Merlin felt that was a very sad thing to say. It shone a light into William’s soul and illuminated something not very pleasant. It was also of little help in that it didn’t take the investigation any farther.
“Well … ” William sighed. “Now what do we do?”
“Go back to the start, or the end,” Derek replied. “I believe we’ve allowed ourselves to get side tracked and diverted from the main issue. Our purpose here is to try to discover who is responsible for attempting to bring William back from the dead. I don’t suppose for a moment it is William Sloan Senior.”
“You think that’s a red herring?” Merlin queried.
“I didn’t say that. I said I don’t suppose it is him making the attempt.”
“That’s the real issue here,” Merlin pointed out. “Who’s doing it? Who’s responsible may be someone else entirely. We have to track down the one working the mojo an’ stop them. That has to be our priority. The one responsible .. we can deal with later.”
“If they are, in fact, two different people,” William said.
“If anyone’s interested in my opinion,” Merlin remarked, “I’d say it is two distinct people. One working for the other an’ maybe not directly. To give you an example from personal experience – I’m here to protect you an’ my boss is responsible for me being here an’ doing this work. You wouldn’t go after my boss, you’d try to remove me first. Dealing with the boss would be a secondary objective.”
“So it may not be an enemy after all,” Derek reasoned slowly. “It could be a friend.”
“I don’t have any friends,” William repeated.
“Of course you do,” Derek dismissed, sounding irritated. “Maybe not close personal friends but you have acquaintances, people who saw themselves as useful to you when you were alive. They might have deluded themselves, William, but they believed they were your friends. If one of them had either the ability themselves or knew someone with the ability, and if they were approached in the right way, they could be doing this in all innocence because they believe it’s what you want.”
“Rather like Salome making a patriotic appeal to you,” Merlin added. “She approached you in the right way, offered an attractive package, an’ you went for it because, somehow, you believed it was right.”
“It could even be Patricia,” Derek concluded.
“No.” William was quite adamant about it. “Patricia would not want me brought back. She certainly doesn’t know how and she has no recourse to anyone who does.”
“That you know,” Merlin said. “Before you left England for the last time, did you go thru all your papers an’ destroy them? Did you expect to die in San Francisco, William?”
“My papers were all in order. The sensitive ones, those few, were in a safety deposit box.”
“Which passed to Patricia upon production of a valid marriage certificate and your death certificate,” Derek pointed out.
William still shook his head in denial. “I’d left instructions with my bank that, in the event of my death, all the papers in their keeping should be destroyed. Patricia’s involvement with the Legacy was negligible. She knew it existed and, to a degree, what it did. Beyond that, no.”
“Salome knew,” Derek commented. “She may have told Patricia. Perhaps that was why Patricia never pressed you for information. You said it yourself – she was your controller. She ensured you kept your side of the deal.”
“Possibly,” William conceded. “It’s never been proven. None of this has been proven. It’s a lot of conjecture.”
Merlin leaned forward. “William, you’re dead an’ someone is trying hard to change that. Your loyalty to Patricia is commendable but misguided. Right now, your loyalty should be to yourself.” She couldn’t believe she’d just said that to William Sloan. “We have to get to the facts. Denial and dismissal, refusal to even consider an idea .. that gets us nowhere. Derek an’ I will do our very best to help you but we also have lives to get back to. Okay, you don’t care very much for that an’ we understand but this constant backing off from the possible truth is just leading us in circles. The boss made a lot of preparations to get us all here an’ he will keep us here .. but only so long. We’re wasting time.”
“You were a member of the Legacy for a long time,” Derek said. “You grew up with it, as did I. Our fathers were very different men – different backgrounds and different histories – but both driven in their own way to learn the truth. You must have heard your father say it as often as I heard mine – faith has need of the whole truth. It worked in your lifetime, it still works now. And just because we find it impossible to believe does not make it any less true.”
“You gotta bite the bullet, William,” Merlin urged. “No matter how painful or revealing, it has to come out. It’s for your own good.”
“Like lancing a poisoned wound,” William murmured. “Every one of my secrets laid bare to the scrutiny of daylight. I’ll stand before you naked.”
