And from the annals of "oh crud, is it my turn?" comes the latest offering of A Kill in Time ...
(E.T.A. and there's also a bit of unpleasant language. Be warned ...)
Sam sagged against the waist-high wall that fenced the flat roof of the safe house, her chest burning in the aftermath of her blind flight up four turns of a twisted staircase. She sucked in a breath: chimney smoke and dampness and foul wafts burned her lungs and she coughed violently, expelling the poisonous air, and with it, the anger - the fear – that had made her flee that room.
After a moment her lungs ceased their spasming and she wiped her sleeve across her eyes. Bloody hell. It was too much. She gripped the damp brickwork before her. She should be on the couch, Frank beside her, with beers and Chinese take out between them. A knot tightened beneath her breastbone: she wanted to go home, to 2010 where things were normal and right and real.
Turning to face the world beyond the rooftop wall, Sam’s lips thinned to a grim line. She could not be further from home if she tried. In the distance, the face of Big Ben, a pale echo of the full moon above it, the tick of its workings loud in her ears as the waters of the Thames gurgled and bubbled below it. And closer, louder: the creak and groan of the rickety houses crammed cheek to jowl, the chaos of sound from the taverns and the narrow alleys. And closer still, the rattle and clank of horse and trap; a dog’s howl; a woman’s shriek, cut dead.
It was like the opening of a shutter to the morning light.
It’s real. All of it.
At once she saw everything anew. She felt a strengthening of her body and her mind, malleable clay now fired to hardness. No more denial. No more fear. She, and all that she could do, was real.
Sam heard him before he spoke. “Simon,” she said softly. She concentrated, focused, and above the noise in the streets she found the thrum of his racing heart.
“Sam. There is something I must ask –”
“I’ll do it.”
A pause. His boots crunched on the filthy roof as he stepped close. The heat of his body warmed her, through her clothes. “You don’t understand what it is you say.”
She turned her back on London and faced him. Only him. His face, pale as milk in the starlight, blonde hair shimmering.
“I do. Oh, I do. I heard you. Magda, Lazarus, Brahman.” Her mouth tilted sadly. “Peter.” The name sounded so wrong on her tongue. “He can’t remain as he is. I’ve got to remove those souls. And then they must be destroyed.”
Simon flinched. Emotions warred on his face. But Sam had never felt so sure, so right. Her strength filled her to her very core. She placed a hand upon his cheek. So soft. She slid her hand to the nape of his neck, fingers threading through his hair, and with a sigh of acceptance of everything, she drew him down to her mouth.
He did not resist. His lips pressed hard on hers, his tongue probing, hungry. He feathered his palms down her ribs until they settled upon the dip of her waist; his thumbs skimmed the undersides of her breasts and she met him, pressing herself into every cell of his body as they kissed.
It was a surrender, a melding. A claiming. When finally they parted, Sam tilted her face to Simon’s. He looked …
She pressed her fingers to his lips, stopping the words he tried to speak. “There’s nothing more to say,” she whispered. “Send for the others. I know what I must do.”
Magda, Brahman, Lazarus, Simon. They stood together on the rooftop, beneath the star dusted sky, encircling the one who must be saved.
Peter sat in the heavy, high-backed chair Brahman had carried to the roof. He held perfectly still, boots planted firmly, forearms resting on the thick, carved arms of the chair. Sam stood before him, studying the face pale oval of his face. His fingers curled. Then he nodded.
Sam turned. “Magda?”
Midnight stiffened a moment, then walked with the bearing of a queen to her lover.
From the arms of the chair hung two broad, leather straps; two more snaked from the fore legs. Without pause, Magda cinched and buckled a strap over Peter’s unresisting left wrist. Her sharp breaths rasped loudly in Sam’s ears but she did not falter, attending to Peter’s right wrist in the same efficient manner before kneeling in the grime to secure his ankles.
She was done. But she remained on her knees, head bowed.
Magda raised her head. Sam could not see her face, and was glad of it.
Peter smiled gently. “I will see you soon. I promise. And then, maybe, we shall see about rectifying your hair …”
Magda shivered. She reached out and cupped Peter’s face, gently sweeping her thumb over his lips. “You bastard,” she said, the ghost of a smile in her voice. “When this is done, I shall dye my locks tangerine, just to spite you.” Then she wrenched away and strode back to her place.
