Those Who Hunt The Night Chapter Twenty One

’’Could he have beaten us here?’’ Asher kicked the Indian's engine out of gear as they came around the side of the hill into full view of the Peaks'wall and lodge gate;as on most motorcycles, the brake wasn't very strong. The moon had set;it was hard to keep the tires out of ruts only dimly seen. He didn't bother to whisper. If Dennis was there already, he'd have picked up the sound of the engine miles away.

’’I'm not sure.’’ Ysidro's arms were like whalebone and thin cable around Asher's waist, his body a skeletal lightness against the leather of the jacket. Asher wasn't sure whether a living man could have kept his seat on the narrow carrier as they'd come up the winding road from Wycombe Parva, ’’As Burger-quoted by the invaluable Mr. Stoker- has observed, 'Die Todten reiten schnell'- the dead travel fast.’’

Asher braked gently, easing the machine to a stop in front of the iron spears of the locked gates.

Through them he could see the house, a rambling pseudo-Gothic monstrosity of native brick and hewn stone appropriated from some ruined building closer to Oxford, dark against the dim shapes of the naked beeches of the park and the vast swell of the down behind. The unkempt lawn was thick with weeds, and the woods that lay to the south and east of the house were already making their first encroachments of broom sedge and elder saplings. The place had probably housed no more than a caretaker since Blaydon had closed it up after his wife's death three years ago, and it was obvious that not even a caretaker dwelt here now.

He'd probably been turned off when Dennis first began to change, Asher thought, and anger stirred him again at Blaydon's stupid irre-sponsibility. Had anything gone amiss, from a gas leak to an omnibus accident in London, Lydia would have been condemned to death here without anyone being the wiser.

Except Dennis, of course.

’’So in other words, he could be waiting for us in the house?’’ He dismounted, and Ysidro sprang off lightly. Behind the long, wind-frayed curtain of hair, the vampire's eyes were sparkling, and Asher had the impression that he had found this mode of travel greatly to his taste.

’’Or hard upon our heels.’’ Ysidro stooped, bracing his bandaged hands on bent knees. Asher pushed up his goggles, leaned the bike against the wall, unlashed the silvered steel bar from the handlebars, and hung it around his own neck. Using Ysidro's back as a step, he could reach the top corners of the rustic stone gateway, to scramble over the six-foot palings. He had scarcely dropped to the drive on the other side when Ysidro appeared, palely silhouetted against the uneasy darkness, and sprang down without a sound to his side. At his lodgings, Asher had paused only long enough to don his boots, goggles, and leather jacket, for the night was freezing cold;Ysidro in his open shirt seemed to feel nothing.

’’Thus I do not suggest we divide to search.’’

’’Can you hear anything from here?’’ Asher asked.

The vampire shut his eyes, listening intently to the half-heard mutter-ing of the wind in the autumn woods. ’’Not clearly,’’ he murmured at last. ’’Yet the house is not empty-that I know.’’

Asher used his good hand to unsling the bar from around his neck. Scudding overcast was beginning to cover the sky. Through it, the house was a barely seen shape of gray, dotted with the black of win-dows, disturbingly like some monster's misshapen skull. ’’If he's behind us, he may arrive on top of us before we'd finished reconnoitering,’’ he said grimly, striding up the ghostly stripe of the drive. ’’And if he's there already-would you or I be able to see or hear him?’’

Asher knew the floor plan of the Peaks, though he'd never been more than a casual acquaintance of Blaydon's. But most of the dons had received invitations at one time or another, and Asher had a field agent's memory for such things. Every atom of his flesh shrank from entering the dark trap of those encircling walls without the usual pre-liminary checks. But there was no time, and they would, in any case, be useless.

They skirted the lawn and garden to the kitchen yard, Ysidro leading the way across the leaf-strewn pavement. At this point, concealment was of no more use to them than whispering;they were either perfectly safe or beyond help. And if Dennis had not arrived before them-if they were, for the moment, safe-outdoors there was a remote chance that Ysidro's vampire senses could detect his coming.

In any case, the cellars were reached from the kitchen.

The wind was rising, groaning faintly over the tops of the downs and stirring the dark hem of the woods a hundred feet from the house in a way Asher did not like. The stables stretched along one side of the yard, every door shut and bolted;the kitchen door was locked as well, but Asher drove his elbow through the window pane next to it and reached through to wrench over the latch. Beside him, he was aware of Ysidro listening, turning his head this way and that, the stray gusts flicking at his long hair, trying by some leap of the senses to detect the undetectable and to hear what was no more audible than the slow falling of dust.

