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by Robina Williams
Category: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Description: Gaea, the earth goddess, fed up with the damage Man is doing, decides to teach him a lesson. She ropes in her relatives to help her? and three-headed Cerberus, the hell hound, tags along too. Quant, golden-eyed seraph and quantum cat, is there to keep an eye on them all. book III of the Quantum Cat series
eBook Publisher: Twilight Times Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [491 KB]
Reading time: 282-395 min.
Praise for Angelos, book II of the Quantum Cat series "In this sequel to Jerome and the Seraph, Williams tells a twofold tale of one priest stranded in the ancient labyrinth of Knossos and another struggling with his own search for holiness-with only a small but very unusual cat to guide them both. With its graceful hominess, quiet humor, and abiding faith, Angelos belongs in most fantasy, Christian fantasy, or New Age collections." ~ Library Journal.
The seraph returns...
The birds had ceased their singing. The fox trembled with fear and crouched lower in the hedge as he watched the man clamber to his feet. He saw the man stare down at the figure sprawled on the ground, then drag the body across the lane and kick it into the ditch. The man stood regaining his breath for a few moments, then walked quickly away from the scene, turning once for a backward glance before disappearing round the corner.
Cautiously the fox emerged from his hiding place, padded over to the ditch and peered into it. He whined unhappily, and nervously scanned the road to see if the man might be returning. There was no human in sight, however, and he heard the birds beginning to sing once more--hesitantly at first, then with increasing confidence. Somewhat reassured, he jumped into the ditch, landing beside the unconscious woman. He scrambled onto her chest and, perched precariously, sniffed her face. In his ears the birdsong grew louder, steadier. A few notes sung close by caused him to look up sharply: he saw a robin staring down from the top of the hedge. The robin chirruped again, and flew down onto a twig closer to the ground.
The fox turned his attention back to the woman. He sniffed her face again and licked her cheek. The robin had now left the shelter of the hedge and stood on the bank of the ditch, trilling encouragingly. The fox whimpered and nuzzled the woman, following up with a vigorous head-butt. The woman groaned. The fox, struggling to keep his balance, leaned forward and barked sharply in her ear, before sliding down into the mud. The woman, a young woman, opened her eyes and stared at him; she looked around her in a puzzled sort of way, then managed a weak smile and stretched out a hand to pat his head.
"Reynard," she murmured. "My beautiful Reynard."
She elbowed herself painfully into a sitting position, then recalling the horror of her ordeal, buried her face in her hands and burst into tears. The fox, whining, scrabbled to get closer to her. She wiped her eyes on her cloak, put her arms around the animal's neck and buried her face in his fur, trying to drive from her mind the memory of the man's brutality: his gloating grin as he had approached her in the deserted lane, his mocking laugh as he had grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him as she tried to sidestep him, the contemptuous ease with which he had thrown her to the ground. He was a man who knew he was in control of the situation ... in control of her.
She burst out crying again, as the fox trembled in her arms. The robin had by now flown down to perch on a branch that had fallen into the ditch. Keeping a wary eye on the fox, he added his own sorrowful notes to the vulpine whimpers.
The woman stopped sobbing and listened; then, softly to begin with, she joined her own sweet voice to the chorus. Her song was first the gentle ripple of a brook, then the resonant splash of a waterfall, and finally the silvery peal of bells ringing in the air.
The harmonies had soothed the fox. No longer trembling, he licked the woman's hand as she gently disengaged her arms from around his neck.
A movement on the bank caused the woman to look up. She saw a squirrel peering down at her.
"My Lady," the squirrel said, "we saw what happened."
"We weren't strong enough to help you," the fox said apologetically, with another lick.
"I know you weren't," the woman replied, stroking his head.
"He hurts us all," the robin said unhappily. "He's cutting down our trees."
"He's taking our roads away," the squirrel agreed. "The woods and forests are almost gone now. How can we move around without our highways?"
"Your creatures are suffering, my Lady," the robin said. "There are fewer and fewer of us. The ground-nesters are almost all destroyed. The farmers leave no room for them now in the fields."
"I know," the woman sighed. "And the fields themselves are exhausted. They're given no rest."
"We're losing our homes," the robin told her urgently, his dark little eyes fixed pleadingly on her.
