Memories, they are what makes us who we are. Memories form the very fabric of our minds. Past present, even future -all of it tied up with memory. Our sense of right and wrong, self-preservation, what would it be without that trigger of memory, that flow of information stored someplace that says, this line you shall not pass. In truth, a mind cannot properly function without memory. Walk through a room, lift a glass of water to your mouth…without memory would you be able to finish the task? Without knowing why you are doing what you are doing would you be able to function? That is memory. It is who you are. Every single fucking thing about you is memory. Whether your own, or someone else’s. Frank stared at the ceiling watching the half-crown spin a silver arc into the air before hurdling back down toward him. He caught it up and tossed it high again. Over and over. All the while contemplating memory.
It came down to memories. He knew this. He knew this. And it made his stomach roll, his skin cold yet sweating. The bed beneath him seemed to sway, the room to spin. He took a bracing breath, concentrated on the coin. Fuck.
The coil hovered at the precipice of its flight, a silver disk hung in time. Remember. Images flashed through his mind. Blood, flesh, pink coils of intestine. God! The room whirled around him like a top. Going down. Sinking. Fear. Malignant eyes of dun brown. Yellowed teeth bared in a smile. That woman, the curvy one with the brown hair and green eyes…who… Sam? Green eyes shimmered into silver. Silver like the coin. Silver eyes, a cloud of silver hair tumbling down a slim white back. Deep red lips smiling as the words formed a name. What name? He could almost hear that name. She called it, her back arching, high firm breasts, silver nipples glinting in candlelight. Frank shivered, running hot and cold. Bile rose in his throat. A dark shape against green fog, the snap of coattails. Almost there. Must stop it. Green eyes. Silver hair. Love you forever. Mine. Yours. Ours. Pain. Such pain. And hate. Computers. Badge. Pictures of young girls. Green eyes. Silver eyes. He swallowed hard, the coin striking him hard on his check. Like the clanging of a bell that incongruous coin stuck something deep within his soul and he could almost feel the thin tether of his sanity snap.
He lunged up, screaming. Screaming. A name.
Like that, they were back at the safe house. Sam forced her arms to slip from Simon’s warm neck. Her legs felt like rubber. In truth, she could sleep for a week and not be bothered. A wild urge to beg for a bed rose in her mind but she pushed it down, settled for folding herself onto the settee by the fire. It was hard and smelled of must and wool. She missed her apartment. Missed her ignorance.
Simon moved to a heavy mahogany sideboard. “Drink?”
She almost wept. “Please. And a lot of it.”
His wide mouth curled as he poured her a generous helping of some amber liquid.
She took the proffered glass as he sat down next to her, the weight of him making her roll slightly into his large frame. She sat straighter, tucking her feet under her, and took a stiff drink. Sticky sweet fire burned her throat. “Gah, what is this?”
His teeth flashed. “Port. I assumed you were a drinker.” Another smile, bigger this time. “Would you have preferred sherry?”
Sam gave him a speaking look. “I would have preferred vodka. This stuff…” She shuddered.
Simon chuckled. “I shall remember that next time.” His fingers brushed against hers as he took her glass and Sam felt heat to her toes. Good Lord.
The coal fire settled behind the grate sending off a hiss of warm steam. In the hall, a clock chimed, the sound of it echoing through the darkness. For a moment it all seemed so normal. Then the image of death and violence surged forward. Ruthlessly, she tapped it down. Not now. She needed a moment of peace. And sitting her felt so normal. It was a much needed relief.
“Do you do this often?” she asked, if only to break the silence.
“Drink?” Simon’s blue eyes twinkled.
“No.” She resisted giving his broad shoulder a teasing push. Just barely. “This…” she waved her hand helplessly. “Saving strange girls, flitting through time, monsters…” her words trailed off as a delicate shudder ran down her spine.
“Ah.” Simon took a drink, the thick column of his throat moving beneath his white collar. Absently, he caressed the edge of his glass with his thumb. “Nemo. He is our mentor,” Simon explained with a glance at her. “He came for me when I was five.” His shoulders moved beneath his coat as if they suddenly itched.
