In the control room, Alex was concentrating on her construction of Salome Macintosh. Tigris stood at her right shoulder and she was aware of a gap at her left. Just to the side of that, Profelis stood a little stiffly. Alex couldn’t see Aquila but, from the way Profelis was all business, she knew she was there. Nick and Rachel, knowing there were unseen guests with them, didn’t know where to stand without causing offense so they stood by the big screen which Alex had linked to her workstation.
“It’s more elongated,” Tigris said. “A long oval face.”
Alex made an adjustment.
“Dr Sloan says that’s perfect.”
“Yes, she had one.” Tigris looked pained and glanced round at the empty space. “Those kinds of remarks are not helping us progress anything.” He faced the small screen again. “Fairly small. What might be called pert. An elegant, delicate nose.”
“Like this?” Alex ventured.
“Almost. The nostrils are thinner. Yes. That’s it.”
“All right. Eyes. Two, I assume,” she commented dryly.
“Evenly spaced, not too close to the nose. A little higher. More almond shaped. As for color, they’re a bright yellow green. Most unusual.”
Alex worked for a moment. “Any good?”
“Yes. The eyebrows were fine, arched, auburn in color.” Tigris watched and listened. “A little thicker … End them sooner … Yes. Now, the mouth.”
Derek came in, walking slowly. He stared at the big screen and felt his breath catch in his throat. Salome was coming to life. The last time he’d seen her was on a New York street.
Nick looked back over his shoulder then abandoned the screen to go to his Precept. “Welcome back, skipper. You look like you could use a vacation.”
“For someone who had a miraculous escape – and I do mean that literally – then spent several days in bed completely unaware of anything .. I feel a vacation is a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, it can’t be just yet. Come into my office, will you?”
“Sure.” Nick followed him as he walked slowly past the activity at the workstation and into the small corridor. “What’s up?”
Derek let the door slide shut. “You remember that time your father went missing?”
Nick half laughed as he folded his arms. “Which one? There were so many.”
“The time you and I first .. worked together. You were .. fourteen or so.”
“Right. I remember.”
“Do you remember the man we met very briefly?”
Nick frowned sharply. “Sure. Hard to forget.”
“I saw him again, while I was in limbo. He said we would meet again, Nick. Somehow, he is involved in this business with William Sloan.”
“On the same side?” Nick queried cynically.
“That is yet to be established,” Derek replied in a darkly serious voice.
Nick slowly nodded. “Would explain a lot from over the years. What’s going on, Derek? What’s the deal?”
“Someone is attempting to bring William back from the dead, and they are succeeding. If .. a higher authority had not intervened, William wouldn’t be here but with whoever is doing this. He asked for my help and he was told he should have an Enforcer as well. He chose Peri because he trusts her,” Derek related. “The time was selected, and we were .. sent into limbo where William joined us. After that .. it was confusing. We were shown many scenes from William’s life and from his father’s life. My father has been implicated. There is the man we have both encountered before. Yet another unknown man who visited William’s father, and then there is Salome Macintosh who recruited William after first meeting with Patricia Sloan. There is a coin, or a relic which resembles a coin, which was given eventually to William and which .. changed him into the man he is today.”
Derek shrugged. “Somehow, we have to make sense of all this, discover which of these people is making this attempt to drag William’s soul back into the world and stop them doing it.”
“Who can we rule out?” Nick inquired next.
“William’s father. He’s already dead and, while he may possess the knowledge of how to do it, he lacks the resources. My father because he is also dead and, while he may have both the knowledge and access to the necessary resources, he is in Hell.”
Nick shifted awkwardly. “He’s gotten out before.”
“He was released on errands. He was never free,” Derek amended.
“Even so, an’ I’m sorry, Derek, we can’t rule him out. Not completely .. not until there’s more evidence.”
“Fair comment. That leaves Salome Macintosh, the man in the overcoat, and William’s father’s visitor who gave him the coin which was then handed on to William.”
“And William himself.”
Nick saw the disbelief in Derek’s eyes.
“C’mon, Derek, we all know he can’t be trusted. He uses people to get what he wants. He wanted you, an’ Peri; he got you. Maybe he feels he never got everything finished when he was alive so he wants life again an’ now he’s back in the world. Peri brought him back, right?”
