philomytha: girl in woods with a shaft of sunlight falling on her (Default)
[personal profile] philomytha posting in [community profile] the_folly
So Ben Aaronovitch did an online thing talking about his books and reading the first chapter of Foxglove Summer today. Here's the whole conversation and reading:

Also, because I am enthusiastic, and the toddler took a long nap this afternoon, and I like having text, I made a transcript of the first chapter, which is behind the cut.

I was just passing the Hoover Centre when I heard Mr Punch screaming his rage behind me. Or it might have been someone's brakes, or a distant siren, or an Airbus on the final approach to Heathrow.

I'd been hearing him off and on since stepping off the top of a tower block at Elephant and Castle. Not a real sound, you understand, an impression, an expression through the city itself, what we might call a super-vestigia, if Nightingale wasn't so dead-set against me making up my own terminology. Sometimes he's in a threatening mood. Sometimes I hear him as a thin wail of despair in amongst the wind moaning around a tube train. Or else he's a pained [?] wheedling in the growl of the late-night traffic beyond my bedroom window. He's a mercurial figure, our Mr Punch, as changeable and as dangerous as an away crowd on a Saturday night. This time it was rage and petulance and resentment. I couldn't understand why, though. It wasn't him who was driving out of London.

As an institution, the BBC is just over 90 years old, which means that Nightingale feels comfortable enough around the wireless to have a digital radio in his bathroom. On this he listens to Radio 4 while he's shaving. Presumably he assumes the presenters are still safely attired in evening dress while they tear strips off whatever politician has been offered up as an early-morning sacrifice on the Today programme. Which is why he heard about the kids going missing before I did. This surprised him.

"I was under the impression that you quite enjoyed the wireless first thing in the morning," he said over breakfast, after I'd told him it was all news to me.

"I was doing my practice," I said. In the weeks following the demolition of Skygarden Tower with me on top of it, I'd been a key witness in three separate investigations. In addition to the one by the Department of Professional Standards, I'd spent a great deal of each working day in interview rooms in various nicks around London, including the notorious 23rd floor of the Empress State Building where the Serious Investigation branch of the DPS keeps its racks and thumbscrews. This meant that I'd gotten into the habit of getting up early to do my practice and get in some time in the gym before heading off to answer the same bloody question five different ways. It was just as well, since I hadn't exactly been sleeping well since Lesley had tazed me in the back. By the start of August, the interviews had dried up, but the habit, and the insomnia, had stuck.

"Has there been a request for assistance?" I asked.

"With regards to the formal investigation, no," said Nightingale. "But where children are concerned, we have certain responsibilities."

There were two of them, both girls, both aged eleven, both missing from two separate family homes in the same village in north Herefordshire. The first 999 call had been just after nine o'clock the previous morning, and it first hit media attention in the evening when the girls' mobile phones were found at a local ? about ? meters from their home. Overnight it went from local to national, and, according to the Today program, large-scale searches were due to commence this morning.

I knew the Folly has actual responsiblities in the sort of de facto, under the table way that nobody likes to talk about, but I couldn't see how this related to missing kids.

"Regrettably in the past," said Nightingale, "children were occasionally used in the practice of," he groped around for the right term, "unethical types of magic. It's always been our policy to keep an eye on missing child cases, and where necessary, check to make sure that certain individuals in the proximity are not involved."

"Certain individuals?" I asked.

"Hedge wizards and the like," he said.

In the Folly parlance, a hedge wizard was any magical practitioner who'd either picked up their skills ad hoc from outside the Folly, or who had retired to seclusion in the countryside. What Nightingale called 'rusticated'. We both looked over to where Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina, formerly of the 365th Special Regiment of the Red Army, was sitting at a table on the other side of the breakfast room, drinking black coffee and reading 'Cosmopolitan'. Varvara Sidorovna, trained by the Red Army, definitely fell into the 'and the like' category, but since she'd been lodging with us while awaiting trial for the last two months, she, at least, was unlikely to be involved.

Amazingly, Varvara had appeared for breakfast before me, and looking bright-eyed for a woman I'd seen put away the best part of two bottles of vodka the night before. We'd been trying to get her drunk in the hope of prising more information on the Faceles Man out of her, but we'd got nothing except some really disgusting jokes, many of which didn't translate very well. Still, the vodka had knocked me out handily, and I'd got most of a night's sleep.

"So like ViSOR?" I said.

"Is that the list of sex offenders?" said Nightingale, who wisely never bothered to memorise an acronym until it had lasted for at least ten years.

I told him it was, and he considered the question while pouring another cup of tea.

"Better to think of ours as a register of 'vulnerable' people," he said. "Our task in this instance is to ensure they haven't become entangled in something they may later regret."

"D'you think it's likely in this case?" I asked.

"Not terribly likely, no," said Nightingale, "but it's always better to err on the side of caution in these matters, and besides," he smiled, "it will do you good to get out of the city for a couple of days."

"Because nothing cheers me up like a good old child abduction," I said.

"Quite," said Nightingale.

So after breakfast I spent an hour in the tech cave pulling background off the network and making sure my laptop was properly charged up. I'd just requalified for my Level One Public Order Certificiate, so I threw my PSU bag into the back of the ASBO Mark 2, along with my overnight bag. I didn't think the flame-retardant overall would be necessary, but my chunky PSU boots were a better bet than my street shoes. I had been to the countryside before, and I've learned from my mistakes.

I popped back to the Folly proper and met Nightingale in the main library where he handed me a manila folder tied up with faded red ribbons. Inside were about thirty pages of tissue-thin paper covered in densely typed text, and what was obviously a photostat of an identity book of some sort.

"? Oswald. Fought at Antwerp and Ettersberg."

"He survived Ettersberg?"

Nightingale looked away. "He made it back to England. But he suffered from what I'm told is now called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still lives on a medical pension, and took up beekeeping."

"How strong is he?"

"Well, you wouldn't want to test him," said Nightingale. "But I suspect he's out of practice."

"And if I suspect something?"

"Keep it to yourself, make a discreet withdrawal, and telephone me at the first opportunity," he said. Before I could get out of the back, Molly came gliding out of her kitchen domain and intercepted me. She gave me a thin smile and tilted her head to one side in inquiry.

"I thought I'd stop on the way up."

The pale skin between her thin black eyebrows furrowed.

"I didn't want to put you to any trouble," I said.

Molly held up an orange Sainsbury's bag in one long-fingered hand. I took it. It was surprisingly heavy.

"What's in it?" I asked, but Molly merely smiled, showing too many teeth, turned and drifted away

I hefted the bag gingerly. There'd been less offal of late, but Molly can still be pretty eccentric in her culinary combinations. I made a point of stowing the bag in the shady footwell in the backseat. Whatever was in the sandwiches, you didn't want them getting too warm and going off, or starting to smell, or spontaneously mutating into a new life-form.

It was a brilliant London day as I set out. The sky was blue, the tourists were blocking the pavements along the Euston Road, and as the commuters panted out of their open windows and stared longingly, the fit young people strolled past in shorts and summer dresses. Pausing to tank up at a garage I knew near Warwick Avenue, I tangled with the temporary one-way system around Paddington, climbed along the A40, bid farewell to the Art Deco magnificence of the Hoover Building, and set course for what Londoners like to think of as 'everywhere else'.

ETA: Aaronovitch has now put a correct version up on his blog, with a few extra paragraphs on the end as well. The accurate and longer version
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