My father looked calm as he faced an unfamiliar, armed vampire and his own grown daughter. Only the slight tremor in his voice and his whiteknuckled grip on the stall gave him away.
"Dr. Proctor, I presume." Matthew stepped away and sheathed his weapon.
My father straightened his serviceable brown jacket. It was all wrong. Someone-probably my mother-had tried to modify a Nehru jacket into something resembling a cleric's cassock. And his britches were too long, more like something Ben Franklin would wear than Walter Raleigh. But his familiar voice, which I hadn't heard for twenty-six years, was exactly right.
"You've grown in the past three days," he said shakily.
"You look just as I remember," I said, still stunned by the fact that he was standing before me. Mindful that two witches and a wearh might be too much for the St. Paul's Churchyard crowd, and unsure what I to do in this novel situation, I fell back on social convention. "Do you want to come back to our house for a drink?" I suggested awkwardly.
"Sure, honey. That would be great," he said with a tentative nod.
My father and I couldn't stop looking at each other-not on our way home nor when we reached the safety of the Hart and Crown, which was, miraculously, empty. There he caught me up in a fierce hug.
"It's really you. You sound just like your mom," he said, holding me at arm's length to study my features. "You look like her, too."
"People tell me I have your eyes," I said, studying him in turn. When you're seven, you don't notice such things. You only think to look for them afterward, when it's too late.
"So you do." Stephen laughed.
"Diana has your ears, too. And your scents are somewhat similar. It's how I recognized you at St. Paul's." Matthew ran his hand nervously over his cropped hair, then stuck it out to my father. "I'm Matthew."
My father eyed the offered hand. "No last name? Are you some sort of celebrity, like Halston or Cher?" I had a sudden, vivid image of what I'd missed by not having my father around when I was a teenager, making an ass out of himself when he met the boys I dated. My eyes filled.
"Matthew has plenty of last names. It's just . . . complicated," I said, sniffing back the tears. My father looked alarmed at the sudden welling up of emotion.
"Matthew Roydon will do for now," Matthew said, capturing my father's attention. He andmy father shook hands.
"So you're the vampire," my father said. "Rebecca is worried sick about the practicalities of your relationship with my daughter, and Diana can't even ride a bicycle yet."
"Oh, Dad." The minute the words were out of my mouth I blushed. I sounded as if I were twelve. Matthew smiled as he moved to the table.
"Won't you sit down and have some wine, Stephen?" Matthew handed him a cup and then pulled out a chair for me. "Seeing Diana must be something a shock."
"You could say so. I'd love some." My father sat, took a sip of wine, and nodded approvingly. He made a visible effort to take charge. "So," he said briskly, "we've said hello, you've invited me back to your house, and now I've had a drink. These are the essential Western greeting rituals. Now we can get down to it. What are you doing here, Diana?"
"Me? What are you doing here? And where is Mom?" I pushed away the wine that Matthew poured for me. No amount of alcohol could blunt my response to my father's sudden presence.
"Your mother is at home taking care of you." My father shook his head, amazed. "I can't believe it. You can't be more than ten years younger than I am."
"I always forget you're so much older than Mom."
"You're with a vampire and you have something against our MayDecember romance?" My father's whimsical expression invited me to laugh.
I did, while quickly doing the math. "So you've come from around 1980?"
"Yep. I finally got my grades turned in and headed out to do some exploring." Stephen looked at me intently. "Is this when and where you two met?"
"No. We met in September 2009 at Oxford. In the Bodleian Library." I looked at Matthew, who gave me an encouraging smile. I turned back to my father and took a deep breath. "I can timewalk like you. I brought Matthew with me."
"I know you can timewalk, peanut. You scared the hell out of your mother last August when you disappeared on your third birthday. A timewalking toddler is a mother's worst nightmare." He looked at me shrewdly. "So you've got my eyes, ears, scent, and timewalking ability. Anything else?"
I nodded. "I can make up spells."