“He says he prefers death.”
“He would say that if he believed it’d earn him sympathy and get you on his side. He could be working with that guy. You said it wasn’t yet established.”
Derek frowned. “We’ll investigate whatever leads we turn up, but I’ll keep your warning in mind. Peri says limbo can only act as a mirror, that it can’t be manipulated .. but she also said no evil could get in, and that man was there.”
Nick nodded. “Where is she?”
“Right now?” Derek leaned back. “Gone over the river to speak with William’s father. Apparently, Aquila lacks the people skills.”
Nick had been on the receiving end of some of Aquila’s alleged ‘people skills’.
“For sure,” he candidly agreed.
There was something about Legacy people, Merlin mused as she approached the front door. They investigated the weird and dangerous yet a large proportion of their heads couldn’t get around what they learned. They stuck with the comfortable. They were fixed in their ways.
Take this house, for example. William’s father could have had any house he wanted – a mansion, a villa, a castle. No, he’d chosen a brownstone just like the one he’d had when he was alive. Inside, she just knew, the rooms would be big yet seem small because they’d have dark paneling and be lined with dark bookshelves, all straining at the seams with the same books he’d had before yet now didn’t need. The available wall space remaining would have paintings and tribal masks and other relics. The furniture would be leather and slightly worn, even though it didn’t have to be.
They lived their lives so close to dying yet never thought about how liberating death could be. They cluttered their lives with stuff, and then brought it all with them.
Maybe Derek would be different, she thought. He’s been over here a few times now. Maybe he’ll go for something small and more modern, and leave all the junk behind.
She climbed the stairs and knocked on the door. Merlin felt mentally tired. She really wanted this to be over so she could enjoy three whole months off. The door opened.
“You’ve changed your mind,” he said.
Merlin wondered how best to answer that. “No, not exactly,” she replied. “Same mind, same appearance, different personality. I’m nicer. Can I come in?”
He stepped to one side. “You’re an Enforcer. I can’t really stop you now, can I?”
“Well .. you could say no, Mr Sloan. Fact is, I really need to talk with you. I have some questions.”
Sloan Senior nodded slowly. “All right, come on in.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Merlin entered the tiled foyer and looked at the accumulated junk all gathering dust. “Which way?”
“In here.” He went across the foyer and down a short passage then pushed
open the door to a sitting room which was also stuffed with a lifetime of
acquired treasure. “Sit down. Can I get you anything?”
“I’m fine. Thanks for the offer.” Merlin sat and crossed one leg over the other.
“It’s about my son and that damned coin, isn’t it?”
“In a way,” she agreed hesitantly. “It’s all connected, somehow. We just have to figure it out. My .. sister told me that you believe Winston Rayne sent the coin to you via an intermediary who turned up with no warning.”
“That’s correct,” he replied. “The man arrived at my door within days of Winston’s visit and gave me the answer to my prayers. A lucky coin. Hah!” he erupted with a humorless chuckle. “It was definitely coin like but no currency I’d ever seen. Still, he promised me that it would sharpen William’s mind and give him a little backbone. I wanted him to live and so I accepted the gift. He seemed keen that I should pass it on as soon as possible but William had already left for Oxford and wouldn’t be home for a year. It gave me time to investigate the gift.”
“Was it a gift? This intermediary asked for nothing in return?” she frowned.
Sloan frowned too as he thought back. “I did ask if there was anything I could offer him in return but he said no. There were no strings. No price. Maybe in the future .. but he never returned. I never saw him again.”
Maybe he didn’t mean your future, Merlin thought.
“What does that mean?” he demanded. “I’m a stupid fool to have taken it?”
“It means I see, I understand, thank you for answering the question. Jeez, guy, lighten up a little.”
Sloan’s eyes narrowed. “Are you a Legacy Enforcer?”
“Born an’ raised,” she smiled. “Tell me, did this guy call it a lucky coin? Did he promise that it could do those things or was that what you learned as a result of your research an’ experiments?”
“He said .. no, actually he said it was a talisman. A placebo, a small thing, but it was the power of belief in such magical properties which made it work. Like a rabbit’s foot. It was down to me to sell it as a lucky coin. If William believed it was lucky, he would make it lucky. I subsequently learned it was a lot more than that.”
