Goodbye My Friend by Leon Burstein

sad love

Sun rising in the morning

Sun rising in the morning

White clouds passing us by

Shadows of friends in my mind now

Images all around -Time passes by

Where do we go my friend?

How far away are we from before?

I’ll always have you in my mind.

Tell me, tell me why I feel this way

Tell me, tell me why my friend.

 

Remember the things that we’ve done

Hide those tears now my friend

The clouds have passed us by

With images of you, my friend.

Till we meet again my friend

Till we meet again my friend

No time for tears my friend

Only time for memories

No time to say goodbye

It’s time to say goodbye

Till we meet again my friend.

 

(I am in shock discovering this poem which I had not seen until today. It has left me speechless. Leon’s death was sudden – we did not have the chance to say goodbye. Sometimes poetry serves the strangest purposes.)

We Will Be There by Leon Burstein

Image

We Will Be There

Sometimes when you close your eyes

I look at you and hear laughter and hope

And wonder where I went wrong – to feel so down

Reach out to me, please, reach out in love.

I am waiting for you, waiting, smiling over a mask of pain

Hold my hand so we can be there for each other

Always.

Help me – I need your love

I stretch out my hand to you

Support me so I can support you.

Help me so I can smile with joy

So you can hear my laughter

You are my hope.

I close my eyes, feel you beside me

And know my hope and joy is all in you.

We will be there for each other

Always.

I Love You by Leon Burstein

lost love

The four seasons of love always return

The new life of spring

The heat of summer

The mellowness of autumn

The cold of winter’s days.

In each we have our helloes and goodbyes.

 

In spring I hold you lightly, brightly

A smiling fresh  love.

In summer, my love is warm and rich

Autumn when the leaves begin to fall

And we do not know which way the wind blows

Our love is gentle, sweet.

When winter turns its cold upon us

We snuggle beneath a quilt of love

On frosty air our  helloes and goodbyes

Are puffs of loving warmth.

 

And as the seasons change

Our love keeps pace

I love you in all seasons

Winter Autumn Summer and Spring

I love you, I will love you forever

Love you, love you, love you

Each season of love

It is true

I love you, I do.

 

(This poem was written for me around our last Valentine’s Day)

The Mighty Sea by Leon Burstein

Image        THE MIGHTY SEA

 

I stand on a high grey cliff

Overlooking the mighty sea

And turn my head towards the sky

Watch sea birds fly above so high.

I see the early morning mist

As it engulfs me like a cloak

That keeps me from the bitter cold

Up on this cliff so high.

 

I look again to you, great sea

I hear your waves, a thunderous roar.

I see the might that you enjoy

Beneath the thunder you employ

Your waves that dash on rocky shore.

What more could man ask of you, sea

A symbol, sight and sound so free.

 

Free form poem written by my precious late husband, who never developed his talent but could have moments of true beauty in his words

 

Dark Road 

by  Michele Burstein.                                                            Image

 

‘Qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum, Illuc unde negant redire quemquam.’      [‘CARMINA’,Catullus.]

‘Now is he treading that dark road to the place from which they say no-one has ever returned.’

                  

Outline of the Plot:

 

He awakens alone in a plush hotel suite in Auckland, New Zealand and discovers two things; he is very rich and very confused. His personal identity has disappeared and only a few fragments of memory remain to torment him. Little by little, he pieces the fragments together. Somehow, he has survived a terrible accident, but the full truth of his situation only becomes clear after his terrified lawyer sends him on a visit to a cemetery.

 

He visits a family crypt and learns his identity and destiny. He has returned to exact revenge, not only for what was done to him, but for what was done to his father and step-mother. He sets out to destroy three murderers, his two older brothers and his cousin.

 

He begins with the cousin, Keller Hahn; unscrupulous, scheming and both alone and lonely. His nature and skills have left him without friends. Kieran becomes everything that Keller has ever wanted in a friend, and when the lawyer trusts him completely, Kieran cuts him loose, literally.

 

Garrick Mallory is next. The brother who loved to hunt and kill becomes the hunted. He dies as he dealt death, in terror and alone.

 

The final victim is Eduard Mallory, the oldest brother and instigator of the murders. Kieran uses Eduard’s one great weakness to destroy him, his beloved and beautiful daughter, Illona.

 

Kieran learns, as he proceeds, the full extent of his powers and limitations. He takes what fate and his strange Celtic background have given him and uses it to destroy the guilty, comfort the innocent and balance the proverbial scales.

 

As the weeks turn into months, Kieran becomes more and more powerful. When his task is apparently completed, he remains; an avenging angel or demon of death? Only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One. Awakening

 

His head hurt. He winced as the early morning sun glinted callously through the uncurtained glass of a huge window. The bed on which he lay resembled a battleground. Edging carefully off the silk sheets, groaning as his feet touched the carpet, the man sat upright.

 

As he walked unsteadily towards the open door of the bathroom, he ignored the harbour scene visible through the tinted glass of the window. Groping for the cold water tap and finding it, he proceeded to splash his face gratefully. He dried off, also by touch, and then looked up into the wide curved mirror.

 

The marble was warmer than his shaking fingers as he felt reality slip away. The reflection staring back at him was totally unfamiliar – a stranger. Eyes that were so dark they appeared black, raked his face. He lifted a hand and touched his squarish jaw. The mirror responded and reflected a frown.

“Wha… ?”

A husky voice sounded in his ears and he spun around, an action he regretted. His head throbbed. And he was alone. He had simply voiced his thoughts.

Slowly, he turned back to the mirror. The alien reflection was waiting patiently for him.

“Who the hell are you?” he muttered to the reflection. No answer.

 

He examined the unresponsive image carefully. The long dark hair falling over his eyes framed a strong angular face. Large dark eyes topped a straight nose, prominent cheek-bones and a wide full mouth. If he’d been able to see objectively, difficult at the best of times, which this definitely was not, he would have seen a stunningly handsome man of around twenty-eight who was badly in need of a tidy-up. The muscled body looked fit and strong, although ‘something’ did not look ‘right’. What that ‘something’ was, the man was not certain. The word, ‘incomplete’ floated through his jumbled thoughts.

 

While not dissatisfied with what he saw, the man wished he could see just one feature, one item that was familiar. But there was nothing – not in his surroundings, not on his body. Nothing, from the black hair falling in his eyes to the black v on his lower abdomen, seemed to belong to him. Not even that part of him that should have been most comfortably ‘him’ seemed right.

“Best put you away,” he mumbled crossly to the offending organ, before looking up. He avoided the mirror and reached for a pair of black briefs lying on the vanity top. They suited his mood.

 

Back in the bedroom, he picked up a pair of rumpled jeans. They look like I feel, he thought miserably. He pulled them on and completed the outfit with a sweat shirt which had been lying across a chair. As he completed dressing, he caught sight of himself again. The now-distant bathroom mirror flared, rippled while pain stabbed viciously at the man’s head. The reflection was blond. Together, man and reflection clutched at their heads and fell to their knees. Now there was familiarity, but still no name, no identity. Who was he?

 

He allowed his breathing to return to normal, before he got up uncertainly and moved to the dresser. Here, a smaller mirror reflected the dark stranger. The man sighed. His confusion was beginning to irritate him, when he caught sight of a bulging leather wallet.

 

In it, he found a bank-card, which bore the name, Kieran E. Doyle. There was also an ample amount of cash and a cheque-book, with a computer print-out statement folded neatly inside. The man almost choked as he registered the multi-million dollar balance.

 

“Faaa..wha…,” he muttered, “how could I forget something like this?”

However, there was one consolation besides the money. He had a name. Kieran, he repeated to himself. He wondered what the E stood for. Like the strange face in the mirror, the name was unfamiliar. Nothing made sense.

A knock on the door was such an intrusion into the strange sense of unreality enveloping him that he literally jumped off the floor.

“Who – who is it?” he shouted, his voice strained and harsh. A neatly uniformed attendant came in with a silver salver, on which lay a white envelope.

“It’s Bevan and it’s ten o’clock, Mr. Doyle, sir.” The tray was held out. “Your reply from Mr. Vaughn.”

“Thank you, Bevan.” He handed over a sizeable tip and opened the envelope, hoping desperately for some new clue. He was disappointed. The message was simple. ‘Signing final transfer of capital, Tues. 7th November, 3 pm at my offices. Must be face to face as per instructions in will. Shannon Vaughn.’

 

Kieran folded the envelope and slipped it into the pocket of his jeans. He turned to the attendant, who was busy dealing with the chaos in the room.

“Bevan,” he began, as nonchalantly as he could, “would you do something for me?”

“Anything, Mr. Doyle, you know that.”

“I need my notebook and my ipad and mobile – do you know where I put them?

“Up here, Mr. Doyle!”

 

Bevan moved to the sliding door of the huge walk-in robe. There were no clothes but there was an expensive looking black briefcase on to top shelf, almost out of sight. “You asked me to put it here last night.”

“Right – of course,” rejoined Kieran, forcing a smile. He took the proffered briefcase from the attendant.

“Shall I have Toby bring your car around for you, sir?”

“Great, yes, thanks.” Kieran was pleased someone appeared to know what was going on.

 

It was clear from the attendant’s attitude that he had been in the hotel for a number of days. He was known and respected. He decided to take a chance.

“Bevan?”

“Yes, Mr. Doyle?”

“What happened last night? I just don’t seem to be able to remember much.”

“You were celebrating, sir.” Bevan seemed embarrassed. “Yvette is on reception this morning, if you want to speak to her.”

 

Kieran groaned inwardly. He didn’t want to speak to this ‘Yvette’, but knew he’d have to if he hoped to get any idea of what was going on.

“Yes, send her up please.”

 Bevan was smiling when he closed the door, leaving Kieran even more irritated than he’d been before.

 

He searched the suite methodically. He needed information, but found frustratingly little. A second rifle of the wallet had produced an old photograph. It showed a pretty woman of around thirty, her face haloed by a cloud of blond hair. Kieran found the photo behind $2850, all pristine plastic. He sat on the bed and sighed. He was getting nowhere. Absent-mindedly, he flipped the photograph over and read the inscription on the back. It was a sonnet. Shakespearean, he thought. He screwed up his eyes to make out the tiny printing.

           

 

 

‘My Beloved Son,
Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should another
It is a fresh repair thou can renewest
And so beguile the world, unbless some brother.
For who is he so brave to leave the womb
To face the image of thy legacy?
Or whom is he so strong will face the tombWhat’s wrong with me
Alone to drift into obscurity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee
Has given life to all that’s gone before;
So thou through all eternity shalt see
Success in all thy works, thy golden store.
For when thou livest not, remember this and be.
Thine image, son, it will not die with thee.

Shakespearean possibly – but not Shakespeare. The sonnet was familiar but personal. He felt the words were written for him, no one else. And the odd symbol above the poem bothered him. As he read and re-read the words of the poem, Kieran grew cold. He retreated into a mind that had gone maddeningly blank. The photo and the poem were vital clues he was utterly unable to decipher. He slipped the briefcase on to the bed and knew he’d have to check his notebook and mobile for anything more familiar.

He did not hear the soft rap on the door that opened a few moments later. A slender girl checked the corridor and then slipped furtively into the room. She was as immaculately uniformed as Bevan had been. Quietly, she walked over to the still figure on the bed. When he did not look up, she knelt in front of him.

“You all right, Kieran?” she asked. There was no response. Alarm prickled through her. “Kieran!” she repeated, touching his face, with a perfectly manicured fingertip.

The man squeezed his eyes shut and sighed heavily.

Yvette laughed with relief.

“I was worried about that bottle of champagne I left you with!” Her eyes were sparkling. “So what’s the grand total?”

 

“I haven’t seen my lawyer yet.” He couldn’t believe he had told someone something he couldn’t even remember. He was disgusted with himself. Yvette’s laughter interrupted his thoughts.

“God, I’ve never known anyone with so much money before.”

He looked at her in astonishment. “You did show me your bank statement, you know! You didn’t think I was just after your gorgeous body, did you?” She slipped a hand between his legs. Kieran was horrified to feel the strange creature he’d spotted earlier, stirring appreciatively. He rolled away, before he knew he wouldn’t want to. What could he say? Don’t touch – you don’t know whose it is? I don’t know whose it is! Yvette’s face shadowed.

 

“What is it, you beautifuleresthaneverything man? Am I ugly? Why don’t you want me? Surely you know I’d do anything for you.”

Kieran had the strangest feeling he’d had this conversation before he realised that the girl had not spoken. He tried to mask the shock, the gooseflesh he felt creeping up his arms and neck.  He knew this was something he couldn’t, shouldn’t do.

“I feel really lousy, Yvette,” he said, as apologetically as he could. Yvette accepted his sincerity.

“You should have said!” She touched Kieran’s brow. “You’re not hot,” she said, “quite the opposite, in fact – you’re really cool. You couldn’t have a chill, could you?”

“Don’t think so,” said Kieran, grateful to have diverted Yvette’s attention away from his ‘gorgeous body.’  “I just don’t feel myself, that’s all. And I’ve got an appointment with my lawyer. God!” he added.

“Poor baby,” murmured Yvette. “Can I get you anything else? Some aspirin?” Kieran didn’t know why, but the idea of taking tablets, of eating or drinking anything, in fact, filled him with apprehension.

 

“No,” he said quickly. “I’ve just got a few things to see to and then I must get going.” He frowned, as he heard Yvette again, her mouth unmoving. It was like listening to a radio, with its volume turned so low, it was almost inaudible. ‘What is wrong with me?’ a voice murmured softly. ‘Lady Antebellum, I’d give anything to get him into bed – anything.”

It was Yvette’s voice, but her mouth still did not move.

“I’ll leave you to it then,” said Yvette, aloud her lips forming the words this time. Then her lips closed, slightly pursed. ‘I don’t want to go, you gorgeous jerk – ask me to stay – please, please, please!’ continued the tiny radio voice. Then out loud,

 “See you later?”

 Kieran nodded, smiling wanly, as she disappeared around the door.

 

Thoughts, he told himself. That’s what I heard. I could hear her thinking. “I could hear her thinking,” he said out loud to the empty room.

At least he’d done nothing he might regret later. That was something for which to be grateful. He put aside the disturbing nature of what he had just experienced and picked up the notebook. He flipped it open and turned it on. It was fully charged but the desktop looked factory plain. He spotted a bank’s logo and clicked on it. It contained one file – the bank statement he had already seen.

 

Suddenly, he was less agitated. This, at least, was a partial memory. He remembered he had a laptop, a mobile and a small, slim ipad. He keyed through each icon. There was nothing personal behind any of the others. He got the same result from the mobile and the reader. Nothing was personalized. Everything was new. He had nothing from Bevan, nothing from Yvette, but those thoughts. If she realized what he had picked up from her, she would have died of embarrassment. Who, he thought to himself again, who and what am I and what in the name of all of our great, wide, wonderful creation has happened to my memory?

He left the laptop where it was and returned to the bathroom. Facing the stranger defiantly, he combed the long, unruly hair back into a tidy ponytail. As he straightened clothing over the unfamiliar body, he challenged the reflection.

Somebody must know something! He thought vaguely.  He nodded and then smiled grimly as the dark stranger nodded and smiled with him. “Shannon Vaughn seems as good a place as any to start.,” he told the stranger.

 

He was about to turn away when the mirror flared and rippled. The dark stranger melted away, a dummy in a wax museum fire. When the figure reformed, it was the familiar blonde. This time, the left side of the face was a bloodied gargoyle. Where eye and cheekbone should have been was a mess of crushed bone fragments and flesh.

 

Kieran’s hand shot to his face and touched smooth skin. The apparition vanished in another series of melting ripples and the dark stranger reappeared. ‘What have you been taking?’  he asked the reflection, not to engender an answer, but to stop the unpleasant heavings storming through his stomach. Whatever I’ve taken, he told himself, it’s more than the bottle of champagne.

The lift carried Kieran silently to the ground floor. To his relief, Yvette was busy with a group of Japanese tourists. An older woman with a name tag that proclaimed,, “Ms Judith Austen, Senior Reception”, came towards him. Kieran held out his keys. The woman smiled at him, but it was not a comfortable smile. It was ingratiating.

“Transfer any calls to your mobile, Mr.. Doyle?” she asked.

 

Car, he thought. God, my car!

“Could I just check I’ve given you the correct details?” he asked lamely. He hoped the something would tell him what make of car he owned. The woman flipped through a few names on the computer screen. She found his details and turned the screen towards him.

“Here we are – 029 3335431. Correct?” Kieran scanned the screen.

“Thank you, yes.”

 

He gazed around distractedly. He was picking up the soft radio signal again. This time it was the senior receptionist’s voice. Her lips moved, as she said aloud,

“Something wrong, Mr.. Doyle?” The little radio voice said, ‘What’s eating him? What could possibly worry anyone with his looks and money. If I was a few years younger…’

 

The voice trailed away, as Kieran hurried across the foyer. The woman’s thoughts worried him. He would have to work out a way of shutting off these transmissions. They were embarrassing him. How would the thinkers feel if they knew he could hear them?

 

Besides, he had seen what he wanted. He owned a Bentley – a black Bentley. Oh no, he thought, why not a black hearse. I’ll scream if it has tinted windows.

 

Doors swished open as he approached. The footman handed him a keyring. He took it and was escorted to a magnificent late model Bentley with deeply tinted windows. The interior of the car was invisible. Kieran sighed, as the footman opened the door for him. How had he known about the windows? He just had.

 

Kieran had another surge of hope. Not everything had been lost. These partial memories felt like a refuge where he could hide his battered psyche. He didn’t bother with his briefcase and its contents, nor the wallet and mobile that were tucked into the pockets of his jacket. He took the jacket off and flung it over the briefcase on the passenger seat. Instead, he looked around the plush interior of the car. There was a Bluetooth adapter attached to the upper windscreen, a Navman on the dashboard, all the interiors were leather and wood-look fittings. It was a classically beautiful car. I have good taste, he told himself.

 

What now? Even more importantly, where? He looked at the dashboard clock. 11.05 am on Tuesday the 7th of November, outside the Hyatt  in Auckland New Zealand. An hour before lunch. Six weeks before Christmas. God, this is getting me nowhere, he thought irritably.

A loud hooting startled him. In his rear vision mirror, he saw a stretch limousine waiting to draw up to the doors of the hotel. He waved in acknowledgement and pulled off.

 

Once he put the window up, only indication he had that the car was actually running was the soft hum of the air conditioner. Kieran slipped into the one-way traffic flowing passed the hotel. He had no idea where he was going.

“Where to?” he shouted to some entity above the car roof. When he refocused on the road, he found he had drifted into the turn-right lane. Great, he thought. Autopilot. He forced himself to stop thinking and drove.

 

 He cruised down a short stretch of motorway and then pulled off to his left again. The tree-lined streets held beautiful homes with immaculate gardens. Most would be classed as estates. This was a neighborhood of old money. Kieran could feel it. The road grew quite steep and Kieran found himself turning left and then right almost immediately. He pulled over to the side of an oak-lined lane, a cul-de-sac. It provided access to two private estates. Opposite the homes there was a walkway leading into a reserve. The entrance to the larger estate at the end of the cul-de-sac was directly in front of the Bentley, while a second was to his right. Destination – or delusion, he wondered.

 

His dark eyes examined every detail in the lane. The place felt ‘wrong’ somehow. All three streetlights showed tattered fragments of glass and bulb, yet there was no glass below the broken lamps. Why would lamps in such a condition be left unrepaired in an area like this? It would be dark here at night, thought Kieran, very, very dark. Both houses were well off the road and the properties heavily treed. The estates had matching crests on their gates. One family, two properties. That was clear.

 

Then he caught sight of the name of the lane. Another partial memory hit him hard. Mallory Lane – Mallory – so familiar. Why? This was important. His eyes were tightly shut with the effort of searching for the reluctant memories he knew had to be lurking somewhere in his subconscious.

 

This time he felt, rather than saw the rippling flare. When he looked up, he found himself eye to pale green eye with the second reflection that seemed to be haunting his day.

“You again?” asked the blond in the rear vision mirror. Kieran touched his hair. So did the blond. Kieran frowned. So did the blond. There has to be a reason for this, he told himself. There has to be.

 

He stared into the clear, pale eyes and let go. Hopes, fears, constant internal chatter – he stopped it dead and went blank. He simply allowed the blond to take him where he wanted to go.

 

 

He sees a car. It is a Porsche, silver-grey. He feels his limbs carry him towards the bullet-like vehicle. He opens the driver’s door. Two Rottweillers rush to him. They look up at him eagerly, their stumpy tails dancing. He feels himself smiling. He reaches out a hand to pat the dogs and feels the warm wet tongues. He smells the dog musk as he bends to them and says goodbye. He hears himself laugh as one of the dogs licks his ear.

 

He climbs into the car, starts the engine, waves to the dogs and reverses into an oak-lined lane. As he turns into the main street, he sees few cars. It appears to be mid-afternoon. He knows he is heading for the airport and aims for the motorway. He is eager to open up the powerful engine.

 

He sees a long clear stretch before him and puts his foot down. The Porsche responds with a perfection that is beyond mechanical. He feels his heart pound, as the suburbs flash by. He catches a glimpse of the driver in the rear vision mirror. Blond hair whipped by the wind, green eyes sparkling, mouth smiling. He senses a clear run. He knows no radar is clocking his speed.

 

All too soon, he sees the off ramp that marks the turn-off to the airport. His foot moves to the brake and hits the floor of the car – no resistance – no brakes. He feels himself reach for the handbrake. The same thing. Fear prickles through his groin and down his legs. His momentum carries him towards the exit at hideous speed. Straight towards an articulated truck making its slow way towards him. He hears himself pray that the truck will turn left out of his way. It doesn’t. The articulator moves directly into his path.

 

Despairing, he slams the gear lever into first as he spins the wheel to the right. He sees the bulk of the articulator and then the grey of the tarmac, as the Porsche flips. He goes cold. He feels rushing air, sees the tarmac as he flies towards it, head first. Agony.

He had to slow his breathing down before he dared to open his eyes. When he did, he found himself staring into the blood-shot eyes of the dark stranger.

 “No way …”he asked out loud, “I lived through that?” There was no reply. He felt completely lost. He knew the vision he had experienced was a memory, but it was not the kind of memory for which he’d been hoping.

 

At a complete loss, he checked his watch and discovered he had been parked in the lane for more than three hours. It was 2.45 pm. Shannon Vaughn was expecting him in fifteen minutes. Maybe the lawyer knew something about the accident. He would certainly ask. Thoughts of plastic surgery jostled busily with the idea that there is a logical explanation for everything. Kieran checked the note from his lawyer and gave the Navman the correct address.

He pulled up outside the older high-rise in Symonds Street and spotted the parking basement. He soon parked in a ‘Client Only’ space allotted to “Shannon Vaughn and Associates”. He placed his note on the dashboard so it was clearly visible. He felt he had only just become acquainted with his Bentley but he did not want it towed or clamped. It provided an anchor for him now, one he felt he sorely needed. He put on his jacket, took his briefcase and headed for the exit.

 

The meticulously refurbished building contained various legal offices and it took Kieran several minutes on the seventh floor to locate the  “Shannon Vaughn and Associates”. nameplate on a suite door. A buzz from a hidden alarm sounded as Kieran made his way into the offices. The wooden panelling and the autumn-toned carpeting and blinds were warm and inviting. There was no-one around. A secretary’s desk was immaculate. The chair pushed in, computer keyboard and monitor covered. The afternoon off?

 

Kieran heard a faint scuffling from behind the closed door of the main office. The door opened slightly but there was no sign of the lawyer. Kieran stuck his head around the door and saw a man sitting behind a massive desk on the far side of the room. He did not look up from the papers he was scrutinizing.

 

“Mr. Vaughn? It’s Kieran Doyle. I received your message to be here at three.” He was irritated by the lawyer’s apparent rudeness. Then he noticed the man’s hands. He was clutching the desk so hard his knuckles were blue-white. Even the force of the grip could not disguise the fact that Shannon Vaughn was trembling like a shack in an earthquake.

 

 Kieran could not register the man’s thoughts. When he tried, he picked up a powerful static crackle – The man knew how to block his thoughts, which meant he knew Kieran would have the ability to ‘hear’ his thoughts.

 

When the lawyer spoke, his voice had a strangled quality, making harsh what should have been a soft Irish lilt.

“This had to be done. I made a promise to your mother.”

Kieran stepped towards the desk, a multitude of questions wanting voice. The lawyer sensed his movement and shrank even further into his chair.

“Don’t come any closer!” he pleaded, in a very small voice. “Please!”

 

Kieran stood still in the centre of the room. The man’s fear was intense – so intense it hit Kieran like a cold fist. He let the man continue.

 

“I knew your mother for a very long time. We grew up together in Kilmallock. That’s in CountyLimerick in Ireland. We were like brother and sister – we did – many things together. When she set off for New Zealand, I had to follow.” He sensed Kieran’s question before it was asked. “Please don’t ask me anything yet. I am bound to your late mother. I made promises – oaths, which could not be broken.”

 

He placed a hand on a wooden box next to the papers before him. Another jolt of familiarity. Kieran had seen the box before. “All this had to be made available to you. A legal nightmare. But there are ways to accomplish almost anything. Your mother knew this. I only wish I had believed everything she told me.”

 

Kieran tried to speak, but again the lawyer silenced him.

“Please, just let me speak.” A shuddering sigh was drawn from the lawyer. “You were told not to drink alcohol, yet you have done this.”

 

Kieran was astonished, opened his mouth to speak, but was given no chance. “I know because you have quite obviously forgotten much of what you were told. In …” The man struggled to articulate his words. “In your present condition, you are vulnerable. Alcohol affects your thought processes. You should neither eat nor drink – but if you must, as a social necessity, drink anything but alcohol.”

 

Kieran began to doubt the man’s sanity. What he was saying was not making sense. Except he had lost a good deal of his memory and the lawyer seemed to know why. His thoughts became even more confused as the lawyer continued.

“There is only so much I can – so much I will tell you.” The lawyer corrected himself. “Your mother told me this would have to be done. She was right, although I don’t think I ever believed her – until this arrived.” He patted the familiar wooden box. The lawyer took a deep breath. “I have held your mother’s sealed will until now. You had to claim it. Your mother was extremely wealthy. She invested her money wisely, and all in the name of Kieran Doyle, the name she bequeathed you, along with her wealth.”

 

Kieran risked an interruption. He had to.

“That isn’t my birth name, is it?” He wanted to add, ‘And this isn’t my face’, but he couldn’t add to the lawyer’s already intense distress. Vaughn shook his head.

“No, it is not – please don’t interrupt. After you had the documents delivered to me on Friday, I had the initial work done, your bank accounts established etc. You collected your cheques and card yesterday. Now I have all the others monies ready for handing over. Please put your laptop on the desk.”

 

Kieran did so, noticing how the man shrank back as he moved closer. “Have you remembered your password?”

A memory cleared.

“e1r1ck2” he said quickly.

The lawyer was keying in the password. He was busy for some minutes. When he finished, he pushed the laptop back to the very edge of the desk. “That is complete.” He said as he shuffled the papers in front of him. Kieran returned the laptop to his briefcase.

 

The lawyer’s voice was more business-like. Now he was dealing with something he understood. He selected a multi-layered document and put it, with a pen, again, on the very edge of his desk. “Please sign on the spots I have indicated. There are six signatures required. I take it you can recall a signature.” He stared at the surface of his desk for a few moments before adding, “If you can’t recall a signature, create one and remember it.” Kieran stepped forward, picked up the pen and complied with the lawyer’s instructions. As he completed the last signature, another sheaf of papers was placed in front of him. This was repeated nine times in absolute silence.

 

Finally Kieran moved back into the centre of the room. The lawyer gathered all the papers together. His hands were trembling, his voice still strangled with tension.

“All nine hundred and ninety two million dollars worth of assets and monies are now legally at your disposal. You have direct access to all the funds at your own discretion and you can deal directly with your bank. I will continue to handle your taxes and other legal requirements until you instruct me otherwise”

He fell head-first into a deep well of silence. Kieran was surprised to see the man look up, his face contorted with emotion. He had the impression the man was curious, despite his fear.

 

“Why,” Kieran asked softly, after a few more silent moments, ” are you so afraid of me?” He wasn’t certain the lawyer had heard him and was about to repeat his question, when Vaughn spoke. His voice was so soft, Kieran wondered at his ability to distinguish each word. The lawyer’s eyes were exploring the terrain of his face.

 

“You’re not what I expected – not at all.” The Irish lilt in the voice was now unmistakable. A smile went some way towards relaxing his features. He continued, as though talking to himself. “What was I expecting – that’s good!”

 

Kieran responded to the rhetorical statement.

“Perhaps someone with blond hair and green eyes?” A peculiar rippling sensation had taken hold of Kieran. Vaughn’s expression froze into a mask of pure horror. His eyes were wide, his mouth slack. Kieran didn’t know how he knew, but he was certain the lawyer had just witnessed the arrival of the blond he last saw in the rear vision mirror of the Porsche. It was a physical appearance the lawyer recognized.

 

Kieran squeezed his eyes shut, fought down the rippling sensations and focused on the dark features of the man he knew as Kieran Doyle. He heard the lawyer speak.

“Try to control your thoughts – you must never let that happen in front of someone again.” He gasped as though he’d been running. “You have to understand what has happened to you – what you are. Yes – I know what  you are and  No,” he added quickly, his voice raising until he was almost shouting, “I cannot tell you. You wouldn’t believe me if I did. It is something you must learn for yourself.” 

 

He snatched up a piece of paper and the pen Kieran had used. After scribbling furiously for over a minute, he screwed the paper up and pushed it towards Kieran. “Take this. Follow the instructions specifically – all of them. The rest is up to you.”

 

When Kieran opened his eyes, he saw the paper the lawyer was holding. He leaned across the desk and pulled it from the tense fingers. When their hands touched, Vaughn reacted as though he’d touched a live electric wire. Breath hissed in over the lawyer’s teeth. He nursed his hand. Kieran wavered between feelings of somehow having been insulted and feelings of deep sympathy. The man was a wreck.

 

“I’ll leave now, Mr. Vaughn,” said Kieran, pocketing the slightly torn instruction sheet. He allowed the sympathy to override the offence. As he reached the door, he turned and added, “Thank you – and I’m sorry this meeting caused you such distress.” Vaughn looked up again. He nodded once. Kieran closed the door and heard Shannon Vaughn, forty-six years old, successful lawyer and happily married father of three beautiful daughters, weep like an injured child. 

Chapter ends.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two. Lessons.

Vaughn’s instructions were as puzzling as his fear. The address directed Kieran to a church with adjoining graveyard near Port Waikato. It took him until five in the afternoon to get there. The old stone building nestled into the hillside overlooking a harbour.

 

The graveyard was surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and was sheltered by numerous well-established English oaks. Kieran wondered if there was a connection with the oaks in Mallory Lane.  Following Vaughn’s instructions carefully, Kieran found himself at the very back of the graveyard, right next to the old church.

 

He was standing outside a formal family crypt, built to resemble a small Greek temple. The triangular pediment featured an abstract relief sculpture of leaves and vines. These symbols of life and fertility adorning a tomb, struck Kieran as odd.

 

Down a short flight of stairs next to a pair of padlocked doors, was a bronze plaque, which gleamed like gold in the slanted rays of the afternoon sun. It bore a simple inscription.
‘MALLORY – A peaceful rest for all who bear the name’.

Mallory, the name of the lane he had driven to that morning. His family name. It had to be. This had to be his family vault. That was why Vaughn had sent him here. But why was the vault so far from the family homes?

 

It was only when he faced the padlock, that Kieran felt silly. He was glad there was nobody around. Why had Vaughn not told him the place was locked? The silly feeling gave way to irritation. He took the padlock in his hand and tugged it. He was astonished when it opened. He was certain the shackle had been secured in the lock. He removed the padlock, opened one door and slipped the padlock back through the catch. He pushed the shackle home. Once again, he focused on the feeling of wanting the lock open. It obliged, the shackle slipping silently out of the lock. Kieran frowned at it, stored the information away and turned to the vault.

 

Vaughn’s instructions repeated themselves in Kieran’s mind as he entered the dim interior of the tomb. The air was still. The only sounds were the gentle piping of birds in the nearby trees and the distant blast of a passing ship’s horn.

 

Eight coffins lay in niches along the north wall. There were four empty niches. Each of the twelve spaces was identified by a small brass number. The occupied niches also bore plaques identifying the occupants. The west wall was pierced by two lancet windows through which the afternoon sun was gleaming.

 

Matching mahogany coffins in the east corner belonged to Fergus Mallory and his wife, Edith Aylwin Mallory. Both had died thirty years ago. The next three caskets belonged to Obelia Butler Mallory, Sylvia Todd Mallory and Bridget Gale Mallory. All had been married to Darius Mallory and all had been dead for more than fifteen years.

 

The three most recent occupants had died within days of each other. Samantha Ronan Mallory had died on October 20th. Darius Mallory, on October 21th and Kenyon Mallory on October 26th. Kieran walked slowly next to the tiered coffins, running his fingers over the dark polished wood. He wanted more than anything, to delay following Vaughn’s last bizarre instruction. What was he supposed to learn here? He could feel memories seething like steam in a pressure cooker. But there was no release. Damn that champagne! How could he have been so stupid?

 

He reached the coffin of Bridget Gale, his fingers stopping inches away from the ornate handle. He was afraid. Why? Bridget Gale was my mother, he thought suddenly. Darius must have been my father and Bridget my mother. Still, he hesitated.

“It’s only a coffin, for God’s sake,” he told himself. His voice sounded eerily muffled in the still air. Suitably rebuked, he placed his hand gently on the smooth surface.

The vault has disappeared. He is standing on a cold hillside. The lights of a city blink in the distance. A heavy coldness weighs on his limbs. A few meters in front of him, stands a woman and her tall robed companion. He cannot see the companion’s face. The woman is in sharp focus.

She is weeping. Her blond hair is whipped back by a strong chill wind. Her belly is huge and on it, rests the companion’s left hand. Kieran hears words borne to him on the wind.

‘The gift is strong in him, Bridget – so strong.”

The woman’s voice interrupts.

“But might that not save him?”

 

The voices have a strange quality. Kieran understands what they say, although they do not speak in English. They speak in a tongue, at once melodic and sad. It is an ancient tongue. He knows this, as certainly as he knows Bridget Gale is his mother. The companion speaks to her.

“Although you will teach him to hide his gift, Bridget, one day its power will betray him for he is Eiric. You must prepare for him.”

“So I will travel forward, while he remains?” The woman’s hands clasp over the companion’s. She holds his hand under hers, a protective gesture.

“He will have power, Bridget. You will give him life. Death will give him power.”

 

Kieran grew colder. The companion’s words took his thoughts to a place he did not want to go. He struggled to withdraw, fighting the immobility which had him in thrall. He clutched at his head and fell to his knees in the dust near the coffins. Kieran looked around the vault. The late afternoon air seemed suspended in time. Even the birds had fallen silent. He crawled back to the coffin of his mother. He had to know more. The scene he had witnessed raised more questions than it answered.

“What ‘gift’ did I have, Mother?” he murmured. “What gift and what power?” He touched the gleaming wood

and looks up into a face framed by a cloud of pale golden hair. He feels warm hands holding his ears.

“Never, Ken, never – do you understand?” she asks. He does understand. He feels shame. He had looked into a friend’s mind and seen a secret. Something his friend had never told anyone. And he had told his friend, or rather, he had asked,

“Why does your Dad do that to you?” His friend had backed from him in horror and fled. So he told his mother.

“No-one will thank you for what you can pull from their minds, Ken. You must learn to turn the sounds off. You have to want to hear what is going on in someone’s mind – so, if you start to hear something you shouldn’t, you must shut it out. Tell me if you have to say something, but never tell anyone else. It is so important, darling.”

 

The woman deliberately closes her mouth. The words continue, this time in his head. ‘It is our secret, Kenyon, this gift we share. We mustn’t tell others. It just makes people jealous. You do understand, don’t you, darling?’

He senses his reply, as he thinks back, ‘Yes, I do, Mother. I think it also makes people scared, doesn’t it?’

 

The woman’s face softens. Her thoughts sound clearly in his mind as he is pressed to her chest. ‘Yes, Kenyon, most people fear what they do not understand.’

He thinks nothing, says nothing. He feels his arms slip around his mother’s waist. He holds her tight as she adds a final thought. ‘Especially your brothers, Kenyon. Never, never tell your brothers.’ He feels prickling fingers of fear clutch at his gut.

He opens his eyes and finds he is clutching the neck of a huge Rottweiler bitch. She growls, not at him, but at two young men who are approaching him. The bigger of the two curls his lip, menace in his deep voice.

“You just had to go to Father, didn’t you?” he snarls. The younger frowns and asks,

“Where were you watching from, you little pervert? You know what they call people like you, don’t you – pervert. You are sick – you little freak!” The young man pokes him hard in the chest. The bigger man circles behind.

“Your mother’s not here to protect you anymore and you need to be taught to mind your own business.”

 

Sadness fills him, a raw pain and something else. An anger. He calls an image into his mind. An image of his father, thick white hair, blue eyes blazing, standing not ten feet away at the kitchen window, watching the confrontation. He takes the image and fires it at his brothers. The man stops circling and moves back to the other’s side. The brothers look nervously at the kitchen window and then at each other.

“Yeah, well, just mind your own business in future.” The man’s deep voice sounds younger, uncertain. “Come on, Gar. Let’s leave the little creep. He’s just not worth it.”

They turn and walk off through the trees. He allows the image to fade only when the men disappear from view. The Rottweiler bitch nudges him, understanding. He relaxes and smiles.

The vault surrounded Kieran with comforting silence. He was learning too much too fast. He wanted to leave, come back later. Maybe never come back. But worse than his fear, was the feeling of not knowing, of not understanding who or perhaps what he was.

 

He looked at the most recent addition to the vault. The plaque was inscribed with the name ‘Kenyon Mallory’, who ‘died as the result of a tragic accident.’ But he was now fairly certain he was or had been, Kenyon Mallory. And he wasn’t dead. Perhaps he should be dead. The coffin was clear evidence someone had thought him dead, assuming he was Kenyon Mallory. He took Vaughn’s notes from his jacket pocket and reread the final instruction. ‘Put hesitation aside and open the casket in No 8. The rest is up to you.’

 

Niche 8 contained Kenyon Mallory’s casket. Kieran put his hand on the wood and when nothing happened, he tested the lid. He expected it to lift easily. Logic told him the lid could not be secured. It was.

“Damn!” he muttered. Upon checking, he found that the lid was held in place by six thumb screws. The only way to get to all six undone was to pull the coffin from its resting place.

 

Again logic evaporated. The coffin was heavy. Kieran remembered the padlock. He focused his will on the task. The coffin slid easily from its niche and hit the floor with a muffled boom. In moments, Kieran had the screws loosened. That was easy. It was lifting the lid that was proving difficult. The mere act was so contrary to any sense of decency and dignity that Kieran balked each time he grasped the handle.

“I am a ghoul!” he told himself sternly. He thought for a moment and then added, “Yes, probably, and in more ways than one.” Agreeing with himself pushed the horror of the moment aside and he lifted the lid.

 

The coffin was not empty. Kieran’s eyes widened as he focused on the occupant. Tall, with long blond hair, and as Kieran watched, the figure opened its eyes. Clear light green, as he knew they would be.

 

Struggling with feelings of confusion and horror, Kieran realised that the figure in the coffin seemed less than substantial. And he got the clear impression it was waiting. ‘The rest is up to you’ Vaughn had said. What is up to me, he thought. What am I waiting for?

 

The green eyes held his. A pulling sensation was emanating from the coffin. Then he understood. The reason for his physical frailty, his lack of control. It was incompleteness. Kieran eased the lid onto the floor and sat on the edge of the casket. Slowly and carefully, he eased his legs into the coffin. He didn’t look back. He simply got in and lay down.

 

It felt as though he was lying on a large sponge. Slowly, the resistance beneath him softened. He allowed the sensation of his body cooling from beneath, as what was already in the coffin melded into his form. This is what he had come here for. A healing, slow and certain.

 

A sensation of physical energy almost overwhelmed him. It seemed as though the cool substance uniting with his unfamiliar body was ridding him of the tight pain and tiredness that had dogged him since he woke in the hotel. He rejoiced in it. He had a clear consciousness of welcoming something that had been missing. An impression of relief and more, of pleasure.

 

For a while, the sheer physicality of the moment, held Kieran in sway. He refused to allow his mind to intrude. The strange healing worked in him and he savored it. Time ceased to exist.

 

When he finally opened his eyes, it was deep night. A full moon sent pale light into the crypt. Kieran sat slowly, eased himself back and leaned against the padding of the coffin head. He realised he could see as clearly as he had that afternoon. He looked up and read the details on his memorial plaque. His memorial. He was sitting comfortably in his own coffin. He remembered. Everything. The physical strength that suffused his body was equaled by the crystalline clarity of his memory. Kieran forced himself to order the flood.

 

 He drove away memories of sending the box to the lawyer, of buying his car and his laptop, of sitting in the Drury Hills for hours, alone, of embarrassing moments at the hotel. He went back to the hospital after the accident. He focused on the chaos, the white lights, the voices.

 

“Still nothing, doctor.”

“Give it another try. All clear.” A tight mutter, “Come on, Ken, for the love of God!”

A horrible pain rips through his chest as his body arcs lifelessly and flops back onto the blood-soaked stretcher.

“It’s no good. Damn – it’s no good.” The voice catches. “Record time of death 4.50 pm, October 26th. Do it nurse, now!” He hears pain in the doctor’s voice, tears being disguised by anger. It is an anger of helplessness.

 

He tries to cry out – Hey, I’m not dead. I’m here. Listen. But he senses something is not right. He feels a sucking sensation, as though someone had applied a giant vacuum cleaner to the top of his head. He sits, then stands and looks down at himself. He hears the thought, ‘Maybe I am dead’. He looks at the blond figure lying on the stretcher, the face mangled. He looks at the nurses standing in the corner of the emergency room, weeping. Another comes in.

“What’s happening?” she asks. “What is it?”

“It’s Doctor Mallory,” sobs the smaller of the two, “his Porsche – there was an accident. He was DOA, but we tried. We still tried.” She sobs, more audibly this time. He feels a vague sorrow. Someone is crying for me, he thinks. He wants to comfort the little nurse, but something urgent is gnawing at him.

 

He is aware he is no longer in pain. He is also aware of a growing sense of solidity. He is changing. He felt light when he sat up, almost detached. Now he is feeling increasingly heavy. He does not want to be seen. He has somewhere else to go, someone he must see.

 

He backs quietly from the confusion and sorrow of the emergency room. Details fade. It grows quiet. He senses a breeze and looks around. He is on a hillside. In the distance, the city sprawls  towards an evening horizon.

 

He senses the approach of a tall, robed figure. He drops to his knees and bows his head, eyes closed. He feels the gentle heaviness of hands upon his head. A loving touch, which warms him, lends him strength. In his mind he hears a name. ‘Kieran’. It sounds deeply through the chambers of his consciousness. ‘Kieran Doyle’. He knows this is now his name.

 

 He is told to prepare. He is told to take care of himself. For now, he is not to tax this body. He does not need to eat or drink. This body has other needs he will learn to fulfill in time. He can eat or drink if he has to, but there is a price to pay. Above all, he is to avoid alcohol. This body cannot cope with it. He needs to be supremely cautious until the Rejoining.

 

He listens, but his focus is on the hands which touch his head. Their touch helps the memory of the horror of the accident, the hideous pain he suffered, to fade. The hands make him feel safe from anything the world could throw at him.

 

The voice ceases. The hands withdraw. He looks up to discover he is alone. In front of him is a wooden box, quite featureless, apart from a simple silver clasp of spiral loops. He reaches out and opens it. The box contains documents, money and a photograph. On top of all these, is the business card. It carries the name and address of the lawyer to whom the box must be delivered as soon as possible.

 

He closes the box carefully and looks towards the city. There is so much he has to do.

 

Kieran stretched his legs and thought about the limits on what he could do now. He had to learn what those limits were if he was going to do the tasks which had fallen to him. Thoughts of his ‘gift’ flooded his mind. ‘The Gift’ his mother and the robed companion had called it. Gift and curse, as it had turned out.

 

He ordered the memories once more and went back to the morning the police had called at George Tate’s home on the HibiscusCoast. It was supposed to be the first day of a much-needed holiday, leaving behind the stresses of the hospital and his approaching registration.

 

“Mr. Mallory – Mr. Kenyon Mallory?” asks the police officer.

“Yes, I’m Ken. How can I help?” He feels apprehension slither through his groin. The look on the policeman’s face is too sympathetic. He shuts off the sounds in his mind. He doesn’t want to hear the policeman’s thoughts.

“Is there somewhere we can talk?” says the policeman, out loud.

The owner of the house comes to his side.

“Something wrong, lad?” George lays a caring hand on his shoulder. He talks to the police officer.

“Doctor George Tate, officer,” said the older man quickly. “ The Mallorys are close friends. If this concerns them, it concerns me.” The policeman nods, his face grim.

 

 He feels himself trembling. Once again, his ‘gift’ beyond his control. The policeman’s mind broadcast its message. Only the greatest effort prevents him from crying out. He must allow the policeman to speak.

He walks with his friend and the officer into the lounge. The policeman sits uncomfortably on the edge of his armchair.

“I’m sorry,” he begins, addressing George, “I have very bad news for Mr. Mallory.” He sits up straighter, as though added height will make his job easier. “Mr. Darius Mallory died in hospital this morning. His wife, Samantha Mallory died last night. Both deaths are the subject of a homicide inquiry.”

 

George takes his hand. He feels his mouth go dry.

“Can you tell us what happened?” George asks.

The officer reddens, looks even more uncomfortable.

“Mrs. Mallory was raped, , in front of Mr. Mallory it seems.” The policeman swallows. “Then she was shot.” The young officer cannot continue but the picture in his mind is crystal clear – a picture of the body of the victim, crumpled, a huge pool of blood beneath her, the bullet wound an ugly second navel. Then the officer continues. “Mr. Mallory was tied up, forced to witness the crime. Angina pills were scattered around his feet. He suffered massive heart failure. He was taken to hospital shortly after the crime was discovered this morning by Mrs. Jessop, your housekeeper. He died about an hour later.”

 

The policeman slumps a little, deflated. Recalling the crime has made him nauseous. George is frightened.

“God, Ken, this is awful.” He looks into his young friend’s eyes. “Do you want me to come back with you?”

 

A warning sounds in his head. There will be danger. He doesn’t want George exposed to it.

“You stay here for now, George,” he says. “I’ll be all right.” I hope, he adds mentally. He turns to the policeman, who is now standing. “I’ll follow you, officer, if that’s all right?”

 

The policeman’s mouth says, “Of course, Mr. Mallory. I’ll wait in the car.” His mind says ‘He’s a cold one this. Maybe he hasn’t grasped it yet.’

Oh yes I have, he thinks, I’ve grasped more than you could possibly imagine. “I’ll get my things, George,” he says out loud. “Would you round up the dogs?”

George nods and leaves, following the policeman out. He is alone.

The drive back to Auckland seems to take forever. He opens the Porsche’s windows and lets the cool southerly air fill the car. The Rottweillers sit quietly in the back, sensitive to their owner’s distress. The cold air does nothing to ease his feelings of dread. Even the sensation of power the Porsche always gives him, fails this time. He knows any contact with anyone who had anything to do with the murders will result in a three-dimensional movie of the entire sequence of events playing through his mind.

 

It takes the mid-morning sun flashing through the trees of Mallory Lane to pull him back to the moment. Despite the warmth of the spring sun, the air is frigid. He is shivering before he realizes the cold he is experiencing is coming from deep within his chest. He feels as though he has swallowed a tray of ice-cubes. The coldness spreads. A prickling creeps through his groin and down his legs while a heavy chill begins to anaesthetize his chest.

 

Without warning, the cold explodes into his head. The daylight vanishes. A chill moon glints its sickle blade above the house. He stands alone under one of the oak trees spreading its boughs over the gate and driveway. He hears footsteps coming down the driveway from Eduard’s house on the adjoining property. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t want to be seen, but he must watch.

 

He can see clearly up the lane and both driveways, but he fails to see the black-clad figure until it steps into the frosty glow of the street-lights. Pale blue eyes gleam from a black ski mask. A black gloved hand holds a long-barrelled pistol. The figure looks around, right through him. The head tilts back, the pistol raised and each street light is taken out in succession. The shots are silenced, the ensuing blackness overwhelming. Even the blade of moon has vanished.

 

He blinks and finds he is sitting in his Porsche in the driveway of his father’s – his late father’s property. He feels drained and weak. He doesn’t try to analyze what he has just seen. He knows it will stay with him and will add itself to other pieces of the puzzle in due time.

 

A dog muzzle touches his shoulder. Dog-thought, ‘Don’t hurt – we are pack – we are here.‘ He thinks back, ‘I know – stay with me, my pack.’ He is grateful for this communication, as he pulls up behind the police vehicles parked outside the house.

 

A burly figure emerges from the front door and walks towards the Porsche.

“Kenyon, I’m Detective Inspector Mark Burgess from Homicide.” Recognition. The man has made numerous appearances on television for the police. Here because of the prominence of the Mallory family in New Zealand society no doubt. A good front man, he thinks sourly.

 

“How much did Sergeant Johnston tell you, Ken?” asks the detective.

“Everything I need to know, I assume,” he answers. He sees the detective’s expression and adds, “He was very helpful – tactful.”

“Just as well. You’ll need to be prepared.” He probes the detective’s controlled voice. The mind is angry, appalled by the savagery of the crime.

Footsteps sound behind them. He turns. A deep, carefully modulated voice addresses them.

 

“Ah, you’ve found Ken, I see. Good.” Eduard Mallory stands some ten feet from them. Next to him is Keller Hahn, lawyer and cousin. The lawyer presents a flawless picture of contrived elegance. From his gleaming red-gold hair to his Brooks Brothers suit and his Bally shoes, he embodies studied refinement.

 

He throws up every telepath defense at his considerable disposal. He blanks his expression, forces his ‘gift’ to retreat. His brothers are easy to shut out. Keller is much more difficult. Garrick, his other half-brother appears on the steps to the house and then it hits him.

 

Images fly at him, powerful and ugly. Keller shooting out the lights and giving the all clear.  Keller, Eduard and Garrick, all in black ski-masks and gloves going into the house. Darius and Samantha seized by the silent trio. Darius roped to a heavy club chair, his angina pills scattered on the floor. Eduard ripping the clothing from his step-mother – the rape, robotic and passionless. Garrick following, slower, more brutal. Finally letting the sobbing woman go. Her turning helplessly, scrambling to her feet and running. Keller watching, then handing Garrick the hunting rifle he has pulled from his back-pack. Samantha reaching the front door and being brought down by a single shot which strikes her in the back, rips right through her and embeds itself in the carved wood beneath the mail slot. Darius turning a terrible puce behind his gag, his agony absolute, his wife’s over. The trio glancing at each other, turning to leave as silently as they had come. Darius slumping into unconsciousness as the detective’s words break through the ghastly montage.

“Ken, are you all right? Sergeant Johnston, help me here.” He feels the sergeant take his arm. He shakes it off.

“I’m okay, really,” but it is too late. As he fights to regain control, he knows Keller has understood his reaction. He sees Keller signal the brothers, sees the ice in Keller’s blue eyes and feels fear.

Kieran looked towards the lancet windows and noticed the sky was graying. He had arrived at the cemetery eighteen hours earlier, ignorant and incomplete. Now he had what he had come for, but he was still afraid. He knew he now had some sort of power, that there was little, if anything the average mortal could do to counter that power. But he felt so new, almost raw.

 

He had spent twenty-eight years learning to master his unique talents. Now he had to start all over again. And he felt more alone than he had ever been. He knew he couldn’t stay here. He had to get back to the hotel and plan a course of action. But where was he to start? His memories were no help. Despite the energy surging through him, he was at a loss.

 

Finally, he settled on closing and resealing the now-empty coffin. He lifted it easily and pushed it back into its resting place.

“What now?” he asked himself. When no answer was forthcoming, he walked slowly to the doors. He was replacing the padlock, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He stiffened and turned. Standing next to him was the robed companion of his memories. Still, he could not see the face, but the whole figure emanated concern.

 

Kieran reached out a hand and touched the figure’s chest. The resonant voice he remembered so well sounded in his head, calling him by name. He moved closer to the figure and lowered his head until it rested on the robed shoulder. A hand encompassed the back of his neck and they stood together in the silence of the early morning.

 

The voice entered Kieran’s consciousness so subtly that, at first, he was unaware of its presence. When he finally focused on it, he realised he was being taught things he needed to know. When the companion pulled away, disappearing as though he had been swallowed by the mist, Kieran no longer felt so alone. He hoped he was ready to face what lay ahead.

Chapter ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three. Revelation

 

 By the time Kieran drove up to the Hyatt, the sun was shining brightly. He picked up his keys from the desk and went to his room. The bed had been made, order restored.

 

Kieran’s clothing was dusty and cobwebbed. A faint fetid smell clung to him. Sitting at the desk in his room, he took out a sheet of hotel stationery and began a list with the aid of his ipad, which carried some useful shopping apps. He needed more clothing and he didn’t want to go out shopping in this condition.

 

Specifying sizes and working out the total, he wrote down what he thought he might need. The men’s outfitter’s was in the same block as the hotel. He copied the name of the outfitter’s onto a cheque and filled in his estimate. He folded the list and the cheque together and rang the desk. Bevan arrived minutes later. He took the list, cheque and a sizeable tip, promising to return as soon as possible.

Now, more than anything, Kieran wanted to wash away his night in the vault. He pulled off his clothes and stepped into the shower. The warm water eased the tension that had built in his body. He luxuriated in the sensation, standing with his head back, his long hair flowing over his shoulders. He wondered what would happen if he got the long mane cut.  He stored away the thought. Plenty of time he thought wryly.

 

He had none of the usual odours to wash away. He discovered that much of this body. Nevertheless, he soaped himself sensuously, savouring his heightened senses. He felt so much better when he emerged from the shower he didn’t want to towel off. He walked into the bedroom, dripping wet, shook out his hair and lay back on the bed. The silken covers felt like a caress. Reaching out, he pressed the controls for the blinds. They slid across the window, reducing the glare to a gentle glow.

