The Spy Who Haunted Me
(The third book in the Secret Histories series)
You don’t have to be afraid of the dark.
I mean, yes, it is full of monsters . . . and vampires and werewolves and aliens and mad scientists . . . and every-Y thing else that’s ever put the fear of God into you. Plus a whole bunch of people who are stranger and scarier than any mere monster could ever be. But my family exists to stand between you and them every day and all through the night. The Drood family has protected you and all humanity from the forces of darkness for some two thousand years now, and we’re very good at it. My name is Drood; Eddie Drood. Also known as Shaman Bond, the very secret agent.
I face down the monsters, so you don’t have to.
But don’t expect a knight in shining armour. I do my best but sometimes . . . the night can be very dark indeed.
The Crime of the Century
In the early hours, when it seems like the dark will go on forever and the dawn will never come, the night people come out to play. They swarm through the empty London streets, trailing long multicoloured streamers and brandishing champagne bottles, howling with laughter and singing the bits they remember from popular songs. They always wear the very best, even if it is stained with booze and food and dusted with various powders, andis they all look like film stars or supermodels or personalities . . . It’s only when you get right up close you can see the bloodied and worn-down feet, the haunted eyes and the desperate smiles, and hear the lost, lonely strain in their laughter. For the night people, parties go on forever. There are all kinds of Hell . . .
I had just left the Leicester Square tube station and was heading unhurriedly into Covent Garden. I was just Shaman Bond that night, my easygoing, relatively harmless cover identity. Dressed well but casually, with nothing to distinguish me from a hundred other late-night revellers. I’ve been trained not to stand out, to blend into any crowd, to have a face that no one will remember ten minutes later. An agent’s face. I come and I go and do what I have to, and no one ever knows. If I’ve done my job right.
It was an early morning in late September, a pleasant enough night to be out and about. The moon was full, the stars were out, and the streetlamps glowed like tarnished gold. Long black limousines cruised past, transporting high-class hookers with silver hair and artificial smiles to expensive rendezvous at the best hotels. Black-leather-clad couriers on powerful motorbikes carried important secrets back and forth from embassy to embassy, or industry to industry. And a gang of knobbly-looking kobolds in Westminster Council uniforms were chatting and swearing cheerfully as they hauled dead trolls out of an open manhole and dumped the distorted bodies into the back of a waiting refuse truck. There’s a lot goes on in London streets at night that most Londoners are better off not knowing about.
The kobolds nodded easily to me as I passed, and I smiled easily back. Night people can always recognise their own kind. Kobolds perform necessary repairs, clean up the night’s various messes, and deal very sternly with the various unnatural vermin that thrive deep down under the streets of London. Trolls, albino alligators, intelligent rat colonies, the inhuman spawn of slumming alien deities; that sort of thing.
You wouldn’t be able to see them, because you don’t have the Sight; the practiced ability to See the world as it really is, in all its awful glory. Even I can’t bear to See it for long. The Sight is one of the advantages of being a Drood. It comes from the golden collar I wear around my throat: a torc, in the old language. The torc is the secret weapon of the Droods. It makes us strong enough to go head-to-head with monsters and demons and kick their nasty arses.
Farther down the street, two large bottle-green Reptiloids were having a slapping match over the unformed soul they’d ripped out of some squashed piece of roadkill. They’d clearly fallen on hard times and actually backed away when they saw me coming. I left them to it. Eddie Drood might have felt obliged to do something about them, but I was just Shaman Bond that night, and I didn’t want to break cover. Cover identities are very important for a Drood field agent. I’ve spent years building up my ˚public face, my public life, one careful step at a time. Droods come and go, but no one ever sees our faces. We protect the world, but we’re not dumb enough to expect it to be grateful.
I’m only Eddie Drood when I’m at home, with the family. Or when I’m in action. Anywhen else, I’m Shaman Bond, so I can walk through the world just like you. Drood field agents are ninety-nine percent urban myth, and we like it that way. Makes it so much scarier when we do choose to show ourselves.
So who is Shaman Bond? I’m glad you asked. He’s an easygoing, vaguely feckless, borderline criminal man about town. Always a part of the scene but never tied to anyone or anything. Everybody sort of knows him, even if they’re not too sure what he actually does to hold body and soul together. If anyone should ask, he’ll just wink and smile and change the subject. There are a lot of people like that, in the long reaches of the night. Shaman knows his way around, is on nodding acquaintance with a surprisingly large number of the people who matter, and is always ready to consider some dodgy venture or clandestine scheme, particularly if his funds are running low. The perfect cover for just turning up anywhere and listening to gossip.
I think mostly I prefer being Shaman Bond. No duties or responsibilities, no pressure . . . and Shaman’s a nice guy. Eddie Drood doesn’t always have that option.
Half a dozen Gray aliens were clustered around a strange piece of nonhuman technology that shimmered and sparkled under the heavy light of the streetlamps. The Grays were all wearing designer sunglasses, presumably so they wouldn’t be recognised. Otherwise they were entirely naked, dull gray skin slipping and sliding over their inhuman bone structure as though it wasn’t properly attached. I made a mental note to check with my family that the Grays’ permits were all in order and to see just what that particular bunch were up to.
There had almost certainly been a memo about it, but I’m always at least a month behind. You wouldn’t believe how much paperwork is involved in being a very secret agent. And don’t even get me started about claiming expenses . . .
I headed deeper into Covent Garden, and before and behind and all around me blazed layer upon layer of ghosts. Of people and places, buildings and events, all of them trapped in repeating loops of time. Reminders and remainders, recordings of the past, piled on top of each other like the layers of an onion . . . Because no matter how many layers you peel away there’s always one more underneath. London is very old and absolutely littered with things that won’t stay dead. Even if you hit them with a really big stick.
No one paid me any attention. One of the first things they teach you as a field agent is how to walk unseen in plain sight. To be average and anonymous, just another face in the crowd. You could walk right past me in the street and not even notice I was there. It’s all in the training. You too could give the appearance of being nobody in particular, not worth a second glance, if you were prepared to put in the work.
My current mission was important but frustratingly vague. The safety of all England hung in the balance, but no one could tell me why. Something important was being planned by foreign elements, some dark and dangerous scheme aimed at the very heart of London, but no one could tell me what or who or when. And of course foreign could mean just that, or it could mean elves or aliens or unnatural forces from outside our reality. The family precogs are always right, but they see the future through a glass darkly, and they’re always vague when it comes to useful details. Some warnings have been so obscure they only became clear in hindsight.