Sam cleared the thickness in her throat as Simon came to her. He took her left hand and solemnly slipped a thick silver band on her wedding finger. Their eyes met, and for an instant she weakened and allowed herself to believe the ceremony meant something else entirely … but then the ring began to glow. It was Olivia’s, Simon had explained; it was the chamber in which a soul must be captured before it could be destroyed. Sam had seen one before – the one Lazarus had tossed to Frank in the alleyway behind the police station, a lifetime ago when she’d thought Frank was a cop, and she’d loved him.
Sam snatched back her hand. Simon placed his hands on her shoulders, his brow creased with a thousand worries.
“Are you sure?”
Sam took a deep breath and slipped from the safety of his hands.
This is real.
She flashed him a smile that made her cheeks ache. “Let’s get this party started.”
The wind keened through the cracks in the rooftop wall, whipping Sam’s hair above her head as she stood, as she must, before Peter. Suddenly the core of strength that had sustained her this past hour was not enough. Her stomach roiled. This man – these people – would die if she was not up to the job. If she wasn’t good enough. She squared her shoulders. Fuck it. With all she’d seen and done, what was one lousy exorcism?
Peter, still desperately pale, mustered another smile. “That’s a girl. And if you’re quick about it, I’ll shout you that martini at … Retro’s wasn’t it?”
Her heart squeezed. “Deal.”
Sam stilled herself. Her breathing became shallow. She closed her eyes, and opened her mind.
This time she was prepared. The white heat boiled up inside her, just as it had in the parking lot, but instead of allowing it to consume her Sam remained above it, using it to probe outwards.
She found Peter. Ever so carefully she began to slice; down through Peter’s conscious mind, deeper and deeper. Love. Magda. The Others. Down to a throbbing centre that glowed in her mind’s eye like a sun. His soul. And then she could go no further. His soul had solidified to contain the two evil ones that lurked within it. Sam bit her lip; pulsed out, harder, listening, listening ..
Then she heard it. The Ripper’s soul, vile and hateful and crooked:
Let me out you bitch you whore I’ll slice out your innards your eyes your tits your CUNT!
The words hit Sam like blows and she staggered back. She opened her eyes. Peter jerked in the chair, limbs straining against the restraints. His spine arched; his jaw contorted, opening wider than humanly possible, as if on a hinge … and then there was blood, everywhere, pouring from his mouth, down his face, soaking his coat, his shoes.
“Now, damn you!” Magda’s cry shook Sam from her shock and she raised her left arm before her, flattening her fingers at Peter. The ring flashed diamond-bright, the energy within her roared and she let it go.
Power shot from her, splintering the night air with the sound of a thousand mirrors smashing. The next instant a shock wave raced back up her fingers, cold and hard and stinging. It took all her strength to keep her feet as her hand began to burn. The ring flared and -
Nothing. Everything stopped; the blood, the crashing in her head. Silence cloaked the rooftop.
Sam shivered, her hand a block of ice. She looked at Simon, but he was intent on Peter who hung from his restraints like a marionette with cut strings. Magda rushed forward with a stifled cry, placing her hand to Peter’s pulse. She shot Sam a look of naked hate.
“He’s alive. No thanks to you.”
Brahman rumbled. “God’s eyes; she did it.”
“Not all of it.” Lazarus spoke low and fast. “Hurry, girl. Peter’s defences are breached, the other soul may yet break free.”
Sam thrust her left hand to the stars and balled it into a fist. The white heat in her thrummed again, but this time Sam forced it to travel the circuit of her body, faster and faster, until a whirlpool of energy spun out from her fingertips, a foul, oily vortex that writhed and spun, gaining speed. A boom rang out. Sam blinked. The vortex had vanished. Nothing but starry sky and the smell of burning flesh remained. Sam let out her breath.
“It’s gone.” Simon spoke through whitened lips. “One more time, Sam. Quickly, now.”
Sam leveled her left arm at Peter once more. Closed her eyes. Suck out the fragment of Manish’s soul and this nightmare will be over. Sam sent out a pulse, down through the stratum to Peter’s soul, listening, listening.
A slither of blackest fog appeared in her mind. It undulated, turned, folded in on itself, a lazy amoeba.