Simon turned to gaze off into the fireplace, his Patrician profile as clean and strong as a stamped Roman coin. “I think I’d been stopping time before that age. But five was when I remember doing so with deliberation.” Firm lips curled. “I broke my mother’s favorite vase and I was terrified. Suddenly everything stopped. God, I thought I was dreaming, and then I thought, well if it is a dream, then I shall have some fun. So I swept up the shards and placed them at my older brother’s feet.” He turned, his deep blue eyes gleaming with emotion. “And then I thought ‘go’. Everything just started up again. Mother thrashed my brother for the vase and I…” He looked off, swallowing.
“You felt guilty.” Sam could understand that.
He pinned her with his gaze. “No.” A sad smile pulled at him. “I felt powerful.” Simon played with the frayed edge of the upholstery. “And it scared the hell out of me.” He made a sound, something near humor but filled with pain. “Nemo came to us the next week.”
“Your family contacted him?”
“Why would they? They never knew what I did.”
Sam shifted, her high heels snagging against the silk.
Simon shook his head slowly, sending a lock of glossy blond hair over his brow. “There is a ripple effect when the normal course of the universe is altered. Nemo felt it and tracked the source. I remember him standing in our doorway like it was yesterday. Flaming red hair, bone white skin and his eyes. The eyes gave him away. They flicked to mine and I swear I saw my whole life flash before me. I tried to tell my mother ‘here stood danger’ but she shooed me away.”
“What did he tell her?”
Simon rested his arm on the settee back. The movement brought them face to face, their knees close together. “He told her she was going to send me away to school. That is was a wonderful opportunity –we were poor, you see- that she had inherited a great deal of money from an uncle she didn’t know she had. Then she would pack up and move to Mayfair. Whenever she saw me again she would never ask questions, only accept whatever I told her.” His long fingers threaded through his hair as he rested his hand on his head. “And there was my mother, in a trance, her head bobbing in acquiescence with ever command he uttered. And I thought, here is a magician. Just like me.”
“A regular Harry Potter,” she mumbled.
Simon’s straight brow rose in question. Sam waved her hand. “So Nemo took you, taught you, I suppose?”
“Yes. There has always been Others. Those whose talents can be used to save humanity from the evils of the world. It saved my life to be a part of it.”
“And the others?” Frank?
“Midnight came to us soon afterward. She was a snarly little girl of seven, I believe. We got on well,” he said fondly. “Braham, Lazarus, and Clarrissa were in their teens when Nemo found them. And Frank…” Simon frowned. “I believe… Yes, that’s right, he was twenty, and not too happy to be with us for a time.” He gave a huff of nervous laughter. “Can you believe I forgot for a moment when he came on board?”
Frankly, no, she thought, surprised as he. Simon’s memory seemed impeccable.
But Simon had moved on, and by the haunting look in his eyes, she knew of whom he thought.
“Livy…” Simon swallowed. “She was last. We’ve only been together, that is she has only been with the group for five years.” He caught her eyes and his head tilted as though waiting for her to remember perhaps, or perhaps he simply wanted to see her reaction.
Sam took a deep breath. Tentatively, she reached out to him. Their fingers touched, only the very tips. She felt the same bolt of heat, the unnerving sense of need and rightness. The desire to pull away was as strong as the desire to thread her fingers with his. She didn’t know which desire to follow so she let her hand still. “Simon,” she said as his blue eyes locked with hers, “I am not her. You must understand this.” She fought for her voice. “I can’t do this and feel I must live up to something I am not.”
Simon made the decision for her, linking his warm fingers with hers. “I know you are Sam,” he said quietly. “And I would not have you feel that you must compete with a ghost.” His grip tightened. “But I know there is more to us than what we see.”
She opened her mouth to protest and he spoke over her. “Have you ever met a person for the first time, yet it feels like you have known them forever? Like they are already part of you?”
Yes. She didn’t need to voice it, or say whom. She was staring right at the man. He knew. She knew. His thumb caressed the back of her hand, sending little shivers along her skin.