“An’ you really believe Winston sent it to you.”
“I do. I had no reason to disbelieve at the time and, of course, shortly after that, Winston was killed. A wasted death, I felt, because the man was quite brilliant. The Legacy lost out that day. But it also gained because, if Winston had survived, he would have destroyed us all from inside the organization. He was a traitor. Obviously, evil had planted its seed in him prior to him seeing me. South America just added water and heat. The seed sprouted.”
Merlin moistened her lips. “It’s an assumption, sir. There’s no proof that Winston sent anyone. You talked about your son with him.”
“I did. Winston was there .. almost two hours. And I don’t want proof. His subsequent actions are all the proof I require.”
Merlin nodded a little sadly. “Do you know Salome Macintosh?”
“I’ve never heard the name.”
“Okay. Maybe you’ve seen her. Tall, for a woman. Slender. Flame red hair, pale skin, bright yellow green eyes. Wears black. Thick ankles.”
It was a shot in the dark and, to her surprise, he nodded once. “She sounds familiar. If it’s the same person, she used to hang around the neighborhood. Her name wasn’t Salome though. The way she acted, it should have been Jezebel,” he commented prudishly. “Everyone called her Selene.”
“Yes. Skinny kid. Not much ambition beyond marriage and kids of her own. She was .. maybe a couple of years younger than William.”
“That’s helpful. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Is that all?”
“Not quite. We’ve read Winston’s personal journal and he doesn’t mention meeting with you at all. He does record visiting the New York house an’ staying over before heading on to San Francisco. He says that he spent time with someone called John Mason. Do you know who that might be?”
Sloan smiled. “Yes.”
Merlin waited. “Who is he?” she had to ask.
Derek and Nick emerged from the office to see how the computer generated image of Salome Macintosh was coming along. It wasn’t. It was finished. Salome’s face gazed impassively down on them from the big screen.
“Striking,” Rachel remarked.
“Dangerous,” Nick commented. “Eyes are too hard. Look at that jaw. You could bounce rocks off it.”
“She does look like a woman who would only bend so far before hitting back,” Alex agreed.
“Ms Moreau, Dr Sloan requests that you begin a matching exercise .. as soon as you’ve aged the picture.”
“Yes, sir,” Alex breathed.
While she worked, Derek came to Tigris’ side. “Would you ask William a question for me?”
“Who is John Mason? Does he know?”
Tigris didn’t have to ask because William could hear perfectly. “Please ask Derek where he learned that name?” William responded.
Tigris relayed the message.
“It was in my father’s journal. He met with a John Mason in New York,” Derek replied.
“Tell Derek that John Mason are my father’s middle names,” William said.
Tigris turned obediently. “Dr Sloan says that the names belong to his father. They are his middle names.”
“So my father could be responsible,” Derek murmured, his eyes dismayed.
“William John Mason Sloan,” Sloan explained. “I suppose he was trying to cover his tracks by not referring to me by my first and last names.”
“The positive spin on that would be that he was trying to protect your identity. A Legacy member with a troubled child who also wanted to join.”
“Possibly,” he grudgingly agreed.
“He wrote that .. he advised you to be patient. That’s all you could do. It was something he’d grown out of an’ Derek would too. What?”
“The wrong attitude. Yes, he did advise that. He said all teenagers went thru that phase. It was natural. His own son was a case in point. Letting his studies backslide but not enough to cause serious harm to his future prospects. Winston was convinced he would grow out of it. He’d been the same.”
“That doesn’t sound to me like he came away from that meeting thinking William needed special help in the shape of a talisman. He never wrote that he’d contacted anyone else on your behalf, sir. An’, believe me, Winston noted everything – the good an’ the bad. He admitted his wrongs in his journals, even confessing to murder. He never wrote that he called someone on the phone, or visited them, or sent anyone to see you. If he had, it would be there.”
Merlin leaned forward. “Is it possible that you could be wrong about Winston’s involvement?”
“His subsequent – ”
“Forget those. When he met with you, he had no intention of doing what he did. That was a moment of weakness, nothing more.”
“That’s written down too, is it?”
“He told me, when I saw him in Hell.”
