caged. That is why everyone is talking to you. We will not use coercion.’ Billie Piper next to him was shaking her head that this was wrong, wrong, wrong, but she couldn’t let him go, and her flank leant towards his. When their hips touched, David Tennant’s eyes closed momentarily, as if his heart had been run though with an invisible sword. His face had a maniacal gleam throughout this speech, a desperate air, as if he knew I wasn’t convinced. I was trying to persuade myself that this was shame at what he had done, but the gleam might just have been the tears in my eyes.

‘What will happen to everyone?’ I said weakly. ‘To us, I mean, to human people?’

‘You will have great influence, Mary Sue,’ he said. ‘You are the Chosen One. All you have to do is to join us, freely.’

‘Mother?’ I asked.

Billie Piper crumpled then and David Tennant had to hold her up. She looked up and said, ‘I don’t know.’ She looked at David and added, ‘They said I would die soon unless you… No. Don’t do it, my daughter, who I love.’ Her knees went again, and she hung in David’s arms, and said, ‘I don’t know anything any more.’

‘We cannot coerce you,’ David repeated. I thought there was almost a note of desperation creeping into his voice.

‘I can, though,’ said Rollo Price, stepping suddenly out of the darkness, faster than anyone could react, and resting a cold blade against my hot neck.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Chapter 61: True Love Knows No Reason (Part 1)

I’d been certain we were being followed, and now I knew who by. Miss Smallbone stood still and quiet, looking at David Beckham, who was trying to pretend he wasn’t disconcerted by her sudden appearance and struggling to remember where he knew her from. ‘Who are you?’ said the red-haired girl, her foot shifting on Johnny Depp’s neck. ‘They were waiting for us. Only Johnny knew enough about our plans to tell him enough in advance.’

‘You have to believe her!’ I said.

‘What? Why, who is she?’ demanded the red-haired girl and her fellow angels. I wanted to tell her that Miss Smallbone was the Teacher, who they worshipped and who had saved their lives and millions of others many times over, and that whatever she said was to be trusted, but I also knew that Miss Smallbone was crazy with love for Johnny Depp, which might have forced her into the terrible mistake of coming into the open too early, just to save him, and if she had made that mistake then I wasn’t going to compound it by revealing her super-secret true identity, because that would be an inevitable total disaster.

‘I’m the Teacher,’ said Miss Smallbone.

There was a disbelieving moment, and four thocks as a collection of tranquilliser darts peppered the ground near her feet, bouncing off the transparent neopropylene walls of the cage. ‘Mary Sue knows who I am, and so do you, deep down, Mr Beckham. Who else would be standing so precisely out of the firing lines of your clumsily concealed sharpshooters, and who else would be aware that… Wait a moment.’ In a single, flowing movement, she whipped a pistol from under her jacket, stepped to the right, crouched and shot into the darkness over my shoulder. A body plummeted sixty feet to the ground. ‘Pardon me, he was moving.’

‘She IS the Teacher,’ I said. The red-haired girl began to lift her foot. ‘She saved me when I was in Los Angeles.’

‘You were one of the maids at Harrison Ford’s mansion!’ said David Beckham, his face clearing. ‘I knew I’d seen you before. You’re good. I wonder if you wouldn’t mind telling me…’

‘Nice try, Mr Beckham,’ said Miss Smallbone. She tumbled to her left, shot again, and another body fell from the shadows. Everyone was looking at it as it tumbled, and by the time they turned back to Miss Smallbone, she was gone.

‘I cannot believe the Teacher’s a woman,’ said Johnny Depp, rubbing his neck.

‘Why?’ said the red-haired angel.

‘Don’t be angry with me, Red. You were just as surprised as I was.’

‘Fascinating as this is, to be sure,’ said David Beckham, ‘I have things to do. Johnny, the fact that you managed to fool the Teacher as well is interesting to me.’

‘Nice try, Mr Beckham,’ I said. ‘They don’t believe you now.’

‘Nice try, Miss Park,’ he replied smoothly. ‘You hate the thought your precious Teacher might have been wrong, but everyone makes mistakes, even the Teacher. I really do think I want Depp out of there unhurt, so stand away from him.’ One of the angels stepped in front of Johnny and immediately collapsed with a little red dart in his neck. ‘This will be much easier if you cooperate, don’t you think? Stand away from the door.’ David Beckham came to the door as if I was nothing to be afraid of, and opened it. At first Johnny stayed with the others. David nodded and another angel fell. ‘The next time,’ he said, ‘it won’t be a tranquilliser.’ Johnny emerged. David was careful to remain at a distance from him, ignoring me again as he ordered Depp over to the largest of the pipes. A row of crude but effective looking shackles had been freshly welded along the pipe’s side. The shackles were each attached to sort of doors which looked as if they opened into the pipe. Two huge, silent, grey-suited men emerged to bind Depp to one of the doors. David Beckham said something to him, and he replied furiously, and they hissed an angry exchange, but they were too far for us to catch what they were saying. It ended when David Beckham took a foot-long metal stanchion from the floor and swung it into Johnny Depp’s side with a sickening thud. Then he brought it down on Depp’s forearm, which cracked like a dry branch and hung at an appalling angle. David Beckham looked at us with a horrifying light in his face that I hadn’t seen before, and he said, ‘Well, do you know, I think I’ve had an idea.’

‘Don’t listen to him,’ pleaded Johnny, his voice coming in ragged gasps. ‘Don’t listen to anything he says.’

‘Since I KNOW Depp is a traitor, and since the Teacher is so blind to it that she foolishly revealed herself – and a certain kudos attaches for playing on our sexist assumptions that you were a man, Teacher – I can’t help but think she has been blinded by Depp in the same way that some of you, Mary Sue for one,’ and here David Beckham smirked coldly, ‘have always been. It’s pathetic. I myself am immune to love, now.’ He patted the huge pipe. ‘In here, top scientists controlled by us have produced a stable entity extremely like a black hole. Since the only way of killing demons or angels permanently is to put us in a black hole or cut off their heads with your father’s magic sword, this is a very useful thing, don’t you think? But we really do have to test it. We THINK it will kill by ripping the brain apart strand by strand in a way that is objectively fairly instantaneous but will feel like a subjective eternity of slow pain. But who knows? We should certainly test it, and since no one likes a traitor, maybe we will use Johnny. Unless anyone else wants to step forward. Anyone?’ He moved to a control panel. ‘Well then,’ he said, ‘all I have to do is press this big green button, and…’

‘No!’ said Miss Smallbone, standing next to me again. ‘Don’t do it. You can have me.’