"We're losing more than our homes," the fox remarked tartly, his amber eyes sparking with anger. "Some of us are losing our skins. A good chase is one thing, but having earthstoppers block up your den is something else again. I hate earthstoppers," he added bitterly.
"I hate cats," the robin burst out vehemently. "Trees cut down, houses built, and--cats! Cats everywhere. Damn cats! They're nothing but killing machines. And the vicious brutes aren't even hungry."
The air above the ditch shimmered and formed itself into a feline shape. A ginger tomcat dropped lightly to the ground, landing beside the squirrel. He gave the robin a long, cool look. Then his emerald eyes changed color, and the little bird, now shaking like a leaf, found himself in the glare of a golden spotlight.
"What was that you were saying?" the cat asked in a honeyed voice. "Would you care to repeat it?"
The robin trilled miserably.
"That reminds me," the cat went on, his golden eyes taking on a predatory, feral gleam, "I'm feeling a bit peckish. It's some time since I had anything to eat."
The robin fluttered his wings nervously.
Despite her pain, the woman giggled. She held out her hand and the robin flew quickly to it. "Take no notice of him," she told the frightened bird. "He's only teasing."
She stared severely at the cat, who gazed back at her with friendly innocence, his eyes green again now, all threat gone from them. Perched in the security of her palm, the robin relaxed sufficiently to twitter a note or two.
It was an early spring morning, blue-skied and sunny but still chilly; the woman shivered and tried with her free hand to pull her cloak--of fresh, vernal green--around herself. The robin helpfully fluttered to a nearby twig that was just beyond the reach of the cat's claws.
The woman, clutching her cloak snugly about her shoulders, looked up at the trees with their bright, bourgeoning foliage, then raised her eyes to the cottony white clouds floating by.
"What are you going to do, my Lady?" the fox asked.
"May I make a suggestion?" the cat offered.
The woman turned to him. "Of course, Quant."
"Would you accompany me on a visit, my Lady?"
"You mean..." She glanced up again.
She stared at him thoughtfully. "I will." She forced a smile. "Well, I can't lie around here all day." She struggled to her feet and, grabbing at clumps of grass, pulled herself up out of the ditch. She stood panting on the bank, then wiped her muddy hands on her cloak and pushed her long brown hair back from her face. "I must look a sight," she said, gazing down at her filthy, torn clothes. She gave a bitter laugh. "No one will recognize me."
"Everyone recognizes you, my Lady," the squirrel told her, with a slight bow.
"Not everyone," the woman retorted sharply. After a pause, she added, "Sorry. I didn't mean to snap your head off."
The squirrel bowed again, accepting her apology.
"What will become of us, my Lady?" the robin asked.
The woman regarded him. "I'll think of something. I always do, eventually."
"Thank you, my Lady."
"If you're ready?" the cat said.
"I am." The woman extended a hand toward the fox, the squirrel and the robin in turn, smiled fondly at them, wrapped her cloak around herself and began to walk slowly, limping a little, along the lane, in the opposite direction to that taken by the man.
The fox, the squirrel and the robin stared after the two retreating figures: a slender, graceful young woman and a small ginger cat. Perhaps the cat sensed that he was being observed, for he turned round. His green eyes lightened and brightened, and burned with golden fire. Then the blaze was dimmed, gold darkened to green, and Quant sauntered off to rejoin his companion, who had paused to inspect a clump of irises growing in the damp ground alongside the ditch. She drew the cat's attention to the flowers, then pointed upward, to where a rainbow now arced across the sky, though there had been no rain that morning. As Quant regarded the iridescent bands of color, a beam of white light struck him; the light diffused, and enveloped him, temporarily obscuring him. When the haze dissipated, the fox, the squirrel and the robin saw not a cat, but a tall, robed, six-winged figure standing beside the woman.
The robin shivered, and chirruped uneasily. "Cats!" He glanced warily at the fox, flapped his wings and flew hurriedly into the densest part of the hedge; the squirrel dashed up the trunk of the nearest tree and disappeared among its topmost branches; and the fox squirmed through a gap in the undergrowth and ran off across the adjoining field.
The breeze blew wisps of the woman's hair around her upturned face. She brushed them away from her eyes and drew her cloak closer to her. She turned to her seraphic companion.
