“Oh shit,” Merlin groaned again. “I need a drink before I hear anymore. Anyone else?”
Derek nodded silently. William Sloan smiled. “Thank you. My usual.”
While Merlin got to work at the drinks station, Derek returned to his seat and twisted round to face William. For a long time, they sat and stared at each other. Merlin handed round the drinks and went to sit on the leather sofa and, taking her lead from Derek, played along with a show of ignorance.
“Well, isn’t this cozy?” she said to no one in particular. “I will assume that we’re not gonna crash any time soon, that we will, in fact, just continue as we are for however long we need to. Kinda takes away the sense of immediate urgency due to impending disaster.” Her head swiveled. “Am I right to assume that?”
“I believe so,” William agreed mildly.
She nodded. “Limbo. The place between life an’ death. The holding area. I can see why Derek an’ I might be here, seeing as how we were still alive when we got on this aircraft, but you’ve already passed over the river, William. How’d you get here?”
“Like you, I was put here and by the same people. But I would have gotten here anyway.”
“When did it happen?” Merlin frowned. “When did the crew leave?”
“I’m not privy to the actual procedure used, but I think the crew never got into this area of existence. If they did, they didn’t stay long. As for you two, it was probably when you both .. fell asleep for a ‘split second’.”
“It wasn’t a split second, was it?” she sighed.
“Time means little to me .. but I don’t think it was, no.”
She nodded again. “So, by now, we’re long overdue. Nick, Rachel an’ Alex will be worried sick. They’ll be checking the flight route for crashes.” Merlin leaned back and crossed one leg over the other. “Okay, we can’t do anything to help them so we cut ’em from the loop.” Derek looked at her, his gaze sharp. “For now,” she went on with a shrug. “What else can we do, Derek? You got any ideas on how we can get a message to ’em, hey, now’s the time to speak up.”
“Aquila’s right,” William commented “They’re on their own. So are you.”
“Oh, but we’re not, are we?” Derek countered harshly. “You’re here. And, by your own admission, you had something to do with it.”
“I think you’d better tell us, William, from the beginning,” Merlin requested. “And don’t try lying or evading the truth. Please. We really don’t need the old William Sloan. This situation calls for the strictest honesty.”
William took a moment to compose his thoughts and sipped his scotch rocks.
“Faith has need of the whole truth,” he murmured eventually and Derek’s eyes narrowed in blatant suspicion. “I asked for help .. so .. I guess I should have faith.”
“Don’t guess. Believe,” Merlin advised.
“Very well.” William sat up. “A while ago – I don’t know how long because time means little to me, as I said,” he began, “I became aware of a .. a situation.” His eyes grew distant. “I can’t say it was this or that, it was nothing concrete, nothing tangible, but I knew it existed. It was .. as best I can describe .. a pulling sensation. A drawing. A magnetism. At first, it was irritating, nothing more. But it started to grow, to increase in strength. Soon, my ability to move freely was curtailed. It became an inconvenience. I found I couldn’t leave the boundaries of my property. As time passed, I couldn’t leave the house. I had no preconceived ideas of what death would be like but I have been dead long enough to know what I was experiencing wasn’t right so I called in some help.”
They remained silent as William paused.
“Whenever I had a problem which needed discreet intervention and resolution, I always called on the Legacy Enforcers,” William admitted. “It became a habit which death could not break. However, trapped as I was inside my house, I had to escalate my request up the chain of command. I was told that the situation was not normal and that it would be investigated and rectified. Later, I learned that, while it had been investigated, it couldn’t be easily rectified without external assistance as the source was not in our immediate area. I was asked to name who I wanted to assist me.”
“You chose Aquila,” Derek said.
“No,” William replied. “I chose you, Derek.”
Merlin watched Derek’s reaction. “But .. why?” he frowned.
“Isn’t it obvious?” William smiled. “You owe me. I died saving your life. I sacrificed myself for you.”
“I knew it!” Derek exclaimed. “Didn’t I say at the time he would hold it over me?”
Merlin nodded. “Yeah, you did.”
“I’m calling in the favor,” William went on. “I chose you because, of all the men, and women, I’ve known in my life, you’re the only one I trust with my soul, present company excepted, of course.”
“Oh, of course,” Merlin sighed.