The darkness of the kitchen stank of mildew and spoiling table scraps. As Ysidro found and lit a lamp, there was a flurrying rustle of tiny feet, and the primrose kerchief of light caught the tails of mice as they whipped out of sight. Asher cursed again, softly. Open tins and dirty dishes lined the old-fashioned soapstone counters, like sleeping tramps below the Embankment on a summer night. Blaydon, of course -in too great a hurry to pump and heat water to clean up. The vampire raised the lamp to shed a greater light;in its glow, Asher could see his fastidious nostrils flare.

’’He may be here, covering our minds from his presence, but I do not think he has been and gone. There is a smell of decay about him which lingers in still air.’’

’’We'll check the cellars first,’’ Asher said, crossing the worn stone floor to the narrow door beside the stove. ’’Upstairs we can always bolt through a window.’’ He pushed the door open. The smell of dust, coals, and mice almost choked him. ’’You lead. If he's here, he's likelier to be behind than before.’’

He kept his back flattened to the worn, slatted wainscot of the stair-case, his left hand with the silver bar on the upstairs side, while Ysidro edged swiftly down the steps before him. There was a wine cellar, stripped of everything but the racks, and a coal hole, half-filled with coals and dirt.

’’There's another cellar off the butler's pantry,’’ Asher said as they swiftly ascended the stairs back to the kitchen, their shadows reeling drunkenly in the lamplight. ’’You'd never know the door wasn't just a cupboard. I've never been down there-it may be just a boot hole, but it might be large enough to keep someone in.’’

The butler's pantry was more like a closet than a room, filled with shelves and family silver. The door, tucked away behind a cupboard, was bolted from the outside. ’’She's down there,’’ Simon murmured, even as Asher slipped the bolts. ’’At least someone is, and the breathing sounds like hers.’’

’’Lydia?’’ Asher called softly down the dark twist of the stairs, but kept his post at the top until Ysidro had edged his way down them. There was a door at the bottom, too;between them, the brick-walled slot of the staircase smelled like a death trap. The door at the bottom was bolted, as well. ’’Lydia, it's James! Don't be afraid...’’

The door burst open as Ysidro slid the bolts, the violence of it taking him almost totally by surprise. The swerving lamplight showed Asher the whiteness of Lydia's face, under a carnelian whirlwind of unbound hair, Her spectacles flashed in the light, and there was the thin slip of something silver in one of her hands as she stabbed at Ysidro's eyes. The vampire was out of her way before Asher could see where he moved;Lydia whirled, confused, and Asher called out, ’’Lydia, it's James!’’

She'd already begun to pelt up the stairs and now stopped short at the sight of the dark form looming at their top;Ysidro, with considerable presence of mind, raised the lamp to shed its rays as far as the top of the stairs. ’’James...!’’ she sobbed, and then swung back, looking at the vampire who stood, lamp aloft like Liberty's torch, just beside the door.

’’Oh...’’ She looked momentarily nonplussed, the silver hatpin with which she had attacked him still glinting sharp and vicious in her hand, ’’Iam sorry. You must be Don Simon Ysidro...’’ She held out her other hand to him, and he took it and kissed it with antique grace. ’’It was my pleasure,’’ the vampire replied, and she laughed shakily at this patently mendacious platitude as they hastened up the stairs. ’’I am at your service, Madame.’’

At the top, she caught Asher violently around the waist, burying her face in his leather-clad shoulder and hugging him hard enough to drive the breath from him. Through the ferocity of the embrace, he felt her trembling with cold and shock and reaction to her attack on what she had thought were her captors. He wrapped his good arm reassuringly tight around her shoulders, silver bar and all.

Typically, she broke from him almost at once, so as not to tie up a hand with a weapon in it. Ysidro had somehow moved past them-Asher never did figure out how, given the narrowness of the door-and was leading the way swiftly through the close confines of the pantry;Asher was aware of the clinical avidness with which Lydia watched his slender back.

’’Are you all right?’’

She nodded, pulling tighter around her the snagged gray cardigan she wore over shirtwaist and skirt-Blaydon's, he noted, and far too big for her. ’’That was the butler's apartments. Have we time to pump some water? I didn't drink the last pitcher Professor Blaydon brought me;I knew he must be putting the drugs in it...’’

