Many Phenomena—wars, plagues, sudden audits—have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the M25 London orbital motorway is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for Exhibit A.
Where they go wrong, of course, is in assuming that the wretched road is evil simply because of the incredible carnage and frustration it engenders every day.
In fact, very few people on the face of the planet know that the very shape of the M25 forms the sigil odegra in the language of the Black Priesthood of Ancient Mu, and means "Hail the Great Beast, Devourer of Worlds." The thousands of motorists who daily fume their way around its serpentine lengths have the same effect as water on a prayer wheel, grinding out an endless fog of low-grade evil to pollute the metaphysical atmosphere for scores of miles around.
It was one of Crowley's better achievements. It had taken years to achieve, and had involved three computer hacks, two break-ins, one minor bribery and, on one wet night when all else had failed, two hours in a squelchy fi eld shifting the marker pegs a few but occultly incredibly signifi cant meters. When Crowley had watched the fi rst thirty-mile-long tailback he'd experienced the lovely warm feeling of a bad job well done.
It had earned him a commendation.
Crowley was currently doing 110 mph somewhere east of Slough. Nothing about him looked particularly demonic, at least by classical standards. No horns, no wings. Admittedly he was listening to a Best of Queen tape, but no conclusions should be drawn from this because all tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums. No particularly demonic thoughts were going through his head. In fact, he was currently wondering vaguely who Moey and Chandon were.
Crowley had dark hair and good cheekbones and he was wearing snakeskin shoes, or at least presumably he was wearing shoes, and he could do really weird things with his tongue. And, whenever he forgot himself, he had a tendency to hiss.
He also didn't blink much.
The car he was driving was a 1926 black Bentley, one owner from new, and that owner had been Crowley. He'd looked after it.
The reason he was late was that he was enjoying the twentieth century immensely. it was much better than the seventeenth, and a lot better than the fourteenth. One of the nice things about Time, Crowley always said, was that it was steadily taking him away from the fourteenth century, the most bloody boring hundred years on God's, excuse his French, Earth. the twentieth century was anything but boring. In fact, a flashing blue light in his rear-view mirror had been telling Crowley, for the last fifty seconds, that he was being followed by two men who would like to make it even more interesting for him.
He glanced at his watch, which was designed for the kind of rich deep-sea diver who likes to know what the time is in twenty one world capitals while he's down there.*
The Bentley thundered up the exit ramp, took the corner on two wheels, and plunged down a leafy road. The blue light followed.
Crowley sighed, took one hand from the wheel, and, half turning, made a complicated gesture over his shoulder.
The flashing light dimmed into the distance as the police car rolled to a halt, much to the amazement of its occupants. But it would be nothing to the amazement they'd experience when they opened the bonnet and found out what the engine had turned into.
* It was custom made for Crowley. Getting just one chip custom made is incredibly expensive but he could afford it. This watch gave the time in twenty world capitals and in a capital city in Another Place, where it was always one time, and that was Too Late.
- Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, 20-21.