Sloan frowned, his lips twitching. “I suppose it is possible that I could be wrong.”
“And is it possible that the man who visited you, so keen to have you pass on the talisman, could have had his own agenda? Nothing to do with Winston at all?”
“I fail to see how,” Sloan replied. “He knew a lot about William’s poor attitude. I’d never met him before and I didn’t make it a habit to talk about my family’s problems outside the house. He couldn’t have overheard and followed me home.”
Merlin paused. “Someone is trying to bring your son back from the dead. We’re trying to find out who an’ stop them. William was in limbo for a short while and we used the time there to review certain key scenes from his life. You figured prominently. It’s how we found out about the coin and the visitor. As an Enforcer, I can sense evil. And I sensed it in your study. We saw scenes that William knew nothing about but it was possible because there is a link between him and whoever’s making the attempt. Those scenes come from someone else’s past. Someone was in your study. Invisible, unfelt .. but they left a residue of evil behind them. That’s how they knew, sir. They listened in on a private conversation. So I ask you again, could he have had his own agenda?”
Sloan sighed deeply. “Of course. Anything’s possible.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry. I should have said no. I should’ve taken Winston’s advice and been patient. All this is my fault.”
“You wanted to help your son. That isn’t wrong or bad .. just the way you did it was a little misguided. We’re all strong until it comes to our kids .. and then we’ll do just about everything for them, no matter what the cost or how dumb it is. If we think it’ll help them, we do it.” She rose. “I have to get back.”
“I’ll walk you to the door.”
They strolled back into the foyer where Merlin paused. “This man who came to visit with you .. did you ever learn his name?”
“No. I assumed Winston had sent him and that was good enough. I remember it, that day,” he said softly. “It was the summer. Hot. Oppressive. New York always is in the summer. I thought it strange.”
“What?” she frowned.
“That he looked so cool in that heavy overcoat.”
“That’s the computer’s best estimate,” Alex said. “It’s taken into account the passage of time, average pollution levels, bone structure, and, provided that color isn’t the result of hair dye, likely genetic effects.”
William Sloan studied the image, his arms folded. Surrounded by people, and people he knew quite well, he felt terribly alone. He could talk to Tigris, Aquila and Profelis, but he missed being able to talk to Derek. The Enforcers did what he asked but he didn’t feel it was because they wanted to. It was because they’d been ordered to by their commander. Derek was more open with his thoughts. He would tell William outright if he didn’t trust him or would confess his misgivings on ideas. That generosity of spirit, despite everything in their past, meant a lot to William. He liked the mental swordplay, true, but he also like the sharp witted camaraderie. These two men knew each other well, in good times and bad, and, when one was backed into a corner, knew the other would come thru for them. The business in London, when William had resigned, was water under the bridge. He had known for some time prior to that moment that he should step down. He’d known it since his rescue, he’d just never acted on it, never taken notice of his inner voice. In a way, what Derek had done in London, was come thru yet again for William so he felt no sense of aggravation over it.
“Time hasn’t been exactly kind to her,” Nick remarked.
Rachel had to agree. The flame red hair had dulled to a muted auburn flecked with gray. The jaw had become more pronounced as the skin had thinned over the bones of the face. The eyes, still that vivid topaz, now lay sunken – two jewels set deep in a bony prison. The lips, never generous, were a pair of liverish ribbons, pinched and resentful and they gave the whole expression an air of bitterness. The image on the screen said this was a life wasted, its opportunities ignored or passed by in favor of other, apparently more attractive benefits which, when mature, had turned out to be worthless.
“Can we get a current ID on her?” Rachel asked.
“I can try,” Alex replied.
Tigris glanced round at nothing. Profelis turned toward the library. “Selene?”
“What?” Derek questioned.
“Aquila is back. She says that Mr Sloan has put another name to this woman. Selene. Apparently, she used to hang around their neighborhood in New York.”
Derek wondered what William’s reaction was to this.
“It’s a starting point,” Alex said.
“What else did my father say?” William asked Merlin.
“Derek’s office – you, me, Derek, Tigris, an’ Aquila. Now,” she replied and looked at Profelis. “Evan, it’d take too long to explain everything.”