"What am I to do, Quant?" she asked despairingly. "My creatures are suffering, my land is suffering..." She surveyed the landscape and shook her head sadly. Then, in an instant, her mood changed. Her cheeks flushed with anger and she burst out, "He seems to think he has dominion over all things. He wrecks my land, kills my creatures. And what is he?" She did not wait for an answer. "I'll tell you what he is. He's something that crawled out of the mud. And now look at him glorying in his power! Glorying in his power over me!" She stretched out her arms and clapped her hands, and thunder boomed overhead. She raised her voice, and waves of sound went crashing through the air. "Well, I'll show him who's the powerful one! We'll see how he copes with earthquakes and hurricanes. I'll explode some volcanoes. I'll shift the tectonic plates. Let's see how he likes that!" She smiled menacingly and added, "I'll wipe him out."
"Hang on," said the seraph. "If you do that, you'll wipe everything else out, too."
"Oh, yes, I would, wouldn't I?" said the woman. "I hadn't thought of that. I'll have to think of something else, then."
Quant paused, then ventured hesitantly, "They're not all like that, you know," adding, "You'd be wiping out the good with the bad."
"They're all bad. Mankind was a mistake. It should have been nipped in the bud."
"That's as may be," Quant said peaceably, "but what matters is where we're at now."
"Where we're at now," the woman said in a fury, "is that he's attacking everything in sight. He's no respect for anything. Men are rotten, all of them."
Quant gazed across at a small complex of gray stone buildings on a distant hillside. "With all respect, my Lady, I don't think they are."
The woman snorted in a most unladylike manner. "You saw what he did to me, you heard how he's harming the birds and the animals. And don't even get me started on the seas! My whales and dolphins are crying out to me."
"I know they are," Quant said. "I can hear them."
"All my creatures are suffering. I've got to help them," the woman said. "I can't let this go on. There'll be no life left soon. There'll be nothing left to help--everything will be gone."
Quant nodded but said nothing.
"I'm going to do something about it," the woman said decisively.
"Couldn't you," Quant suggested, "just, um, drop them a hint?"
"Drop them a hint?" The woman's tone was scornful. "I've dropped hints till I'm blue in the face. And a fat lot of good it's done."
"Okay, okay." Quant looked apprehensive.
"I'm through with hinting. I've a mind to destroy them. If I targeted just them..."
Quant regarded her unhappily. "It's a bit ... final. Think of all you'd be losing."
"Name me one good thing about mankind."
"I could name you lots of good things," Quant told her, adding, "and some good people."
"Good people my foot," the woman replied. "Look what happened to me back there. No respect for me at all!"
"He didn't know who you were."
"He didn't need to know who I was ... who I am."
"True," Quant conceded. "But they're not all like him."
The woman snorted again.
"Let me," Quant suggested, very tentatively, "show you one or two who aren't. Some are doing their best to, er, live in a green way."
"Live in a green way? They'd know what green was, if I sent the Green Man to them."
"Don't do that," Quant said hastily. "Leave him be, for the moment."
The woman and the seraph stared at each other.
"All I'm saying is," Quant said, "don't do anything too drastic."
"Nothing is too drastic for those rotters," the woman said venomously, turning and glaring down the lane.
"I just don't think it would be ... fair ... to destroy them."
"The rest of the world would get on a lot better without them."
"Possibly so," agreed Quant, "but I still think the situation can be salvaged. Man has got some good in him. Obviously," he added, with a glance heavenward.
The woman, too, glanced up. "Well, yes. That's a point. Maybe He wouldn't be too pleased to have His creation wiped out after all He's been through for him."
"I'm sure He wouldn't."
"Well, how about I just give Man a damn good thrashing?"
Quant looked pained. "Maybe you could just teach him a little lesson."
"Teach him a little lesson?" the woman echoed derisively. "I'll give him a good punch in the snoot."
"Okay," Quant agreed quickly. "A punch in the snoot, then. But not total destruction--please? Anyway, if you wipe him out, he won't be able to learn anything, will he?"
"That's true," the woman conceded.
Quant glanced once more in the direction of the gray buildings grouped on the hillside.
"Now," he said, "if you'll spare me a moment--"
"A moment?" The woman laughed. "I've got all the time in the world. They're the ones who are short of time."
Quant raised a conciliatory hand. "Okay, okay. Now, come with me and I'll show you one or two humans who are really trying." He waved a hand toward the hillside.