Sam swallowed. Manish?
The fog bent in two. Almost a bow.
If you so wish; though I do prefer the moniker that sucking toad Lispenard coined for me. “The Master”. It has a certain je nais se quoi about it, hmm? There came a rasping laugh. Then: Regardless, it is only proper we be introduced before you fuck with my soul.
Sam’s eyes flew open and she swung round. Brahman, Lazarus, Magda, Peter, Simon… they were all frozen in place. No. Simon was moving, but so slowly. And his face … it was all wrong, his features flowing unnaturally …
Big Ben sounded the hour, twelve strikes. But it went on sounding, again and again and again. The hands of the great clock ground against their gears. Stilled. Then began to sweep backwards.
“What’s happening?” Sam cried.
What was always meant to be! The voice lashed the inside her skull. Peter stole a fragment of my soul. I retaliated … stole his memory, everyone’s memory, and replaced them. Even Lispenard’s.
Sam cut her glance to Peter. He was as immobile as the others. The voice in her head wasn’t coming from him, not like the Ripper's soul. This voice was here. On the roof top.
That, my dear, is when Nemo came to me.
Sam spoke, heart thudding in her chest as she turned in a slow circle and scanned the roof top. “Nemo would never -”
What do you know of the great Nemo, little girl? Peter snatched the fragment of my soul because Nemo wished to destroy it and weaken me forever. And I want it back because it is MINE!
The roof top undulated beneath Sam’s boots. The stars vibrated. Panic spiked in Sam’s chest: where was he? What was he?
But my soul was lost to us both, locked inside Peter while he did not know who he was, forgotten by everyone. So Nemo came to me. And we dealt, he and I. A gentlemans’ agreement. He wanted us to keep the status quo: Peter and the Others and my cohorts were never to regain their memories, while my soul would live within Peter … and Nemo, ah, he would give himself to me. The Fellowship with a weakened leader; the Others with none at all. Both sides neutralized. His precious humans saved.
He should have known better.
A sound like the grinding together of giant stones ripped through the air. Sam turned her head, horrified, as the hands of Big Ben sped up, the grinding growing louder and higher pitched until it was the whine of a turbine. The clock’s hands ran backwards, faster and faster so they became a blur. But in the distance she heard a scream, cutting above the whine of the clock; then another, then ten, then one hundred, a thousand, a million. Now, in the streets below the safe house, men, women and children ran out into the night, hands stopping their ears as they screamed and screamed and screamed.
Sam moaned, clutching her head as the dreadful noise stabbed through her skull.
Oh no. This is what must happen, Sammy girl. I’m winding back time and erasing the memories of a nation so all they will ever know is a world created by ME. And they are just the start of it.
Big Ben’s chime rang out, scratched and raw as a seventy’s vinyl.
And I have you to thank, Samantha. Your little Ripper investigation in the twenty-first century ignited the series of shocks that finally made Peter remember who he really was, and what he carried inside him. You unlocked my soul; and now, I’m taking it back.
Sam forced herself to swing round. Peter writhed in his chair, face and limbs contorting. Manish was stealing back his soul. She staggered to the chair. Teeth clenched against the horror in her mind, Sam thrust out her left arm and pulsed into Peter.
Laughter rolled in her head. You think you can best me, when even the great Nemo could not?
An invisible force hit her, knocking her down. Her head cracked upon the ground, snuffing out the white heat of her anger. Dazed, Sam lay in the filth, the screams and the screech of the clock clawing at her brain.
This is real, girl. REAL!
Sam shook her head, dragged up to her knees and turned back to the chair.
Simon had ripped free of his invisible bonds and was running towards the chair. Peter shimmered, blurred, began to fade. Simon leaped, grabbed the arms of the great chair as a brilliant light flashed across the sky.
They were gone.
“You bastard!” Sam’s anger roared to life. White heat pumped through her veins and she thrust her fist to the sky.
The world shattered. Sam slammed back against the rooftop wall, pinned there by a roaring force that kept coming and coming, so hard she felt her bones begin to bend beneath it.
Silver hair flashed. A white hand caught at her sleeve. Sam felt the air gather and swell. Then an explosion ripped across the rooftop and, limbs entangled, Magda and Sam pitched head first over the wall.
And over to you.