 

Kieran relaxed completely. He had no desire to sleep. He simply wanted to attune himself to his new body. There was so much to discover. The companion had shared with him, details he needed to confirm for himself. He had experienced a little of his telekinetic ability with the padlock and the coffin, but his control was weak. All his telepathic abilities seemed to have strengthened almost beyond measure, but he had to learn to control them all over again.

He had lifted a chair and had it suspended mid-air near the door, when he heard a soft rapping. As the door opened, his concentration was broken and the chair fell with a clatter. Bevan appeared behind an enormous collection of packages. Kieran saw his startled eyes fixed on the chair, heard the confusion in the young man’s mind.

“Sorry, Bevan,” he said quickly. He added some mental comfort. It’s all quite logical – quite logical! he thought at the young man.

 

Bevan smiled, his apprehension fading.

“That’s okay, Mr. Doyle. I’ve got your things.” He was trying hard not to stare at the naked figure coming towards him. There was something about Kieran that was bothering the attendant, other than the absence of clothes.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” said Kieran. The attendant smiled again.

“Not the first time this has happened, Mr. Doyle,” said the attendant. “It’s just that, well, if you don’t mind me saying so, you look a lot fitter than with your clothes on. You really didn’t look too well yesterday.”

 

Kieran rummaged through the packages, ignoring Bevan’s very valid comment. He

 found the underwear. He pulled on some boxers, as he spoke.

“I think I explained that my luggage was stolen from the car, didn’t I?”

Bevan nodded. “What I had on was getting positively disgusting. So after my shower, I thought I’d wait for the new stuff.”

“Honestly, that’s fine, Mr. Doyle – no problem,” said Bevan, who was now studiously avoiding looking at Kieran as he dressed. “Would you like me to have your other gear laundered?”

“Thanks, Bevan,” responded Kieran, “it’s still all in the bathroom.”

“Would you like the leather jacket dry-cleaned, as well?” called Bevan, as he rounded up the clothing.

If you knew where that jacket spent the night, you wouldn’t ask, thought Kieran, before replying,

“Yes, definitely, the full works.”

 

After Bevan left with the laundry, Kieran went into the bathroom and studied his reflection. He had pulled on a pair of ivory moleskins, a silk shirt in the palest apricot and a pair of Bally casuals. His hair had dried to the colour of polished ebony, beautifully off set by the shirt. His dark eyes gleamed in the soft light.

 

Bevan was right. He looked very different to the frail creature he had confronted in this mirror just twenty-four hours ago. He remembered the confusion and frustration he had felt and marvelled at the contrast. Kieran needed the mirror to confirm something else the companion had told him. He called into his mind the appearance of Kenyon Mallory. This time, there was no flaring, no discomfort. He watched as his appearance changed.

 

A gentle purling sensation, not unlike being submerged in a vertical pool of water, washed over him. When the purling ceased, Kieran found himself face to face with Kenyon. The long hair was shorter and pale gold, the bone structure softer, the skin tanned, the eyes green.

“So that’s what a dead man looks like,” the reflection said. Kieran was uncomfortable. It was difficult to face what had happened head-on in this way.

 

 He wondered how different he could make himself look. He recalled the appearance of his friend, Tristram Leech. It was Doctor Leech who had been on Emergency when he had been brought in from the accident. It was Trist who had admitted defeat when the emergency team had failed to revive him and it was Trist who looked out at him from the mirror. The metamorphosis was absolute.

 

 Kieran allowed his dark stranger to return. He did not like the shorter hair of his former friend’s appearance. As he tied his long hair into a ponytail, he knew that his hair was important. Why, he had no idea, but he was certain, that if he needed to know, he would find out.

 

His hair made him think of Keller, the by-stander at his father’s murder. That is where he would start. Keller had only one or two friends because of the impossibly high standards of style he set. If it wasn’t immaculate, beautiful and fashioned-labeled, Keller simply wasn’t interested, He would make friends with Keller, share his world. Yes, that was a place to start.

 

Eduard had always been unfazed by Keller sense of style. He allowed Keller to dress him. In fact, Keller shopped for both his cousins, with the result that all three were always beautifully presented. Eduard was equally unfazed by Keller and Garrick’s fondness for working girls. Keller had been curious about Garrick’s greater experience and it was some experimentation with a local working girl and the twenty-one-year old cousins that Kenyon had reported, in all innocence, to Darius.

 

 It had not been his intention to cause trouble. The events had been playing so loudly in the young mens’ minds that night, Ken had wanted to know why. He wanted to know why handcuffs, masks and whips were necessary when people were doing those things. It was simple inquisitiveness, a trait common in ten-year old boys.

 

As a result of Ken’s inquiry, Keller was banned from the house and Garrick sent to a counsellor. The brothers reacted furiously. Keller could maintain his relationship with his cousins, only under Eduard’s roof. His uncle excluded him from the family until the day he died, blaming the cousin rather than his difficult and unpredictable son.

 

Kieran knew this appearance fitted Keller’s conception of the fashionable, immaculate and beautiful. Long dark hair, dark eyes, fair skin, sensuous mouth, smooth hairless limbs and chest, the height and powerful musculature. He would be accepted into Keller’s tight-knit group of friends without hesitation. And they shared a love of classic cars, both modern and vintage. It offered the perfect way of introducing himself to the scheming lawyer.

 

Email to Big Bro BarryLendl

Nov. 8.

Yo Barry,

Well, big bro, I was feeling so down, I thought I’d write to you – let you know I’ve blown it with Yvette. I’ve had such dumb luck up here, I’m ready to come back to Porirua. And here’s a laugh. The dude Yvette’s dumped me for, isn’t even interested in her. Makes me feel great, I can tell you.

 

The dude in question, Kieran Doyle, is a bloody millionaire and looks like a member of some male revue show – the type the girls refer to as a ‘hottie – Yvette’s word not mine!

 

Let me tell you about him. He checked into the hotel on Sunday the 29th of October. He arrived in a Bentley with no luggage. It had been stolen from the car, which he’d left unlocked, thinking it would be safe because the windows were tinted. Can you believe it? When he told us he’d moved up from Wellington, I was even more surprised. I suppose you just have to send all your weird ones up to us?! He paid for an executive suite a week in advance, so Mrs. Reardon, the supervisor, put him on my floor and told me to keep my eye on him. I think she was a bit worried about the luggage thing.

 

The whole week, he went out only three times. He had this distracted way of talking – really peculiar. When he asked me to get the car brought round for him, he’d say he wanted to drive down to Drury, like he had to explain himself. Then he’d disappear for six or seven hours, come back and go straight to his room. I didn’t see him in the dining areas or restaurant once. Yvette says he’s probably a Macdonald’s junkie.

 

I thought he could have been a real junkie, to be honest. He didn’t look well the whole week. At least, that’s what I thought until I saw him in the buff this morning.

Whoa there, bro, back up! All in the line of duty. You know what hotels are like. You wouldn’t read about some of the stuff we see. I’d taken him this whole swag of papers from the bank on Monday afternoon. He sat there like a statue, staring at the stuff for ages – I thought he’d had some sort of turn. When I asked him what was wrong, he asked for a bottle of Champagne and someone to share it with. He was grinning from ear to ear.

 

That’s when I made my big boo-boo. Yeah, I sent Yvette up with the bubbly. I wanted to see what would happen. It was a classic case of shooting myself in the foot, I’m afraid. It was weird, Barry. According to Yvette, nothing happened. And I think that turned her on – the case of what you can’t have is what you want.

 

Apparently, he showed her his bank statement, had some of the champagne and just about collapsed. Yvette was really worried, but he said he’d be fine after a good night’s sleep. I suppose it was the shock of finding out how much he was worth – Yvette said his mum had never told him how rich they were.

 

Anyway, when I went in to see the guy yesterday morning, he looked terrible. He couldn’t even remember having the champagne. He asked me where he’d put his briefcase!!! Yeah – like – there’s only one wardrobe dude – and no clothes! Not hard to find! He asked to see Yvette so I had to send her to him again! Great ay? When she came back, she said Mr. Doyle was ill. She was all in favor of calling a doctor. But by then, he’d gone to see his lawyer.

 

He didn’t get back to the hotel until this morning. Just after nine, he called for me and gave me a shopping list and a cheque for ‘Male Bastion’, the boutique around the corner. I had been wondering how long he’d last in his other clothes (and here’s something else weird – when I took the stuff he’d been wearing for a week to the laundry, it was dusty and cob-webby and smelled a little mouldy – but there wasn’t a trace of body odour! – Now that’s really weird. I wear my stuff for a couple of days in a row and it smells like I’ve been mucking out a pig-pen).

 

 Anyway, ‘Male Bastion’ took one look at the cheque he’d given me and went berserk. I mean it was for $8500’s worth of gear. Two assistants spent about an hour picking out the stuff he’d ordered – You should have seen the stuff he bought It was just A-MAZE-ING!!

 

 I took it all up to the guy and there he was, lying on the bed bollocking butt naked! Nearly bashed me with a chair. Daft bugger! When I thought about it later it seemed so weird. What the hell was he doing with the chair?? Nah – let’s not go there! I guess it takes all sorts!

 

Where was I? Oh yeah! He got off the bed and walked over to me with not a stitch on. He looked so fit, it was disgusting. Yesterday he looked like a hospital case. Today? I suppose I have to admit if I looked like that in the buff, I’d probably walk around without my clothes on too. And this, dear brother is who our old school mate, Yvette Chalmers has flipped over.

 

Well, good luck to her. It’s partly my fault, I suppose, so I shouldn’t complain. I’ll just jig this email your way then I’m going to spend the tip Mr. Doyle gave me for doing his shopping. ($500! Maybe I’ll stay here, after all. The perks aren’t all that bad, now that I think about it.)

 

Thanks, big bro! I knew writing to you would make me feel better. Give Mum and Dad my lovey stuff. I’ll write again soon.

Bevan.

 

 

 

Kieran’s first concern was a home base. He could not stay at the hotel. He’d made a number of silly mistakes and attracted attention. The incident with the chair had been the last straw. He just couldn’t risk remaining in such a public environment.

 

His father’s property company was exactly what he needed. And it would put him in immediate contact with the three people who concerned him most. The main office of Mallory Realtors was only a few blocks away. Kieran secured his wallet and cheque-book in the pocket of a cream windbreaker and walked out into a beautiful spring day. He walked along Queen Street then up Wellesley Street, preoccupied by thoughts of what was to come.

 

He was pulled from his reverie five minutes later, by a curt, ‘Excuse me’. He’d been standing in the doorway of Mallory Realtors in Albert Street. A smartly dressed woman pushed past him. He entered the office on the wake of her perfume.

 

Kieran saw a number of people he had known as Ken Mallory. Among his former acquaintances were business and property dealers who would call at 1 Mallory Lane to discuss deals. Negotiations had often continued into the early hours of the morning.

 

Fergus Mallory began it all. He had arrived in New Zealand with his family’s considerable fortune and invested it in every tract of land he deemed worthy of purchase, including a huge tract of land in Port Waikato which was still in the family’s hands. Generally, if he thought a property’s value would increase, he bought it. As a result, the Mallory family had become the wealthiest private land-owners in the country.

Kieran was examining a board advertising inner city properties for sale, when a deep voice behind him enquired,

“Anything I can help you with, Sir?” Kieran turned to face Eduard Mallory. The man was looking at him expectantly. Kieran waited, smiling. “I’m Eduard Mallory,” continued the burly man, somewhat nonplused, “manager and owner of Mallory Realtors.”

“I’m Kieran Doyle,” said Kieran, “and, yes, you can help. I’m after something near the city.” He listened to the thoughts of the man standing by his side. Eduard Mallory had categorized Kieran as a male dancer or model, without the financial resources to make him an interesting business proposition and was close to calling a junior assistant.

 

Kieran played directly to the thought.

“I’d like to do a cash deal,” he said casually. “Money is no object.”

Eduard’s whole demeanor changed. He smiled and indicated an office.

“In here, Mr. Doyle. I believe we may have several properties which may interest you.” He followed Kieran into the office and stood next to a filing cabinet. “Have a seat, Mr. Doyle. Now, tell me what you have in mind. Is there any family, partner, or is it just for yourself?”

“No family, Mr. Mallory,” said Kieran, with a cold smile. “And no partner. There’s just me. And I want privacy and security and a conveniently central location.”

 

Eduard extracted several files from the cabinet and put them on the desk.

“These could suit your needs. What about this one?” He held a file out to Kieran. “Providing you don’t want much of a garden, of course!”

Kieran took the file. When he saw the address, he wondered if someone was helping him. The property was an open-plan studio, Apartment 504, Cityside Apartments, GraftonHeights.  Apartment 604 belonged to Keller Hahn. He perused the contents of the file carefully.

“You might be right about this,” he said slowly. “What would the cash price be?”

 

“$695,000,” replied Eduard, sensing a sale. “Would you like to see the property? It is vacant, so anytime to suit you.”

“Now would be great. I must get out of the hotel.”
Kieran looked into the blue eyes across the desk and projected an image of Keller Hahn. “Do you have a legal team to take care of the paperwork?”

Eduard Mallory didn’t consider his usual conveyancers.

“I can get my cousin to do the paperwork,” he said quickly. “He lives at Cityside.”

“Really?” Kieran remained focused on Keller’s image. “Good is he?” Eduard nodded.

“Excellent.” He stood. “I’ll phone the caretaker and tell her you are on your way. Do you need transport?”

“No,” said Kieran. “I’ll pick up my Bentley from the hotel.”

Eduard seemed impressed.

“In that case,” he purred, “use bay 54 in the basement. It’s the space that belongs to Apartment 504.”

Kieran accepted the address card and promised the eager sales manager he would return as soon as possible.

He walked quickly back to the hotel and within minutes was behind the wheel of the Bentley, heading for Cityside. The drive took him less than five minutes. Fifteen minutes after leaving the realty offices, Kieran was standing in Apartment 504 listening to Mrs. Weir, the caretaker.

 

The apartment seemed suitable. The building had a sophisticated security system and the apartment itself was quite private. The studio opened on to a balcony which gave spectacular views of the WaitamateHarbour and RangitotoIsland.

 

The two floors were fully appointed. The galley kitchen sported a wall oven, glass-top plates, microwave, fridge, waste-disposal unit and dish-drawer The open living room held three massive leather sofas, a coffee table, flotaki rugs and dusk-pink drapes.

 

The upper level was carpeted in deep-pile rugging. A king size bed faced the balcony and a massive walk-in wardrobe covered the wall opposite the bathroom.

The bathroom had a shower, spa bath and built-in aquarium which reflected a soft blue light into the mirror above the marble vanity top and basin. There was a dehumidifier above the shower and a full air-conditioning/heating system through the apartment.

 

Kieran listened politely, as Mrs. Weir complained about the aquarium.

“Every day I have to feed them, you know – and I have to clean the tank each week.”

“Not any more, Mrs. Weir,” said Kieran. “I’ll do it from now on.”

“So you will take the apartment,” she gushed. She made a poor show of disguising how attractive she found Kieran. “I am glad,” she added. “The last owner worked for old Mr. Mallory, you know. After he died, he just up and left. Had no heart for it. Very devoted to old Mr. Mallory, he was.”

 

Kieran had liked Ronald Jessop. The landscaper gardener had cared for all the Mallory properties, opting for apartment living, so he could focus absolutely on his job. He had indeed lost heart when Darius Mallory died. He had given his resignation to Kenyon on the day of the funeral.

“I cannot make things grow,” he had explained, “now Mr. Darius is dead.”

Ronald Jessop had been regarded as ‘intellectually challenged’. His mother, despairing for her son’s future, had approached Darius and explained how her son loved to grow things and wanted to make a career of horticulture. However, no-one was willing to give the young man a chance.

 

Darius bought an apprenticeship for the young Jessop, who had blossomed with the plants he grew so well. Not only was he able to handle all the gardening aspects of the work, he also proved to be a superb landscape artist and had transformed a number of properties, increasing their value many times over.

 

Kieran was brought back to the present by Mrs. Weir’s voice.

“Such a tragedy it was,” she was saying. “It was just wonderful the way Mr. Eduard could carry on the business the way he did. And with his young brother dying just a week later – so terrible. Mr. Eduard’s done his father proud the way he’s picked up the reins and carried on.”

 

During Mrs. Weir’s long-winded chatter, they had moved to the door of the apartment. He thanked the care-taker graciously and asked if he could move in later that day. The response was effusive.

“Of course, Mr. Doyle, of course. I’ll look forward to it.”

“Fine,” said Kieran, “I’ll go back to ‘Mr. Eduard’ and make the arrangements.”

He drove back to the offices of Mallory Realtors and parked behind the building in the office’s reserved car park. Eduard spotted him from his office window, waved and came down to usher Kieran in through the back door.

“What do you think of the apartment?” Eduard’s deep voice was measured and smooth. Kieran replied with equal smoothness,

“You were right. It is just what I’m looking for.”

“I thought it might be. I took the liberty of contacting my cousin and asking him to prepare the paperwork. His office is on the top floor. He says we’re welcome to come up as soon as we are ready.”

 

This was a surprise to Kieran. Keller’s practice had been situated in a sleek high-rise about three blocks away. The move must have taken place after Darius had been removed from the scene. Kieran responded with a polite inclination of the head.

 

It was difficult for Kieran to go into Darius Mallory’s former office. The room was a depository of memories. Before Kieran could refuse, Eduard had ordered his secretary to bring coffee. Kieran had neither eaten nor drank since the champagne disaster. He wondered what would happen, what ‘the price’ would be.

 

He watched as the coffee was poured and took the cup from the secretary. As he sipped the amber fluid, a warmth suffused his gullet. The only experience was gave him a basis for comparison, was swallowing a mouthful of schnapps. It was a pleasant sensation and Kieran finished the coffee with no ill effects. However, within minutes, Kieran had to ask to be excused.

 

He was relieving himself, when he noticed the smell of coffee. Looking down, he saw the fluid he was expelling from his body was identical to the fluid he had swallowed a few minutes earlier. Don’t process it, he thought, as he flushed the chain. It just goes straight through, literally. He wondered if the same thing would happen with food.

 

When he returned to the office, he found Eduard ready to move upstairs. In the elevator, Eduard turned to Kieran.

“To practicalities, Mr. Doyle. You said this was to be a cash deal?”

“That’s correct.” Kieran played to the man’s curiosity. “I am a multi-millionaire, Mr. Mallory.” He subtly stressed the ‘multi’. “I can organize a direct account-to-account transfer of the required sum, if that would be the easiest for you. I can phone my bankers from your cousin’s office.” Kieran had judged the effect of his words correctly. Eduard was positively servile.

“Just fine, Mr. Doyle, really. That is absolutely acceptable.”

The elevator delivered them to the eleventh floor. To the right of the elevator was a door which proclaimed ‘Keller Hahn. LLB, Attorney-at-Law. Hours: 9am – 6pm, Monday to Friday.’

 

They walked in and were met by the smell of paint and new carpet. Keller’s receptionist/legal secretary, Francine Moore, sat behind a kidney-shaped desk. She was elegant, beautiful and Keller’s treasured ‘girlfriend’. Their passion in bed was undeniable but that was it. There was no love. She was the perfect foil for her boss. She would accompany Keller to business meeting, where a beautiful woman was still an essential accessory. It was a role Francine had perfected over the four years she had worked for Keller.

“Ah, Mr. Mallory, Mr. Hahn is expecting you. Go right in.” Francine’s carefully modulated voice was the result of her schooling at an exclusive private establishment for young ladies on the outskirts of London. Her job with Keller had begun shortly after her arrival in New Zealand, a job which suited her perfectly.

 

Eduard moved to the inter-leading door.

“This way, Mr. Doyle.”

Kieran took a deep breath and felt for the mind in the next room. What was the lawyer thinking? How would he react? Kieran only knew one thing for certain. Keller would no longer find him easy to read.

 

He watched the lawyer take him in. He saw he slight flaring of the nostrils, the widening of the eyes. He felt thoughts deal with his designer label clothing, his immaculate appearance. He was a little taken aback to encounter a thought about a black panther.

“I’m Kieran Doyle, Mr. Hahn.”

“Keller, or Kel, please,” said the lawyer, extending a hand. “I’m delighted to meet you.”

 

Kieran held the hand slightly longer than he needed to. He sensed Keller’s response to the cool dry flesh: puzzled how anyone could be so cool on such a warm day. Along with the puzzlement was a definite appreciation of Kieran’s strength and absence of sweat. Keller had an almost pathological dislike of sweaty palms.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Kel.” Kieran deliberately used the more familiar diminutive. The two men dropped their hands as Eduard interjected,

“Shall we get on with it then?”

It took several hours to get everything sorted out, but by 4 pm, Kieran Doyle was the legal owner of Apartment 504, Cityside Apartments, confirmation pending.

 

Eduard collected the documentation and stood to leave.

“I’ll have to get all this sorted out, if you’ll excuse me. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Doyle. I’ll see you again?”

“I’m sure you will, Mr. Mallory,” responded Kieran. He did not stand. For now, he had other concerns. Keller stood, once Eduard had closed the door.

“Will you be moving in soon?” he asked casually.

“I’ll be there tonight,” replied Kieran. “I’ve had enough of the hotel. I’ll worry about personal bits and pieces tomorrow.”

 

He stood and moved to the door. Keller followed. Kieran spoke again.

“I hope I’ll be seeing you soon?”

As he reached the door, the lawyer spoke,

“Kieran, I have a friend meeting me for dinner. Would you like to accompany us. I know we’ve just met but I honestly believe you would get on very well with my friend, Jenna Tate.”

“Certainly, Kel,” responded Kieran, “just tell me where and when.”  The lawyer’s voice took on an satisfied purr.

“We’re all meeting at The Taipei at 7 pm.”  Kieran had read Keller perfectly. The need for a male friend was something Keller Hahn was yearning for. “Francine will be there too,” he blurted out.

“This is not a blind date, I hope,” said Kieran softly. He took his hand off the doorknob and turned around. “Just a friendly dinner?”

 

Kieran felt the wave of yearning sweep through Keller. Kieran experienced a moment of sympathy for this man who so desperately needed a friend he could consider his equal that his usual sense of superiority had completely dissipated.

“I … yes, of course – four friends meeting for dinner!” Keller made a huge effort to pull himself together. “Look,” he added, “let me finish up here and help you move.”

“I’d really appreciate that,” said Kieran, keeping his voice soft.

 

Keller hurried past Kieran to the outer office. Francine was given a series of instructions before Kieran moved through the door. She gave a little laugh.

“See you for dinner, Mr. Doyle!” The smile she flashed him was the knowing smile an older sister gives a younger brother going out on his first date. He’d been accepted as family. He held out his hand. She took it. “I’ll see you at 7 pm for dinner at The Taipei – and it’s Kieran, please.”

“Of course – Kieran,” she said lightly. “I’ll look forward to it.”

 

A peal of pleasant laughter followed them to the elevator. Kieran found Keller’s mind easy to block now. He wondered how long it would take Keller to realise that he was being read. His gift was not as strong as Kenyon’s had been but he carried the same rare genetic marker that made accessing the thoughts of others possible. Of course, he had never had anyone to train him. Kieran wondered how he would turn him into the tortured observer, just as Darius had been. After that, I’ll deal with the real criminals, he thought, as they walked out into the car park.

 

“I’ll follow you,” called Keller, as he climbed into his sleek, black Porsche Speedster convertible. Kieran thought of the time Keller had spent restoring the lovely old vehicle. He had bought it just after his twenty-first birthday from a friend of the family.

 

It had been a gift the friend neither wanted nor appreciated and it sat under a tarpaulin growing dull and brittle, almost from the time it left the showroom floor. Keller made the car his hobby. He had taken the engine apart and rebuilt it, simply as a learning experience. Then he oiled, waxed, buffed and polished the exterior until every surface gleamed.

 

It was Keller who persuaded the young Kenyon to buy his Porsche 928S. Kieran looked at the Porsche and then at the Bentley. Two classic cars, but so different in appearance and appeal.

 

The Bentley and the Porsche wound their way to the Hyatt and soon, the two men stood in Kieran’s suite. His laundry had been laid out on his bed, all the new gear unpacked and tidy.

“Where’s your bag?” Kieran repeated the stolen luggage story.

“I didn’t bother locking the door because you couldn’t see the bags, and – well, I just didn’t think anyone would dream of raiding a car like a Bentley.”

“Fatal mistake,” responded Keller. “One of the advantages of a convertible. You never leave anything on the seats.”

 

Kieran laughed as he gathered everything together. Most of the new clothing slipped into the shopping bags. The clean laundry was tied into the cream windbreaker. Keller helped Kieran into his leather jacket.

“Is that it?” he asked.

“That’s it, I’m afraid.” Kieran laughed again. “I sold almost everything. Thought I’d make a clean break.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Keller exclaimed. He opened the door for Kieran. “After you.”

Kieran settled his account, grateful that Yvette was not on duty. The two men drove to Cityside and parked in their respective bays. Mrs. Weir was waiting for Kieran. She was obviously surprised to see Keller with him.

“Mr. Hahn,” she exclaimed, “you know Mr. Doyle?”

Keller looked at her, unsmiling.

“Mr. Eduard had me do all the legal work for the sale, Mrs. Weir.” The woman looked uncomfortable.

“I see,” she said. She turned to Kieran. “I have your keys, Mr. Doyle, and your security card for the elevator. If you need anything, please just let me know.” She shot Keller a look, smiled at Kieran and disappeared in a cloud of motherly concern.

 

Keller laughed as she closed the door.

“She fancies you, young fellow, me lad.” Amusement sounded in Keller’s voice. “Doesn’t like me though.”

“Why is that?” asked Kieran, keeping his tone gentle. He caught Keller’s eye, again sensing the need for friendship and understanding. He continued before Keller could speak, “I think it’s just that you are from a totally different social world – she is put out by your immaculate appearance and manners”.

 

Kieran could feel the effect of using Keller’s favourite phrases. He was almost at a loss for words.

“She … well,” Keller reined himself in, “it is very kind of you to say so – thank you.”

“She’s not going to like me much either I suspect,” said Kieran.

“I noticed you have real taste yourself,” Keller responded. It was clear he still could not believe his luck.

“I’m afraid we are a bit out of her league, my friend,” Kieran said, his tone still gentle and persuasive. Keller was feeling as though he’d known his new best friend for years.

“I think I’m very pleased Eduard got me to do your legals.” Keller added, his tone rich with appreciation and admiration.

 

Kieran deposited his belongings on the floor next to the wardrobe. Keller was standing next to him, ready to open the door. Immediately, Kieran pressed deeply into the private recesses of the lawyer’s memories.

It is night, silent, except for a faint hiss of breath. A figure steps right through him and moves towards the Porsche 928S, just visible at the back of a huge garage. The figure’s red-gold hair gleams greenly in the bright moonlight.

He watches as the figure undoes a tool belt from round his waist. The figure looks around, crouches and then slips under the vehicle. There are soft metallic clinks. A faint pool of light illuminates the figure’s feet protruding from the left side of the car. The feet help the figure to move around and there are more clinks. It seems to go on for a long time. Finally the figure re-emerges, looks around again and walks silently into and then through the watcher.

Kieran had to blink away the vision. The revelation had come as a shock. He had been so wrapped up in the notion of his father’s and step-mother’s deaths, that he had pushed his own aside. Yet, here, standing next to him, was the killer of Kenyon Mallory. Keller Hahn could no longer be seen as a by-stander.

 

The two men stood linked by Kieran’s powerful mental assault, as his plan for the lawyer’s future took a radical new direction. Keller would suffer, yes, but not as a helpless observer. He would be involved. He would suffer, body, heart and soul.

 

Kieran launched an all-out telepath assault. He sought every nerve ending, every cell in Keller’s body which could respond and flood it with sensation. He sent messages of friendship and concern into every reach of Keller’s mind before dropping the lawyer into unconsciousness. Holding the limp body erect, he then fired a crashing headache into the nerve cells around the lawyer’s temples. He carried the limp body downstairs to the couch with less effort than it required the average man to carry a small child. He sat Keller comfortably before pulling the pall of unconsciousness away from Keller’s mind.

 

He stood back frowning slightly.

“Do you faint often?” Kieran asked the bemused lawyer who was rubbing his temples gingerly.

“Horrible headache, haven’t had this sort of thing since I was a teenager! I thought I’d grown out of it.” Kieran recalled his mother telling him how she would have to clear Keller’s mind, causing him to faint and get terrible headaches. Every time Keller had come close to her young son, Bridget had protected him. Now Kieran had been able to use that same technique.

 

“Really?” Kieran responded. “Doctor have any idea what caused them?”

He noticed the slight hesitation before Keller answered. He was grappling with memories of Bridget Gale, whom he was sure was responsible but he’d never been absolutely certain; never known what to do. As he so often did, he hid the truth in by being almost honest.

“I used to think I was allergic to my step-mother!” They both laughed. “Now, I know it couldn’t have been her!” Kieran smiled. He caught Keller’s eye and sent clear messages of concern to the exhausted mind.

“Actually, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.” He kept his voice low in an effort to minimise the pain in his head. He had transferred feelings from his post-champagne morning very thoroughly.

 

“I know just the thing – just as long as it’s clear I’m not making moves on you!”

“What?” asked Keller in mock alarm.

“Just lean back and let the fingers do the work.” Kieran moved behind Keller and started to massage his temples. As he did, he slowly and very deliberately released the tension he was causing in the lawyer’s nerves. After a few minutes, he stopped and asked, “How does that feel?”

 

The lawyer looked at him, eyes wide,

“You’re a bloody miracle worker!” he exclaimed. “I have never been able to get rid of one of those headaches in less than twenty four hours – and that was only with the help of some pretty strong pain-killers.”

“You can thank my mother for that – she taught me all I know.” Kieran smiled at the irony of playing Keller at his own game and winning. “She had wonderful hands – a healer.”

 

Keller sensed the truth in Kieran’s words and was completely satisfied.

“I’m looking forward to dinner now.” Keller looked at his ostentatious Rolux. “Look at that – twenty to seven. We’re just in time. Let’s go in my car,” he added. “That Bentley of yours is beautiful but scary. I prefer Porsches!”

“I used to like Porsches – had a bad experience with one once. Promise you’ll drive carefully?”

“Like I’m driving Miss Daisy,” Keller responded. The two men laughed as they headed for the lift.

Chapter ends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four.  ACT ONE. Threat.

 

The dinner went well. Kieran’s ability to manipulate the situation was used so subtly not even Keller was able to detect the slightest anomaly in Kieran’s performance. He was developing a keen awareness of his new powers and his responsibility to use those powers carefully. He was leaping across telepath chasms and landing safely on the other side with disturbing ease.

 

 It so simple to manipulate Keller’s mind, Kieran almost missed the effort he used to put into his ‘gift’, before the accident. Once Keller had been able to sense him when he pried. Now Kieran didn’t have to protect himself at all. He wondered what his limits were. He was sure he’d find out if and when he needed to.

The rest of the week was spent settling in, buying personal items for the apartment and getting Keller used to this new presence in his life. Kieran bought pots, plates, cutlery, linen, art prints and food items with a long shelf life.  The apartment began to look lived in.

 

Saturday morning found Kieran in a specialist outfitters. The shop was simply called ‘Leather Gear’. Kieran was examining the detail work on various leather items: a peak cap, a leather jerkin, leather trousers and some very expensive boots. When it became clear that Kieran was window shopping, the shop owner lost interest leaving Kieran with the time he needed to memorise the specific structure of each item.

 

It was after four when Kieran, purled a perfect leather outfit. He was facing the mirror in his apartment. His long hair shortened, making Kieran’s scalp feel tight and uncomfortable. Its ebony colour lightened, turning a rich auburn. The leather cap was pulled low on his forehead. The black eyes turned amber, the bone structure of the face widened, the nose shortened and the mouth narrowed.

 

It took considerable effort before Kieran was happy. He stared at his creation in the mirror before deciding on a final touch. He concentrated on the left forearm. A tattoo appeared, the head of a demon, surrounded by flames. Satisfied at last, Kieran left the apartment and made his way  to the basement silently.

He didn’t have long to wait.

 

The Porsche Speedster rumbled into its bay and Keller emerged, moving quickly. He leaned over, picked up his briefcase and turned to find himself face-to-face with a tall, leather-clad man he did not recognise. The stranger’s voice was deep and had a distinctive accent.

“I want to speak to Kieran,” he demanded.

“Who the hell are you?” Keller shot back. A tattooed arm reached out. The hand grasped Keller’s lapels and the startled lawyer was lifted off his feet.

“My name is Andre, Mr. Hahn.” He pointed across the basement to the Bentley. “Kieran is here and you know him. He won’t answer his call box – so you tell him, little man. Andre is here. He’s not going to get away from me that easily. Mr. Hahn. Do I make myself clear?”

 

Amber eyes fixed Keller with an unblinking stare. Then, before Keller could think of a suitable response, he found himself flying backwards into the front seat of his Speedster. By the time he recovered, the stranger had disappeared.

Kieran opened his door to Keller a few minutes after the confrontation. His long, dark hair was loose and he was wearing  the pale apricot silk he’d been wearing when they met.

“I didn’t know you were into the leather scene,” snapped Keller. His voice was shaking.

 

“I’m  not.” He feigned surprise and then said with a sigh, “ It’s Andre, isn’t it? Andre’s still downstairs.”  He took Keller’s hand. “You’re shaking,” he added, his voice full of concern. He led Keller to the sofa and made him sit. “What did he say?”

The lawyer relaxed a little and took a deep breath.

“He grabbed me in the basement and told me to give you a message.”

 “I thought when I didn’t answer him, he’d just go away.” exclaimed Kieran.

“Well, he didn’t – and he knew me,” said Keller. ” I couldn’t say the same. Who is he?” he asked.

 Kieran sank next to him on the sofa.

“Andre is my own personal stalker. He was a friend – then he turned nasty. I had to take out a restraining order on him. That’s why I left Wellington.” Kieran added a note of tiredness to his voice. “Enough was enough.”

 

“Where did you meet?” asked Keller. He was far more relaxed now.

“In South Africa,” Kieran replied. “My family are diamond dealers and I was in South Africa on business. Andre is a diamond cutter.”

“That explains the accent.” Keller was fascinated. “Go on.”

“He came back to New Zealand with me for a holiday. He was quite fun at first. Then he started to lose his temper when we were together – one day I was taking my girlfriend home and he jumped me outside her place, so I left. I couldn’t let him scare Sue like that. I had to get away – only way to make sure Sue stayed safe.

 

“He’s a determined bugger,” said Keller. “And kinky – he scared the hell out of me.”

“Me too! He doesn’t seem to want anyone else to take any sort of interest in me – weird thing is I don’t think he’s gay! I just don’t know what he wants from me.” Kieran fixed Keller with his dark eyes. “What the hell should I do, Kel? I’m so sorry you’ve been dragged into this.” He stayed seated looking at the floor. “This happens every time I make friends ” Kieran’s voice was unsteady, “I don’t have the right to inflict this on you. I’m sorry.”

 

“I think we were meant to meet,” said Keller. “I mean, you can’t expect to deal with that bully alone, can you? Have you been to the police here yet”

“No, I haven’t. I was hoping I’d lost him when I came through the Bombay Hills!”

“Well, that’s a first step. We’ll get you to the police tomorrow and you can take out a new restraining order. That man was not playing around.”

“You’d really help me see this through?” Kieran asked. His voice had taken on a condensed milk quality.

 

Keller was feeling so secure in his reading of the situation, the older friend, in charge of a new and important friendship, one he had longed for all his friendless life.

“Right now,” he said, “I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t do for you.” The ice had melted in his pale blue eyes. “I don’t let my friends down – ever.” He added, the determination in his voice unmistakable.

 

Kieran took control of the logic centre of Keller’s mind with the ease of a puppet master.  He was interrupted by a sharp knocking at the door.

Keller was so deeply in Kieran’s thrall, he failed to notice he was already standing several inches away  when the two men separated. Keller sat on the sofa and was rummaging in his briefcase when Kieran opened the door to Mrs. Weir. She held up a stoneware oven dish.

“Some dinner, Mr. Doyle,” she said. “I thought you might not want to fuss around cooking on your first weekend. I know how much there is to do when one moves into new premises. It’s goulash and rice – the dinner, I mean.” She laughed.

 

Then she noticed Keller behind his briefcase. Her smile lost some of its radiance.

“Oh, Mr. Hahn,” she exclaimed. “Will you be staying?”

Keller looked up at the caretaker the ice back in the pale blue eyes.

“Yes, I will, Mrs. Weir. Mr. Doyle and I have some important business to get through.” His voice was as cold and precise as his smile.

Mrs. Weir was put out obviously. Nevertheless, she beamed at Kieran as she spoke.

“It’s lucky I brought up more than enough for two then. I hope you enjoy it, Mr. Doyle.” She placed the dish in Kieran’s hands with a flourish and turned to go. “I’ll pick up the casserole dish later.” she called over her shoulder.

“That’s very kind of you, Mrs. Weir,” Kieran called back.  “And thank you,” he added to the lift doors, as they closed on the caretaker’s smile.

 

 Kieran placed the food on the bench. He caught Keller’s eye. The lawyer burst out laughing. He couldn’t stop.

“My God, she has the hots for you, Kieran, me lad!” He managed to stifle the remnants of his laughter.

“Where were we when we were so rudely interrupted,” he growled.

 

“Dealing with the fright Andre gave you. We had decided on another restraining order – the police – tomorrow!”

“Right, are you sure tomorrow is soon enough?” Keller asked. “I mean, what if …” Kieran did not allow him to finish.

“Tomorrow will be fine. I have something else I’d like your help with – if you’re feeling up for a challenge!”

“Absolutely! What do you have in mind?”

 

Kieran decided  to include Keller in some financial planning and moved away up the staircase much faster than he’d intended. When he saw the startled look on his pursuer’s face, he slowed down. Again, this body had sprung a surprise on him. Another ‘talent’ he had not expected. How much more had he to discover about himself, he wondered.

“Just getting some papers. I want help with – well, want to invest in more property.”

Kieran collected a little paper evidence that would ‘reveal’ just how wealthy he was and dashed back down the stairs.

“God,” Keller interjected before Kieran could continue, “you move like an express train!”

“I was a runner in school,” explained Kieran. “Still like to run the odd marathon!” he added with a smile

“I can believe it!” declared the lawyer. “The fastest sport I indulge in is pistol shooting.”

“Really?” Kieran looked at Keller with raised eyebrows. “You surprise me!”

Keller laughed.

“And you me!”

“Well, I hope all this isn’t too much of a surprise. He gave the papers to Keller. “I want about a ten percent total of my assets in property.”

 

Keller looked at the papers, suddenly serious. Kieran acted fast. He amplified the shock Keller was experiencing, the redhead remaining passive, as Kieran  moved into the lawyer’s subconscious. He rationalized the burst of speed Keller had witnessed. Once again as he took over, he read Keller needs and then played to them within the receptive mind.  Kieran wanted Keller to do everything in his power to make sure the property he invested in would be absolute sureties. Furthermore, he made sure the lawyer trusted him absolutely. After all, no-one as rich as Kieran could be anything but absolute class.

 

When he retreated from the captive mind, Keller spoke,

“That is close to one hundred million dollars worth of property.” The lawyer’s voice was muted with utter awe. “Would you want me to work through my cousin’s realty firm?”

“Of course!” Kieran smiled. “Let’s get started. Why don’t you set up here? I’ll make you some coffee and you can draw up an initial plan with me.”

Keller pulled out his laptop and was soon on Mallory Realtor’s website. This was proving to be an interesting day, really interesting, in more than the two obvious ways. Soon he had all Mallory Realtors top properties on screen and was deep in planning a series of investments for Kieran. It was after nine before the two men were satisfied with having made a good start.

 

                “I’m starving!” Keller declared.

“I’ll reheat Mrs. Weir’s dinner in the microwave.” suggested Kieran.

After eating, Keller suggested a nightclub. Kieran agreed and told the lawyer he would meet him in the basement in five minutes. As Keller left to change, Kieran made for the bathroom. He was learning the ‘price’ he had to pay for eating food his body no longer needed. I’ve got to learn to control this, he thought, as abdominal spasms ripped through him. It could prove most awkward if he had to rush to the lavatory every time he ate. Once he flushed away the goulash and rice, he decided to keep social interactions over food to an absolute minimum.

Keller had decided to show his new friend off at ‘The Top Hat’, an exclusive club in downtown Auckland. It was at The Top Hat,  where everyone who was anyone, spent time being seen and, of course, seeing the latest additions to the upper echelons of Auckland’s high society . This was a world Kieran hadn’t realised existed. He met business executives, a doctor, two more lawyers, several members of the acting world’s elite and surprisingly, a senior police officer.

Kieran and Keller were standing at the bar talking to one of the lawyers, an attractive brunette, when a deep voice behind them called Keller’s name.

“Well, well,” exclaimed Eduard Mallory, as he walked up to the bar. He laid a large hand on his cousin’s shoulder. “I knew I’d find you here, Kel. You work fast.”

“Actually, I work fast,” said Kieran. The two men laughed.

“I noticed your activity on our site this evening – you looking to invest in property, Mr. Doyle?” said Eduard. He seemed amused.

“I am, Eduard, and please, call me Kieran.”

However, Keller knew his cousin too well.

“You didn’t come here to socialise, Eddie,” said Keller, changing the subject. “What do you want? Saturday night is not the time to conduct business.”

“I know,” replied Eduard, “but Lacey and Baldwin have just got back from Sydney and want to go over the legal portfolio.”

Keller gave an exasperated sigh. He turned to Kieran.

“Family business,” he explained, with a shrug.

 

Kieran knew the ‘business’ Keller was referring to. The Mallory brothers  wanted to set up a casino, competition for the huge operation already established in Auckland. It was a venture that was both risky and very costly. Darius had refused to consider the idea. Now he was dead, the deal was well under way. The Australian investors now requesting Keller’s expertise, were vital to the plans.

“I’m bushed anyway,” said Kieran. “You two go and I’ll walk back to Cityside. It’ll relax me.”

“You sure?” asked Keller. He looked concerned. “Eddie could give you a lift.”

“No, I’m fine, really,” Kieran insisted. He waved the pair off, took leave of Kel’s friends, declined a most suggestive offer from the brunette lawyer and stepped into the night.

 

The city was still, expectantly silent, like a drum waiting for the start of a new song. Kieran’s steps sounded eerily down an empty lane. Then he began to run.

It took him less than a minute to reach the apartment building, almost three kilometres from the nightclub. Without serious effort. One day I must really push it, he thought. He stored the fleeting glimpse of a couple he passed so rapidly, they refused to agree that someone had, in fact, passed them.

 

When he reached Cityside, he went straight to the basement and made himself comfortable in the backseat of the Bentley. He leaned forward to adjust the rear vision mirror. Staring into his own dark eyes, he began to make alterations.

Almost two hours passed before he sensed Keller’s approach. By the time Keller shut the door of Garrick’s Range Rover, Kieran had taken up a position near the lift. He was slipping onto the floor when Keller appeared at the entrance. He saw Kieran immediately, ran over to him and fell to his knees.

 

“Christ!” he exploded, when he looked at Kieran’s face. “What happened?” Anxiety made him clumsy. He couldn’t get Kieran to his feet.

“I’m going to call an ambulance,” said Keller. Kieran stopped him.

“No!” His voice was harsh, his breathing laboured. “I don’t want to have to answer any questions, particularly if Andre shows up at the hospital. He looks a lot worse than I do, believe me.” He tightened his grip on Keller’s arm. “Andre knows how I feel now. He just might listen this time.”

“But what if you have a broken rib, or something?” Keller was close to panic.

“Then the doctor would say – you have a broken rib. Don’t do anything strenuous for the next few weeks.” Kieran paused for breath.

 

He let Keller help him to his feet before he continued. “I’m pretty sure I have a couple of broken ribs – so I won’t do anything strenuous for a few weeks. Just help me upstairs, Kel, please.”

Keller ran his security card through the lift’s computer, while Kieran leaned against the chrome side. He touched the ugly bruising over his left cheek and eye. He’d decided against any bloody wounds. Playing around with this body’s fluids was something he wasn’t willing to risk, not yet, anyway. Bruises and welts were safer. There were several on his neck and upper arms, a massive contusion on his right side and an eye-watering blackness to the right of his groin, that bore witness to a mis-placed kick.

“Some ice,” said Keller, as they made their way into 504. “Do you have ice in the freezer?”

“Bottom compartment,” answered Kieran, as he sank into a sofa. Keller fussed around the kitchen making ice-packs with two of Kieran’s new tea-towels.

“What happened?” he asked, as he experimented with tea-towel corners.

“Andre was waiting when I got back. He asked me to go with him to ‘talk’ about things. I know what he means by ‘talk’, so I refused. He tried to force me. I managed to persuade him I was serious about not going.” Kieran punctuated his speech, with pauses for breath.

When Keller brought the ice-packs over, Kieran took one and held it gingerly to his groin.

“What …” began Keller. “I thought .. face … ribs …”

“Andre is the type who likes to kick a man when he’s down – missed the important bits though!” he added, when Keller looked as though he was about to have a seizure. The lawyer would not be appeased. He held out his hand. Kieran took it and stood awkwardly.

“Like you said once,” said Keller, sounding thoroughly flustered, “– just as long as it’s clear I’m not making moves on you! Um,” he stammered, “you need to drop them,” Keller pointed to Kieran’s trousers. He helped Kieran with the fastenings, gently easing the jeans down. As Kieran sat cautiously, Keller’s breath hissed in between his teeth. He touched the blackened area with the utmost tenderness.

“Shit,” he said softly, “that looks so sore!”

 

He put the ice-pack gently in place and then lifted Kieran’s shirt. He checked the bruising over the ribs.

“This bit here,” he said, resting two fingers on the centre of the discolouration, “looks dented. Broken?” Kieran grimaced.

“Probably.”

Keller collected another tea-towel from the drawer and halved the ice between the two towels. Kieran held the one to his eye, while Keller held the ice in place over the dented ribs.

 

Twenty minutes later, Keller was satisfied with his friend’s progress. He checked the swelling, which Kieran had obligingly reduced, discarded the ice packs and helped Kieran upstairs. Once Kieran was comfortably arranged on the bed, Keller headed down the stairs again.

“I’m going to get some stuff from my apartment,” he called. “I’m not leaving you alone like this.”

Some stuff turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes, toiletries and pain-killers. Kieran refused the tablets Keller held out to him. He was afraid he might react to drugs the way he reacted to alcohol. He wouldn’t risk it.

“Allergic to just about every pain-killer known to science,” he explained. “Sorry, Kel.”

” That’s rough!” Keller responded. He looked at the tablets in his hand and then popped them into his own mouth. He swallowed them down with the water he had brought up for Kieran. “Been in such a bloody state,” he added, “I’ve given myself a headache.”

The first thing Keller did on Monday the 13th was phone Francine to cancel all his appointments for the next week or so. He informed her he would probably be in the following Wednesday. He offered no explanation and none was sought.

Keller was amazed at Kieran’s recuperative powers. By Sunday the ninteenth, the bruises had faded nicely. Keller felt he played no small part in the recovery. Still, he wanted to continue playing nurse and guardian and best friend, although Kieran assured him he was feeling much better.

 

 He was worried by how little Kieran seemed to be eating. No, he thought decisively, a few more days of keeping an eye on his very rich patient was definitely called for. He would continue to develop the property portfolio for Kieran and when Eduard realised how much the work Keller was doing with Kieran was worth, he would be utterly supportive of Keller’s temporary absence from work.

 

As Keller relaxed into the role of care-giver, Kieran was finally able to get him talking. The afternoon of Monday the twentieth, Kieran felt it safe to broach the subject of family.

“Mrs. Weir mentioned there have been some recent tragedies in your family. It sounded pretty awful.” he said. “Am I allowed to ask what happened?”

A flood of images poured from Keller’s mind, eroding the relaxed expression on his face.

“I’m sorry,” said Kieran, allowing time for the flood to become a trickle, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“No, no!” Keller’s protest sounded over an image of Garrick using the hunting rifle on Samantha, the rifle Keller brought to the scene of the murder in his own back-pack. That’s the one thing that really bothers him, thought Kieran. He must have worked it through in his mind. What did he think the damn thing was for?

 

Keller’s words broke through Kieran’s thoughts.

“You haven’t upset me, really – you haven’t,” he repeated, his tone unconvincing, even to his own ears.

“You want to talk about it?” asked Kieran. “I can see it does bother you.”

“Yeah, well,” conceded Keller, “some of it was pretty gruesome.”

“What happened?” Kieran added a little mental pressure.

 

The description of the deaths of Darius and Samantha which followed, was clinically precise. It brought to Kieran’s mind the report delivered to the inquest court just twenty-four hours before the Porsche flipped near the airport.

“God!” interjected Kieran, eventually. “That is horrible.”

“It was,” agreed Keller, with feeling. He really meant it.

“What about your cousin?”

“A car accident.”

 

The answer was too quick. It restored the flow of memories, which threatened to overwhelm Keller. Disgust, fear, anger, all detritus in this flood, which could be contained, but which would never really subside.

“He – Kenyon Mallory, wasn’t really my cousin. Eddie’s my blood relative. His mother and mine are sisters. Ken’s mum was Irish. She was Darius’ third wife. Ken was …” Keller hesitated, searching for a word that would describe his feelings accurately, without giving too much away. He settled for, “odd.”

 

“What do you mean?” Kieran wanted to hear exactly what Keller would say. While Keller’s mind was using the words, ‘He was a freaking mind-reader’, his mouth said,

“Sometimes he seemed to know things instinctively. It could make people very nervous.”

Nervous enough to kill, thought Kieran, before continuing.

“You said it was a car accident?”

“He wrote off his Porsche at high speed. His brakes failed.”

“A Porsche’s brakes failed?”

 

“The police said in their report, it was a one in a million freak accident. Car didn’t roll, of course. Those 928S’s don’t, but Ken must have tried to use the gears to slow him down. The momentum forced the nose of the car down and flipped it. Ken was thrown out, onto the side of his head. I had to identify the body. He looked so god-damned awful in the morgue. But in the coffin – I don’t know …” He paused, frowning like a chess master in an unexpected check. “I saw him again before they closed the coffin at the undertakers. The morticians must have used a partial face mask – like  movie make-up. I didn’t know undertakers could do such incredible work. You couldn’t see a trace of the injury. He looked so perfect – too perfect..”

 

“I’m intrigued,” said Kieran. “Go on.” This was all new to Kieran and he was being truthful. He was intrigued.

“I mean he was like a wax dummy of himself – you know, like a Madame Tussaud figure. I hate those damn things. They always look like they’re waiting for something – then when it arrives, they’ll open their mouths and start speaking.”

 

Kieran thought how perceptive Keller could be. He had strong latent telepath ability, which had never been nurtured. Bridget had told her son that Keller had ‘the gift’, but he had never removed the wrapping. If he had, he may have proved a formidable opponent indeed.

 

Keller’s mind replayed events at Ken Mallory’s funeral. None of it felt right. The body in the coffin looked wrong. The whole affair – wrong. The threat that Ken’s knowledge of the murders posed, was over. But Keller wouldn’t relax. Eddie and Gar told him he was crazy. It was over. They had the money they needed. The casino deal would go ahead now they were in complete control. Furthermore, homicide inquiries concerning the deaths of Darius and Samantha, had brushed lightly over them and left them in the clear. Ken’s death had been declared ‘accidental’. Yet Keller kept feeling it wasn’t over.

 

Finally,  pushing the past away, Keller smiled into the present.

“I’ll make us some tea,” he said cheerfully. Kieran sighed inwardly. He was managing to retain food and drink for longer periods now, but it made him feel uncomfortable and slightly dizzy.

“Look, you have something,” he replied. “I’m honestly not hungry or thirsty.”

Keller poked the biceps in Kieran’s left arm.

“How do you retain all this muscle, when you eat so little?”

“I’m a closet-snacker,” whispered Kieran. Then out loud, he added. “You go ahead – enjoy.”

 

Keller returned a few minutes later with tea and a sandwich. As he settled on the bed, Kieran picked up on their previous conversation.

“Did you like Ken?” he asked. Keller swallowed a mouthful of sandwich before replying.

“I could have.” It was Kieran’s turn to be surprised.

“Could have?” he asked. “Explain.”

“I mean he was a nice person – a good doctor too. Remember, I told you he was very instinctive?”

“You said it made people nervous.”

“Except in his job. He used his instincts to guide him with his patients.”

 

Kieran was fascinated by Keller’s words. He hadn’t realised that the lawyer had ever paid the slightest attention to Ken Mallory’s work.

“Useful talent for a doctor, I would imagine,” he said. Keller nodded.

“Ken and I had a friend in common, although I don’t think Ken ever realised it. Trist would never have told him we were friends. He would spend hours telling me what a wonderful doctor my cousin was. Trist and I were friends.”

 

Kieran was enduring something as close to human shock as he’d experienced in this body. Never once, did Ken Mallory entertain the slightest idea that Tristram Leech was anything other than a good friend. Kieran had to keep Keller talking.

“Tell me about this Trist,” he said, adding a strong mental prod.

“Trist Leech was Ken’s best friend. They started med school together, trained together. Trist adored Ken, but he would never have told him. He knew Ken was straight and would have died before telling Ken how he felt and putting their friendship at risk. As it turned out, Ken was the one who died. Trist blamed himself – fell apart.” Keller’s voice had fallen into a whisper. “He hasn’t been back to work since Ken’s funeral.”

 

That was all Keller could manage. His mind was filled with a raw pain. Kieran locked into Keller’s thoughts. Trist Leech was the focus. Keller and Trist had been real friends. And Kieran already knew how Keller felt about friendship – that was something that never went away. Regardless of Trist’s sexual orientation, Keller had felt real friendship with the gay doctor, his last real friend. The death for which Keller had been directly responsible,  brought his friend down and there was nothing he could do about it. His thoughts hovered over the image of the pale, shivering wreck of a doctor, who attended Ken’s funeral and regret ate at Keller like a cancer.

 

Kieran withdrew from the mental anguish. He had his own to deal with. He had been so blind. Trist had loved him. What use had his ‘gift’ been there? Why had he never recognised that love? Maybe, it was simply that he hadn’t known to look for it. Or maybe, he hadn’t wanted to recognise it. Something had to be done. Kieran led Keller into sleep before  he entered the unresisting subconscious. The pain eased. Activity diminished. Deep sleep took  Keller as he was lifted from his seat and carried over to a couch. He would remain there until the puppet master returned and picked up his strings once more.