"I'm sure they are," the woman said sourly. "I find humans very trying."
Quant smiled and stared at the distant buildings. He and the woman vanished. And so did the rainbow.
* * * *
The angel stepped back, narrowed his eyes and considered the drawing on his easel. He sighed, scratched his head, chewed his lip thoughtfully, then picked up his pencil once more and added a squiggle to the design. That's better. Not sure about the digestive tract, though. He moved away from the easel again and with his long, slim fingers sketched a series of twists and coils in the air. Saint George, currently employed in the Design Center, hated digestive systems. He hated designing them, and he hadn't gotten along too well with his own digestive system when he had been alive; he had always found it troublesome and had looked forward to the day when he would wake up to find that 'alimentary canal' and 'reflux' were not words that mattered to him any longer.
Some people suffered from a bad back, others from gout; George's problem had been his digestion--or rather, his indigestion. Now, though the misery of dyspepsia was indeed a thing of the past for him personally, he had, with exquisite irony on Someone's part, been put to work on a life form that seemed to consist almost entirely of stomach and intestines. George had been hoping to be assigned to the flora of the new planet, but instead he was set to work on the fauna, and specifically the reptiles, and more specifically the snakes. He hadn't even gotten to do the skins--that might have been quite fun, for he was good at thinking up patterns, but no, he had been allocated the insides. So he spent his time sketching serpentine guts to fit creatures of extraordinary sinuosity--and, in his opinion, inordinate length. He had queried whether the snakes needed to be quite so long, but had been told in no uncertain terms that they did, as otherwise a whole lot of other things would have to be rethought, and if he expected a mass redesign at this late stage he had another think coming.
His muttered complaint that as a saint he should have been allowed to design something more interesting than a snake's internal organs had met with the tart rejoinder that saints were a dime a dozen these days and--at this point eyes glittering with the compacted ice of eons had given him a long, freezing stare--all forms of created life were equally interesting and of equal value.
George had been grumpily returning to his studio in the Design Center, smarting at the implication that he was worth no more than a lowly ground-creeping creature of no importance, when he had suddenly remembered the Serpent--the Serpent. Gasping with horror at the imprudence of his remark, he had cursed himself for not having kept his big mouth shut and just gotten on quietly with his work without making a song and dance about it. Having said a quick prayer of thanks for not having been instantly banished to the Court of the Serpent to reflect at leisure on, and possibly revise, his views on snakes, he had hurried back to his task, buoyed up with enthusiasm for it. It was really a fascinating assignment, now he came to think about it.
This particular stretch of the tract would not come quite right, however. Feeling that he might benefit from a breath of fresh air, he left his easel and went outside to take a stroll in the gardens.
The Design Center was a long, low building set with wide windows that let in the pure, clear, northerly light beloved of architects. Saint Thomas himself had been the design consultant and he still dropped by occasionally to see if any adjustments needed to be made to enhance the functionality of the studios. The Center was set in extensive, lovingly tended gardens that were the pride and joy of the outdoor staff, some of whom, George suspected, had once seen service at Versailles--so geometric was the layout, so trim were the displays. The grounds were undoubtedly impressive, with their scissor-edged flowerbeds, their many and varied fountains, their stylized clumps of trees and their meticulously planted avenues, but he found the statuary somewhat overwrought, if not hysterical, the walks unimaginative, and the carefully staged vistas lacking in suspense. It was all a bit too tidy, a bit too orderly, too predictable, for his taste. George liked to feel that plants had to some extent sprouted of their own accord; he wanted to experience a sense of excitement and anticipation in a garden, wondering what he might meet with around the next corner; he preferred to see Mother Nature in her dress of unadorned simplicity rather than corseted and laced into a ballgown, for he could not see the point in refining what was already perfect. He much preferred a ramble to a formal promenade.
He ambled along neat white marble paths, admiring manicured box hedges and borders of perfect symmetry and balance but wishing he might spot the odd shrub that had seeded itself, the occasional weed pushing through--for what is a weed but a flower in the wrong place?--and ground cover sneaking along unchecked.
Refreshed, he was just reentering the Center, to reengage with the knotty problem of ophidian intestines, when he met Saint Timothy leaving the building with his pet dragon, Phaedo. Phaedo was a large dragon and was pulling vigorously on his lead.
"Can't stop," Timothy panted. "I'm taking Phaedo for a walk."