’’No,’’ Ysidro said briefly. ’’I don't like the smell of the night-I don't like the feel. There's something about...’’

Asher started to protest, but Lydia said, ’’No, it's all right, the pump here always took forever. What happened to your arm?’’


They halted just within the kitchen door. In the uncertain starlight the yard and the woods beyond seemed alive with the sinister move-ment of the wind. Asher hated the look of them and hated still more the dark house which seemed to be closing around them like a fist.

’’Stay close to the house wall,’’ he breathed. ’’We won't be able to see him in the open. At least, near a wall, he'll have to come at us from one direction.’’

Taking a deep breath, he stepped outside. Lydia followed, holding the lamp. Ysidro brought up the rear. Seeing them standing together for the first time, Asher realized with a start that the vampire stood no taller than she.

Softly, she whispered, ’’Have you-seen him?’’

The wind moved his hair against the strap of the goggles still pushed up on his forehead-he nearly started out of his skin. ’’Did you?’’

She shook her head. ’’But I assume there's a reason why he-he only spoke to me through the shut door.’’ She glanced back at Ysidro and wet her lips. ’’His father's serum must have done something other than make him... like you.’’

’’Indeed,’’ the vampire responded, never taking his eyes from the lawn and shrubbery around them. ’’Dennis is not like me.’’

They reached the front of the house. Seventy-plus feet of rutted gravel drive stretched before them to the iron bars of the gates. The wind drove a swirl of dead beech leaves over it, like the whirling souls of Dante's damned, who could not forgo the pleasures of the living. The motorcycle was just beyond the gate, and Asher's whole soul revolted at that nebulous vista of dark. He glanced quickly back at Ysidro, who was turning his head, listening with fear in his eyes to the night.

’’Can you make it back to London afoot?’’

’’Not before dawn. But I have boltholes nearer than that-property purchased too recently to show up on your precious lists, my dear Mistress Asher. Go back to London. Stay awake and stay always around people in some public place. He cannot take you there;he dare not let his existence be suspected. I will come as soon as I can in the night...’’

Together, the three of them stepped from the sheltering shadows of the house. The wind swirled Lydia's dark skirts and the tangle of her hair and made all the weed stems caught in the platter-sized blob of the jiggling lamplight jerk and tremble erratically. Iron gloom stretched in all directions;Asher felt naked before it. Lydia whispered, ’’Shall we run?’’

’’It wouldn't make us any safer,’’ he murmured back, ’’and running, we'd be less likely to see a threat.’’

It would, however, have made him feel better, as they moved slowly and cautiously through what felt like the Great American Desert of blowing darkness. The wall loomed before them-stone gateposts, shut and boarded lodge, and weeds shivering thick around the open iron-work of the gate.

Ysidro's hand touched his arm suddenly, staying him, drawing him back toward the house. There was a gray flutter of movement some-where beyond the gate...

Asher saw Dennis come over the gate, though his mind stalled on the detail, with a sense ofjamais vu as in a dream, as if he had momentarily forgotten the significance of that bulking form dropping like a cougar from the top of the stone gate pillar, eyes glinting in the reflected light of the lamp. The next second, it seemed, it was upon them, though later Asher had clear memories of standing, staring like an idiot, and watch-ing it rush at them with horrible speed. Ysidro must have already started to move, for Dennis caught him, not full-on, but by one arm in an unbreakable grip.

Asher brought the silver bar down with all his strength on Dennis'wrist, even as the mutant fledgling ripped at Ysidro's throat. From the tail of his eye, Asher caught the black glitter of blood. It streamed down from Dennis'fangs as he drew back with a glottal roar of pain, and Asher backhanded him with the bar across the face, hearing as well as feeling the facial bones crunch. Dennis screamed. Blood splattered Asher's face like gouts of hot syrup. Then the vampire was gone, and Lydia and Ysidro, blood streaming from his torn shoulder, were drag-ging Asher, stumbling, across the open lawn toward the woods. Behind them, the dropped lamp was guttering erratically in a pool of kerosene-

’’Chapel ruins!’’ Lydia gasped. ’’Shelter without being closed in!’’ Blood was splattered liberally over one side of her white shirtwaist and the sweater, droplets of it beading even on her spectacle lenses;it cov-ered the first four inches of the silver hatpin still in her hand. She must have stabbed Dennis from the other side. Ysidro's shoulder had been opened to halfway down his back, a dark stain spreading with terrible speed over the torn rags of his shirt.

