Part of him wanted to stay still, wait and see if all that shimmering power within her burst forth. But he knew in the same instance that it would not; not if it was aimed at Frank. She’d always been close to Frank. So odd to think of them as lovers in this time.
The idea hurt him. Though they had just begun, Simon thought their love timeless. Had he been a hopeless romantic to believe it? Did she love him in other lives? Did he? Or perhaps he’d find himself intrigued by Midnight a millennium from now. The thought made him want to laugh. But if time moved in slow beats for him, it did not for the others and Frank’s lunging form was almost on top of Samantha’s.
Somber now, Simon lifted a hand and the man stopped, suspended in air as if a puppet on a string. The world around Simon slowed like a clock winding down, tick, tock, silence. He moved through the stillness, seeing Frank hovering in mid-air, the beads of sweat on his brow frozen like glass; Samantha’s look of horror carved on her face, the downy hair along her neck pale and utterly soft looking.
Midnight’s eyes tracked him, the only thing moving in her face. Should I blacken this sight?
Simon shook his head. No, let her see. She is one of us now.
He moved past Brahman, touching him with a brush of his fingers. The gentle giant moved as though a statue sprung to life.
“Pull him down,” Simon murmured. He could hold time as long as he liked, but the repercussions of doing so were always deep.
Brahman’s thick arms wrapped around Frank’s middle, and like plucking an apple from a tree, he pulled took Frank and set him on the ground. The body teetered awkwardly, rolling a bit as Frank had been in a half crouch when he’d lunched.
Simon saw a spark of awareness in those angry eyes, and a plea.
“I know,” he murmured as he knelt beside Frank. “I know,” he said again with blunt force. “And so do you.”
He tilted his head a bit closer, but would not touch him. Not until he saw the rage recede in Frank’s eyes. “Why do you push it away? I know you remembered with Lazarus, and yet you pretended that you do not.”
Suddenly anger welled up in his chest, a hot thick thing that suffocated him. “You know all of us. You know me.” His breath hissed out of his nostrils. “I’ve been chasing you down for years. And now your petty fear has taken— ”
A heavy hand settled on his shoulder, stilling his anger as if water dousing a fire.
Brahman’s black eyes were kind. “Don’t fall into that trap, friend.” He glanced at Frank. “His soul has more scars than flesh.”
Before them Frank did not blink, no movement marked his feelings, frozen as he was, but his eyes shimmered with pain all the same.
Simon took a deep breath and stood. “Aye.” He breathed again, and the fog of rage fully dissipated. “Aye, that it does.”
He glanced at Frank. No, he was not yet ready; the demon rage within him still seethed. But it was time set things to rights. With a flick of his hands, the room shivered with the force of time revived, but Frank remained locked in place –and safely away from Samantha.
He had done it again, turned her world frozen and senseless. But it was different this time. She could see him as he walked past her, moving as though a film in slow motion. The air around him, seemed to shimmer, rippling outward as he stopped to gaze up at Frank who dangled in mid-air like meat on a hook.
Oh, Frank. Her heart ached for him, yet there was fear, true fear of him; the man who had lunged at her was not Frank. Frank’s eyes had never been filled with such rage and hate.
They took him down and he rolled gently on the floor like a mannequin tossed aside. It sent a pang of despair through her. She knew how his helplessness would humiliate him. And then suddenly, she was free. Her lungs filled with air that she didn’t need –she hadn’t needed to breath in those strange moments, had she?
Simon’s keen blue eyes caught hers for a brief moment, assessing, penetrating, yet he said nothing as he straightened and smoothed out the lapels of his black overcoat.
“Midnight,” he said, his eyes now on Frank’s immobile form. “Our friend needs an escort.”
The lady’s red lips curled. “And as usual, I am the lucky lady without a date to the ball.”
Simon’s wide mouth twitched. “Safe house six,” he murmured. “We shall follow within three turns.”
When Midnight swayed over to Frank’s prone form, Sam found her voice. “What are you doing?”
“Leaving,” said Midnight crisply.
Her gloved hand clasped over Frank’s shoulder and Sam’s panic sharpened but before Sam could utter a word of protest, they were gone.
“Where did she take him!” Sam shouted, rounding on Simon. “What the hell is wrong with you people? You pop up out of the blue, freeze bloody time, and don’t answer a single question!”
Simon’s thick brows rose and Sam realized her slip. When did she ever use the word bloody? Something watery bubbled in her lungs, something very much like terror, and she suddenly realized how Frank must be feeling. Frank.
“Histrionics serve no purpose but wasting time,” Simon said simply. He unbuttoned the clasp of the long cloak he wore over his coat. “I will answer your questions. But not here. It isn’t safe. Now…” he pulled the cloak free and stepped close, “take this. You’ll need it to hide your modern clothes until we can get you new ones.”
The cloak settled over her shoulders, warm and smelling of wool and Simon.
“Modern clothes?” Her mouth felt full of cotton wool.
“We are going back,” he said with the same irritating calmness. “Midnight went first with Frank because we cannot all go at once. Either in pairs or alone, but never more than that.”
Sam watched him intently as his long fingers secured the clasp at her throat. “And you will bring me back?”
Simon’s eyes slid away. “No. I shall travel alone. You shall go with Brahman.”
“Why can’t I go with you?” Oh God, she sounded ridiculous, but the idea of being separated from Frank and now him caused her heart to seize.
He would not look her in the eye. “Brahman is…He is fully competent.”
She wasn’t so sure, but Simon’s reticence made her look keenly at him.
As if trapped by her gaze, he raised his eyes to her and his mouth flattened. “Go with Brahman.” The anger in his tone was unmistakable.