George laughed. "Are you sure about that?" he asked, as Timothy was dragged away down the path.
Several of the angels kept dragons. They were popular pets, though their owners found it advisable to keep fire extinguishers in their rooms. If indeed any dragon could be said to be owned, for dragons were free spirits and chose their captivity--such as it was--and were at liberty to leave whenever they wished. No angel would have dreamed of clipping their wings.
George had mixed feelings about dragons, having fought two battles royal--the first, in his earlier incarnation as Perseus--with particularly foul-tempered brutes; though he had been victorious on each occasion, winning for himself a princess into the bargain, he remained wary of them, despite his friends' assurances that they made wonderful pets.
Passing the door to Saint Sebastian's studio, he decided to call in and see how Sebastian was getting along, for he was in the same work stream, and designing the skins for the snakes for which George was providing the innards. He tapped quietly on the door, and on hearing "Enter" pushed it open a crack, then stepped smartly behind it to shield himself, for Sebastian's dragons Zo and Clo--twin sisters of noble pedigree, whose registered names were Zoë Imperial Jewel of the Great Galactic Spirals, and Chloë Majestic Gemstone of the Southern Sidereal Cluster--tended to flame first and ask questions afterward; they were somewhat impetuous girls.
"It's only me," George said, cautiously peeking into the room. He saw Sebastian standing by his desk, with a steadying hand placed on the head of each young dragon.
"Hi, come in."
Zo and Clo puffed out a few token sparks, wagged their tails and crawled over to their rugs by the window.
"How are you getting along?"
Sebastian indicated the easel alongside his desk, and shrugged. "See for yourself."
George saw that the sheet of paper on the easel was blank apart from a few scattered dabs of paint.
"I can't seem to get my ideas together today," Sebastian moaned, fluttering his wings disconsolately. "I can't think clearly. I've had a headache all morning. That's what comes," he added, "of being clubbed to death. I get a lot of headaches."
"Well, at least you kept your head," George said. "Mine was cut off. And that was after I'd been chopped into little pieces, buried alive, burned and poisoned."
"Well, I was tied to a tree and shot through with arrows," Sebastian pointed out. "Very painful, it was."
"Okay, we both suffered," George agreed. "Say, how about we go to the canteen for a coffee? Maybe we could do with a break."
"Good idea." Sebastian walked over to a large sack propped against the wall, reached in and drew out two handfuls of dried biscuits. Zo and Clo, in unison, promptly opened their mouths wide, and George smiled to see Sebastian drop the biscuits into the yawning cavities, like a parent bird dropping tasty tidbits into his nestlings' gaping beaks. As the dragons crunched the biscuits, Sebastian beckoned to George, and both angels quietly left the room, Sebastian closing the door firmly behind him.
As they strolled toward the canteen a door opened to their right and a thin, dark-haired figure hurried out into the corridor, almost bumping into Sebastian.
"No worries," Sebastian said. "Where are you off to in such a hurry?"
"I thought I'd go for a run," Saint Stephen said. "I can't seem to get anything done today. I've made a right pig's ear of that ... um ... that..." His voice trailed off.
"That what?" asked George.
"That's the problem." Stephen gave an embarrassed laugh. "I don't really know."
"Well, what's it meant to be?" asked Sebastian, a trifle impatiently.
"What it's meant to be," Stephen said, "is a herd animal of some sort for the new planet."
"You mean a cow?"
"Something on those lines, I suppose," Stephen said. "But I can't get it right." He grinned. "It looks like a cross between a giraffe and a yak."
"That's strange," Sebastian remarked.
"You're telling me."
"No, I mean, I've ground to a halt, too. I've been racking my brains all morning, and all I have to show for it is a splash of paint."
"We'll have to produce a prototype soon," George reminded him.
"I've got to have something to put my insides in," George said.
"Maybe it's not us," Stephen suggested.
"What do you mean, it's not us?" Sebastian asked. "Who else would it be?"
"Maybe it's something in the stars--some odd alignment or other ... something out of joint ... something not quite right somewhere."
Sebastian shrugged. "Could be, I suppose." He looked unconvinced. "Whatever. Well, we'll have to get a move on, stars or no stars."
"We're just going for a coffee," George said to Stephen. "Would you care to join us?"
"Thanks, I would."
