Seventh Circle (Chapter 5 - Talisman, page 1 of 6)

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Alison arrived at the restaurant and found a place by the window. Tom had asked her to help with his experiments. He wanted the gear that her father used to study brainwaves. Colin had refused to provide it and Tom had asked her to sneak into his laboratory and get it for him.

Tom was staying in a pub. She'd phoned and suggested they meet there but he said it would be better if they didn't. She knew why. They would think she was a thirteen-year-old and Tom was a paedophile. It made her so angry. She was almost eighteen. Why couldn't people see that she was just small?

She nursed her coffee and waited for him. Tom was persona non grata at home. Her mother had thrown him out and her father wasn't prepared to defend him. Tom spent the night in his van and moved into the pub the next day.

At thirty-five, Tom was twice her age. Alison's first memories of him were when he was still in the army. Her father was a colonel in the medical corps and Tom was one of the youngest majors to have been appointed to that rank in peacetime. For some reason, he resigned his commission, went to university and got a job as a lecturer in archaeology when he graduated. His talent with words captivated TV audiences but did nothing to endear him to his colleagues. They never lost an opportunity to ridicule him. Alison guessed the incident with the cat would put an end to his career.

The door of the restaurant opened and he entered.

'Have you seen this?'

He sat down and pushed a newspaper in front of her. There was a photograph of a cat on the front page. It had wires sticking out of its skull. Another photograph showed Tom beside a pond with a wicker basket. The caption said the cat had been found dead in a ditch close to where he had been conducting experiments.

'It's that Dr Duncan-Brown,' Allison whispered. 'He's out to get you. Daddy said he took photographs of you. That will be one of them. We spent all morning taking his laboratory apart and loading things into the trailer.'

'Did you get the helmet?' Tom asked.

Alison tapped a bag at her feet. 'I've got it here. We're not going to let that snotty-nosed Duncan-Brown win. I'm going to help you fight him. The best way is to prove you have discovered something really important.'

Tom picked up the bag and looked inside.

'It's not all here.'

'I'll bring the rest with me, Tom. I'll let you have it when you've agreed to my terms. I want to be part of what you are doing. If I let you have it now, you'll leave me out.'

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