“Dr Rayne, you’re needed in your office,” Tigris patiently relayed.
Derek followed the Enforcer into the hall and then into the office, and the door closed behind them. “What did you learn, Peri?” he asked.
“Winston didn’t send the visitor. Winston had no idea that a visitor had gone there. William’s father had assumed, seeing as the visit came so soon after Winston’s and bearing in mind what they’d discussed, that this man had come from Winston because he had a possible solution to the problem discussed between the two fathers. The stranger asked for no payment for the coin, although in the future …”
She let that hang. Tigris was repeating her every word almost as she said them. At this point, both Derek and William frowned rather sharply as the import was obvious. In the future, the payment would be the downfall of the Legacy, brought to ruin from the inside by one of their own.
“The John Mason mentioned in the journal – ”
“We know. William told me,” Derek cut in.
“How did this .. stranger get access to my father?” William demanded. “Were my mental deficiencies commonly held knowledge?”
“No.” Merlin shook her head. “There was an invisible presence in your father’s study, William. It left a stink in the air which even limbo couldn’t disguise or filter out. Just as we watched your father write his journal entries an’ listened in on conversations, so did the guy who went subsequently to visit with him an’ give him the artifact. He told your father it was a small thing, a placebo, an’ that, if he sold it to you in the right way, your power of belief would make it work. It was a lie. The coin had a powerful an’ permanent mind altering effect. Your father researched it and learned something of its qualities but not all. I don’t believe he would have given it to you if he’d known the truth – about the coin or the man who’d given it to him.”
“How could he have known any of that? He was tricked,” William defended.
“He didn’t know the whole story, not till very recently,” Merlin answered. “I’ve been thinking, Derek. Your father never met this man – if he had, we would’ve been shown scenes from Winston’s past associations with him. The fact that we didn’t see anything or read anything in his journal leads me to believe Winston was used in much the same way that William’s father was tricked. Not mentioning names, leaving little silences, it’s as good as making a statement. The mind likes to stick with what it knows, with what’s comfortable and familiar. It fills in those little silences. Assumptions are made – they seem right but they’re totally wrong.”
She paused. “But we do know who this stranger is.”
“We don’t have a name for him but we know who he is,” William commented flatly.
“Well .. no, I guess, not precisely,” Merlin responded. “I asked the same question – did you ever learn his name? William’s father told me that he hadn’t but he remembered that day. It was the summer. Hot an’ oppressive. He thought it strange that his visitor looked so cool in that long overcoat.”
Derek’s frown was ferocious. “Him.”
“The man we saw in Paris,” William breathed.
“Has to be,” Merlin agreed. “It plugs in, makes another link. Who he is .. no idea. But he’s involved in this attempt on William. Somehow. We have to find him.”
Derek inwardly shuddered.
“We take it to him, we get him on the defensive. We let him come to us, he’ll be in control,” she went on.
“But he can’t find me,” William said. “I’m safe here. You practically promised it.”
“Yeah. How long do you wanna stay here, William? I thought you liked being dead.”
Derek waited to hear William’s response to that. Nick’s warning was clear in his mind.
“I do,” Tigris repeated. “And I do not want to be Derek’s resident phantom. I want to go home. I’ve earned my rest.”
“So,” Merlin shrugged, “what do we do next?”
Derek realized Tigris was looking at him. “They’re waiting for your answer, Dr Rayne.”
“Well .. we have three lines of inquiry. Salome – or Selene – Macintosh. The man in the overcoat. And the coin. It seems to me all three are involved somehow and all three must be located .. although I am extremely wary of locating the man in the coat. Peri and Aquila, go to New York. Visit Patricia. Ask her what became of the coin. Does she remember ever seeing it? We’ll stay here and do our best to track down Salome. When we have found those two, I believe we’ll be better positioned to find the third missing piece.”
Merlin nodded. “Tigris, hold things together here. Use Profelis as backup. Don’t let William out of the house.”
“Okay. I’ll be on my way then.”
“Aquila,” William said and both women halted. “Hurry back,” he said quietly after a moment’s hesitation.
“Sure,” she smiled.
Derek had asked Tigris to leave and to take William with him. “I’m very tired, physically,” he’d said. “I only woke up today. I need a little time to rest and, if I don’t take it on my own accord, Rachel will be angry with all of us.”
