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Red for Danger

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Adam crossed the crypt at a run, and ascended the daïs taking the steps two at a time. Most of the cultists fled, but the ringleader — a scruffy, bearded fellow — turned to face Adam, raising the sacrificial knife menacingly. Not breaking step, Adam cut him down with his swordstick and gave him no further thought, hurrying round the altar to where Miss Jones was securely restrained.

Georgie looked pale and shaken, but managed a little wave and a 'Hi'.

"Miss Jones." Setting his blade aside, Adam began to unbuckle the straps holding Georgie in place. "I will only say that I warned you."

"All right, you did," Georgie conceded. "But how did you know those hippies were really a devil-worshipping cult?"

"I did not know, but in my experience the odds are somewhat better than evens that you will find, in any given village, a sinister organisation with an unholy purpose."

"But not hippies and students. Normally it's evil squires and so on." Finding that Adam had managed to free her top half, Georgie sat up and rubbed her wrists. "I'd have thought this lot would be into the mystic wisdom of the East, not calling up demons. Do you think they really believed it would work?"

"Whether it would have had its desired effect or not, the harm they would have done you is entirely real," Adam reminded her.

Georgie didn't seem inclined to follow that train of thought. "I mean, say 'demon' to someone these days and they'll think of a guy out of a pantomime, in red tights and a false beard. Don't know why anyone would want to—"

She broke off, at the all-too-familiar sound of a revolver being cocked.

"Hello again," a polite, well-spoken female voice said behind them. "Please put your hands up and don't make any sudden movements."

Adam did as he was insructed. "Miss Powers. What is your connection with this band of reprobates?"

"That's my own business." Melanie Powers circled warily into view, the pistol in her hand trained firmly on Adam. "But I must thank you for your assistance with the experiment."

"Assistance?" Adam repeated.

Miss Powers nodded at the motionless body of the ringleader, slumped against the altar. "Poor Rodney. He never did have any luck with girls. But now, thanks to you, he will serve a higher purpose."

"I don't get it," Georgie said.

"Mr Adamant has slain a virgin on the altar of Moloch," Miss Powers explained, her tone that of an infant teacher speaking to a dimwitted pupil. "Which was, after all, the point of the exercise. You don't think I'd have let them sacrifice you, do you? I don't know where you've been."

Georgie shot her a defiant look. "Having fun, that's where. You look like you could do with some, too. Be better for you than poking about with old books and nutters in silly cloaks. What do you think you'll get out of that?"

"We shall have to see." Miss Powers' eyes gleamed. "If it doesn't work, I'm no worse off, am I? I haven't killed anyone." She gestured with her pistol. "Stand away from the altar, I've got a summoning ritual to do."

Reluctantly, Adam and Georgie did as they were ordered.

"Have you noticed what she's wearing?" Georgie whispered, as Miss Powers began chanting in what Adam considered to be quite ungrammatical Latin.

"You mean her skirt?" Adam raised an eyebrow. "There is scarcely enough of it to notice."

Georgie shook her head. "Red tights. I wonder if she got the idea from pantomimes, too?"