Long weeds tangled at their knees as they cut through the overgrown garden. Their feet skidded on mud and wet leaves. Behind them as they ran, Asher could hear Dennis shrieking in pain, as if the impact of the silver still burned. On his right, Ysidro's bony grip on his swollen arm was excruciating, but he hardly cared. They had to reach shelter of some kind, a wall or enclosure at their backs, or they were dead.

The chapel ruin stood in a little dell perhaps a hundred yards from the house, its ivy-draped walls sheltered by a sizable copse of beeches. It offered, as Lydia had said, ideal shelter without the potential imprison-ment of the house, the roofless chancel providing cover on most of three sides and greatly narrowing the potential field of attack.

’’What about the crypt?’’ Ysidro leaned against the stump of a broken pillar, half doubled-over with pain and dizziness, as Lydia worked a birch sapling loose from among the fallen stones. With an effort, the vampire straightened and cast a quick glance to the moss-covered altar behind them. ’’If there's another way in, he can...’’

’’There isn't a crypt.’’ Lydia hauled her skirt to untie one of her several petticoats. The lowest flounce was saturated from the grass but the one above it was dry. With unsteady fingers Ysidro ripped it free and bound it around the wood as a makeshift torch. Never taking his eyes from the rough expanse of hillside that lay between chapel and lawn, Asher tossed them the box of lucifer matches he always kept in his jacket pocket;there was the sharp hiss of sulphur, and the fabric licked into flame. ’’Dennis'grandfather had the whole ruin put up at the same time as the house was built-an architect from Birmingham designed it. It's desperately picturesque in the daylight. This wall, those arches over there, and the tombstones on the hillside are all of it there is.’’

Ysidro laughed, his fangs flashing white in the glare of the flame. Lydia came over to them, a second firebrand in one hand and her silver hatpin in the other. The ruddy glow illuminated the weed-curtained stone of the walls, the spurious Gothic corbels, and the shadows of the altar. Behind her spectacles, her face was scratched like an urchin's, smudged with dirt, and spotted with Dennis'blood. To Asher's eyes she was utterly beautiful.

She tucked the matches back into his jacket pocket. Quietly, she asked, ’’Are you more or less all right?’’

Dennis'screams of pain and fury had ceased;the wind had fallen. The naked beeches and the thick clumps of elder and hawthorn around the walls seemed, like themselves, to be waiting. The silence was worse now than any sound.

’’You mean, aside from a broken hand and assorted bites, contusions, and abrasions, and a mutant vampire fifty feet away who's going to kill us all?’’

Her lips twitched. ’’Aside from that, yes.’’


’’I was worried.’’ Her voice sounded very small;he knew she could see the half-healed red bites that tracked his jugular from ear to collar-bone. In the torchlight, her breath blew as a tiny puff of gold.

’’Not as worried as I was, believe me.’’

There was a moment's silence. Then: ’’Was that... that thing we saw... Was that Dennis?’’

She'd told him once that Dennis had proposed marriage to her for the first time here at the Peaks. Dennis had never gotten it through his head that she could actually not want to be his wife. It occurred to Asher that Dennis had undoubtedly done so here in the ruins. In the slanting light of a summer's evening, there would be no more romantic spot in twenty square miles. He sighed and said, ’’Yes.’’

Ysidro moved closer to them, holding his torch aloft. ’’Can you feel it?’’ Through the rip in his shirt, Asher could see the wound in his shoulder, still tracking a sluggish trickle of dark blood. A mortal man would have been in shock. The vampire was only shivering as if with deadly cold, his face strained and sunken-looking. The mark of Dennis'grip was visible on his arm between the rolled-up shirt sleeve and the wrappings on his hands, blackening bruises and five claw rakes where the nails had ripped the colorless flesh. ’’There's movement out there, on the lawn. I can't see exactly...’’

For a moment there was nothing, the whole night holding its breath.

Then Dennis was there, appearing with terrible suddenness just be-yond range of the torch's light, as, long ago in the dark of the cata-combs, Brother Anthony had seemed to fade into existence from the grinning shadows of the bones.