 

 Chapter Ends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five. Restoration.

 

Revenge is easy. All humans have a vindictive streak hiding beneath a civilized veneer. Most of the time, in most social  circumstances, the civilized veneer holds, and differences are settled with no particular display of meanness. Kieran could remember very few incidents from his past where this had not been the case.

 

Repair is a different matter. The same vindictive streak which encourages revenge, makes avoidance of old hurts a far easier and less embarrassing option than attempting to make things right. Now Kieran was going to attempt to repair the damage he had unwittingly inflicted on his old friend. He was not sure exactly what he would do when he reached the beach house owned by Trist Leech.

 

He mulled over his options for the thirty minutes the drive took and he was still undecided. Turning right down WhangaroaPeninsula, he cruised slowly towards his destination, allowing two tanned surfers to pad across the road in front of him. They gestured their wet and sandy thanks to the tinted windows, clearly bemused by not being able to see the person they were thanking.

 

The house, owned by Trist, was visible now. It lay on an elevated section, surrounded by trees. From the rear windows, you could see the ocean and the sandy beach was a simple walk  down off Trist’s back deck and across a stretch of lawn. Kieran stopped the Bentley outside the gate. The gentle sound of the ocean at high tide filled the car, as the amiable blond gazed at his reflection in the rear vision mirror, before stepping out on to the sandy verge.

 

It was dusk. A stiff breeze whipped Kieran’s hair across his face as he made his way quietly to the rear of the small house. He was still uncertain, unwilling to do anything that would frighten his former friend. Frighten him, thought Kieran ruefully. I’ll scare him out of his wits. He was at my funeral, for God’s sake. He closed his eyes and sought out the owner of the cottage. He found Trist in the lounge, curled up in a sofa. He was doing nothing, thinking nothing. His mind was a blank.

Finally, it was the blankness that decided Kieran. He moved through the back door so silently nothing registered his passing. He fixed on the emptiness, the stillness, holding it in place, as he sat on a couch opposite the occupied sofa.

 

Slowly, he revealed himself to Trist. He encouraged the thought of materialization to take shape. Kieran watched the young doctor absorb his presence . He emanated concern and the idea that there was nothing to fear.

Eventually, Trist decided he was awake.

“I’ve gone mad,” he said to himself. “I have finally gone right over the edge.”

 

His mind refused to accept the presence in the lounge as real. Hallucination, it explained patiently, brought on by longing and guilt. He laughed, accepting his mind’s hallucination theory.

“God, you were a lovely man,” he said to his hallucination. His voice cracked, as he added, “and I let you die. This isn’t helping.” he wailed. ” Why is my mind doing this? I can’t stand it.”

“It’s not your mind, Trist.” Kieran made the voice of his human past as sweet as a caress. “You’re not crazy – not yet, but you will be, if you don’t listen to me.”

“What did you say?” asked Trist in a tiny little voice.

“I said you will go crazy if you don’t listen to me.”

 

Very slowly and very carefully, Trist sat upright. In slow motion, he pulled himself right onto the edge of his sofa. His scientific curiosity was at war with a basic primal fear. He wanted to speak, but couldn’t. There was too much confusion, too much his scientific mind could not absorb.

 

Kieran sat absolutely still as he continued to speak.

“Sometimes, Trist, there are things you just can’t explain. You are destroying yourself like this and it is pointless. You won’t listen to anyone else, won’t let anyone help you – that’s why I’m here.”

“This is impossible. I should have been able to save Ken.” He could not talk to the figure opposite him, much less accept that it was Ken Mallory to whom he was speaking. Instead, he spoke to the room, to the approaching night, to anything that might listen. “I should have been able to help.”

“Trist, it was over when I hit the road. There was nothing you or anyone else could have done.”

 

The young doctor would not face Kieran. “Trist, look at me.” Kieran used his coercive skills to draw the doctor’s eyes to his. “What you saw was not the end for me. It was a transition. It happened for a purpose. You are castigating yourself for nothing. Your whole life is ahead of you.”  Kieran paused for several moments before he added, “and you will love again, you must believe that.”

 

It took a while for the impact of what he had just heard to sink in. When it did, Trist spoke.

“You knew how I felt about you?”

“No,” responded Kieran, “it is a knowledge I have only recently come to. Now I have learned  how you felt and feel about me, I have only one regret – that I didn’t know before.” Trist hung on Kieran’s every word. “I did not know – in some ways it was naïveté, in other ways, selfishness. I didn’t know to look for it and you never told me – you never said a word.”

“If I had, I may have destroyed our friendship. You had Amy – I couldn’t do anything to spoil that.”

 

Their thoughts drifted to the little nurse, sobbing in the corner of the A & E room at the hospital. Kieran spoke to dispel the memory.

“Our friendship was important, Trist. I would not have thrown it away. And you could have helped me to understand. You should have spoken to me.”

“I wanted to, Ken.” Kieran was startled by the use of his former name. He had forgotten that Trist would not know the name or appearance of what he was now.

Trist continued, his voice tired. “I wanted to tell you so badly. I used to dream about you – about telling you how I felt. You would love me back in those dreams – and then you were dead.” He sighed. “I left it too late.” He looked up. For the first time, there was hope in his voice. “At least, I thought it was too late.”

 

Kieran smiled.

“It’s never too late, Trist – never.” Something lifted in the young doctor’s mind.

“I loved you for a long time, Ken,” he said softly, ‘from the time we were students together in med school. Every year that love grew and when you died, I wanted to die too.”

“I know,” responded Kieran, “but you mustn’t die. You must let your love carry you into life, not death.” Kieran lifted his hand, a beckoning gesture. He felt Trist long to touch him and he felt the fear holding him back.

“What will happen – if I touch you?” asked Trist suddenly.

“If you take my hand, you will feel my fingers in yours.”

“How?” murmured Trist, almost rhetorically. Kieran did not move or speak. He kept his hand extended. Trist eased off the couch and walked unsteadily towards him.

 

He stood there for long moments before taking the hand being held out to him. As he made contact and Kieran didn’t disappear, tears formed in his eyes.

“You really are here,” he murmured. He held the cool hand in his, the two men linked like parent and child.

“I’m here because you need me to be here,” said Kieran, by way of reply. Trist knelt, the linked hands resting on Kieran’s knee. Joy and sadness caused Trist to hover on the edge of a cliff of pain so deep, it was fathomless. He dropped his head forward and began to weep.

 

Kieran used his free hand to pull the tousled head towards him. All the pent-up grief, the weeks of pain and guilt flooded passed the broken dam in the young doctor’s heart. He wept uncontrollably into the lap of the man he had loved.

Kieran stroked his hair and let him cry.

 

 Eventually, in the dark of a quiet Monday night, Tristram Leech cried himself to sleep. Only then, did Kieran move. With smooth easy movements, he lifted the slumbering form of his friend and carried him through to the bedroom. He arranged Trist comfortably on the bed and threw a light rug over him to keep off the coastal chill.

 

The glow from the street light fell across a photograph next to Trist on the bedside cabinet. It was a shot of two young doctors on the day they started at AucklandHospital. Kieran smiled as he recalled the horsing around with the camera. They had finally persuaded a nurse to take the shot. Amy had caught them using their white coats as vampire cloaks, while they bared non-existent fangs.

 

Kieran removed the photograph from its frame and picked up a pen that had been lying with a pile of medical papers on the floor. In the top left corner of the photograph, he wrote ‘To Trist, all my love, Ken.’ As a final touch, he added the date. ‘Monday, November 20th.’ He placed the photograph on the empty pillow.

 

Still not satisfied, he went over to the bay window and sat on the comfortable cushions to wait for morning. It was just before six, when Trist woke. Kieran placed the image of an empty room in the young doctor’s perception and watched Trist find the photograph. He was about to place the photo back on the bedside cabinet, when he noticed the inscription. He read and reread the words. When he did return the photo frame to its position, he was smiling.

 

He picked up the phone and punched in a number. Kieran listened as Trist told the roster clerk he was well enough to return to work. He listened for a moment and then agreed to be in for the nine o’clock shift that morning. When Kieran left, as silently as he had arrived, Trist was in the shower. His mind had dealt with Kieran’s visit He accepted it for what it was – something that had to happen. He knew it had saved his sanity, perhaps his life. And accompanying his love for Ken, were new feelings; feelings of gratitude and peace.

 

 As Kieran drove into the basement of Cityside, he picked up strong emanations of confusion and worry. The thought patterns were familiar. Eduard and Garrick were standing by the lift arguing. Eduard wanted to call Mrs. Weir. Garrick wanted to use their security card, open the apartment and find out personally why they had been unable to get hold of Keller for so long.

 

Kieran walked up behind them.

“Are you looking for Keller?” he asked. The brothers turned. Eduard spoke while Garrick observed.

 “Ah, Mr. Doyle,” he began.

“Kieran, please.” The interruption was polite and firm, serving as an introduction for Garrick’s benefit.

 “Kieran,” repeated Eduard, “do you know where Keller might be?” Kieran smiled at Garrick.

“I do know where he is. You must be Garrick,” he added. He extended a hand.      Garrick shook it, surprised.

“Er, yes,” he replied.

“Kieran Doyle. Your cousin’s mentioned you.”

Eduard was starting to look amused.

“That reprobate cousin of mine wouldn’t be in your apartment, would he?”

“Fast asleep on my couch, last time I saw him,” responded Kieran. Garrick’s           eyebrows started to rise.

“He’s been nursing me since my run in with an old acquaintance and working on a property investment portfolio for me. Very busy equals very tired!”

 

 “It’s really urgent we get Keller to an investor’s meeting at 8 am,” said Garrick, as Kieran carded into the lift’s security computer.

  “Come up and I’ll put on some coffee,” said Kieran. “I can’t guarantee his energy levels though – he was really tired.”

 “How’s the portfolio coming?” asked Eduard, “Made any decisions yet?” he continued as the lift glided to a halt on the fifth floor. Kieran turned to him with a smile.

“Getting there!” responded Kieran.

“Good for Keller to be doing some real work for a change!,” exclaimed Garrick, laughing.

“He’s certainly been working hard,” said Kieran. His face was serious. “He’s put in many hours for me. He is a good friend.” He found the truth he shared with the brothers satisfying. The brothers were still laughing, as they entered the silent apartment.

“I’ll wake him,” offered Kieran. “You put on the coffee.” He pointed to the galley bench. Garrick picked up the percolator, Eduard relaxed on a galley stool and Kieran went up the stairs.

Keller was lying exactly where Kieran had left him the previous evening. Quickly, he released the thrall on Keller’s mind and pulled him into the waking world. Keller scrambled off the couch, almost falling, until Kieran caught him. As he held the lawyer upright, Kieran soothed away the wrinkles in the man’s psyche.

Gently, he pushed the sleepy man towards the stairs.

“Your cousins,” he said pointing to Eduard and Garrick. “They’ve been trying to phone you and all Francine would tell them is that you were ‘tied up’ – remember?”

“Eddie, Gar?” Keller began to function as he reached the stairs. Kieran nodded.

“You’ve got an investor’s meeting at 8 am. It’s already 7.15.”

“I’ll have a quick shower,” Keller called to his cousins, as he raced up the stairs.

 

Kieran grabbed the lawyer’s toiletries bag from Keller’s suitcase and followed him.

“You might need your stuff,” he said with a laugh. Keller looked at Kieran’s face.

“Your bruises!” he exclaimed. He turned and touched the left side of Kieran’s face. “That’s got to be a record.” He looked closely at Kieran’s skin. “Not a trace! That’s almost uncanny.”

 

Kieran realised he had forgotten to restore the appearance of the healing bruises, after he had used Ken’s appearance. He thought fast.

“Absolutely uncanny. My doctor agrees. He did tests on me a few years ago, because of the speed with which I heal. It has something to do with my metabolism. Because I’m so fit, my circulation carries the dead blood cells away from contusions very quickly. Ribs are still sore though,” he added, with a grimace. Keller relaxed. The explanation sounded sensible enough to accept. Kieran raised his voice a level.

“Shave and shower,” he ordered, “get on with it.”

 

He left Keller in the bathroom and rejoined the Mallory brothers, whose murmurs were barely audible above the gurgling of the percolator. The rich aroma of coffee filled the air.

“He’ll be down in a few minutes. ” Kieran pulled out a stool and sat down. This was an opportunity to gain understanding. He had returned to deal with these men. He wanted to know more before he acted. Kieran knocked Eduard into a light sleep, while he enthralled Garrick, probing into the hidden recesses of his memory.

It is a cold grey day. Clouds scud across the landscape, almost within reach. The mountainside is thickly bushed. The child hears a voice.

“Remember, Gar, wait until you see its eyes before you fire.” The child looks at the gun in his hands. It is almost as long as he is, yet the thing feels right, familiar.

This is his first real hunt, after long months of practice at the range. Excitement courses through him as he pushes into the deep undergrowth. He is tense, alert, ready for the kill. He barely breathes, wishing the adults would be quieter. He can hear them behind him; his father, his father’s friend and his mother. Their noisy clumsiness annoys him. It will drive the deer away and he wants this kill. He wants it badly.

 

There is a rustling behind him to the left. He draws in his breath and spins around. Eyes, large brown eyes, just visible through the dense vegetation. Quickly and surely he raises the gun to his shoulder and fires. The recoil almost knocks him off his feet. Yet, there is satisfaction. He knows he has hit his mark. He saw the blood as he staggered back. He finds his feet and then registers the scream.

 

Adult voices cry out in alarm. There is a commotion around his kill. The horrible scream fades to a liquid gurgle and then chokes out. A male voice calls his name loudly. The tone is hysterical. The boy pushes through the bloodied undergrowth, eager to examine his handiwork. His father and the friend are crouched over the kill, but it is not a deer. He recognises his mother’s tramping boots and jeans, her swandri, but he does not recognize her face. Her blood-spattered right eye, stares brown and sightless into the grey air. Where the other eye should be is a blood crater, rimmed with tiny rocks of flesh. There is more blood on the ground and on the surrounding bushes. His father cradles the obscene head, calling,

“Sylvia, Sylvia …”

 

The other man has his fingers resting at her throat.

“Darius, she’s dead,” he says, as he takes off his windbreaker. He pushes his friend away firmly and lays the jacket over the face. The boy continues to stare. The father looks at him, tears in his blue eyes. He says nothing. Slowly, the reality of what has happened registers. A feeling of loss sweeps through the child. Tears come. The friend steps up to him and turns him away. A handkerchief is pushed into the child’s hand.

“Darius, you must go for help. I’ll bring the boy down.”

 

The child still weeps, but the tears are not tears of grief. The sense of loss was fleeting. It has been replaced by rage – a terrible all-consuming anger directed at the fallen woman. The weeping which wracks his body is an outlet. Otherwise, he would kill again. He would have to.

 

She had spoiled everything. Everything. Now his father would hate him – wouldn’t take him hunting again. And his mother wouldn’t be there anymore. How could she have been so stupid?  She was supposed to have been behind him, with his father, not off to the side. His father taught him that – the first thing. Never leave your group. Always know your formation and stick to it. And wait until you see their eyes – big dark brown eyes. Just like his mother’s eyes – those big brown eyes his father loved so much. His stupid mother’s eyes. Stupid woman.

 

All women – stupid. Good for only one thing. To get alone and teach – teach that they are stupid. Weeping, crying, cursing you, proving only one thing – that you are right.

 

Then Samantha. Those same big dark brown eyes. How he had hated her. He sees her before him, naked. He sees the dark secret place women have, where his brother has been, where he will now go. There is no fluid. He and his brother would not be stupid enough to leave their seed behind for the police to analyse.

 

He looks up at his father, bound and gagged. He wants the man to suffer. The little boy he had rejected, the child he would never take hunting again, would now claim his trophy. He looks down at the helpless woman. Her helplessness hardens him, readies his weapon. He takes the rubber sheath his brother holds out to him and slips it on. Then  he plunges into her, stabs at her, impaling her again and again. Each lunge more vicious than the last. The desire to see her in pain helps him hold back the release and he continues hurting her for a long time.

 

He remains oblivious to the watching eyes. When the climax does come, he drives into her so deeply that all resistance ceases. She becomes the dead thing of his first hunt.

He leaves her, feeling empty, angry. He takes off the sheath, ties it carefully, trapping the milky fluid and slips it into his pocket. Then he lets his victim go. She scrambles on the floor, staggers to he feet and runs. Stupid woman. He seizes the hunting rifle which his cousin and friend holds out to him. He holds the rifle to his shoulder and waits – waits until the woman reaches the door and then he brings her down with it. He hits her in the spine.  She flops over, a nothing. A dead stupid nothing. No remorse, no pity – even the hatred, the anger is gone. For a fleeting moment, he is free.

Kieran withdrew from the cesspit of Garrick’s mind in horror. He had never suspected the depths of hatred that drove Garrick. For twenty-five years, he had known the man, without knowing him at all. He hadn’t known that Garrick had raped every woman who had trusted him enough to go out with him; raped them and humiliated them so intensely, that not one of them had ever reported him.

 

Kieran found himself staring at Garrick.

“What?” asked Garrick, suddenly aware of Kieran’s black eyes. The thrall was lifted.

“The coffee,” said Kieran, quickly. “I said the coffee’s ready.”

“Just as well,” responded Garrick. “Eddie’s dozed off.”

Kieran leaned across the bench and shook Eduard’s arm, at the same time releasing the sleep hold.

 

Keller was watching him from the stairs. Two mistakes in one day, thought Kieran. I’m not doing well. He shrugged and mouthed.

“Bored him to sleep!” Kieran felt uncertainty in Keller’s mind. The telepathic sensitivity Kenyon had once feared,  picked up the power emanating from him. He let his guard slip and now he needed to cover his tracks.

 

It was useless to simply ‘turn off’ the power he had been using. Kieran continued to use his telepathic ability, but he converted the emanation into trust. It became a magnet of friendship so strong, it gave Keller pleasure and drove all suspicions from his mind.

 

Eduard was no problem. He was waking up quite normally. He and his brother exchanged comments on levels of rudeness, falling asleep in pleasant company and not wanting to retain wealthy and trustworthy clients when they wanted to talk about their investments.

 

The bantering continued until the three men left. Kieran walked them to the door. While Eduard and Garrick called the lift, Keller turned to Kieran.

“Take care – are you sure you’ve seen the last of Andre?,” he said.

“I am,” responded Kieran. “But I’ll be careful anyway!”

“Guys,” groaned Eduard, from the lift. “come on!”

“Yeah, I’m coming,” muttered Keller. “See you soon,” he added, as the Mallorys pulled him into the lift.

Kieran was satisfied with his progress. However, there was something else worrying him. Now he had been made aware of the impact of his death on Trist Leech, he needed to know how Amy Bennett was coping with the events of the past weeks. The thought that she might be suffering because of his blind selfishness, distressed him.

 

He decided to visit the hospital that morning. He showered and dressed in grey moleskins , a deep grey skivvy and his leather jacket. The now refilled black wallet bumped against his side as he straightened his collar. He took it from his pocket and extracted the photograph.

 

Once again, he examined the pretty, clever face of the woman who had been his mother. Then he noticed something he had not seen before. There was a tiny dark shape on the hillside behind the smiling woman. It was not a tree stump, as Kieran had first supposed. When he studied it carefully, he found it was a human figure, its features lost in the folds of an old-fashioned clerical-style robe. It was the figure from his and his mother’s memories, the figure who had come to him less than two weeks ago, stood beside him in a lonely graveyard, comforted him and instructed him.

 

The figure was tiny but quite distinct. Kieran wondered how he had ever mistaken the shape for a tree stump.

“Who are you?” he whispered to the empty apartment. “I keep feeling I should know, but I don’t.”

He returned the photograph to the wallet and the wallet to the jacket pocket. “There seems to be so much I don’t know,” he sighed. Then, by way of comfort, he added, “yet!”

Kieran drove the Bentley to the Hospital. Leaving the imposing vehicle secured in a space free of meters and time restrictions in the Domain, he walked through the park to the hospital. He walked at a leisurely pace. The shade of the trees was pleasant. Kieran had discovered that too much bright sunshine gave him a tight, tired feeling around the eyes.

 

Standing in the shade, looking up at the buildings of AucklandHospital brought a flood of memories. It was less than a month ago that his lifeless body had been brought in here by ambulance. It was less than a month ago he had left, disorientated and confused, knowing only that he had to get away, driven by some instinct to reach the ‘meeting place’ before nightfall. Kieran recalled the terrible feeling of frailty that beset him before the Rejoining and he recalled the teacher who had come to him.

 

He wished the companion was at his side now. He was suffering his aloneness so keenly, it was causing him physical pain. He could interact with the humans around him, talk to them, even love them, but he was no longer one of them. If he was not careful, he could hurt and frighten them. He thought of Shannon Vaughn’s reaction to the knowledge of what he was and the pain deepened.

 

A yellow, late-model Mazda whizzed past Kieran and pulled up in the staff parking near the entrance to A & E. The state of mind of the occupant attracted Kieran’s attention immediately. Trist Leech emerged from the vehicle. He smiled as he caught the eye of the handsome stranger standing under the near-by trees. Kieran’s heart lifted as he watched Trist stride into the building. Something positive. Good. He moved his thoughts away from himself and onto Amy. Self-pity again, he thought to himself. God, you are a selfish bugger.

 

Kieran walked through the front doors and turned left. He was examining the roster, when an officious nurse he didn’t know asked him what he wanted. He smiled at the nurse. A name, he thought. The archangel of healing came into his mind.

“I’m Doctor Raphael, from Otago,” he said, holding out his hand. Selfish, with an ego to match, he thought, as the nurse shook the outstretched hand firmly.

“Doctor,” she acknowledged, “what can I do for you?”

 

Kieran looked around. He’d seen Amy’s name down for the 9 am shift. With any luck, she would be passing the roster board at any time.

“Well,” he said slowly, “I’m down here on leave and I wanted to look up a few old friends.” As he’d hoped, Amy appeared. She looked tired, blue circles rimmed her eyes and her face was pale. Kieran raised his voice . “I especially wanted to catch up with Ken Mallory.”

Amy stopped and looked up at him. The charge nurse cleared her throat uncomfortably, when Amy interrupted her.

“I’ll deal with this, if you like,” she said in a low voice.

“Are you sure?” asked the older woman. She looked profoundly grateful. “I tell you what, I’ll swop shifts with you. I’ll do Oncology now. You can take my A & E shift at eleven.”

 

 Amy simply nodded. The charge nurse turned to Kieran.

“Doctor Raphael, I’ll leave you in Nurse Bennett’s capable hands.” She shook his hand once more and bustled off . Amy was staring at her feet.

“I knew Ken Mallory,” she said, once the charge nurse was out of earshot.

“Knew?” Kieran wanted to get Amy talking. She looked up at him.

“Look,” she said, “I was running late this morning and I need a shower. Would you mind waiting a few minutes? I’ll talk to you over coffee.” She looked at her watch. “I won’t be needed for a good two hours yet.”

 

Before Kieran could reply, she had gone to her locker. When she reappeared ten minutes later, she had changed into a floral slip dress and sandals. She had also done her best to disguise the fact that she had been crying. They walked towards the hospital cafeteria. Kieran felt Amy pull herself together before saying,

“Ken died in a car accident at the end of October.” Her voice was barely audible. Kieran remained silent. This was the first time she had acknowledged Ken’s death out loud. She had surprised herself volunteering to talk to this stranger. Now she was regretting her offer, unsure of what to say next.

 

As they entered the cafeteria,  Kieran felt her pulling back, withdrawing from the pain, once again, refusing to face the emptiness. They found a table and sat down.

“I’m sorry,” said Kieran at last. “I’m sorry his death has left such an emptiness in your life.” He used the words of her own thoughts. She remained silent, fighting an inner battle with grief and anger. “He wouldn’t have wanted you to feel like this, Amy,” Kieran added. “You must deal with it. Until you accept Ken’s death, your own life will remain on hold.”

“What do you know about my life?” snapped the little nurse. “You don’t know anything.”

“I know you loved Ken,” said Kieran, “and I know he loved you. He was going to ask you to marry him.” Amy searched his face with tear-weary eyes.

“You already knew he was dead, didn’t you?” she asked. “You came here to see me, not him.” Kieran looked steadily at her. “Why  didn’t he tell me this?” she pleaded. “He never told me.”

“He wanted to, Amy,” said Kieran. He rested his hand on hers. “He thought he had all the time in the world. He didn’t.” Amy wanted to withdraw, to stop the pain of remembering.. Kieran willed her to continue.

“Tell me about Ken Mallory.”

 

The silence which followed was a private one for Amy. She remembered the first time she allowed the young doctor to make love to her. She warmed as she recalled the feeling of his soft hair across her face, of his strong sensitive hands, of his astonishing sense of what gave her the greatest pleasure. So able was he to take her to the pinnacle of pleasure, time and time again, she once asked him if he was a mind-reader. She remembered he had not answered her question.

 

Kieran allowed the memories to flow without interrupting.. Slowly, she moved forward in time, step by step approaching the afternoon the ambulance brought in Ken’s body. She reached the moment the paramedic looked up from the stretcher and announced,

“Flatline – it’s too late for this one.”

Then she stopped the memories dead. A brick wall went up.

“Take it down, Amy,” whispered Kieran. “Look at his face and tell me what you see.”

 

A pain tightened in Amy’s chest.

“The left side of his head hit the road. There was gravel embedded in the bone above his left eye. He probably had bone fragments on the brain. No … no …” she stammered, unable to finish the sentence.

“No-one could live through an injury like that.” Kieran finished the sentence for her. “Say it, Amy. You need to say it.”

“No-one could have lived through that,” she murmured. Her face was wet, eyes red. “He died that afternoon and not one of us could do a damn thing. Why did he have to die?” she sobbed.

 

 Her thoughts were awash with anger and  grief. Kieran moved his chair closer to Amy, pulled her into his arms and calmed her, physically and mentally. When he had succeeded, he helped her up.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said quietly.

 

Kieran kept an arm around Amy, as he led her out of the hospital, straight to her car.

“Can you drive?” he asked. She shook her head and held out the keys. Kieran took them, opened the passenger door, helped Amy in and then went around to the driver’s door. Before he climbed in, he probed the silent woman’s mind. There were questions. How had he known what she was thinking? How had he known her car? There was even a hovering suspicion of Kieran’s true nature.

 

Then he found the real problem and the solution. They surprised him. Well, he thought, as he sat next to the grieving passenger, that will either cure her or turn her into a basket case. Yet instinct told him, the second scenario would not eventuate.

 

Before long, the car was climbing up the slopes of MountEden. Kieran pulled into an almost hidden lane and parked on the narrow shoulder. Without speaking, he raised the car’s hatchback and extracted a throw rug. He opened Amy’s door and held out his hand. She took it, her red-rimmed eyes wide with wonder. Kieran had driven to the spot she and Ken used to visit almost every break they shared. Ken had given her the rug about six months ago.

 

Only they had known where it was kept and what they used it for. Kieran and Amy walked along a short while before turning off through some trees. Rounding some rocks, they came into a small clearing, surrounded on three sides by rocky vegetation and open to a spectacular view of the harbour on the fourth.

 

Kieran spread the rug in a sheltered nook. The beautiful spring morning was still and warm. Birds sang, flowers bloomed in rocky crevices. Everywhere, there was growth and new life. Amy took Kieran’s hands and looked up into his eyes.

“Who are you?” she whispered, afraid of ripping the magic fabric of the moment by speaking out loud.

Deliberately, and with more control than he had ever exercised, Kieran called the image of his former self into his mind. The purling sensation began. Slowly, he repeated to himself, slowly. In Amy’s grey eyes, he saw Kieran’s darkness dissolve. She watched, utterly fascinated. What she was seeing was not a horrifying surprise. It was almost expected. “We never had the chance to say goodbye, Amy,” said Kieran, when the transformation was completed. “I wanted to make that right.”

“I think I knew it was you in the car.” Amy was still whispering. There was no fear in her at all. “Are you really here?” she asked, this time out loud.

“Just for a little while,” replied Kieran. He sensed her need for him, yet she held back. It was not fear. Rather it was an unwillingness to lose so important and rare a moment.

 

Kieran bent his head towards her. When their lips met, it was a touch of infinite tenderness. Outside the flow of natural time, Kieran drew Amy  to him. Her desires, her wants, dictated every move he made. She savoured the cool, sweet taste of his mouth, the gentle caress of his hands, the feel of his body.

 

It was she who urged Kieran down onto the rug. He readied himself, so when she wanted to take him into herself, he was there for her. Her need was intense and it was fulfilled completely. There was no mental coercion. There was no need. Amy pushed down onto Kieran as though willing herself to meld into his unnatural flesh. It was an absolute union; their bodies united at her command, their minds at his. And in that union of life, Kieran took Amy through Kenyon Mallory’s death into acceptance and healing.

 

Before she felt the need to lift herself from him, he spoke quietly in her mind.

“I must leave now, Amy. Goodbye, my darling. Goodbye.”

“I loved you, Ken,” responded Amy. “I loved you so very, very much.” Her eyes were closed. Tears slipped from beneath the lids and fell onto Kieran’s chest. He noted the past tense of the word ‘love’, with satisfaction. He willed her to look at him and as she did, he let the image of Kenyon Mallory go.

 

There was a strange expression in her eyes as she watched the transformation. It was almost fierce. She reached up, took Kieran’s face between her hands and kissed him.

“Thank you,” she murmured. “Whoever you are – whatever you are –  thank you for letting this happen.”

Before tidying herself, she carefully straightened Kieran’s clothing. She tucked in his skivvy, pulled up the zip of his grey trousers and dusted down his jacket.

 

As she rose, Kieran held out her car keys. She took them without speaking. That he should wish to stay here seemed perfectly reasonable. She turned to leave and walked a few steps before remembering her rug. When she looked back, Kieran had removed his presence from her mind. He watched her from the tree near the rumpled rug. His disappearance seemed reasonable too and she felt no distress as she picked up the rug and shook it. This place would always be special to her. She decided to return with a camera at the first possible opportunity. She wanted something to remind her of the morning’s events, before forgetfulness began to cloak their nature.

Kieran watched Amy leave, confident he needed to worry no longer about her. But he could not share her peace of mind. He felt as though he had absorbed her pain. A nerve-shredding sorrow gnawed at him, like a rat in thought’s clothing. He had been so self-absorbed. The abilities which had set him apart had isolated him from the ‘real world’. Never once could he remember  considering the feelings his friends had for him. Certainly, he cared enough about Amy to want to share his life with her. He  felt he might have shared his ‘gift’ with her, one day. What arrogance!

 

His ‘considerate’ love-making had been as much for his benefit as for Amy’s. After all, when his partner was satisfied, his own pleasure had been intensified. Contrasted to this, the love he  found in his friends’ minds had been so selfless and pure, it left him feeling soiled. He hadn’t deserved it. A darkness enveloped him, leaving him drained and miserable.

“You could not be other than what you were, Kieran,” said a voice.

Without opening his eyes, Kieran knew the robed companion had joined him. The familiar sensation of protection and comfort dispelled some of the misery. Why did this being make him feel so safe? He wanted to hear the voice again.

“Who are you?” he asked. The hand around his neck again. He allowed himself to be drawn into the sanctuary of the companion’s embrace.

“When you need to know, young one,” replied the voice, “I will tell you. You have my word. For now, just content yourself to listen.”

Kieran surrendered himself to the lyrical music of the voice.

 

“You approach a crossroad with Keller Hahn. You cannot – must not weaken yourself with regrets and recriminations. You have already repaired two lives with flawless precision. You have great skill and perception. Stop your needless self-pity.

What you are and what you were stand linked. You cannot separate the one from the other. Therefore, when you despise Kenyon Mallory, you diminish Kieran Doyle. This is not your task. Focus not only on who you are but on what you are.”

“I don’t know what I am,” said Kieran, more bitterly than he had intended.

“You are learning,” replied the companion. “You are of the Eiric. You know this. Your substance can no longer be harmed and you have powers you are yet to discover.”

“I’m not a ghost and I’m not human,” said Kieran. “I don’t understand.”

“You are of the Eiric,” repeated the companion. “Go into the depths of your memories, Kieran, as deep as you can. What made you mortal was cleansed from your physical body the night it was taken to the undertakers. Think back, Kieran.”

 

Slowly, a picture formed in Kieran’s mind. Lying in darkness. A click. Soft light. The cold shelf on which the body lay slid silently out of its cooler. The body sat, climbed off the shelf, moved awkwardly, instinctively towards the deep sink against the wall. Cramps and spasms made moving difficult. The body climbed into the sink as the cramping became unbearable. Fluids gushed from the body’s mouth, from each of the body’s orifices. A ghastly smell rose from the sink, as the body’ hands turned the taps on. The flow of water began to lessen the stink that rose to the body’s nostrils. The flood of human waste lessened and then stopped. The body washed itself down in the water from the taps, washed and washed until not a trace of the wastes remained.

 

As the body’s hands turned the taps off, a sensation like a mild electric charge twitched the body’s face. A hand went up to the mutilated head to find the horrible injuries healing themselves, the tissues reforming. The tingling sensation spread, blitzing down the body, which now stood clean and dry on the concrete base of the deep sink.

The body returned to the cool shelf from which it had arisen. All it had to do now was wait. Wait for the Eiric, for its soul, the essence of its new reality. It would not be a long wait.

Kieran pulled himself from the recollection. It lay so deep within his subconscious, it seemed more like a distant dream, than something which had actually happened. He recalled the undertaker’s face the following morning, when he took Kenyon Mallory from storage to prepare him for the casket.

 

The preparation had already been done. And what a wonderful job. The assistant undertaker’s boss congratulated him. He didn’t say he found the body already prepared. Best not try to explain what seemed unexplainable.

“That was your death, Kieran,”  The voice of the companion interrupted Kieran’s memories. “That was the mortal death of an Eiric. It is something you will never have to experience again.” The voice softened. “You will become accustomed to yourself as you progress. Do not despair.”

 

A strong hand touched his head and once again, Kieran found himself alone. Another segment of his past had been restored and he no longer felt drained.

The spring morning which enfolded him in its youthful arms was calendar perfect. New green leaves in the trees above him were unruffled. New flowers filled the clearing with their fragrance, while birds sounded out a symphony of vitality.

 

The darkness had lifted completely from Kieran’s mind. He walked down the track towards the road, savouring the pulsation of life around him. He drew on it and felt invigorated. Before he was half way back to the Bentley, he felt as though he had just returned from a three-week vacation. He realised he had lost the vague sensation of hunger that could not be assuaged by eating. A newness of life fed him to satiety. Finally, he broke into a run. For the first time he felt his powers as a reality, as real as the life he now knew, was well and truly in the past.

 

Chapter ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six. Friendship

DIARY   of Amy Bennett                 November Week 47                                          Tuesday 21
(Ignore the date above – it is actually 4.45am on Wednesday the 22nd!)

I know I’m not going to believe what’s written here when I read back over it in the coming years. Nevertheless, I must write it down. I have just lived through the most amazing twenty hours of my life. I would have assumed it was some sort of wonderful dream, except I’m not the only one involved.

 

At the moment, the other person is asleep on my couch, bless his heart. He had too much to drink at the restaurant and I didn’t think he should drive all the way to Whangaparoa so we walked to my place instead.I am really grateful Diane (Sister Sayers, our charge nurse), swopped shifts with me. It meant I ended up on A & E with Dr Leech. He’s the other person involved in this episode (like something from the Twilight Zone!).

 

Trist (Doctor Leech), hasn’t been at work since Ken’s death, so when I saw him this morning, it was a real surprise. What was even more surprising was how well he was looking. When I  saw him last at Ken’s funeral, he looked like he was the one they should be burying. No, that’s unkind, but he really did look terrible.

 

I saw Trist looking at me a number of times while we were seeing patients – so often, in fact, I wondered what was going on. When we went to afternoon tea, he came up to me and said the oddest thing. He said, ‘You’ve seen him too, haven’t you?’ I couldn’t believe it. I just stared at him with my mouth open. Then he said he thought so. He said we had to talk and we arranged to meet after work.

 

The rest of the shift seemed to take forever. I just couldn’t wait for 8 o’clock. By 8.30 Trist and I were seated at a quiet corner table in Il Felice’s, doing a lot more talking than eating. Trist told me what had happened to him. I must confess he had me in tears. I felt so guilty for having wallowed in self-pity the way I did. It turns out that Trist is gay . We’ve worked together for almost a year and I had no idea. Not that it really matters. It’s just surprising how little we really know about the people around us.

Where was I? Oh yes – Trist told me he had blamed himself for Ken’s death. That’s why he hasn’t been back to work. He loved Ken and felt he should have been able to do something when they brought him in. He had let himself go completely. He hadn’t eaten or showered or slept properly for days, when Ken suddenly appeared at his bach.

 

Week 47                                      Wednesday 22

Trist says Ken told him that his death happened for a reason and that there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent it. He had come back because Trist was destroying himself for nothing. Trist was so relieved and so torn apart at the same time, he cried himself to sleep. When he woke up, Ken had gone, but he’d signed the photograph I’d taken of them the day they started at the hospital. Next to the signature was today’s (now yesterday’s) date.

 

I couldn’t believe how unselfish Trist was. He had never told Ken how he felt because he didn’t want to risk their friendship and he didn’t want to upset me. He is such a dear man. He really is. When he’d finished telling me his story, he asked me what had happened to me. I told him how Ken had come to the hospital, but as someone else – to get me talking. I told Trist how hard it had been for me to admit Ken was dead. The dark stranger who had turned up at the hospital made me talk about the death for the first time – made me admit that Ken was dead and that I was only hurting myself by not facing it.

 

Trist asked me to describe the dark guy. When I did, he told me he had seen the same man, standing outside the hospital yesterday morning. Another confirmation that I didn’t imagine the whole thing. I didn’t tell Trist everything that happened afterwards. I didn’t want to upset him. I simply told him that this stranger had driven me to the Port Hills, to the place Ken and I used to go for picnics. When we were there, Ken seemed to take over this dark guy. I think he must have been some sort of medium, or something.

 

It gave Ken the chance to say goodbye. That was the thing that had upset me the most – the fact that we hadn’t been able to say goodbye, to tell each other how we really felt. When we had, Ken just disappeared. Trist took my hands when I’d finished talking and we sat for ages staring at each other. We had shared something so strange, we didn’t know what else to do. Eventually, one of the waiters reminded us we were actually in a restaurant and would we mind ordering.

 

We ended up having a huge meal and several bottles of Chianti. Afterwards we walked to my flat and told each other our stories all over again. Somehow, I don’t think Trist or I will ever really fall in love again, despite what Ken said – unless, perhaps it’s with each other. Wouldn’t that be interesting? There is already a bond between us, because of Ken. And that was something else Ken said – everything happens for a purpose. On that thought, I’m going to check on Trist, and then get some sleep myself. Bless you, Ken, and thank you.

 

 

 Almost two weeks slipped by. When Keller flew to Sydney to deal with the increasingly complex machinations of the casino deal, Kieran had hours alone in the hills south of Auckland, on the beaches, to seek understanding of what he had become.

 

On the last day of November, the day before Keller’s expected return, Kieran confirmed something he had suspected since his last communication with the companion. He had been on his way back to the apartment and was waiting for a traffic light change, moving slowly for once, savouring the energy in the warm spring air. A woman leading two Jack Russell terrier puppies, stood beside him. The puppies gamboled around Kieran’s feet, a bouncing embodiment of all that was best about spring. Kieran drew strength from their energy and smiled at their owner.

 

Suddenly, the puppies stop bouncing. The back legs of the little male actually buckled, as he sat down on his owner’s foot. Kieran was puzzled. He stepped back, no longer enjoying the sense of energy around him. He watched the woman fuss over her charges, looking bemused. When the traffic light changed, Kieran remained by the fence. Before the puppies reached the other side of the road, they seemed to recover their energy. It wasn’t too long before they resumed their bouncing, excited yapping clearly audible over the rumbling of the traffic.

 

The implication of the event was unnerving. Scientific logic told Kieran that the satisfying energy he drew into his body came from somewhere, but from other living things? It seemed the obvious answer.

 

He remembered the vampire period he and Trist shared at OtagoUniversityMedicalSchool. It had been the eighteen-year old student’s way of dealing with the gory nature of some of their studies

From their first dissection, they had spoken in mock Transylvanian accents, bitten more than one or two fellow students on the neck and held vampire parties at Halloween. Then as interns, they discovered Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and they watched each of the movies as they came out. In their final year, they had attended the university costume ball as Emmett and Jasper.

 

The idea of sucking your sustenance from a living thing, no longer seemed so far-fetched. If he was right, he was drawing energy directly from the living things around him. He wondered if he could absorb enough energy to drain the supplier to the point of death. Without much internal debate, he decided it was very likely he could.

 

Another facet of his power clarified itself in his understanding. His ability to knock humans into a state of comatose sleep was clearly linked to this energy absorption. He recalled the surge of strength he always experienced after affecting this state in his victim.

 

By the time he entered his apartment that Thursday, he had categorized himself. An energy vampire, he decided, with certain misgivings. He wanted to shower, always a help when dark thoughts troubled him.  Under the soothing flow of water, Kieran mind returned to Stephanie Meyers’ vampires. At least he wasn’t restricted to activities out of direct sunlight and he could control his rate of absorption so he didn’t cause unintentional harm. Then there was the fact that he didn’t have to leave a trail of blood-drained animal bodies in his wake, just very tired ones. The last notion made him smile and he thought again of the photograph he had signed for Trist.

Keller was due back from Sydney on the 5.50 pm flight. On the phone, he promised Kieran he would drop off some material wanted by the Mallory brothers and come straight to the apartment. He hoped to be home by 7 pm at the latest.

 

By noon on Friday, Kieran was out of the apartment. He took the Bentley to European Motors, a local luxury car specialist and left instructions that the car to be fully groomed and serviced. He paid in advance and told the receptionist he would pick the car up the following morning.

 

Several hours were spent in the Domain, before Kieran returned to Cityside. He ran easily and smoothly until he could see the apartment building in the distance. Then he put on a burst of speed and arrived at the lift doors in the basement, unseen.

Using his strengthened telekinetic ability, he sought out the tiny pathways of artificial intelligence which controlled the lift. Kieran wanted no trace of his movement in the building that afternoon and was gratified when the lift doors surrendered to his command.

 

When Keller arrived at ten past seven, he went straight to Apartment 504 and tapped on the door. He tried the handle, relieved when it opened.

‘The Bentley’s not downstairs,” he said, “I was worried.”

“Having its regular service. The garage was pretty busy, so I’m picking it up tomorrow. And welcome back,” Kieran added.

Keller was carrying a package.

“This is for you,” he said, holding the box up. Kieran took it.

“Thank you,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting this, you know.” He eased off the tape and lifted the lid to expose a polystyrene case. He slid the casing out to reveal an exquisite statuette.

“I hope you like it,” said Keller. “I bought it in this wonderful little gift shop almost underneath the SydneyHarbourBridge. I thought it would look nice on your coffee table.”

 

The statuette featured a handsome forest creature seated on a tree stump. His perfect body was beautiful. Long, wavy hair hung over the shoulders. In the creature’s left hand was a pan-pipe.

Its perfection left Kieran in awe of the artist’s skill. He wondered how much it had cost Keller. It was a beautiful piece, regardless of personal taste. He placed it on the coffee table. It could provide a useful prop for what Kieran had in mind.

 

“He’s beautiful,” said Kieran sincerely. “And I even know what I’m going to call him.”

“What?” asked Keller impatiently. He was obviously delighted.

“Eiric,” responded Kieran.

“Eric?” Keller’s tone was questioning.

“No,” said Kieran, “Eye and Rick. It’s an old Celtic name – title, really.

“Eiric,” repeated Keller, correctly this time. “I can live with that. It’s quite a nice name.”

“I would have been most insulted if you hadn’t liked it,” said Kieran. Keller laughed. “No, seriously,” added Kieran, “haven’t you ever wondered what the E. in Kieran E. Doyle stood for?”

 

Comprehension struck the lawyer a gentle blow.

“Eiric,” he nodded. “What does it mean? You know?”

“It means ‘one who rises’,” said Kieran, looking into Keller’s eyes.

“Rises from what?” asked Keller arching one eyebrow

” Rises to the bait?”

“That reminds me! Bait – food!  I haven’t eaten for hours and something smells wonderful.” Keller declared with a laugh.

 

Combined odours of garlic, herbs, smoked sausage and seafood wafted from a pot on the stove.

“Paella,” explained Kieran, “with a pleasant little Chardonnay from Villa Maria – my welcome-back gift.”

“Mmm,” sighed Keller, “sounds wonderful. Let’s eat,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m starving.”

 

The men settled to a relaxed dinner. Kieran ate just enough to convince Keller they had ‘shared’ the meal, while Keller drank the wine, now comfortable with Kieran’s abstinence.

When Kieran returned from the lavatory, Keller was draining the last drops of wine from the bottle.

“I’m absolutely,” he grinned at Kieran, before adding, “content.”

The wine had relaxed him and his thoughts drifted in a hazy sea of pleasure.

“Take off your shirt,” ordered Kieran, “and lie on your stomach.” He pointed to the couch bed. Keller complied in drunken obedience. Kieran lowered the back of the couch-bed, knelt at Keller’s head and began to massage Keller’s tense shoulders.

“Recommended treatment for all jet-set business types when they return from overseas flights.”

 

Keller let out a huge sigh. Kieran’s medical expertise guided his hands over the knotted muscles, releasing the tension and sending Keller into a state approaching euphoria.

Waves of happiness lapped over the pleasure in which Keller was already submerged. It was so intense, he was completely oblivious to the moment reality became dream. Kieran’s manipulation was so subtle, the transition was undetectable. He stood above Keller, as still as death, while the lawyer felt strong hands ease the tension in his body. Kieran had created the image of an attractive woman, taking over the massage and then he led the helpless lawyer into wracking spasms of mindless delight. A damp stain seeped into visibility on the lawyer’s lower abdomen.

 

A little later, Keller half-heard the apartment intercom, vaguely registered the deep voice with a heavy accent. He was so spent, so utterly content, so secure in the delight his best friend had laid on for him, he felt no alarm. Kieran would take care of the pushy bugger – no problem. The woman was there anyway – she would keep Kieran safe That was his last thought, before drifting into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Kieran looked at the half-naked figure on the couch. He felt nothing. The reason he existed was all the motivation he needed. Kieran raised the lawyer into a sitting position and eased his shirt back on, leaving it unbuttoned. Then he went upstairs to change. Kieran purled into Andre’s leather gear before summoning the South African diamond cutter. He controlled the pace of the transformation, perfecting each feature individually. He planned to deal with Keller around midnight.

 

When he was satisfied with his appearance he returned to the lounge and sat opposite the still-sleeping lawyer. The statuette was on the coffee table between them, illuminated by the soft light from the kitchenette.

 

Kieran fixed amber eyes on his left forearm. The red of the flame above the demon-head tattoo deepened and began to glow, as matter rose from the opening. Immediately, Kieran felt the remaining flesh tighten. He willed the separated gore across to the statuette where it settled over the out-stretched hand and pan-pipe. It gleamed wetly, but there was no dripping. The matter remained neatly attached, exactly where Kieran wanted it. He flexed his left hand uncomfortably, hating the sensation of tightness and pulling around the invisible opening in the tattoo.

 

 Leaning forward, he used his right hand to pick up the statuette by its base. He did not want to use his left hand at all. The opening he created did not bleed and it was well disguised, but it was damn uncomfortable. As much as he’d tried over the past week of experimenting to avoid it, the discomfort accompanied any separation.

 

He examined his handiwork on the carving. The gore looked appropriately gruesome. He decided it was much more effective than the rather clichéd knife he’d planned on using originally. It was now time.

 

The pall of sleep was lifted from Keller. At the same time, Kieran drew on the lawyer’s physical energy, with computer -perfect control. Keller stirred, groaned and attempted to find a more comfortable position. It took him several moments to focus on the figure opposite him. Amber eyes bored into him from eight feet away, across the coffee table. At first, he could distinguish nothing but those eyes. He trembled, as the feeling that something was horribly wrong grew.

 

Kieran picked up Keller’s thoughts and magnified them, as the lawyer gained full consciousness. Kieran lowered his gaze to the soiled statuette. Keller followed his sight line. The gore was clearly visible, lit by its own unnatural glow and haloed by the soft light from the kitchenette.

Keller’s mouth went dry with horror. He looked around slowly, barely able to turn his head from side to side.

“Kieran,” he croaked eventually, his pale blue eyes wide, his face white. “Where’s Kieran?” There was no reply. Both pairs of eyes remained focused on the meaty traces marring the carved pan-pipes.

“Where’s my friend, you bastard?” repeated Keller, with all the force he could muster. He tried to stand, but found he couldn’t. Fear for the man he considered his best friend overcame concern for his own safety. When there was still no reply, his voice rose to a shrill shriek.

“I want to know where Kieran is. What have you done to my friend.”

 

This time the figure looked up. The amber eyes beneath the rim of the leather cap flared like the eyes of a feral wolf. After placing the statuette on the coffee table, Kieran sat back and crossed his leather-clad legs elegantly. When he answered, he spoke slowly and precisely.

“He is still here.”

 

The truth Keller could sense in the reply, added to his terror. He felt tears begin to well in his eyes. It was a truth he did not want to deal with, yet he knew he had to. He wanted to see Kieran. Never, in his thirty-six years, had he ever felt so helpless. Why, why did friendship always have to cause him such pain. Why did his friends always seem to end up hurt – at least the ones that counted. And Kieran counted.

 

“What have you done to him?” he managed to ask eventually, his voice strained and harsh.

“I’ve …” There was a thoughtful pause before Kieran completed his sentence, “altered his anatomy somewhat.”

Keller groaned.

“If you’ve hurt him …” he began.

 

“You’ll what?” The strange voice was so cold, Keller found himself shivering. “Do you really feel up to taking me on?” Keller remembered the power of the arms which had lifted him off the floor of the basement and knew the answer. Even in peak condition, he was no match for this creature.

“Why do I feel so terrible?” he asked. “What have you done to me – drugs?”

 

 Panic tightened his throat. His voice sounded weak and high-pitched to his own ears.

“I’ve slowed you down a little, that’s all,” said Kieran. “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”

“Is Kieran alive?” Keller’s voice was a mere whisper. He could not voice the question, when the answer could bring his world crashing around his feet. There was a long silence. By the time Kieran answered, Keller was weeping.

“No, he isn’t.”

 

Keller knew this was a simple statement of fact. Kieran was dead. Grief flowed through the lawyer like molten lava, searing away the pleasure, the happiness and the lovely feeling of having someone to care about which he had so recently discovered. He was overwhelmed by the notion that if only he’d done something, this bastard wouldn’t have had the opportunity to kill Kieran.

 

“I didn’t kill him, Mr. Hahn,” said Kieran, responding to Keller’s thoughts. “I didn’t kill him, you did.”

” Kieran is – was my friend!” Keller’s voice was sibilant with hatred. “I would never have hurt him.”

“Everything that Kieran was, Mr. Hahn, you destroyed.” Again, Keller sensed truth in the man’s words, but he did not understand. Kieran spoke, interrupting his confusion.

 

“Oh, I don’t mean you picked up a heavy object and hit him over the head with it.” Both men looked at the statuette again. The pan pipe gleamed wetly. “There are far more subtle ways to kill people, aren’t there?”

“I don’t know,” gasped Keller. “I don’t know – how should I know?” He was still struggling to get off the couch, tears of grief mingling with tears of raw frustration and fear.

 

“You do know, Mr. Hahn.” Kieran went on relentlessly. “Let’s set up a hypothetical case, shall we? You want to dispose of someone – someone say, who knows something about you that you cannot afford to have made public. This someone has a fast car – so, late one night, you tamper with his car. After all, you have the expertise. It’s been a hobby of yours for years, so it’s simple. And the next day, the person who knows your secret is dead.”

 

Keller had stopped trying to stand. Kieran’s exposure of his ‘secret’ had driven everything but the identity of his tormentor from his mind.

 

“Who are you?” he whispered. “Who the fuck are you?”

Keller was done with all his social restraints. Kieran looked into Keller’s eyes and then past his eyes into his mind. He let the lawyer feel his power. Suddenly, Keller realised he was looking into green eyes. Then one of the eyes shut down. Keller’s breath hissed in over his teeth as he registered the bloodied pit.

 

Kieran removed the cap and released the longer blonde hair from his skull. Keller could have sworn the hair under the cap was dark red and short. But it wasn’t. An iceberg of terror collided with his mind, gouging a deep hole in his sanity. He was looking at the corpse he had identified in the hospital morgue. He floundered in arctic waters of pure terror.

 

“So you weren’t dead,” he began. He knew he was babbling, but he couldn’t control the words as they spilled from him. “I felt it – I knew something was wrong at the funeral. When I saw you in the coffin. I told the others, but they wouldn’t believe me. They wouldn’t listen. I told them it had been too easy. I knew you couldn’t be dead.”

The corpse continued to stare at him with its one good eye. When it spoke, its voice was soft, yet it pierced Keller to the core.

“You were wrong, Keller. I did die – you made sure of that when you made your adjustments to my Porsche.

 

Your actions took my life. Do you know it took me forty minutes to die – forty minutes of absolute agony? I couldn’t move – bone fragments and gravel pieces in the brain do that to you. I couldn’t move, Keller, couldn’t talk, couldn’t see, but I could feel and hear. I felt my eye grind out on the tarmac. I felt the stones embed in my face. I felt my skull shatter and spears of  bone drive into the pain centre of my brain. Just imagine how that felt, because that is what you are responsible for.

 

I felt them lift my body onto the stretcher, not bothering too much because there was nothing they could do for me. They thought I was already gone, but I wasn’t. I was there, in unspeakable agony. I was utterly helpless and then I died, while you were sitting behind your desk drinking your last cup of coffee for the afternoon.”

 

Keller felt his victim’s helplessness and the approach of death. He suffered exquisite pain, but not just Kenyon Mallory’s physical agony. There was emotional pain as well, literal heartache. He knew he had brought himself to this. He had brought Kieran to this. His concern for Kieran finally overcame his fear.

“What have you – or Andre – or whatever, please,” he begged, “what have you done with Kieran?”

“You want to see Kieran, Keller?” The one-eyed corpse spoke in a voice that was as cold as the tomb in which he should have been lying.  Keller did not respond. The question was repeated.

“You really want to see Kieran?” The tone of the corpse voice was insistent, coercive.

 

This time Keller nodded.