Simon moved to go but stopped, his fist curling at his side. “You will…you will be fine.” As if unable to restrain himself, he drew near and placed a quick kiss, no more than a brush of his lips against her temple. “Remember,” he whispered against her skin. Sam shivered at the contact, but he was gone before she could reply.
The silence he left behind overwhelmed her. She stood for a long moment, knowing that that great ox of a man, Brahman, was next to her, yet unable to do anything more than stare at the place where the other’s had vanished.
“He left me.” For a moment she wasn’t even sure which ‘he’ she meant. But her heart knew. And so did Brahman, apparently.
Brahman stirred, then shrugged casually. “His last trip did not go well, did it?”
“That is an understatement,” she muttered before the truth hit her. She closed her eyes in remorse. “No,” she said weakly. “It did not.”
He hadn’t wanted to risk her again.
“He thinks I am someone I am not.”
Brahman grinned wide. “And who does he think you are?”
Sam ground her teeth. Great, and now I get to spend quality time with the brain of the bunch.
“And you are not?”
Jesus… She took a deep breath and searched for patience.
“Then who are you?”
His massive head shook slowly. “Sam is that body. That is not who you are.” When she opened her mouth, he raised one thick finger. “There is body and there is soul. Who you are is soul. What you imbue is body.”
Sam was certain her mouth hung open. The gold tooth winked at her once more, and for an instant, it felt stunningly familiar having Brahman grin at her.
“Do you think that I or Midnight or Simon live now? In this time and place? No. Our bodies are dust in the grave, yet still we live. The soul is forever. It travels from house to house.” He flicked a piece of plaster dust from his smooth muscled arm . “Yet soul, like time is always. Livy, Samantha, they are arms of the same soul.”
She frowned at him but the man, now freed, apparently, from his silence, was on a role.
“The soul is endless. It can live many lives all at once, learning, growing.”
“Like a spore,” she murmured.
“Yes, many parts, one whole.” His dark gaze held her. “But what it cannot do is fold upon itself. Livy could not come in contact with Samantha. Thus a sacrifice must be made.” His massive shoulders lifted. “As it was Livy coming to Samantha…that arm is the arm that must be cut. But it is pulled back in. The soul remains as it was –whole.”
“You know, that could all be new wave mumbo-jumbo.”
Brahman chucked low and deep. “But it isn’t,” he said. “You feel it. You feel it when you see Simon. One thing a soul cannot forget is love.”
Sam looked away. “What is happening to Frank?” It was easier to speak of him. God, she hadn’t even held him once. Suddenly she needed to. She missed him.
He tilted his head, considering. For a moment Sam feared he wouldn’t tell her, but then his face smoothed back into its familiar sereneness. “Ah, Townsend and soul is a different matter.”
“You have noticed we all have in us particular talents?”
Sam gave an impatient nod.
“Townsend’s is particularly troublesome, for you see, he can steal souls.”
Ice ran through Sam’s veins. Heart in her throat, she heard the rest of his words as if through cotton bunting.
“And he stole himself a particularly nasty soul. Fool to do it, but he thought it the only way to save us all.”
“That thing’s…” her throat went dry, thinking again on that hideous creature. And it’s soulless eyes. That thing’s soul inside of Frank.
“Yes. And he wants it back.”
Sam closed her eyes and shuddered. What if that thing's soul took over? Where would Frank go? She had to talk to Frank. She had to tell him... tell him what? That she loved him? That she had the same soul as Simon’s dead love? It sounded ludicrous to her ears even now. But she felt unfaithful. Nor could she deny the yearning for him. Sam swallowed hard. Why? Why now, when Frank and her had been headed to such a close place. And why couldn’t she think of Frank without cold dread filling her lungs.
Brahman’s voice invaded her frantic thoughts. “You’ll know the right path when it opens up.”
“You know Brahman,” she said as her eyes opened wide, “I think I liked you better when you didn’t talk.”
He threw his head back and laughed, his great voice booming as he took her arm. And suddenly, they were gone.
Out of the darkest corner of Dr. Lispenard’s ruined office a shadow grew. It lengthened, pulling away and stretching until it took the vague form of a man. Onward it stretched, lifting from the floor, solidifying. Boot heels clicked over the parquet as the shadow turned to man.
He stopped at the spot where the succulent tart had been standing with the heathen. He took a deep breath and let the soothing image of his knife slicing open the tart’s wobbling breasts flow over him. Ah yes, so lovely. And much better than the frustration he'd been carrying upon his back.
Weeks now he had tried to unlock Townsend’s mind. Weeks of earning the pathetic bastard’s trust. For nothing. His memory was wiped clean as glass, and the possibility of reaching that soul just out of his reach. But now...Now Frank's mind was beginning to crumble.
Yes, Townsend had a stolen soul. And now he knew where they’d taken it. But how to proceed? Frank trusted him still, else he wouldn’t have come here.
Lispenard tapped one boney finger against his thin lips. The canny bastard Hunt would know him on site if he simply appeared. Delicacy was needed. Suddenly he smiled, though the action brought pain to his cheeks. Sweet, the pain. The lummox had been correct; Lady Monday and the tart were in fact one. Anyone who traded souls could see it; which meant she belonged to Hunt. And Hunt to her. Should Frank become aware of the attachment… Lispenard chuckled. Already that demon soul was eating the man from inside out. Soon one or the other must take rein of the body. All it needed was coaxing. And there was no better motivator for rage than jealousy.
Time to go home, for he had little doubt that the demon would soon follow. He must be quick, The Fellowship counted upon him above all others to retrieve their prize. The thought barely settled before a rasping voice filled his head.
“Yes, very good, Shadow, but come to me before you proceed. I have one other assignment for you.”
A delicious chill ran along Lispenard’s spine as he answered. Yes, Master.