Frank opened his eyes to darkness.
It was probably just as well, because he couldn't remember the last time he'd had a headache this bad. This time he didn't even have the benefit of a bottle of scotch to blame it on. His eyes adjusted to the gloom slowly as the cool of the room washed over his skin. Soothing. He sighed and relaxed.
He was lying somewhere soft, scented with the thick dusty smell of dried rose petals.
“He lives,” came a woman's voice from the shadows, sharp but somehow gentle, too, full of wry humour.
He opened his mouth to speak but found himself coughing instead, violently hacking until all his strength was gone. He sank back against the pillows again. “He does,” he croaked. “Just barely.”
There was a rustle of clothing and the bed dipped at his hip. A cold glass was pressed into his hand. Gloves. She was wearing gloves. What kind of woman wore gloves these days? “Drink,” she whispered.
He followed her suggestion and downed most of the water in a couple of gulps. “Who are you?”
She took the glass from him. He heard the chink of jug on vessel and the glug of more liquid replacing what he'd drunk before she handed it back. He could see her silhouetted against the open space of what he now saw was a large room with high ceilings, old-fashioned wallpaper and ornate cornices, a chandelier hanging dull and still. She was tall, and... oddly shaped. It was her hair. High. Cruella de Ville style.
Finally, she spoke. “You can call me Midnight. They all do.”
“Magda,” he whispered.
The bed shifted abruptly as she stood. “You remember?”
“No, I...” He didn't know what had made him say that. Just that her name had been in his head when he opened his lips. “I don't. I don't remember a thing.”
It wasn't completely true. He remembered... something. The clack, clack, clack of shoes on cobblestones. And blood. He remembered blood. He didn't want to.
“You said my name.” Her voice had gone chilly.
“I must have heard it somewhere.”
There was a long silence, broken eventually by the creak of the bedsprings as she sat back down again. He felt her fingers on his arm, stroking lightly. Familiar. What was she to him, in the past?
“What do you remember?” There was a note of curiosity in her question, but most of her tone was inquisition.
He sighed. Could he trust her with the fragments of his memory? Or would it be a huge mistake to tell her everything? Perhaps she could help him, somehow. Not to remember more- he didn't want to remember more of what he'd seen- but to make sense of it all. To understand.
“I remember... night,” he began.
She leaned in closer. “Go on.”
Sam shifted against the hard corner of a richly-upholstered divan with ornate wooden framing. “They didn't build furniture for comfort in 1888, huh?” She hadn't meant to say it out loud, but Brahman roared with laughter anyway, perched as he was on a footstool that was defying gravity to hold his weight.
“No, but it all gives the right impression.”
The impression was one of space, opulence and refinement. She was in what looked like a library, walls covered with floor-to-ceiling oak bookshelves, stuffed to bursting with a rainbow of leather-bound volumes- red, brown, blue and every colour in between. The wide polished floorboards were covered in thick Persian carpets. Everything had a place, from the antique lamps that lit everything with a soft glow to the tasteful nude statuettes displayed in a large glass-fronted cabinet near the panelled door.
There was no sound in the rest of the house, though Sam caught herself listening for it, literally on the edge of her seat. She fiddled with the delicate handle of her bone china teacup, wishing there was something stronger in it.
“Do you think he'll wake up soon?” she asked.
Brahman fussed in his jacket pocket and pulled out a leather flask, mirth in his eyes as he unscrewed the cap with deliberate slowness. “I think he's already awake.”
Her heart gave a great jump. “You do?” She couldn't hear his voice. Couldn't hear anything.
He extended the flask with one great arm and tipped a big slosh into her tea. “I do.”
“When... when do you think he'll be allowed to...” She licked dry lips, then took a long gulp of scalding hot tea. It burned all the way down her throat and set a fire in her stomach. “When will she let him go?”
“As soon as she's sure it's his own soul in control.”
Sam nodded. It was ridiculous to feel so afraid of Frank- her Frank!- especially surrounded by all these amazing people with their amazing powers. Especially with her own powers. But it was the way he'd looked at her back at Lipsenard's office, just before he lunged- like a hungry animal. And it was her he wanted- it wanted- not anybody else.
“His soul...” She didn't know how to ask what she wanted to know. She put down her cup and saucer on the mahogany coffee table and rested her head in her hands.
“If your soul and Simon's are forever linked, then who belongs to Frank?” Brahman's voice was surprisingly gentle as he spoke her innermost thoughts out loud.
“Yes,” she whispered. Tears welled in her eyes. Just yesterday she'd been so sure about everything. She'd even thought that Frank might be ready to propose to her, finally! And now...
“It's simple, really,” the big man said.
She raised her head, raised an eyebrow. “Simple?”
“Yes. It's you.”
A whole host of four-letter words ran through her mind. “That's not simple. That's... what the hell does that mean?”
Brahman shifted on his stool. “There are different kinds of bond between souls. There is the love bond, like the one that existed between Simon and Livy- the kind that can never be broken.”
