"You've read his poetry," said Trelawny bitterly.



"I should have known," she whispered.


"Assuredly you should have, if in fact you didn't."


Christina was apparently too distracted to take offense. "He was one of... Boadicea's?"


"Of course. And I caught her just as you said, shortly before dawn last Saturday, poor old girl."


"He wants," said Christina, trying now to collapse her partly opened umbrella, "my uncle wants someone to rub the blood of one of Boadicea's victims onto his statue. Our mirror trick, though it didn't keep him down forever, did evidently damage him - and now he needs blood vivified by another of his kind - I - didn't catch why."


"She infects the victim with her blueprint," said Trelawny with a shrug. "I suppose the victim's blood could impose her blueprint on your uncle's fractured self - let him re-knit, like a shattered bone, according to its directions."


Johanna leaned out from beside Crawford. "I'll kill myself," she remarked, "before I'll let him have me again."


"You shame me," Christina said to her softly.


For several seconds no one spoke, as the cab rattled down Charing Cross Road toward the Strand.


"Congratulations, incidentally," said Trelawny to Crawford, reaching over to shake his hand.


"For what?" asked Crawford absently, shaking the old man's hand as he stared at his daughter.


"You just got married," put in McKee with a dry smile.


"Oh! Oh, yes, of course, thank you. I'm distracted by - "


Trelawny nodded and fished a flask from under his coat. "The pleasant times are always soon eclipsed." He unscrewed the cap and waved it around at the company.


Christina was the first to take it, and she took a solid gulp.


To Crawford's alarm, McKee declined it but passed it to Johanna; and when his daughter handed it to him, it felt only about a third full. It proved to contain neat brandy, and he was careful not to drink all that was left before handing the flask back to Trelawny, but the old man took only a token sip before recapping it.


For perhaps a couple of minutes they were silent in the rattling, rocking cab, and then Christina remarked, "He's not restored yet; I'd feel it if he were. Perhaps Gabriel hid it effectively."


Beside Crawford, Johanna nodded. "I'd feel it too, and I don't."


For the rest of the ten-minute ride, none of them spoke - they all simply stared out the rain-streaked windows at the passing dark buildings on the right and the leaden river on the left as the cab shook its way through Westminster and Pimlico.


At last the cab squeaked to a halt in front of a closely barred wrought-iron fence, beyond which stood a three-story red-brick house with projecting bay windows on the first and second floors.


Trelawny was first out of the cab, and he shouted at the driver to wait for them.


As the rest of them disembarked from the cab, Christina was saying something about going in first alone, but her four companions hustled her through the gate and across the walkway and up the five steps to the front porch.


"We need to settle it as soon as possible, Diamonds," said Trelawny, not unkindly, as he waved at the doorknob.


Christina lifted her handbag but tried the knob with her free hand, and the door proved to be unlocked.


"You all can wait in the west sitting room - " she began, but Trelawny had already started down the hall. He paused in front of the dining-room door, for stairs led away both to the right and to the left, and he waved from one to the other impatiently.


"You must wait," Christina said. "I'll go up and get him - "


Trelawny looked over her shoulder at Crawford. "You take the left and I'll take the right. Yell when you find his bedroom."


"To the right, to the right," said Christina desperately, "but let me lead!" She stepped around Trelawny and started up the circular staircase. "I can't have you all bursting into every room!"


Her companions were on her heels as she led them up past the windowed first-floor landing to the second, and then they followed her down another hall to a closed door.


Christina rapped on it. "Gabriel? It's Christina - "


Trelawny gripped her shoulders and moved her aside and opened the door. A moment later all five of them stood beside Gabriel's four-post bed, panting.


Gabriel was sitting up in the bed, blinking in evident astonishment. A small window beyond him let in the gray daylight.