Beside him, Asher heard Lydia's breath hiss in pity and horror.

Dennis Blaydon had always been of heroic build and proportion;a golden Hercules in cricket whites. Now his size seemed monstrous, the breadth of his shoulders and chest, visible through his ripped and open shirt, like some maddened bull's. Blood tracked down his side and blot-ted his shirt above his ribs-had it been anyone but a vampire, the puncture wound administered by Lydia's hatpin would have been a serious matter-and where the bar had struck his face the flesh had puffed up like rotting meat. He was barely recognizable;the straight nose was flattened and spread now. Drool and blood dripped from the outsize fangs;the leprous skin gleamed like a snake's back in the moon-light. The glaring blue eyes were no longer even remotely human.

’’Professor Asher,’’ he whispered, in a sticky decay of a voice. ’’Lydia, get away from him. I won't harm you, I swear it. You know I'd never harm you, Lydia;I kept Dad from harming you...’’

’’Only because you wanted her for yourself!’’ Asher called into the flickering darkness. ’’Because you wanted to make her like yourself, infect her with that foul malady in your veins, so she'd be yours for-ever.’’

’’That isn't true!’’ Dennis'glaring eyes widened with hate. ’’Dad will find a cure-Dad will make me better! And why shouldn't I have her? She should have been mine. Now she'll be mine forever. I'll make her love me! It's him I want-the vampire. I need him. I need him! ’’

’’Since we're easy prey without him,’’ Asher said quietly, ’’I'm afraid we need him, too.’’

Then he blinked, trying to keep the vampire in sight-trying to focus his mind on where he had last been. But Dennis was no longer-quite- visible. Asher had the impression he would still be able to see him if he knew where to look, but he could not find him now. A breath of move-ment stirred the ragged clumps of thorn and elder, catching now here. now there-the whole night seemed to quiver, shifting as soon as he moved his eyes from any given spot.

’’He's a killer, Professor Asher,’’ a voice breathed out of that dark-ness. ’’Killed women, killed sweet little children-he'll kill Lydia if you'll let him. You know he's killed...’’

He called into the darkness, ’’And you haven't?’’

’’That's different. That's for a good cause. I had to take the risk-this country needs men with my power, my strength. And anyway, it wasn't me that killed all those people. It was the vampires. Calvaire and Lotta...’’

’’Calvaire and Lotta were dead by that time and you know it.’’

’’It was still them,’’ Dennis insisted, with the kind of logic Asher remembered from having the young man in his classes. ’’They did it, not me, and, anyway, I did it for a good cause. I need the blood. I NEED IT!’’

Something blacked Asher's mind, a blurring cloud of faintness and exhaustion. He thought he saw movement, a rustle in the long weeds that carpeted the fabricated gravestones far to his left, but the next second Ysidro swung the torch as Dennis came surging out of the darkness almost on top of him, Asher lunged at them, slashing with the metal bar at the mutant vampire's broad back, but Dennis was gone again, and Ysidro was on his knees, clutching at the big muscle between neck and shoulder, blood welling dark between his fingers. His torch lay guttering out on the damp ground.

’’Killer,’’ Dennis'voice whispered out of the dark, as Asher, never loosing his grip on the bar, held his arm down to help Ysidro to his feet. ’’Both of you, killers. Spies, sneaks, cowards, and killers of real men when their backs are turned,’’ Holding on to his shoulder, Ysidro was shuddering all over, his hand like ice, even through the leather of the jacket, his thin body oddly weightless against Asher's. The fine bones of his face stood out like a skull's with shock and fatigue-Asher won-dered if it were possible for a vampire to faint.

’’You never deserved Lydia. You lied to her, cheated me of what should have been mine. You made her leave me alone. She would have loved me if it hadn't been for you. But I won't be alone. When I've killed you both, she'll be mine. I know how to make a vampire now...’’

Asher swung toward where he thought the voice was coming from, but there was nothing. Ysidro straightened up a little and staggered, fighting to remain on his feet. ’’Where is he?’’

He shook his head. ’’I don't know.’’ Oddly enough, his voice sounded as cool and disinterested as ever. ’’I thought he was over among the tombstones just before he came at me...’’

’’How long can the three of us hold him off?’’

’’Long enough for the silver poisoning to take effect on him?’’ Lydia came up beside them, the flickering brand in her hand making her spectacle lenses seem like rounds of fire.