She bristled. “Are you saying that what Frank and I have- had- have- isn't love?”
“Patience, little one.” He smiled. “There are all kinds of love. What you and Frank have is something unique. You are two halves of the one.”
Sam sank back in her chair and groaned. “Do I even want to hear the rest of this?”
“You do. You heard before about Frank's... ability, to steal souls. He used it with the best of intentions, but it's a curse. It's dark magic. Whenever you steal the soul of another, you risk your own.”
“Makes sense.” She couldn't believe she was even having this conversation. Frank, senior detective. Frank, friend and lover. Frank, stealer of souls? What the hell? The world had changed so much since yesterday.
“You, on the other hand...” He laid a big paw over her fingers, eclipsing them. “Your ability to hear was just the beginning of your powers. When you hear with supernatural ability, you hear the truth in all things.”
“That's not the kind of hearing I have.” She shook her head. “Had.”
Brahman chuckled. “Have you wondered yet why Livy chose you?”
Sam frowned. “She... chose me? Wasn't this all, you know, chance?”
He shook his head. “There's no such thing as chance in this world. Livy chose you because you were ready. Her powers were always meant to be yours.”
“And... what exactly are these powers? I can move things by thinking about it, I can shatter air by screaming, I can...” She rubbed her forehead, trying to stop the world from spinning. “I have no idea what I can do.”
Brahman inclined his head slightly. “Ah, therein lies the rub. You see, I don't know. Nobody does.”
“Of course they don't.”
“We know what Livy could do. Livy could bend minds, move mountains. We just don't know what will happen now her powers are yours. The only thing we do know...”
For the first time, he looked hesitant. “It's that without Frank, you would be nothing.” He let her absorb that for a few moments before continuing. “And without you, neither would he. Without light, there is nothing to brighten the dark. There's no good amongst the bad. No morality, no control. No... hope. But without the dark powers, there would be no need for light.”
“There's always a need for light,” she murmured.
“If there was no dark, there would be nothing to fight for. No challenge to push humanity to achieve, to change, to grow. Humankind would stagnate. And eventually, the dark would rise from the light regardless. One cannot exist without the other.”
She was silent for a long while, absorbing what he said. “But Frank...”
“Frank is not the dark.”
She let out a sigh of relief.
“But he has the darkness in him. His powers are matched to yours. Dark, and light. And both of you are needed for balance. When the darkness rises in him, the light will rise in you.”
A thought was niggling her. “And if the darkness should...” She looked him directly in the eye. “...die?”
Brahman shifted uncomfortably. “We don't know what would happen.” To her, was the unsaid comment. They didn't know what would become of her without Frank.
“Then... how do we defeat this thing inside him?”
From the room above, there came a sudden scrape of furniture on floorboards, the thump of boots and a shout. Sam jumped out of her seat, but Brahman was slower to rise.
“We must go back to when the darkness began, so we can begin to separate the real Frank from the monster within.”
There were more voices now, footsteps running along the hallway overhead. Sam followed the sound with her eyes. She couldn't hear what was happening, she realised. She truly had been replaced inside by Livy. Her heart was heavy, but she pushed the feeling aside.
“So, we have to go back to when Frank took this guy's soul? The beast, or whatever he's called?”
Brahman casually drew a pistol from his pocket, broke it open and checked the chamber. “No. We have to go back earlier than that. We need to visit the point in time where Frank was first exposed to the darkness within him.”
Just then, the door burst open with such force that it slammed against the wall. Midnight stood panting for breath, uncharacteristically flustered, her immaculate silver hair half pulled from its elaborate nest to hang down over her left shoulder. For the first time, Sam realised Midnight wasn't much older than herself.
Midnight had a hand on her sternum, chest heaving. “He's gone,” she gasped.
Brahman went to her, moving quickly but with cat-like grace. “Where, Magda?”
She shook her head. “I don't know. He was telling me about his dreams. He remembered violence, killing. Blood. I...” She looked down at the floor. “I let my guard down. I thought the real Townsend was back.” When she looked up, her face was taught with fear. “But I was wrong.”
Simon appeared behind her at the door. His eyes lighted briefly on Sam's face before he looked to Brahman. “He opened a rip and slipped through. The memories... triggered something in him, some need to revisit the past.”
Sam glanced at Brahman and back at Simon. “The past? Are we all talking about the same time?”
Simon nodded curtly. “I believe so. The day his mother died. July 21st, 1865.”
Midnight laid a hand on his arm. “I thought I could read him,control him, but he was too much. We need help, Simon. Reinforcements. We need Nemo.”
“Time is of the essence,” hissed Brahman. “And besides, the past is in the past. We still need to help Sam understand her powers better. She is the ultimate reinforcement.”
For the first time in their short acquaintance, Sam saw a look of tiredness cross Simon's fine features. “Very well,” he said. “We shall...”