“I felt that when I met Livy.”
Sam’s stomach plummeted. She moved to break free of his grip. He held tight. “I felt it even more when I met you.”
“You’re eyes,” Sam whispered. “I remember them. Like a dream.” She frowned, struggling to explain.
The thumb upon her hand made lazy circles. “Our senses are everything.” His voice was like the fog that danced against the parlor windows. “And nothing. Touch…” his thumb tapped her, “taste, smell, sound, sight…” He closed his eyes for a moment. They turned the color of cobalt when he opened them again. “If I did not have use of them would you sit before me?”
Sam cleared her throat but could not pull away. “Of course I would.”
He leaned forward, his sculpted features like a Bellini saint. The oddly familiar comparison stuck her as he spoke. “But would it matter to me? My reality is based on two things, my senses and my memory.”
“I could not have said it better, Hunt.” The masculine voice, at once familiar and utterly British cut between them.
They were on their feet, Simon with a sword in his hand. Sam hadn’t even seen him carry one.
A man stood within the parlor doorway. For a moment Sam thought she saw Frank standing their, the image flickered like a hologram then snapped away, leaving only an unfamiliar threat. Tall and broad as Simon, the man looked much like his brother, except where Simon’s hair was the color of burnished gold, this man’s was the blackest night, thick and lustrous, framing a chiseled face. If Simon was a Bellini saint, here was Michelangelo’s David. Sam’s stomach dipped as a memory tried to gain purchase.
A thick black brow quirked. “Are you not going to say hello, Si?”
The sword in Simon’s hand faltered as he swayed. His skin had gone ashen gray, glistening with beads of sweat.
The man took a step forward, his hands up and out as if to show no ill intent. He glanced at her. “He’s almost there.” Again, that voice, so like Frank's but clipped and precise, as if he were Prince William. What the hell?
The sword clattered to the floor as Simon grabbed the back of the settee.
“Frank?” It was a thick rasp.
Sam gasped. “Frank? This isn’t Frank.” She grabbed Simon’s shoulder in concern before glaring at the man. “What did you do to him?” Her hands came up, shaking, ready to do…something! “What the hell did you do to him?”
He spared her another glance then focused on Simon. “No, almost. Reach for it, Hunt. You’re better than this.”
Simon swallowed, his whole body shaking, and then like something within him snapped. “Bloody sodding hell! Peter?” He sank to the settee, hitting it with his knees.
“Who the hell is Peter?”
Peter, whoeverthehell, looked at her with a flicker of sorrow and yes, wonder. “Sam? Yes, I see Sam.” He took another step, his booted feet clicking on the parquet. “Yet I see Olivia as well. Like a flicker of both. A…what did we call it in your time?” Black brows furrowed before going smooth. “Ah, yes, a hologram.”
Simon looked at her, his eyes wide as if seeing for the first time. “He is Frank.”
“What the hell is going on!” She was on the verge of a very childlike and very violent tantrum. “Tell me now!”
Peter/Frank, whoeverthehell, glanced at Simon. “Where is Magda? The rest. Get them here now.” It brooked no argument.
Simon closed his eyes, his expression going smooth and serene. “They come,” he said at last.
The words were barely out of his mouth when a flurry of movement flickered in the hall. A cloud of silver hair and then they came into the room. Midnight stopped short at the sight of this strange new man. Her silver skin went an ugly shade of pearl and for one long moment her mouth hung open until a gurgle left her.
His smile was the sun. Slowly, he opened his arm. With a small shout, she ran to him, flinging herself into his arms. “Peter.” It was a sigh.
His hand came up to lightly touch her silver bouffant. “Good lord, woman, what have you done to your hair?” was all he said, though his eyes filled with tears.
She made something like a sob/snort. “Do not ask.”
Sam stood there gaping like an idiot. They all did for a moment, then Brahman and the man Lazarus walked further into the room.
Midnight and Peter parted, but he kept an arm around her slim waist.
Sam jumped within her skin at the touch of Simon’s hand. He looked at her with sorrow, yet his hand claimed hers as though to shore her up.