Tigris had nodded and, so Derek hoped, ushered William from the room. Now he sat alone, his eyes closed. Sleep was near because his eyes felt gritty but his mind was still sharp enough to fend it off. And he had a lot to think about and deal with.
The revelation that had shaken him the most was not about the man in the overcoat, although that was the one demanding most of his attention now. What had shaken him, knocked him off balance, was the relief over his father’s exoneration. So often in the past Derek had made his statements based on what he believed to be the truth, had stood his ground against all those who said he was wrong, only to learn that he was wrong. The truth he’d believed in was false. He’d had to swallow his pride along with whatever new fact had emerged, and only when alone had he taken the time to digest it, file it away, and lick his wounds, and, eventually, rise above it.
Winston Rayne had been a Legacy member but he’d also been very human. He had faults – everyone did. Learning that, just prior to setting out on the journey which would take his life, he had tried to help an associate with a very human problem .. it made the compassionate side of him shine brightly. It hadn’t been helping on a Legacy matter, only a human one. Winston could easily have said he didn’t have the time; he hadn’t said that. Knowing he’d spoken with William’s father using his own experience as both a father and a Legacy son, knowing he hadn’t sent anyone to visit, that he’d known nothing about any amulet or coin, that he’d never met the man in the overcoat, that he was, in this, entirely innocent .. the relief overwhelmed Derek. For once, his trust in his father had been rewarded. The warm sensation flooded his brain and a sleepy lethargy stole along every nerve.
But he didn’t sleep. His body relished the chance to sit and do nothing. His brain kept things ticking over but his mind, while acknowledging the relief, was keen to move on. The puzzle was starting to come together but it wasn’t yet solved.
It was down to two people. Salome, and the unnamed man. It was linked to one thing. The coin. The coin at least could be traced to fairly recently. It had been in William’s possession and William hadn’t been dead that long. Even if Patricia had sold it or given it away, there was a good chance it could be tracked to its current location.
As for the people … Salome Macintosh, or whatever her name might be now, might still only be a go between. To whom she might lead them .. it was anyone’s guess. The man in the overcoat was another proposition entirely. Derek did not want to meet him again. He was experienced in all kinds of situations, mysteries, rites and rituals, and with those who practiced them but he had no experience he could call on to deal with the man in the overcoat. Derek wasn’t even sure if he was a man.
There was a soft knock on the door. “Come in,” Derek called, his eyes opening.
Nick stepped over the threshold and halted to study the older man with evident concern. “I can leave it till later.”
“No, it’s all right. For a while anyway,” he added, thinking of the lecture Rachel would give him.
“It’s kinda personal.”
“Come in, close the door,” Derek invited.
Nick approached the desk and stood awkwardly. “I haven’t seen Peri since she got back. I just wanted to know how she is. How she was.”
Derek nodded. “I think there’s a reason why you haven’t seen her. Aquila has the ability to appear solid. Peri – the one we know as Peri – is actually in the hospital. The fact that she’s in a coma has released that energy to be a second manifestation but she is only energy. A .. spirit form of the body. In this divided state, she is similar to how Peri is without Aquila. Able to call upon her weapon and able to fight but vulnerable. Should her body die – which is very unlikely – Aquila would remain but the second manifestation would vanish. As to how she is, and was .. why do you ask? Do you have reason to suspect all is not well?”
“Is there a medical problem with her body? Peri never mentioned there was but then I suppose she only had time to conduct a basic visual examination.”
“I .. I only wondered if she seemed herself.”
“She did. A little scared, I think, initially but then we both were. We just never would admit to it. It was a surprise and a shock to learn that the crew had vanished from the Lear and that we were on our own, and then to discover we were in limbo. Once that had been ascertained, she was fine and did a lot to calm my own misgivings. A little subdued, I would say, on the first leg of the trip. Quiet, sunk in her own thoughts, but looking forward to getting home and seeing you.”
He watched .. something flicker in Nick’s eyes. Regret, maybe. A stab of pain. Frustration. Resignation.
“Whatever it is, Nick – ”
“I have to speak with her first, Derek. I just wondered, that’s all.”
“Is it serious?” Derek frowned.