“You may have hated my guts and been contemptuous of my time as Legacy leader, but, when it came to my soul, Derek, I knew I could rely on you. And that’s all I am now. A soul. I chose Aquila as my .. security. My last resort. They insisted I have an Enforcer and, naturally, I chose Aquila.”
“Naturally,” Merlin sighed again.
“Between the three of us, we should be able to .. rectify the situation.”
“Which is?” Derek inquired.
“Someone’s trying to bring me back. Someone is trying to resurrect me.”
“Fuck, that’s the last thing we want to happen,” Merlin muttered. “William, that came out slightly wrong.”
“I understand completely,” William smiled, amused. “You may find this hard to accept but I like being dead. I have time now. Freedom. Or I did. I don’t want to come back. We have to find who’s doing this and stop them.”
Merlin nodded into the silence. “So .. we are basically three spirit essences. We don’t have bodies to worry about. In limbo, we’re safe enough. No one can find us. We have time to plan a strategy.”
“I don’t think we have all that much time,” William commented. “I was told that you’d been put on alert for a mission – ”
“It was you?” she cut in.
“ – but that it would take time to make the necessary preparations, for the conditions to be right, for you to be in the proper place at the right time. By the time I was delivered here, I was confined to one room in my house. As I said, I would have ended up here eventually. The space between life and death .. or death and life.”
Merlin sighed. “Limbo is .. outside time an’ space. It isn’t any where. Yeah, time is passing but, as we’re not in a certain place, we have time an’ we have safety. There again, Derek, we are on a relative deadline. You an’ me. If we’re just essences, our bodies are probably in comas. You know what that’s like. You get weak if it goes on too long. An’ it also means Nick an’ Alex an’ Rachel are looking into why our plane fell outta the sky.”
“If the plane fell out of the sky,” Derek remarked, “we are probably dead.”
“The boss made the necessary preparations,” she told him. “The boss doesn’t sacrifice operatives for minor missions like this so my guess is the plane was guided down. William, you may feel it’s vitally important but it isn’t. This is a minor mission. I’m third string here. I don’t get killed deliberately just so I can nursemaid you.”
They lapsed into another silence for a moment then Derek drew in a deep, resentful breath.
“Where do we start?” he said.
“Don’t ask if William has any enemies,” Merlin replied. “We’ll be here forever.”
“All right,” Derek conceded with a
small smile at the dry irony. “Who
would want to bring you back?”
William shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“You must have some idea,” Derek urged. “Friends, possibly? Family?”
“Other allies?” Merlin suggested coolly.
“I don’t know,” William repeated.
“We need a starting place, William,” Derek pointed out, “or we really will be here forever. We have a little time. I suggest you use it to think.”
Derek went to sit in the cockpit. He needed to get away from William so he could think his own thoughts. He was coldly furious that he was in this situation. Anyone else, he would have done everything he could to help them, but this was different. This was just calling in a marker. Derek wanted to go home. He had a conference to organize – something William would have regarded with disdain but which Derek considered important. It was a sign of the new Legacy. It was a demonstration of openness and trust, cooperation between the houses, everything William Sloan had tried his best to stamp out.
More than that, and that was enough, Derek wanted to get home to explore his memories. The family wing wasn’t just rooms and old furniture. It was a door into his past. Too long that door had been kept firmly shut. Now it was unlocked again – physically and mentally. He wanted to walk slowly thru those rooms. His mother’s bedroom. Her morning room. His father’s study. The nursery where he and Ingrid had grown and learned and told each other stories and acted them out. It had been a sanctuary against the world of the Legacy, a place where regular family life went on, just like it did in other houses. He’d prepared himself for the emotional onslaught just entering the wing would evoke.
And, instead, he was stuck in limbo on a jet plane which was going nowhere. All because William Sloan trusted him. No, actually, that wasn’t the whole truth. Derek was stuck here because he owed William a debt.
I knew it would come back to haunt me. I knew it. I said so when I was in the hospital. I think I really would have preferred to die myself than have this hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles. This really is grossly unfair. It is not reassuring and it most certainly is not a reason to be flattered.
Why on earth would anyone want to bring William Sloan back from the dead? What could they hope to accomplish by such an obscenity? He can’t return to the Legacy – we all know that he’s dead. If he simply walked thru the door and announced he was back, we would take steps to send him back to where he belongs. Therefore, regaining control of the Legacy is not the question. There must be another reason.