“There’s no need to go quite that far,” Merlin remarked.
“Metaphorically,” William amended with a slight smile.
“Not even metaphorically. Most of what you think of as your secrets are too trivial to be worth revealing. You’re dead, William. The damage has been done an’ can’t be undone by knowing about it. What we can do is keep you dead. You asked for Derek an’ you chose me because you trust us. What’s the big deal here? You think maybe we don’t know how devious you can be?”
He paused then slowly nodded. “All right.”
“Okay. Let’s see what your mind shows us next.”
For a long moment, the cabin stayed solid around them but then gradually faded away to mist which, just as gradually, transformed into a room. It was dark paneled, a little cluttered with paper and books. They’d been in this room before. It was William’s father’s study.
It was presently empty. They sat on the long leather sofa and, this time, didn’t move to explore. Their eyes moved, though, in examination and scrutiny. They looked into the shadows and the angles, the places which often went unseen and unnoticed, even in broad daylight. Two lamps glowed in the room – one on the desk and the other on a low table by a bookcase. Sloan Senior was clearly a frugal man because the lamps did little to lift the darkness and only splashed light in small, neat areas.
Eventually, they heard slow, measured footsteps. Almost heavy or dragging. They paused at the other side of the door and a key was heard being inserted in the lock. The door opened and Sloan Senior came in.
William frowned sharply. His father looked old but, more than that, he looked broken. His shoulders were slumped in defeat. His breathing sounded labored. Even Derek was startled. He’d met William’s father only once, and that had been toward the end of his life. This, here, now, was a shade of that man.
He shuffled to the desk and sat down with a deep sigh. He closed his eyes and put his head in his hands.
“Why is he doing that?” Merlin whispered.
“Are you sensing his mood?” Derek asked softly.
“At a distance,” she nodded. “More an impression than true sensation. He feels .. numb. Has someone died?”
William shrugged tautly. “It’s possible.”
“That’s the impression I’m getting. The same feeling I get from people when someone’s died. It’s an emptiness. A feeling of .. nothing matters anymore,” Merlin replied.
“That certainly matches his expression and body stance,” Derek agreed. “But what’s caused it? William, do you remember ever seeing your father like this?”
“No. Never. When I was young, he was always cheerful. When I grew older and away from him, he got more serious .. and then the Legacy finally took its toll on him and he became a hard taskmaster, almost impossible to please. That’s how he was when you saw him before, when he questioned my suitability for the Legacy.”
Slowly, William pushed himself up from the sofa and approached the desk. “I don’t know what’s brought him to this state of mind.”
Sloan Senior’s head reared suddenly and he pulled back, a hand going to a drawer. He slid it open and reached in quite a long way, his fingers searching for something hidden in the depths. His face was so terrible that Derek expected to see him withdraw a gun but he didn’t. He pulled out a small bag made of some dark colored material. It was a simple enough thing – a slip of cloth held shut by a drawstring cord. He stared at it for a moment and then, his hands shaking, he jerked open the top and upended it over the desk blotter.
William leaned forward as something fell out. It was a coin. It wasn’t shiny new, it looked like it had been in circulation for some time. It was dull, tarnished, worn and smooth with handling.
Derek and Merlin joined him by the desk. “What’s that? A quarter?” Merlin inquired.
“My father’s lucky coin. It’s foreign,” William replied.
“Lucky? Who for? He doesn’t look lucky. He isn’t acting lucky.”
The scene wavered into mist again. For a second, no one moved as they attempted to fit this piece into the puzzle, then Derek glanced at William who, at least, had recognized it.
“What can you tell us?” he invited.
William gave a half hearted shrug. “Very little. I don’t know why this place keeps showing me – showing us – my father. We’ve all agreed, haven’t we, that he isn’t responsible? As he’s dead, he isn’t the one doing it either.”
“Yes, we’ve all agreed on that,” Merlin nodded patiently. “However, it’s obviously important and, somehow, related to what’s going on. So .. what can you tell us?”
“It was my father’s study. It was my father – ”
Merlin’s lips twitched for a moment and Derek put a hand on her shoulder and felt a fine tremor in her muscles as she fought to control an outburst of frustration.