“You can have him, Keller,” said the corpse. “I’ve stayed long enough anyway.”

 

Keller stared at the speaker. He wanted to ask where he could find the body, but something else was wrong. He blinked away tears and tried to focus, but the figure across the coffee table seemed to be rippling, as though he was looking at it through water. When the rippling stopped, the figure slumped.

 

Keller blinked again. And his last hope died, as he took in the dark-haired figure with the identically mutilated face – one eye gone. Gagging on bile that rose in his throat, he finally managed to stumble off the couch and lurch around the coffee table. Pain shot up his leg as he fell at Kieran’s feet, but it meant nothing.

 

Kieran watched Keller dispassionately; felt Keller touch his limp hand and recoil from the cold clammy flesh. The lawyer’s mind was dealing with death: the death for which he had been responsible and the death of another friend. There was a despairing certainty in the lawyer’s mind that the two were connected. He saw the connection like an out-of-focus photograph and began to understand.

 

With that partial understanding, came a need. A need to say goodbye. He reached up and drew Kieran into an awkward embrace. Kieran remained absolutely death-still and cold, as Keller pulled his hideously marred face into the hollow of his neck.

 

Gently, Keller held the long hair. His pale blue eyes were closed. There were no more tears. There was just grief. He wanted to join Kieran in death, yet he knew it would not be a joining, but a separation, absolute and final.

 

His hand closed around some of the dark hair. The strands rippled through his fingers. The sensation was almost electric. How could anything so alive, be dead? He looked at the silken hair in his hand. It was blond.

 

Keller felt a vice tighten around his chest. He couldn’t breath, move. Above all, he couldn’t look at the face beneath the hair. He jerked upright, his face turned as far away from the body as humanly possible.

 

Like a poorly controlled marionette, he backed towards the balcony door, bumped into it, fumbled desperately with the lock. He would not look at the other occupant of the apartment. He wouldn’t.

 

The full implication of the events of the past months hit Keller with the force of a runaway express train – who it was he had brought into his circle of friends, who he had befriended and why it had happened. He had to get away. He finally got the door open. He ran onto the balcony, scrambled over the railings and continued to run into the night. Only then did he feel safe.

Kieran closed his dark eyes and grimaced as he felt Keller’s death. The release was swift and clean, so unlike his own. The first of his tasks was almost complete, but he still had to tidy up. With some relief he reabsorbed the matter he had willed onto the statuette. Then he went upstairs. By the time he reached the top step, he was utterly exhausted. He knelt suddenly on the thick rugging.

 

Now what, he thought to himself. He didn’t want to, in fact, couldn’t move. He simply let himself fall, face down into the carpet. There was a stirring of the air around his prone body. Strong hands lifted him to his feet. A will far more potent than his own prevented him from looking up. He leaned against the robed figure gratefully, ignoring the desire to see his face.

Keller’s dead,” he said simply. The companion took Kieran’s face in his hands. Kieran’s eyes closed.

“I know, young one. The exhaustion you feel is a consequence. This is the hardest thing we ever have to do and the first time is the worst.” The deep lyrical voice settled over Kieran like a blanket, soothing, warm.

 

 

Kieran wondered at the love he felt for this being. Only when he was in the presence of the companion, did he feel he was part of something larger, that there was someone who knew him and understood him, without fear or censure.” He felt the companion acknowledge his thoughts.

“Are you …” Kieran hesitated. He did not want to offend his mentor. “Are you like me?” No offence was taken.

“That question is more complex than you imagine,” began the companion. “In many ways, I am indeed like you. In others, I am different. Be content with that. Your need at present, is not for knowledge, but for strength. You have depleted your reserves beyond your capacity to restore.”

 

The voice fell silent. The hands continued to hold Kieran’s face, but the companion’s fingers pressed with increasing strength around Kieran’s skull. Power surged into Kieran. It was so pure and  potent, it almost knocked him down again. The exhaustion he had felt vanished. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before, so utterly different, he stopped trying to understand it and just gave himself over to the moment.

 

Minutes or hours passed. It was impossible to tell. When Kieran sensed he was alone, he opened his eyes and looked around. He was sitting in the Bentley, which was parked outside the security gates of European Motors. The morning sun was glinting through the trees of the nearby Domain and the first of Saturday’s workers drove towards their destinations.

 

Kieran’s first reaction was panic. Then he recalled his time with the companion. The robed figure standing beside him in the apartment. Everything returning to its place, seemingly of its own volition, the statuette being repackaged, as though it had never been opened.

 

Kieran remembered being alone for a few moments, outside the building somewhere. The companion returned, allowed Kieran a brief glimpse of Keller’s body. The only thing that remained blank in his mind was how he had arrived at the Bentley. He didn’t dwell on it, knowing he would remember when he was ready. The companion had given him what he needed. It was time to return to the apartment and set the stage for Act 2.

 Chapter ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven.  ACT TWO. The Hunter

 

The Bentley turned into the street leading to Cityside, and had to park behind a variety of official vehicles. There were two police cars, an ambulance, which was preparing to leave, and the mortuary van. Eduard and Garrick were standing with Detective Corcoran, the policeman Kieran had met at The Top Hat. They were looking up and did not see Kieran’s approach.

 

They were staring at Keller’s body. Two uniformed officers were about to lift him from where he had died. Falling feet first, he had landed between the security fence and the outer wall of the building. His head drooped forward between the palings, his body held upright, liked a neatly stored puppet waiting for the next performance.

The mortuary driver had prepared a stretcher with a body bag. As the body was lifted down, Detective Corcoran went over to the stretcher. The body was checked thoroughly before the mortuary driver and his assistant, zipped the bag, loaded it into the van and drove away.

 

Kieran climbed from the car and walked towards the Mallory brothers. They spoke quickly to the detective and came forward to meet him.

“That was Kel,” said Kieran, as the trio reached his side. “That was Kel, wasn’t it? What in the name of God has happened?”

Detective Corcoran spoke first.

“It was, Keller. I’m sorry.” He looked very uncomfortable. “I hate to have to do this, Kieran,” he continued, “really, it’s just a formality, but I have to ask where you were last night.”

“Of course,” said Kieran quickly. “I took the Bentley to Paul Mills for a service and grooming. They could only have it ready for collection this morning, so I stayed with my uncle overnight. He lives a couple of blocks away from the garage.”

“Would you mind giving me his name and phone number? It’ll only take a few moments to check. Then it’s done.” The detective’s apologetic tone struck Kieran as ironic. Even the Mallorys were harboring feeling of sympathy and loss. Kieran kept his voice low, his tone shaded with sorrow.

“My uncle is Bryant Doyle. You can reach him at 3471999.”

 

The detective stepped away from the group, took a small cell phone from his pocket and punched in the number. A murmured conversation took less than two minutes.

“All taken care of,” he said, when he turned back to the group.

“Please tell me what happened,” said Kieran. “I need to know.”

The detective looked at Eduard, who nodded.

 

“As far as we’ve been able to tell,” the detective said, “Mr. Hahn got back from Sydney last night, dropped some papers off with Mr. Mallory here and then went looking for you. When he couldn’t find you, he went to his apartment, drank a bottle of Chardonnay …” The detective hesitated, cleared his throat, looking embarrassed. When he continued, his tone was less official. Kieran sensed the detective’s distaste. “He appears to have relieved himself … sexually – didn’t even clean himself up, before writing a note and jumping from the balcony.”

“God!” said Kieran, exhaling heavily. “That’s terrible.” He looked at Eduard and then at the policeman. “Could I see the note?”

 

The detective handed him a plastic cover, containing a sheet of Keller’s letterhead stationery. The message, written in Keller’s distinctive spidery hand, read,

‘A week away and it’s over. My friend is gone. Again I have failed. This time it is too much. Can’t bare it. Sorry. K.’

“It’s my fault,” said Kieran, bitterly. “I never thought to leave a message.” He looked at Eduard. “I can’t believe he’d think I’d break up our friendship because I was away at my uncle’s. I had no idea I was that important to him – it’s almost…! Oh God! I thought he was going to spend the night with you. He said he had to see you first thing when he got back and go over everything with you.”

 

Eduard shook his head.

“Silly bugger dropped off the papers and did a runner. Didn’t even see him.”

“Shit!” said Kieran. “I didn’t think …I didn’t realise … I …”

“Don’t blame yourself,” interrupted Eduard. “You really didn’t know Keller. He always went too far – with everything; sex, work, friendship especially – he’s had a few spectacular fails there! As you know, Sid.” He directed the last remark to the detective, who nodded slowly.

“You’re right there, Mr. Mallory,” he said.

 

Eduard and the detective walked towards the building. Garrick and Kieran followed.

“Eddie’s right, you know,” said Garrick. Kieran always found the flinty tone of Garrick’s voice odd. It conjured an image of pebbles clattering rocks on a downhill tumble. Kieran looked into Garrick’s green eyes. They were many shaded deeper than Kenyon’s had been and were as cold and lifeless as a shark’s.

“What do you mean?” asked Kieran.

“Keller, going over the top.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel any better. He really thought of me as a friend. I just didn’t know I meant that much to him.  If only I’d thought to ring.”

“You can’t hold yourself responsible for other people’s stupidity, Kieran,” said Garrick. “I mean, shit – I liked Kel. “

 

He smiled. He was thinking of their brief and very interesting shared sexual experiments with Ziggy, the professional girl whose services Garrick had bought for many years.. “I’ll miss him, but you have to admit, it was a fucking stupid thing to do. You can’t wear that.”

“God, to give up so easily.” Kieran added, “It’s hard to believe.”

Garrick looked at Kieran expectantly.

“He thought you’d done what he’d done so many times in the past- dumped potential friends because he saw them in a trashy establishment or because they’d worn a Chinese knock-off of an expensive label – he judged you by his standards and found he couldn’t cope with being treated the way he’s treated so many others in the past! It’s logic, bud, pure logic.”

 

Kieran was astonished at this outburst from the normally quiet Garrick. He probed into the man’s thoughts and uncovered a powerful curiosity. He fascinated Garrick. Because I’m different, thought Kieran,  and because Keller seems to have killed himself because  he lost my friendship, he wants to know more about me.

Kieran flashed him a rueful smile.

“Thanks,” he said. “I appreciate your concern, I really do.”

 

As the group reached the basement lift, the detective turned to Kieran.

“I think you should get away from here for a bit, Kieran,” he said sympathetically. “Let my men clean up. Come back tonight, if you feel up to it.”

“He can come with me,” said Garrick suddenly. “I’m going to the gym.” He turned to Kieran. “Fancy a good work-out? It’s just what you need. Help take your mind off this.”

Kieran nodded.

“I’ll go and get some gear.”

“I’ll send one of my men up with you,” said the detective quickly.

 

Killing two birds with one stone, thought Kieran, as he used his card to summon the lift. A little support and a quick check of the friend’s digs.

He knew his apartment would be checked out and he knew he would be left completely in the clear. He had not been up to covering his tracks the previous night, but the companion had. And Kieran knew the companion was not one to make mistakes.

 

The constable who accompanied him, waited politely in the lounge while Kieran collected gym gear and a sports bag from the closet. When he came back downstairs, the constable asked if he had seen the package on the bench.

Kieran went over to it and shook his head.

“Should I open it?” he asked.

“You may as well, sir.” said the constable.

There was an envelope taped to the side, which Kieran hadn’t seen the previous night. He opened it and drew out the card. Again, Keller’s spidery hand. It read,

‘A gift from Sydney for my friend Kieran. K.’ He handed it to the constable.

“It seems to be a gift from Keller Hahn.”

 

He opened the package and showed the constable the statuette. The policeman remained politely impassive.

“I’d best take this to Detective Corcoran, sir,” he said.

“Of course,” said Kieran. “I expected you to. Anyway,” he added, “after what’s happened, I don’t know that I want it.”

The constable repackaged the statuette and secured the card, nodding sagely.

“I understand how you feel, sir.”

Kieran walked to the door.

“Let’s join the others,” he said softly. He looked at the policeman. “Mr. Mallory was right. I really don’t feel like being here at the moment.”

Garrick insisted on using the Range Rover. They drove in silence for a while. As they turned into Cashel Street, Garrick spoke.

“You okay?”

“I suppose so,” replied Kieran. “I just feel …” He hesitated.

“Like shit?” suggested Garrick helpfully.

“Like shit!” agreed Kieran.

Loud music blasted from the old building. Its driving rhythms were infectious, the kind of music you could lose yourself in. Perfect for the kind of physical training that went on behind these walls.

Garrick Mallory was obsessively fit. His body was lean, hard and muscled. He trained for both fitness and agility, so that he was powerful and flexible.

 

Few people had gauged the depth of Garrick’s physical pride. He rarely spoke of it, preferring a demonstration. He would rope whoever he could into attending the gym with him for a work-out. Then he would prove his physical superiority.

There was a flip side to Garrick’s obsession. The only thing he truly admired in another human being was physical endurance. Kieran smiled to himself as he got out of the car. Garrick was due for a little more competition than he was expecting.

 

Garrick pulled their bags from the back seat.

“Come on,” he said, his flinty voice business-like. “I’ll show you where everything is. It’s quite busy on Saturday morning.”

“Okay,” agreed Kieran. “I’m glad you asked me. Stop me thinking too much.”

This was something Garrick understood. Each time he raped, he headed for the gym. He would work out until he was on the verge of collapse. Then he would visit Mistress Tzigane, also known as Ziggy, whose massages were both effective and sadistic. Garrick always kept his bruises and welts hidden.

 

As he signed in and led the way to the dressing rooms, he thought of the four days of training which had followed the murder of his father and the bitch, Samanatha. Every muscle in his body had mutinied. His back was so bad, Tzigane had given up and sent him to a medical clinic. That’s when the fun had gone out of his recovery.

 

Thoughts of the pain he had suffered after the murders had given Garrick an erection. He saw Kieran notice and laughed.

“Sorry, bud, I was thinking about a friend of mine.”

“Blond or brunette?” asked Kieran, with a smile, as they stowed their bags into a pair of free lockers.

“Short orange spikes actually, and a body like a bloody Amazon!” replied Garrick, as he led the way to the gym.

“She sounds terrifying.”

“She is! Hungarian hellfire.”

“You’ll have to introduce me.”

Garrick turned to Kieran in surprise.

“I thought …”

“That I was traditional and conservative?” Kieran laughed. “Oh no!” he exclaimed,  “You cut yourself off from far too much of the human experience that way.”

“Bud,” said Garrick, with satisfaction, “we are going to get on really well.” He gestured to a pair of adjoining weight machines. “After you.”

 

Kieran settled onto his machine and began with the weight already in the stack. Garrick matched him. They added weights together and worked on their private performances.

Kieran was constantly amazed by the strength of his body. He needed to exercise real control. As it was, he attracted attention. Slow down, he told himself. All you need is some instructor coming over wanting to monitor your pulse. That would be interesting – very interesting indeed. The very slow steady beat of Kieran’s preternatural heart would definitely require explanation. After a testing session on the steppers, one of the instructors did come over.

 

“Who’s your friend, Rick?”

Kieran looked at Garrick, who shrugged.

“Nobody ever calls me ‘Garrick’. The family call me ‘Gar’, which I hate. Everybody else calls me ‘Rick’. ‘Gar’ would be fine if I was an overweight, orange cat.”

Kieran had to laugh. Garrick was right. ‘Gar’ did have a round, lazy sound, whereas ‘Rick’ sounded lean and hard. Perfectly appropriate.

 

“Okay, okay, niceties over, Rick. Now who’s your friend?” The instructor was obviously not a patient person.

“Judas Priest, Linds,” exclaimed Garrick, not showing much patient social tact himself, “keep your hair on. Kieran, this is Lindsay Donovan, a senior instructor here and resident aerobics champion. Lindsay, this is Kieran Doyle.”

Kieran smiled and saluted.

“Pleased to meet you,” he said, not offering to shake hands. The cool dryness of his flesh could seem normal. However, after one and a half hours of solid physical work-out, some of the instructor’s expertise might tell her that something was a little out of the ordinary.

“Yeah, same,” she replied. “You keep yourself in pretty good nick. You competitive?”

 

Kieran shook his head His mind was running over the possibilities of submitting to a random drug testing that was mandatory at sports events now. A urine sample that was identical in composition to whatever he had forced himself to drink could cause quite a stir.

“Private,” he said. “I like to keep fit – that’s all. It drives me nuts if I get out of condition.”

 

Garrick and Lindsay looked him up and down.

“No worries there, bud!” Garrick laughed. The trainer circled Kieran.

“You could do with some time on a sun-bed though,” she said. “You’re white as!”

“Couldn’t compete looking like that,” chipped in Garrick. He placed one of his hard bronzed legs next to Kieran’s. “You’re as white as a corpse – look at that.” It was like comparing stained wood with alabaster.

Surprisingly, Garrick was the one who acknowledged Keller’s death. “Hey, I’m sorry, bud, really. That was really inappropriate. I know you guys had developed a close friendship.” He looked at Kieran, genuine regret giving his eyes an almost human look. The instructor sensed a story and looked interested.

“Hey, what’s up, guys?” She looked from Kieran to Garrick. Kieran remained silent. He’d let Garrick repair the damage he believed he’d caused.

“You remember my cousin, Kel Hahn, the lawyer?” The instructor nodded. “He got drunk last night and fell from the balcony of his apartment building. He was killed instantly. Kieran was …” He hesitated before concluding, “a close friend of Kel’s.” Kieran was surprised at Garrick’s grief. His mind was jumbled with resentment and a genuine sense of loss

 

The trainer looked at them sympathetically.

“Hey, that’s awful. I didn’t know him well, but man, – that’s …” She seemed quite distressed.

“Yeah, thanks, Linds,” said Garrick. “That’s why I brought Kieran in this morning – to beat the ol’ doom and gloom. The apartment’s like a bloody morgue.”

“You lived with Kel?” Lindsay directed her question to Kieran.

“No, one floor down,” he said quietly.

 

The music had stopped. It seemed as though Keller’s death had followed them. The gym seemed darker, grim. Kieran bowed under the mantle of ‘grieving friend’.. There was no need to say anything else. Both listeners understood what Kieran wanted them to understand.

The session ended amicably. Garrick was impressed with Kieran’s tireless endurance and strength. Maybe he’d found someone with whom he could be buddies. Unlike Keller and his string of fails, Garrick had never had a close friend. No-one had ever gotten close to Garrick’s flinty exterior. Keller was the closest thing to a friend he’d ever had. Professionally, he would carry a slightly increased work-load, as senior accounts manager of Mallory Realtors. He was quite able to shoulder the extra responsibilities. It irked him that he would have to and that thought helped to dull the sense of loss. He needed his leisure time.

 

Kieran followed Garrick’s train of thought easily. Dealing with Garrick was not going to be as hard on him as dealing with Keller had been. Kieran’s own experience of death seemed trivial when compared to the deaths of Darius and Samantha Mallory. The anguish and pain of those deaths had been wrong – unjust. And the man responsible for so much of that anguish wanted to be his ‘buddy’. Well, if it was a buddy he was after, it was a buddy he would get.

 

“Listen,” said Kieran, as they headed for the changing room, “you’ve got things you need to deal with today and I need some time on my own. Would you mind if I just wandered off? I really feel like going for a walk.”

“No problem.” Garrick sounded distracted. He was rummaging in his locker. “Ah, there it is.” He pulled a toiletry bag from under a pile of rumpled clothing. He looked towards Kieran. “Just don’t start feeling sorry for yourself.”

“I won’t,” said Kieran, with a laugh. They stripped off and stepped into the huge communal shower. They were the only ones there. Standing side by side, they enjoyed the steaming hot water. Kieran hung his head back, allowing the water to run through his long hair.

 

Even though he had his eyes closed, Kieran knew Garrick was examining him. As he turned off his shower head, Garrick spoke.

“I can honestly say, without fears for my manhood, that I can see what Keller saw in you.” He turned off his own shower head and reached for a towel. “Everything about you is so …” He searched for a word to describe Kieran adequately.

“Different?” offered Kieran.

“No, much more than that!” Garrick fished a deodorant out of his bag, sprayed himself liberally and threw the can to Kieran without asking if he’d like to use it. “Exceptional!” exclaimed Garrick suddenly.

 

Kieran used the Lagerfeld spray, even though he didn’t need it. Garrick was using baby powder on his feet, as he continued. “I mean, look at you – the length of your hair, the way you’re built, how pale and bloody perfect your skin is. I’m almost sorry I’m not gay.”

 

Kieran laughed softly.

“Don’t be. Sex has a way of stuffing up friendship. Two people are friends, they go to bed and bang goes the friendship – if you’ll pardon the pun.”

Their laughter faded into silence as they finished dressing. Kieran wore his black jeans, t-shirt and leather jacket, while Garrick donned a track suit featuring the logo of the gym.

 

It was slightly after eleven thirty when Garrick drove away. He had agreed to meet Kieran on Monday evening for dinner. They hoped that everything concerning Keller’s death would have been sorted out by then and chose to meet at  the Top Hat Restaurant at six pm.

 

 Garrick wanted to press Kieran about his ‘leisure’ activities. The thought of having someone to share his interests was irresistible. He had spent too many years alone. It was time all that changed.

 

Outside the gym, Kieran was overwhelmed by a need for quiet; to be somewhere on his own where he didn’t have to worry about exposing who or what he was. The instinct became an imperative. He leaned against the concrete wall and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to dispel the buzzing sensation building in his head.

Instead of decreasing, the buzzing built to a high-pitched sibilance that went beyond sound. Kieran lost contact with the wall. Every cell in his body felt as though it was being stretched taut – to its limit. And then it wore off, abruptly snapped back to normal. Kieran almost lost his footing on the uneven surface beneath his feet. He looked down, confused. He had almost stumbled over a small boulder.

 

Kieran looked around. He was standing in the sheltered area of the hillside where he had healed Amy’s grief.  He was utterly astonished.  He struggled to orientate himself, to work out what had happened. It wasn’t the first time. It had happened before. Of that, he was certain. It took him several minutes to remember. He had to draw on the deeper level of memory that seemed connected to the physical side of his nature.

 

He found the memory. Early that morning, the companion had taken him from the apartment to the Bentley. It was the sensation of movement his body remembered, the stretching. This morning the companion’s power had moved them. Now he had done it.

What have I done? he thought rather wildly. He wished the two sides of his nature were more integrated, that he could remember more. He hated these odd spells of disorientation, occasional gaps in his memory which just seemed to emphasize how little he knew about himself in this state, how different he was to the human  he had once been. He felt drained again. It didn’t surprise him.

 

Concentrating on his immediate needs, Kieran turned slowly, letting the life around him revive his exhausted body. He was where he needed to be. His body had known, even if his mind hadn’t quite kept up. All around him, small animals and birds quietened down, as they shared their life force with a creature in need. Kieran sensed, as they returned to burrows and nests to sleep, that they understood.

 

The sharing was not something he had to force and he was grateful. It was not a negative thing, unless he chose to make it so. Even fresh young leaves and flowers which drooped a little, initiated renewed activity in the plants’ cells.

 

Kieran shut off the pull he was exerting before he damaged anything. He wondered if he should walk back to the road and then head up to along Broadway , and then walking across to Cityscape.

 

However, a pair of feet provided the next surprise. Kieran was so wrapped up in his thoughts, he failed to see the extended feet and tripped. Managing to right himself, he looked up the legs to apologise.

 

 A middle-aged woman was seated in the sun, her back against a rock. There was a sling bag beside her, a flask of coffee and she was holding a sizeable book. Kieran had interrupted a quiet reading session.

“Sorry,” said Kieran, “I didn’t see you.”

“And I didn’t see you,” said the woman, with a nervous laugh. “God, you gave me a fright. Where did you spring from?”

 

Kieran searched for the appropriate response, gently probing the stranger’s thoughts. She turned her hazel eyes on him.

“Don’t!” she said sharply. Kieran was so startled, he simply stared at her. “That is a very private place to go poking about without an invitation.” She had put up a barrier, ending Kieran’s mental exploration.

 

Telepath or telepathically sensitive, Kieran was unsure. Whichever it was, she was good, probably as good as his mother had been.

“Thank you,” she said, in response to his thoughts. Then she paled. “Oh my Lord!” she exclaimed. “Good God!” She had struggled to her feet. She was embarrassed and wondering whether or not she should be afraid.

 

She decided against it. The embarrassment was enough to deal with. “Well,” she continued, breathing rather hard, “that’ll teach me to keep my mental nose out of other people’s thoughts …” She stared at him in undisguised amazement. “I … you …” She found it impossible to finish her sentence.

 

Kieran absorbed the thought. She had discovered the truth of what he was, or at least, part of that truth. However, unlike Shannon Vaughn, that knowledge did not reduce her to a terrified wreck. She was nervous, but she was also accepting. Her conflicting emotions stemmed not from fear, but from being caught doing exactly what she had reprimanded Kieran for.

 

As an apology and a gesture of trust, she lowered her mental defenses. She presented, in her mind, the invitation that had been lacking before. Kieran learned that she was a forty-four year old academic, who had pulled out of the confusion that was the education system, in order to write for those who were not as fortunate as she was. She lived alone, writing education texts and novels for young people. On week-ends, she escaped her own writing by reading the works of others, which was what she’d been doing when Kieran fell over her feet.

 

“Tell me about yourself,” she said suddenly. Kieran found his eyebrows hoisted on a block and tackle of surprise. “Tell,” she repeated. “I don’t want to know things you’d rather keep to yourself. As you have noticed, my – what did your mother call it? – ‘gift’,  is pretty strong and I don’t want to pry. I already know you are not who you once were.” She spoke slowly, choosing her words carefully.

 

Kieran followed an instinct that told him he could trust this woman.

“Before I died,” he said bluntly, “I used to be Kenyon Mallory.” Black thoughts buffeted his mind.

“Go on,” said the woman softly.

“Who I was died in a car accident on the 26th of October.” He pulled himself away from the dark storm in his mind. “My name now is Kieran Doyle.”

“I’m Paula Conroy,” said the woman. “Paul, to my friends.”

 

Hesitantly, she held out her hand. Some of her nervousness evaporated, as Kieran’s long cool fingers wrapped around hers. “Whew!” she exclaimed, making Kieran laugh. “Now we know each other’s names, do you feel like talking?” She sat down on her rug. “I’m willing to listen.”

 

The feeling he could talk to Paula Conroy grew. Kieran remembered the pain he felt at Shannon Vaughn’s reaction to a knowledge of what he was. He did not want to drive Paula to the same state.

“I want you to see something,” said Kieran. “Look into my mind, please.” He thought through the scene in Shannon Vaughn’s office, as soon as he felt Paula’s presence in his mind. Then he spoke. “That man knew what I was. Are you sure you want to know more about me?”

“He reacted that  way, Kieran, because he did not understand enough about you. I don’t understand either, but I have picked up one thing from you. I have nothing to fear from you. There are those who should fear you, but I am not one of them. So, yes, I do want to know more.”

 

“Sometimes I frighten myself. Only today  I discovered I can move from point to point by power of thought.”

“Ah,” said Paula, “that explains how you managed to end up round there,” she pointed to the rocky outcrop, “without passing me.” Kieran nodded.

“I derive energy from the life around me – a little like a vampire, without the blood. I think I could easily kill this way. I haven’t tried it. It’s just something I believe I could do.” He hesitated. “I can also stop you from seeing me, even if I was standing right in front of you and I can alter my appearance – like this.”

He deliberately purled into the form of Kenyon Mallory and then back again. The woman watched, fascinated. “That’s what I used to look like,” he explained. Paula Conroy remained silent. Kieran did not probe. He asked. “Are you all right?”

 

Paula laughed.

“Quite honestly, this is all so much to take in, I’ll probably go into shock later. Right now, I’m just fascinated.”

“It gets worse,” said Kieran bleakly, his voice dropping almost to a whisper. “Last night a man died because of me.” He sat next to the woman and wrapped his arms around his knees. “I frightened him so badly – so badly,” he repeated in a stronger voice, “that dying was the only way to escape that fear. I broke his heart and his spirit.”

 

Paula touched his shoulder gently, a gesture of trust.

“Why don’t you tell me the reason?” she asked. Kieran leaned against the rock and closed his eyes. When he began to speak, it was as though he had opened a floodgate. He wanted, needed to talk.

He told Paula everything – the ‘gift’ he shared with his mother and with her, his love of medicine and his training as a doctor, his friendship with Tristram, his relationship with Amy. He stumbled through the murders of Darius and Samantha, his ‘accident’. Paula remembered reading about the three deaths in the paper.

 

He relived coming to in the hotel, the reawakening of his memories, the support of the companion, meeting his adversaries, his dealing with Keller. He left out nothing except his rejoining. He blocked that from her. He described the darkness of personal pain which sometimes threatened to overwhelm him and finally, he told her a little about Garrick.

 

Paula simply let Kieran open his heart. She felt his loneliness so intensely, it made her weep. She dried her eyes and composed herself as Kieran finished his tale and looked up at her.

“That’s a lot to have to deal with when you only have twenty-eight years of life experience to draw on.” She continued to look into his eyes. “I know many older and supposedly wise individuals who have faced their own personal pain with far less intelligent perception than you have demonstrated.”

Kieran was dealing with three strong feelings, as Paula spoke. He was surprised, relieved and grateful. She was so exactly the kind of friend he needed, a real link to the ‘normal’ world, that he suspected they had not met by accident. He wondered if this was something the companion had engineered. Paula picked up his thought.

“He’s over there,” she said softly, pointing in the direction from which Kieran himself had come.

 

The companion was standing some distance away, his face obscured by the hood of his robe. Kieran looked at him, asking the question in his mind. ‘Is this a friend you have chosen?’ The hooded head nodded. Both Kieran and Paula felt his approval, before the companion vanished, as suddenly as he had appeared.

  Chapter ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight. The Hunt

Kieran spent much of the weekend with Paula, simply talking, feeling out his identity, becoming accustomed to himself. Paula listened and advised. Late on Sunday, she came up with an idea which made absolute sense.

There was a house for sale diagonally across the road from Paula’s address. The black and gold ‘Mallory Realtors’ sign was visible from the lounge window. Kieran knew Paula was right. The Cityside apartment had served its purpose. Kieran could think of no reason to hang on to it.

 

He decided to speak to Garrick about selling the apartment and buying the Harrisborough house. The Top Hat dinner the following night was the perfect opportunity.

Kieran took his time preparing for his appointment with Garrick and arrived at the restaurant five minutes late. Garrick was waiting for him at outside table, the brilliant evening sun flashing gold fire through the brandy he was finishing.

“Drinking alone, Rick?” as Kieran, as he sat with his back to the glare of the late sun. Garrick laughed.

“Best way, bud!” he declared. “Kel told me you don’t drink, so I thought I’d get a quick one in before you arrived.”

 

Mentioning Keller stopped him smiling. “I’ve just come from Hayworth and Paul,” he said . “Kel’s funeral is tomorrow at ten am. Eddie and I thought you might like to sit with us.”

“Thank you,” said Kieran. “That’s kind of you. I will.”

 

“The police were quite satisfied. They released the body to the undertakers this afternoon.” explained Garrick. Kieran already knew there would be no complications. He wasn’t  sure quite how much the companion had done, but he knew that nothing remained which would contradict the simple suicide scenario.

 

 Garrick’s words brought him back to the present.

“No point in delaying things.” His flinty voice was quite relaxed. He was simply passing on facts.

Garrick finished the last drop of brandy and sighed.

“Let’s eat.”

 

It was Kieran’s turn to sigh. He wasn’t in the mood  to make social pretence over food. Suddenly Garrick found his mind crawling with images of maggot-colony corpses. His appetite vanished.

“I’m sorry,” said Kieran, “I’m not hungry. Maybe it’s talking about the funeral.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” said Garrick, as he tried to shake the image loose. He was feeling slightly nauseous. “I don’t feel like eating either. Maybe later. Would you mind if I had another drink? Funerals aren’t the best pre-dinner topic of conversation.”

Within minutes, Garrick was back with another double brandy. He held it up to the sunlight, sniffed it appreciatively, whirled the bowl in his hands and sipped.

“There is nothing in the world like a good brandy.” He settled back into his seat and grinned. “Well, almost nothing. Tell me,” he added, “what do you do to – relax?”

 

Kieran waited, allowing Garrick to provide the answer to his own question.

“Like – do you shoot?”

“Shoot what, Rick?”

“Guns, you dirty bugger! Do you ever go shooting?”

“As it so happens, yes, I do.”

“Good, now – what else do you do?”

“Why?” asked Kieran. “Thinking of introducing me to your Amazon?”

“Now you mention it,” said Garrick, with a grin.

 

“Something I want to ask you first, interjected Kieran, “about the apartment.”

“I’m listening,” said Garrick, “but don’t think I’m going to forget about taking you to meet Ziggy!”

“Later!” Kieran sent him a promise of shared lust and friendship, “but right now I want to know if you think Eddie would mind if I got rid of the apartment. I’ve only been there a month but …”

“After what’s happened,” interjected Garrick, “we’ve been expecting you to sell. Christ, you’d have to be a ghoul to want to stay on.” Kieran nodded his head.

“I was thinking about one of those old houses near  Grammar! Harrisborough Street area, you know, the ones that have been so nicely restored. They appeal to me. I’ve gone off apartment buildings completely.”

 

“Listen,” said Garrick, “Eddie’s working late tonight. Making the funeral arrangements today threw him off schedule. Let’s go’n see him now. It’s only quarter to seven. He said he’d be there until at least ten.”

“If he’s trying to catch up, he won’t appreciate interruptions, Rick.”

“Hey, I don’t just do accounts, you know,” declared Garrick. “I do property assessment and selling. I can take you through the books. We’re sure to find something. Besides, it’ll give me an appetite.”

“Suits me,” said Kieran. “Shall we walk?”

“I left the car at the office, anyway,” replied Garrick. “Too damn difficult to park around here.” Kieran grunted approval.

“Bentley’s at the apartment for the same reason.”

The office proved to be a five-minute walk from the restaurant. The front door was locked but Garrick had his own keys. As he relocked the doors, he called out.

“Eddie, you around?”

“Back here,” called a deep voice. Eduard appeared from a small office, where the central property files were held. He acknowledged Kieran and his half-brother. “Thought you were having dinner at the Top Hat?”

 

Garrick and Kieran joined Eduard and they went through to the manager’s office. Garrick got straight to the point.

“Kieran wants to unload the apartment.”

“Don’t blame him.” Eduard’s voice contained no trace of surprise or annoyance. “Should be simple enough. Let’s see.” He searched through the cabinet behind the desk. “Thinking of buying something else?”  Garrick answered.

“Small, old, restored – the furtherest thing you could find to a modern apartment.”

“Where?”

“Near Grammar. Harisborough Street area perhaps”

 

Kieran watched the brothers slip into work mode. Much as he despised them, he had to give them their due. They were good at their jobs.

“Meretta Larsen can do the legal stuff. Shouldn’t be a problem as we own the deeds to the property anyway.” Eduard spoke briskly. “Kieran, I’m going to get Garrick to show you our central files for houses. You can see if there is anything suitable.” Garrick turned to Kieran.

“Told you he wouldn’t mind.”

If  Kieran had known how long the process of locating the file for 28 Harrisborough Street would take, he might have suggested the property at the outset. However, he didn’t want either of the Mallory brothers knowing Paula’s address, not yet anyway.

 

The huge mahogany desk in the office was covered in files. It was after nine. Two hours had flown by. Kieran had seen old houses, new houses, town houses, huge houses and tiny houses. It was clear that Garrick was sticking to the principle of trying to sell the older properties first. It struck Kieran that the Harrisborough house may have been put on the market very recently.

 

At last, Garrick pushed the right file over to him.

“This one was built in 1880 by a rich widower – he spent a small fortune on it. It’s built on a Jacobean H-plan, an England Brothers design. It has oak panelling and beams, Baltic pine floors and some wonderful lead-light windows.” He paused for a breath.”

“Why is the owner selling?” asked Kieran.

 

Garrick laughed and looked a little uncomfortable. Here it comes, thought Kieran, the reason he didn’t want to show me this file.

“To be honest, I think the owner has lost the plot. He came tearing in here on Friday, put the house on the market, saying that it was urgent. When we pushed him for a reason, he babbled something about the place being haunted – a robed figure kept appearing upstairs in his bedroom and he was scared out of his wits. And this from a fellow accountant. I didn’t ask him what he’d been smoking!”

 

Kieran examined the file, trying very hard not to smile. He was starting to understand how much the companion had been helping him. He decided to make the most of it. That help, he knew, would not always be there in such abundance.

“I’ll take it,” he said, looking up from the file. He took out his smart phone. “The difference plus processing – will one mil seventeen thousand five hundred cover it?” “Don’t…!” Garrick gaped at Kieran and stammered. “Don’t you want to see it first – or something?”

“No, I trust your judgement. It sounds ideal. And I don’t think I’ll worry about the ‘ghost’ – Haunted? I don’t think so!”

He laughed. Garrick just shook his head.

“You don’t waste time, do you? Hey, Eddie,” he called, “Kieran wants 28 Harrisborough!” Eduard came into the office.

“Are you charging him extra for the ghost?” he asked, with a smile.

“Doesn’t believe me, so there’s not much point. However, he’s paid the difference in full – already.”

 

Eduard put his hands together and looked up piously.

“Dear God,” he intoned, “may all our customers – or at least half of them, be just like Kieran.”

“Not much chance of that, is there?” he asked, smiling back. “Not much chance at all.”

The soft grays of the funeral chapel absorbed, not only surrounding colour, but sound as well. The muffled gray atmosphere was such that guests were tiptoeing to their seats and communicating in almost inaudible whispers. Kieran sat between Eduard and Garrick. The fourth seat in the front row was occupied by Illona Mallory, Eduard’s eighteen-year old daughter. Keller’s white coffin was at the front of the small chapel, adorned with five tasteful wreaths.

 

One of the wreaths, deep red roses with white lilies, was from Francine. She sat quietly in the second row. She was genuinely grieved by her lover and boss’s death.

There were a number of Francine’s friends seated around her. In front of the tightly-knit group sat Detective Inspector Corcoran and Damon Hahn, Keller’s father. He and his third wife, Oriel, were both immaculately dressed in black. Other seats were occupied by long-standing clients of the deceased lawyer.

 

Keller’s mother was not at the funeral. She had never been able to accept either her son’s or her husband’s liberal views or their obsession with belonging to New Zealand’s small but elite jet set.. When the two men in her life finally became too much for her she left Auckland and moved to Nelson, taking refuge in the fundamentalist security of the Closed Brethren.

 

Mrs. Hayworth, a co-director of the funeral service, came forward. Eduard stood and shook her hand. When he sat, she went to the pulpit and turned to face the congregation.

She began by introducing the deceased and sympathizing with the family over their recent spate of deaths. Kieran recalled the last time he had been in this room, or at least, part of him had been in this room. He had been lying on satin padding, in the dark, waiting.

 

He reached into the minds flanking him and began to concentrate. Recalling the physical details of Darius Mallory, Kieran fired the image into those minds.

Horrified, the brothers watched the man for whose death they had been  responsible, materialize beside the white coffin. Their father seemed to be smiling, not a smile of welcome or amusement, but a knowing smile. The figure patted the coffin with an air of satisfaction.

 

Garrick looked at Kieran who was sitting with his head bowed. No help there. Then he looked at Eduard. The pallor of Eduard’s face told Garrick what he wanted to know. They were both seeing the same thing. The brothers exchanged glances and looked around the small chapel. Several people were looking directly at the spot where their father seemed to be standing, yet it was clear they saw nothing out of the ordinary. The vision was for their eyes only.

 

When they looked back at the figure, it was pointing at them. Each man saw the finger pointed directly at his own heart.

“This is bullshit!” exclaimed Garrick, fear driving him to challenge the figure directly. The funeral director looked deeply offended, some of the congregation looked surprised and others looked sympathetic. The figure of Darius Mallory threw his head back and laughed silently. As he laughed, he faded, still pointing a finger at his sons.

 

“What is it?” whispered Kieran to Garrick, who was now trembling.

“Sorry,” he muttered, directing his apology to the funeral director. She nodded her acceptance and continued her eulogy.

“I … I just hate funerals,” he whispered back to Kieran.

 

Illona Mallory had sensed her father’s disquiet and took his hand in hers. Eduard responded to the gesture, holding the hand as though it were a life-line. He smiled wanly at his daughter, grateful that her touch seemed to have dispelled the grisly apparition.

The rest of the funeral progressed without incident. Kieran decided to forego attendance at the get-together after the funeral and went into the Port Hills alone.

Shortly after three in the afternoon, just ten minutes after returning to Cityside, Kieran was summoned to the door. Garrick escorted a thin, tight-lipped woman into the apartment.

 

“Ms Brightwaters is interested in the apartment, Kieran. I didn’t think you’d mind my showing her through.”  Business was the only path Garrick could follow, that led away from the trauma of the funeral.

 

Fifteen minutes at Francine’s, listening to Damon Hahn telling the group some obscene and very funny stories about his and his son’s mutual first shared sexual experiences at the ages of  thirty-nine and seventeen respectively, was all Garrick could take. Ms Brightwaters was his second client since returning to work.

 

Kieran watched the woman examine the apartment. Everything she saw was coloured by Garrick’s clever salesmanship. Kieran sat quietly at the breakfast bar listening to the sales patter. Eventually, customer and salesman approached him.

“Only thing I want to know,” said the woman, “is why you are selling so quickly.”

“To be honest, Ms Brightwaters,” said Kieran, smiling, his tone confidential, “I’ve discovered apartment living just doesn’t suit me. I miss having a garden and the space for a dog.”

“I hate gardening and I really don’t like animals – no time!” responded the woman. “I’m a computer analyst at IBI . This is very handy to work – just ideal really.” She turned to Garrick, satisfied. “I must return to work, Mr. Mallory. I’ll pop in tomorrow morning and draw up the deal.”

“Thank you, Ms Brightwaters. Nine o’clock?” he asked.

“See you then,” she replied. As Kieran stood, she held up her hand. “I can see myself out. Thank you, gentlemen.”

As the door closed, Garrick turned to Kieran.

“Third sale in eighteen hours, including yours.” He held out some papers. “Need a few signatures.”

Kieran signed each marked X, before Garrick spoke again.

“That makes me feel better.”

“Want to tell me what happened at the funeral?” asked Kieran. Garrick shook his head.

“First a client with a haunted house and now I’m seeing ghosts.”

“Ghosts?” said Kieran, feigning innocent interest. Embarrassment and annoyance took turns in giving Garrick’s normally impassive face a work-out.

“Eddie and I thought we saw our father.”

“You both saw the same thing?”

“Apparently.” Garrick shrugged as he added, “He just stood beside the coffin.”

“If it’s any consolation,” said Kieran, “that’s not so unusual for deceased family members to appear at funerals. You’d be surprised how often people experience the same thing – just not talked about much, that’s all.

“Not bloody surprising,” Garrick exclaimed. “You could end up in Ward 13’s pink room!”

Kieran laughed, as he looked into Garrick’s flat green eyes. The man relaxed, astonished at how normal and sane Kieran could make him feel.

“Let’s go to the gym,” he suggested. “I missed my work-out this morning.”

Kieran agreed and before rush hour traffic began, they were bench-pressing to some pounding techno rhythms.

It was just after nine on the following Saturday morning, when the phone rang in Apartment 504, Cityside. Kieran emerged from the shower and dripped his way to bedroom. As he picked up the receiver, he focused on the water dripping from him. The water lifted from his skin and dropped onto the carpet, as it answered the call of gravity

“Kieran, its Rick,” said a flinty voice. “You busy today?”

“What do you have in mind?” asked Kieran. He’d been expecting to hear from Garrick all week, but ironically, knew what was frustrating his efforts to get closer to Garrick, was the death of Keller.

 

The extra work load that Garrick inherited proved how much Keller had done to keep the financial wheels of Mallory Realtors turning smoothly. Garrick had decided that a weekend of ‘leisure’ was called for.

“Thought we could kill two birds, well, clay pigeons anyway,  with one bullet,” he said. “Ziggy and a friend of hers have the day off and are coming out to the range. Could pick you up on fifteen minutes, if you’re game.”

“I’ll be waiting,” said Kieran. “See you then.”

 

Kieran hung up, relieved. He was starting to worry about the length of time he was taking with Garrick. This was a good opportunity to look for Garrick’s weaknesses. He only hoped the ‘Hungarian Hellfire’ and her friend wouldn’t demand too much of his time.

 

What would appeal to women who made a profession of pain, he wondered. Kieran decided his black leather jacket, black jeans and sleeveless black t-shirt would do. Just for effect, he added the demon head tattoo to his left arm. It struck him as appropriate.

Twenty minutes later, he was sitting beside Garrick in the Range Rover. The day had turned muggy. Clouds head-butted each other above the heavy air and a nor’wester loitered on the far side of the Waitakeres, waiting for the right moment to drop down onto Auckland and bake it gently to a crisp.

 

Kieran pulled off his jacket, exposing the intense reds and golds of the tattoo.

“That’s new!” exclaimed Garrick. “You didn’t have it last time I saw that arm.”

Kieran held it across for Garrick to examine.

“Scrubbed off the last bits of scab in the shower this morning,” he said. “I’ve always wanted one. When Keller died, it just seemed the right time. I had it done that Saturday.”

“Tuesday at the gym …”

“Tuesday at the gym I had a big plaster over it, remember?”

Garrick frowned, as Kieran implanted the memory.

“Oh, of course,” said Garrick, “I do remember. I wondered what was wrong. Guys with scabby things on their arms these days can be in deep trouble!” Kieran laughed.

“You’re right there,” he agreed, “but two things stand in my favor. I’m not promiscuous and I like to keep sex safe. It’s  how much pleasure you think you’re having that’s important, don’t you agree?”

 

Garrick was negotiating through a traffic island, as they headed north towards Albany.

“I like my body to know it’s enjoying itself,” he said, with a grin. “And speaking of bodies, the girls said they’d meet us there.”

 

It took another ten minutes to reach the Mallory’s country property on the northern reaches of AlbanyHeights. Set in over an acre of land, was the shooting range Fergus Mallory had built for himself and his sons, Darius and Richmond. While Richmond had returned to Britain, Darius had used the range to train his sons in his favourite sport. Favourite, until the death of his second wife, Sylvia Todd.

 

After that, only Eduard and Garrick used the facility openly. The times Darius went back to the country house, were the times when his older sons were out of the way. He had taken young Kenyon to the range on a number of occasions and taught him all he might ever need to know. Darius was determined the older boys would never have the opportunity of humiliating their hated younger sibling.

 

The Range Rover turned onto the private access road and bumped its way to a halt outside a modest weather-board building. A black late-model Lancer was already parked by the house. Two women emerged from the vehicle. One sported spiky orange hair which owed absolutely nothing to nature. The other was white-blond. Both stood around one point eight meters tall and both were deeply tanned. True Amazons.

 

Garrick and Kieran went over to them. Garrick performed the introductions. He took the red-haired by the hand.

“Kieran, this is my masseuse and friend, Tzigane Lorescu. Ziggy is from Hungary.”

The woman held out her hand. There was a strange light in her blue eyes. She liked the tattoo on Kieran’s arm.

“Pleased to meet you, Kieran,” she said, without a trace of an accent.

“Likewise,” replied Kieran. “You don’t sound Hungarian, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“I don’t mind.” She slapped the back of Garrick’s head. “What Rick fails to mention is while my father is Hungarian, my mother is half-maori. Sure I was born in Miskolc, but my mum moved back to New Zealand when I was eighteen months old. I grew up in Levin!” The group laughed.

 

 The other woman took a step forward.

“And this,” said Garrick, “is the one and only Nichola Quenell.”

The blond woman slipped her arm through Kieran’s.

“Call me Nicky,” she said. She ran her fingers over the muscles in Kieran’s arm. “My, but you are a big strong boy, aren’t you?” she murmured. Kieran looked into her eyes.

“I am,” he said, without blinking. “and call me Kieran.”

 

 The range behind the house contained several stands. There were five traps in all, making the twenty-five shots that each of them took, interesting and varied, even more so, as Garrick favored battues. Their twisting, turning flight challenged him.

This was still not enough for him and he had begun construction on two concrete bunkers to contain further traps. He intended rigging the whole system to computer eventually.

 

As they headed for the range, Garrick warned them to be careful around the two pits. Only the initial layer of concrete had been poured. There was a two-meter drop to concrete bristling with thirty centimeters of exposed reinforcing bars.

 

Garrick had chosen a beautiful pair of Beretta over-under game guns for himself and Kieran. Ziggy, an experienced clay-pigeon shooter, carried a Remington 1100 semi-automatic, while the less experienced Nicky used a Beretta 687. Both girls scored well. Garrick missed three twisting battues. Kieran had a perfect round. Preternatural senses lent him a flawless accuracy, which Garrick found most admirable.

“You, bud,” said Garrick, as they walked back to the house, circumventing the pits, “are an awesome shot.”

“Do you do everything so well?” asked Nicky.

“According to Kel, he does,” interjected Garrick. Kieran laughed.

“I told you Keller had a vivid imagination! All in his mind.”

“I like a man who isn’t afraid to be imaginative in bed,” said Ziggy, giving Kieran a challenging stare, as she opened the back door of the house. He met her gaze without blinking.

 

 The kitchen was even hotter now the burning nor’wester had arrived. Garrick picked up the coffee percolator.

“Rick, Rick – lover, have mercy,” said Ziggy, who was locking the guns into their security cabinet. “A cold beer, please! The thought of hot coffee in this weather …” She looked around the kitchen. “Anyone disagree?”

“Beer for me,” agreed Nicky.

“Neither,” said Kieran. Garrick put the percolator down again.

“Beer, it is then.” He looked across at Kieran. “There’s some Fresh-up in the fridge,” he added. Kieran thought it politic to accept. He caught the can Garrick tossed to him. “Only orange, I’m afraid.”

“That’s fine,” said Kieran. He pulled the tab and let the cold liquid wash over his tongue and down his throat. It was a pleasant sensation.

“A teetotaling hottie who shoots like Wild Bill Hickcock,” exclaimed Ziggy. “You are interesting!”

“Told you,” said Garrick. He had a six-pack of Canterbury Draught in his hand. He grinned at Kieran. “Let’s go through to the lounge. At least there’s a fan there.”

 

The lounge was a huge room containing five sofas, two lazy-boys, three coffee tables, a pool table and a large ceiling fan, which quickly cooled the heavy air.

Kieran sat on the sofa beneath the twirling blades of the fan. He found the heat draining.

 

Ziggy sat beside him. Garrick reacted by sitting next to Nicky, who looked quite comfortable with the switch. Kieran reached into Garrick’s mind. There was not a shadow of jealousy. Nicky was just as capable of satisfying his needs. Since his spell on the range, those needs were making themselves felt. He nuzzled into Nicky’s neck.

“We’ll use the bedroom,” he said, a few moments later. His flat eyes were glazed with lust. Nicky stood and allowed him to escort her to their destination.

 

Ziggy also stood. She moved around behind the couch on which Kieran sat and began to massage the muscles in his neck and shoulders. Her hands were strong, her expertise obvious. Kieran allowed her to continue for a minute or two before seizing her wrist in a powerful grip. She stood statue-still, waiting for him to make the next move.

 

Suddenly, Kieran turned and pulled the woman onto the couch. He drew her into an embrace, crushing his mouth to hers. She responded with passion. When he released her, she began to remove her clothing. Kieran conducted a mental search of the house. Nicky and Garrick were otherwise occupied. He did not have to worry about interruptions.

 

Kieran waited until Ziggy had removed the last of her clothing, before dropping her into unconsciousness. He lay her prostrate form on the sofa, reached into her mind and gave the pleasure centre of her brain exactly what it needed. She groaned, writhed and then bucked upward before flopping back onto the couch, as though a doctor had attempted to shock a failing heart back into normal activity. 

 

As she lay smiling in a deep satisfied sleep, Kieran examined every inch of her body. From the dyed-orange hair on her head and her lower abdomen to her long, high-arched feet, from her plucked eyebrows  to her shaved legs, from  her full mouth to her firm breasts with their dark brown nipples, Kieran imprinted each detail.

 

Only when he heard Garrick and Nicky begin to dress, did he drain the sleeping woman to the point of exhaustion. Then he sat casually in a lazy-boy, folded his hands across his chest and closed his eyes. When Garrick and Nicky came into the lounge, he feigned sleep. He released his hold on Ziggy and she came round. She looked down at her pile of clothes on the floor and then up at Garrick and Nicky, who were standing by the door. She struggled off the sofa and pulled on her jeans and crop top.

 

“Bugger,” she exclaimed, “I feel like I’ve been working for a week without a break.”

Kieran opened his eyes, as Garrick burst out laughing.

“I’ve lived to see the day!” he declared. He was genuinely amused. Ziggy turned to Kieran.

“Where do you get your stamina, sweetheart?” she asked, as she collapsed back onto the couch. “I’m exhausted.” Garrick laughed again. Ziggy grinned at him. “Keep that up, laughing boy, and I’ll double the fee!”

 “I don’t care – I’ll pay double. This was worth seeing.”

Kieran stood, straightened his clothing and turned to Garrick.

“I enjoyed today,” he said. “We must do it again some time.”

As they climbed into the Range Rover, Kieran noticed Garrick had a slight split in his upper lip, which was swollen. There was also a vivid blood-tinged bruise on Garrick’s neck. He noticed Kieran’s attention.

“Nicky plays rough,” he said, with a shrug. “And she lacks Ziggy’s subtly.”

Garrick started the Range Rover. He could not contain his curiosity.

“What did you think of Ziggy?”

“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” said Kieran, smiling.

“What did you do to her?” he asked. “I’ve never – and I mean never, seen her like that.”

“I …” Kieran chose his words carefully, “Let’s just say, I got what I wanted.”

 

Garrick laughed, as they pulled on to the main road. He realized he would get nothing more from Kieran. For the rest of the journey, the discussion revolved around the merits and disadvantages of the guns and clays available in Auckland, and the pros and cons of the various disciplines of clay pigeon shooting.

         

To: Moana Lorescu                                       

Hi Ma,

I’d like to be home for Christmas. I don’t think I’ll be returning to Auckland, but I’ll make that decision early next year, if that’s okay with you?

 

I have to admit, you were right again. I’ve been in the game too long. Now I’ve reached my savings target, it’s time to get out. I have enough for a nice house and to get through university – this time I’ll be able to complete my degree. It’s amazing what you can do when you have money.