Patricia, I know, misses him but she lacks the knowledge. Necromancy is a dark art. The blackest of black magics. I doubt, seriously, that a family member would do this. Similarly, therefore, friends are ruled out. Other allies .. that is possible. My own opinion is that it is an enemy. And Peri is right. William made a lot of enemies. We could very well be here forever while we merely list them, let alone get around to deciding who is responsible.
He shifted his thoughts away from the reason he was here and, for the first time, actually reflected upon where he really was. Merlin found it easy to live a double life – she’d done it for a very long time. Derek found it more difficult. He still thought of himself as I. Perhaps it was easy for Merlin because her spirit essence had a separate name. Derek was only Derek .. and Derek Rayne the body wasn’t here.
We were .. over Nebraska, I think. So, most likely, I am still in Nebraska, somewhere, taking up a bed in some hospital. Alex is probably keeping a vigil at my bedside, willing me to come back, to wake up. Alex, if I could, I would, believe me. What I need to know is that no one was hurt in the crash, not us or the crew and no one on the ground. I think I can be hopeful on that question. If preparations had to be made in advance, and the right moment chosen … It was the early hours. There wouldn’t have been much traffic. And, of course, it had to be a crash. Mike Stannis couldn’t have landed at an airport somewhere. We were in comas. We still are. A plane landing with no mishap only for everyone on board to be unconscious .. it would have caused questions to be asked. A crash, however …
By now, whenever that is, Nick, Alex and Rachel will be on the scene .. wherever that is, dividing their time between the hospital and the crash site, attempting to discover what happened and what is happening. And they should be in San Francisco, preparing for the conference. I hope they don’t worry too much, that they come to the realization that I’m with Aquila .. or, more strictly, Aquila is here with me. The phone call, though, must have been traumatic. If it had been me in San Francisco, taking that call after midnight, learning that two of my friends had been in a plane crash …
One thing they will never guess, not if they sit and reason it out forever, is that I’m still on the plane and I’m here because William wants me here. I can’t quite believe it myself …
Merlin fixed herself another drink. Like Derek, this was her first chance to be alone and think in silence. She was annoyed this was happening now. She knew the call could come at any moment but this moment hadn’t been a call and it was inconvenient to say the least. She’d promised Nick they would talk when she got home. Now it looked like they wouldn’t be home for a while. Strictly .. she hadn’t broken her promise and she was a little relieved that she’d been given this breathing space, but she was annoyed because her plans had been sidelined. And, yet again, William Sloan was responsible.
He was the reason she’d first met Nick, and the reason why they’d almost broken up. He’d been part of the cause behind her dying; only Aquila coming back when she did had saved her. William Sloan could eat a bullet and shit a corkscrew, he was that twisted. The man had an innate inability to tell the straight truth. Yet .. on this occasion, he wasn’t lying when he said he didn’t know. He hadn’t lied when he’d told them that he liked being dead.
If he’d requested her help in this, she wouldn’t have minded half so much. He hadn’t. He’d asked for Derek. Okay, Derek knew more about the Legacy and William’s enemies. Derek could certainly figure out a mystery. He had patience and the staying power. But Merlin had been an afterthought. A ps. She was there because her boss had said it was advisable. She was just security. The last resort. A Legacy slave, just like in the old days. Times had moved on from that and she felt annoyed that, despite William’s passing, he still had the influence he’d possessed when alive. This was his mess and she was on call to clear it up. He’d chosen her when he could have chosen any of them.
And she loathed the idea that William’s act of noble sacrifice was being used as a marker. He was holding it up in front of Derek and using it to coerce assistance. It took away any honor there had been in it. But that was William – almost always thinking of number one.
Nick would, by now, have received an awful phone call. He would have thought the worst, probably dropped everything to fly halfway across the country in the middle of the night to see her in whatever hospital they’d put her body. He’d be going thru torture because, soon as he’d gotten the news, he would’ve sent Profelis to check out Aquila’s location .. and Profelis would’ve reported failure. Aquila was in limbo. Profelis wouldn’t have looked there. Getting in was virtually impossible for a Flamefall. They needed help. If Profelis had thought of it, the help he needed would probably have been refused. But, just maybe, Nick had put together all the clues and come to the correct conclusion. A mission. She could only hope. There was damn all else she could do.
As to what she could do … Not much. She was security. She was here purely to prevent William’s soul ending up in the wrong place. Apart from that, Merlin had no part to play in this little drama. It was down to Derek and William, working like two reluctant plow horses to get to the end of the field. She considered that and reflected that maybe she did have a part to play after all. A buffer zone.