“We know that, William,” he
interceded. “Why did he look like
“I don’t know. It was a shock to me as well.”
“Okay, what’s all this about a lucky coin?” Merlin persisted. “You never answered me.”
“I thought you were just making a comment. I don’t know much about the coin.”
Even Derek was feeling frustrated by now. “Was it a family heirloom? Was it passed to him by his own father?”
“I don’t believe so. He told me he’d found it.”
“Did he say where he’d found it?” Merlin inquired.
“Or when he’d found it?” Derek added.
William thought and, frowning, shook his head.
“How old were you when he told you?” Derek continued. “A child? A teenager? Older?”
“Older. My twenties. Maybe my early twenties.”
“While you were at university?”
William nodded slowly.
“Before or after he queried your suitability for the Legacy?” Merlin wondered.
“It was after,” William replied.
“Okay. That’s gotten it in the timeline, more or less. Who has the coin now?”
William considered. “It was a long way back … I have no idea.”
“Was it lucky?” Derek asked. “As Peri pointed out, your father didn’t act as if he felt it was a good luck symbol.”
“Derek, it was just a saying,” William responded in an irritated tone. “Probably, he found it in the street somewhere while he was overseas and forgot all about it until later, and then found it again by accident. It wasn’t a shiny new penny. It was a battered, old, worn .. whatever. And when someone, maybe me, asked him what it was, he said it was his lucky coin. It means nothing.”
“Okay, so we keep it in mind in case it appears again,” Merlin sighed.
“Shall we proceed?” Derek suggested.
“Why not?” William muttered.
“Just a second. You weren’t in that scene we just saw. Somehow overcoat guy is connected,” Merlin pointed out. “Now we can move on.”
The mist slid away and formed into another office. William, much younger, much less gray, sat at the desk.
“My office in the London Legacy house,” William said.
“We’ve all been in there,” Merlin nodded.
They watched him pick up the phone and press out a long string of numbers then wait for the call to connect. He didn’t seem agitated. He was scan reading the London Evening Standard and humming softly. Then he fell silent and sat up very slightly, his eyes snapping up from the paper.
“It’s me,” he said. “My monthly report.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Derek saw William lower his gaze. This was a scene full of guilt and damning proof. William had admitted to passing on information but he had been reluctant to say exactly what or the extent of his reports. Now they were watching him do it. They heard everything. Merlin’s eyes had widened and her mouth had opened, and she’d gone a little pale. Derek, in contrast, felt his jaw clamp hard, his nostrils flare, and his face flush. This wasn’t just passing on a few small tidbits of general research information, this was an in depth report on Legacy activity.
While it dragged on, and on, William stared solidly at his feet. His face was carefully blank. He didn’t fidget. He just waited for it to be over.
Eventually, it faded into mist again and, a moment or two after that, the Lear reformed around them. Derek was annoyed that it had. He felt an overwhelming urge to pace to work out his anger and the cabin wasn’t big enough. He couldn’t even stand fully upright without grazing his head on the ceiling. Merlin, on the other hand, sank onto the small sofa. Her knees buckled and her legs just folded. Slowly, she shook her head but she said nothing.
“How much did they pay you, William?” Derek demanded abruptly.
“A lot. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.”
“They bought you, heart and soul.”
William sat down as well and crossed one leg over the other. “Head, maybe. Heart and soul, no. I wasn’t a poor man, Derek. I didn’t need the money. Like a lot of .. I don’t like the word spies but I suppose it’s the nearest thing to what I mean, it was the ideals. My ideals, you may be surprised to learn. The money was plowed back into the Legacy from an ‘anonymous donor’. It helped fund our research and our fight. It helped provide income for widows, widowers, orphans. I don’t regret it, Derek. Why should I? I’m dead, as Aquila is so fond of reminding me. None of it can be changed. I don’t feel guilty although I am embarrassed.”
Derek regarded him with ill concealed disgust.
“It sounded very detailed,” William admitted, “but I doubt you really listened to what I said. The deep secrets of the Legacy, the truly important secrets .. who could do what, they were never revealed. And the Enforcers were never mentioned.”