The three saints left the carpeted, quietly decorated corridor and descended a marble staircase into an octagonal reception area that served as a showcase for the Design Center. The walls were inset with mosaic panels depicting samples of flora and fauna from different planets; the vaulted ceiling, its ribbing as delicate as lacework, and the slender columns supporting it were painted with stellar scenes in all their variety, from bright young star clusters to dying red giants; and sounding softly in the background were the heavenly harmonies that play ceaselessly throughout the cosmos.
The walls were broken at intervals by archways, and George led the way through one of these into a passageway at the end of which was an oak door carved with representations of fruit and vegetables from many worlds. He pushed it open and ushered his companions through.
The canteen was a large, light room with a cream granite counter running the length of one wall. Standing behind the counter were the tunic-clad duty staff, and behind them a transparent partition of pale blue glass gave sight of the kitchens, where the cooks in their whites could be seen moving between steel-topped tables and gleaming ovens, preparing lunch.
George and Stephen seated themselves at a table by the window, and Sebastian collected three cappuccinos with extra chocolate and brought them over on a tray. The canteen was empty apart from a bespectacled, earnest-looking young angel who had set up a laptop on his table and was sitting puffing a roll-up. George frowned in his direction and wrinkled his nose disapprovingly.
Stephen, however, grinned and said admiringly, "That lad's an absolute genius! He's barely out of diapers, yet he's written programs that correct orbits everyone else had given up on. He got rid of the wobbles in Europa's. He showed me the coding for it one day. I couldn't make head nor tail of it. Of course," he added, "computers were way after my time. We were still stoning people in my day. Well, some people were. They stoned me. They dropped a great big boulder on me. It was all very uncivilized."
"You've given me an idea," Sebastian said suddenly.
Stephen stared at him blankly, then said, "You mean, there's someone you'd like to stone?"
"No, of course not." Sebastian laughed and reached for a paper napkin. "Orbits." He took a pencil out of his pocket. "Patterns."
"He's designing snakeskins," George explained. "To go round my insides. I mean," he added by way of explanation, "the insides I'm working on. We're doing the serpents."
Sebastian sketched out a few designs, then gave a satisfied smile. "Thanks for that, Steve. You gave me just the clue I needed. I can see my way clear now. I was right out of ideas."
"We'll have to get a move on," George remarked.
"I'll call in later, once I've worked up a few designs from this." Sebastian held up the napkin that was now covered in intricate combinations of whorls, circles and spirals. "You can show me what you've got to fit in, and then we'll sort out the measurements."
"I didn't realize snakes were so complicated," Stephen commented.
"Oh yes," Sebastian told him. "The patterns on the skin can't go just anywhere. They have to fit. You have to match everything together."
"That's a relief." Sebastian folded the napkin neatly and put it in his pocket. "I was getting worried there. I thought we might miss the deadline and be put on earth duty again. I hate earth duty."
"It's not much fun," Stephen agreed. "Hanging around protecting people who are too dim to check whether a bus is coming before they step out into the road. The number of times I've pushed aside idiots who've walked in front of a bus--they've got their head in the clouds and just step off the sidewalk into the traffic, and we're supposed to keep an eye open for them and shunt them out of harm's way."
George laughed. "Yes, and then you hear them say, 'I could have sworn someone just pushed me out of the way of that bus.'"
"You need the patience of a saint at times," Stephen said with a grin.
"I don't know how Quant stands it down there," George commented admiringly. "He's been on duty there for ages, but he doesn't seem to mind."
"He doesn't, does he?" Sebastian agreed. "In fact, he quite seems to like people."
"That's because he doesn't know them as well as we do," Stephen said. "He hangs out with them, yes, but he's never been human himself."
"True," Sebastian agreed. "The old angels have never lived as humans."
"I suppose Quant's still in the friary," Stephen said. "I haven't seen him for a while."
"He is--most of the time," George said. "He's gotten quite fond of those friars."
"If they knew who their cat really was," Sebastian remarked, "they'd have the shock of their lives."
"One or two of them know there's something special about him," George pointed out.
Sebastian laughed. "Oh yes, he's performed his vanishing-into-thin-air-before-their-very-eyes trick, hasn't he? He's given a couple of them a nasty turn. Quant--or should I say Leo?--mystery cat of the friary! I wonder when we'll be seeing him again?"