Peter spoke again. “Do you remember now?”
Midnight nodded, her checks went, yet it was Simon who spoke. “The alley. We tracked Townsend down. He had slashed the girl. You caught him and then…” He shook his head.
“You turned,” Midnight said. "You became him." Disgust twisted her features.
Lazarus leaned against the settee back, his rumpled frame weary. “We tried to contain you and then something happened.”
“Manish was there,” Peter said, his voice hard.
“Bloody sodding hell,” Simon and Lazarus said together.
Peter/Frank, whoeverthehell graced her with a look. “We, all of us, have a talent. You know Simon’s well by now, I assume. Midnight can block out the senses,” he said with a proud glance at his woman –that much was crystal clear. "Brahman controls nature’s forces, Lazarus raises the dead…”
“You steal souls?” she prompted.
He smiled, and for a breath-stealing second, the gesture looked so much like Frank's that her eyes misted. Frank, where did you go?
“Yes,” he said. “And Manish, our friend Manish has the most terrible power of all. He can take your memories.” He took a step toward the fireplace as if he needed its warmth. “That night, last night actually, Manish was there. I stole the soul of a terrible killer, a demon, and Manish came to claim it.”
“Manish is not like us,” said Lazarus. His soft voice stole over the silence. “He is both soul sucker and mind- ”
“Fucker,” Midnight snapped succinctly.
Lazarus’s sharp cheeks flushed. “Quite.” He looked at Sam. “We battled him, Peter managed to pull part of his soul free. To incapacitate him.”
“A more foul soul, I cannot fathom,” said Peter.
“But Manish is stronger than we knew. Simon tried to make an avenue of escape, open a portal. I remember is a pulse of light and then…” Lazarus shrugged.
Peter’s black eyes moved over the group. “You all went down. I managed to jump through the portal that Si opened up but Manish did his damage first.”
Simon took a deep breath. “He panted false memories in all of us. Made us think that Peter was Frank Townsend, that he had turned rouge years ago. He made us forget the true face and name of our friend.”
“But it did not fully work, did it?” Brahman said. His massive arms crossed in front of him. “We remembered the essence of you. That we must find you, and where you had gone.”
Sam’s feet felt like lead, her head fragile as glass. One more blow and she might shatter. Her hand, intertwined with Simon’s firm grip grew damp. “But what of Frank?” Frank, the man she loved. Where the hell was he? She didn’t believe the guy for a moment.
Simon gazed steadily at her, his words soft and slow as if she were an infant. “Frank Townsend is a killer.”
“No. My memories weren’t affected. I’ve known Frank for two years.”
“We always jump in two-year increments,” Peter said in the same irritating tone. “Time stayed the same here, but moved on there.” A flicker of something much like guilt flashed in his eyes. “His soul took over my own and for two years, I lived like the damned. My soul fighting with his, my memory trying to gain purchase, fighting both Frank's and the dark blight of Manish’s.” His hand slipped away from Midnight. “Sam. God.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I…I see you. I see the lover I turned to as Frank, and my good friend Olivia.” He shook his head as if to clear it. “It is… I know it is hard. We shall talk…”
“I don’t know who the fuck you are,” she snapped, her voice harder than she felt. “But you are not Frank. You don’t even look like him!”
“I looked like Frank when I believed I was Frank.” His hands spread wide. “If the mind believes strongly enough the flesh will follow. Can you not see a glimmer of the man you knew in me? That is the man that cared for you.”
Cared. Not loved. She felt sick. And yet, yes, she could see it, a flicker in the eyes, the timber of his voice.
“I’m going to be sick.” She could not take it anymore, she wrenched free of Simon, who had stood like all of them, like a fucking statue of pity.
No one stopped her as she brushed past Peter, ran from the room. Likely they didn’t care.
Peter’s hand came down on Simon’s shoulder. “Let her go for now.”
Simon hadn’t been aware of moving, only that his heart broke for Samantha. He saw her breaking. How did they expect her to survive this? She wasn’t used to the world turning upside down. Not like they were.