“Not directly,” Merlin commented quietly. “But you hinted. And a hint like that, to people like that, no matter how carefully it was worded, can act like a pry bar. You may be embarrassed, William, but I’m very disappointed.”
“If my apology would do any good, I’d offer it unconditionally,” William responded.
“It won’t so don’t bother.”
A mean little silence descended over them like a threatening cloud. William got up to fix himself another drink.
“Why did your father think you were unsuitable?” Derek asked.
William gave him a cool, thin smile. “Maybe he sensed I had the potential to disappoint people.”
“All fathers think that of their children,” Derek countered. “Mine definitely did. However, he used that as the stick to beat me, to keep me focused on my studies, so that I would be suitable. I like to think that, if he’d lived, he would be proud of me and my endeavors.”
William saw Merlin’s eyes flash toward him in a warning and he swallowed down the bitter comment that ‘well, he didn’t live, did he? He betrayed the Legacy and everything it stood for in such a spectacular fashion that it quite eclipses anything I did.’
“I was an idealist,” William said instead. “At Oxford, when we met, I’d begun to .. form my ideas into strategies. But, before we met, I was a dreamer. Quite different to how I became. The Legacy was still mired in the past and I felt it could be better. I couldn’t effect change from outside so that meant I had to be on the inside. My father felt I lacked .. commitment and ambition. I was ambitious but not in the right way. I wanted to make it better but all I had were ideas. Nothing really concrete and I wanted to snap my fingers and make it real without all the tedious process in between. My father said that ideas were good but ideas alone weren’t enough. I didn’t want to join to fight evil. I wanted to join for the wrong reasons – to change things which had worked for centuries. I was a budding bureaucrat, he said. An administrator. I’d be better used in industry, not in the Legacy.”
William paused. “I actually considered doing that.”
“What changed your mind?” Merlin inquired.
“The fact that my father would have been terribly disappointed,” he replied with a wry smile. “Derek knows from personal experience that Legacy sons are meant to follow in their father’s footsteps. They push us, drive us hard, to learn all the required skills – classical languages, ancient history, theology, demonology, archeology – and, even as they do that, they beat on us with warnings about the danger, the temptation, the corruption, how easy it is to be killed. Half of them fears that we’ll turn away and the other half fears we’ll join. I never forced my son to do anything other than what he wanted but that was in the modern Legacy – the Legacy I created. On balance, joining the Legacy instead of going into industry was the lesser of two evils. My father wasn’t disappointed and I had to endure the tedious process of making change happen.”
Merlin nodded. “Was that the only reason?”
William blinked. “What do you mean?”
“Everyone suffers from the Dickens syndrome – they all have great expectations. Kids grow up with hopes an’ dreams. Their parents have their own hopes an’ dreams for their kids. The really lucky families find they match. Often, though, there’s a conflict of interest an’ then the question is do the kids swallow their hopes an’ dreams to do what their parents want, or do the parents give up an’ let the kids go their own way? You said you changed your mind about choosing industry – which, by the way, would have been a great choice for you – because your father would have been disappointed. Was that the only reason?”
“I grew up,” William responded. “I realized life is basically a compromise. We can’t have it all our own way.”
“But you did,” Derek pointed out. “Your father doubted your commitment and your motives. You joined anyway and you made the changes you wanted.”
“I learned patience, Derek. I worked my way up to the top.”
“With help from your friends,” Derek sniped.
“That’s true. But I still worked. I worked very hard.”
Merlin shook her head. “Dreamers don’t change. Dreamers are always dreamers. Idealists see a perfect world and have such big ideas that they can’t see where to start, so the dreams stay dreams. There’s a link missing here.”
She rose to get herself a cup of coffee. “People don’t just change like that. My parents hoped I’d follow tradition – marry an’ have kids. I had my own wants an’ needs, an’ they didn’t come up to my parents’ great expectations. I disappointed them, I know that, but I never gave in.”
“You married,” William remarked.
“Yeah but I have no children. And I won’t have them.”
She looked away for a moment, her eyes wretched.