 

I think what finished it for me was something that happened yesterday. Nicky (the Aussie surfer who came home with me last Christmas), and I went out to Rick Mallory’s shooting range. Rick wanted us to meet a new friend of his. This guy had been a friend of Rick’s lawyer cousin, who died a couple of weeks ago.

Rick said there was more to this guy than meets the eye and even we’d find him interesting. (Was he calling us jaded? Cheek!)

Well, interesting wasn’t the word! For a start, the guy’s about three inches taller than me. Amazing. But it wasn’t his height or his build or his looks (picture Ian Somerhalder with long black hair and black eyes) or even his amazing tattoo. Okay, so the guy was gorgeous and Rick left me with him. So why don’t I remember what happened?

 

Ma, I woke up in the buff, so tired I couldn’t stand. Every bit of me was relaxed. The way I was feeling, the memories should have been great, but there’s just this vague – ‘Mmmm, that was nice’, feeling.

 

Anything could have happened. I don’t even know if the guy was safe! And you know how careful I am. So that’s it. I’m quitting. You only need to make one mistake in this game and I feel like I’ve had my chance.

 

You told me that when I wanted to come home, I could. I’m taking you up on that, Ma. I look forward to seeing you. I’ll let you know which flight I’ll be on, when I confirm my booking.

Till then, love from your big girl,

                                               Ziggy.

 Chapter ends.

Chapter Nine. The Hunted

It was Tuesday morning before Kieran heard from Garrick again. He was about to leave the apartment, when his intercom buzzed.

“Got a few minutes, bud?” asked a flinty voice.

“Come on up, Rick,” Kieran replied. “The door’s open.”

Garrick entrance was theatrical. He flourished a wad of papers, which he then spread over the breakfast bar.

“Put on the coffee and take out your pen!” he declared. “I have here, all the papers for the two sales. Everything is through. Brightwater’s mortgage has been approved. She paid one third deposit. Little wonder she got finance so fast. Your little beauty is ready to move into on Saturday. I’ve told Brightwaters, she’ll probably be able to move in any time from Sunday.”

 

Kieran busied himself with the percolator, as Garrick gunned on.

“I know what you’re like, bud! I knew you’d want to be out of here as soon as possible.”

“You’re right there,” agreed Kieran. “”I was hoping to move over the weekend. That will give me time to settle in before Christmas.”

“Who’ll be moving you?”

“I’ve got so little to move – just a few boxes. Seems a waste to get anyone in. I’ll do it myself.”

“Listen, bud,” said Garrick, “you don’t want to go stuffing boxes in that Bentley of yours. I’ll meet you here early Saturday morning and we can shove everything in the Range Rover. That’s what the damn thing’s for, after all.”

“You sure it’s no problem?” asked Kieran. “I don’t want to impose.”

“Impose, bullshit!” exclaimed Garrick. “Call it a congratulatory gesture for the way you handled Ziggy on Saturday. I was most impressed, you know.”

Kieran laughed.

“I hope you’re not expecting a repeat performance.”

“Not on your life!” exclaimed Garrick, “next time I’ll leave it to you to teach Nicky a little finesse.”

Kieran finished signing the numerous documents over coffee. When Garrick had gathered the papers together, he stood.

“I’ll see you around eight on Saturday morning,” he said. “After the move, we can make that date to deal with Nicky.” He went to the door. “See you then, bud.”

“See you, Rick,” called Kieran, “and thanks.”

 Late on Friday, a ringing telephone interrupted Kieran’s concentration. He lowered himself gently to the floor and picked up the receiver. It was Paula. Kieran was surprised, as they had already arranged to meet at seven thirty the next morning.

“This isn’t about house moving,” said Kieran. “What’s up?”

“I’ve seen the companion again.”

“He spoke to you?”

“For a few moments,” she replied. “I’m not sure whether I was asleep or awake.”

“What did he say?” asked Kieran.

“It was a warning, Kieran,” said Paula.

“About Garrick, wasn’t it?”

” The companion said I must be very careful what I say to him. What else has he done, Kieran? I know about Darius and Samantha, but what prompted this warning?”

 

“I would say it’s Garrick need to hurt or be hurt. As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, he’s caused grievous bodily harm to every woman who’s ever dated him – a serial rapist.

 He has a regular thing with a dominatrix, who causes him bodily harm. Just take a look at the bruise healing on his neck tomorrow morning, Paul. It’s no ordinary hickey. In order to gain his respect, you need to be very strong. And don’t tell him where you live. He’s a dangerous man, Paul, very dangerous.”

“So are you, Kieran,” responded Paula.

“I’m not …”

“I know,” interrupted Paula, “I know what you are and I feel safe with you. We’ll handle Garrick. Don’t worry.”

 

Kieran closed his burning eyes, as some of his loneliness eased. He was deeply grateful for Paula’s understanding. Paula read his reaction as clearly as if she’d been in the room with him.

“That’s why the companion engineered our meeting, Kieran,” she said, in answer to his thoughts. “He knew what he was doing. He also has mortal friends who know what he is and understand his needs. No soul can exist in isolation, no matter how powerful or how different that soul is.” She stressed the word ‘different’.

 

Kieran nodded, knowing he did not need to speak. “Oh, and Kieran,” she added, “watch those levitation experiments of yours. You never know when Mrs. Weir might pop in.”

Right on cue, there was a volley of knocks. Mrs. Weir’s voice called out cheerfully from the opening door.

“Mr. Doyle, yoo-hoo, Mr. Doyle!”

“You’re a treasure, Paul,” said Kieran. “”I’ll be right there, Mrs. Weir,” he called back. “See you tomorrow morning,” he added conspiratorially. Paula agreed and hung up.

 

Mrs. Weir was beaming from the door.

“Mr. Mallory informs me you are moving out tomorrow morning. I am sorry.” She had enjoyed having Kieran in the apartment, without Keller’s hovering presence. Her mind was juggling a variety of erotic thoughts and all of them involved Kieran. He wondered how attractive she’d find him, if she knew a little more about him.

Mrs. Weir patted his cool hand.

“I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you here, Mr. Doyle. I really can’t blame you for wanting to go though. Poor Mr. Hahn.”  Kieran found her insincerity distasteful. “You and he were getting on so well, weren’t you? I could see you had become friends.”

 

Her intense curiosity irked Kieran She was burning to know what the lawyer had in common with this gorgeous creature. She didn’t see how any human being could resist the temptation. Kieran decided to shatter her illusions. He was afraid if he didn’t, she might actually come to the forwarding address he had to give her, to pursue the object of her desire.

“He was a very dear friend, Mrs. Weir,” said Kieran slowly. “Almost a brother and his death hurt like hell. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Mrs. Weir’s mouth opened and then closed again. She understood exactly what Kieran wanted her to understand. She felt his ‘sense of superiority’, his regard for her as ‘one of the help’.

“Well, yes,” she said eventually. She had removed her hand. “I’ll be up to collect your keys and card tomorrow morning.” She stood and backed from Kieran as he moved around the breakfast bar to show her to the door.

“I’ll see you then,” said Kieran, smiling again. “Thanks for dropping in.” Mrs. Weir, for the first time since meeting Kieran, did not smile back.

Saturday morning arrived with a low pressure system and a southerly air flow which brought rain and unseasonably cool temperatures. Kieran had all his physical possessions packed into labeled cartons and was ready to go by the time Paula arrived at seven thirty.

 

When Garrick arrived ten minutes later, they were ready for him. Garrick was strangely on edge, while Kieran played the genial host.

“Rick, I’d like you to meet Paula Conroy.” Paula held out her hand. When Garrick took it, she exerted a vice-like grip on his fingers.

“Paul,” she said, keeping her voice steady and strong. “Pleased to meet you, Rick.”

“Same,” he replied. Some of his tension eased.

“Few things you should know about Paul,” said Kieran, with a knowing smile. “She’s a distant cousin – family, so I’m very protective. And watch what you say to her about me. She’s equally protective and she plays rougher than you would believe possible.”

Garrick was both sceptical and impressed. Paula smiled at his reaction, a cold hard smile.

“As rough as you, bud, and with a lot more experience.” Her use of his word, ‘bud’, sent a chill through Garrick, awakening a sense of respect. Both Kieran and Paula sensed his reaction. Their plan had worked. However, there was still a vague air of disquiet hovering over Garrick. Kieran made up his mind to watch the man carefully.

Half an hour later, all Kieran’s possessions were in the Range Rover. Kieran slipped his keys and card into Mrs. Weir’s postbox. Evidently, she had ‘forgotten’ Kieran’s move and was nowhere to be found. Kieran collected the Bentley from the basement and he drove behind the Range Rover all the way to the Harrisborough house. Paula sat beside him.

 

The property was wonderfully private. All that could be seen of the house from the street was a single turret. There was a six-foot fence all around the property, as well as a belt of sheltering trees. The wrought-iron gates swung inward as Garrick activated a remote control unit from the Range Rover. He gave Kieran a thumbs up and they drove onto the property.

“Silly bugger bought this place without even seeing it,” Garrick called to Paula, as they climbed out of the cars. “Hope you’re not disappointed, bud,” he added, as Kieran walked towards the house. “Keys in the door,” he added. “I was here earlier.”

 

The house was lovely. Unexpectedly, the interior had a new smell.

“The seller’s just finished refurbishing – new carpets, drapes, wiring, the works,” explained Garrick. It took only a few minutes to unload the boxes. When Garrick was  concentrating on the last one, a particularly awkward carton, Kieran pulled the reason for Garrick’s tension from his mind.

 

He was sickened and it took a huge effort not to turn on Garrick right there in the front hallway of the house. Garrick had been on a date. He had not paid for the services of one of the specialists at the Hotel Excelsior’s Dungeon Club. He had been on a date.

As he put the final box down, he turned to Kieran and handed him a key-ring and the remote control.

“Also works the garage door,” he explained. Well, that’s it, bud. There’s a little gift from Mallory Realtors for you in the kitchen – Eduard likes his customers to know they’re valued.” He turned his flat eyes on Paula. “I’m going you leave Kieran to you, Paul. I’ve got a date at the gym. Way I feel,” he added, as he turned to leave, “I’m probably going to need Ziggy tomorrow.  I’ll phone you later, Kieran. Bye Paul. Good meeting you.”

 He disappeared through the door and ground the Range Rover’s gears in his hurry to be away.

 

Paula was staring at Kieran, her eyes wide.

“Kieran, what is it?”  She went to him and touched his arm. “Tell me what’s happened.” Kieran was so angry, she could pick nothing from his thoughts. “Please stop it, Kieran,” she added, when she got no response. “You’re frightening me.”

She went to her bag, which lay against the wall. When she returned to Kieran’s side, she was holding a pocket mirror. She put it in Kieran’s hand. “Look at yourself,” she said quietly, and then turned away.

 

Slowly, Kieran lifted the mirror and looked at his reflection. Paula had every right to be frightened. His eyes were burning with dark preternatural light. A furnace, fuelled by black rage , burned into the mirror. Kieran  fought down his anger and the heat faded.

“I’m sorry, Paul,” he whispered.

Paula turned back to him.

“Tell me what’s happened.”

“Garrick’s raped another woman. I’ve taken so long to decide how to deal with Garrick, I’ve given him the chance to hurt someone else – and she was so young. Oh God, Paul, what can I do?”

“What do you want to do?” she asked.

“I want to help the girl,” Kieran replied, without hesitation.

“Then go to the gym. You need more information from Garrick. Do you want me to come with you?”

“Yes, I do, but not into the gym. You stay in the Bentley. It shouldn’t take me long.”

Kieran ripped open a carton marked, ‘Casuals’, and extracted the gym bag.

 

Moments later, the house was locked and they were reversing down the drive. As Kieran used the remote to lock the gate, Paula spoke.

“Stop blaming yourself, Kieran. When you indulge these feelings, you’re not helping anyone, including yourself.”

“You sound like the companion,” said Kieran. The Bentley was gliding down Victoria Street towards town.

“He isn’t around to keep reminding you. I am.”

 

Kieran didn’t argue. He knew this tendency he had towards regret and self-pity was a weakness. As Paula had pointed out, he had only twenty-eight years of experience to guide him, despite what he was. He wondered how long it would take him to grow up.

“You’re still being hard on yourself, Kieran.” Paula’s voice had taken on a motherly tone. He had let his guard slip, forgetting this woman could share his thoughts as easily as his mother had. “Concentrate on what you can do, not on what you could or should have done.”

Kieran absorbed Paula’s words as he drove. The blame he  leveled at himself faded. It achieved nothing. By the time he arrived at the gym, he was ready to take positive action.

 

Leaving Paula in the Bentley’s air-conditioned comfort, Kieran went to the desk of Gym World. Lindsay Donovan signed him in.

“Rick’s already here,” she said. Pointing to the main gym, she added, “On one of his ‘Let’s prove how great I am’ kicks. He’ll kill himself one day!” 

Kieran agreed, thanked her and headed for the changing room. A few minutes later, he found Rick on a weights machine.

“The thought of a day of unpacking, buying furniture, tidying and arranging was driving me berserk, so I thought a quick session here first might help.”

 Garrick was gleaming, as perspiration poured from him. He grinned at Kieran, a tight, strained smile.

“Good to see you,” he said between intakes of breath. “I was hoping you’d come down.”

Kieran sat at a machine, grasped the bar above him, and pulled down in smooth even strokes to work his biceps. He allowed a minute or two for Garrick to adjust to his presence and then he began his search.

 

Garrick was completely unaware of the intrusion. Kieran probed deeply, found the event and then sorted through the details. When he had found everything he was looking for, he withdrew, feeling soiled, as he always did after contact with Garrick’s mind. The search had taken him twenty minutes and there were others needing the machines.

 

“Rick, people waiting,” said Kieran, nodding towards the two men standing expectantly near-by. Garrick looked at the clock, grunted and moved from beneath the bar he’d been holding.

“Couple of spare exer-cycles over there,” he said. “Come on.”

“Look, you go ahead,” said Kieran. “I only stopped off for a few minutes. I have got to get to Furniture Warehouse to pick up some stuff for the house.”

A look of disappointment flickered across Garrick’s face and was gone.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll phone later.”

 

Kieran let him move off and then returned to the changing room. He saw Lindsay Donavan again on his way out.

“Not straining yourself this morning?” she called.

“”I’ll leave that to Rick,” he called back. The instructor laughed and waved.

“Very wise. See you next week?”

“Sure thing!” Kieran waved back, as he pushed through the swing doors.

 

“Any luck?” asked Paula. Kieran sat behind the wheel of the Bentley and nodded.

“Took a while,” he replied, “but it was all there. He met her at the gym – she’s only recently started aerobics to keep in shape, now she’s left school. Her name is Linda and she finished the seventh form a month ago. She moved into a flat with a friend last week. The friend is away – she wanted to show Garrick the flat and took him in for coffee. She was impressed with his ‘sophistication’.”

“Can you find the flat?” asked Paula.

“It’s one of three in an old house, just the other side of Grammar. Gardenner Cresent.”

Focusing on the information he had pulled from Garrick’s mind, Kieran drove past the school and down Mountain Road. He soon found the crescent and recognised the house immediately. Linda lives upstairs, he thought.

“Up there.” Kieran pointed to the upper storey of an old house. “That’s it.”

“Let’s go up,” said Paula. “We can’t do anything from down here.”

 

Kieran and Paula went to the low gate. A young woman was pulling weeds from a bed of roses. She smiled up at them.

“Can I help you?” she asked. Paula answered with another question.

“Seen Linda this morning?”

 “That’s the new girl upstairs, isn’t it? I haven’t seen her since yesterday. Are you her mum?”

“No,” said Paula, smiling back, “an aunt.” She pointed to Kieran. “And this is my son.”

“Hi,” said the girl, appreciatively. “If you go up the stairs there, you should find her.” She pointed to a flight of stairs to the side of the house. They led to a small landing. “The other girl, Stacey, is away for the Christmas break, so she’ll be alone. Probably sleeping in.”

“Probably,” agreed Paula. “Thanks for your help.”

 

Paula led the way up the stairs. She knocked softly on the door and then tried the handle.

“It’s locked,” she whispered.

Kieran took hold of the handle. There was a soft internal click and the door opened. As he stepped inside, he waved to the girl in the garden.

“Thanks,” he called. “Hi, Linda,” he added in a loud voice, as he and Paula entered the flat, closing the door behind them.

“I could have sworn the door was locked,” said Paula in a quiet voice.

“It was,” responded Kieran.

 

But there was no time for explanations. He had picked up the girl’s presence and there was something wrong. “Through here,” he said. Paula followed him down a corridor. Kieran opened a door and looked into the room.

A girl was lying on the bed, dressed only in a torn slip, spotted with blood. On the table beside the bed were three tablet bottles, a jug and a glass. All were empty.

“She’s taken an overdose,” said Kieran. Paula turned away.

“I’ll phone for an ambulance.”

“Too late,” said Kieran. He was reading the signals being emitted by the girl’s failing system. “By the time they get here, she’ll be dead. She’s almost dead now.”

“But there must be something we can do?” Paula was deeply distressed by the sight of the limp form on the bed.

 

Kieran knelt beside the girl, following an instinct, rather than knowledge. Using his medical training in conjunction with his preternatural senses, he found the organs in the girl’s body most affected by the pain-killers and sleeping tablets she had taken. Holding his hands above her mid-section, he concentrated on her liver and kidneys. Paula simply watched.

 

Kieran eyes were squeezed shut. A halo of energy surrounded him and the girl. The air seemed alive. It took several minutes before Paula understood what Kieran was doing. When she did, she was astonished.

 

 The girl’s slip soaked through as fluid seeped from the pores of her body. Moisture darkened the sheet on which she lay. Somehow, Kieran was willing the poisons out of her body, drawing the deadly chemicals out of the organs they were destroying.

“She’s going to dehydrate very quickly,” said Kieran, suddenly. His voice cracked as he spoke. Paula sprung into action.

 

“I’ll get water,” she said. She took the jug from the table and rushed to the bathroom. In moments, Paula had filled the jug and was back by Kieran’s side.

“Try and get her to drink,” Kieran ordered. The stertorous quality of his voice frightened Paula. It was obvious he was putting himself under enormous strain.

 

The girl was now drenched and still fluid seeped from her. The air had a slightly bitter odour. A chemical smell, thought Paula, as she held the girl’s head, the glass at her lips. Some water, at least, was going down the girl’s throat.

 

Finally, Kieran dropped his hands.

“Her vital signs have stabilised,” he croaked. Paula took the girl’s wrist and felt for the pulse. It was steady, if a little faint.

Kieran sat back on the floor, his head on his knees, while Paula lifted the girl’s head onto a pillow. As she did, the torn slip wrinkled, exposing one of the girl’s breasts. Paula gasped in horror. Kieran looked up.

“What is it?” he asked.

“You’ll have to see for yourself,” replied Paula. She clapped a hand over her mouth.

Kieran pulled himself off the floor.

 

 What had horrified Paula was a bloody bite mark just above the aureole. Kieran felt a deadly anger build within him. He wondered how many times the girl had been bitten like this and what other damage Garrick had inflicted.

 

Kieran looked up at Paula.

“I want to examine her,” he said. Once again, he was the young doctor, explaining his procedures to the senior nurse. Paula helped him remove the slip and sat on the other side of the bed, holding the girl’s limp hand, while Kieran performed his examination.

He found five vicious bites, the most serious of which was the source of blood between the girl’s legs.

 

“The man isn’t human,” said Paula, in a low voice, disgust making her nauseous. “How could anyone do something like this? He’s scarred her for life, physically and mentally.”

“Not if I can help it,” said Kieran. He held his hand above the bite on the girl’s breast, but this time there was no halo of energy. Instead, Paula could see energy pouring from Kieran’s hand into the wound. The closest thing Paula had ever seen to it was the arcing of  static electricity charges in lightning bowls. 

 

The tissue around the bite lost its bloody bruised look. Then, as she watched, it vanished. Kieran was panting as though he had run a marathon. But he did not stop. He moved his hand down to the bites on the girl’s stomach, her buttock and finally, the wound Garrick really would have most enjoyed inflicting.

 

One by one the wounds healed, but the price Kieran was paying was devastating. He could barely sit upright. And still, he was not satisfied.

 

He leaned forward, took the girl’s head between his hands and touched her face to his own. Seconds dragged into minutes in the silent room. Eventually, Kieran released the girl, who sank back onto the pillows. Although Kieran was swaying with exhaustion, he raised one of the girl’s eye lids and looked at the pupil of the big brown eye. It was normal.

 

“What did you do?” asked Paula, when she was certain Kieran was finished.

“Deleted the Garrick Mallory file,” he replied in a hoarse whisper. “The human mind is a lot like a sophisticated computer. I accessed Garrick’s file and deleted it. I think Linda will be all right now. She is sleeping.”

 

Kieran stood, his face utterly white and collapsed to the floor. Paula rushed to his side. When she could find no pulse or breath, she panicked. She was about to rush for the phone, when a strong hand took her shoulder.

“You forget your friend’s true nature,” said a lilting voice. Paula stood and turned to face the companion. She stared into his dark eyes.

“I’ve never been so relieved to see anyone in my entire life,” she said. Tears attempted to burn down the barriers that were confining them to Paula’s eyes. “What’s happened to him?” she asked.

“As usual, he tries too much, too fast. He has used every particle of energy in his body. That is all. Do not distress yourself.”

 

The companion bent over Kieran and lifted him to his feet. He turned to Paula.

“Now I need your help,” he said.

“Anything, you know that.”

“The girl needs to be dressed and to have dry linen. Can you manage that?” Paula nodded. “She will sleep peacefully for many hours, so do not worry about her waking. When you are finished, drive the Bentley back to the house. I will take Kieran there when he is restored.”

Paula took a step towards them. The companion held up his free hand.

“I know you are strong, Paula, but there is a limit to how much you can share with us.” She knew what he meant and turned away, in deference to his wishes. She looked back only seconds later and they were gone. The keys to the Bentley and to Kieran’s house were on the table beside the bed.

It took Paula over an hour to dispose of the empty tablet bottles, change the bed linen, wipe the chemical smell from the girl’s body and pull some clothing over her. Paula settled for a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Cool, practical and decent, should any other visitors call.

 

The girl who had been gardening when she and Kieran arrived over two and a half hours ago, was gone. Paula climbed into the Bentley, grateful she didn’t have to explain the absence of her ‘son’ to anyone.

 

It was after one when she returned to the house. The boxes were all lying in the front hall where they had been left that morning. Rather than sit around fretting, Paula decided to take the various boxes to appropriate rooms and begin unpacking. Kieran could always move things later if he wanted to.

 

Paula was busy in the kitchen, when she heard the front door open and then shut. She rushed through to the hallway to find Kieran hanging his leather jacket on an old-fashioned hat stand. He was holding his mobile. When he saw her, he held out his arms to her. They embraced, smiling.

“God, you gave me such a fright,” said Paula. Kieran kept an arm around her shoulder as they walked towards the kitchen.

“You were wonderful,” he said. “Thank you. I really don’t know what I’d do without you.” He paused and looked towards the front door. “And him.”

 

Kieran looked back at Paula, his face serious.

“I am going to finish with Garrick tomorrow. I cannot allow him to hurt anyone else. You’ve seen for yourself what he can do.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Kieran.”

“I know,” he said gently, “but you are my friend and I want you to know what I am doing. I owe you that.” He sat on a kitchen bench. “I am going to phone Garrick. I don’t want you to be startled by what you hear.”

“Okay,” said Paula. “Do you want me to go out?”

“No, it’s all right.”

 

He flicked his cell phone open and punched in a number. It rang for some time.

“Hello,” he said, “may I speak to Garrick Mallory, please. Tell him it’s Ziggy.”

Paula’s eyes widened. She was grateful Kieran had warned her. The voice which was issuing from his mouth was not his. It was the voice of a woman.

“Rick, lover,” said the voice, “Shelley saw you at the gym – told me you were having a session. That true? Mmm. Tomorrow morning is fine. No, not the hotel. Let’s meet at the range. I missed you on Saturday. No can do, I’m afraid. Nicky’s on leave. Let’s just make it you and me, lover. I promise, Ziggy will make it all better. I’ll be waiting for you.”

 

Kieran hung up.

“Ziggy left Auckland yesterday, before you ask. I managed to put her off the sex industry for good on Saturday. She’s retiring.”

“God, what did you do to her?” asked Paula.

“That’s what she’d like to know,” replied Kieran. “It’s because she can’t remember, that she’s chucking it in. Tomorrow morning, Garrick thinks he is meeting her out at the shooting range. By tomorrow night, he’ll know he was wrong.”

Chapter ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten. The Hunted Part 2.

The rest of Saturday was spent in Newmarket in a frenzy of buying. Kieran bought furniture; bedroom suites for the two bedrooms, a lounge suite and a dining room suite. He bought an home entertainment centre; television, blu-ray the works. He added a collection of CDs and DVDs. He bought a new computer, a refrigerator and an automatic washing machine and dryer.

 

Paula enjoyed the shopping spree enormously. She loved the expressions on the sales assistants’ faces when they realized Kieran was paying cash. It was the kind of shopping experience most people only dream about.

 

Kieran allowed her to select a range of household linen for him and let her buy useful groceries. Paula also bought him some toiletries just to be convincing. Finally, he phoned a cartage company. When the receptionist quoted a hefty fee for a truck early on Monday, Kieran offered double the sum to have a truck visit four locations in Newmarket within the hour. Collection points were agreed upon and the girl promised to have a truck with two men there by 6pm.

The company was as good as it’s word and the requested truck arrived at five minutes to six. Each of the stores from which Kieran had made purchases, sent assistants to the loading bays to collect the goods and everything was loaded within thirty minutes. Kieran was gratified to have beaten the 9pm closing time by almost two hours. Paula was quite exhausted.

 

The truck followed the Bentley to Harrisborough Street and soon Kieran’s belongings had been brought into the house and taken to the appropriate rooms. Kieran gave each of the two men $50 for their help, before letting them leave shortly after eight. Then he and Paula unloaded the packages crammed into every available centimetre of the Bentley.

 

Now 28 Harrisborough Street  looked as though a new resident had just moved in. There was a pleasant new-smelling chaos in the house. Boxes, packages and plastic-wrapped furniture lay everywhere. Paula made herself a Cappuccino on the expensive Italian house-warming gift from the Mallory Brothers and sat on a new kitchen stool, sipping her coffee from a new mug. Kieran had just finished taking the last parcel to its destination. He held the house keys out to Paula.

 

“What time will you leave tomorrow?” she asked.

“It’ll be early. You come over as soon as you’re ready.”

“What time do you think you’ll be back?”

“Before dark. I can’t be more precise than that.”

“I’ll be here,” Paula said softly. She put her empty mug down and patted the cappuccino machine. “It makes a lovely cup of coffee.” They caught each other’s eye and smiled.

 

Paula knew Kieran needed to be alone. His quietness, since his return from Newmarket was a clear signal she could not ignore. She couldn’t imagine the kind of mental preparation Kieran had to make before tomorrow. She just knew she didn’t envy him.

 

Paula stood, went across to Kieran and hugged him. She said nothing. He hugged her back. They shared an unspoken communication of support and gratitude before Paula left.

After the front door closed, Kieran threw himself into organizing the house. Before the sun rose the next morning, everything was unpacked, plugged in, organised and in place. Reluctantly, Kieran knew he had to begin preparations and turned his thoughts to the range at AlbanyHeights.

 

The buzzing in his head built quickly. When the stretching sensation hit him, he managed to retain a sense of what was happening. The great speed of his movement no longer confused him and when he snapped back into stillness at the shooting range, he orientated himself in moments.

 

Walking through the tree belt at the bottom of the property enabled Kieran to absorb the energy he needed for the coming ordeal. When he was sated, he returned to the house to prepare for Garrick’s arrival. Kieran moved silently through the front of the house to the bathroom. He turned to the mirror to begin the transformation.

 

Almost two hours of concentration the previous Saturday paid off. Kieran had no difficulty recalling every detail of Tzigane Lorescu’s long-limbed body. Kieran experienced the same tightness, the heavy compacting sensation he’d felt when he assumed Tristram Leech’s appearance. Coming, he knew from reducing his height and breadth without reducing bulk. It was worst over his scalp, maintaining the short orange spikes.

 

The outfit he created was simple. It consisted of a slim-fit three-quarter skirt with a buttoned split up the front, a sleeveless, stretch-lycra body shirt and lace underwear all in the deepest burgundy. The final item was a pair of Grecian sandals whose burgundy leather thongs wound up the calf of the wearer.

 

Kieran had barely finished, when he heard the engine of the Range Rover. He went to the door in time to see Garrick climb awkwardly from the driver seat. He was obviously in pain. Kieran crossed his arms and leaned against the door jamb, waiting for Garrick to get to him. He smiled without amusement.

“Punishing yourself again, lover?” he asked. “Looks like you managed to make sure I’d have plenty of work to do today.”

Garrick reached Kieran’s side, slipped an arm around the narrow waist and laughed harshly.

“A little pain’s good for the soul – isn’t that what you’ve always told me?”

 

Kieran reached up and seized a handful of Garrick’s hair, jerking his head back. He put his other hand around Garrick’s throat.

“But there’s no point in wasting it, is there?” He pulled Garrick into the house and slammed the door with his foot. “Tell Ziggy,” he continued, “will my efforts be wasted or have you been a bad boy?”

 

Garrick was breathing heavily, the pain in his muscles making it difficult to stand. He tried to secure a hold on the Amazonian hips but was wrenched downward onto his knees.

“I asked you a question,” said Kieran, using the strong female voice at his command to full effect, “have you been a bad boy? If you haven’t, we may as well just leave. Why should I punish you unless you have been bad – really, really bad? So tell me, Rick, lover, have you been really, really bad.”

“Yes, for Christ’s sake, Ziggy,” gasped Garrick. The pain in his back was excruciating. “What is this?” he asked, trying to straighten his tortured muscles. “We’ve always agreed – no questions.”

“You know what they say about agreements, Rick,” said Kieran, “what’s the point of an agreement, unless there’s someone around willing to break it? Now tell me!” The voice he was using took on a deadly insistence. “Have you been really bad?”

“I have,” said Garrick, giving up the uneven battle, “you happy now? I’ve been really bad.”

 

Kieran pulled Garrick from his kneeling position by his hair and held him just off the floor. Garrick’s feet scrabbled ineffectually on the wooden boards. Fear was starting to jostle with the pain and pleasure, for a place in the queue of sensations he was experiencing. He had not realized just how strong this damn woman was.

“Tell me how bad,” said Kieran insistently. “I want to know what I punish my bad boys for. The agreement’s changed, Rick – now tell me.”

 

Garrick tried to free himself from Kieran’s grip, but the struggle was quite hopeless. Kieran drew on the energy feeding Garrick’s rising panic, making the man’s efforts ever more futile.

“Ziggy, you’re going too far,” Garrick blurted out. He was panting. “You’re really hurting me!”

“Isn’t that what you pay me for?” said Kieran, laughing softly. “This has gone on long enough, Rick. Years now. You always come to me for punishment and yet you won’t tell me what I’m punishing you for. The punishment should always fit the crime, lover. I can’t do that unless you tell me what you’ve done. Now tell me!”  He half-carried Garrick towards a chair and dropped him into it. Garrick was too drained to move. Kieran lifted one sandaled foot and rested it against Garrick’s groin.

“You were saying?” he said encouragingly.

 

The assaults, the rapes, the humiliations which Garrick had inflicted on his victims had been his secret for seventeen years now. For sixteen years, from when Ziggy was only a novice 18 year-old dominatrix, they had played by his rules. Talking about his rapes was something he would never do. He looked up at the orange-spiked hair, defiance in his thoughts. He avoided the woman’s eyes. They disturbed him. He wouldn’t look at them. But he did. And he began to talk.

 

“I … I forced a woman to have sex with me,” he admitted in a small voice.

“You raped a woman?” asked Kieran. “If that’s what you did, Rick, say so.”

“I raped a woman.”

“How old was she?” asked Kieran.

“Jesus, Ziggy!” Garrick sounded strained and tired. “What is this? I’m aching all over. I want a massage.”

“How old was this woman?” repeated Kieran. Garrick gave up.

“About eighteen.”

 

He would play the game. Anything to get to the physical pounding he needed to ease the agony in his back and limbs.

Oh, so you raped a girl?” The correction made Garrick angry, but before he could say anything, Kieran spoke again. “Why?”

The question burst into Garrick’s mind like an gate-crasher at a party.

“No,” said Garrick. “That’s none of your fucking business.” Garrick’s anger was building. It was doubly frustrating because he didn’t have the strength to do anything. He wanted to hit Ziggy.

“You want to hit me, Rick?” Kieran allowed his words to sink in. “I thought this was a relationship where I did the hitting. What do you want to punish me for?”

“For asking me questions, bitch.” Garrick was in pain and he was afraid, but he was still exhilarated. “Just do what I pay you for. I don’t like this game.”

“But it’s not a game, Rick. And I don’t expect you to pay me. I want to know why you treat woman the way you do.”

 

Kieran fell silent and let Garrick’s thoughts rampage through memories of dead brown eyes, of pain , loneliness and anger.

“And that justifies what you’ve done?” asked Kieran. Garrick blanched. It registered that the question responded to what he’d been thinking.

“No,” he murmured, “no, no, no!” he repeated. That’s my world. My place – you don’t belong there, he thought.

“It’s not your world, Rick, not when it causes others so much pain. You have no right to inflict your hatred – your anger on others and then think that our little sessions free you of blame.”

“How are you doing this?” whispered Garrick.

 

For the first time, he was truly afraid. Something was happening, which was beyond his control. He had to be in control. Had to. Control was as important to him as breathing and eating.

“That’s irrelevant, Rick.” said Kieran, almost gently. “When you inflict so much suffering on others, there is always a price to pay. Did you ever think of the price your victims paid?” He did not wait for an answer. “Do you know that when you finally finished with Linda Frankton, left her bleeding and alone yesterday morning, she took an overdose?”

“You know Linda?”  Garrick was panicking.

 

He refused to deal with the fact that Kieran had been reading his mind. He had found one explanation and he clung to it timorously. “Ziggy, I didn’t know Linda was a friend of yours, honestly. I’m sorry.”

Kieran shook his head.

“You just don’t get it, do you? It’s not my knowing Linda Frankton or not that matters. It’s what you did to her, what you’ve done to the others, whose only mistake was being naive enough to trust you.”

 

Garrick had slipped from the chair onto the floor.

“Who put you up to this?” he asked. “Was it Linda?”

“When I saw Linda, Rick, she was unconscious. She didn’t speak to me. I told you – it’s not just Linda. She was the last – she was the last woman you will ever rape. But it was Samantha who sealed your fate, not Linda or the others.”

 

“Oh God, no!” Garrick choked on the words as he squirmed backwards to escape the nightmare that had swallowed him. The woman standing over him went out of focus. Garrick blinked to clear his vision, blinked again and when he regained his focus, he wished he hadn’t. He wished he was anywhere on the planet but where he was right at that moment. Standing above him, her brown hair waving prettily over her shoulders, her soft brown eyes wide and gentle, was his step-mother. His dead stepmother – the woman he had hated so much he had –

“Yes, murdered,” said Samantha Mallory’s childlike treble.

 

The creature above him had changed appearance, but it was still invading his thoughts. Garrick expected displays of power from Tzigane Lorescu. He hadn’t been altogether surprised by Ziggy’s access to his mental processes, but this feeble creature! Garrick had loathed Samantha Mallory from the moment his father had first brought her home. Hiding her intelligence behind the gentleness and the childish voice and those huge dark brown eyes – eyes like some dumb animal. Eyes like his mother’s.

 

 She hadn’t fooled him. He knew she despised him as well. Hadn’t Darius refused to hear the casino plan because Samantha had warned against it? And why had she done that? Because she hated her step-sons.

“You’re quite wrong, Garrick,” said the figure standing above him. “Darius wouldn’t hear of the casino plan because it was too risky. He retained the family’s wealth because he wouldn’t take chances like that. He didn’t need anyone to tell him any thing.”

 

Garrick lashed out with his feet . He should have contacted the creature’s legs, sent it flying, but he kicked thin air. Samantha appeared to be standing a meter or two beyond his reach. He struggled to stand, only to have his legs give way, folding him to the floor.

“You won’t try to understand, will you?” asked the dead woman sadly. “There is only one thing that’s going to make you see. We shall have to trade places, you and I. Then you will understand.”

 

Garrick had writhed backwards into the wall. There was nowhere else to go and this creature’s words were filling him with the kind of terror of which most people never even dream. He didn’t know how she meant to ‘trade places’ with him and he didn’t want to know. A whimpering filled his ears, confusing him, before he realised the sound was coming from him.

 

Again, Garrick’s eyes seemed to fail him. The thing in the room with him went out of focus, rippled, like a body under water. When it came back into focus, Garrick looked into his own flat shark’s eyes, into his own lean, tanned face and saw hatred there.

 

When he cried out in blind panic, his voice sounded high and sweet. As flat deep green eyes bored into his, Kieran planted the illusion deep in Garrick’s psyche. As Garrick’s hand fumbled at the front of his track top, his senses told him he was touching a naked chest, the skin not hairy, but satiny smooth. His hand arched around an exposed breast, its nipple tight with terror. He looked down in panic at his track pants and saw a flat abdomen, the V of downy hair surrendering to soft folds of flesh. And he screamed.

 

When he looked up again, he saw himself preparing for the rape. He saw his black-gloved hand unzip the black trousers and lift out the erect organ. He saw a condom materialise in the gloved hand. It was rolled on, quickly, deftly. He saw himself approach and realized he was helpless. He twisted, struggled, writhed but there was nowhere he could go, nothing he could do. He felt fear like a physical ache in his chest.

 

When the figure dropped onto him, he experienced, for the first time in his life, a pain in which there was no pleasure. It was a deep, burning pain that tore into his abdomen. He felt as though the organ driving into him was ripping away the basic shape of everything he was. It was an invasion and the invader plundered a human treasure. It stole every ingot of human dignity in that store house, leaving a sense of worthlessness so intense Garrick wept.

 

 It was made all the more degrading by the realization that the invasion was being watched and it was as degrading and painful for the watcher as it was for him. He felt the helpless love of the watcher stripped bare of its hope, for what value is love when it cannot protect the loved one from harm?

 

The pain seemed to continue for a very long time, each savage and impossible thrust causing more hurt, more humiliation, until he yielded to it. He gave up and lay still, like a dead thing.

 

Slowly, Garrick sensed that weight no longer pressed him to the floor. A deep throbbing drummed through his lower abdomen, but the invader was gone. He touched himself gingerly on the chest and abdomen and felt only the nylon fabric of his track suit. Reality or hallucination. Which? He truly did not know. All he had was pain and utter humiliation.

 

Garrick looked around wildly, before he realised someone was standing behind his line of vision. Somehow, he had found his way to the centre of the room and was lying on the rug between the sofas. He spun around.

 

Kieran had retained Garrick’s black-clad form and stood waiting, his arms hanging loosely at his sides.

“Why are you still here?” croaked Garrick. “Haven’t you done enough? I don’t know how you did that but I know what I’ve done now – I know what it feels like, for God’s sake. Please leave me alone. What else could you want?”

 

Garrick was crying, sobbing helplessly. He couldn’t stop. It was the first time in his life he had ever cried in pain and he hated it. He hated the sense of vulnerability. And he hated the sense of shame which weighed him down as surely as the body which had raped him.

 

What had happened to him was impossible. He knew that. But it had happened. He felt filthy, soiled and worthless. And the pain that plagued him was just that – pain. There was no pleasure. Just the utterly overwhelming sense of degradation. The figure that was him, yet could not be, was shaking its head.

 

“Was that it for Samantha?” asked a flinty voice, a voice Garrick had only ever heard on his own answer machine. “No – that stupid bitch, of course it wasn’t. She panicked, didn’t she. Panicked, just like you’re doing. Stupid to think that tears will help. Those tears are for you – poor, poor little Garrick!”

 

Garrick watched himself stand. The figure was so full of menace, Garrick’s sense of panic redoubled itself. He wanted to escape. If one human being alive could strike fear into his heart, it was the man facing him now.

 

Struggling to his feet, Garrick turned and ran, just as Samantha had done, poor little woman. He stumbled through the kitchen, knocking over a chair. The back door was locked. So great was his panic he was unable to turn the key. From the other side of the kitchen, Kieran focused on the lock and the door opened.

 

Garrick fell down the back steps, regained his feet and ran towards the shooting range. He could sense his alter-ego not far behind and wondered if it was carrying a hunting rifle. It was only when he lost his footing at the edge of the first of the new pits, twisting frantically to avoid the inevitable fall, that he knew the hunting rifle was unnecessary. He fell face up, screaming once, before a reinforcing bar pierced his lower back.

 

The death caused Kieran the same anguish Keller’s had for it was not as swift. The warped soul in Garrick’s body fought to remain in its mortal shell for long agonizing moments, before the body’s weight pushed the first bar through its abdomen and a second  through the throat.

 

Kieran looked down at the body in the pit. It looked like a giant human insect pinned to a display tray in the Museum of Natural History. The first specimen of an obscene new  collection.

Kieran had much to deal with when he returned to the house. Once more his powers had surprised him. He had reduced to Samantha’s tiny form with very little discomfort. His skills were growing. Still, he felt he needed to watch the return of his now familiar dark features. It was a relief to see Garrick’s hate-driven form disappear. This death brought no regret, just exhaustion. He was learning all the time.

 

Tidying away all signs of a second presence in the house that day, Kieran walked to the back of the property. Under the shelter of the trees, he fed,  using the whole perimeter in order not to drain any living thing to its death. He had caused enough destruction today. When he felt sufficiently revived, he returned to his new home.

Chapter ends.

 

Chapter Eleven. Interlude.

Paula was lying on a couch in the sitting room when Kieran returned. It was just after one. The remains of Paula’s lunch and an empty coffee cup lay on the floor beside the sofa. She was reading.

As Kieran walked in, she looked up.

“You okay?” she asked. Kieran said nothing. “He’s dead, isn’t he?” she added. Kieran nodded. “Tell me what happened.”

He sat on another sofa and in a low voice, told Paula what he had done. She listened without commenting. When he fell silent, she spoke.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“Not as bad as I felt after Keller’s death. I was Keller’s personal Nemesis. He had been responsible for my death. With Garrick, it was far more impersonal far more deserved.”

 

Paula decided to change the topic.

“Remember I told you I wanted to start a new book.” She patted the volume she’d been reading. “I was looking up some names for my characters. I looked up your name. Do you know ‘Doyle’ means ‘stranger’?” A smile flickered over Kieran’s drawn features.

“That’s nicely appropriate,” he said. “What does ‘Kieran’ mean?”

“You’ll love this,” responded Paula. “It means ‘dark’.”

“Dark Stranger,” repeated Kieran. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?” He laughed. “Did you look up ‘Bryant’?” Paula shook her head and began to flip through the pages of her book. “It’s the name the companion seems to use,” he explained. “Bryant Doyle.” Paula looked up at him, her finger marking some text.

“It’s also a Celtic name. A version of Brian, which means ‘strength’.” She paused. “So, I suppose ‘Bryant Doyle’ would mean ‘Strong Stranger’.”

“That’s not far from the truth either,” said Kieran. “if something of an understatement!” He looked at his human friend and smiled. “What does ‘Paula Conroy’ mean?”

“I was hoping you wouldn’t ask,” she said. “It’s cutesy!”

“Little Wise Friend, huh?” responded Kieran. He had picked the meaning from Paula’s thoughts, without her sensing his presence.

“You’re getting altogether too good at that!” exclaimed Paula, her tone scolding.

“Sorry, Paul,” said Kieran apologetically. “I couldn’t resist. Won’t do it again, I promise.”

 

“You’re forgiven,” said Paula. She was pleased she’d been able to divert Kieran’s thoughts from the events of the last twenty-four hours.

“What’s your book about – the one you’re planning?” asked Kieran suddenly.

“Time warp storm on Rangitoto and the heroine is transported to a primordial New Zealand, occupied by a strange, heretofore unrecorded race of beings.” Paula grinned at him. “Think it’s too weird, huh?”

“Absolutely,” said Kieran. “I mean, how could you make something like that believable? It’s like those horror writers who write ludicrous things about creatures coming back from the dead and taking revenge on the guilty and such like.”

Paula had to laugh.

“Quite,” she said. “Still, makes for interesting reading, don’t you think?”

 

Kieran was about to reply when the phone rang. It was Eduard Mallory, looking for Garrick. His voice registered crisis.

“Bloody Australian investors have an idea they want to go over with us and I can’t find Garrick. I’ve rung everywhere and no-body seems to know where he is. I thought you may have seen him. I am sorry to bother you – I know you’ve just moved in – by the way, how do you like the Jura Impressa?” Eduard paused for breath.

“Wonderful machine – coffee’s incredible!”

 “Good. I’m pleased you like it. I’ve had mine for years. Couldn’t live without it.”

 Kieran picked up the thread of the conversation quickly.

“Now, let me see if I can help with Garrick. I saw him at the gym yesterday. He wasn’t talking much. Just training – hard. Lindsay Donovan, the instructor, said he was having one of his ‘sessions’ …”

“Then he’s probably gone to the Dungeon Room at the Red Lady – kinky bugger. I didn’t think of trying there. Thanks, Kieran.” The crisis faded in Eduard’s mind.

 “I’ll get on to the Excelsior now. Thanks again.”

“Any time!” said Kieran, as Eduard hung up, “any time.”

Paula insisted on taking Kieran to the beach. It was low tide and they were able to walk in the shallows off the rocks at Piha. Paula moved back onto the black sand and watched Kieran, who stood at the water line, the waves lapping adoringly around his bare feet.

 

There was power here, a different kind of energy. Kieran  drew on it, humbled. It was no small creature sharing a little of its life force. He was drawing on an ancient and primal source of power. It felt as though the earth herself was replenishing him, restoring his energy and sense of harmony. He knew, as he stood there, that he had redressed a balance, a natural balance. In that moment he felt more at one with his surroundings than he had ever done.

 

So intense was the exhilaration, he was startled to find Paula standing beside him.

“You’re looking much better,” she said, smiling up at him.

“I feel much better,” Kieran replied. A warm north-easterly breeze blew over their faces, bringing with it salt-rich fragrances, as old as time. “You were right to make me come,” he added.

“I always feel good when I come here,” said Paula, “but there could be more to it than that. White magicians explain that the place where the ocean and the land meet is a place of great power.”

“I can feel it!” said Kieran.   

“Well, I don’t know,” responded Paula, “I just know that it makes me feel pretty good. I always come here when I’m feeling down.”

“Maybe I can sense the power here more easily than you, because of what I am.” As Kieran spoke softly into the wind, Paula couldn’t help noticing how in harmony he seemed with the ocean and the dark compacted sand.

“Perhaps you’re right,” she murmured. “Maybe it’s humans  who should be called ‘preternatural’. You seem more at home in these surroundings than anyone I’ve ever met.”

“I am ready to go home now,” said Kieran. “I need to prepare for tomorrow.” He stared out over the ocean. “Eduard was the instigator of everything that happened, you know.” Kieran felt it was important to explain this to Paula. ” Garrick would just have continued hurting his ‘dates’ until he slipped up and was caught. Keller – well, who knows! But Eduard, he’s different. He wanted Darius dead. He wanted money and power.

 

Often, he would fantasize about Darius dying. He would inherit everything and what he wouldn’t do! Set the property market on its ear.

I caught his thoughts a number of times when I was still at high school. It worried me, especially as I had no-one to tell. I couldn’t go to Darius and say – Look, I’ve been eavesdropping on Eduard’s thoughts and he’s been thinking about killing you. Imagine it! So I did nothing and Eduard fulfilled his fantasy. Now I will put that right.”

 

Paula put a motherly arm around Kieran’s waist. and they turned towards the car park.

“You have preparations to make and I need a decent meal. Feel just a bit weird. I suppose it may have something to do with the two cream doughnuts I had for lunch.”

“What are you trying to do to yourself?” asked Kieran, giving her his hand, as they climbed the steep stone steps to the road.

“Sweet tooth and addiction to junk food!” exclaimed Paula. “It’s no real problem though,” she added, “I have a cast-iron constitution. My body always lets me know when it’s time for a healthy meal – like now.”

 

On the way home, Paula stopped at the Chiang Mai Restaurant in New Lynn and bought herself an exotic concoction of vegetables, whole grain rices and seafood. It was all still steaming hot when she dropped Kieran off with instructions to call her, if she was needed.

 

Kieran knew he wouldn’t, but he was grateful for the offer and he sent the thought to Paula as she drove away. What he had to do now was wait for the discovery of Garrick’s body.

Chapter Ends.

                                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve.  ACT THREE. A Companion

 

The phone call came at ten fifteen on Monday morning. Eduard sounded breathless.

“I was hoping you’d be home. I wanted to tell you before you heard it on the news or read it in the paper.”

“What’s happened?” asked Kieran.

“The police found Garrick’s body this morning – out at the Albany range.”

‘His body?”

“He had fallen onto a reinforcing bar …”

“The pits he warned us about last Saturday – the ones he’s putting in for new traps.”

“Yes – seems like he didn’t take his own advice. The police think he went out there at around lunchtime yesterday, was wandering around the property and slipped. They checked out the Dungeon Club. The woman Garrick used regularly after his work-outs quit her job there on Wednesday and went home to Wellington. She was on the road  Thursday morning  – several surveillance shots of her at various petrol stations confirm her whereabouts so she’s in the clear.

The woman who runs the Dungeon Club thinks Garrick may have had an arrangement with this Ziggy to meet yesterday morning, but he didn’t know she had left. He was probably waiting for her, got bored and went for a wander.”

 

Eduard took a deep breath. Kieran sensed rising feelings of helplessness. The man was close to breaking.

“You all right?” asked Kieran, gently.

“It’s too much, Kieran. The last few months have been a nightmare. Where’s it going to stop? There’ve been too many deaths.”  Eduard was afraid. Kieran could hear the fear in his voice. But Eduard’s primary concern was not for himself. It was for his daughter.

“Kieran, I want to ask you something.”

“Anything, Eduard. What is it?”

“I’m worried about Illona.”

 

There was a silence so long, Kieran interrupted.

“What can I do to help?”

“Do you know where I can find a companion for her?” Eduard’s choice of words made Kieran smile. “Someone who could really look after her,” Eduard added.

“Actually, I do know someone,” replied Kieran. “She’s a distant cousin, Paula Conroy – a retired teacher. Only forty something. She retired early to write.”

“Garrick mentioned her,” said Eduard quickly. “Could I meet her?”

“I’ll ask for you.”

“Please,” replied Eduard. “Could you bring her to dinner tonight?”

“I’ll phone you back shortly,” said Kieran.

“Thanks. I’m at 3444321.” Eduard had reeled off the number of the main line at 1 Mallory Lane. The urgency in his tone was unmistakable.

 

Kieran called Paula, who came right over. She was out of breath when she arrived. Kieran made her sit in the lounge and get her breath back, before he would tell her what he wanted.

“So what is this urgent matter you wanted to discuss?” she asked, growing impatient.

“Eduard phoned.”

“They’ve found Garrick?”

“Yes, but that’s not the issue. He’s invited us to dinner tonight.”

Paula looked at Kieran in surprise.

“He’s afraid,” explained Kieran, “oh, not for himself,” he added quickly, when he saw Paula’s expression, “for Illona.”

“That’s his daughter?”

“Yes. With all the deaths the family has experienced over the past months, he is worried about her. He wants a ‘companion’ for her. I suggested you. How do you feel about it?”

“He wants to talk to me tonight?”

“He does.”

“Well, I told you we didn’t meet by accident. Of course I’ll help.”

“So dinner tonight’s okay?”

 

When Paula threw Kieran a clear thumbs up, he retrieved the cell phone and punched in the estate number. Eduard answered immediately.

“Dinner’s fine,” said Kieran. “What time would you like us to be there?”

They agreed to meet at 1 Mallory Lane at seven that night. The stage was set for Act Three.

The Bentley gravel-crunched to a halt outside the huge estate at five minutes to seven. Kieran was wearing his usual black jeans and jacket. Paula had dressed in tailored brown trousers and a simple peach shirt. Her short, dark-brown bob sat neatly over her head and she wore very little make-up. The effect was casual and elegant, perfect for the role she was assuming.

 

Eduard answered the door himself. His tanned face was pale and drawn. Paula took the initiative and held out her hand.

“Paula Conroy,” she said. Everything about her exuded warmth and strength. “When can I meet Illona?”

“Eduard Mallory, and you can meet her right now.”

He turned towards the stairs and called.

“Loni – Loni, come down and meet Paula.”

“Coming, Dad,” called back a sweet voice.

 

Footsteps preceded her appearance moments later. As she walked down the stairs, Kieran found himself gaping. He had barely noticed the girl sitting beside her father at Keller’s funeral. This beautiful woman walking down the stairs demanded attention. She was not the little girl who had occupied a peripheral position in Kenyon Mallory’s memories.

 

For once, her waist-length hair was loose, a red-gold cascade. Backlit by the early evening sunlight, the hair gave Illona a golden aura. She was wearing a clinging, calf-length dress of crushed green velvet, which emphasised her tiny waist and small firm breasts. Paula was equally taken with the girl’s ethereal loveliness.

“What a beautiful girl!” she said to Eduard, who was standing beside her.

“Yes, she is,” responded Eduard, a tired heaviness, slowing his words.

 

Illona approached Paula and looked into her eyes. Neither of them spoke. Kieran sensed Paula using her ‘gift’, but he was puzzled by the intensity of the feeling.

Long moments passed before Illona spoke.

“Hi,” she said shyly. She stepped forward smiling. “I’m so glad you agreed to come and talk to us.” Illona gave Paula a tentative hug.

Paula put an arm around Illona’s tiny waist.

“I’m glad too.”

“Shall we go through to the dining room? ” asked Eduard. “I got Mrs. Jessop to do roast chicken. I hope that suits?”

“Fine,” said Kieran, grateful he was not the centre of attention this evening.

“I love chicken,” interjected Paula.

“Me too!” Illona smiled at Paula, who was still holding her around the waist.

“Good,” said Eduard, “then everyone’s happy.”

Dinner was a quiet affair. Eduard spent most of his time watching the easy communication between his daughter and the wise, witty woman sitting beside her. It seemed as though they’d known each other all their lives. When Kieran finished his food and slipped from the dining room, Eduard didn’t even notice.