"Trelawny," he muttered sleepily, "and - and the prostitute - "


Crawford exhaled sharply and started forward, but Trelawny threw an arm out sideways to block him. "No time," he snapped at Crawford, and to Rossetti he said, "The lady is this man's wife, you pig. Where is the - "


Crawford was staring angrily at the befuddled goateed face of Gabriel Rossetti, but he felt Christina shiver violently beside him; and in the same moment Johanna moaned and sat down on the carpet. The bird in McKee's handbag emitted a shrill squeak.


"We're - too late," gasped Christina. "Algy has blooded the statue."


At this Gabriel turned toward the table beside his bed, and he gave a wordless cry of dismay and snatched up a glass from it.


Water or gin splashed on his blankets as he held it up in front of his face.


"Is this empty, 'Stina?" he demanded. "I can't see."


"There's only water in it," she answered harshly. "Salt water, I suppose. Algy has - "


And then there were suddenly two new figures blocking the window on the far side of the bed, and Crawford snatched up Johanna and turned toward the door.


The door slammed shut before he could reach it. He shifted the girl in his arms and tried the knob, but it wouldn't turn and the door wouldn't shift at all, and he turned to face the two shapes.


The one closest to the window he had seen before: its head was a yard-wide flat disk with a mouthful of teeth that extended around the rim as far as he could see, and it had no eyes; the other was clearly the skeletal gray boy Johanna had described three nights ago - his temple and cheek were lit by the window at his back and were as hollowed as a skull's.


Gabriel roared in fright and rolled out of the bed onto Christina's feet, taking the blankets and the bedside table down with him; Christina lurched backward into Crawford, and salt water splashed across the carpet. Johanna scrambled out of Crawford's arms and looked around the room wildly.


The room shook, as if at the impact of Gabriel hitting the floor; Crawford hopped to keep his balance.


The flat-headed thing's mouth opened, all the leathery way across, and the remembered whispery voice said, "My daughter, I have brought your bridegroom to you. Consummation, now, at last - and then, soon, the offspring."


The dead boy made a hissing sound and flexed his long fingers in the gray light.


Crawford glanced at Johanna, who had retreated into the corner by the fireplace and was gripping a poker; her eyes were wide, and her lips were pulled back from her teeth. The floor still seemed to be swaying, and Crawford stumbled as he stepped in front of her and lifted a long fire iron.


But McKee had pulled a jar of minced garlic out of her handbag, and now twisted it open; the smell instantly filled the room.


"Sulfur," she said hoarsely, "and the agent that stops you binding to our spiral threads, you - shit wagon!"


The dead boy's fingers closed into knobby fists and he made a hooting sound, but the wide-mouthed creature flickered, in one moment seeming to be Gabriel's wife and in the next the mustached man Crawford had seen in the skull chamber under Highgate Cemetery seven years ago.


McKee whirled the jar in an arc, scattering wet yellow shreds across both figures; and immediately they lost all form, becoming churning black shapes; and a moment later the window exploded outward and they had funneled away through it.


Crawford rushed to the window and squinted against the rainy breeze. Two hunched figures in flapping black were hurrying away down the street below, both huddled under a ragged white parasol. Even as he watched, they diminished in size far more rapidly than their pace could justify, and then they seemed to merge with the river-side trees and disappear.


The floor was steady.


Crawford heard a clank behind him and turned to see that Johanna had dropped the poker. He dropped the fire iron he was holding, and then Johanna was in his arms.


"Were you going to keep it?" screamed Christina at her brother.


"I was - " Gabriel disentangled himself from the bedclothes and stood up. He was barefoot, wearing a long nightshirt, and he quickly picked up a pair of trousers from the floor, and then squinted around as if wondering where he might get dressed. "I was going to pulverize it today. I - "


Trelawny had found a pencil and an envelope, and he scribbled something and then shoved the envelope into Crawford's hand.


"Come sundown," said Trelawny, "he'll be back, stronger, and he'll block your garlic then. Here's where you can get the shoes for your daughter." He gave Christina a ferocious glare. "You must go with them. They'll explain why on the way."


Christina nodded wearily, her anger at Gabriel exhausted. "I know why. Yes, I - I must go with them."