"Oh. We hoped you would be a firewitch like your mom, but no such luck." My father looked uncomfortable and dropped his voice. "You probably shouldn't mention your talent in the company of other witches. And when they try to teach you their spells, just let them go in one ear and out the other. Don't even attempt to learn them."
"I wish you'd told me that before. It would have helped me with Sarah," I said.
"Good old Sarah." My father's laugh was warm and infectious.
There was a thunder of feet on the stairs, and then a four-legged mop and a boy hurtled across the threshold, banging the door into the wall with the force of their enthusiastic entrance.
"Master Harriot said I may go out with him again and look at the stars, and he promises not to forget me this time. Master Shakespeare gave me this." Jack waved a slip of paper in the air. "He says it is a letter of credit. And Annie kept staring at a boy in the Cardinal's Hat while she ate her pie. Who is that?" The last was said with one grimy finger pointed in my father's direction.
"That's Master Proctor," Matthew said, catching Jack around the waist. "Did you feed Mop on your way in?" There had been no way to separate boy and dog in Prague, so Mop had come to London, where his strange appearance made him something of a local curiosity.
"Of course I fed Mop. He eats my shoes if I forget, and Pierre said he would pay for one new pair without telling you about it, but not a second." Jack clapped his hand over his mouth.
"I am sorry, Mistress Roydon. He ran down the street and I couldn't catch him." A frowning Annie rushed into the room, then stopped short, the color draining from her face as she stared at my father.
"It's all right, Annie," I said gently. She had been afraid of unfamiliar creatures ever since Greenwich. "This is Master Proctor. He's a friend."
"I have marbles. Do you know how to play ring taw?" Jack was eyeing my father with open speculation as he tried to determine whether the new arrival would be a useful person to have around.
"Master Proctor is here to speak with Mistress Roydon, Jack." Matthew spun him around. "We need water, wine, and bread. You and Annie divide up the chores, and when Pierre gets back, he'll take you to Moorfields."
With some grumbling Jack accompanied Annie back out into the street. I met my father's eyes at last. He had been watching Matthew and me without speaking, and the air was thick with his questions.
"Why are you here, honey?" my father repeated quietly when the children were gone.
"We thought we might find someone to help me out with some questions about magic and alchemy." For some reason I didn't want my father to know the details. "My teacher is called Goody Alsop. She and her coven have taken me in."
"Nice try, Diana. I'm a witch, too, so I know when you're skirting the truth." My father sat back in his chair. "You'll have to tell me eventually. I just thought this would save some time."
"Why are you here, Stephen?" Matthew asked.
"Just hanging out. I'm an anthropologist. It's what I do. What do you do?"
"I'm a scientist-a biochemist, based in Oxford."
"You're not just 'hanging out' in Elizabethan London, Dad. You have the page from Ashmole 782 already." I suddenly understood why he was here. "You're looking for the rest of the manuscript." I lowered the wooden candle beam. Master Habermel's astronomical compendium was nestled between two candles. We had to move it every day, because Jack found it every day.
"What page?" my father asked, sounding suspiciously innocent.
"The page with the picture of the alchemical wedding on it. It came from a Bodleian Library manuscript." I opened the compendium. It was completely still, just as I expected. "Look, Matthew."
"Cool," my father said with a whistle.
"You should see her mousetrap," Matthew said under his breath.
"What does it do?" My father reached for the compendium to take a closer look.
"It's a mathematical instrument for telling time and tracking astronomical events like the phases of the moon. It started to move on its own when we were in Prague. I thought it meant someone was looking for Matthew and me, but now I wonder if it wasn't picking up on you, looking for the manuscript." It still acted up periodically, its wheels spinning without warning. Everybody in the house called it the "witch clock."
"Maybe I should go get the book," Matthew said, rising.
"It's all right," my father replied, motioning for him to sit. "There's no rush. Rebecca isn't expecting me for a few days."
"So you'll be here-in London?"
My father's face softened. He nodded.