 

Kieran returned in time to see Illona help Mrs. Jessop clearing the dishes from the dining room. As they left, Eduard turned to Paula.

“Will you do it?” he asked. “You seem to get on really well.”

Kieran resumed his seat, as the man pressed on. Eduard needed to talk. “Surprising, really,” he continued. “Loni is such a quiet girl – hardly ever talks to anyone. Worries me. That’s why I sent her to Diocesan Girl’s. She’s done self-esteem courses, speech training – every course I could pay for, but nothing’s brought her out of her shell. She doesn’t even have a boyfriend. – and look at her! Boys should be falling at her feet.”

“It would be a pleasure to take her under my wing,” said Paula, as Eduard paused for breath. “On a one-to-one basis, I should be able to discover where her interests and talents lie – and get her to start developing them.”

“She left school in November – finished bursary and she has no idea what she wants to do with her life – no ideas, except that she doesn’t want to go into the property business.” Eduard laughed bitterly. “The Mallory’s have been property dealers for as long as the business has existed and look where it’s gotten us. It’s little wonder she doesn’t want anything to do with it.”

 

Eduard fell silent, as Illona came back into the dining room.

“Been talking about me?” she asked. She stood behind Eduard and put her hands on his shoulders. “I hope you told Paula how much I need her.”

“He has,” said Paula, speaking for Eduard. “I’ve agreed to help, if I can.”

“I’m glad,” responded the little red-haired. “I really am.” She bent forward and addressed her father. “Would you mind if I asked Paula and Kieran to come to Uncle Gar’s funeral on Wednesday?”

“I don’t want to impose,” replied Eduard, looking across at Kieran. “It’s up to you. If you are willing to come, you’d be more than welcome.” He was unable to keep the pleading tone out of his voice. He did not want to deal with the funeral alone. The memory of the recent funeral for Keller was still all too clear in his mind.

“What time?” asked Kieran.

“Eleven am,” responded Eduard. Kieran glanced across at Paula, who nodded.

“We’ll be there. Same place as Kel’s?”

“Same place.”

Kieran and Paula were in the Bentley, before Kieran asked the question that had tormented him for nearly two hours now.

“What on earth happened when you met Illona? You  stood there for ages. If you don’t tell me, I’m going to have to pry and I don’t like doing that to you.”
Paula looked at Kieran in astonishment.

“Weren’t you picking up signals from Illona?”

“Nothing. I tried, but she doesn’t seem to ‘transmit’.”

“Kieran, she has ‘the gift’ – as strongly as I do. I have never encountered another living being with her telepathic strength.”

“Then why couldn’t I get anything from her?”

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t. That initial contact we made was so strong, it made my head spin.”

“That’s what you were doing then? It had me quite worried. Eduard just assumed you were sizing each other up.”

“We were, but not the way he imagined.”

 

Paula’s disclosures left Kieran deeply disturbed.

“This is bloody terrible,” he murmured. “How the hell am I supposed to…” He fell silent, not wanting to verbalise the task which lay ahead.

“Kill the father of a girl, who may know exactly what you are doing?” Paula finished the sentence.

“Oh god!” he exclaimed. “Paul, what made you say that?”

“I don’t know. I must have picked it up from you.”

“You didn’t. That’s not what I was thinking. I was thinking about what I am – doing what I’m supposed  to do.”

 

Kieran disliked the feeling of uncertainty gnawing at the skirting board of his mind. And the confusion in Paula’s thoughts was not helping. “Would you mind if I dropped you off, Paula?” he asked. “I have some things I need to sort through for myself.”

Kieran felt Paula reach out and comfort him. He accepted it gratefully. When he dropped Paula off at her door, they maintained their silence. Paula squeezed the hand on the seat next to her and was gone.

The gate to 28 Harrisborough Street swung inward and closed silently behind the Bentley. As the gate locked, a car hooter sounded twice. Kieran looked back and saw a silver-blue Mazda 2 with its nose in the driveway. He activated the remote, puzzled. The mind of the driver was closed and Kieran had to wait until the car straightened before he could see who it was. It was Illona.

 

Kieran parked the Bentley and walked over to Illona who was locking the driver’s door.

“What can I do for you?” he asked. He was deeply disturbed by his inability to reach the girl’s thoughts. Her body language indicated she was nervous, but that was all. Kieran felt vulnerable and kept his own thoughts carefully guarded.

“I really needed to talk to you,” said the girl softly, looking up at him. The porch light reflected its solitary gleam in her green eyes.

“Does your father know you’re here?” asked Kieran. “You know he’s very worried for you, don’t you?”

“I told him I was going to my friend’s house. Besides,  he doesn’t have to worry about me, does he?”

 

Kieran went cold. The implication in the girl’s words was staggering.

“You’d better come in,” he murmured. He led the way, hoping he was as closed to Illona, as she was to him.

When they were seated in the lounge, Kieran repeated his previous question.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m not sure,” replied the girl. She spoke slowly, measuring her words, as her father had done, earlier that evening. “I just know I had to talk to you.”

“Tell me why.”

“I – I think I probably know more about you than you’d like me to.”

“Go on.” Kieran was more uncomfortable than he could ever remember being. Her next words confirmed his fears.

“I know who you are.” When the girl looked at him, her eyes were brimming with tears. “I don’t understand everything I learned from Paula – I can’t hear you thinking like I can hear ordinary people.” Her words were tumbling out now. “I always avoided you when I was little, because I’ve never been able to hear you. It scared me.”

 

“You really do know who I am, don’t you?” whispered Kieran.

“I haven’t called you by your original name,” responded the girl, “because I know you’re not Uncle Kenyon now. Keller killed that person. I wish I had spoken to you before … when I felt certain I knew what Dad and Uncle Gar and Kel were doing. If I had – if I’d done something …”

Kieran was utterly shattered by what he was hearing. He had experienced the same feelings. “I knew what they were planning to do and I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know how to make anyone believe me. What could I say? People don’t believe you can hear thoughts. They would have said I was crazy.”

 

“You can’t blame yourself, Loni,” said Kieran, responding to the girl’s pain. “You’re right when you say no-one believes you can ‘hear’ thoughts. It must have been terrible for you,” he added, not looking at the little figure huddled in the armchair. He sensed, rather than saw her nod. “You have someone to talk to now, Loni. You can trust Paula. I think you know that already.”

“She’s the only other person I’ve ever met other than you who can hear what people think.” Kieran looked up and met the girl’s gaze. “It’s so difficult, Kieran. That’s why I find it so hard to make friends. It’s awful when you like someone and you find out they’re jealous of you – or if you like some boy and all he can think about is how you’d look with your clothes off. Dad doesn’t understand.”

“I know,” said Kieran. “But you can block out the sounds – turn off the receiver. My mother taught me you have to want to hear. If you don’t want to hear, you can shut it out. It’s an act of will.”

“I didn’t know that,” said the girl. “I’ve never had anyone to teach me – never had anyone to talk to.

I know I’m going to lose Dad. I have to lose him, I understand that, but I’m so afraid. I’m already so lonely.” Tears were streaming down the girl’s face. “I know you have to take Dad,” she sobbed, “Please make sure that Paula stays. I don’t think I’ll be able to cope if she isn’t there.”

 

An abyss of anguish was widening in Kieran’s mind. He was lost. None of his usual skills were of any use here. He had no idea what to do. At that moment, Illona took a deep breath, stood and began to apologise.

“I am sorry, Kieran,” she said, her tears past. “I shouldn’t have bothered you. You and Paula will come to the funeral on Wednesday, won’t you?”

Kieran stood, confused.

“Uh, yes, of course,” he stammered.

“I must be on my way,” said Illona, with a little smile. “Dad worries too much. He might ring Sharon, and if I’m not there, he’ll panic.” She walked to the front door. “Thanks Kieran.” she said, as the door was opened for her. “I’ll see you on Wednesday morning.”

Chapter ends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen  Revelation

 

Kieran pressed the remote control, opening the gate as the girl drove off. When he closed the door and turned back to the lounge, he understood why Illona had regained her composure so quickly. The companion was standing by the French doors to the back garden.

 

Hesitantly, he walked towards the figure . The companion  held out his arms to Kieran,  who stepped into the embrace, with relief and gratitude.

“What the hell do I do now?” he asked. “How can I  do this – she knows.”

“Illona is very special, Kieran. It was the possibility a child such as she might be born to Eduard and Lorna, that drew me to the Mallory family.” The companion’s words added to Kieran’s confusion.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “I don’t understand anything.”

 

Kieran felt the strong hands on his shoulders push him backwards. He did not suffer the usual compunction to keep his eyes shut. He looked up, puzzled. As he did, the companion pushed the hood of his robe back and Kieran saw the companion’s face for the first time.

 

The shock was as great as the sight of the strange face in the mirror that morning in the hotel. The sensation was one of deja vu. It was the face of the reflection to which he had adjusted, older, more lined, but the face was so similar. The same black eyes, squarish jaw, pale skin, long black hair. Kieran lifted his hand and touched the face to confirm its reality. The companion raised his own hand, took Kieran’s. And Kieran understood.

 

“You’re my father,” he whispered. “You’re my father.”

The companion gazed steadily into his eyes.

“I am,” said the deep voice. The deep voice that had always provided such comfort, that had always made Kieran feel safe, that held concern and love. “And the time has come for me to teach you your heritage – the heritage of the Eiric. What it means to be the son of Daehman Thoir O’Bas.”

 

“Devan,” repeated Kieran.

“The name given me by the tribe my mother protected. She was Eiric, my father a mortal member of that tribe.”

“What about the name, Bryant Doyle?” asked Kieran. The companion smiled.

“My ‘mortal’ name. My father was Tynan Doyle. When the tribe ended my life, they gave me a name they felt suited me better.”

“Ended your life? Deliberately?”

 

Kieran was dealing with so many conflicting emotions, he was having trouble focusing on his father’s words. His father. Now he understood what the companion had meant when he said they were alike, yet different. This was his father, guiding him towards an armchair. His father, removing the robe and draping it across the back of a lazy-boy. His father, sitting and crossing his long legs, casually, elegantly. His father, wearing a soft grey roll-neck sweater and grey trousers, very much the style of clothing favoured by Kieran himself.

“It’s a long story,” said the companion, “one I think you need to hear in a fair amount of detail. It will help you understand many things which puzzle you.”

 

Kieran relaxed into his armchair. A calm settled over him, an absolute assurance that as long as this being was with him, everything would be fine. He listened as the companion began to speak, allowing the deep, melodic voice carry him back in time. It was a far longer journey than he’d imagined possible.

 

“The Eiric have been part of human history for as long as humanity has existed. I am young in the Eiric conception of time.

I was born one thousand and fifty years ago in a place called Lough Gur, in CountyLimerick in Ireland. The Eiric were known then and revered. When the Christians and learned of us, they called us  the ‘avenging angels’.

 

But in Lough Gur, it was my mother who was worshipped. A great stone circle was built there in her honour – an already ancient monument, when I was a young mortal. My mother, Ceara, was considered to be the embodiment of the Mother Goddess. Ironic really, because she was no mother. The Eiric do not raise their mortal children.

I lived with my father until I was six. After he was killed in battle, I belonged to the tribe. I became my sacred mother’s warrior priest  – an intermediary between her and the people she served. If any caused death or suffering, my mother would come to my call and judge the wrong-doer. Her punishments were swift, harsh and uncompromising, as befitted the times.

 

When I was forty, I was taken to the stone circle and placed across the stone altar. At sunset, a ceremonial dagger was driven up through my throat into my brain …”

“Why?” asked Kieran, unable to contain the question any longer. “That’s a terrible thing to do to the son of the being they worshipped.”

“It’s what my mother had taught them they would have to do, and I supported her teaching. She had planned my future, just as your mother prepared for you.

 

Think before you judge so harshly, Kieran. Forty years was a good lifetime then. I knew the time of my death and how I would die – swiftly and almost painlessly. That is more than most mortals could ever hope for.” The companion smiled at his son. “It wasn’t so terrible, Kieran. It was a kind death. I only wish I could have made yours as easy.”

 

A blanket of thought pulled itself over their heads and they sat wrapped in its warm silence for a while.

                “What happened to you next?” asked Kieran eventually.

“When the woman responsible for my death was certain she had accomplished her task, she signalled the rest of the tribe to withdraw – to allow my ‘transition’ – to allow me to become Eiric, one who rises. It was my mother’s teaching that the separation, cleansing and rejoining were too sacred and too personal for them to witness. Imagine how you would have felt to have anyone witness the terrible reality of the cleansing. It is not something you can share.

 

When it was all over, I no longer looked like my father. Yet, when the tribe returned two days later, they recognized me immediately, for I had become what you see now. The long black hair, black eyes, pale skin – these are the physical features we all share. They had seen my mother often enough to know I was now Eiric.”

“Would you let me see what you looked like when you were mortal?” asked Kieran.

 

His father did not speak. The alteration in his appearance was so rapid, Kieran barely focused on the rippling before it was over. The stranger in the lazy-boy looked completely out of place and out of time. Long auburn red hair, bound back from the forehead by a gold circlet, lay across broad shoulders, which were draped by a brown cloak. At the neck, was a gold clasp resembling a hook-beaked bird, a hawk perhaps.

There was more gold in the ornate torc around the muscular neck. A chain-mail jerkin, deep brown undershirt and leggings tucked into hand-stitched leather boots, completed the picture.

 

Kieran took in every detail. This being, this wonderful ancient being was his father. At last, Darius took his rightful place. The mortal man who had raised him, suffered no loss of place in Kieran’s heart. Darius had always loved him and cared for him. This new knowledge did not change that. What it did change was Kieran’s understanding. At last, he accepted that being ‘fond’ of Darius, was not something over which to feel guilty. His feelings had been natural, even though he had not understood them. 

 

When Kieran refocused on the lazy-boy, the Celtic warrior had disappeared. The companion, his father, was back.

“The name the tribe gave you after your death …” began Kieran.

“Daehman Thoir O’Bas?”

“Yes. All these names mean something.”

“It means Demon Bringer of Death.” The companion laughed. “Don’t look so shocked, young one. The demon was not the Christian’s devil to my people. Demons were natural creatures with specific functions. It is more shocking to me that while we featured in Christian thought, we are considered ‘angels’ – avenging angels.

 

After a while, we withdrew from groups and began to work on a far more personal level. We saw the dangers of ‘civilized’ thought, of being sought after by those wanting to understand us ‘scientifically’. Can you imagine becoming a laboratory specimen for some scientist bent on discovering the secret of our immortality? The research would prove one thing. The price we pay is high, as you have already learned. The road we walk is dark and lonely.

 

What we do, we ‘Bringers of Death’,  is balance the scales.  It is our calling – our place in the divine order of things. The Eiric deal with Celts and their descendents. The Germans have ‘Der Tod Damon’, the French whisper of ‘Le Vengeur de Mort’. Here in New Zealand, the Maori have Te Toa o te Mate, the Warrior of Death. Whatever the name, we are of one ilk and we are not numerous.

Because, for a new Eiric to become a reality there must be a very rare psyche and a genetic mutation in the mortal partner of the breeding pair. This must be backed by a compatibility with an existent Eiric. Finding one who carries the gene and is capable of loving us is so rare.

 

Nearly four hundred years ago, I thought I had met a woman with whom I could breed.  Our minds were closed to each other. This is vital, for the Eiric psyche has access to the thought patterns of humans and the bearer of the mutation is always a telepath. Two such minds cannot love, if they have access to each other’s thoughts. Susan was closed to me and I to her. I loved her desperately but she could not bear children.

 

It was not until I met Bridget Gale that I was to experience love again. She was not as strong physically as she was mentally. She should not have fallen pregnant. But she wanted our child so desperately, I allowed it to happen. She lived almost ten years after your birth on will alone. She was determined to set up her family fortune for you, even though she knew I could supply you with everything you could ever want or need. She knew how important a hold on the mortal world is to us and wanted to make our dark road easier for you to walk.”

 

“Illona,” said Kieran, “I have to ask.”

“Yes, she could share your existence for a short while. That is one of the penalties of our existence. When we love, we watch those we love age and die. If you find love with Illona, she could bear your child. She carries the mutated gene, as does Paula Conroy.”

“Pity Paula has no children !”

“She cannot have children. The genetic mutation of which I speak, renders nine of ten bearers infertile.”

“Is that why Illona and I cannot reach each other’s minds?”

“No, that is another factor altogether. As you saw, Illona is quite open to me. What you have discovered with Illona, is the equivalent to human compatibility. It means you can love without fear of unwanted mental revelations. You cannot keep barriers up during the love act. It is not something I can explain to you. When you choose to breed, if you choose to breed, you will understand and deal with each problem and each joy in a way that is right for you and your partner. And it must always occur within a partnership based on love. I loved Susan for sixty years, even though we could not breed. Love must come first.”

 

“Even if I grow to love Illona, she will never love me – not when she knows that I am the creature responsible for her father’s death.”

Kieran stopped speaking, puzzled by the look on his father’s face.

“Perhaps I should tell you how I met your mother,” he said. “The Gale family came to my attention through the activities of one Colm Gale, Bridget’s oldest brother. He was a member of the IRA. But no ordinary member. He was not a fighter for the rights of the Irish. He was a very clever sociopath, using the IRA to justify his delight in inflicting pain and suffering wherever he could.

 

His reign of terror ended when I witnessed him construct  a massive bomb to plant at a conference in the Plaza Hotel in Dublin. When he tried to load the bomb into a satchel, I took action. I had already cleared the area using simple coercion. Everyone in the surrounding houses had found the urge to make the most of the lovely Saturday afternoon quite irresistible.

 

Even though Colm had accepted me as a fellow IRA activist, my presence that day made him nervous and he ‘got careless’, triggering the timing mechanism. When he tried to let the bomb go and run, he found he was unable to release his grip. During the minutes which led to his death, I took his mind through the terrors he had inflicted on so many victims. Seconds before the actual explosion, I moved myself out of danger.

 

Bridget learned I was responsible for Colm’s bloody death from the mind of a mortal friend in the police force in Limerick. She sought me out, her brother’s supposed colleague, and told me she knew I had killed her brother. I told her everything, much the way you told Paula your story. When I had finished, she broke down and admitted her brother had been a source of constant heartache for the Gale family. She felt guilty at the sense of relief that accompanied Colm’s death. To assuage that guilt, she talked to me. We ended up talking through the night. By sunrise, we realised what had happened. You can work it out the rest.

 

When my task carried me to New Zealand, she was inextricably bound to me. It was there you were conceived and there the union with Darius Mallory took place, taking you into the heart of a family, whose heritage was at once so ill-fated and so promising.”

 

“Fergus Mallory was originally from Ireland, wasn’t he?” asked Kieran.

“Born in Ireland, yes , but he was raised in England. His father knew if they were going to make money, England was the place to do it. Property dealing in Ireland had become somewhat  less than lucrative. It is better now, of course, but there were times in Ireland, when even the rich could not hold on to their wealth. Your mother succeeded because she was wise and fair in everything she did. She deserved her success. Her family had amassed a vast fortune, yet had always been fair and honest in their dealings with others.”

 

“And the Mallorys?”

“Did not! They were lucky and very good at getting what they wanted by any means at their disposal. Darius was the finest of the Mallorys for many generations. He was a good man and deserved the respect you felt for him.”

“I know,” replied Kieran. “He tried so hard to protect me from Eduard and Garrick. He was always suspicious of Keller too – not because of Keller’s oddness, but because he questioned Keller’s motives.”

“Keller’s and Eduard’s mothers passed down to their sons a propensity for greed and power that was frightening.”

“And Garrick’s mother?”

“The huntress – a killer in her own right. Her heritage, combined with the Mallory mutation gave Garrick a disastrous potential, which he chose to fulfill.

 

It was when Eduard married Lorna Brennan, also a carrier of the gene, that a true telepath was conceived. Poor Lorna – she is a most tragic creature. Her experiences – partly seen visions, partly heard messages from hostile minds – all served to drive her into despairing insanity. Why her latency didn’t lie dormant, as it did in Keller,  is a mystery, an unkind one at that. Better never to experience any telepathic phenomena, than to have the frightening half-experiences which plagued – which still plague Lorna. When she is sedated, she is fine. When the drugs wear off, she is psychotic. And there is no-one on earth with greater ability to drive her into psychotic fits, than  her own daughter.”

 

“Illona!” exclaimed Kieran. “Why? What happens?”

“When the two mutated genes, recessive by their very nature, are activated, the resulting individual is powerfully telepathic – like your mother, Paula and Illona.

One day, not long after Lorna suffered her first major breakdown, Illona went to the hospital with her father to visit Lorna. The poor woman’s medication had just been changed and she was left open to the less-than-subtle probings of the eight-year old telepath, to whom she had given birth.

 

That was nine years ago and the last time Illona saw her mother. Lorna lapsed into a six-month spell of psychotic hysteria. When she came out of it, she refused to see her daughter, and has  ever since. It is fortunate that Illona understands her mother’s condition and doesn’t blame herself.”

 

“She blames herself for Darius’ and Samantha’s deaths though – and mine. She believes she should have done something when she found out what Eduard and company were planning.”

“And when you told her she wasn’t to blame, she believed you. You didn’t realise the impact of your words because your minds are closed to each other. But believe me, Kieran, because of what and who you are, your words meant a great deal to Illona.”

 

“There are still some things bothering me,” said Kieran. “For one, I know only too well that this body functions sexually, but I haven’t …” Kieran hesitated, suddenly feeling awkward. A son’s typical response to this kind of conversation with his father. He felt silly, almost guilty.

“Allowed yourself to climax?” The companion completed his son’s thought and then answered. “You can, but only when you are bound to your partner and it should always a marital partnership – then facilitating the retrieval of your seed is not a problem.

 

The only time in your existence when you lose a single cell of the being you are, is when you breed. At the moment of conception a single cell is sealed away forever from its parent body and thereafter, that single cell will draw you to your offspring.

That is how I always know where you are. If I need to find you, I can. Within you, my son, you carry that cell of mine still – it binds us absolutely. It has from the time of your conception and will for as long as we both exist.

It is that cell that worked within you at your mortal death.”

 

“You were married to Susan and my mother?”

“I was. My marriage to Susan lasted sixty years – it caused real difficulties as Susan aged and I did not. We had to move every few years to stop dangerous curiosity. Bridget I married when she was just nineteen. I legally divorced her the day you were conceived.”

“Why? I don’t understand.”

“We – that is my mother and I felt the instant you were conceived. That is the way when the child is Eiric. It is a death-sentence conception and my mother came to us immediately. It was on her advice that we acted. Your mother knew the Mallorys already through property dealings. That area in Port Arthur where you went to the  family mausoleum is actually yours. Bridget Mallory passed it on to Kieran Doyle at her death along with all her other properties investments and wealth. Her will was sealed until you could claim it. That was done by Shannon Vaughn.”

 

“But why marry Darius?” interjected Kieran.

“Because she needed a human family around her child – a base. And my mother knew that you would have to deal with the Mallorys and you needed the information you would glean as you grew within the family. Letting go of your mother is the hardest thing I have ever done. But I trusted my mother. I knew I would have to stand back at your birth and that would leave your mother alone. Bridget needed a strong mortal husband to care for her, to love and care for our son.”

 

“Why do … we not stay and rear our own children?” asked Kieran, still bemused.

“Child – we only ever breed once. And we do not rear our own offspring because we would find it impossible not to try and prevent the death of that child. An Eiric is only conceived when there is need to add to our number and an Eiric conception means death will follow. As it was I prevented your death about a year before …”

 

There was a long pause before Kieran’s father continued, “…your accident. Do you remember being out at the range in Albany with Darius. You were shooting clays and a shot missed you – you never found out where it came from. It would have ended your life quickly and cleanly.”

“I remember,” said Kieran, his voice soft. He picked the next batch of information from his father’s thoughts. “It was Garrick! He tried to kill me and you interfered with his shot!”

“Yes, it was Garrick. He wanted to end your life because Keller had told him he was sure that Kenyon knew what they were all planning about the casino. He acted on his own; the danger, the potential victim excited him. He was a disgusting human being – in his own way he was worse than Colm. So I stopped him and your awful death, the pain you went through, was a result of my interference.”

“You were being a father. It must have been so hard for you to hold back. No wonder you have to stand back from raising your own child.”

“You are remarkable, Kieran,” said the companion, his deep voice barely audible. “There is no recrimination? You went through such pain!”

“Of course not – there is no blame. What happened, happened the way it did for a reason. You said this is our calling – a divine calling?”

“Yes but …”

“Then my death happened the way it did for a reason. You saved my life at the range because it was not my time. But  something else bothers me,” added Kieran, changing the subject,  ” the two parts of … what we are – that seem to function separately.”

 

The companion smiled at his son, relief softening his stern features.

“Psychologists this century have debated at great length the dual nature of man. We are able to utilise that duality.”

“Utilise it?” asked Kieran.

“Our dual nature – we can separate our essence, if you like from its physical shell. We can take two forms if we need to. Sometimes it serves to protect the innocent. If you need to take a smaller form, it is easier to maintain using the shell …”

“The part that experienced the cleansing in the mortuary?” asked Kieran, concurrent memories of that time tumbling through his mind.

“Yes,” replied the companion. “It is not a comfortable experience and it is exhausting. But it has its uses.”

 

Kieran watched, as the Celtic warrior reappeared. However, this time, the companion did not purl away. The warrior drew himself away from the figure seated in the lazy-boy and stood silently. The companion got to his feet and stood beside the warrior. Kieran could see that both figures were less substantial than the single figure had been.

“You can see the lack of substance in the two parts, but mortals can’t.” said the figure retaining the companion’s form. “Only we can see the difference.” The companion moved closer to the warrior and the two became one in an almost instantaneous melding.

 

“I’ve separated parts of my body, little bits, but it always leaves the area from which I’ve lost matter, feeling tight and uncomfortable. It comes back on its own if I don’t concentrate.”

“Do you remember the way you felt before the Rejoining – the tight, tired vulnerable feeling? It’s the natural outcome of the split. It puts you under enormous stress.”

Kieran’s thoughts flowed back to the moment in the tomb when he experienced the Rejoining. The sense of pleasure, of energy and power was enormous. It was a revelation that the process could be reversed at will. Kieran spoke again.

“Is that why I am taller than Kenyon was? Are we all tall with the same colour hair and eyes?”

 

Kieran’s father spoke again smiling slightly as he noted Kieran’s use of “we”..

We” he stressed, “ need to be tall, substantial, the long hair, our colouring – it is all useful when we change form – we are metamorphs, shape-shifters, if you prefer,  capable of taking almost any living shape. Our hair can be shortened – our bodies can become denser as we take smaller shapes. But making ourselves larger, lengthening hair, anything that requires more substance, makes us less substantial and is exhausting. The black hair and black eyes, well, black is all colours and makes it easier to reflect any shade we need.”

 

Kieran found himself fighting exhaustion, yet he did not want the companion to stop talking. He didn’t want the miracle this night had become to end.

“I didn’t think you’d be around for long,” he said softly. “I thought you would teach me and then – I don’t know – disappear again.” he added, his voice fading to a whisper.

“Now you know I’ll be here when you need me. You can call me and I will come.” replied the companion.

 

“Do you still see your mother?” asked Kieran.

“When I need her. She has followed our people onto the American continent. There is always so much to do there, so I try not to call her often, no matter how dire my need. Sometimes she comes anyway.”

 

There was one other matter puzzling Kieran, another excuse to keep the companion talking.

“Shannon Vaughn?” he asked. “Why was he so afraid of me?”

The companion laughed.

“Poor Shannon! He is a second cousin, you know. He had heard tales of  The Eiric all his life – difficult to avoid in Kilmallock, where there are still those who follow the old ways. Often, Bridget had spoken of The Eiric. Her grandfather had served my mother. She had listened to his tales, as a little girl and had told Shannon she would come to know The Eiric for herself one day. She was right.

 

She told Shannon about me when we married and that she would bear our child one day. Shannon was the cynical product of his times. He never believed a word of the old tales. He humored his cousin, sheltered her, told many, in fact, that she had a tendency to ‘be away with the fairies’.

 

When you were conceived, Bridget told him you were my son, told him you would die and that he would have to ensure you had everything you needed to function legally within society, when you returned as Kieran Doyle. That is when she drew up and sealed her will, giving it to Shannon after she made him swear an oath that he would ensure you were safely set up. She even explained our divorce and her subsequent marriage to Darius Mallory.

 

When Kenyon Mallory died, he grew nervous. He almost ran away – took an early holiday, but he had made promises to your mother which he was loathe to break. Meeting you face to face, as you are now , was the most traumatic moment of his entire, well-educated, comfortable and ordinary life. Remember, he had seen me – knew what I looked like.”

“I must admit I felt sorry for him,” said Kieran. “He was an absolute mess. It must be hard to find out that something you’ve dismissed out of hand as the fantasy world of a dear but dotty relative, is in fact, real.”

 

Kieran rubbed his hand across his eyes and tried to shake off the tired, tense feeling in his head. At last, he admitted to himself he was exhausted. The companion felt his son’s distress. He stood before Kieran, his hand outstretched.

“I have tired you, my son,” he said. “I keep forgetting how young and frail you are.”

 

Kieran took his father’s hand and stood; let his father take his face in his hands, feed him with his elder power. And when Kieran was sated, his father released him.

He sank back into his armchair.

“Rest now, young one.” The deep, melodic voice sounded in Kieran’s head. “Your task with Eduard is an arduous one. If you need me, I will be there. Just call to me, the way I am speaking to you now.”

 

Kieran opened his eyes, a reply on his lips and discovered he was alone once more. The draping over the French doors moved in the languid breeze drifting through the night air. He felt at peace, for once content to simply sit and allow what had happened, what he had learned, to play through his mind until he fell into a state of true relaxation.

Chapter ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen. The Stage is Set.

 

Wednesday the twentieth of December, the morning of Garrick Mallory’s funeral, was muggy and still. The cool air  in the small chapel was a welcome relief to the four individuals seated beside the mahogany coffin. Paula and Illona were talking quietly. Kieran and Eduard were silent. Eduard’s mind was filled with business concerns.

 

He had wanted to control the Mallory fortune. He wanted money and power, with his brother and cousin at his side, collaborators he knew he could trust. But things had not gone according to his carefully laid plans. Now he was alone, with more responsibilities than he could possibly handle. Now he would have to trust outsiders. No, he told himself, he would trust no-one. He would watch his senior staff carefully, very carefully indeed. He had already investigated the cost of installing a sophisticated surveillance system in all managerial offices.

 His thoughts were interrupted by the funeral director.

“Mr. Mallory,” she said, Mr. Mallory – are you ready to begin?”

Eduard looked up at the woman and sighed.

“Yes, of course,” he replied. “I’m sorry.”

“Will anyone else be attending?” asked the director. Eduard’s response was a harsh laugh.

“Fitness freaks and the B & D crowd are not funeral goers.”

Mrs. Hayworth cleared her throat.

“Yes, I can understand,” she replied, her voice soothing. “Many people find funerals distressing.”

 

Eduard was surprised when the woman spoke again.

“By the way, Mr. Mallory,” she added, crouching beside her client, “there was a reporter outside wanting to speak to you. I’m afraid the number of deaths your family has suffered over recent months has attracted media attention. I told him to go away – that the funeral of a loved one was hardly the time for interviews.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Hayworth,” said Eduard. “You’re quite right, of course.” Vultures, he thought as the woman stood and patted his shoulder.

“Glad I could help,” she said, as she moved to the lectern, leaving behind a cloud of perfume and professional concern.

 

Kieran kept himself firmly focused on Eduard, ignoring the discomfort of his feelings about Illona. He was astonished to find that Eduard was anticipating the return of the spectral figure which had disrupted Keller’s service a few weeks back.

 

The service was over, the anticipation faded, before Kieran acted. Eduard alone, saw Darius Mallory materialize beside the coffin, its wood gleaming  blood red. Darius patted the coffin and when he lifted his hand to point at his son’s heart, the red of the coffin stained the accusing finger, dripping and staining the white lilies of the wreath. And then he laughed.

 

Eduard had stopped breathing. He felt the tip of his father’s bloody finger touch his chest, bringing with it a fierce crushing pain. A bulldozer of agony tracked across his chest. As Eduard folded to the floor, gasping, Kieran rushed to him.

 He loosened Eduard’s collar and checked his vital signs.

Already, the spasm was wearing off.

Kieran looked up at the funeral director, who was gaping in horror. Corpses were easy to deal with. Sick people frightened her.

“It’s a mild heart attack – call an ambulance!” he barked.

 

Paula was holding Illona tightly. Both women were pale.

“He’ll be all right,” said Kieran, softening his tone. He smiled at them reassuringly. “It’d take a lot more than a mild heart attack to knock Eduard Mallory out of the running.”

Then Kieran focused on Illona.

“It’s not his time yet, Illona. He’ll be fine for now, I promise you.” He said reassuringly. Kieran kept up a powerful guard, refusing Paula access to his thoughts. He did not want Illona upset. She would have to deal with Eduard’s death soon enough.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Eduard was able to talk. He assisted the ambulance officers, easing himself onto the stretcher and repeatedly assuring everyone he felt much better. As he lay back on the white pillows, he took Kieran’s hand.

“See this through for me,” he asked, his voice just above a whisper. “Garrick must be laid to rest and Illona cannot do it alone.”

“Rest easy,” said Kieran. “We won’t let you down. You concentrate on getting better.”

 

Kieran augmented his words with a regenerative surge. It was not as powerful as the effort he had put into healing Garrick’s young victim. He had to keep his power contained, invisible. Nevertheless, he repaired a considerable amount of damage and by the time Eduard was lifted into the ambulance, he was sleeping peacefully.

Kieran’s second visit to the Mallory family tomb was quick and simple. He felt a grim satisfaction seeing Garrick’s coffin slipped into niche number nine, below the empty coffin which belonged to the late Kenyon Mallory.

 Hayworth & Paul had already set a bronze plaque into the concrete beside the ‘No. 9’. It read ‘Garrick Mallory, died Sunday 17 Dec. 2013. The result of an accident.’ So similar to his own plaque. All that was missing was the word ‘tragic’.

 

“I’ve been thinking,” said Illona, as the group walked away from the tomb, leaving Mrs. Hayworth and her assistants locking up. “Could you come and stay on the estate until …” She did not complete her sentence. Kieran had a horrible feeling he knew what she was going to say, even though her thoughts were silent to him.

“I don’t think I should,” he replied quietly.

“Just let me finish.” There was no trace of impatience in her voice. She had a need she wanted to express. “I want Paula with me, Kieran. You could stay in the other house. There’s no-one there now. Paula could stay in the main house with me.” She turned to the woman standing beside her. “Please!”

“I don’t mind,” said Paula, “really I don’t.” She looked at Kieran. “It seems the logical thing to do quite honestly.”

 

Kieran knew she was right. It would make his job a good deal easier. It was the nature of his ‘job’ and the fact that the invitation came from Illona, that made him uneasy. Without warning, he felt Paula in his mind. He tried to exclude her, but it was too late.

Never, even during his mother’s lifetime, had he been scolded quite so severely.

Stop thinking of yourself for once. Paula’s face was set, as she fired a telepathic salvo at Kieran. You told me you thought it was your biggest weakness – you were right. Think about Illona. She has made the most remarkable offer, out of need and understanding.

Yes, she does understand, Kieran. She has picked up a clear picture of the rapes and murder at the house, much the way you did. That she can continue living there and retain her equilibrium is also remarkable.

 Yes, she knows it is your task to make her father ‘pay the price’ – to use her own words, and she knows that it will result in her father’s death. She has thought it all through and her invitation is a result of that thought. You should be thanking her, instead of pulling back like a spoiled and skittish child.

 

Kieran felt thoroughly chastened and acknowledged Paula’s rebuke with a wry smile. He turned to Illona.

“We can stop off at Harrisborough Street on the way back and pick up some things. How would that be?”

Illona’s face lit up.

“Thank you, Kieran.” Her sincerity was unmistakeable.

“Shall we get going?” he asked.

Paula signalled she would ride with Illona and waved as the Bentley led the way down the hill.

 

Shortly after one thirty, Mrs. Jessop learned Eduard Mallory was in hospital and that she had two house guests. She was at once distressed and delighted; distressed that her employer was ill and delighted that her ‘darling little girl’ had suitable company in her time of need.

 

The housekeeper was pleased to inform the group that she had just finished cleaning ‘poor Mr. Garrick’s house’. She promised Kieran she would make up whichever bed he chose, as soon as she had finished preparing the guest room for Paula.

 

Kieran was walking across to the smaller house, when a volley of noisy barking shattered the air. Two Rottweilers rounded the main house and bounded towards him, almost knocking each other over in their haste.  As they reached him, he crouched and held out his arms. Dog-thought fired at him, eager, loving. The recognition was absolute. Kieran gave himself over to the reunion. Knocked off his feet, licked, nuzzled, nipped, he reveled in the unconditional love. The dogs whimpered, growled and whined their joy.

Stay now, came the thought. Pack together again. New face nice. Don’t go again. Play now.

 

Of all the sensations, all the learning and change of the past months, this was the only moment of pure delight Kieran had experienced. He thought his love back. Will stay. Come close. His arms encircled the neck of the bigger dog, Emmett, named after his favourite Stephanie Meyer vampire. The smaller dog, Jasper, licked his face and thought,

Taste different.

Am different, thought back Kieran, still pack though.

We know, came back the dual thought. Good you here.

 

When Kieran finally regained his feet, he discovered Illona and Paula watching the romp from the steps of the main house. They had been attracted by the noise. Illona came towards them.

“You know, they didn’t pine when Kenyon Mallory died. They waited. Every guest who visited was a minor disappointment until Monday night. They sensed you at dinner. They have been like puppies ever since, waiting for your return.”

 

Kieran clung to Emmett’s neck.

“I’ve missed them too,” he said softly.

Illona crouched beside him and rubbed Jasper’s chest.

“I’ve taken good care of them, but I think they should stay with you now.”

“I don’t know what to say, Loni,” replied Kieran.

“Don’t say anything. Looking after the dogs has been a pleasure. And the other thing – I’ve got to say this, Kieran. I love my father because he’s my father, but I hate what he is and what he’s done. I don’t think I can ever forgive him.

Do you know what it feels like to be the daughter of someone who could engineer the kinds of deaths Grandfather and Samantha suffered? I keep praying to whatever power might exist out there that I’ve inherited more from my poor mad mother than from my father.”

 

Both dogs were lying on their backs, allowing Kieran and Illona to scratch their stomachs. Paula was seated on the front steps, watching them.

“You have!” said Kieran.

Illona frowned.

“I have what?”

“Inherited more from your mother than your father. Your mother isn’t mad. She simply deals with half-developed telepathic powers in the only way she can.”

“Mother’s telepathic?” Illona’s voice when up an octave in surprise.

“Your mother has huge potential which she never developed. Instead of the ability lying latent, the way it did in Keller…”

“I always  thought Uncle Kel could sense things,” interrupted Illona. “It made me nervous when he was around.”

“He could have been really strong, but he never had occasion to develop. It was always assumed he was intuitive – perceptive, but not telepathic.

 

Your mother, like Keller and you and Paula,  bears a mutated gene which gives the individual telepathic receptivity. In her, it neither developed, nor stayed latent. She’s like a radio that’s just off the station. She picks up just enough to indicate there’s something there, but the messages remain garbled.

 There is so much interference she can understand very little of what she hears. It’s little wonder she and others have decided it’s a mental disorder. That’s why you scare her so badly.”

 

“I thought she blamed herself for giving birth to a freak. I never blamed her for not wanting to see me. I didn’t realise the nature of her fear. God, poor Mum!”

 

Illona fell silent. Emmett sensed her distress, got up and licked her wetly with his massive tongue. She laughed.

“Thanks, Emmett – guess I needed that.”

She stood and called to Paula.

“Let’s go over with Kieran and help him decide where he’s going to sleep.”

The smaller of the Mallory Estate houses had four bedrooms, all upstairs. Garrick had always used the bedroom at the end of the mezzanine corridor. It overlooked the trees between the two houses and was decorated in various shades of burgundy and red. Kieran hated the colour and the sense of ordered clutter. He opted for the biggest of the four bedrooms, decorated in cool greens and lilac. The massive king-size bed looked towards doors which opened onto a balcony. A boundary and more trees were all that could be seen. It was absolutely private. Kieran kept his thoughts guarded.

“I’ll get Mrs. Jessop to make up the bed in here,” he said. “Might as well make it worth her while.”

 

Illona laughed.

“I think Mrs. Jessop was relieved that Uncle Gar only used a double bed. It’s weird,” she added thoughtfully. “Uncle Gar had this bed specially made up. Called it his ‘playground’ – even had special linen made for it and then never used it. Mrs. Jessop says the linen is still in the cupboard, as unused as the day it arrived from the shop.”

“That is weird,” said Paula, looking around the room, “but from what I’ve heard about your Uncle Gar, and I’m not trying to speak ill of the dead – it’s not as weird as some of the things he did.”

 

Illona nodded, as Kieran’s mind lingered on the activities which had taken place in this room. The bed had not been designed for sleep and the linen was simply for show. Kieran didn’t imagine that Garrick would have wanted the housekeeper to know  the room had been used – quite regularly, in fact.

 

Ziggy had always brought a protective cover for the bed with her when she had sessions in this room with Garrick – a cover she packed away when they were finished – a cover she brought back fresh and clean each time she was summoned.

“I said, shall we go and tell Mrs. Jessop?” repeated Illona.

Kieran returned to the present conversation and smiled at the two women.

“Good idea,” he said. “Let’s tell her she finally has to deal with giant sheets and duvet covers. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.”

As it turned out, Mrs. Jessop had been expecting Kieran to use the main bedroom. She hurried off to make up the bed as soon as she’d settled her three charges down to a huge cooked meal. Kieran groaned as he took in the mashed potato, beans, salad, roast lamb and gravy. Illona provided unexpected relief.

“Shoot into the downstairs loo and flush it before she gets back.”

 

Kieran could not contain his surprise. Paula shrugged.

“Another little detail she pulled from me, I’m afraid,” she said ruefully. “I seem to be giving away all your secrets,”

“Not all my secrets,” Kieran called over his shoulder. The sound of the toilet flushing drowned his next words.

“What did you say then?” asked Paula. “Couldn’t hear you for the chain.”

“I said, you wouldn’t want to know all my secrets.” He put the empty plate back in front of him. “Still hate to waste good food,” he added. “If I can arrange to have mealtimes over the way, I can do something sensible with the food.”

 

Kieran sat quickly when he heard Mrs. Jessop returning.

“All done!” she declared proudly. She looked at the three empty dinner plates and beamed. “Anyone for ice-cream?”

The next three days passed quietly. Paula took Illona to St George’sHospital each day to visit her father. When they returned on the Friday evening, they reported that Eduard was doing so well, he would be released the following afternoon.

 

It was decided to use the Bentley to collect Eduard. Kieran was driving towards Mallory Lane, when he spotted a figure running through the trees. Deep angry baying could be heard from the back of the house. Kieran reached into the fleeing mind, searched it.

“A reporter,” he said, “the one Mrs. Hayworth sent away from Garrick’s funeral.  Still wants more on the Mallory family before he finishes his article.”

“Has he found anything – bad?” asked Illona.

“He knows the family has suffered five deaths in two months. He is obsessed with the stress angle and the way money seems to attract bad luck. He is also interested in the casino deal. Still, he’s found nothing that indicates foul play.”

“That’s a relief,” murmured Paula.

“He has very little,” said Kieran, “and he has no time for sensationalism. His piece has to be in the system by six pm today.”

“For tomorrow’s papers?” asked Illona.

“Yes. He works for ‘The Sunday Tribune’.”

“Oh shit!” Illona looked apologetically at Paula. “Sorry, but Dad gets it. Not what he needs on his first morning home.”

As it turned out, the article was precise in a vague journalistic way. Kieran had been right. It was totally devoid of sensationalism, appearing on the second page of the ‘Life’ section and it kept Eduard absorbed through his coffee. Illona took him the paper on his breakfast tray and watched his reaction with interest, a reaction she reported later that day to Kieran.

 

‘MISFORTUNE DOGS THE MALLORY FAMILY.

The Mallory Family of Epsom in Auckland may be forgiven for believing that the odds are stacked against them. In the last two months, five members of the immediate family have died. On Friday, October the 20th, Darius Mallory, aged sixty-four, owner of Mallory Realtors, and his fourth wife Samantha, thirty nine, were attacked in their palatial home by at least two intruders. Mrs. Mallory was viciously assaulted. It is thought Mr. Mallory was forced to witness the assault, which resulted in his wife’s death. He suffered massive heart failure and died in hospital the following day. Both deaths are the subject of an on-going homicidal inquiry.

 

Five days after Darius Mallory’s death, his youngest son, Kenyon Mallory, aged twenty-five, was killed in a fatal car crash coming offthe motorway. The brakes of his Porsche 928S failed, in what police describe as a ‘one-in-a-million freak accident’, sending the car nose over tail into the path of an oncoming truck.

 

On Friday the 1st of December, another tragedy struck. The Mallory’s lawyer, nephew of Darius Mallory, Keller Hahn, aged thirty-two, died after falling six floors from his apartment in the inner city. Police say there were no suspicious circumstances. Mr. Hahn appears to have committed suicide, after returning home from a business trip to Sydney.

 

The latest tragedy occurred on Sunday the 17th of December,  when Garrick Mallory, the second son of Darius Mallory, aged thirty-three, fell onto concrete reinforcing bars. The exposed bars bristled from the base of a concrete pit being prepared for new traps, at the family’s private skeet-shooting range in Albany.

 

The funeral of Garrick Mallory, held on Wednesday the 20th, almost ended in disaster, when the last of the Mallory brothers suffered a minor heart attack. Eduard Mallory, aged thirty-six, sole heir to the Mallory fortune, is recovering in hospital and should be home in time to spend Christmas with his eighteen-year old daughter, Illona Mallory.’

“When he’d finished reading, he smiled and said, ‘Well, it’s correct in almost every detail – and I am home in time to spend Christmas with you.”

 

Illona paused in her narration. Kieran looked forward to these conversations with Illona. The joy of simply talking to someone, was a novel experience for him. They were seated in the main living room of 2 Mallory Lane. Illona held the newspaper on her lap.

“Where is Eduard now?” asked Kieran .

“Asleep,” replied Illona. Kieran sensed she was holding back.

“What happened then?” he asked.

“I was surprised he seemed so relaxed. I told him you and Paula came over to look after me – oh, I told him you didn’t want to stay in the main house because of me – that you didn’t think it was right and all that – so you moved in here at my suggestion and said you’d look after the place while you were here – sort of like a caretaker.

I also told him Emmett and Jasper had taken to you in a big way and that you were looking after them as well. He really liked that.”

 

Kieran caught her tone.

“And what didn’t he like?”

Illona seemed nervous. She took a deep breath.

“When I told him I thought you were wonderful.” She paused before adding, “I do, you know!”

“And I think you’re pretty amazing, so the feeling’s mutual,” said Kieran seriously. “What did he say?”

“It was pretty predictable really,” replied the girl. “He reminded me you had ‘older’” her emphasis on the older was done with raised eyebrows and a smile, “ and advised me to be very, very careful.”

“He’s right that you need to be careful, Loni,” murmured Kieran. “Never lose sight of what I am.”

 

“I don’t know exactly what you are,” said Illona quickly, breathlessly. She gazed unafraid into Kieran’s black eyes. “I only know the little I’ve learned from Paula. But I’ll tell you what I’ve picked up for myself. You’re not evil…”

“How can you know that?” interrupted Kieran, “That is something even I’m not sure about.”

“You’re not evil,” repeated Illona, “your soul is beautiful – you care, too much, I think. I suppose some people might find you scary. I don’t, and I know there is a reason I trust you.”

“Oh God, Illona!” Kieran lowered his head, broke their connection. “How can you say that?” He felt like crying but knew he couldn’t. This simple trust astonished him. He only looked up again when he felt a hand touch the side of his face.

 

Illona had come over to him and was kneeling at his side. She touched his cheek gently.

“Kieran,” she said, her breathless young voice as soothing as her touch, “I don’t know why I feel like this, but I do. I think our minds being closed to each other has something to do with it.” She placed her hands in Kieran’s lap, taking both his hands in hers. “I know I have nothing to fear from you and in a way I envy you.”

“What do you mean?” asked Kieran.

“When I found out what Dad and the others were planning, I so wanted to do something. At first, I didn’t believe they would go through with it. When they did, I was so angry. I guess I wished I could punish them. They’d been so cruel. It didn’t seem right. You can do something – that is right.”

 

Kieran looked at the beautiful girl kneeling at his feet. He understood his father’s words. This girl, no, this woman, could one day, be the love he so desperately needed.

Contradictions stormed through him. He was afraid of allowing her too close. It could prevent him from doing the very thing he knew he had to do. But he could not deny the attraction he felt. He found her utterly desirable.

 

Leaning forward, he placed his lips on hers. She reached up into the kiss, winding her slender arms around his neck. He reached down and pulled her up onto his lap. For long moments, they explored each others mouths. Kieran’s arms were wrapped around Illona’s tiny waist, while she clung to his neck. This was an experience that was absolutely physical.

 

For the first time in his existence, Kieran had only the bodily responses of his partner to guide him and it left him throbbing with desire, a throbbing which paced the slow, steady beat of his preternatural heart. If a voice of warning had not sounded in Kieran’s clouded thoughts, it must always be  in a marital relationship, he would have been lost to the passion mounting rapidly in them both.

 

He forced himself away from Illona’s mouth, clung to her, breathing heavily into her neck and thick, fragrant hair.

“No,” he whispered. “Not yet. It is too soon.”

He felt the head tucked into his shoulder nod.

“I want you, Kieran,” said a little voice. It was Kieran’s turn to nod.

“And I want you, but there are things ….”

 

Illona interrupted him by sitting forward and relaxing her arms, so she could look into Kieran’s eyes. He continued speaking. “But there are things I must do first. If you still feel this way after … if you can forgive me for what I must do, then I will tell you what I think you ought to know before you let this happen.”

 

Illona answered by leaning forward and kissing him again.

“I told you I trust you. I mean it,” she said, ” If that is what you say should happen, then that is what will happen – even though I think I would sell my soul to …” She realised what she was saying and her voice dropped to a whisper, “to have you make love to me.”

 

Kieran helped her up and then stood himself. She pressed herself to him.

“Illona, you really should go.” said Kieran softly. The girl’s shoulders were shaking. “Don’t cry, please, Illona – don’t cry!” he repeated.

“Oh God, Kieran,” she sobbed, “I wish this was all over.” Kieran felt her tears soak through the front of his shirt. He held her, feeling helpless. He had no idea what to do, how to comfort her.

 

“Illona,” called a voice from beyond the side doors, “you in there?” Paula rushed in from the garden. “Are you all right?” Illona turned to her.

“I’m fine, Paula, really,” she said. She sniffed and wiped her hand across her eyes.

“You don’t look fine,” replied Paula, unconvinced. “What happened?”

“Did Dad send you after me?” asked Illona.

Paula frowned.

“No, it wasn’t your father,”  she said. She looked at Kieran. “It was the companion – at least, I think it was. I’m pretty sure it was his voice.”

“What did he say?” asked Kieran.

 

Paula took Illona’s hand and led her from Kieran’s embrace. They all sat on the couch.

“I was helping Mrs. Jessop with the Christmas cake when I heard his voice – he said Illona was over here and needed me urgently.”

“We both did, Paul,” said Kieran. “Thank you for coming.”

“You both did?” Paula looked at Kieran and then at the girl sitting beside her. “Oh no!” she exclaimed, “you weren’t?”

“We were,” replied Kieran, “and we shouldn’t – not yet anyway.”

“You – how?” Paula was having trouble hiding her astonishment.

 

Kieran fired reproach directly into Paula’s thoughts.

‘What I was, Paul, is dead. What I am is very much alive -different, but alive.’

Paula remembered what Kieran had told her about the nurse he had loved as Kenyon Mallory and how, as Kieran Doyle, he had healed her grief. Kieran shared the thought and nodded.

“Exactly,” he said out loud, as he leaned back into the padded leather and sighed.

 

“Stop it, you two!” cried Illona. “That’s not fair. I can’t hear what you’re saying to each other. I know you think you’re protecting me, but I’m not a child.”

“No, you’re not,” agreed Paula, keeping her mental defenses firmly in place, “but there are things Kieran needs to keep to himself – for now, anyway.”

 

She stood and held out her hand.

“Come on,” she said, “Mrs. Jessop is cooking up a storm. Let’s go’n help her.”

Illona took the outstretched hand.

“Going to come over, Kieran?” she asked. She was worried by the heaviness which seemed to be weighing down the figure sitting silently on the end of the couch.

 

“I need a bit of time on my own, Loni,” he replied, looking up at Paula. He let her understand his feelings, the source of the heaviness, and how important it was to get Illona out of the room. “Thanks, Paul,” he said softly, as the two women headed for the door. Paula looked back at him and smiled.

“Any time, Kieran.” She let Illona through the door before adding, “Go down to the beach. It’ll help.”

Emmett and Jasper were taken to Maraitai and walked on the wide expanse of low-tide beach with Kieran. Slowly, the tightness eased. When Kieran returned, he saw an unfamiliar car parked by the main house. After he had let Emmett and Jasper out and parked in the garage shared by the two houses, he walked towards the flashy vehicle.

Kieran realised he had seen it before,  parked outside Mallory Realtors. The red Toyota Sports belonged to Meretta Larsen, the lawyer who had taken much of Keller’s former work load.

 

As he reached the vehicle, Paula came down the stairs waving. Kieran waved back and waited for her to join him.

“Eduard with his lawyer?” he asked, as they turned through the trees and walked towards the smaller house. “What’s going on?”

“Apparently, Eduard called her around lunchtime. He wants to rewrite his will. Illona’s in there with him now. This heart thing’s given him a real fright. With Keller and Garrick gone, he wanted to make some major changes. I’ve just come from his study  – he asked me if I would assume guardianship, should anything happen to him.”

“What did you say?” asked Kieran, as he unlocked the front door.

“I agreed at once.”

 

Kieran held the door for Paula and they walked through to the living room.

“That’s good,” said Kieran. He was relieved that provision had now been made for Illona. Another scene of the drama had played itself out without him having to make an appearance.

Paula sat while Kieran opened the sliding doors to the garden. The air in the house was very still and warm.

“Paul, can you take Illona away – on Tuesday?” asked Kieran. He sat in an armchair.

