Christina surprised Crawford by stepping forward and saying, "You can call me Diamonds."
"Hah!" said Gabriel. "At that rate I'm Hearts."
Christina gave McKee a frail smile. "A childhood game," she said. "We have a sister we called Clubs and a brother we called Spades."
"You," said Trelawny, pointing at McKee, "I'll call Rahab."
McKee blinked and frowned, and Crawford guessed that she wasn't entirely pleased to be given the name of the Biblical ex-prostitute who betrayed Jericho to the Hebrews; but she nodded.
She pointed at the violin case in the old man's hand. "Are you a musician?"
"Not me, no." Trelawny turned to Crawford and went on, "You're a medical man, I heard, so I'll call you Medicus. In fact, you look uncannily like a medical man I knew in Italy years ago, but we'll let that go."
"If you like," said Crawford. His father had been a physician, and had been in Italy in the 1820s, but Crawford couldn't recall his parents mentioning Edward Trelawny.
"And call me Samson," Trelawny said. "My spiritual hair has almost completely grown back, I believe. I hope." He glanced at the scattered cloths and the mound of dirt on the grass, and then looked up at all four of them. "You've left me unchaperoned, for a few days at least. It may be that we can help one another. Where were you walking to, so carefree?"
Christina nodded toward the long wall at the north end of the lawn. "The zoo cages outside the wall," she said, "on the north side of the outer circle just below the canal. They're for cassowaries and zebras, and they're empty in the winter. If we could find one around the back where nobody's likely to be, on a day like this, and get into it, with cold iron bars on all sides - "
"Ah!" said Trelawny. "I could see from the start that you're the only one of your lot with any sense, Diamonds. The iron bars, yes, they should hide our auras just as a Faraday cage deflects electric fields - block our radiances, keep the other big one from sniffing us."
"The other big one," said Gabriel.
"We can discuss it when we're caged," said Trelawny, "like a pack of sickly cassowaries."
It was not daring ... to bring Miss B. to Cefn Ila, and set her up to be worshipped there. But society was justly scandalized by the spectacle of this shaggy Samson carrying the diminutive form of Delilah to and from his carriage at the foot of Shanbadoc Rock - his Delilah was not even pretty, if the memories of my informants are to be trusted.
- M. B. Byrde, "Trelawny at Usk," Athenaeum, August 1897
WHAT IS 'THE other big one'?" asked McKee.
They had found a row of empty and unlocked cages well west of the offices of the superintendent and ducked into the farthest one, pulling the barred door nearly closed behind them. Bare trees hid them from most of the park.
"If anyone should stroll by," advised Trelawny, "all of us just make hooting sounds and hop up and down. Scratch."
Gabriel giggled. "One of us sh-should - be outside to t-take money," he stammered, and then he coughed and scowled around at the others.
They were shaded from the bright sunlight by a wooden roof that extended out past the rows of vertical bars confining them, and the wind that whistled through seemed much colder than it had outside. The black bars were ornate with stylized ironwork vines and flowers at the tops, but the cage was no more than ten feet square, and though wide shelves had been bolted to the bars at various heights, all five of them remained standing. Any smells the cage might once have had were lost in the stinging astringence of the icy air. Crawford thought of taking off his hat, but neither of the other two men did, so he left it on.
"The other one," said Trelawny, sliding his violin case onto a shelf and pulling a cigar from inside his coat. Crawford noticed that the old man wore no gloves or scarf. "Miss B., who you just now shot, has a partner. He was a doctor too," the old man said, nodding to Crawford, "when he was a normally living man. Name of Polidori. I never met him, but we had friends in common."
Christina had collapsed her parasol and laid it on one of the metal shelves, and now leaned back against the shelf and made the sign of the cross. Gabriel rolled his eyes. McKee glanced at the palm of her gloved hand.
"You know of him," said Trelawny, raising his white eyebrows as he struck a match to his cigar.