"Where are you staying?" Matthew asked.
"Here!" I said indignantly. "He's staying here."
"Your daughter has very definite opinions about her family checking into hotels," Matthew told my father with a wry smile, remembering how I'd reacted when he'd tried to put Marcus and Miriam up in an inn in Cazenovia. "You're welcome to stay with us, of course."
"I've got rooms on the other side of town," my father said hesitantly.
"Stay." I pressed my lips together and blinked to keep back the tears. "Please." I had so much I wanted to ask him, so many questions only he could answer. My father and husband exchanged a long look.
"All right," my father said finally. "It would be great to hang out with you for a little while."
I tried to give him our room, since Matthew wouldn't be able to sleep with a strange person in the house and I could easily fit on the window seat, but my father refused. Pierre gave up his bed instead. I stood on the landing and listened enviously while Jack and my father chattered away like old friends.
"I think Stephen has everything he needs," Matthew said, sliding his arms around me.
"Is he disappointed in me?" I wondered aloud.
"Your father?" Matthew sounded incredulous. "Of course not!"
"He seems a little uncomfortable."
"When Stephen kissed you good-bye a few days ago, you were a toddler. He's overwhelmed, that's all."
"Does he know what's going to happen to him and Mom?" I whispered.
"I don't know, mon coeur, but I think so." Matthew drew me toward our bedchamber. "Everything will look different in the morning."
Matthew was right: My father was a bit more relaxed the next day, though he didn't look as if he'd slept much. Neither did Jack.
"Does the kid always have such bad nightmares?" my father asked.
"I'm sorry he kept you up," I apologized. "Change makes him anxious. Matthew usually takes care of him."
"I know. I saw him," my father said, sipping at the herbal tisane that Annie prepared.
That was the problem with my father: He saw everything. His watchfulness put vampires to shame. Though I had hundreds of questions, they all seemed to dry up under his quiet regard. Occasionally he asked me about something trivial. Could I throw a baseball? Did I think Bob Dylan was a genius? Had I been taught how to pitch a tent? He asked no questions about Matthew and me, or where I went to school, or even what I did for a living. Without any expression of interest on his part, I felt awkward volunteering the information. By the end of our first day together, I was practically in tears.
"Why won't he talk to me?" I demanded as Matthew unlaced my corset.
"Because he's too busy listening. He's an anthropologist-a professional watcher. You're the historian in the family. Questions are your forte, not his."
"I get tongue-tied around him and don't know where to start. And when he does talk to me, it's always about strange topics, like whether allowing designated hitters has ruined baseball."
"That's what a father would talk to his daughter about when he started taking her to baseball games. So Stephen does know he won't see you grow up. He just doesn't know how much time he has left with you. "
I sank onto the edge of the bed. "He was a huge Red Sox fan. I remember Mom saying that between getting her pregnant and Carlton Fisk hitting a home run in the sixth game of the World Series, 1975 was the best fall semester of his life, even if Cincinnati did beat Boston in the end."
Matthew laughed softly. "I'm sure the fall semester of 1976 topped it."
"Did the Sox actually win that year?"
"No. Your father did." Matthew kissed me and blew out the candle.
When I came home from running errands the next day, I found my father sitting in the parlor of our empty apartments with Ashmole 782 open in front of him.
"Where did you find that?" I asked, putting my parcels on the table. "Matthew was supposed to hide it." I had a hard enough time keeping the children away from that blasted compendium.
"Jack gave it to me. He calls it 'Mistress Roydon's book of monsters.' I was understandably eager to see it once I heard that." My father turned the page. His fingers were shorter than Matthew's, and blunt and forceful rather than tapered and dexterous. "Is this the book the picture of the wedding came from?"
"Yes. There were two other pictures in it as well: one of a tree, another of two dragons shedding their blood." I stopped. "I'm not sure how much more I should tell you, Dad. I know things about your relationship to this book that you don't know-that haven't even happened yet."