“Boxing Day – so soon?”

“I don’t want to drag this one out, Paul. I can’t afford to. There’s too much at stake.”

“You want to tell me the whole story?” Paula sounded almost angry. “You’ve kept yourself completely closed ever since you discovered that Illona learned the little she knows about you from me.  I keep myself guarded now I know about her, Kieran. She only learns something if I want her to – so please don’t shut me out.”

“Paul, I’m sorry – I’ve put you through so much. I should have told you.”

 

He fell silent, letting Paula into his mind for the first time since he had learned the nature of his relationship to the companion. Paula saw Kieran’s father clearly, heard the words he spoke to his son, learned the nature of her own and Illona’s telepathic ability.

Long moments passed before she could speak. The shock she had experienced when she first met Kieran redoubled. A realization she was part of something so ancient, so universal, made her feel insignificant, unimportant. When she finally spoke, her anger had completely dissipated.

 

“You were right to keep this from me until now,” she said.  “It’s just as well I didn’t know, because there’s something I should tell you.”

“What do you mean?” asked Kieran, puzzled.

“I mean, Illona is completely besotted with you. She spoke to me while we were helping Mrs. Jessop with the mince pies.  There is only one reason she’s been able to hold back at all when she’s been with you. She feels a little bit guilty. Although she knows you are no longer Kenyon Mallory, she still feels that some small part of you is related to her. If she had known you were never were her uncle  …” She didn’t finish.

 

Kieran knew exactly what she meant.

“So you will take her away?”

“I’ll take her down to Te Anau with me. I can phone a cousin who owns a motel there, tell her to expect a post-Christmas visit. She’s been nagging me to visit for years. And the scenery is so spectacular, it should distract Illona – for a short while anyway. When do you think…”

Kieran did not allow Paula to finish.

“Leave me a phone number. I’ll call when it’s over.”

 

Paula knew Kieran was right. He was shielding his thoughts again and she knew why. The less she knew about his plans, the safer it was for them all.

“So what have you bought everyone for Christmas?” she asked, deciding on a complete change of tack. Kieran had to laugh.

“Illona has a voucher for as much new clothing as she likes from ‘New Generation’ – her favourite boutique. I’ve bought an embroidered Greek rug for the living room at the main house. Eduard’s hated the old Persian in there for years.”

“I remember. He was moaning about when we had coffee after dinner last week,” said Paula, smiling.

” It’s something Illona will like as well. The dogs have new collars, and you,” he added, “will just have to wait and see.”

Paula’s wait ended the following afternoon, when she unwrapped a box containing a new package of software for her computer. She was delighted.

“Everything the writer could want and then some!” she exclaimed. Kieran was equally pleased with his gift. Paula had bought him a great-coat. The deep brown leather was soft and supple, with a detachable winter lining. It made Kieran think of his father’s robe. 

“You seem to love that leather jacket of yours so much, I thought you might like this for the cooler weather,” said Paula, smiling. Illona could not contain her excitement.

“Open mine now!” she demanded, holding out a package. She grinned at Paula. Kieran took the package and opened it.

“This is a conspiracy!” he declared. Illona had given him a pair of boots to match the coat. “Are you two suggesting I need to change my image?” 

 

He sat on the sofa, slipped off his Nikes and pulled on the boots. They fitted perfectly. “I love them,” he said. “How did you manage to work out the size?”

“Guilty!” Paula grinned at him. “I stole a pair of your shoes – those fawn Ballys and we took them to the guy who makes the boots.”

“Knew it was a conspiracy! Thank you both.”

 Kieran looked across at Eduard, who seemed tired. Christmas dinner, gift exchanging, general festive business had taken its toll on him. Illona noticed his pallor.

“I think you should rest for the afternoon,” she said firmly. “The doctor told you to take it easy, Dad.” She stood and went over to him. “Come on, let’s get you upstairs.”

 

When Kieran rose to help, she motioned him away. There was pain in her eyes and her voice.

“It’s okay, Kieran, thanks. I just want a bit of time with Dad.”

Father and daughter linked arms and walked slowly towards the stairs. Kieran wandered if Eduard had noticed the sadness in Illona’s voice. He probed gently into the man’s mind.

 

It was awash with thoughts of love for his daughter, gratitude to Paula for her concern and fear of Kieran because of Illona. Eduard understood his daughter’s attraction to this dark, handsome creature. Keller and Garrick  had fallen for his obvious charms and now they were dead.

 

Something nagged at Eduard’s subconscious, a nebulous irrational worry which conflicted with feelings of gratitude. After all, it was Kieran who had introduced Paula into Illona’s life, making such a difference to her withdrawn, reclusive nature. Illona had blossomed in the week she had spent with Paula. Overriding all these thoughts was a debilitating sense of exhaustion. Eduard had missed the tone of his daughter’s voice and enjoyed the sense of companionship this moment brought them. He had never felt closer to the beautiful young woman he had fathered. And when he remembered Kieran was a multi-millionaire, he pushed the worries aside. Illona could do a lot worse for herself, he decided. A lot worse.

                Chapter ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen. Climax

Absolute focus. His father had told him the split required absolute focus and he had been right. The hours Kieran had spent perfecting the process had paid off. He looked at the figure on the bed. The figure gazed back, its green eyes serene. He had allowed time to adjust to the tight, incomplete feeling and the sensation of united control of two separate and very different bodies.

 

 Finally, he was ready and reached for the phone. Paula and Illona had left for Te Anau earlier that morning. Eduard was expecting them to call later in the afternoon, to report a safe arrival at their destination. This call would convey a very different message.

When Eduard answered, Kieran spoke rapidly, in Paula’s educated voice.

“Eduard, I’m sorry – I don’t know what else to say. It – it’s too  awful. I don’t know when he’ll get there. I don’t know how – it’s like a nightmare. He’s – was your brother – Oh God, I don’t know! You’ve got to stop him – I couldn’t. He’s so full of hate and anger.  He said he’s going for Kieran and he’s – he’s got Illona.” Kieran hung up on the screamed,

 “Who?” before he sent a mental probe over to Eduard’s study.

 

The man’s mind was in complete turmoil. His thoughts churned with fear for his daughter. Paula could not have meant who he thought she meant. It was impossible. Absolutely impossible. The implication was just too ghastly.

 

Into this chaos of panic and fear, Kieran injected the idea of searching the smaller house. That is where he could find Loni. That’s where she would be. Eduard opened the drawer of his desk and took out a 357 Magnum revolver. He turned it over in his hand, examined it and took off the safety catch. He kept it loaded – always had, and always in easy reach.

 

Darius had never owned a hand gun. If he had, the attack that resulted in his death may have gone very differently. Once, the idea would have brought a smug smile to Eduard’s face. Not any more. He was too afraid to feel smug. Afraid for himself and for Illona. Afraid of what he would find at the smaller house.

 

The walk through the trees seemed to take a very long time. Kieran watched Eduard’s approach from the window of  Garrick’s old bedroom, following the man’s uncertain movements and thoughts.

 

Only when Eduard was through the front door, did Kieran return to the main bedroom. The second figure lay on the massive bed, separated physically, but absolutely united in purpose. Kieran had mastered the difficult control required to operate both parts of his being.

 

He readied himself. Tears began to stream down the face of the figure on the bed. It readjusted itself, limbs straining against the silken ropes which bound its slender wrists and ankles to the bed posts. The second figure shook its matted hair into wild disarray. A vile smell seeped into the air, as Eduard’s voice called repeatedly,

“Anyone there? Is anyone home?” Footsteps sounded outside the closed door of the main bedroom. Eduard had broken into a cold sweat and the hand clutching the magnum, shook, as though palsied.

 

The doorknob turned .  The door inched open slowly. Eduard was taking no chances. When he caught sight of the tiny ankle bound to the bedpost, he flung the door wide.

What he saw, at once petrified and sickened him. He saw his daughter lying on Garrick’s ‘playground’, spread-eagled and almost naked. She was clothed only in a stained slip. He saw the tears which stained his daughter’s face. The reason for the tears was hideously clear. But even in its clarity, he could not accept it.

 

He saw the red silk ropes around the slender wrists and ankles, the red silk ropes his brother favored for the bondage ‘games’ he played with Ziggy.

Eduard had only seen that action once. Not long after meeting Ziggy, Garrick had invited his brother to one of their ‘sessions’, with another of  The Dungeon’s girls. It had taken Eduard less than ten minutes to realise he had no taste for the world of  B and D.

 

The sight of the welts across Garrick’s back  turned Eduard’s stomach and he had been forced to make a graceless exit. That had been over eight years ago, the last time he had been in this room.

 

But his nausea then had been minor, compared to the way he was feeling now. Icy terror ripped through him as he focused on the second figure standing beside the bed, zipping up the fly of his black trousers.

 

He screamed his despair, as he pulled the trigger of the magnum. Kieran grimaced as the heavy bullet slammed into his chest. He felt the tissue part around the intrusion and seal together again, obliterating the path the bullet had taken. It ended its journey in the opposite wall.

 

Kieran looked down at the hole in the black roll-neck sweater. He pushed a finger through it, lifted it, searched the discoloured flesh of his chest for a wound. Finding nothing, he looked up at Eduard and grinned.

 

That feral smile seemed to drain Eduard of every ounce of strength and resolve. He knew he could not help his daughter. He was helpless against this thing before him. The magnum clattered to the floor. Eduard’s knees buckled as his brother’s flinty voice echoed through the room.

 

“That’s no way to welcome me home, dear brother. I thought you’d be pleased to see me.” He moved closer to Eduard. The smell intensified. “I know I’m not looking my best,” continued the flinty voice, “but what do you expect? After all, I haven’t had a bath in – how long is it now? Over a week, isn’t it? Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun.”

 

He leaned over the bed and stroked one of the bound legs. Eduard almost gagged.

“How could you?” he rasped, through the pain that was building in his chest. “She’s your niece, for pity’s sake.” He fumbled for the pocket of his trousers, for the little bottle of pills that would stop the pain. The weakness in his fingers made him want to weep.

 

He located the little bottle and drew it out. As he did, the wolf-like expression on his brother’s face intensified. The bottle flew from his grasp and hovered in the air, just beyond his reach. He watched, horrified, as the cap of the little bottle appeared to unscrew itself. The lid lifted gracefully and the bottle tipped away from him, scattering its precious contents over the carpet. He fell forward on his hands, reaching desperately for just one, but the pills rolled away from him.

 

Eduard struggled into a sitting position. He was looking up the bed at his daughter’s face. Tears still coursed down her face. She looked utterly helpless. He wanted to cover her. He shouldn’t be seeing her like this. It was wrong. Tears started in his own eyes.

“Please cover her,” he begged,  distressed by the feeble sound of his voice. A cold, powerful hand seized his wrist and jerked him to his feet. The smell made Eduard’s stomach churn. He was held upright, facing the bed. The strength of the thing holding him was appalling.

 

“What’s wrong, brother?” asked the flinty voice. “Don’t you think she’s beautiful?”

“Please,” repeated Eduard, sobbing now. The pain in his chest was worsening and he had still done nothing to help Illona. “I can’t stand this,” he cried. “You’re killing me. Just let her go – don’t hurt her any more.”

 

Suddenly, Eduard was released. He fell across his daughter’s legs. She was as cold as the vile, dead thing which had been holding him. “She’s freezing, you bastard!” he screamed. “Let her go.”

 

He covered his eyes and wept, for his daughter, for the pain he knew was probably killing him, for the horror of the moment, that his illness had reduced him to this helpless, wretched hulk. He cried until the pain caused him to gag. He could not breath. The pain was everything. It was the heart dying in his chest. It was breaking because he could not help the one person beside himself, he truly cared about.

 

Illona had been raped the way he and Garrick had raped Samantha. He was as helpless as Darius had been. The realization brought him no comfort. Once again, his brother had raped. But this time, the victim had been his own daughter. He had always known what Garrick was like, how he had treated women. Yet he had done nothing. He had never considered reporting Garrick; never considered suggesting Garrick see someone – that he try to deal with his anger. In fact, he had used that anger to rid his life of the encumbrance his father and step-mother represented.

 

Angry, hostile,  he tried to stand, to confront the thing that his brother had become. The cold monster, whose lean, tanned flesh had discoloured into one gigantic bruise, who stank of the grave, had disappeared. His daughter too,  had vanished. The ropes were still tied to the bedposts, but the figure they once secured was no longer there.

 

“She’s gone, Eduard,” said a voice, not the flinty voice of his brother, a more powerful voice, older and deeper. He spun around to face Darius Mallory. His father looked at him, his brilliant blue eyes, sharp with accusation.

“You know how it felt, you know what you did and still, there is no regret in you.”

 

Eduard could not speak. There was not enough air in his lungs. His thoughts though, were a cyclone of defiance and dread, which  would not blow itself out. He fought to breathe, to remain on his feet, to show this creature, who could not be real, this figment of his imagination, that it could not beat him. 

 

It could not be real, he told himself. Yet it was. This thing that now looked like Darius Mallory, moved suddenly,  so fast, so unexpectedly, Eduard lost his balance trying to keep it in sight. The hand which caught him by the throat seemed to come out of nowhere. It too, was cold and very strong. It held him off the floor, with ease.

 

“Cold as death.” The words which came from the creature’s mouth echoed the thought in Eduard’s mind. “Reading your mind – yes, I can, as easily as you would read the page of a book,” continued the voice. The figure seemed indistinct. Eduard wondered if he was dying, if that was the reason he could no longer focus his vision.

 

The rippling effect stopped and Eduard found himself looking into the black eyes of his favourite customer, the millionaire his daughter wanted. It was obvious his fears had not been without foundation. Kieran spoke to his thoughts.

 

“Yes, you are dying, Eduard, and nothing on the face of this earth can help you now. Yes, you were right to be afraid of me and yes, Illona does desire me, as I desire her. But console yourself with this one thought. I will not touch her until I know her love for me is as real as my love is for her. Then I will marry her, Eduard and protect and love her as long as she lives”

 

 He lowered Eduard slowly, until he was sitting on the bed. The next thought made him smile.  “What am I? A good question, Eduard. The Catholic background of the Mallory family would call me an avenging angel. Others call us demons of death, so my father told me. I am an Eiric, as is my father. Eiric is a Celtic word meaning one who rises again. As a title, it refers to those of us whose task it is to balance the scales of justice.

You brought suffering and death to a kind and clever man and his totally innocent wife. I am here to restore the balance. Surely you didn’t think you would get away with it when the law failed to identify you as a killer?”

 

Eduard’s body was dying. As the realization grew in him, he managed to speak.

“Who are you – really?” he whispered.

“This appearance is what I look like now. This really is me,” replied Kieran. “Who I was before I died – that is a different question altogether. Shall I show you?”

 

Eduard did not try to answer. He knew he was going to learn more about this creature, whether he wanted to or not. The strange purling effect occurred again, making Eduard dizzy. When it stopped, Eduard understood. Everything fell into place. The green eyes in the handsome face looking at him, lacked the compassion he had seen there so often during Kenyon’s lifetime. Of all the things he had experienced in the last hours, this was the one he could accept the most easily.

 

“Keller said it had all been too easy. I should have listened to him,” he croaked. His breath was rattling in his throat and his heart was no longer beating sufficiently to supply  oxygen to his brain. Pain and asphyxia choked off his words.

 

The death-cold hand touched his forehead and his thoughts cleared. He realised what Kieran was doing. The choking sensation eased. Kieran would not let him die quickly. He had the distinct impression he would live as long as his father had. This would continue for hours yet.

 

Eduard felt tears in his eyes again and remembered the tears which had coursed down his father’s face, as Samantha died.

“You begin to see at last,” said Kieran, who had purled back to his familiar form. “You were many things, Eduard, but you were never stupid.”

 

“Did you kill Keller and Garrick?” There was no vocal tone to Eduard’s question. The words were mouthed, yet Kieran heard each syllable.

“Yes – at least, I was responsible for their deaths. They killed themselves, just as you have done. When Keller learned my true nature, he ran from me in a terror only death could end. As did Garrick. Keller paid for Kenyon’s death, Garrick for Samantha’s. You die for Darius.”

 

“What about Illona?”

“You ask me to ease your burden further?” Kieran’s flat smile was as cold as his hands. “That I will not do, Eduard. I will tell you this though. Illona knows of your guilt and she knows what I am doing. You see, like Kenyon, Illona is a telepath. She learned what you were doing from your own mind. It made her so angry, hurt her so badly, she wanted to punish you herself. But you know what you saw. You must deal with that and with what you now know.”

 

Once again, the sight of his daughter’s pathetic damaged body filled Eduard’s mind. The pain renewed, swallowed him. This time, even the belief that his daughter loved him, had been stripped from him. He burned in an acid of regret, lost completely to a  world he had tried so hard to control. When death took him, over four hours later, gratitude filled his soul.

 

Kieran felt the death. It caused the same debilitating weakness which beset him each time he accomplished his task. Once he had erased all signs of anything untoward,  he staggered into the night to find the sustenance he required. He kept moving, feeding from every source of life energy he could tap.

 

Unlike the previous occasions, he could savor his aloneness. As he returned to the house, Emmett and Jasper came to him.

Feel better? The simple dog-thought filled the hollow in his mind with love. He bent forward and hugged their muscular necks.

Feel better, he agreed. Sleep now, he ordered. I will be here when you wake. Satisfied, the dogs returned to their kennels.

 

Kieran went once again to the main house. He had been so exhausted when he had cleaned up, he needed to reassure himself  that he’d done all that was necessary. His rawness, his lack of experience still worried him.

 

Eduard was slumped over his desk, which was strewn with business documents, most of them dealing with the casino. A half-empty coffee mug sat by the telephone. The small bottle of pills was tucked into the left pocket of Eduard’s trousers where it belonged. Nothing out of place.

 

Satisfied, Kieran returned to the smaller house to wait. Just before seven, there was a furious banging on the front door. It was Mrs. Jessop.

“Oh, Mr. Doyle,” she cried, as Kieran opened the door. “Something terrible has happened. Again – oh dear me, wherever will it end.”

“What is it, Mrs. Jessop?” he asked. He soothed the agitated woman’s thoughts, helping her move from near-hysteria to a calm sorrow.

“It’s poor Mr. Eduard. He’s at his desk. I think he’s been there for some time. He may be dead.”

“I’ll come over and have a look, Mrs. Jessop. Just relax now.” He put an arm around the housekeeper’s shoulders and led her through the trees. Eduard was seated exactly as Kieran left him. Kieran touched a cold wrist before turning to Mrs. Jessop.

“You’re right, I’m afraid. He is dead. I don’t think we ought to touch anything. I’ll phone the police.”

Detective Corcoran arrived at the house twenty minutes later with a single constable. Kieran came from the kitchen where he had made Mrs. Jessop a cup of tea. The detective checked the body and then joined Kieran and the housekeeper in the kitchen. Kieran poured another cup of tea.

 

“The coroner  should be here soon,” he said. “God, Kieran,” he added, as he took a cup and began to stir in several spoons of sugar, “I have never seen anything like this. Six deaths in one family in less than three months. The press are going to have a field day.”

“I don’t think so,” replied Kieran. “Did you see the article in the paper on the weekend?”

“I did,” said the detective. “Maybe you’re right.” He looked at Mrs. Jessop, then at Kieran and motioned to the back door.

“Let’s go for a walk while we wait.”

Leaving Mrs. Jessop to her regular chores, Kieran and the detective walked slowly through the trees.

“I wanted to talk to you, Kieran,” said the detective. They were standing beside the stream at the fence line.

“I know!” Kieran searched the detective’s thoughts and made a decision. “And you are right.”

 

He remembered what his father had told him about friends within the police force, friends who provided invaluable back-up, friends he helped with cases which would never have been solved otherwise. The detective’s eyes widened, his pulse rate quickened. He had no telepath ability, just a finely tuned intuition. Since meeting Kieran, he nurtured a suspicion there was more to him than was at first obvious.

 

“Bloody hell!” he exclaimed. “Did you just read my mind?”

“Yes,” responded Kieran. “you suspected Keller was somehow involved in the murders of Darius and Samantha Mallory. Keller wanted to speak to you the following day, but he lost his nerve. After Kenyon Mallory died, Keller stopped speaking to you altogether.

 

 That led you to believe all three men, Keller, Garrick and Eduard were involved in the murders and you are right. But there was a third murder of which you are not aware. It is the reason Keller stopped speaking to you. He was responsible for Kenyon Mallory’s death. He tampered with the brakes on Ken’s Porsche.”

 

The detective’s expression was enigmatic.

“You know, the failed brakes never seemed right. Why did Keller kill his cousin though?”

“Kenyon Mallory found out what really happened the night of the attack on Darius and Samantha Mallory. The whole thing was Eduard’s plan. Darius was bound and gagged and forced to watch the repeated violations of his wife – first Eduard, then Garrick. It was Garrick who caused the damage found during the autopsy and it was Garrick who let Samantha go and then shot her as she tried to escape.”

“Dear God,” murmured the detective, “how do you know all this?”

“The same way I learned about your suspicions.”

 

Their eyes locked. Neither blinked. It was Kieran who finally spoke, responding, once again, to the detective’s thoughts.

“I am asking you to trust me, Sydney,” he said softly. “Don’t ask me too much – yet, anyway. I’ve told you some things I believe you should know for your own peace of mind. The answers to one or two of your questions could wreck it again.”

 

The detective shot him a rueful little smile.

“Believe it or not, I do trust you, but I can’t help being curious – and a little bit afraid of you.”

“I have far more reason to be afraid of you,” replied Kieran.

The detective laughed.

“Why do I doubt that? Somehow I have the feeling you could blank out what you have just told me, as easily as you read my mind.”

 

Kieran thought back to Garrick’s last victim. He freed her mind from every memory of Garrick and her experiences with him. ‘Deleted the Garrick file’, he explained to Paula. Sydney Corcoran was right. Kieran had not put himself at risk. He judged the detective with the perception which was part of his Eiric nature.

 

This was not a man obsessed with the letter of the law. As a gay man, he knew only too well how unjust the law could be. It was justice which concerned the detective. When Kieran confirmed his suspicions about the Mallory murders, he saw the three recent deaths in the family as events which balanced the scales of justice, rather than suspicious deaths which warranted further investigation.

 

His police partner, Senior Detective-Inspector Mark  Burgess, suspected Keller, Garrick and Eduard from the beginning, but there was not a shred of evidence. The crime had been committed with textbook perfection. There was absolutely nothing but suspicion. And murder charges could not be based on suspicion, however accurate that suspicion might be.

 

What Kieran told him, satisfied the need to understand an ugly crime. But now he was curious. He’d become a police officer because of an insatiable curiosity and a strong sense of fair play. A question came to his lips, almost against his will.

“I have to ask,” he began apologetically, “you didn’t meet Keller and the Mallorys by accident, did you?”

 

There was a long silence before Kieran spoke.

“No,” he said eventually, “I didn’t.”

“Did you kill them?” asked the detective.

“They killed themselves – all three of them, in different ways.”

 

The detective nodded. He knew Kieran had told him the truth; not the whole truth, but enough to satisfy him, or at least, his need to believe justice had been done.

“You wouldn’t consider a job with the police, would you? God, we could use that mind of yours.” There was a hint of desperation in his voice. In his mind, swirled details from unsolved crimes which plagued him, night and day.

 

Again, Kieran remained silent for a long while.

“If a time comes you really need me,” he said slowly, “I will help you – just you. This can only ever be between us. And I can only help with cases that involve individuals who are Celtic and I do mean all branches of that diverse group. My ‘brief’, if you like.”

 

“Interesting! Why only Celtic …” He stopped when he saw the expression on Kieran face. He held up a hand. “Okay, okay, no more questions. I think I can cope with that, ” said the detective. He smiled. “Besides, if I did tell any-one what you’ve just told me, do you think they’d believe me?”

 

Kieran smiled. Finally he was  feeling more comfortable with himself. He had accomplished the task which fate assigned him and he was still firmly rooted in the physical world. The idea that he would suddenly vanish into some spiritual realm  when it was all over, bothered him for weeks. Now he knew it would not happen.

 

Before he needed to move on, before those around him noticed he was not aging, there was time he could spend with Illona, if she still wanted him. Within a few years, she would look the same age as him. In twenty years, she would look older.

 

They might have a child, if Illona wanted to, if she could. If he wanted to! He didn’t know if he did. Breeding would mean having a child who would have to die an unnatural death and become as he was – Eiric, one whose existence meant death.

However much the victims of the Eiric deserved to die, it was still death. The Eiric were bringers of death. It had taken his own father over a thousand years to breed. He could understand why.

 

“I don’t think I envy you.” The words seeped into Kieran’s thoughts. He turned to the detective.

“Why?” he asked, astonished at how apt the detective’s comment had been.

“I’m not sure – I just don’t envy you. Call it woman’s intuition. John does – cheeky sod!” 

They both laughed. Kieran  liked the detective’s companion, John D’Auvergne, another          police officer. They had met at the Top Hat Club in mid-November. It felt as though years had past since then.

 

A vehicle could be heard approaching the house.

“The coroner’s wagon,” said the detective. ‘This has become a regular port of call for the damn thing!”  They could see the sleek silver station wagon with its black windows, glide up the driveway towards the house. It disappeared behind the trees.

The detective held out his right hand. Kieran took it. An understanding passed between them, a pact sealed with a handshake. The foundation of a friendship had been laid and they were both aware of it. Detective Sydney Corcoran smiled.

“Thanks, Kieran. Now let’s get back to the house. I have a heart attack victim to deal with.”

 

As the wagon disappeared, followed closely by the detective’s car, Kieran returned to the now empty study and picked up the phone on Eduard’s desk. He dialed the number Paula had left him. It was answered almost immediately. Kieran was relieved to hear Paula’s voice. He had hoped Illona wouldn’t answer the call. Aware of Mrs. Jessop’s presence, Kieran chose his words carefully.

“Paula, Kieran. Eduard died last night – another heart attack.”

“About eight last night?”

Kieran was surprised.

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Illona knew. She felt it happen, I think. Poor wee love. That’s why I was waiting for you to ring.”

Paula’s words lifted some of the burden from Kieran’s shoulders. Illona already knew her father was dead. That was a help.

“Let me speak to her,” said Kieran, softly, “I need to tell her myself.”

Paula and Illona arrived at 1 Mallory Lane just after three in the afternoon. The flight and its purpose had left both women exhausted. They retired to their respective rooms, leaving Kieran to field calls.

 

When they came downstairs several hours later, feeling a little less ragged, they found the family lawyer, Meretta Larsen, seated in the study with Kieran.

The woman stood and offered her hand to Illona.

“My condolences, Ms Mallory. I phoned earlier, while you were resting. Mr. Doyle suggested I come round. There are some legal matters that should be dealt with as soon as possible.”

“Of course,” said Illona. Her voice sounded tired, older. As the group sat in the leather armchairs, there was a knock on the door. Mrs. Jessop looked in.

“You sent for me?”

“I did,” said the lawyer. She turned to Illona to explain. “I took the liberty of asking Mrs. Jessop to join us. She should be here for the reading of the will.”

 

Mrs. Jessop sat near the door, nervously fidgeting with her apron. The lawyer extracted some documents from her briefcase and settled behind the desk.

“As you know,” she began crisply, “Mr. Mallory was aware his health was deteriorating and updated his will when he returned from hospital on Saturday. These are the terms of the new document.

This house, 1 Mallory Lane, and all business assets associated with Mallory Realtors are left to you, Ms Mallory. Ms Conroy will act as trustee on your behalf until your twenty-first birthday. Ms Conroy, you will be paid an annual retainer of $128,000 by the estate, during this time. Ms Mallory may choose to continue this arrangement after her twenty-first birthday, or you may come to some other mutually acceptable arrangement.”

 

The lawyer flipped through several sheets of paper.

“There is a great deal of legalise attached to this, of course. I am quite happy to explain it all , but I don’t believe it is necessary at this juncture. Shall I move on?”

Everyone in the group nodded.

“Good!”  She turned to the housekeeper. “Mrs. Jessop, Mr. Mallory wished you to stay on as housekeeper for Ms Mallory and Ms Conroy. The small house on Mill Avenue, which you rent at present, is now yours. There are a few papers to sign, but it is quite straight-forward. Your salary is to continue as at present, with a regular increase to keep pace with the commercial sector.”

Mrs. Jessop was shaking her head in disbelief.

“The house,” she murmured, “my wee house – Mr. Mallory was so kind. I didn’t expect …”

“Mr. Mallory knew that, Mrs. Jessop. It is your loyal, unquestioning service that Mr. Mallory wished to reward.”

“May I leave now?” asked the housekeeper, sniffing with obvious emotion. “I have dinner to see to. My dear, wee house!” She cleared her throat, determined to retain her self-control.

” Everything should be ready in about half an hour. Will you be staying, Miss Larsen?” she added.

“Of course,” said Illona quickly. “You will stay, won’t you?” she asked.

“Thank you. Yes, that will be lovely.”

Mrs. Jessop hurried out, before the lawyer turned her light brown eyes on Kieran.

 

“Mr. Doyle, Mr. Mallory wanted to leave you something which would express his thanks – something which reflected the value he placed upon – what he called ‘your gift’ to him – finding Ms Conroy to be companion to his daughter.

Accordingly, he has left you No 2 Mallory Lane. He felt certain you would find it useful to stay near your cousin and asked me to tell you, should the need arise, that you could rent the Harrisborough property most lucratively – or, of course, you could sell.

 Whatever you choose to do with the Harrisborough property, you now own 2 Mallory Lane as well – with one proviso. You are to continue looking after the two dogs, Emmett and Jasper. They belonged to the late Kenyon Mallory, as I am sure you are aware. They have been a constant source of worry to Mr. Mallory since Kenyon’s death, pining inconsolably until you moved in next door. Mr. Mallory said it seemed right that you should care for them and that you would understand. Is this acceptable to you?

 

Kieran could not help smiling.

“Mr. Mallory was right. I do understand and yes, of course it’s acceptable.” That both Paula and Illona understood as well forced Kieran to keep his eyes on the lawyer’s face. “It’s an extremely generous bequest.” he added, for Illona’s benefit.

 

The lawyer gathered her papers together, snapped her briefcase shut and stood.

“I would like to see you all in my office on Friday morning. All the documentation for property transfers and agreements stemming from the will should be ready for signing by then. When do you think the funeral will be?” she added as she moved to an armchair. “The coroner has released the body – he rang this afternoon. I  rang Hayworth and Paul. They said we can have the funeral any time tomorrow.”

 

There was a murmur from near the window.

“Sorry,” said the lawyer, as she relaxed into her armchair. “I didn’t hear that, Miss Mallory.”

“Sundown,” said Illona, more audibly this time. “I would like to have the interment at sundown. I don’t want that horrible depressing business at the funeral chapel. I want to lay Dad to rest, at the family mausoleum, as the sun goes down.”

“Well, that’s your prerogative, Miss Mallory,” responded the lawyer. “Any particular reason for the time?”

“Just a dream,” said Illona vaguely, “it’s what I want.” Then she smiled. “Please call me Illona,” she added. “I don’t feel right being called ‘Miss Mallory’ all the time.”

“As long as you call me Meretta,” replied the lawyer. “By the way, Mr. Doyle…”

“Kieran. I’m with Illona. Formality makes me uncomfortable.”

“Kieran, then,” said the lawyer, with a smile, “I’m sure you have your own lawyer. Would you like him or her present on Friday morning?”

 

Kieran thought about the man who had committed himself to Bridgitte Gale, never believing his services would actually be required.

Shannon Vaughn held all the documents which gave ‘Kieran Doyle’ legal status. He would have to have copies of his title deed to No 2 Mallory Lane. But that, in itself, would cause distress. Kieran could not inflict another confrontation on him.

“I’ll give you my lawyer’s address. You can forward copies of the will and the title deed to him. I’m sure he’d appreciate it. He’s a busy man.”

“I can believe it,” said the lawyer. “That will be fine…”

An electronic chime interrupted the conversation.

“Dinner’s ready!” declared Illona. “Let’s go through to the dining room.”

The formal part of the interment took less than thirty minutes. By five to nine on one of the most beautiful evenings of the year, Niche 10 in the Mallory family mausoleum became the resting place for Eduard Mallory. The polished surface of his ebony and silver casket gleamed in the light of the candles which burned in their holders along the West wall.

 

The sound of  the last  guest’s car faded in the distance and silence enfolded the tomb like a velvet cape. Kieran, Illona and Paula remained, with the tall robed priest, who had conducted the interment.  Illona stood by her father’s casket, her slender hand touching the brass plaque inscribed with his name.

 

She had not understood the melodic words the priest chanted during the short ceremony, but she knew her father was now at rest. She had done the right thing allowing Kieran to choose this ‘Celtic priest’.  She looked at him again, standing beside Kieran in an aura of candlelight, his long, black hair, held back from his face by a circlet of gold.

 

He looked so much like Kieran, she wondered if they were related. Then she found she knew. The priest had allowed her to know his bond with Kieran. He looked across at her and smiled. Now she knew she would be able to see him again, now that Kieran was living next door permanently. Another realization hit her. Kenyon Mallory had not been a blood relative – he had never been her uncle. The tall priest was Kenyon/Kieran’s real father, not Darius Mallory. She savored the knowledge.

 

Kieran’s father made her feel safe, lessened the loneliness she had suffered since she knew her own father would die. She smiled back at him. A feeling of contentment eased itself into her consciousness. She held out her hand to Paula.

“I’m very tired,” she sighed. “Let’s go home.”

Paula took the proffered hand.

“We’ll wait for you in the Bentley,” she said. Kieran nodded.

As they reached the steps, Illona turned back to face the priest.

“Thank you, Father,” she said softly.

“I am glad I could be of service, Illona,” he replied. Illona was reluctant to leave.

“I hope I see you again,” she said.

” You will,” returned the priest.

 

When Paula and her young charge reached the car, Kieran extinguished the candles, before joining the robed figure at the foot of the stairs. Father and son embraced, Kieran’s head resting on the robed shoulder. There was no need for words. When Kieran walked away from the mausoleum, he knew he was ready to face whatever might lie ahead.

 ends.

 

Angel

My dog, all soft warm fierce love,

Twitches in gentle dreams

Of walks through parks,

Of special treats that tempt

The Good Girl to emerge.

A muffled yip and wuffle

Another dog perhaps

Invades the dream

And then she starts, awake.

She looks at me

Looks into my heart

Sees my love for her

And sinks back into sleep

Secure, safe and snug.Image

The Dark Part 5 (Final)

Chapter  Sixteen

Understanding.

 

Burns the fire

A living inferno

Stoked by understanding

Inescapable

Being and wanting

Smoulders pungent power

Sputtering sparks of thought

Fiery fingers of awareness

Knowledge and desire

Beneath the flames of time

Embers of compassion

Keep alive this fire

By will alone

A living breathing pyre.

 

George told Giselle that Christo had fallen. Martin suspected Adria and Aidan of rigging something in the loft and had gone to Auckland to collect them. Eden, worried about Martin, drove off after him. George stood in the doorway of the Blue Room, narrating his tale. He seemed anxious to get away and Giselle wasn’t surprised. She listened to him, from her stool by the easel. My appearance on the bed caused her little alarm. She wished the architect would leave, so we could speak. That George was not being honest was clear and Giselle knew I could tell her what really happened.

 

As the door closed, Giselle rushed over to me.

“Tell me,” she said.

“His story is a good deal more pleasant than the truth,” I warned.

“I have to know,” said Giselle. “You know that.”

I told her the full story. Several details puzzled her.

Why has Martin driven to Auckland? Why didn’t he just ring up? And why did Eden drive after him?”

“Remember what I told you about Chadwick Ross, his sister and the children. Hypnotism. Martin doesn’t know why but every time he tries to talk to Chad on the phone, he gets nowhere. All Chad has to do is use the right word and he has control over that person. He keeps Martin, Eden and many others on hypnotic leashes, various situations that may arise have all been planned for – his commands lie deep in the unconsciousness and can be released by any appropriate trigger word. It’s a trick they all use repeatedly. You’ve been victim of it yourself.”

“It’s such a horrible thing to do to someone – take away their free will. Why do they do it?”

“Selfish desire for power, wealth – plain ugly greed mostly. And Chadwick Ross is more than just a hypnotist. He is truly evil,” I continued. “He has a power, a will so poisonous, I am grateful I am beyond his reach.”

“But this event has made matters difficult, why didn’t he stop it happening? I assume he could have.”

“He could have, yes, but I suspect it is a test the teacher has set up for his prize pupil.”

“I don’t understand,” said Giselle.

 “Chadwick Ross wants to develop Adria’s abilities,” I explained, “but he knows she is wayward, like a spoiled child. He wants to discipline her. Therefore, he uses her strongest emotion, her hatred of you. If she can be forced to control that, she becomes much better at getting what she really wants – fame, money and power.”

 

Giselle was about to speak, but I stopped her.

“Chadwick Ross has sent Adria and Aidan home for that express purpose – to force Adria into obedience.”

“They’re on their way here?” Giselle groaned.

“Their train is not far from Hamilton and then they will taxi here as usual,” I replied, “but don’t worry. For now, they have much to do.”

 

Giselle bowed under the weight of memories; the night of terror in the loft, Adria and Aidan’s voices, the visions of her parents death. Her visible frailty worried me. “They will not come near you,” I promised, drawing her to me. She rested her head on my chest, reassured. “You are mine,” I murmured, stroking her silken hair, “and I will share you with no-one.”

It was two-thirty when Giselle heard the gravel crunching. She glanced up from her easel and peered around her curtains cautiously. Adria and Aidan rounded the house and disappeared from view. She tiptoed over to the door where I was standing. We could hear them on the stairs. As they reached the landing, we could hear what they were saying.

“Once we’ve got everything together, we must go straight to the loft. We don’t know how long Martin and Eden will be away.” Aidan sounded worried.

“Won’t be a problem for hours yet,” replied Adria. There was the sound of a key turning in the lock. “Chad was really in the mood for them when we left this morning.”

“Think Giselle’s in?” Aidan asked. Giselle’s heart gave an unpleasant flutter. I held my finger to my lips.

“No, she’s painting on the hill again,” snapped Adria. “Didn’t you see her? Come on, let’s get on with it.”

 

Giselle gave me a quizzical look. Again, I signalled her to remain silent. We heard Aidan go up to his attic. There was some banging, a clatter and then he came down. Adria’s door opened and then closed.

“Aren’t you going to lock it?” Aidan’s voice enquired.

“Lilith’s window works better than any key,” said Adria. “That’s what she put it there for – remember. At least we know we’ve got our bedrooms to ourselves. Bloody flaming hell!” she exploded, as they began to walk down the stairs, “I wish I’d realised there was a spare key to the loft. Why didn’t Lilith …” Her words became inaudible.

 

The back door slammed before Giselle spoke.

“Now I know why I dislike that window so much.” She turned to me, speaking in a whisper. “Who did Adria see on the hill?”  It was a simple enough illusion, but the time was not right for explanations.

“It wasn’t you,” was all I would say. Giselle smiled.

Our thoughts turned to Martin and Eden.

“When will they be back?” whispered Giselle. She was still afraid to speak, even though she knew Adria and Aidan were in the loft.

“They each face a real challenge. They have to recleanse and protect their space.” I replied. “I do not believe they will be back tonight.”

“Is Chadwick Ross really awful?”

This was not an easy question to answer.

“He is probably the most completely evil man whose presence I have ever had to endure,” I said finally. “He is evil, not because of circumstances, but because he enjoys being evil. It has given him power.” Giselle shuddered, grateful she had never met him. I touched her face.

“I will return later. Work quietly and do not be afraid.” I shielded before Giselle could reply. She hated it when I left, not knowing how she’d find me if she needed me.

I returned to find Giselle working on a portrait. She had recreated my face; line for line, shadow for shadow. It was a truly beautiful work, a creation of love. I stood for several minutes, watching her work.

After a time, I spoke.

“Never,” I said, “in my long existence, has anything ever flattered me quite so shamelessly.” Giselle almost fell off her stool.

“You nearly scared the life out of me,” she exclaimed, trying to cover the work with another sheet of paper. I took her hands and turned her round to face me. I had to tell her.

“Do not, even in jest, refer to dying in such a way.”

Giselle was nonplussed.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because then we would be separated. You would be released to travel other paths and I would remain here alone.”

 

I gazed into her eyes. At last she understood that I had sealed my fate when I took my own life and died with a curse on my lips. A natural death would consign Giselle to another existence without me, an existence she could not begin to imagine.

Each penetrated the other’s understanding, as we stood side by side in the dying light of the Waikato evening. I hated to end the moment, but there were things I had to do. My lantern appeared on the tallboy.

“Do not worry about its light, Giselle,” I said softly, “even if Adria and Aidan leave the loft, which I doubt, they will not see it. It lights our world, not theirs.” Giselle looked across at the golden glow.

“It is almost seven,” I continued. “I think it would be wise to go downstairs and speak to Hine. She is troubled. Tell her, perhaps, that Martin and Eden will be back tomorrow. She could leave some food for Adria and Aidan in the pantry. I would like it if you brought your food up here. Then we could continue to talk.”

Giselle went to the door, hesitated and looked back at me. I smiled.

“I will be here when you return, I promise,” I assured her.

Giselle was busy downstairs with Hine when the phone rang. It was Terry. The young woman informed Giselle that Eden’s car had broken down and that she was sleeping off a nasty turn, which, she insisted, was not serious. Eden would be returning the following day. She gave Giselle the phone number and address of Eden’s temporary accommodation, to pass on to Martin.

 

When Giselle returned to the Blue Room with her supper, I asked if she was relieved to know Eden was in good hands.

“Is there anything you don’t know?” she asked, smiling.

“Many things,” I replied honestly. “Too many things.”

 

Giselle sat at my feet and picked at her food. She had little appetite. After eating what she could, she pushed her plate away. I put my hand on her head and played with her hair. She closed her eyes and surrendered herself to the physical sensations. She was so deeply relaxed I had to tell her the phone was ringing again.

 

She answered the call on the landing extension. It was Martin. He told her where he was and promised to pick Eden up early the next morning. She told him she would ring Terry Chase and tell them. Martin sounded very relieved and laughed when Giselle blew him a kiss. The Chases were pleased to hear Martin had been contacted and promised to watch out for him the next morning.

 

Giselle was about to come back into the room, when she thought about the young architect. She rung his number and was forced to leave a message on an answering machine. She told it that the Nissan would be back the next morning, as Eden had decided to spend the night in at the Chases. She did not mention the ‘breakdown’. She knew, as did I, that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle. Chad had delayed Martin and Eden long enough. He would not bother with them again.

 

When Giselle returned, I was sitting exactly where she had left me. She smiled at me.

“I suppose you know what that was all about?”

I nodded, then, I told Giselle she needed to sleep. She came over to me, sat and put her head on my knees once more. As she dropped off to sleep, I caught her in my arms and carried her to the bed. It was time for the task I dreaded. I placed a hand on her forehead and spoke into the night.

“Forgive me, beloved,” I murmured, “but it is time you knew.”

 

Once again, I forced Giselle to be where she felt she was an intruder, invading a private world. As the momentum of the dream, carried her through the doorway, recognition was instantaneous. She was in the Blue Room. However, the fittings were different. A raffia shade of deep blue and pale blue rectangles hung over the ceiling lamp. Pale blue carpeting was topped with dark blue scatter rugs. The curtains matched the main carpet and the same fabric covered the table in the corner.

 

The bed was not the beautiful four-poster Giselle and I shared. It was a modern, queen-sized divan. Its satin bedspread was cluttered with cushions, many of which were lovingly embraced in the eight arms of a toy octopus, with a friendly grin and crossed eyes.

 

Giselle experienced a peculiar sensation, as two figures passed through her into the room. One was a slight girl of about sixteen. She wore a sleeveless, white blouse and a tiny denim mini-skirt covered in embroidered flowers, which left most of her slender legs bare. Her hair hung down her back in a silver cascade and she gazed around with violet eyes.

 

The second figure was a male of about seventeen. His dark features were of the type that caused women, and sometimes men, to stop and gape. He was stunningly handsome. Although he seemed familiar, Giselle could not place him. Clearly, the girl had not seen the room in its present condition. She squealed with delight, when she saw the octopus. It was seized from the bed and waltzed around the room. Cushions scattered across the floor.

“It’s so beautiful,” she exclaimed. The young man who was standing near the door, watching her, smiled.

“A little bit of everything you like,” he replied.

“It must have cost so much!” the girl cried, as she rearranged the octopus and collected the scattered cushions.

“I promised you I’d redo your room,” said the man, “and how much it cost, is none of your business. Dad’s money has to be put to use. He would have approved. You just enjoy it.”

 

The girl ran to him, took his hands and kissed each one in turn.

“Why are you so good to me?” she asked.

“Because I love you,” he replied. They looked at each other in silence for a few moments. Then the girl reached up and kissed the boy on the lips. The youngster bent forward and kissed the upturned face. He kissed the nose, the forehead, the cheeks and the mouth. The last kiss lingered, as the boy put both arms around the girl. She did not pull away.

 

Giselle watched the girl’s slim arms slip around the boy’s waist, embracing and then clinging to the boy’s body. She felt tension mounting in the couple, so much more intensely than she would have just one week ago. She knew she should turn away. She knew what she would see, but she continued to watch as a wave of passion smashed the hapless pair onto a reef of inevitable union.

 

The boy murmured into the girl’s hair. They fell back onto the bed as they coupled. In a chaos of crumpled linen, the youngster cried out,

“Miri – oh my darling little Miri.” He fell forward repeating the name, as though it was a litany. And in response, Giselle heard her mother’s voice call out the name of the father she so desperately wanted to know.

Adria and Aidan were, as I’d predicted, exhausted. It was just before twenty to five in the morning when brother and sister, priest and priestess, completed their tasks and discovered they were hungry.

“See if Hine left anything edible lying around,” Adria said, her voice tired and strained.
Aidan returned a few minutes later with laden plates and a bottle of wine. Adria removed the plastic wrap and devoured the food without speaking. Aidan too, ate enthusiastically. He opened the wine, took a long draught directly from the bottle and passed it to his sister.

 

As they ate, they looked around their sanctuary, satisfied that they had done as they had been bidden. The pipe had been replugged. The markings were much more obvious. The rusty smell was evidence that the restoration had been done in blood. Both Adria and Aidan had black clothes bound around their left wrists. The irony of the source of the blood did not escape me and I smiled. Things were progressing well.

 

Aidan pushed the empty plates and bottle aside. His sister lay back, looking up at a blood painted eye that now graced the ceiling.

“That was one awful night.” she declared. “I didn’t know we knew half of what we’ve done in the last twelve hours.”

Aidan laughed humourlessly.

“I’d like to see that architect try anything now.” His voice also bore evidence of the night-long strain the teenagers had imposed on themselves.

“Damn Chad,” continued Adria. “I’m so tired, I can hardly see straight.”

“If you’re going to damn anyone, it should be Giselle,” muttered Aidan. The wine had dulled his usual caution. “After all, she’s the reason the loft was disturbed in the first place.”

 

Adria thought for a moment. A gleam brightened her red-rimmed eyes.

“That’s it,” she said, sitting up. “Why the hell should we let her get away with it? Chad was right. We wasted time and effort trying to get her into Martin’s bad books. Why discredit someone when they’d be better off dead?”

Adria’s words had a sobering effect on Aidan.

“Addy,” he said, speaking slowly, “don’t think of crossing Chad. That’s a dangerous game and you know it.”

“I’m not talking about crossing Chad,” snapped Adria. “Chad was angry about the kind of stupidity we indulged in before. He’s never objected to us really using our powers.”

 

Aidan was not convinced.

“He said you were -” He corrected himself, “we were to leave Giselle alone. He doesn’t see her as a threat. Why should we?”

“Because she stuck her damn nose into our lives – came here – made things difficult. Hell, just because she’s Giselle.”

Adria’s tone became coercive.

“It’s not just her being here, Aidan. She tried to cut us down. We made mistakes because of her.”

“What are you planning to do to her?”

“To her?” purred Adria, “Nothing. I’ll leave Giselle alone, just as Chad ordered. I want to do a blood summoning.”

“Addy, you’re crazy. No-one does a summoning without a Magus.”
“ We can handle it – we know all the words, the whole ritual. Come on Aidan. All we have to do is summon, direct the summoned entity to Giselle and our problems are over.”

“This is crazy – anything could go wrong. What if we lose control?”

“Nothing will go wrong – we can do this. Trust me – we won’t lose it. We never have! Why should anything go wrong now. Let’s do it tonight. Please Aidan – please – just trust me.” There was a moment’s hesitation before Aidan nodded. Adria went to her brother and hugged him tightly, her tired face reanimated by the thought of being rid of Giselle, my Giselle, my beloved wife.

 

I groaned silently into the early morning air. I had less than twenty four hours.  My time had run out and I would have to act swiftly indeed.

 

 

Martin held Eden’s hand, worried by the length of time she was taking to wake up. Dr Chase  had shown him to Eden’s room fifteen minutes ago. According to the Chases Eden had been out since mid-afternoon the previous day, seventeen hours ago.

“Come on, Eden,” he murmured, yet again, “wake up!”

 

Eden groaned and slowly sat up. It took her a few minutes to focus on the face of her companion.

“Martin!” she exclaimed, flinging her arms around his neck, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so pleased to see anyone in my entire life.” She hugged Martin so tightly, he gasped for air.

“Mercy, woman,” he begged, hugging her back. He didn’t say so, but he was just as thrilled to find Eden in one piece. He had been afraid for her, a vague nebulous fear, which had been tapping at his shoulder since he woke that morning at just after six.

 

“Is Giselle all right?” asked Eden, relaxing her grip.

“When I phoned her, she informed me Adria and Aidan had arrived home safely, that you were safely tucked up here and that she was fine – working on a portrait.

“Sounds like she’s coping better than either of us,” said Eden.

“You should have heard her – and all your worries about her being such a delicate little thing!”

 

Eden eased off the bed and straightened her clothing.

“Well, I’m glad I was wrong,” she said, smiling wanly at Martin.

After farewells, Martin and Eden walked down to where the Nissan was parked.

“Let’s see what gives,” Martin said, taking the keys from Eden. He unlocked the driver’s door, and tried the ignition. The engine started immediately. Eden looked over Martin’s shoulder, embarrassed.

“It wouldn’t go yesterday, I swear.”

“I believe you,” said Martin, looking up at his wife. “If you say the thing stopped dead on you, I know that’s what happened.”

 

Eden cleared her throat to prevent unwanted tears.

“Where did you spend the night?” she asked.

Martin told her the story of his arrival at the hotel, his headache, the tablets he took, his soiled clothing. He left nothing out. Eden wondered what could have driven Martin to incontinence. Whatever it was, she decided, it must have been intensely traumatic.

 

When Martin completed his narrative, he climbed out of the Nissan and embraced Eden. There, beside a busy motorway, beneath the shade of an old tree, they drew strength from each other. A feeling of urgency suddenly spoiled the atmosphere.

“When we get home, we must phone George immediately,” said Martin. “I hope he doesn’t turn up this morning.”

“He said he’d wait for us to call.”

“Then we must call the moment we get in and tell him to redo the plans.

“What do you have in mind?” Eden wanted to know if Martin had the same idea that had come to her. She wasn’t sure if she had dreamed it, or if she had simply thought of it since waking.

“A complete self-contained flat on the ground floor of the barn,” said Martin. “That way we can leave …” He hesitated, “leave the loft alone!”

 

It was the same idea. The coincidence made Eden uneasy. However, she kept the feeling to herself. Instead, she agreed with Martin.

“It’s a good idea. I’m sure George won’t mind. He thought he might have to make some changes anyway, so it won’t come as a complete surprise”

Martin shot Eden a curious look, but said nothing. He checked the car once more and when he was certain there was nothing wrong, he asked Eden if she’d like to lead or follow. Eden opted to lead. She didn’t really mind which it was, as long as they stayed together.

It was just after ten when the farm gates came into view. Eden was toying with the thought of a cool bath, when she caught sight of a police car, parked next to the barn. As she and Martin parked beside the back door, Adria and Aidan emerged with a detective and a uniformed officer.

 

It was explained that there had been a brawl between one of their stable hands and one of the Shamrock Leaf trainers. There had been a serious fight involving knives and both men had vanished into the night muttering threats. Neither had turned up at their respective places of employment and Adria and Aidan had just assisted the police in searching for their stable hand.

“How is Joanne?” asked Eden. Joanne was the stable hand’s young wife.
“In a state,” replied the detective. “She doesn’t think she’ll ever see her husband again. Well, best be on my way. I’ll check in with the Drurys and conduct a second search there.”

 

Martin and Eden were as baffled as the detective.

“I never thought of Pete as the violent sort,” said Martin. “I’m sure he’ll turn up. Probably sleeping off a skinful.”  Eden said nothing. She was still confused and bothered. And she remembered the day only a couple of months ago when a man she had never thought of as violent, had hit her across the kitchen and left her bleeding on the floor.

 

Adria reappeared a moment later, popping her head around the back door.

“By the way, Eden,” she said, “I let Hine go and keep Joanne company. I didn’t think you’d mind. I’m sure that Pete will turn up soon.”

“No, no, of course I don’t mind,” said Eden quickly. “Good idea.” There was a pressure in her head, which was building into another headache. One look at Martin, told her he was feeling no better.

“Know what I think?” she asked, sitting beside her husband. Martin took her hand but said nothing. “I think we need a bowl of hot chicken soup …” She waited for Martin to smile, which he did. He enjoyed playing Eden’s little games when they were tired or stressed. They always made him feel more relaxed. “Then,” continued Eden, “a lovely bath – I’ll wash your back, you wash mine …”

“Mmm,” he murmured. His breathing was deeper, steadier. “Then we go to bed …” added Eden.

“Mmmmm!” said Martin, more enthusiastically this time.

“To sleep!” exclaimed Eden. Martin pretended to sulk. “Come on,” she said, “let’s go get that soup. I’m bushed.”

 

They had almost finished eating, when the phone rang. It was George. He told Eden that Christo had recovered. He and his team could start back at the barn by the Wednesday after Christmas. When Eden asked if he would mind fitting the apartment into the ground floor of the barn, George was delighted and they agreed to make a fresh start by Thursday. The Nissan, he added, would be fine at Maruaaitu until then.

 
Martin poured the bath, while Eden checked on Giselle. As usual, she was seated by her easel. Giselle looked as frail as Eden suspected she may be.

