Bryant and May and the Invisible Code Page 0,2

her into primary colours. She swayed back and forth, feeling the changing patterns on her eyelids. She thought of lost love, wasted time and missed opportunities.

She was still furious with herself for losing the only man she had ever loved. She had been angry for more than two years now, and only coming to St Bride’s could dull the ache of loss. If she had taken him more seriously and tried harder to help, she was sure he would still be with her.

His death had hastened the end of her trust in God, but here in the church he must have loved she felt a connection between the present and the past, the living and the dead. She could believe that angels were watching and guiding her thoughts.

But when she opened her eyes, she found that pair of children still peering through the door at her. Where were their parents, and why were they staring?

They looked as if they were waiting for something to happen.

The church’s thick walls kept it cool even in the heat of summer. The chill radiated from the stones. But now, after just a few minutes, the interior started to seem hot and airless. The light from the windows hurt her eyes. She could feel her face burning.

Suddenly aware that she was perspiring, she wiped her forehead with the paper tissue she kept tucked in her sleeve, and looked up at the drifting motes of dust caught in the sunlight coming through the plain glass on either side of the nave. Perhaps it was her imagination, but today she really did feel closer to some kind of spiritual presence in here.

The sensation was growing, starting to envelop her. Perhaps God had finally decided to make himself known, and would apologize for screwing up her life. The colours in the oval window above the altar grew more vivid by the second. Even the oak pews that faced each other across the church seemed to give off waves of warmth.

It wasn’t her imagination. The church was definitely getting hotter. The light streaming through the glass was tinged crimson. The floor was rippling in the heat. It was as if the entire building had divorced itself from its moorings and was sinking down to hell.

Suddenly she felt very close to a watchful being, but it wasn’t God – it was the Devil.

She twisted her head to see the children leaning in from outside the church door, still staring at her intently. And someone or something no more than a stretched silhouette was behind them, dark and faceless, willing them on to evil deeds.

I am going to suffer, she thought. This is all wrong. I can’t die before knowing the truth.

As the church tipped and she fell slowly from her chair, all she felt was frustration with the incompleteness of life.



‘YOU NEED TO start acting your age,’ said Dr Gillespie.

‘If I did that, I’d be dead.’ Arthur Bryant coughed loudly, causing the doctor to tear off his stethoscope.

‘Would you kindly refrain from doing that when I’m listening to your heart?’ he complained. ‘You nearly deafened me.’

‘What?’ asked Bryant, who had been thinking about something else.

‘Deaf,’ said Dr Gillespie. ‘You nearly deafened me.’

‘Yes, I’m quite deaf, but don’t worry, it’s not catching. You’re a doctor, you should know that. I’ve got a hearing aid but it keeps picking up old radio programmes. I put it on yesterday morning and listened to an episode of Two-Way Family Favourites from 1963.’ He coughed again.

Dr Gillespie coughed too. ‘That’s not possible. How long have you been coming here?’ he asked, thumping his chest.

‘Forty-two years,’ said Bryant. ‘You ought to cut down on the oily rags.’

‘The what?’

‘The fags. The snouts. Gaspers. Coffin nails. Lung darts.’

‘All right, I get the picture.’

‘The doctor I had before you is dead now. He was a smoker, too.’

Dr Gillespie coughed harder. ‘He was run over by a bus.’

‘Yes, but he was on his way to the tobacconist.’

‘You smoke a pipe.’

‘My tobacco has medicinal properties. Is there anything else wrong with me?’

‘Well, quite a lot, but nothing’s actually dropping off. It’s mostly to do with your age. How old are you, exactly?’

‘My date of birth is right there in your file.’ Bryant reached forward and slapped an immense sheaf of yellowed paperwork.

Dr Gillespie donned his glasses and searched for it. ‘Good Lord,’ he said. ‘Well, I suppose, all things considered, you’re doing all right. Mental health OK?’

‘What are you implying?’

‘I have to ask these things. No lapses of memory?’

‘Well of