“The point I’m trying to make is that, if you want something badly enough, you don’t give way on it,” Merlin went on, at last turning back. “The truth is that we are exactly who we want to be an’ damn the consequences. Derek, you may have resisted the idea of joining the Legacy, you may even have consciously said no, but, deep down inside, you knew you would. That’s why you studied. Not because Winston kept on at you. If you truly had no intention of joining ever, his lectures .. you wouldn’t even have heard them. Nothing would have influenced you. William, you were a dreamer. They drift thru life, living in castles in the air. Reality can’t touch them. But you did change .. and it wasn’t because your father would be disappointed if you didn’t.”
“I told you – I grew up.”
“Then you couldn’t have been a dreamer,” Derek said. “Maybe that was just a mask you wore. Armor to protect you.”
William sighed and looked down. “Maybe I can show you the truth.”
Derek and Merlin exchanged glances and there was again that weird, almost telepathic bond which came from familiarity with the subject.
If he does, it’ll be some kind of miracle.
They both heard it clearly in the other’s voice and they smiled briefly. It wasn’t telepathy at all, only mutual understanding.
William didn’t notice this. He was concentrating hard, going back to a time before the Legacy had seriously intruded into his life. He didn’t notice the way the cabin vanished from around them either, because his eyes were closed but the other two did and they frowned warily. It wasn’t the smooth fade transition they’d gotten used to. It was ragged and disjointed, as if the mist had been ripped into shreds and tossed away. Aquila came to her shoulder and she bent her mouth to Merlin’s ear.
“This is difficult. I sense interference,” she breathed.
The scene which came to them in fits and starts showed a boy who was laying on his back in a summer field. Long grass swayed in a gentle, unfelt breeze which did nothing to cool the sweltering heat. The colors around him were muted, made pale by a strong sun which rode in a bleached, endless sky broken by random cloud. The boy was about twelve or so years of age and he gazed up at the sky, his eyes shielded by a hand.
“That’s me,” William announced with quiet pride.
Derek’s eyebrows rose in surprise. He didn’t recognize William at all. This boy, so relaxed, so unhurried, had nothing of the William Sloan he knew.
“There’s a cloud,” the boy pointed. “It looks like .. a dragon. See? There’s the tail, curving around. And there’s the head, the eyes. The ears aren’t quite right – more bunny ears than dragon ears. Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” he sighed, “if dragons really existed once?”
“Maybe they did,” replied a patient voice. Derek looked back over his shoulder to see an older woman reading a book. “Your father says that all myths and legends have a grain of truth at their heart. Possibly, a very long time ago, there was a species of dinosaur which could breathe fire.”
“Oh .. I would like to find that. Prove to the entire world that dragons once were real.”
“How could you do that, William?” she asked. “The bits which made the fire would no longer be there. There’d be only the bones.”
“That wouldn’t matter,” William dismissed. “There’d be something to prove it. The presence of wing bones. They’d have to be really big. Maybe the shape of the head. Extra chambers in the skull – the fire mixing chambers. But people would just know it was a dragon skeleton.”
“Yes, sweetheart,” she agreed, smiling. “What does that cloud remind you of?”
She knew her son. Disagreeing with him would only cause him to be hurt. It was easier to deflect the tears by diverting his attention. He would soon forget his dragon theories.
He studied it. “A train … Or maybe it’s more an ocean sailing ship. Yes. You can see the waves breaking against the bow.”
She glanced up. She could only see a cloud. “You’re a dreamer, William. Half the time, you live inside your imagination.”
He rolled onto his stomach. “Is that a bad thing, Mom?”
“I’m not sure. If more people in the world were like you, there wouldn’t be any wars. Maybe the world would be a better place. Not much would get done,” she mused, “but .. maybe that isn’t so bad.”
He smiled at her. “One day, I’ll have a dream so wonderful, I’ll change the whole world and make it better.”
“Of course you will,” she said.
“You see?” William invited, turning to Derek and Merlin. “I was a dreamer. Maybe it was all those stories my father used to read to me when I was a child but I could see dragons and sailing ships in clouds. I did live in my imagination because it was a kinder place.”
The scene tore apart as though attacked by violent, angry winds.
“We weren’t meant to see that,” Aquila whispered to Merlin.