"He is," said Gabriel, "the one who menaces my wife and unborn child - and the daughter of," he added with a sideways wave, "of Rahab and Medicus here." Then a thought seemed to strike him. "Could they," Gabriel went on quickly, and Crawford was surprised to see sweat on Gabriel's face now, in spite of the freezing breeze, "Miss B. and Polidori - could it ever happen that they might share possession of a person?"
Trelawny cocked his head at him. "I suppose so, if the person were so unwise as to welcome one of them and then welcome the other one as well."
Gabriel's expression didn't change, but Crawford got the impression that some effort had been required for it not to.
"Who is this Miss B.?" asked Christina. "How was she quickened?"
Trelawny puffed smoke for several seconds, staring at Christina. "You seem to know how the Polidori creature was quickened," he said. "I'll want to hear about that. But - as for Miss B. - I'm afraid it was my fault."
The breeze whistled through the bars, and flurries of snow spun around their boots.
"Your fault," prompted McKee impatiently, hugging herself in her coat.
Trelawny eyed his companions speculatively and spoke around the cigar. "Do you all know about statues? Living statues?"
"A little," said Christina softly.
Trelawny went on, "I have made it possible - well, others forced it on me, actually - I have made it possible again to do what Deucalion and Pyrrha did, in the old Greek stories: establish a link between humans and the stony tribe, those pre-Adamite creatures that the ancient Hebrews called the Nephilim."
A moment went by in which no one spoke.
"Forced it on you," said Crawford, remembering the story his parents had told him.
"I'd say forced is too mild a word, to be honest," said Trelawny testily. "A mountain bandit who hoped to establish an alliance with these creatures arranged for me to be shot in the back - and one of the two balls the gun was loaded with was a tiny statue. It broke, bouncing around among my bones, and I spat half of it out, along with several teeth. The other ball was silver, and it's lodged in me somewhere, and it kept me safe for a long time. Balanced. Net zero."
Ash blew away from the tip of his cigar, and the coal glowed as he inhaled. "But - the problem is - the other half of the stone ball, the little statue" - he lifted his chin and patted his collar - "is, I'm afraid ... growing. And as it grows, the Nephilim become stronger." He snapped his fingers. "What's the word? Rosetta!"
"Yes? What word?" said Gabriel. He seemed distracted.
"Rosetta," said Trelawny impatiently. "I just said it. The stone, you know? I'm the Rosetta stone in this - I make translation between the two species possible."
"It could be cut out," said Crawford.
"And pulverized and scattered in the sea!" added Christina.
"You're a good girl," said Trelawny, smiling crookedly at her. "But it's in under the jugular vein, and I haven't yet met a medical man I'd trust to cut it out." He shrugged deprecatingly. "And, to be honest, it gives me a certain immunity, with them."
"You," said Gabriel, "what, accept their amnesty?"
Trelawny gave him a scornful look from under his bushy white eyebrows. "I use it, sonny. I've been making amends for things I did in Greece, in Euboea and on Mount Parnassus, forty years ago." Trelawny's scarred lips gave him an expression that was only humorously rueful.
Gabriel and Christina glanced at each other, and Gabriel mouthed the word Parnassus.
"The Italian Carbonari pursue efforts similar to mine," said Trelawny, "but I'm not a joiner. Any time you work with people, they turn out to be inept clowns." He glanced at Crawford, which Crawford thought was unfair. "I get things done by myself," Trelawny went on. "Your old woman, Carpace or Carpaccio, she hoped to introduce another of these vampires to that sad crowd of poets last night." He laughed. "But a boat carrying a statue from Greece happened to explode on the river yesterday morning, and so Madame Carpaccio's vitreous guest of honor is now on the river bottom. And I maintain a small army of spies - " He paused and laughed again, but to Crawford it seemed forced now, and the old man squinted around at his companions as if regretting his momentary openness. "I try to work them ill in many ways," he said gruffly, "when Miss B. isn't looking." He tapped the sand with his boot toe. "And by now she's probably burrowed right down into the sewers."
"I'm glad we didn't meet her last night," said Crawford to McKee.