“Are you all right?” asked Eden. “Adria and Aidan haven’t been worrying you, have they?”

Giselle smiled, an expression at odds with her red-rimmed eyes.

“I’m fine, Eden,” she replied. “I haven’t seen Adria or Aidan since they got back. My eyes?” she asked, sensing Eden’s concern. “Bad dreams – honest. And too much work!”

 

Eden wasn’t convinced. She looked over Giselle’s shoulder at the painting she was doing. My portrait was almost completed. The face was familiar to Eden, someone she thought she might know. I smiled at the thought.

“Who is it?” asked Eden, fascinated.

“My dream husband,” she said, hiding the truth in plain sight.

“Not one of your bad dreams, obviously!”  Giselle simply laughed.

 

Eden suspected Giselle was not being completely open with her. The beautiful, enigmatic woman seated at the easel, was not the same person she had met outside the Dinsdale Post Office in early November. Eden ached to know what had taken Giselle so far from her, yet she did not probe. She knew it would achieve nothing.

“I’ll bring you some food,” she said, taking refuge in practicalities. “Then Martin and I are going to get some sleep. I didn’t think you’d want to eat alone with Adria and Aidan.” She turned to go.

 

“Won’t you tell me what happened yesterday?” asked Giselle. Eden caught the anxiety in Giselle’s voice. She didn’t know what to say without adding to her concerns.

“Neither Martin nor I remember much,” she admitted finally.

“You had trouble with Chadwick Ross, didn’t you?” she asked. Eden gaped at the young woman, but before she could say anything, Giselle continued “You once told me to share my burdens before they became unbearable, Eden. Now you look as though you need do the sharing.”

“How did you know about Chad?” asked Eden.

“I overheard you and Martin talking the other day. Chad doesn’t seem to be – nice!” she concluded in a mastery of understatement.

“He’s not,” responded Eden. “You’re right – we think it was Chad. I only got it second-hand,” she said, shuddering, “Martin went to Chad’s house. And we honestly don’t remember much. Everything seems confused – confusing!” she corrected. “I think we both need sleep.” She went to the door.

“Eden,” called Giselle softly, “give Martin my love. Tell him I understand. Will you do that?”

“Yes, of course,” replied Eden.

“I love you too, you know that, don’t you?” continued Giselle.

“”And I you,” murmured Eden, as she closed the door.

 

On the landing, she wept. She hated crying. After her first husband’s death, she had sobbed uncontrollably, until the kibbutz doctor sedated her. Now every time she felt the approach of tears, she fought them off. When she regained control, she wiped her face on her sleeve and went to get Giselle some food and then to check how Martin was doing with the bath.

Adria watched Eden disappear into her room. She closed the door and turned to Aidan, who was lying on her bed.

“I don’t know what Chad did to those two,” she said, “but he made a good job of it. That is the first time I have ever seen Eden cry.

“Chad always does a good job,” responded Aidan. “That’s what worries me. Adria sat beside him.

“Are you sure we should go on with this?” he asked.

“I’m sure,” she replied. “We’ve been taught to think for ourselves. That is what we are doing. We’re going to remove Giselle Clements from our lives. She’s a problem. We remove the problem. Simple!” “You win,” he conceded, “but in the meantime, we need to get a little sleep.”

“You’re right. I am officially over everything  right now.”

“Let’s go to my room,” said Aidan. “You always sleep better up there.”

They climbed to the attic and locked the door. The house grew as silent as a tomb.

 

 Chapter ends.

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

Collision 2

 

Dogged, deadly

It comes – the final drive

Grill-chromed gleam of design

Headlight-beam of purpose.

And on it comes.

The alley walls permit no turn

to left or right

Head on.

 

The demon engine grinds

Its mindless motion forward

Obscenely fast.

They scream

Grasp the wheel

To drive into the dark.

 I had just returned and crossed to the easel, where Giselle was sitting quietly. I looked at my portrait, now completed and took Giselle’s hands. It was, beyond doubt, her finest work. It helped to lessen the horror that was weighing me down.

Giselle stood and we embraced.

“So you have forgiven me,” I whispered. “I could not know for certain until I saw the character in the face, over which you’ve laboured for so many hours. This is a work of love.”

 

Giselle gazed into my eyes.

“What did you expect to find there, my beloved? I love you completely and utterly. There is nothing to forgive.”

“You know to what I refer,” I murmured. I had not enjoyed teaching Giselle about her father. And there was worse to come.

“You warned me that I would have to know one day. You judged the time was right and it was.” Her eyes reflected complete trust.

“It caused you such pain,” I replied.

“Pain does not last,” she responded. Hearing my own words made me smile. “And it has made everything so much easier to understand,” she continued. “I had to know.”

 

 In the dim light of the early evening I took my time undressing her. As I moved to undo the fastenings on my own shirt, she stopped me again. This time she was smiling.

“Let me,” she whispered. “I want to undress my husband.”  She needed to uncover my body for herself. Until she did, she would always harbour some doubt, some niggling fear that this was all merely an elaborate hallucination.

 

I dropped my hands and stood passively as Giselle struggled with the fastenings of my shirt and breeches. My stockings and boots already lying by the smoking chair. Standing together, equal in our nakedness, we shared the gentlest and most intimate caresses. Yet Giselle could not relax.

“What troubles you now, my darling wife?” I asked.

 

She took my hands and led me to the bed.

“I want you to make love to me, Oliver,” she replied, “and I want to know it won’t be for the last time.”

Taking her in my arms, I kissed her with a passion. She would know this was not something I intended giving up.

 

It was completely dark, when we lay bathed in the afterglow of our love.

“I don’t ever want to lose you, Oliver,” she murmured. Only the faintest light came through the open window. She ran her hand over the smooth skin of my chest, marvelling at the muscle defined between each rib. “I will never part with you.”

 

So finally, I had to tell her the truth that haunted our unnatural union.

“Death, my darling, by any means, other than your own hand, will take you from me, from this place, forever.” My words filled me with dread.

“I could not bear it that, Oliver. I love you more than life itself,” she stated quietly, yet defiantly.

 

“Do you?” I asked, my voice a mere whisper. The words caused me such pain, I dropped into thought-speak. “You fear to lose me. Do you not think I feel the same way? I am deeply afraid.”

“But why?” Giselle propped herself up on one elbow and looked into my eyes. She saw something sparkle on my cheek. Touching my cheek, she discovered I was weeping.

My tears filled Giselle with such dread, she could not breath.

 

“Dear God,” she gasped, “Oliver, what is it?”

I pulled her to me.

“Tonight, Adria and Aidan will perform a summoning. They will offer their blood to their master in exchange for the release of a demon of death – when summoned, they will then direct it towards you. They offer their blood in exchange for your life.” Giselle began to tremble, as the significance of my words sank in. “That,” I added, “is why I am so afraid.”

 

 

Martin sat up in bed. He was feeling much better. His headache had eased and his stomach was grumbling. The aroma of food assailed his nostrils. Hine had prepared supper. Joanne no longer needed her.

 

Pete had turned up at the Drury farm, sharing the bed with his new best drinking buddy. Horribly hung over, the married man had been returned to Joanne, who welcomed him home joyfully and then refused to speak to him when she found out where he’d been. Pete knew he had a great deal of courting to do before he could expect things to return to normal with his wife.

 

Martin glanced at his sleeping wife and decided to let her rest. The injection the doctor had given her had been potent and would affect her for some time yet. He pulled on a clean t-shirt, his favourite jeans, and went out onto the landing. He glanced at Adria’s door. A bitterness tinged with fear dismayed him. Where were his children, he wondered? To tell them the loft was safe was something he had to do. He hoped Adria and Aidan were in the kitchen. – He certainly wouldn’t go into their rooms.

Adria and Aidan were eating dinner when Martin entered the kitchen. He felt there was something he should say about the Auckland incident, but he couldn’t remember what it was.

 

They looked up from their plates and smiled at him. Hine shot him a look of devotion and relief, before giving him a plate piled high with roast beef and vegetables. Martin ate several mouthfuls of dinner before speaking.

“Eden and I have spoken to George Yiakmis, the architect, about the plans for your flat. We’ve told him to leave the loft alone.”
Adria smirked at her brother. Martin continued.

“You will still have your own flat – it’ll be smaller, of course, not having the loft space. But we think the ground floor of the barn is ample room to make you comfortable and self-contained.”

Aidan threw his sister a warning glance, as she choked on a mouthful of food.

“No arguments, Adria,” said Martin firmly. “Giselle needs the attic studio – it’s wasted as a bedroom anyway. And you need your privacy, as you have so often said. Eden agrees,” he added as an afterthought.

 

Adria and Aidan continued their meal in silence, excused themselves and went out to the loft. As they left, Martin relaxed and began to enjoy his food, feeling a huge weight had been taken from his shoulders. After dinner, Martin went to his study. Sleep was out of the question, so he decided to catch up on some long-postponed accounting. Unlocking the top drawer of his desk, he pulled out enough work to last the night. He booted up his laptop and was soon hard at work.

 

“We can’t!” exclaimed Adria.

“Chad handles it,” responded Aidan quietly.

“Chad!” Adria fumed, “as you so loudly pointed out, is a Magus. Living and practicing in the same building is fine for him. You’ve seen his power – that’s where we might be in twenty years if we work hard.”

“I still say we can handle it.” Aidan was not happy with his sister’s mood. Then he smiled. “Tell you what, you trust me that we can live and practice in the same place and I’ll trust you that we can handle the summoning.” Do we have a deal?”

“I thought you were going along with the summoning anyway?” pouted Adria.

“Well, I withdraw the offer unless you agree to trust me!” Adria punched him on the arm.

“What?” asked Aidan, rubbing his arm.

“That was just me agreeing. If we can handle a summoning, we can handle living and practicing in the same place. “

“Okay then – we have a deal.”

Aidan sighed.

“We have a lot to do,” he murmured. “Let’s change and get started.”

Adria watched her brother pull a black robe over his clothes. Their closeness was no accident. Chad engineered the whole thing, bonding them when at the ages of twelve and thirteen, other siblings were squabbling and competing. Very useful their ritual bonding had proved to be. Never had either let the other down. Through crisis after crisis, they had supported each other and when necessary, covered for each other. They linked their individual talents into a power which was formidable and grew with each crisis they overcame.

Giselle was deeply distressed. I had promised to return to her, after checking on Adria and Aidan. She felt I’d been gone for hours when in fact, she was alone for less than ten minutes. While I was away, she dressed in her black jeans, the black embroidered shirt she had made and sat beside her easel.

 

When I returned, Giselle clung to me. I let my presence comfort her before speaking.

“They are preparing to begin their summoning,” I said finally. Giselle remained wrapped in my arms. “They plan your death.” I stated a simple fact. “If I could stop them I would have stopped them the night they took you to the loft.”

 

I stopped and allowed Giselle’s thoughts to absorb what I was saying. “It must be will against will,” she said suddenly understanding. “They are two and you are but one.”

“I know what I must do,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper, “but what if I never see you again?”

“If their master accepts their blood, it is certain we shall be parted. You would die at Adria and Aidan’s behest, not of your own free will. The will and purpose of the individual are everything. That is why I am here. I willed my own death and I had a purpose in the curse I inflicted on my family. I chose to remain.”

 

Every word I spoke confirmed the inevitability of the path Giselle knew she must follow.

“Something I don’t understand,” she murmured, moving to the bed and sitting down. I followed her. “If they have such power, how can we stop them?”

“There is a flaw in their knowledge,” I explained, “a blind spot. They draw on a source of power they do not completely understand. They talk about their master but what it comes down to is that they believe they are the ones with the power. They tap power from a source they do not, in faith, accept. They refuse to acknowledge that evil is very real and exists as surely as I do. They regard their uncle as the source of all the extraordinary things they have experienced. They are wrong.”

 

“I’m confused. You and their real master belong to the same ‘sphere of existence’?”

“Only in so far as we occupy realms beyond the boundaries of physical science, at its present level of knowledge. There is much science has yet to learn, my love.”

She sat silently, accepting my words like a balm which healed her fear. “Adria and Aidan do not know of my world. They have learned many forbidden things, yet ignorance creates a weakness in them.”

 

A pattern of thought swirled in Giselle’s mind, as she accepted what she would do.

“I have no choice,” she said quietly. I took her hands, my heart heavy.

“There is always a choice,” I replied. Giselle shook her head.

“You are my husband, Oliver. I am your wife. I will not let them tear us apart. I make that choice.” I was surprised by her calm determination and it was then I understood her love for me was as unassailable as mine was for her. “Just hold me for a while,” she added, in a whisper.

 

I took her in my arms and held her, sensing her frail humanity, how very close our relationship had already brought her to my world.

“I won’t let them win, Oliver,” she murmured. “I won’t let them separate us.”

 

She let me hold her, as her purpose expanded. Accompanying her love for me, a hatred for Adria and Aidan grew from the tiny seed it had been, to a huge overwhelming vine which strangled every trace of compassion or consideration she had ever felt for them. I felt the dark grow in her and it stunned me. For the first time in my long existence, I witnessed the equal of my feelings for Reginald Hunter.

 

I allowed my thoughts to drift back to the night I had allowed my hatred forever to exclude Rachel and our child from my existence. Memories washed over me, as the present took its own course. Giselle walked over to the tallboy and gazed at herself in the mirror. She brushed her hair thoroughly and then opened her art satchel. From it, she extracted the ivory-handled carving knife, which she brought over to the bed. She fetched a wicker chair from the other side of the room and placed it next to my smoking chair.

 

As she sat, she looked at me. Her thoughts were very clear as I sat next to her. My presence by her side was all she needed. The thought of the fear the normal human being has of death made her smile. Not many people approached the moment of death with the knowledge she had of what to expect.

 

Looking down at her wrists, she realized her sleeves were too long and rolled the sleeves to her elbows, leaving her soft white wrists exposed. The trick, as I had explained, was to cut deeply and quickly without hesitation. She picked up the knife, leaned forward and did what she chosen to do, opening first her right wrist and then her left. The pain made her want to cry out. Instead, she looked down and distracted herself by watching the flow of blood. Then she looked into my eyes and murmured,

“Forgive me, dear Oliver, I am not suffering the pain you did.”

 

It was true. She had gone numb, with astonishing rapidity. She could no longer support the knife and it fell to the carpet. Her thoughts drifted. She could move no longer, her body fighting to live on less and less oxygen. I continued to sit beside her, tears flowing down my cheeks. From the day she arrived at Maruaaitu, I had known this would happen. And yet I suffered all the agonies of hell.

 

I turned my own marred wrists up and gazed at them. The scars opened and red fluid seeped from them, dripping on the carpet beneath our chairs. It blended with the blood which flowed from my beloved. Then it began. As Giselle approached the moment of transition, I felt our purpose grip her mind and she began to fight. She would remain. She would destroy Adria and Aidan. Of that there could be no doubt whatsoever. Her will was iron-strong. The dark called to her. It would not be long now.

Below us, Martin leaned back, rubbed his eyes and looked at the clock. It was almost quarter to eleven. He had been working for three hours without a break. The pile of completed work beside him was evidence of his labour. About to get up and make for the kitchen, he felt something drip onto his neck. He raised his head and was splashed in the face.  Moving back from his desk, he wiped his wet cheek. When he looked at his hand, it was smeared with blood.

 

He looked up in horror and discovered a stain darkening his ceiling. Vivid red drops fell from it onto the papers below.

“No,” he said, “oh no! No, no, no! His voice went up in pitch, until he was screaming. He pushed his chair away, knocking it over.

 

Clear of the furniture, he broke into a run. He took the stairs three at a time and burst into the Blue Room, but he was too late. The moment of Martin’s greatest agony, coincided with my greatest joy. I had moved to the window and was holding my hands out to the figure pulling itself clear of its mortal remains.

 

Martin almost saw the separation. I had to shield Giselle myself, as she came towards me, her eyes wide with wonder. It was only Martin’s scream of anguish that turned her from me. Together we watched, as Martin crouched beside the wicker chair, kneeling in our fluids, searching for some sign of life. But there was nothing. The shell that had been Giselle was pulled from the chair into Martin’s arms. His wailing filled the house.

Eden woke from sleep to a sound which ripped her consciousness raw. She could hear Martin’s screams. As she struggled out of bed and into her robe, she realized he was in the Blue Room. She rushed onto the landing where the wailing scream was much louder. She found Martin kneeling beside the wicker chair, clasping Giselle’s mortal body to his chest. It was so white, Eden knew it was dead. She also knew she had to snap Martin out of his mounting hysteria.

 

He was covered in blood, his hands, face and clothing smeared and stained. When Eden reached his side, she kicked the carving knife away and was nauseated to feel the toe of her slipper saturate with blood. She grasped Martin by the shoulders and shook him hard. The movement dislodged one of the body’s arms. It flopped out, revealing a gaping wound at the wrist.

 

Eden knew her sanity, at that moment, depended on her getting through to Martin. She called his name loudly. He choked off mid-wail, gagged and fell silent. Through tear-misted eyes, he stared at the body in his arms.

“She’s dead,” he whispered, as though afraid the corpse might hear him.

 

Never had Eden felt so inadequate. Action had always been her response to stress and it was her answer now. She took the body from Martin and carried it to the bed. After carefully arranging it on the crumpled duvet, she fetched a sheet from the tallboy and covered it completely. Heavy footsteps echoed on the wooden stairs. Adria and Aidan, who had been busy with preparations in the loft, had heard the screaming. A sense of something wrong, something outside their plans, was unavoidable.

 

Without a word, they left their robes in the loft and were now standing staring at their blood-stained father. Giselle and I stood near the easel and watched them. Giselle had already picked up the ability to shield her new form from human view. I could not fight off a feeling of triumph as I looked at their bewildered faces.

“What the hell happened?” asked Adria.

Eden was still standing by the sheet-covered corpse.

“Giselle is dead.” she said simply. “She cut her wrists.”

Adria and Aidan exchanged glances.

“It’s over then,” declared Adria.

Martin struggled from the floor and turned to face his daughter, livid with naked rage.

“She’s dead, Adria,” he croaked, his voice scream-strained. “My precious little girl is dead.” His words rattled into silence, the pain so great, he could no longer speak.

 

Adria had the presence of mind to get out of the way, as Martin headed for the door. It was clear he would have knocked her aside if she hadn’t. Adria turned to her step-mother, but was puzzled into silence by the strange look on Eden’s face.

Eden had, at last, recognized the truth. Martin’s fierce brooding love, the jealousy, the secrecy, even the batwing birthmark. Little wonder Martin had been so intense. She felt no disgust, no trace of anger, just deep overwhelming pity. Everything seemed so clear. Not so to Adria.

 

“All this bloody fuss,” she hissed. “Hell, she’s only been here just over two months. You’d think she was his daughter, not me.”

“You both are,” said Eden quietly.

“What are you talking about?” snapped Adria.

“Giselle was Martin’s daughter, you insensitive little bitch!” Anger flared in Eden’s eyes, overriding her grief. “Now I’d like you to leave. I have to phone the doctor and the police.” She walked to the door and forced her step-children onto the landing, before shutting the door to the Blue Room. “Just clear out,” she added, “go to that infernal loft of yours. I don’t care what you do, as long as you stay out of my sight.”

 

As Eden sat down to make her phone calls, she listened to Adria and Aidan retreat down the stairs and through the back door.

“Do your worst,” she muttered grimly to the abstract goat-horns of the lead-light. Still gazing upward, she grabbed the phone book and threw it with all her strength straight through the window. “She’s beyond you now.” Unbidden, another thought appended itself to the muttered words. ‘So are we all.” And the thought gave Eden hope. Although she did not know it, that hope stemmed from the fact that she had just destroyed one of Adria and Aidan’s most potent protections.

It was almost two in the morning when the mortuary ambulance left with Giselle’s mortal remains. Eden said goodbye to the deeply sympathetic police officer and returned to the kitchen where Doctor Rodney was sitting with a mug of brandy-laced coffee.

Giselle’s death had shaken him. He felt he was in some way, to blame.

 

Eden was startled to see how old and grey he looked. The strain of certifying the death had been compounded by having to sedate Martin. He had broken down again, after answering the questions put to him by the policeman. Eden sat opposite the doctor, holding her coffee mug. For a while, each was lost in thought. Then, as though it was something he could no longer keep to himself, Doctor Rodney spoke.

“There  … there was too much blood.”

 

Eden’s eyes widened, as she recalled the wet sensation on her toes, when she kicked the knife away. The doctor spoke again, talking quickly. “There is only so much blood in the human body, Leah. Only so much! And she was a wee little thing. There was enough blood in that carpet for two people – not just one.” Eden reached across the table and patted the doctor’s hand. She said nothing, keeping her feelings tightly reined in. She felt a need to grieve, but also, she understood how important it was to remain in control.

 

Doctor Rodney finished his coffee and buoyed up on the brandy managed a quiet, sensible farewell. Alone, Eden’s thoughts returned to the drugged man upstairs. Questions raced through her mind, none of which, she wanted answered. However, she knew, for the sake of Martin’s sanity, she would learn the answers. Martin would need to talk and she would listen. One surety remained to Eden. She married Martin because she loved him, regardless of his past. She was prepared for what the future might hold. She had to be. At the door to the bedroom where Martin lay, she paused, took a deep breath and went in.

“No wonder – no bloody wonder everything we did went wrong. Can you believe it?” Adria was absolutely beside herself. She had, to Aidan’s surprise, donned her robe again and prepared to resume the ritual, the purpose of which, Aidan supposed, had been foiled by Giselle’s suicide.

 

“What are you doing?” he asked. She spun around her black eyes flaring like a threat of hell in the heavy light of the red candles.

“Do you think I’m going to let Eden get away with the way she spoke to me? And we can add Martin – dear innocent, naive Martin.” Her lip curled with contempt. “Definitely our physical father.” Aidan knew what she meant. They had clearly inherited much from Martin. Aidan would continue to help his sister and she knew it.

 

They still had almost four hours in which to use their ‘power’ and use it they would.

Two well-trained practioners of the blackest of magicks approached their altar table. There was a knife beside a wooden bowl flanked by red candles. Adria unbound the black cloth from around her left wrist, took up the knife and held her wrist over the bowl.

“At least when we cut into a wrist, we know what to do with the blood and how not to kill ourselves in the process.” She laughed as a good flow of blood drained into the bowl.  She handed the knife to Aidan, who replicated his sister’s actions. When there was enough blood in the bowl, the teenagers bound each other’s left wrists tightly. 

 

Aidan reached under the table and lifted a corked bottle which he handed to his sister. She poured a thick oil from the bottle into the blood and then ignited the mixed contents with one of the candles Deep chanting filled the loft as they repeated word for word, the ritual they had witnessed all those years ago. And something awakened. Once summoned from its prison, it would not willingly return without being satisfied.

 

Eden tiptoed into the room and glanced at the bed. Martin was lying with his back to the door. The medication seemed to be working. She had just turned on the light in the bathroom, when a soft whisper from the bed, froze her in her tracks.

She turned back to the bedroom and saw that Martin’s eyes were open. Dim light was reflected in the moisture on his face. He had been crying, his body and mind too outraged to allow healing sleep to work its cure.

 

“Eden,” he whispered. She sat beside Martin and touched his face. He took her hand so hesitantly, so gently, Eden was overwhelmed with sadness.

“You know, don’t you?” Martin whispered. Eden realized that he was not whispering by choice. He had strained his vocal chords so badly; he had no vocal tone left.

“I know that Giselle was your daughter, yes,” responded Eden.

“And you don’t hate me?” Eden shook her head.

“I’ve been…” Martin struggled to find the right words, “so ashamed for so long.”

 

Eden remained silent. She didn’t need to speak. “I should have known better,” Martin continued. “I was only sixteen when our mother and father died in a car accident. Lloyd, Miriam and me remained on the farm and old John Drury, Ron’s father, moved in with us to act as guardian until my twenty-first birthday. Lloyd was only twelve, Miriam fifteen. Eden, she was such a beautiful little thing. Yet, she had a way with the biggest horses. They loved her.”

 

He was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, he was trembling. “She was the most precious thing in my life and I worshipped her. She had trouble at school because she was gifted and got bored so easily. So, I asked Granddad Drury to hire a South African lecturer, who was out here on sabbatical, using his horse training experience. He became Miri’s tutor during the last months of her Year 11. He was brilliant and got on really well with her. He could challenge her mentally, like no-one else she’d ever met.”

“Giselle’s gay ‘father’?” said Eden softly.

“Yes,” replied Martin. “That’s why I trusted him so completely. He was quite open about his homosexuality – even told me about his partner. They wanted a little time apart. It was a test of their commitment to each other.”

Martin paused in his narration, gathering strength.

“You don’t have to go on, you know,” said Eden.

“I want to, Eden,” he responded. “You must know.”

 

Eden nodded. Martin was right. She knew some of his story, but if anything was left unsaid, it would hang over their heads like a storm cloud, always threatening to break. The air had to be clear between them, before she could tell him her news.

 

“I promised Miri I’d decorate her room for her birthday – she used to have the Blue Room and moaned it was too old-fashioned for her. So one day, just before her sixteenth birthday, I got in a decorator. We took all the old heirloom furniture down to the storerooms and I let the decorator loose. Money wasn’t a problem. Granddad Drury let me use Dad’s money as I saw fit. He knew I wasn’t stupid even though I was only seventeen myself. He let me send Miri to a friend’s house for the time the decorator was in, so it would be a surprise.

 

When she returned on her birthday, she had a small party with some friends. Granddad Drury was at Shamrock Leaf. Lloyd was at a friend’s house wanting to avoid ‘girly’ stuff. By four o’clock, her friends left and I took her upstairs to let her discover the room. She was thrilled.”

 

Eden knew what was coming and could feel Martin’s struggle. He cleared his throat painfully and continued in a harsh whisper.

 

“She came over and kissed me. She … she had this little mini-skirt on and when she pressed herself against me, I discovered my little sister was a woman. I kissed her back. We were teenagers rampant with hormones and alone in the house together. I couldn’t stop and neither could she. And that’s the end of it. Just that one terrible mistake. Six weeks later, just after her final school exams, she found out she was pregnant.

 

The next day I came back to the house for dinner and found her with Xavier. She was sitting on the floor, with her head in his lap. She told him about what had happened that terrible afternoon. She’d told him she was pregnant. I wanted to kill the man. But when he looked at me, I saw something I hadn’t expected. I saw understanding. I think he actually felt sorry for us.

 

He signalled me to go to my room – the room Adria has now. I think Miri was scared he would hurt me but she needn’t have worried. Xavier didn’t lecture me. He told me that he couldn’t leave Miri with me because he really cared about her. He said he would take her with him, as far away from me as possible. He told me to stay in my room until he had left with her. I did as he had requested.

 

He had explained that he and his partner owned a beautiful house in Houghton in Johannesburg and he wanted to take Miri there, marry her to give the child a name and look after her the way a brother should, not the way I had done. I could not refuse.

He told me what to say to Granddad Drury too – blackening his own name, not mine. I had to tell the old man that Xavier and Miri had been deeply attracted to each other and that in the weeks after her birthday Xavier could not hold back any longer and Miri had fallen pregnant. He was taking her to South Africa so their child could be born in the father’s homeland and that he would always love and honour her. He was true to his word.

 

He married Miri. His partner gave her away – stood in as her father! She was given her own self-contained apartment at the top of the house, where she brought Giselle up, wanting for nothing. Xavier and Bob lived downstairs.

 

As Miriam grew older, she realised the enormity of what we had done. She never wrote to me, never contacted once in eighteen years. Who can blame her? Xavier wrote though. Every year at Christmas, he would send me a long letter, describing my daughter’s progress and telling me how Miri was faring. The only thing that came as a shock was finding out Giselle knew Xavier was gay. I’m sure he hadn’t told her. Last year he wrote that he was planning to – I mean, it couldn’t be kept a secret forever.

 

Lloyd was so shattered by Miri’s sudden departure, his epilepsy got much worse. Five months later, he died after fitting when he was out riding. He was a month away from his thirteenth birthday.” Martin took a deep breath, the worst over.

 

His throat was raw. Eden made him drink a little water before he went on.

“Later, years after Miri had left I was engaged to a sweet girl by the name of Shelley Ross. I dropped her, and to this day, I don’t think she has the faintest idea why. She was such a ‘good’ girl. It used to amuse me when she refused to talk to me about her cousins. They were evil, she said – responsible for their parent’s death. Their reputations were so bad I didn’t think anyone could live up to them.

 

I felt so ‘bad’ myself I got hold of the cousin’s phone number and made a date with the sister. I told her I was sick of her cousin’s ‘goody-two-shoes’ attitude and wanted some real fun. That appealed to Lilith. After a meal and a movie, I brought her back here, intent on raping her. I think I wanted to do something that would result in my being punished.

 

It didn’t work out as I’d planned, Edy.” Martin hesitated, as though afraid of what he wanted to say next. “I’d never been violent with a woman before and I’ve never since been as violent as I was that night – the night Adria was conceived. And Lilith enjoyed it. She was like a wild animal. And, God forgive me, two months later we were married in a registry office. Seven months later, Adria was born and nine months after that, Aidan. The rest you know.”

 

Martin looked up at Eden and she was alarmed to see how exhausted he looked. A drop of moisture trailed down his cheek.

“Oh God, Edy,” he whispered hoarsely, “Please don’t leave me.”

Eden bent forward and kissed Martin on the forehead.

“How could I?” she asked. “I love you and I can’t see that changing.”

 

She was about to continue, when she noticed Martin’s breathing had changed. He has fallen asleep. It was as though sharing his past, so long hidden in shame, had rid his body of a poison. Eden decided she could tell him her secret tomorrow. She went through to the bathroom, washed herself down and slipped on a cotton nightshirt. But, when she slipped into bed beside her sleeping husband, she felt wide awake.

 

She picked up a volume of ‘The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant,’ a massive fantasy she had begun on Giselle’s recommendation. Her step-father had used it as an advanced text in his Gothic Literature course for post-graduates. She opened to the chapter in the fourth book, where Linden described how she had killed her mother. Thank God for fantasy, thought Eden bleakly. At least it serves as a reminder that things could always be a lot worse.

Eden looked up from her reading. She wondered what had happened to the pleasant breeze that had been cooling the room. Eden eased out of bed and crossed to the open window. She looked out hoping to see a life-giving storm about to break. But instead of the dark grey sky backlit, by the moon, an impenetrable black shroud lay over Maruaaitu. A rotten-corpse stench bit the back of Eden’s throat, causing her to gag. She reeled under a feeling of being watched, a feeling that Death wanted more than Giselle’s meagre offering that night.

 

Eden slammed the window shut and raced for the bathroom where she vomited. When the spasms passed, she rinsed the bitterness from her mouth and splashed cold water on her face and neck. As she dried herself, she sensed Giselle and I. We did not want to add to her distress.

 

Suddenly, she felt as though she had been anaesthetized and barely made it back to the bed. She was asleep before her head touched the pillows. I rested my hand Eden’s forehead.

“She’ll sleep soundly now,” I said to Giselle, who switched off the bedside light. Our eyes, which need no light to see, met and held. Giselle spoke her doubts.

“It bothers me,” she said, “that the human mind is so …”

“So easily led?” I completed her thought. “You must not believe that for a moment. Many parts of the mind are sealed. Death is like a key to the dungeon where those sealed parts are kept prisoner during one’s life.”

“Yes,” said Giselle, recalling her own recent release. She smiled, despite her apprehension.

“Are you ready?” I asked rhetorically “We can delay no longer. You rouse Hine. I would frighten her.” In their bed, Martin and Eden lay oblivious to their surroundings. In the loft Adria and Aidan reached the climax of their summoning.

There was no graceful weaving of the flames that pierced the air above the bowl. They were the teeth of a mythological beast awaiting its prey. The heat and odour in the loft were overwhelming but neither Adria nor Aidan seemed to notice. They stood behind their table, their altar, hands linked around the bowl, opposing arms outstretched.

 

Adria and Aidan stepped back, their chanting flawless, their concentration absolute. The air crackled with power as the flames rose above the bowl. They turned towards the farmhouse to direct the summoning to two lives presently cloaked in healing sleep. Suddenly, the flames shrunk back towards the bowl. A dark light replaced the flames. We had timed our arrival perfectly.

 

We unshielded ten feet away from the pair. I began to walk towards Adria and Aidan, stopping only when I reached the table. The teenagers were stunned. Aidan was the first to react.

“Who the bloody hell are you and how did you get …” he began. I did not allow him to continue. Rage drove my words from me like verbal daggers.

“I’m the ‘black sheep’ – the one who drove my pregnant fiancé to the abortionist, remember?” I used my vocal power to its limits. Adria withered under the assault.

 

“Get rid of him, Aidan,” she pleaded, “Get rid of him!” As Aidan moved, he saw the dark flaming orb no longer under control, begin to eat at the wood of the loft wall, next to which it hung.

“Addy – the summoning has worked – control it!” he shouted. Adria tore her eyes from me, as she saw their danger. She picked up the chant but the flames, the deadly dark flames licking at the loft walls were mine and she was powerless.

 

When Aidan blinked, Giselle and I changed places. His urge to rejoin his sister was forgotten.

“Did you think you’d seen the last of me when the ambulance left?” Giselle asked. She too, was using considerable vocal power. Aidan had never known such fear. He didn’t know if it was the cold air of our anger, the deadly dark flames or the presence of Giselle herself which frightened him most.

“So you weren’t dead,” he shouted, rationalising what he could not understand. He made a lunge for her. He had time to register her disappearance, before he hit the floor with a thump. He cried out in pain, as he cut his hand on the exposed metal of the pipe he had resealed the previous night.

 

He rolled over and as he looked up, saw Giselle standing over him. If he moved his right hand, he would be able to grasp her leg. Giselle held out her hand. As Aidan stared at the wrist above him, he saw the wound. His volition abandoned him, when he realized what Giselle was doing. She opened the wound on her wrist and Aidan watched helplessly, as what appeared to be blood, oozed in slow motion towards his face.

 

But the substance that fuels our preternatural bodies is not blood. It is a self-sustaining substance, which we can use at will; this was what Giselle was doing now, as I had done when Giselle was dying.  The cold, cloying ooze that struck Aidan in the face was the essence of Giselle’s loathing. It burned Aidan’s cheek like acid. He squeezed his eyes shut and screamed.

 

I was insuring Adria would do no better. As she tried to resume her chanting, she thought she sensed Aidan beside her once more. But it was not Aidan. I stood by her side and she felt my presence in her mind, as surely as she’d ever felt Chad’s.

“It is possible, Adria,” I said, denying her unspoken hope. It was the most profoundly disturbing thing she had ever experienced. She backed into the wall flinching.

 

“Get away from me!” she shouted. I stepped closer, an arm span away. I lifted my left wrist, and as Giselle had done before me, opened the scar into a gaping wound. I held it inches from her face. Loathing burned through me, as I spoke to her mind and her body.

“You have lived a life of blood,” I said. “You and your brother have dealt in the substance of life so often I am amazed that you are afraid.” I moved even closer.

“The warm, rich river of life,” I intoned, “You have shed it, you have burned it, and you used it to seal this hell-hole against intrusion – an effort, which was in vain, as you can see.”  I held my oozing wrist an inch from her mouth. “Is blood sweet?” I asked as I pushed into her mind. For the first time, she knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of a coercive assault.

 

“No,” she whimpered, “Please, no!”

 I was too strong for her. She could not stop herself. Her lips touched the cold bitterness of my fluids, frightening her more than the possibility of my being who I said I was. She flung her hands up and screamed in despair.

 

Giselle and I had won. My dark flames began their task. All the cursed teens’ protections had failed them. Deep dark-red tongues licked at the wooden walls, the floor, in every part of the loft. Within seconds, the loft was an inferno.

As Giselle and I withdrew, Aidan pulled himself up off the floor and saw Adria slumped across the table. He rushed to her.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” he shouted. Adria did not respond. He pulled her to her feet and shook her roughly. “The trapdoor!” he repeated loudly.

 

They were a few feet from the bolt in the floor, when a gigantic form shot upwards from the trapdoor itself; a fuliginous-black form, which towered over the terrified brother and sister: so black, it seemed a hole into a vacuum, rather than a solid figure. It was vaguely human in shape, immensely muscled. It radiated vast powers which reflected in a pair of coruscating red eyes, above a wide, fanged maw.

 

Bending forward, it picked Adria and Aidan off the floor. At its touch, they too burst into flame, the bright red flame of hell. The demon summoned to take two lives bore its screaming, burning burdens before it like prizes. And then it vanished.

In West Auckland, Chadwick Ross sat up in bed. His ice-blue eyes stared out into the dark. He sat immobile and then lay back with a groan.

“I warned you,” he said out loud, “but you wouldn’t listen. You fools – stupid, stupid fools. Your final test and you fail me.” His mind dealt with the sense of loss, a fleeting touch of grief.

 

And then he sat again. He started to think about replacements. A flat smile creased the corners of his mouth. Ralph was his already. He would do nicely. Then there was Claire. She wasn’t as bright as he would like, but she had a fine evil mind and that was a good start. Her mother was a drawback, of course. He smiled again. He’d invite Mrs. Harris to dinner. She was a nice- looking woman. No, she wouldn’t be a problem for long. He felt a glow of anticipation and the thoughts faded from our contact. The last words heard were,

“I do so like a challenge.”

 

 

 

In the silence of the Blue Room, Giselle looked at me in disbelief. I had shown her how to link in to thought patterns regardless of the distance.

“I did tell you what he was like.” I said. Giselle shook her head. She did not focus on Chadwick Ross for long.

“Shall we go?” she asked. There was another task ahead. This one we hoped would be more pleasant. It would not take long and Giselle was anxious to experience distance travel in her new form. We rose into the air, and left the farm for a short while. Above the remains of the burnt-out barn, the stars twinkled brightly in the clear sky

 

 

Caesura Seven.

We watched from the far side of the Intensive Care ward.

“Nurse, will you calm down!” Young Drury seems to be making remarkable progress. So why are you kicking up all this fuss?”

He glanced at the young farmer lying in the bed. Not progress, he thought, a bloody miracle. Then he saw the distress on the nurse’s face. He relented.

“Come and sit down and let’s start again.” He took the nurse’s arm and led her to the observation room. Giselle and I were pleased we had been permitted to help in Phil Drury’s healing. Now we knew we could do positive things as well. After our previous dealings this awful night, it was satisfying to know that there was good as well as evil, anger and hatred in the world.

 

“It started about ten minutes ago,” she began nervously, chewing a fingernail. “I suppose I was a bit dozy, but the monitor sounded stronger – much stronger. I thought I must be imagining things, but when I checked Mr. Drury’s readings, there was no doubt. The heart rate was stronger and slower and the EEG was showing incredible activity.” She took a deep breath and chewed another nail. “I went to check him and two people were standing beside his bed. At two forty-five in the morning! I was furious and went to chase them out. I just got into the room when the man looked up at me and I couldn’t move. Then they weren’t there.”

 

“Nurse,” said the doctor dryly, “you’re not making sense. What exactly do you mean – did they rush out past you?”

“No – the man looked at me and I couldn’t move. Then the two of them vanished, like I’d just imagined the whole thing. But I hadn’t. I couldn’t move for a couple of minutes and Mr. Drury looked like he was talking to someone like he could still see them but I couldn’t.”

“My dear girl,” said the doctor, “you are right when you say you probably imagined it”

 

She hadn’t, of course. I wished we could help her, but there were other matters to which we were bound. Then the nurse pointed out that she wasn’t imagining the change in Phil Drury’s condition. To this, the doctor had no answer.

He stood and went into Phil’s cubicle.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Sore,” said Phil, “and tired.”

As we left, we heard Phil add, “I’m going to be all right, doctor.” And then he slept.

Chapter Ends.

Chapter Eighteen

 

Cleansing.

 

So much has died

As dark deeds pass

In shame, in pain

Which does not last

A healing comes

When death is called

Corrupting power

Finally stalled

And new life starts

As watchers spark.

Will cleansing love

Dispel the dark?

 

 

Martin and Eden were woken by Toma, who shouted from their door, knocking loudly. Martin checked the clock. It was just after two-thirty in the morning.

“What’s going on?” he croaked. He could not talk out loud. His throat burned and he had to drink some water.

Eden had already slipped into jeans and shirt and gone to the door.

“What is it, Toma?” Martin heard her ask. He could smell smoke.

“Fire,” replied his foreman, “a terrible fire.”

 

The news galvanised Martin into action. He pulled on his overalls and followed Eden onto the landing.

“Just a minute,” he whispered. He went to the door of Adria’s room, hesitating as he reached for the doorknob of Adria’s door and opened it.

“Just as I thought.” He choked on his words. Eden came to his side.

“What is it?”

“Adria’s bed hasn’t been slept in,” he rasped. “Of course, they could both be in Aidan’s bed, but I don’t think so – not this time.”

 

Martin’s revelation left Eden open-mouthed. She found herself whispering.

“You mean you think Adria and Aidan have been …” Eden felt guilty for the thoughts that were racing through her mind.

“You might as well say it, Eden.” The whisper was as bitter as bile. “Sleeping together. Probably. Like father …” he added.

 

“Don’t,” said Eden. “I meant what I said last night. Let the past stay there – in the past, where it belongs.” She led Martin away. Outside, they saw the reason for the strong smell of smoke. Where the barn once stood was a smouldering heap of rubble. The staff’s quarters were seriously damaged.

“It burned so fast, Marty,” said Toma, who was now standing next to his employer. “By the time Hine got the key to the back door, there was nothing left – so we called you. We haven’t phoned the fire people. Do you want us to?”

“No point is there?” Martin’s throaty wheeze seemed to upset the Maori trainer.

“Marty, there is other news.” He beckoned to his wife. Hine detached herself from the small group of staff huddled together around boxes of belongings. “Tell him,” he urged, standing back to allow Hine access to Martin and Eden.

 

“Just now,” she began, “we were all asleep.” She gestured to the farm staff. “Then, Giselle came and woke me up. She told me to get our things and get out of the building because there would be a fire. I was very frightened because – but, well, she smiled and told me to hurry and then I couldn’t see her any more.”

“You said Giselle’?” Martin stared at his housekeeper

“Martin, I swear it.” Hine’s brow wrinkled earnestly.

 

Eden held Martin’s arm.

“Let her go on,” she said softly.

“We had to be quick. Toma woke the men and I got the single girls up. We saved most of our stuff, even our TV,” she added. When she spoke again, her tone was sombre.” When we got out and saw the fire …” She looked at Eden and shook her head.

“Go on, Hine,” said Eden encouragingly. “Just take your time.”

“It was the noises,” responded Hine.

“What noises?” whispered Martin.

“There was screaming. I think Adria and Aidan were in the loft – when it burned.” Her last words poured out in an apologetic rush.

 

“I already knew that,” murmured Martin. Hine gaped at him.

“How did you know?” asked Eden incredulously. Martin shrugged.

“When I heard Toma shouting ‘Fire’, I just knew. I’d been dreaming about Lilith’s death up on the hill.” Martin coughed. His voice was causing him great discomfort.

“By the old oak!” declared Eden, understanding, at last, why the spot on the hill had been a haven from Adria and Aidan. Martin’s strained rasping continued.

“That’s where they found Lilith’s remains. She had been bound and burned. I didn’t think you needed to know the details.”

 

His new openness continued to exert a healing influence.

“I should have told you about Lilith,” he murmured, “but then I’ve made so many mistakes I need to rectify. She had been ritualistically killed. What remained of her skull was empty. Her brain had been removed and the bones crushed. It was not a local ritual, – nothing the fundamentalists would dream of doing -I was told, but an ancient pagan sacrifice used to dispel evil. The heart and brain source of feeling and thought, hence the seat of evil as well as good. When someone is perceived of as evil the brain and heart are destroyed, burned in a cleansing fire.”

 

He gazed at the smouldering ruins of the loft, as the significance of his words sunk in. He sighed and then changed the subject, much to Eden’s relief. She was finding nausea more and more of a problem.

“We need to call the police,” croaked Martin. He turned to Toma, who stepped closer to his employer and listened carefully. “Toma, could you do that?”

 

 Hine became the focus of Martin’s attention once again.

“You said you heard screaming first, Hine. What else was there?”

“It was a terrible smell and we couldn’t see the stars. When the fire stopped the air smelled good again, we could see the sky.” The memory of the awful reek that had overwhelmed her earlier was the final straw. Eden rushed inside and just made it to the kitchen sink in time. Martin hurried after her and rubbed her shoulders until the spasms passed.

 

He made her sit at the table while he poured her a large coke. Eden drank the whole glass and felt better for it. She looked out the window and saw the staff still standing on the gravel

“We must do something about them,” she said. “I’m going to call the Drurys.”

Her call was answered in a remarkably short time, indicating that the Drury household had already begun its day. Eden was silent for a while and then called out to Martin.

“Phil’s come round. He’s sleeping peacefully. Ron and Mandy will be able to see him later today.”

Martin came over to the phone and whispered,

“Tell them I think that’s wonderful.”

 

He returned to the refrigerator for some more coke, which he drank himself. The cold, sweet liquid felt good on his raw throat. Eden hung up a few minutes later.

“Mandy sends her deepest condolences. When I told her about Giselle – well, you know Mandy. And Ron said the quarters behind the stables are all empty, since their new buildings went up. He’s sent a couple of his staff to the old rooms to sweep them out. There are spare mattresses and various bits of furniture which are ‘at our disposal.’ Ron said he’ll be here in a few minutes with the truck to take everyone over to Shamrock Leaf.”  On cue, they heard the sound of powerful engines approaching the farmhouse. A police vehicle had followed the Shamrock Leaf truck down the driveway.

 

Ron went straight to his friend and the two men embraced without speaking. The detective and his partner stood quietly to one side, years of experience lending them tact. Eventually, Ron spoke.

“Ah, my old friend,” he said, his voice gruff with sympathy, “a daughter, a son and a niece all in one night.”

“No,” whispered Martin, still holding Ron’s shoulders, “two daughters and one son.”

 

Ron exhaled sharply, staring at Martin, uncertain he had heard correctly. Martin looked down, as he added. “Giselle was my daughter, Ron, not Xavier’s. I told your father the story Xavier created at his insistence. I had to tell you. I owed you that much after what happened with Phil.”

 

There was a long silence, before Ron nodded.

“My poor friend,” he said softly. “How you must have suffered, and for so long!” He shook his head and cleared his throat, speaking so the detective could hear his next words. “Come let’s get these poor lost souls loaded up. If you agree, Detective, I think we should get them settled in their temporary quarters as soon as possible.” 

 

The detective nodded in Ron’s direction and went over to the huddle of homeless staff. A few questions established a consensus on the main details of the fire. The policeman was not told about Giselle’s appearance. The story was kept simple. After all, very few people are ever prepared to face the consequences of officially admitting contact, with the world in which Giselle and I exist. Before long, Ron left with a loaded truck. The detective followed Martin and Eden into the kitchen, which was now lit by the first rosy tints of a summer sunrise.

The burial of Giselle’s mortal remains took place on the Sunday after the fire in between Christmas and New Year. In a private moment, early that morning, Giselle and I watched Martin unveil my portrait, to honour Giselle’s memory.

The painting had been framed and bore a small brass plaque. It read, ‘Dream Husband’. Painted by Giselle Clements-Hunter. I found Eden’s fanciful title, perceptively apt. One day, I might let her know how apt.

 

 By nine o’clock that Sunday morning, everyone was seated beneath the boughs of the old Kohekohe in the back garden. The staff of Maruaaitu were singing a beautiful Maori waiata. The Drury’s were seated with their staff and there were few dry eyes.

Phil had been allowed to attend and was seated in a special wheelchair, under the watchful eye of a medic. An ambulance, visible behind the hearse, indicated that Phil still had a long way to go. Nevertheless, his progress was remarkable.

 

He had accepted he would never ride again and spent much of his time sketching. His main difficulty, aside from some nerve damage causing numbness in his left arm and leg, was a shortness of breath. This, he had been assured, would ease, as he adapted to using a single lung.

 

As he listened to the chaplain conducting the simple service, he watched the faces of the people about which he now knew so much more; Martin, Giselle’s father, Eden, a Hunter descendant. He found life full of surprises. The chaplain finished speaking and the staff sang another waiata. Martin, Eden, Ron and Pat moved forward to act as pall-bearers.

 

As they passed Phil, he reached out his right hand and touched the coffin in a gesture of farewell. There was no sadness. His thoughts carried a wish for our happiness, and gratitude that restored his will to live. It was all in accordance with the blessing he had. There were no negative thoughts in his mind at the thought of returning to hospital. After all, a pretty little nurse there had become quite devoted to him – and him to her if the truth be told.

 

Phil returned to the hospital, while Giselle’s coffin was taken to the Dinsdale Cemetery. In the Hunter’s family plot, Giselle’s remains were placed head to toe with mine. The stone which marked my grave read,

Oliver James Hunter

B: 7 March 1852 D: 31 October 1878.

Eala, faeder, ic syngode on heofanas.

The epitaph was in Old English, one of the languages for which my father showed a life-long propensity. Roughly translated, it meant, ‘Alas, father, I have sinned against heaven.’ It was my father’s idea of revenge, as I tormented him in the months after my death.

 

Eden hated the headstone, now she knew of our relationship. It made her see Reginald as cruel and selfish. As she watched Giselle’s coffin lowered into the ground, she decided to ask Martin if they could replace the worn stone with something less vindictive. She envisioned matching stones for Giselle and me. It was a gratifying thought, but the stone no longer bothered me as it once did, for I now had other concerns.

 

George Yiakmis and his brother returned to Maruaaitu, just after New Year. Their workers began by laying a tarred driveway from the road to the house. Now they were making progress with the new staff quarters, using ideas developed for the ill-fated barn. Martin and Eden were on their way out, when the young architect waved to them.

Your staff should be able to move in mid-February,” he announced.

“Then you’ll start on the main house?” asked Martin. His voice had returned, but still sounded husky. Doctor Rodney told him it was something he would have to accept, as he had permanent damage to his larynx.

 

The architect smiled broadly.

“I can’t wait. I’ve dreamed about working on this place for months.” The main part of George’s job would be the demolition of the Blue Room and the study beneath. He had drawn up plans for a new study, with a mezzanine space for books.

 

Giselle and I had no objections. The day after the fire, Martin had Adria and Aidan’s rooms stripped and every item in them burned. Adria’s room was refurnished as a guest room, while all the heirloom furniture from the Blue Room was moved to the attic. It was a vast, airy room which suited us perfectly. In it, we had everything we needed. Our union, no longer unnatural, soon dispelled the atmosphere that had built in the attic during Adria and Aidan’s occupation. It was a haven for us; a place of refuge, where sadness had no place. But I digress.

George watched the four-wheel drive disappear. He remembered a dusty, impulsive departure many weeks ago. It began a sequence of events he still found hard to accept. He almost lost his foreman. Three young people had died in one appalling night. There had been a brief scandal over Martin’s refusal to hold any sort of service for Adria and Aidan. He had known why, but said nothing. Then Eden had taken him into her confidence and asked his help. She had started a rumour that Lilith Ross specified in her will, that should her children die young, no service was to be held. Willingly, George had contributed to the gossip. The rumour spread and after a few murmurings of,

“Ah well, there you are then!” the scandal died an early death.

The Inquest hearing one January morning, finalized the reports on Adria and Aidan’s deaths, did not last long. Eden was relieved that Martin’s new openness did not include revealing everything to the police. The nature of Adria and Aidan’s activities, the real cause of the fire and the hatred between Adria, Aidan and their ‘cousin’, Giselle, were not mentioned. Hine and Toma confirmed that Adria and Aidan went to the loft around eleven on the night of the fatal fire. All the workers testified to the screams heard coming from the loft during the fire. The inferno which consumed the loft had been so intense, not a trace of either teenager had been found. The post-mortem report, ‘in corpus absentia’, was accepted and the case closed on a verdict of ‘accidental incineration’.

Martin and Eden returned to Maruaaitu by three that afternoon. They sat on their bed, enjoying cups of coffee. Eventually, Martin lay back, with a sigh.

“If I didn’t have you, Eden,” he said, “I would never have survived all this.”

Eden lay beside him, her head on his shoulder.

“I want to tell you something,” she began. “Actually, I’ve wanted to talk to you for weeks. I was just waiting for the right time.” She sat up and looked at Martin. “It’s about all this vomiting I’ve been doing.”

Martin tensed.

“I’ve been worrying about that,” he responded. “Have you seen Doctor Rodney?”

“Weeks ago,” she said. “I just didn’t want to say anything until all this upheaval died down.”

“What is it?” asked Martin. He was starting to panic. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s nothing wrong,” said Eden. “I’m pregnant.”

“You’re what?” Martin stared at his wife.

“I’m pregnant,” she repeated. “We’re going to have a baby in about six months.”

Tears began to form in Martin’s eyes.

“There are a few risks at my age,” said Eden, speaking to banish the burning sensation in her own eyes. “But Doc Rodney says if I’m careful, I should be fine.” She touched her stomach and smiled. “We should be fine.”

 

Gently, Martin pressed Eden back into the pillows. He touched her face, her breasts, her stomach, a look of wonder lighting his dark features. The love-making which followed was tender, unhurried. Above them, Giselle and I united. We shared our pleasure with the mortal couple below, leaving them floating in a pool of exhausted contentment, the like of which, they had never known.

 

The light was fading when Eden awoke. Martin had slipped on his overalls and was clattering around in the storeroom to the side of the house. Eden crossed to the window, wondering what he could be doing. She would ask him when he returned. Until then, she would rest. She would look after herself, as she had never done before. As she climbed into bed, she touched the miracle in her belly. She could sense the life, although, as yet, she did not know there were two; a boy and a girl – mine, as well as Reginald’s descendants. Our seed joined, for the first time. And we would watch, Giselle and I – watch and wait. To make sure all was well.

Out by the gate, in the fading light of the early evening, Martin prised the wooden sign off its upright support. He placed the metal crowbar on the post box and the sign board, bearing the words ‘Maruaaitu’, was taken in both hands and brought down across his knee. It shattered and was thrown onto the tarmac.

 

Then he did something he’d wanted to do as a teenager. Martin bent and picked up a board he had stored away after Miriam had left. Beautifully etched into the board, highlighted in gold, were the words, ‘THE HAVEN’. He picked up the hammer and drew nails from the pocket of his overalls. Slowly, he began to hammer the new sign onto the vacant upright. The rhythmic thumping stopped as darkness fell.    

 

[ENDS]