William refreshed his own drink, feeling that he’d imposed enough for the moment. Derek had gone up front to sit at the controls, not to fly the plane but because he needed some space of his own. Merlin seemed lost in thought, the expression on her face indication enough that she wouldn’t appreciate interruption. So William sat down again and waited until they were ready to go on.
It was nice to be able to move. By the time he’d been plucked from his bedroom and deposited on the Lear, he’d been restricted to his bed and a one foot strip around it. Here, he had freedom again. He was with people he knew and trusted implicitly to do the good thing and the right thing. He was protected and armed with two of the sharpest minds he’d ever met. Combined with his own, it should be enough.
When he had first become aware that his freedom was being curtailed, William had considered it was some kind of retrospective punishment and he had borne it with as much grace as he could muster. But it had increased. The pulling effect became more pronounced. His borders had started to inexorably shrink. When he had discovered he could no longer move beyond his porch, William had summoned help.
Gabriel had been puzzled. No, William was not being punished, he’d said. He’d added they would investigate because this was not simply unusual, it was unprecedented. He’d returned within two periods which William called days with the astonishing revelation that someone, or something, was attempting to bring William back from the dead. What was more, they were succeeding. Obviously, it could not be permitted to succeed. William was dead, he couldn’t go back. Yes, people had been snatched back before but they had been taken from the forest. They had always returned and they’d never quite been the same. William didn’t want to go back. He was happy being dead. He’d sacrificed his life saving a friend. It had made up, he’d felt, for all those times when he’d let Derek down. At the time he’d pushed Derek away, William had thought of no other reason for his actions other than Derek would live and go on fighting. Even though he’d had no role left, William had continued the fight, albeit in a much reduced way, but he was tired of it – of his life without the Legacy. To his surprise, he hadn’t considered the effect his death would have on his family. He’d left home to go with Randolph Hitchcock after a row with Patricia. Yes, revenge had been on his mind but Randolph’s ideas had clashed with William’s. William had wanted humiliation. Randolph had wanted death. Faced with that, William had done the noble thing.
Death had agreed with him. He liked it. Why he’d said to Derek that he was owed a favor, William didn’t exactly know. It wasn’t the truth. If he’d sacrificed his life believing, one day, he’d get the chance to raise it with Derek, then, yes, maybe it would have been the truth. But he hadn’t done that. To him, standing in that foyer of the house he knew so well, it had been the right thing to do, period. Perhaps he’d said it to Derek to establish some kind of hierarchy, like in the old days. He knew it had been wrong when he saw the expression on Derek’s face. It had backfired spectacularly. Derek would help, yes, but he would resent it. If William had simply told the truth, it would have been a lot different.
I need your help, Derek. I asked for you because, if anyone can help me thru this, it’s you. If it’s come at a bad time, I’m sorry, but I really have no say in that. Someone is trying to bring me back from the dead. I don’t want that. I know you don’t want that. I hope, for this one time, that we can put aside all the old anger and our differences, put aside the wasted chances and regrets, and work together like we did at the start of our friendship. That’s what I want, Derek. No favors owed. No favors settled. Just help for help’s sake. Will you help me?
He hadn’t said that. He’d said because you owe me. Now William had more ground to make up. It seemed death hadn’t changed that part of him at all.
Eventually, Derek returned to the cabin. Merlin looked up and gave a tired, resigned smile. He considered that she was more used to this than he was – being at the beck and call of William Sloan. And this was sanctioned by her boss. She couldn’t refuse her help.
“William – ” Derek began.
“I’d like to say something, before you start,” William interrupted. “I’m sorry, Derek.”
Derek paused, startled, his eyes wary as he looked from William to Merlin and back. She nodded briefly. William wasn’t lying.
William rose to stand face to face with Derek Rayne. “I’m sorry that I lost the path with you. When I was younger, I believed ambition was the way to go forward, to achieve my goals. I lost sight of friendship and how, very often, friendship goes further and achieves more. That was down to me, no one else.” He paused. “When you know, for a fact, that you are about to die, a lot of things become very clear. I saved your life because I knew it was a life worth saving. There was no other reason. I didn’t do it because it was noble or a sacrifice. I did it because I knew you were .. are worth more than I was in the overall scheme of things. You owe me nothing, Derek. I’m asking for your help.”