“Because it proves he was telling the truth.”
Merlin nodded slowly. “When did the William Sloan we know ever dismiss a fact by saying it wouldn’t matter?”
Aquila arched an eyebrow. “Actually, quite often.”
“Okay, a fact which would have proved he was right.”
“What are you two whispering about?” William asked.
Aquila moved away again, on guard against whatever. Merlin did the talking for them both.
“We were discussing the fact that you were telling the truth,” she replied.
“It has been known,” William commented. “And more often than you’d believe.”
“We were also debating the matter of the way the mist worked on this occasion. There was interference and not a smooth transition. Someone didn’t want us to see that scene.”
“Because it validated what I said.”
“So,” Derek went on, taking control once more, “what does it mean? When you were an older child, you were one of life’s dreamers. Someone who believed in dragons and who could use their imagination to picture a brighter tomorrow but then had no real burning desire to endure the tedium of making the dream come true. Is that a fair interpretation?”
William considered. “Yes, I’d say so.”
“You grew older and, because it was somehow expected of you, you indicated you wished to join the Legacy. Knowing your proclivities, your father expressed doubt on your suitability – an attitude I can fully understand. A dreamer, such as you were, would not have survived in the Legacy. But then,” Derek said, “you changed.”
“Why?” Merlin asked. “What happened, William? Some internal switch? You just woke up one morning an’ your entire mental processes had undergone a fundamental transformation?”
“They must have done. I don’t recall the exact day or even if it happened like that but, essentially, yes. I started to think a different way. I still had dreams but now I could see how to make them come true as well,” he replied.
“That sounds suspicious to me,” she remarked and Derek nodded his agreement. “People, even those who really want to change, don’t change their fundamental nature. And, let’s not forget, someone didn’t want us to see that scene. Derek, do you get the feeling that somehow a wrench got tossed into William’s life?”
“It is beginning to seem that way,” Derek agreed. “You said before about there being a missing link. If we can find that, we may have made significant progress.”
“All right, William. Just relax an’ let something come to the surface,” Merlin advised.
“I don’t know if I can,” William admitted.
“Don’t try to force it.”
He shook his head. “Look, I am honestly not trying to be difficult here. I want this resolved, more than you do. But how do we know that the scenes we’re seeing which I don’t remember because I was never there are true? You say they’re coming from someone else’s mind, their memories, and this is happening because there is some kind of link between us, but how do you know? It’s a plausible explanation, I’ll grant, but if, for example, it’s the man in the overcoat .. he wasn’t there either so how can it be him?” He regarded them. “I guess what I’m trying to say is how do we know it isn’t wishful thinking on my part?”
“The man in the overcoat appeared to us, here, and warned us,” Derek said.
“I could’ve imagined that. We’d seen him in Paris. I’d always wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower and I’ve seen enough pictures of it to know what it looks like. I could’ve conjured up the image. We are in limbo and this is a very strange place.”
“That’s true,” Merlin nodded. “Limbo acts as a mirror an’ shows us things we could’ve forgotten but which played a pivotal role in our lives.”
“But I recognized him,” Derek remarked.
“So it could’ve come from your memory,” William said.
“The answer, William, is that we don't know,” Merlin said. “But there are three of us an’ we’re smart people. It’s obvious which scenes may be suspect because you’re not in them to verify their accuracy. Yes, Derek recognized the man in the overcoat inasmuch as he’d seen him before and, yes, that could’ve come from Derek’s mind. But Derek wasn’t there either, therefore it’s suspect. All we can do right now is let them play out an’ then put them in order. An’ then, when we’re done here, we check ’em out for authenticity.”
“Well .. Derek can crosscheck what information he can an’ I can go talk things over with your father. We will resolve this.”
Slowly, William nodded and then gave a small, resigned shrug. “There isn’t much else we can do, is there? Okay. Let’s see what happens next.”
They turned expectantly to the cabin wall and watched as it dissolved and reformed to another rather dark room. The furniture looked old but sturdy. William sat on one of the sofas, reading a book. He appeared to be in his late teens or early twenties. Every so often, he would pause and look up, his eyes distracted.
“What are you thinking?” Derek murmured.