’’No.’’ The vampire's light hand tightened over Asher's shoulder, ’’It has only made him more frantic than ever for my blood. He has a great deal of strength still. It will be days, maybe weeks... If he takes me or another vampire or sufficient human lives, he may prolong his life indefinitely. In any case, it will be dawn soon.’’

She pushed her spectacles more firmly up onto the bridge of her nose. ’’The room where I was kept had no windows,’’ she said. ’’If we can make it back to the house we can guard you...’’

’’You'd never even see him strike.’’ The vampire straightened slowly away from Asher's grip, removed his hand from the wound in his neck;the thin fingers were dark with gore, and the handkerchief that

bound the silver burns saturated and dripping. His voice was expressionless, ’’The dawnlight will kill me-and then he will have you...’’

Lydia whirled sharply, raising her torch. ’’What's that?’’

Something white flickered and moved among the tombstones.

Threads of milky hair caught the lift of the night wind. There was a fluttering tangle of black over limbs colorless as bone, like dead ivy cloaking marble. The unearthly, unmistakable gleam of vampire eyes showed.

Asher breathed, ’’Anthony,..’’

Tiny, skeletal-white hands lifted to the cloud-patched sky. Asher had a glimpse of a white skull-face, the tonsure framed in pouring streams of filthy white mane;he seemed to hear on the night wind the whispered cry: ’’In Nomine Patris, et Filti, et Spirtius Sancti.. .’’

Ysidro shouted, ’’Antonius, non!’’ as the dark shape of Dennis rushed out of the night and fell like storm cloud upon that lonely, fragile shape among the tombstones.

If the little monk could have avoided his attacker or fought him, he did not-it did not even seem that he tried. Dennis caught him up like a snake seizing a bird, even as Asher plunged out of the safety of the chapel ruin, pain jarring his broken hand with every step on the uneven ground. He heard Lydia call his name, Ysidro shout, ’’You fool...!’’ A deep, sticky groan of satiation broke from Dennis, and somewhere he thought he heard, perhaps only in his mind, a frail drift of voice: ’’In manus tuas, Domini ...’’ as the two vampires locked together in the obscene parody of a kiss.

Then Dennis flung the broken body aside and turned, blood running down his fangs, swollen lips, and rutted chin. With a bestial snarl, he fell upon Asher like a charging bear.

Asher knew it was blood frenzy beyond caution and swung the silver bar with all the strength he had. But Dennis'weight smashed into him with full force, throwing him backward. He had a confused glimpse of the bloody mouth gaping wider and wider, the blue eyes suffused, not with hatred, but with astonishment and agony. In the split second as they collided, Asher realized that Dennis died even as he sprang.

The impact of the corpse knocked the breath out of him as they hit the ground;the broken edge of an imitation tombstone gouged him in the back. He lay for a moment stunned, under the stinking and inert mass of infected flesh that had been Dennis, and in that moment it came to him what must have killed him.

Painfully, he rolled out from under the body. Torchlight splashed jerkily over him;he heard the swish of Lydia's skirt in the long weeds and Ysidro's voice saying, ’’James...?’’ For a moment, he stood swaying over the monster carcass, the silver bar dangling uselessly from his hand. Then he dropped it and stumbled a few feet away to the body of Brother Anthony, like a broken marionette among the frilled Victo-rian gothic of the pinchbeck tombs.

The little Minorite lay crumpled together, a shrunken tangle of old bones, rotting robes, and white hair bound together with a filthy rosary, clotted with his own blood and that of six centuries of kills. His bare feet were scratched and bloody. The big veins of his throat had been ripped open by the violence of Dennis'attack, not merely punctured- there was very little blood left. Though sunken and fallen in upon the skull, his face wore a look of strange serenity and the faintest hint of a smile.

Behind him, Lydia and Ysidro were silent, Asher raised the dead vampire's left arm and pushed back the decayed shreds of the sleeve. The torchlight showed clearly the line of dark-stained punctures that tracked the big vein. Rising to his feet, he stepped around behind the tombstone to the place where he had first thought he'd seen movement.

His own ulster lay there, its nubby brown tweed still flecked with the hay from the bales in the Queen Anne mews where he'd left it with Ysidro's cloak. On top of it lay the velvet box that had contained the hypodermic needle and its ten ampoules of silver nitrate.

The ampoules were all empty.

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