Derek saw, from the corner of his eye, that Merlin was smiling. It wasn’t wry or cynical. It was a genuine smile of pleasure. Derek held out his hand.
William grasped it.
“Gladly, I will help,” Derek replied. “Not because I don’t want to see you alive again but because I am your friend. If I could turn back the clock, William, I would do anything to change the way that night ended. I can’t but I can help you now.”
William nodded and, for a moment, couldn’t trust his voice. His eyes were warm with gratitude, however. Then he glanced round at Merlin.
“Don’t say a word,” he ordered.
“Who, me? Would I? I think it’s great you two have buried the hatchet and not in each other’s backs. I don’t expect a similar apology for the way I was treated all those years. You don’t apologize to a convenience, William, you use it. That doesn’t change when you die .. an’ that’s why I’m here.”
Derek sat down and drew in a deep breath. “Well .. we had best make some kind of start. As much as I want to help and put a stop to whatever’s going on, I do have other things to do. Did you manage to come up with any ideas?”
William sank onto the sofa next to Merlin. “Where should I start? I’ve made a lot of enemies in my time.”
“We can rule out Patricia and your children, I take it?” Derek ventured.
Slowly, the other man nodded. “Patricia and I didn’t part on the best of terms. We’d argued before I left the house. I doubt she’d want me back enough to attempt this.”
“She could’ve hired someone to do it for her,” Merlin suggested. “Nick told me she was very upset at your funeral. Upset, an’ angry.”
“Angry?” William frowned.
“Anger is a normal reaction when a loved one dies suddenly,” Derek remarked.
“Hers was more anger at the Legacy,” Merlin corrected. “William had resigned yet it seemed to her that he couldn’t let it go. Eventually, it killed him.”
“Even so – ” William began.
“She should be on the list of suspects .. if only so we can rule her out,” Merlin gently and firmly interrupted.
“What about friends?” Derek asked.
“I have no friends,” William candidly admitted. “Well .. I can say it isn’t you doing this.”
“God forbid,” Derek said hollowly.
“The others I’ve known who deemed themselves my friends were only trying to further their own ends. Those in my distant past who were friends to me are all dead.”
“So that leaves us with enemies,” Derek sighed, resigning himself to a long night.
“How about allies?” Merlin suggested. “We never did find out what you were doing with the government.”
William paused, examining his manicure.
“This is not the time to be coy,” Derek remarked. “If they were sponsoring you in some way, we need to know.”
“I passed certain information to a contact. You know the shadows in certain agencies have always been interested in psi ability,” William replied. “Remote viewing. Telekinesis. Spying without ever setting foot in dangerous territory. They see telekinesis as a possible weapon. They’ve had programs developing these gifts for years. My involvement was purely in research. If the Legacy learned of a new way to increase psi ability or a new way to apply it, I passed it on.”
“What about us, William?” Merlin asked bluntly.
“The agency first made contact with me .. years ago. They sponsored me, to a degree. Because of that .. it was a form of control over me. I kept my knowledge of the Enforcers to myself. I never told them a thing about you, your existence, your .. special talents. You were my get out clause,” he confessed.
“So .. were you that valuable to them that they’d try to bring you back?” Merlin wondered.
“I would say not,” William responded. “Which brings us back again to enemies.”
“Why would an enemy want you back?” Derek asked. “If I were an enemy, beaten by you, either fairly or unfairly, I’d be glad to know that you were dead, gone, not ever going to trouble me again.”
“If they succeed, Derek, I’ll be a slave to them. They could torture me, kill me, bring me back, and start over. Revenge for past insults. Revenge for every time the Legacy beat them. I’d be nothing more than a toy,” William replied. “As to where I should start .. there’ve been so many. Names, faces, some match, some I’ve forgotten. And we’re stuck here, in limbo.”
Merlin raked a hand thru her hair. “Yes .. an’ no.”
They glanced quizzically at her.
“Yes, stuck in limbo, for now. But we’re not stuck on this plane. Hey .. c’mon, did you really think I’m here just to be security? Limbo is a place I can’t get into without some serious help .. but, once I’m here .. I know how to make it work. Limbo can be any place, anywhere, any time.”
She held out her hand. “William, let your mind go blank. Let’s see what floats to the surface, huh?”
