My next meeting with Xavier was different. He seemed to have lost something, some of his edge, some of his vitality. It was as if he was truly becoming the down and out that I didn’t believe he really was. Was this change in him a consequence of his contact with the Naylorites – a contact I had facilitated? Or was it something different?
I soon found out. We met in the back terrace garden the Lead Station. Xavier had a haunted look about him.
‘Not well Bilbo. They are after me.’
‘I’m not sure. Could be your lot, the Dark Cyclists-‘
‘No,’ I shook my head, ‘and not my lot and don’t spread such rumours.’
‘OK” he replied in a sceptical voice.
‘Not my lot!’ I said more emphatically.
‘OK. OK but someone is… I got beaten up yesterday.’
‘Oh…. sorry to hear that but isn’t that an occupational hazard?’
‘Yes but they were professionals, I could feel the difference.’
‘To warn me off.’
‘Off… the Naylorites I think…. Unless they did it.’
‘Not likely they are ex Quakers and so are pacifists.’
‘Oh yeah, there’s a tale or two I could tell you about them.’
‘Another time’ the last thing I wanted to hear was Xavier slagging off the Naylorites.
‘Is there somewhere you can go?’
‘I rather hoped you would know a place.’
It happened so suddenly. A shadow loomed over our table and a hand seized Xavier and another hand firmly pressed me in the chest back into my seat. It was an i-snatch squad*, no use resisting them otherwise we would both be ‘tazed, dazed and fazed’. They took Xavier away but left me – why? – luck on my part or were they already watching me and waiting?
*I-snatch squad – semi autonomous squads but government funded at a distance, independent of the police and the armed forces. Set up in i2018 or thereabouts. Formed largely from ex service men and women.