Chp 36 Everything Changes
Agnes Pringle didn’t believe in second sight, visions or out of body experiences. Well, in a way she’d been out of her real body for a long time, so perhaps the last didn’t count. A lot of her old acquaintances back in England had been interested in Spiritualism and Agnes had even accompanied them one evening to a séance in the home of a Mrs Bachelor.
Nobody had ‘come through’ to Agnes from The Other Side, which her friends blamed on her inability to relax and let Things Happen. Agnes had to admit that she had been so appalled at the quality of the biscuits Mrs Bachelor had served with their cups of tea and her own extreme reluctance to speak to her departed mother – who would only have found fault with her – that she had found relaxing difficult. And the only time in her life she had relaxed and let Things Happen, she’d ended up a vampire, so she’d always looked upon that as something to be avoided where necessary.
No, Agnes – a baptized and confirmed member of the Church of England, she had a handwritten card from the Bishop of Winchester to prove it – believed in God and Heaven and found that was quite enough. Even after her unfortunate experience in Hollywood all those years ago, she was convinced He would look out for her because It Hadn’t Been Her Fault!
So why, on this particular evening, did she feel that something dreadful was about to happen?
She was thinking of shutting the Tearooms early: there were no demon or vampire customers, not even Malcolm, the hulking lad in black leather who’d taken to coming in as soon as she unlocked the doors at night to feast on hot curry pasties and cream cornets. Malcolm was a problem to his mother, one of Agnes’s friends, a very reclusive demon lady who lived under the Sunnydale Library and was studying Californian butterflies. Malcolm had grown up in that quiet, rarefied atmosphere which might have suited some demon boys, but sadly Malcolm was not academically minded and was now running with a bad crowd.
Agnes gazed uneasily out of the window at the dark street where a vicious wind was scattering loose rubbish in all directions. There were no customers in sight. Even earlier that afternoon there had only been a few Unturneds coming in to purchase hot buttered scones and iced fancies. Dawn had been thrilled when her friends from The Magic Box had arrived and sat at a table in the corner, heads together, obviously deep in a discussion about something important.
|But, peering out from where she had been keeping a low profile in the kitchen, Agnes had been well aware that whatever it was, they had no intention of letting Dawn in on the secret. She’d noticed that every time the young girl went across to speak to them, they stopped talking and pretended to be eating.
Had Dawn noticed? Agnes didn’t think she had, she was far too excited about working out the route for the packed meals Agnes was, apparently, going to cook every evening and Dawn and Spike were going to deliver around Sunnydale.
“Like pizza, but far tastier,” she’d said to Agnes, her eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. “I’m going to write out what’s on offer and put a leaflet into every mailbox in Sunnydale. Then the orders will come flooding in and Spike and me will deliver them! We’ll make a fortune, Agnes.”
Agnes privately doubted that, but anything that cheered up Dawn was good news to her and as long as she wore her helmet and Spike didn’t drive the monster bike too fast, then all would probably be well. That was where the two of them were now, checking out the quickest routes through the backstreets of town.
Was that what she was uneasy about, she wondered? Dawn on the back of Spike’s motorbike? No, it didn’t seem to be that sort of worry. She knew Spike would never drive wildly with Dawn sitting behind him, whatever he did when he was out there alone, night after night, riding the long, lonely roads that surrounded Sunnydale. Agnes knew that he hoped the grief that still clung to him like a cloak would somehow be blown away by the speed of his passing. But Agnes also knew that grief never left you; it only faded eventually through darkest black to palest grey.
No, it wasn’t Spike she was uneasy about tonight. It was difficult to pin down. This was more the feeling she used to have at home when a storm would sweep in from the west and blanket the Hampshire countryside with black clouds and thunder. All she knew for certain was that she’d put Snowball, her cat, out into the tunnels that ran under the tearooms and checked that the two vampire children, Ronnie and Nancy were safe in their cave. They had pleaded with her to take them to the park again, to play on the swings. Shona, their mother, was out somewhere with her new boyfriend, but tonight Agnes was determined that the children would stay safely underground.
She was down in the basement, preparing the dough for the next day’s bread when she heard the first roaring of the bike engines and the distant sound of smashing glass. Hurrying upstairs, she faltered as she saw the glare of fires outside in the street, heard the yells and screaming, the roaring of engines, the crashing as shop windows were shattered all along the main road.
Hooligans! A whole gang of demon hooligans! And somewhere out there, Spike and Dawn were driving into big trouble. Before she could run, the door to the Tearooms was smashed open, the lock breaking as if it didn’t exist. Two huge, leather coated demons stood there, length of chains in their hands, teeth glistening, blood already coating their hands and boots. One of them roared and flung out his arm, sending the nearest cake-stands flying, the air suddenly filled with flying sponge and paper doilies.
They were going to destroy her shop! Her dear Willow Tree that she’d built with Richard’s money! How dare they! If Richard was here, he’d – he’d – eat them! Agnes felt her face change and for once she didn’t care. She gripped a weapon in her hand – it was only her rolling pin but made from solid wood! – and yelled, “Get out! Get out of my shop, both of you! How dare you come in here!”
The bigger demon looked surprised, then sneered and took a step towards her, plucking a bloodstained axe from his belt. “Silly little vampire!” he jeered. “How funny you’ll look in tiny pieces all over the floor.”
“Yes – all over the floor!” the second demon echoed, but his voice sounded a little strained and, to Agnes, familiar.
She stared up at him. “Malcolm! Malcolm Briggs is that you? You should be ashamed of yourself!” She was so angry she found herself shaking the rolling-pin in his face. All those curry pasties she’d made for him. The jam doughnuts, the toad-in-the-hole with real dried toad for his birthday. “Go away at once or – or – I’ll tell your Mother!”
Malcolm took a step backwards, but the other demon just laughed and advancing, drew the axe back over his shoulder, reading to swing at her. Then, suddenly, more screams came from outside and Agnes could hear someone roaring out names.
The demon and Malcolm turned and fled out of the door and Agnes stood trembling amongst the broken china and crushed Victoria Sponge. She dropped her rolling-pin, picked up a chair and, slamming the door, pushed the chair under the handle and sat on it. She had no idea if she could stop them returning, but she would do her very best. Soon Spike would come to check up on her, then everything would be all right.
She sat for a long time, terrified but determined, tears running down her face and dripping from her chin. She had no idea why she was crying: she decided at last it was realising that Malcolm and his mother would never be her friends again.
Whatever was happening outside went on for hours until eventually the noise died away. Every bone in her body ached and she had the utmost difficulty in getting her face to go back to normal – her fangs would keep slipping out, cutting her bottom lip. She knew she must go and check on Nancy and Ronnie and only hoped their mother had got back safely before the trouble began.
Agnes was sure Dawn was safe; Spike would have seen to that. He could always be relied on to look after his friends. He would probably come through the tunnels to the Willow Tree; she waited to hear his footstep on the stairs from the basement. Or perhaps the roar of his motorbike would herald his arrival, his voice impatiently shouting to her from outside to let him in. But as the hours passed and she was still alone, she realised she’d been expecting too much. There was no sign of the vampire.
The storm of destruction had passed, but Agnes had a cold, sinking feeling that the aftermath was going to be even more traumatic.
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