“It could be. Seems she isn’t aware of it an’ I won’t add to what’s going on by telling her just yet. I can wait.”
Derek wasn’t sure how to react to this. Clearly, Nick had something major on his mind and, while he had volunteered some information, it could be viewed in any number of ways.
“Is there someone else?” he ventured.
For a moment, Nick’s expression was blank with incomprehension, then shocked and angry. “No, absolutely not!”
“I’m sorry. I’m trying to add the math. I got a wrong answer.”
“It’s between me an’ her, no one else. Let’s just say .. I know something she doesn’t. I wondered if she might have been aware by her .. reactions, attitude .. but you say she was fine. There again,” Nick murmured to himself, thinking aloud, “maybe she does know after all. It can wait,” he said to Derek. “What did Peri tell you?”
“My father is, on this occasion, quite innocent.”
“Then we’ll rule him out.”
“However, I also learned that the man who visited William’s father and gave him the coin wore a long overcoat.”
Nick met Derek’s gaze. “Then we’re in trouble,” he remarked.
“Maybe not. But I think it fair to say William is.”
Merlin paused. “We’re going to have to combine again. I’ll feel safer. And I need to be solid if I’m going to talk with Patricia Sloan.”
Aquila didn’t respond. She just merged herself with Merlin.
“I don’t know about you but .. this guy in the overcoat, he’s scary,” she went on as she resumed the walk up the drive. “The unknown doesn’t usually affect me like that but he just seems .. more.”
I know what you mean.
“I don’t think he’s human.”
Neither do I. He merely chooses to appear that way.
“Do you think he was actually with us in limbo? Or was it a projection?”
I’m not sure. I sensed evil. If he was actually there, he’s very strong to be able to punch a way in. We cannot do that. And, if it was a projection, he’s still very strong to be able to project into limbo and carry a sense of evil with it.
“The boss said this’d be well within my capabilities. Was Derek right? Has the boss made a mistake?”
I’d prefer to believe he was not in possession of all the facts. Someone attempting to resurrect William Sloan .. yes, it is well within our capabilities to stop them succeeding. Something making the attempt .. well, we’ll have to wait and see.
“Oh, that’s reassuring.”
If William was not in full possession, he couldn’t pass on what he didn’t know. Based on the available information, the boss made the correct decision. We assume the boss caused the plane to crash, evidenced by the lack of fatalities and even casualties, therefore the boss inserted us in limbo. He has access to that area. He can monitor what happens there. He could be aware, now, of what we are up against. He did send Tigris as backup.
Merlin nodded. “Even so .. I think we need more.”
We look too far ahead. For now, we should concentrate on our orders. Speak with Patricia, learn the whereabouts of the coin.
The man in the overcoat may be responsible but may not be the one taking the action. If that’s the case, we may not have to confront him. We know he’s out there, somewhere. Now we know that, we will be prepared.
“Right,” Merlin repeated.
Prepared may not be enough.
“That’s what I was thinking too.”
She climbed the steps to the expansive front porch and emerged from thin air. Merlin pressed the bell and waited, looking back over the immaculate lawns and empty flower beds. Everything was tidy, ready for winter. The air was already crisp and threatening frost. Someone had begun putting up the Christmas lights.
Merlin turned to the door. “Mrs Sloan. Do you remember me?”
“Why, yes, I do. You’re Nick Boyle’s wife. You came to visit with us once, when we were in England.”
“That’s right,” Merlin smiled. “I was so sorry not to come to William’s funeral but I was in the hospital. The doctors wouldn’t release me.”
Patricia’s expression faltered. “I understand. Please, will you come inside?”
Merlin was led into a bright sitting room. “Can I get you anything?” Patricia offered.
“No, I’m fine, thanks. Unfortunately, I can’t stay long. However, it is important that I speak with you.”
“What about?” Patricia frowned.
Merlin reflected on how best to answer that. “It’s about William.”
“You’re from the Legacy, aren’t you?” She didn’t sound happy.
“I’m .. attached to it but that isn’t why I’m here.” Merlin shrugged slightly. “It’s come to our attention that .. someone’s trying to bring him back from the dead.”
Patricia stared, swallowed convulsively, swayed, and fainted.