“I remember this,” William said with a small, fond smile. “I loved to read and picture the scenes in my mind, put myself in the story. If I’m not mistaken, I’m reading Homer’s Odyssey and voyaging with Odysseus.”
The door opened and Sloan Senior came in. The younger William glanced round.
The reply was a grunted acknowledgement as the older man went to stand by the empty fireplace.
“Tell me, are you still set on joining the Legacy?”
“Even though I have indicated to you my doubts on the wisdom of it?”
William put down his book and rose with a sigh. “Father, is it so wrong to have ideas about change?”
“The Legacy has worked very well for hundreds of years – ”
“I realize that but the world is changing. Maybe that is not a good thing but shouldn’t the Legacy keep pace with it or even anticipate how it will be so it can meet the challenges head on instead of running to keep up?”
Sloan Senior frowned. “And you believe you’re the man to do that.”
“I don’t know. I could be. All I ask is the chance.”
“I would give it to you. The Legacy won’t. William, I’m not being awkward. I’m trying to tell you that the Legacy rarely gives chances. Often, the fight goes to the line. The man who hesitates is lost.” He paused. “You return to Oxford tomorrow?”
“You’re doing very well. I’m proud of you. Take this with you when you go.”
William felt something small pressed into his hand and he looked down. “Your lucky coin?”
“It’ll make sure you pass your finals,” his father said gruffly.
Derek looked to his friend. “You have it?”
William Sloan couldn’t answer for a moment. “I’d forgotten this. I can’t say for sure whether I still have the coin or not, Derek. I didn’t see it as my lucky coin. Obviously, it had sentimental value to my father so I accepted it as a gift but I never saw it as anything more than the battered thing it was.”
Merlin was shaking her head. “Try to think for a second, William. Did you bring this coin with you into death? Is it in your house somewhere?”
“I didn’t believe you could bring anything with you.”
“You’re wearing clothes. You live in a house. Yes, you can bring certain things with you. Important things. Wedding bands, for instance.” She held up her hand. “I have mine.”
“It’s also on your finger wherever your body is,” he remarked. “You’re talking about .. the idea of things.”
“Right, whatever. If it was incredibly important to you in life, so much so that it .. becomes part of you, you can bring it with you. Did you bring the coin?”
William glanced away but only for a second. “No. I haven’t seen it in years. I may have thrown it out.”
“Or you may not, in which case it’s possibly still in Patricia’s keeping,” Derek commented. “I would have expected her to remove everything which reminded her of the Legacy – after all, she was angry that it caused your death. But an old, battered coin, maybe in a box in the attic, forgotten, hidden under a pile of other things .. it’s most likely still there.”
“So what?” William shrugged.
“It’s the missing link,” Derek responded.
“That’s a little improbable.”
“Is it?” Merlin queried. “We’ve seen you as a young teenager, your head in the clouds, dreaming big dreams. We’ve seen you losing yourself in books even as your conscience is prompting you to ‘do the right thing’ in joining the Legacy. And we also know you, your character, your history. You did join and you made a .. success of it. You’d changed, somehow. You admitted as much. On the other side, we’ve seen your father broken, defeated, in despair .. an’ looking at this so called lucky coin. Now we’ve seen him give it to you. Where does this come in our timeline? Slap damn between dreaming William an’ devious William. Rather too much of a coincidence to be just a coincidence, wouldn’t you say?”
“Nevertheless, it could be,” William persisted. “My father wouldn’t have given it to me if he believed it would do me harm.”
They nodded. “I agree,” Derek said firmly. “But his belief may not have been the truth of it. What if he believed it would do you good? People lie, William. He told you he’d found it. Maybe he had but, just maybe, it was put there for him to find. Maybe it was given to him deliberately and he was told it was lucky. It probably was but no one said if it brought good luck or the opposite.”
Derek was bracing himself. He knew the way William’s mind worked and he knew he would say it. William’s eyes narrowed. Here it comes, Derek thought.
“Winston could have given it to him. My father wrote that he’d met your father. If anyone could do such a thing, it’d be Winston Rayne.”
Derek couldn’t say a word. He knew it could be true.