For a moment, nothing happened. Merlin gripped William’s hand a little harder and he winced. Then the jet wavered around them, firmed up again, and finally dissolved. They found themselves sitting on a leather sofa but in a dark paneled room lined with bookshelves. Derek blinked.
“I know this place,” he commented. “Can we move around?”
“Sure,” Merlin nodded. “The rules are .. basically, we’re ghosts. We can move around, drift thru walls an’ doors, we can listen in on conversations, see other people but they can’t see or hear us. This is one of William’s memories. It’s like a 3D projection. We can’t interact with it cos it’s all in the past.”
“I know this place too,” William agreed, rising slowly. “It’s the New York Legacy house. The study.”
“And you have enemies here?” Merlin asked dubiously.
He smiled. “I have enemies everywhere.”
The door opened and a much younger William Sloan entered. Behind him was an older man with an unrelentingly stern face.
“My God … ” whispered Derek. “Is that your father?”
“That’s him,” William confirmed. “William Sloan Senior.”
The door closed. “William, are you sure you want to do this?” the elder Sloan questioned. “The Legacy is very demanding. You know, more than anyone, that the responsibility takes a tragic toll on family life. I haven’t been around for you or your mother as much as I’ve wanted and I’ve had no choice in that. All I ask is that you think very carefully before committing yourself.”
“I have, sir. I’ve thought about it a lot. I want to be initiated.”
“Did I ever look as young as that?” William murmured.
Merlin lit a cigarette. “He looks a miserable bastard.”
“He wasn’t, just very driven at that time. He never had the faith in me that I had in me. It was one reason – one minor reason – why I left New York to go to college in Oxford.”
“Was your father an enemy?” she queried.
“He was my father. I respected him but disagreed with him. What son eventually doesn’t? But I wouldn’t say he was my enemy. He was an obstacle. Old school .. and I had ideas.”
“To be honest with you,” the elder Sloan was saying gruffly, “I don’t believe you’re suitable material for the Legacy. You’re too wayward, too lackadaisical, William. You don’t follow thru. You’re the kind of man who makes mistakes, mistakes which don’t hurt you but could get other people killed.”
The young William flushed angrily. “Then you don’t know me very well, sir. I may have ideas which disagree with you, but I am very careful, I think a lot, and I know how to keep secrets.”
“I think we’ve seen enough,” William muttered. “This is just embarrassing, not informative.”
“Oh .. I don’t know about that,” Merlin grinned. “I’ve never seen you blush before.”
“Can we move on?” he requested.
“You seen enough, Derek?” she asked. “Or do you wanna enjoy watching him squirm some more?”
“I think we should move on,” Derek replied and Merlin knew he was being diplomatic.
She took William’s hand again. “Try focusing on someone you know is an enemy,” she suggested.
The study quivered gently and dissolved into a long, plain room with a single desk in it.
“Oh, I know this one,” Merlin breathed.
The door at the far end opened and she walked in.
“Where is this?” Derek frowned.
William had closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see this again.
“I’d say he has enemies here,” Merlin commented. “Let’s try someplace else.”
“No! Wait.” Derek walked forward, staring and apprehensive. “Is that my father ..?”
Merlin winced. “Yeah.”
“He was my guard and occasional interrogator,” William said.
“Derek .. c’mon. Don’t torture yourself,” Merlin softly urged. “We know Winston made a bad mistake. He has to pay.”
Swallowing, Derek backed off and rejoined them.
The next scene appeared to be a restaurant of some kind. “This reminds me that I haven’t eaten in a while,” Merlin commented. “Not since Paul treated us in New York.”
“Paul’s still leader?” William inquired.
“Yes, and he’s doing a fine job,” Derek replied, his tone signaling he would answer no further questions on this subject.
“Okay, turn down the testosterone, boys,” Merlin warned. “This is not a pissing contest. You two have made your peace so let’s just focus on the fact that we’re working together to solve William’s dilemma, okay? William, you stay away from today’s leadership. Derek, don’t swallow his bait.” She watched them. “We’re cool?”
“Great. So .. what’s the significance of the restaurant?” she asked, folding her arms and prowling hungrily between the tables to examine what was being served.
“Isn’t that Patricia ..?” Derek frowned, gesturing toward a secluded table in a semicircular booth.
“Yes,” William replied, his voice carefully neutral.
They drifted closer, William hanging back a little. Patricia was alone and clearly becoming impatient; she kept checking her watch and then twisting toward the door. Eventually, William entered in a rush.
