The Guardians

Andrew Pyper

First published in Great Britain in 2011

by Orion Books,

an imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd

Orion House, 5 Upper Saint Martin's Lane

London WC2H 9EA

An Hachette UK Company

13579 10 8642

Copyright © Andrew Pyper 2011

The moral right of Andrew Pyper to be identified as the

author of this work has been asserted in accordance with

the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

Al rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any

means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,

without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the

above publisher of this book.

Al the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to

actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this book

is available from the British Library.

ISBN (Hardback) 978 1 4091 2254 8

ISBN (Trade Paperback) 978 1 4091 2255 5

Printed in Great Britain by

Clays Ltd, St Ives plc

The Orion Publishing Group's policy is to use papers that are natural,

renewable and recyclable products and made from wood grown in sustainable

forests. The logging and manufacturing processes are expected to

conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

For my Guardians then—

Jeff, Larry, Mike, Robin, Alan

And for my Guardians now—

Heidi, Maude and Ford


Entry No. 1

We watched them come.

A lone police cruiser at first. The officer's shirt straining against the bulge around his waist. A look of practised boredom on his face, a pantomime of seen-it-al masculinity performed without an audience. We were the only ones who saw him walk, pigeon-toed, into the house. The only ones who knew he wouldn't be bored for long.

When he came out he wasn't wearing his cap anymore. His thin hair, grey but darkened with sweat, was a greasy sculpture of indecision, pointing in several directions at once. (Later, we wondered about the cap. Had it falen off in the first jolt of shock? Had he removed it himself in a reflex of some sort? A show of respect?)

He tumbled into the car and radioed in. We tried to read his lips, but couldn't realy see his face through the wilow boughs, swaying reflections over the windshield.

Was there a numbered code for this? Or was he forced to describe what he'd seen? Did he recognize, even in the shadows that must have left him blind after entering from the bright outside, who they were? However he put it, it would have been hard for anyone to believe. We weren't wholy convinced ourselves. And we knew it was true.

Soon, two more cruisers puled up. An ambulance. A fire truck, though there was no fire. Some of the men went inside, but most did not. A scene of grimly loitering uniforms, sipping coffee from the Styrofoam cups they brought with them. The last of history's union-protected, on-the-job smokers flicking their butts into the street in undeclared

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