Chapter Thirty-One: Into the Woods

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The new assignment was to transport St Cuthbert's Kettle to a secure location. I hoped that meant a quick helicopter flight to London, but Horseshoe protocol forbade air transit for any artefact dubbed a "storm-maker," and the kettle fit that description.

In theory my presence was meant to keep the kettle in check, but the Admiral endorsed a belt-and-braces approach, so air travel was still off the cards. Instead of a helicopter ride, I had to sit in the back of a car for the three-hour drive from Whitby, on the east coast, to Liverpool, on the west coast, where the kettle would find a new home in a secret underground bunker.

While the kettle kept me company on the back seat, Hari and Abigail sat in the front and ignored me. Occasionally they would talk to each other, but I couldn't hear what they were saying, because they kept the radio turned up loud. Whenever I asked what they were talking about, they told me not to worry.

We were halfway to our destination when I finally had enough.

"Is this how it's going to be from now on?" I asked. "Because if I ask the Admiral for a different protection team, I'm pretty sure I'll get one."

"So, ask," said Hari.

"What was that?"

I had heard him, but I wanted to know if he meant it. Hari switched off the radio and turned in his seat. "Ask her," he said. "Get another protection team. This isn't why I signed up, Frazer. I didn't go through all my training to be your babysitter."

"What is your problem? I'm doing my part. I didn't choose this, you know."

"You've made that clear enough."

"Am I meant to be grateful? Am I meant to think this is the best thing that ever happened to me?"

"You're meant to know what side you're on," said Abigail. "Human or fey."

I opened my mouth. I closed it again. I couldn't think of a smart answer to that.

"That's what I thought," said Abigail. "You think you're too good for this. We're fighting to protect our country, which is your country too, by the way. Three of our guys died trying to save your mum. Meanwhile you're keeping secrets and going on dates with a terrorist."

"I didn't go on any—"

"Give it a rest. The Admiral says you're special, so we put our lives on the line for you. That's the job, and we do it. But the way I see it, you're not on anyone's side but your own. You could as easily help them as help us, and if that's the case, what the hell are we protecting you for?"

I sunk back into my seat. Abigail wasn't going to listen to any arguments from me, and I wasn't sure I had any. After a minute of painful silence, Hari turned the radio back on.

* * *

We came off the motorway a few miles out from Liverpool and drove past some small villages and onto a quiet road through the woods. I watched out of the window as the trees whipped by. Today was a sunny spring day, a birds-and-butterflies day, and the worst kind of day to be stuck in a car with two people who hate you.

We passed a thick copse of trees. The shadows were so dense that it looked like a slice of night in the daylight.

The trees parted to reveal rolling pastures and a field of horses.

A second wall of trees harboured the same thick darkness, but this time I saw a small gap between them, a little window that revealed a tumbledown dry-stone wall, a tangle of thorny bushes, and a distant tower against a moonlit sky.

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