To McKee, Trelawny barked, "You know the crossing sweeper who takes only a ha'penny?"


"Yes."


"Pass through the eye of his needle."


"Shoes?" said Gabriel, still holding his trousers and peering from the broken window to the empty glass on the carpet and back.


"Go back to bed," said Trelawny. He turned the knob, and the door opened readily now.


CHAPTER TEN


And when your veins were void and dead,


What ghosts unclean


Swarmed round the straitened barren bed


That hid Faustine?


- Algernon Swinburne, "Faustine"


THE CAB TOOK Crawford, McKee, Johanna, and Christina almost all the way back to the church, but McKee had the driver let them out a couple of streets east and south of it, at the stone circle in the center of Seven Dials.


"I don't believe I've ever been here," said Christina breathlessly as Crawford led them, running and pausing, through the ever-shifting maze of horses pulling carriages and wagons.


"I should hope not," said McKee, pulling Johanna up onto the Earl Street curb.


Crawford opened his umbrella and handed it to Johanna, who was yawning as if to pop her ears. "I can still feel his attention on me," she said.


Christina was panting. "So can I."


The overcast sky had a faintly brassy color from the haze of coal smoke, and the streets between the wedge-shaped buildings that ringed the circle were in deep shadow. Even in the rain the pavements were crowded - disreputable-looking young men in shapeless caps and old women in shawls slouched near at hand under the shop awnings, and men in overcoats hurried past under umbrellas. Johanna's pink velveteen coat and McKee's blue silk dress stood out in the drab crowd.


McKee stood up on her toes to look around among the bobbing hats and umbrellas all around them, and at last she said, "I see him," and started forward, still holding Johanna's hand.


Crawford followed behind Christina; she was taking short, scuffling steps, and he hoped their quest wouldn't involve too much walking.


Traffic in the next radius street was simply stopped, the drivers shouting and shaking their fists, and McKee led her group through the mud between the halted horses to the far side of it.


A crossing sweeper was busily establishing a path between a high-piled furniture wagon and a couple of hansom cabs, waving his broom at the drivers as much as using it to sweep the puddles aside, and a couple of timid-looking men in bowler hats tottered behind him across the wet gravel. At the far curb the old sweeper looked back, and he nodded when McKee waved her hat at him. A moment later he came scampering back between the wheels and hooves so nimbly that Crawford was startled to get a better look at him.


Under a floppy hat, the man's hair was sparse and white, and his face sagged in deep wrinkles - but his eyes were alert and merry.


He didn't seem to be at all winded. "A ha'penny to cross," he told McKee.


McKee tugged on Crawford's sleeve. "Give him a shilling," she said quietly, "and tell him you want it all back."


This felt like some kind of ritual, so Crawford did as she said; and the old man gave them all a reappraising look but nodded cheerfully and handed Crawford two sixpences in exchange for the shilling, a transaction that made the old man no profit at all.


"Like that, is it?" he said, and then without waiting for an answer he scuttled to the doorway of a nearby druggist's and left his old broom there and came back with another.


"A new broom sweeps clean," he said, and paused as if for a reply.


"Er," said Crawford, "but the old broom - "


" - Knows all the coroners," finished McKee.


Crawford had handed his umbrella to Johanna, and in their haste he had left his hat at Gabriel Rossetti's house; and now he wanted to spit out the coconut taste of macassar oil in the rainwater running down his face from his hair.


But before he could complain about the delay, McKee seized his hand and pushed Christina, and then they were all sprinting across the muddy gravel - glancing back to make sure Johanna was following, Crawford saw that the old man was right behind her, sweeping so furiously that muddy gravel as well as sprays of water flew to the sides. On the far side of the street McKee gathered the others up onto the curb.


"Till the rain stops, I reckon" the old man said, "and no more'n a hundred yards." He was not even panting as he touched his hat brim; and then he was hurrying back through the river of vehicles to where he had left his ordinary broom.

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