“I’m so sorry, my dear. I got caught up with things in the office.” He sat down. “Have you ordered?”
“I’ve been waiting for my husband,” she responded, picking up the menu. “How was your day?”
“Busy. As always.”
Merlin glanced back. William wasn’t paying attention to the scene being played out before them. This was more for their benefit, not his.
“Hey ..!” she called and his head snapped round. “Three minds, remember?”
“I know what happens,” he muttered.
“Look,” she went on, going to him and dropping her voice, “I know this is embarrassing for you but you brought us here. You need us to see this. And she is on the list of suspects until her behavior proves otherwise. William, we have to figure this out. We have to identify who is doing this to you so we can stop them. It has its roots in the past. Let’s use this chance to learn, huh? Let’s use limbo’s unique capability so, when we do return to the present, we have some firm information we can investigate an’ act on.”
Reluctantly, he nodded and, together, they joined Derek.
“I had a phone call this morning,” Patricia said lightly.
“Oh?” They were both looking at the menu.
“Yes. A lunch invitation. I had no plans so I accepted.”
“Did you have a nice time?” William inquired.
“It was interesting. I think I’ll have the pheasant,” she decided.
“Good choice,” he nodded. “I think I’ll join you. Who did you have lunch with?”
“A woman called Salome Macintosh.” Patricia signaled to the waiter that they were ready to order. “She was sounding me out on whether a meeting between you an’ her would be mutually profitable.”
William glanced at her, surprised. “Me?”
“Having listened to her .. I think it would. You should meet her, William. In fact, I took the liberty of reserving a table for you at Lorenzo’s at twelve forty five tomorrow.”
“I’m not sure – ”
“William, you will be there,” Patricia instructed, her eyes flashing.
The scene faded into the silver gray mist of limbo. Derek turned to stare at him. “Did you go?”
“Who’s Salome Macintosh?” Merlin frowned.
“What was mutually profitable?” Derek added.
William regarded them. “Salome Macintosh never existed. She was a front, a blind. And, yes, I did go. Whether it was mutually profitable .. the jury’s still out.”
“Even now?” Merlin wondered.
“Some things don’t become resolved with death,” William commented.
The mist parted and evaporated. It was another restaurant, a smaller, more intimate place. William sat at a table with a stunning redhead.
“I’m sure you understand how valuable your cooperation would be to us, Mr Sloan. Naturally, we’d pay you for whatever assistance you feel you could provide.”
“She’s the government contact, isn’t she?” Merlin ventured.
“No, she wasn’t. I never met them. She represented someone who worked for an associate of someone else. You know how it works, Aquila. You don’t exist either.”
“But I do exist. I have physical presence. My name, my .. identity doesn’t exist.”
“You don’t know who it was in the government,” Derek translated, defending his former leader.
“It was a voice on the end of a phone line,” William replied. “That’s all I know. I had a number. I called it, it was probably routed around the world a few times, and then a voice said ‘yes’. And that was all.”
“Well .. we know, now, that they operate from a house in Alexandria. Or they did. My apparently permanent fix could have been only temporary,” Merlin muttered. “Let’s move ’em to the top of the list for further investigation.”
“Would they want William brought back?” Derek frowned.
“He may be dead, Derek, and he may have resigned, but he still knows one hell of a lot. Even if they’re completely unconnected, I still think it’s worth going back to check ’em out. Enforcers will handle it. I don’t want ’em getting so much of a sniff of Legacy involvement.”
“Very well,” Derek agreed briskly, glancing at William to see if he understood how much trouble he’d caused.
“Okay, where next?” Merlin invited.
The mist swirled in to cover the scene then rolled away to reveal the Eiffel Tower.
“Paris,” Derek remarked. “In spring. I never knew you were such a romantic, William.”
“This is .. very odd,” William breathed, gazing up at the Tower.
“Why?” Merlin asked.
“I always wanted to go to Paris in the spring. I promised Patricia we’d go. We never did. I never did.” William turned to face them. “That isn’t strictly true. I have visited Paris, I’ve been to the Legacy house there on numerous occasions. But I have never visited the Eiffel Tower during any season. This is new to me.”
Derek hesitated. “But I thought what we are seeing are .. memories from your past. How can you say this is new?”
“Derek, I’ve never been in limbo so I don’t know how it works,” William responded. “But I do know very well that I have never stood here.”