Bryant and May and the Invisible Code Page 0,1

square, plus a motorcycle courier who must have been stifling in his helmet and leathers.

‘It’s this one. I have a feeling. I bet she belongs to a coven; that’s a club for witches. Remember, we have to get them before they get us. Let’s check her out. Come on.’

Lucy led the way past a sad-looking young woman who had just seated herself on the bench nearest the church. She had opened a paperback and was reading it intently. Lucy turned to Tom with an air of theatrical nonchalance and pointed behind the flat of her palm.

‘That’s definitely her.’

‘How can we tell if she’s a witch?’ Tom whispered.

‘Look for signs. Try to see what she’s reading.’

‘I can’t walk past her again, she’ll see. Wait, I’ve got an idea.’ Tom had stolen a yellow tennis ball from his father’s office. Now he produced it from his pocket. ‘Catch, then throw it back to me in her direction. I’ll miss and I’ll have to go and get it.’

Lucy was a terrible actress. If the sad-faced young woman had looked up, she would have stopped and stared at the little girl gurning and grimacing before her.

‘I’m throwing now,’ Lucy said loudly, hurling the ball ten feet wide of the boy. Tom scrambled in slow motion around the bench, and the young woman briefly raised her eyes.

Tom ran back to Lucy’s side. ‘She’s reading a book about babies.’

‘What was it called?’

‘Rosemary’s Baby. By a woman called Ira something.’

‘Then she’s definitely a witch.’

‘How do you know?’

Lucy blew a raspberry of impatience. ‘Don’t you know anything? Witches eat babies! Everyone knows that.’

‘So she really is one,’ Tom marvelled. ‘She looks so normal.’

‘Yeah, clever isn’t it?’ Lucy agreed. ‘So, how are we going to kill her?’



EVEN THOUGH THE presses of the Fourth Estate had been shifted to London’s hinterlands by Rupert Murdoch, St Bride’s Church was still known to many as the Printers’ Cathedral. Tucked behind Fleet Street, it stood on a pagan site dedicated to Brigit, the Celtic goddess of healing, fire and childbirth. For two thousand years the spot had been a place of worship, and for the past five hundred it had been the spiritual home of journalists. Samuel Pepys, no mean reporter himself, had been born in Salisbury Court, right next to the church, and had later bribed the gravedigger of St Bride’s to shift up the corpses so that his brother John could be buried in the churchyard.

St Bride’s’ medieval lectern had survived the Great Fire and the Luftwaffe’s bombs. It still stood bathed in the lunchtime sunlight, barely registered by the tourists who stopped by to take photographs of just another London church. The building had been badly damaged in the firestorm of 29 December 1940, but had now been restored according to Wren’s original drawings.

With the paperback in her hand, the sad young woman walked into the church and looked about. Amy O’Connor had been here many times before, but her visits had never brought her the satisfaction she’d hoped for. She knew little about the church except the one thing everyone knew: that the shape of a wedding cake came from its tiered spire. It was usually empty inside, a place where she could sit still and calm herself. Her encounter with the children in the courtyard had disturbed her. It was as if they had been slyly studying her.

Before her the great canopied oak reredos dedicated to the Pilgrim Fathers stood in front of what appeared to be a half-domed apse, but it was actually a magnificent trompe l’oeil. A striking oval stained-glass panel, like an upright eye holding the image of Christ, shone light down on to the polished marble floor, which was laid with black Belgian and white Italian tiles.

Amy looked around the empty pews with their homely little lampshades. If there had been any lunchtime worshippers here, they had all gone back to work now. The churchwarden was still on his break and had probably headed up the road for a pie and a pint in the Cheshire Cheese. Someone had taken over for him, and was manning the little shop selling books and postcards near the entrance.

Seating herself in one of the oak chairs arranged near the pulpit, she closed her eyes and let the light of God shine through the dazzling reds, blues and yellows of the stained glass on to her bare freckled arms and upturned face. It was like being inside a gently shifting kaleidoscope. The light divided