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‘I thought the killer got you,’ Nathan yells from the kitchen door as Frej and I clamber over the rhododendron bush. ‘I didn’t know you were the kind of hussy who stayed out all night,.’
‘Well I am. But that’s not what happened —‘
‘You can’t do this, Kirsty —‘
‘It’s not up to you what I do.’
’I thought the killer got you!’
I flinch, an uncomfortable flicker of guilt prickling at me. I brush past Nathan into the kitchen and start busying myself making tea so as to avoid Nathan’s accusing stare. Frej is standing in the doorway, looking around the kitchen uncertainly. ‘Why would you think that?
‘Because we were told a serial killer was on the loose and then you disappeared.’
I mean, when he puts it like that —
‘I told you I was going for a run,’ I snap.
‘It’s been seven hours.’
‘I like to run.’
‘Kirsty —‘
‘Fine. I should have called.’
‘On the telephone? How would I have known to go wait at a box?’
An image of Nathan waiting patiently all night outside one of those red phone boxes that’s been turned into a flower stall or a coffee stand flashes through my mind.
‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘I’m not exactly used to telling people where I’m going or what I’m doing. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived with a great-grandparent,’ I add pointedly, and he grins sheepishly.
‘I actually fell asleep,’ he admits. ‘I was just afraid when I woke up to find you still gone.’
I raise an eyebrow.
‘About five minutes ago.’
‘Well then,’ I say.
‘Pleased to meet you, Sir,’ Nathan says, holding out a hand to Frej who stares at it in confusion. ‘Nathan Williams, at your service.’
‘He doesn’t speak English.’
‘He doesn’t? What gives? Where did you find him?’
‘The Dark Ages, I reckon,’ I say. ‘Or thereabouts.’ I bring three mugs of tea to the table. Frej takes the one I hand him and sniffs it dubiously, then watches as I take a healthy gulp of mine. ’Skål,’ I say, hoping that how Scandinavians say cheers hasn’t changed much in a millennium.
‘His name is Frej. He’s the guy I saved from the fire. I think he’s a viking and that I brought him through with me somehow.’ If I say it fast, it almost sounds normal.
Nathan frowns, watching Frej gingerly sipping tea as he takes this in. ‘They were burning him, like in some kind of ritual?’
I remember the long bed of coals, the way the vikings stood solemnly around, waiting for Axey Guy to finish the job with his axe. ‘I suppose so.’
‘Like maybe a ritual that created the magic the made this happen?’
‘Vikings aren’t magic,’ I say. ‘They’re just… historical.’
I’ve been wracking my brains for everything I know about vikings. I know they invaded a lot of the west coast of Scotland, plundered Iona and ruled Dumbarton for a long while. They must have been in Govan at some point because of the runes in the parish church. And, because I saw them there. We went to the parish church to see the Govan Stones on a school trip. Harry forgot his packed lunch and I gave him half my sandwich, then I was mad at myself because I was hungry.
‘They were pagan,’ Nathan says, looking at Frej warily. Frej drinks his tea, seemingly entirely unbothered as to exactly how many gods it’s okay to believe in.
‘Human sacrifice.’ The realisation hits me and turns my stomach. I put my tea down. ‘That’s what they were doing. It must have been the night before a battle. I’ve seen it in a film or something. They made sacrifices to the gods for good luck. They were burning him, and they were going to slit his throat. He was being sacrificed.’
‘Do you think he volunteered?’ Nathan asks.
‘He seemed pretty happy when I came flying in screeching like a monkey.’
‘Poor guy.’
Frej still seems thirsty, so I pour him some more tea and he gives me a thumbs up.
‘I suppose war is harsh,’ I say.
‘I’ve been through a war. My buddies would fight to the death for each other, not kill each other for good luck. A human life is worth something, I’m glad you saved him.’
‘Even if saving him is what brought us through?’ I ask quietly. I can’t be sure, but Morag’s warning keeps prickling at me. I wasn’t supposed to help them, but I helped Frej. What if I — broke some kind of seal and made all this happen?
Nathan flinches. He is quiet a moment, emotion churning in his dark eyes. ‘What are we going to do about finding Morag’s killer?’ he says finally.
‘I’ve been thinking about that. We need to talk to women.’
‘Didn’t the police already do that?’
‘They’ll be talking to those they already know are witnesses, people who were at the bars when the victims we know of were taken. But these guys never have a 100% hit rate. He’ll have struck out, tried to chat someone up and her friends stepped in or she just told him to get lost.’
Nathan nods. ‘That sounds like a good plan. Where do we find these women?’
‘I suppose we’re going clubbing.’

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