"What are you talking about," snapped Trelawny, "you did meet her last night. Who the hell do you think that tall woman with me was? As I recall, she nearly lapped up your sorry soul like a cat with a bowl of milk."
Christina stepped forward and touched Trelawny's sleeve. "And how is it that she has come to be attached to you, Mr. Samson?"
"Attached to me. Yes. Damn it, I returned to England clean, in 1834, after a voyage across the whole Atlantic Ocean, to America, where I baptized myself by swimming the Niagara River, though it nearly killed me to do it - when I really thought I was drowning, I could feel the devil claws pulling out of me, reluctantly! I was as clean as a newborn babe - "
"Except for the half statue in your neck," said Gabriel.
Trelawny scowled at him, then grinned around the cigar in his teeth. "Well, yes, sonny, except for that. But it hadn't started growing yet, you see. Probably wouldn't have. In any case, I became a responsible citizen here, wasted my time with politics, went to a lot of foolish dinners. Scandalized society by not wearing stockings. But there were still people about the place who remembered the old Neffy days, and they could recognize the - the look, on me. So I took me a wife and built a house on the cliff at Llanbadoc Rock, in Monmouthshire in eastern Wales. Lived there happily for ten years, had three more children, planted a row of cedars from cones I brought from the poet Shelley's grave in Rome. And I happen to have a piece of Shelley's jawbone - he was a half-breed member of their tribe by birth, and relics of him tend to deflect or refract their attention - "
"You're Shelley's famous friend, you're Edward John Trelawny," said Christina suddenly, and then she covered her mouth.
"Bad luck for me that you know it," said Trelawny. He frowned and rubbed his eyes with a spotted old hand. "Don't tell me who you are."
"Oh, you wouldn't have heard of me," said Christina.
Trelawny dropped his hand and glared at her. "Damn it, now I know you're an aspiring poet. Will you not speak, please?" His craggy face above the white beard was fierce, his blue eyes glittering. "At any rate! - being remote from London, and with Shelley's jawbone to keep the devils from seeing me, I relaxed. And five years ago I went exploring up the river Severn; and eventually I rowed right up the Birmingham and Worcester Canal and - "
"You rowed up the Severn?" interrupted Gabriel.
"Byron once swam from Sestos to Abydos," Trelawny said irritably, "and even in my forties I was in better condition than he ever was. The stories I could tell you about him!"
"Up the canal," prompted McKee.
"Indeed. Well, I could have rowed on to Birmingham, easily, but I went ashore for the night in a little village called King's Norton. Means 'the king's northern settlement' originally. And I couldn't sleep - I could feel someone calling me, in the old melody - so I went for a walk."
"I know that melody," said Christina softly.
Trelawny gave her a relenting, sympathetic look. "I'm afraid your poetry is probably very good, my dear. That's one of their gifts. Byron was a member of the tribe too."
To Crawford's alarm, Christina seemed to conceal satisfaction at the remark. But, "You should have gone to a church," she said.
"Stop it," said Trelawny mildly. "King's Norton lies on what they call Watling Street, the old Roman road that cuts right across Britain. I walked out of the village by moonlight, and out in the fields among the old oak trees I found stones, rounded now by weather but clearly cut by man many centuries ago, and then I was in a narrow defile, and - I met," he said, nodding toward Crawford and McKee, "the woman you saw me with last night. Her husband had died, leaving his lands to her and her daughters, but the Romans annexed them, and flogged her and raped her daughters - "
"The Romans did?" asked Crawford.
"This was a ghost," Gabriel told him shortly.
"Aye, a ghost," said Trelawny, "to the extent that a figurehead is a ship. And so in revenge she led the Iceni and the Trinovantes against the Roman settlement at Colchester, and they damn well leveled the place. Then she led her barbarian army to London, and the Romans simply ran, so she leveled it too, with the help of an accommodating earthquake."
"My God." Christina was pale, and she nodded. "I know her name too."
"She told you all this, there?" said Gabriel.
"She was boasting, boy," said Trelawny softly. "Trying to appear substantial. Ghosts are ashamed of being dead."