“You should have broken it to her more gently.”
Peter nodded but his stubborn chin remained high. “Most likely. Yet we don’t have time for such luxuries. And I’m damned tired of being confused.”
Undoubtely. Simon couldn’t imagine when Peter had been through.
“Are you well now?” He still couldn’t shake the eerie feeling of the false memories. They clung to him like cobwebs. “Are the souls contained?”
Peter’s dark eyes flashed. “As much as they can be. But I feel them trying to break free.”
Midnight stepped forward, her hand coming to Peter’s chest. They’d been lovers for so long. God’s teeth, what would this do to Sam? Simon grit his teeth against the sudden desire to punch Peter in the face. None of this was his fault, but damn him all the same for getting involved with Sam when his mind was not right. He had to have known that much.
“Can you hold them off, love?” Midnight asked.
Peter gave a short nod. “But not for long. I needn’t remind you all that Manish is connected to me. It is only a matter of time before he or his snail Lispenard tracks the soul down.”
“Manish himself was in the future,” Brahman said. “We did not recognize him then, but yes, the cloven feet, the smell of death, was his.”
Peter shivered, his dark eyes flashing yellow for a fraction of a second. No, they were not safe. Even now, that soul from hell struggled to break free.
“We’ve got to get those souls out of you.” Simon flinched for even stating the obvious and Peter’s wry glanced nettled, but Peter didn't know of Nemo.
“Nemo is captured,” Simon explained and Peter blanched. Right he should. Only Nemo had the power to suck and destroy an unwanted soul that Peter had managed to capture.
“Shit.” Peter’s jaw tightened. “Shit on a stick.”
Midnight quirked a silver brow. “A bit of twenty-first century slang, my love?”
He ignored her. “She can do it,” Peter said, glaring at the floor. His eyes met Simon’s.
Simon’s heart clenched. “No. She doesn’t know how.”
The familiar black eyes were uncompromising. “Olivia did, and she is one with Olivia. Hell, even I can see her in there.”
“No. We cannot ask her. She’s been through too much.”
Lazarus regarded him with understanding eyes. “Yes, she has but the alternative is our utter annihilation. And hers. She will remember. You must teach her. You and Peter. Tonight.”
Midnight nodded. “Remember, she unleashed that power in the parking lot.”
Simon felt the weight of their combined will. He turned from it to pace. He was the second-in-command, their leader while Nemo was captive. And his personal feelings were failing them all. “If she does this,” he paused, hating himself for what he would do to Sam. “If she tries and that power falls out of her control we will all die.”
“If she does this thing without perfect accuracy,” Peter interpreted, his expression bland, “every part of me will be annihilated. It is a chance we must take.”
Midnight clutched Peter’s black overcoat, but she nodded with defeated acceptance.
Brahman stepped forward. “Any one of us could die.”
Peter shook his head violently. “We are not all needed. The rest of you go to save the others. I will stay with her. I can guide her as well as any.”
“If you think I am leaving her, you are utterly deluded,” Simon said, his eyes pinning Peter’s.
“As are you, if you think I will leave you,” Midnight added.
Lazarus stood. “I will stay.”
“We will all stay,” said Brahman. “We are stronger united. We do this and we move against Manish, and the rest. Together.”
Peter knew when to accept defeat. His shoulders slumped on a sigh. “Go to her Simon, prepare her.”
Simon’s soul felt like lead. “I will go. But know this, you will have that talk with her. You will not harm this woman with your distance.” Simon loved his friend like a brother but he knew Peter’s weaknesses well. He would seek to slip away rather than face the uncomfortable situation he caused.
Peter frowned. It was the look of a boy who must face the schoolmaster’s whip, but he gave a nod of acquiescence.
With a heavy heart, Simon went to the door and to Samantha. God help him. God help them all.
So now, Samantha must use her untrained powers to destroy the evil souls within Peter. But all will not go well. It is up to you to decide:
So now, Samantha must use her untrained powers to destroy the evil souls within Peter. But all will not go well. It is up to you to decide: