THE RED COCKEREL
Cornwall - September, 1769
The door to the study was ajar, and as she stood in the hall, shivering in the semi-darkness, Rebecca heard the voice of her husband, intoning the words that she feared so much. Why did he do this? How could he have fallen so far? She shook uncontrollably as she heard the spell reach its conclusion. Soon the demons would be here, and her husband's powers would be complete. A sob stuck in her throat. She would not be able to resist him then, and he would make her his completely. She thought about becoming a part of the ritual which was underway in the study and her body went cold. It was all so wrong.
Gathering her strength, she peered around the door, trying to see through the smoke from the fire in the hearth. The violent wind outside was forcing everything back down the chimney, creating thick, black clouds in the room. Simon Falthorp sat cross legged on the floor, his head bowed, his body swaying rhythmically from side to side. Rebecca did not understand the words that he spoke, or even recognise the language, but she knew what it all meant. She had watched her husband perform this same ritual every night for six weeks.
A flash of lightning lit up the room, and Rebecca saw her husband in full detail. She saw his dark hair, his sallow skin and his black suit. He had even begun to look like a mad man. She saw the smoky tendrils as they emerged from the fire and gave a gasp of fear. Those black tentacles would soon envelop Simon, and when they did so she would be powerless against him.
He heard her, and turned his head towards the door. She saw his eyes, inhumanly bright, and saw his mouth forming into an evil grin. The flames from the fire caught cast a flickering glow about the room which reflected in his eyes, and terrified her. She took a step back. He laughed, and returned to his chanting. He had no need to come after her, she realised. In a matter of minutes he would be more powerful than she could truly comprehend, and there would be nothing she could do to prevent him from stealing her soul. Images of her marriage flashed through her head; her father and mother so proud of their tall, handsome new son-in-law. How wrong they had all been. Why had they not seen Simon for what he really was? How could they have been so drawn in by his smiles and his smooth way of talking? Wiping the tears from her eyes Rebecca turned away from the door and began to run. She had no idea, at first, where she was running to, but it soon became clear to her. She pulled open the heavy front door and ran out of the house. The wind tore at her clothing and the rain lashed her face. Thunder rolled overhead, the noise seeming to crush her. She sobbed helplessly, no longer able to hear herself cry, and unable to tell her tears from the rain. Blinded by her grief she ran on.
"Rebecca!" She heard Simon call her from the house, just as she reached the cliff top. Crying, she looked back.
"Rebecca come back. Don't be a fool. There's no escape. You're mine."
"Not yet." Wiping the water from her face, uncaring as to whether or not he could hear her small voice above all the noise, she turned away from her husband. "You'll never have me."
"No!" He began to run, and something made her turn back towards him. She saw him run faster and faster, and then take flight, hurling himself through the air, his black cloak whipping about behind him.
Terrified, she let out a piercing scream, helplessness and fear encircling her in a stifling embrace. She took a step backwards, and felt her feet reach the edge of the cliff.
"Come back with me, Rebecca." He was right in front of her now, his hands held out. "Come back with me to the house. I promise you it won't hurt. It'll all be over very quickly, and then you won't care."
"No." The word came out as little more than a pitiful whisper. "Never." She turned away, and looked down the cliff, to where the black water lashed the sharp rocks far beneath her. She thought about her family, and wondered what they would think. Perhaps it no longer mattered. With Simon's hands reaching out to grab her, and with the wind screaming in her ears, she whispered a prayer and stepped out into nothingness.
San Francisco - present day
Alex Moreau checked her E-mail in much the same way as she did every morning. She reached blindly for the cup of coffee on her desk, gazing at the list of new mails. Usual stuff. She remained in touch with many old friends via the Internet, and it was the only way that she was still able to talk to many old college associates. She sipped her coffee, scanning the list of names. Richard, a guy she had known at high school, who now worked in a bank; James, who lived in the UK now, and called her every week for a sports update; Ben, who was a doctor in New York. She smiled to herself. It would be good to meet up with some of these people again. Most of them had been just mail correspondents for years. She hadn't seen Samantha Turner since college, when they had met on a year's residential course in Paris.
Samantha Turner? Alex clicked on the name immediately. She hadn't heard from her old friend in years. What could she want? The message was short and to the point, and she frowned to herself as she read it. It sounded as though Samantha was worried. She printed the message out and got up, forgetting all about the coffee on her desk.
"Alex!" As she left the room she saw Derek climbing the stairs, and hurried towards him.
"Oh! Derek. Do you have a moment?"
"Of course." He frowned. "You look troubled. Is everything okay?"
"I don't know." She followed him into his office and then handed him the E-mail. "This came this morning. It's from an old friend of mine."
He took the sheet of paper and scanned through it. "What sort of person is she?"
"Not the imaginative kind. Look at what she writes. Shadows, figures walking on the beach."
"A figure." He frowned. "Does she know about your work?"
"No, I haven't seen her in years. She does know about my sight, though, and she's probably wondering if I can tell her if something odd is going on."
He nodded. "You want to go to see her?"
"I'd like to. We're not busy at the moment are we?"
"Not at all, no. Quite the opposite in fact." He smiled. "You can take all of the time you want."
"Thanks." She hesitated. "Er, Derek?"
"I was wondering... Whatever is going on, I might not be able to see it, but you would."
"You mean you want me to come with you?"
"I'd really appreciate it. And you did say that you're not busy."
He smiled. "I walked into that one, didn't I? Okay, Alex. I'll come, but not to be a ghost hunter. This is your show."
"Thanks." She headed for the door. "Perhaps we should all go. Sam lives further on round the coast, and it's supposed to be lovely there this time of year."
"She wants help, not an invasion. We can call the others for assistance if it looks as though something is wrong. Anyway, Rachel can't go running off without finding somebody to look after Kat." He stood up. "I suppose I'd better go and tell them we shall be leaving. You must be sure to leave the address with Nick before we go."
"Derek, I think I know the drill by now." She smiled. "It would be just our luck if Sam has discovered the start of an invasion by unmentionables from somewhere nasty."
"But more likely she has disturbed somebody who sleeps rough near her house." Derek smiled. "We shall soon find out."
Samantha Turner had been living in her beach house for six months, ever since her fiancÚ had been called away to Japan on business. He had bought the house as an engagement present for her, and had left almost immediately. She had only been living there for a few weeks when she had begun to notice that something was wrong. At first it had been just oddities; a feeling that she was being watched, or a sensation of somebody brushing past her. Soon it had become more. Now she heard a voice, sometimes more than one, coming at her out of the darkness in the middle of the night. When she walked on the beach in the evening she saw a figure, little more than a shadow, moving along the shoreline just ahead. Every night she tried to call out to the person, but they never heard her, and when she tried to catch up it always proved impossible. One night, when a powerful storm had swept out of nowhere, she had sat in her house and watched the waves blown up by the wind. The figure had been there, just as always, apparently not affected by the violence of the weather. Samantha had rushed outside immediately, but by the time she had reached the water's edge, and had dashed the rain and the ocean spray from her eyes, the figure had vanished.
Unwilling to disturb her fiancÚ with wild tales that he would probably never believe, Sam's thoughts had travelled back to the girl she had met years ago, in Paris. They had spent a year together, she remembered, on a residential course, and then had parted on their return to the States. They had kept in touch for a short time, but for several years they had not spoken. Sam remembered a mutual friend, and had asked him for a way to contact Alex Moreau. She would be able to help. Sam recalled her original disbelief about Alex's psychic abilities, and then her growing realisation that it was all true. It had all been a game back then, but now it might be the way to prove to Sam that she was not going mad. She had sent her old friend an E-mail, and could only hope that Alex would take her seriously. She might not even believe in ghosts, she might have become a sceptic. Either way, Sam was sure that she was her only chance to find out the truth.
The knock at the door made Sam jump, and she caught her breath. She had been on edge for days, ever since the storm. Get a hold of yourself, she muttered angrily. She hadn't realised how jumpy the whole affair had made her. It was as if she were suddenly afraid of her own shadow - not to mention somebody else's.
She stood up and hurried to the door, tearing her mind away from unpleasant thoughts about what might be waiting for her on the veranda. She had been reading so many ghost stories recently that she no longer liked to sleep without the lights on.
"Sam!" Stepping forward as soon as the door was open, Alex caught her friend's hand and shook it excitedly. "You haven't changed a bit!"
"Alex?" Samantha smiled, relieved. "I wasn't sure if you'd come. I thought you might think I was nuts."
"Hardly." Alex grinned, and turned to Derek. "Derek, this is Sam. We were such good friends, but it's been at least five years. Sam, this is Derek. He's my boss."
"Pleased to meet you." Derek went smoothly into Perfect Gentleman mode, and Alex smiled. Her friend's capacity to impress people never failed to amuse her. Sam led them into the house.
"I'm afraid the place is in a bit of a mess. I've been reading some stuff about--" She broke off and looked at Alex, who smiled.
"It's okay. Derek is something of an authority on strange occurrences. You don't have to worry about him."
"Oh, right." Sam watched the tall man as he wandered about, picking books up at random, and looking at the covers with interest.
"I used to read some of these," he said with a smile. "You have some of the classic texts here, as well as some that I would really not recommend." He held up one of the books. "This one for instance. It was written by a Church Professor one hundred and fifty years ago. He thought that ghosts were messengers from hell."
Sam's eyebrows raised. "You, er, really know about all this stuff then?" she asked. Derek shrugged lightly.
"It is an interest of mine," he said vaguely. "That is why we're here?"
"Yes. Yes of course." She lowered her head slightly. "Alex, please don't think I'm crazy, but I think I'm being haunted."
"Why would we think you're crazy?" Alex put her arm around her old friend. "Lots of people experience paranormal events at some point in their lives."
"Yes, but most of them are alcoholics, or UFO nuts. I never believed in any of this."
Derek had raised his eyebrows at the references to alcoholics and nuts, and Alex caught his expression. She grinned.
"Actually, Sam, both Derek and I have some experience of unusual occurrences. They're not as rare as people would like to think. Why don't you show us where you see the figure that you told me about."
"It's out there." Sam pointed at the window, a veil passing over her face. "I don't like to go out there anymore. I don't like the idea of it being out there, watching me."
"Where about exactly?" Striding to the window, Derek gazed out at the peaceful scene of surf and sand. "On the beach?"
"Yes." She joined him at the window. "By the waterline usually, but it moves around. Once it was right outside my window. I saw it looking in at me, but all I could see was a silhouette, and the eyes."
"Eyes? How did they look?" Alex frowned at the view out across the beach. She didn't like to think of her old friend being scared by something that could all so easily be a prank by local kids.
"Look? They were like... I don't know." She turned away from the window and sighed. "This wouldn't be happening if David was here."
"Your boyfriend?" Alex shrugged. "I'm sure it's got nothing to do with that. You're not crazy, Sam. Ghosts appear for all kinds of reasons, and anyway; we haven't established whether or not that's what it is, yet."
"You do believe me then?" Sam blinked up at her, her expression one of relief. She looked to be nearly on the point of tears. "The police didn't. They said I was imagining it."
Derek smiled. "The police are not trained to look for spirits, Miss Turner. They tend to be the sceptical sort."
She laughed. "That's an understatement. And, please, call me Sam." She turned to Alex. "I was hoping maybe you could take a look around outside; see if you can... feel anything, or whatever it is you do."
Alex smiled. "Actually I was planning to leave that to Derek. He's better at it than I am." She smiled sweetly at her colleague. "Why don't you show me where the kitchen is, and I'll make some coffee. You look like you could use some."
"Thanks." Samantha headed towards her kitchen, and Derek shot Alex an expressive stare.
"Yes. Thankyou Alex," he said. She grinned.
"Don't get your feet wet."
"I'll try not to." He left the house, and she watched him for a few minutes before joining Sam in the kitchen. Her old friend had just put the kettle on, and was leaning against a cupboard looking pale and tense.
"Are you okay Sam?" Worried, Alex tried to sound comforting, but Sam managed only a wan smile in response.
"I don't know. Yesterday I thought I was mad. Now I think I'm being haunted. I don't know which is worse."
"It's probably nothing." Alex wandered to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Derek on the beach, but found that the view from this side of the house was very different. Instead she could see up the nearby cliff, to a large house which stood far above the beach. It was imposing and attractive, yet also oddly forlorn.
"Who lives there?" she asked. Sam glanced up at the house.
"I'm not sure. A couple, I know that much, but they don't seem to go out a whole lot. I only saw the woman when they moved in. The man goes out occasionally, but always on his own. It's a nice sort of house, though. I'd like to see inside."
"Mmm." The Legacy woman opened a few cupboards looking for mugs, and eventually found three. "Where's the coffee?"
"What?" Sam looked momentarily distracted, as if she had almost been unable to drag her eyes away from the house on the hill.
"Coffee." Alex frowned. Something definitely did not seem right with her old friend.
"Oh. Here." Sam opened another cupboard and pulled out a jar. "Sugar's in here too."
"Thanks." Alex began to make the coffee, trying not to notice that Sam was gazing at the house again. In profile her friend looked even more pale and drawn, and her eyes blinked rapidly. It almost seemed as though she were talking to herself, her lips moving soundlessly and her tongue darting out every so often. Alex was sure that something was wrong somewhere in this paradise of sun and sea. It couldn't just be imagination that had pushed Samantha Turner so close to the edge.
Out on the beach, Derek wandered down to the water's edge and looked out to sea. He had always loved water, and especially the ocean. It was restful, and yet at the same time it was powerful and deadly. Much of life was like that.
He took a deep breath and turned in a steady circle, unsure exactly what it was that he was looking for. He believed Samantha's tale, if only because she was a friend of Alex, and he trusted his associate completely. The talk of figures wandering aimlessly suggested several possibilities, but if this particular figure was only walking, there was little he could do. It didn't seem right to try to exorcise a harmless spirit. Perhaps he could ask it to restrict its hours of exercise to the times when Sam was asleep.
He chose a direction more or less at random, and began to walk, avoiding the lazily rolling surf without straying too far from it. He liked its sound. He listened for the cries of sea birds, but there didn't seem to be many. That was odd. Beaches were usually alive with birds. He took a few more steps, and stopped suddenly. His head began to swim and he took a deep breath, fighting for control as his vision blurred. He was no longer seeing in colour, but in the sharp, black and white images which often showed him sights that others could not see. There was a woman, young and yet also old. She was crying, and he felt her distress and her fear. She looked up, and his eyes met hers. She gasped, then her picture was gone. Instead there was a storm, and a raging sea pounding against a cliff wall. He could hear something above the wind and the rain, but at first he was not sure what it was. Only as the vision began to fade did it become clear to him; a cockerel was crowing. Somewhere, beyond the storm and the sea, the creature was fighting to make itself heard.
"Are you alright?" Derek blinked, and looked up into the face of a woman. She stood in front of him, her eyes showing concern.
"Yes, I'm fine thankyou." He shook his head a little to clear it, wondering where this person had come from. He had not seen anyone on the beach before his vision.
"Are you sure? You seemed to go kind of... weird for a minute."
"I'm fine. Just tired."
"Okay." The woman looked him up and down. "You're new here, aren't you. I haven't seen you before."
"No. I'm visiting somebody."
"Thought so." The woman smiled suddenly. "Sorry, where are my manners? My name is Louisa Marshall. I live up on the cliff." She pointed, and Derek saw the big house for the first time.
"It's beautiful," he said, with real feeling. Even from a distance he could see that the bricks were old, and the architecture suggested a date to him. "Sixteenth century?"
"Very good. It's not all original, of course, but most of it is still pretty old. We had to replace some of the beams not so long back."
"When you moved it?" he asked. She laughed.
"Very good again. What are you, a detective?"
"No." He gestured vaguely at the house. "The stones are old, but there is no creeper growing on them. That suggests that you have moved the building from its original location. It looks British."
"It is, like me." The woman raised an eyebrow. "You don't sound much like a native yourself."
"Me? Oh I come from all over." Derek extended his hand. "Derek Rayne. I am visiting Samantha Turner, from the beach house over there." He pointed, and Louisa nodded.
"I know the one. Right beneath our house. I've never met your friend, though. My husband and I don't get out very much."
As if on cue, another figure began heading towards them. Derek recognised the shape of a large man with an air of arrogance and animosity. As the man came closer his face became discernible; hard eyes glared at the pair, and the mouth was fixed in a scowl.
"What are you doing down here, Louisa?" he asked, his voice loud and harsh.
"Don't start Andrew." She sighed. "Derek, this is..."
"Never mind who I am." Andrew's eyes looked Derek up and down. "You know I don't like you coming down here."
"Don't you think that is up to your wife?" Derek had taking an instant disliking to the big, bullying man, and it appeared that the feeling was mutual.
"No, I don't." Andrew towered over Derek, who was far from small himself. "Do you want to make something of it?"
"No." Planting herself firmly between the two men, Louisa looked up at Derek. "It's not worth it. Please."
Derek looked down at her. He could see that she was afraid of her husband, and he did not like the mask which had come over her face at his approach. All the same, there was little that he could do. He nodded.
"Okay. But you don't have to listen to him if you don't want to."
"Mind your own business." Grabbing his wife by the hand, Andrew began to walk off along the beach. Derek reacted angrily to the man's forcefulness, and took a few steps forward, catching hold of the other man's shoulder. He gasped. As soon as he touched Andrew he felt his hand turn ice cold. Electric shocks seemed to race up and down his arm, and his head throbbed. He felt his vision swim again, and a picture appeared in his mind. A small, red cockerel. He thought he heard it crow.
"Let go of my arm." He looked up into the other man's eyes, and felt the icy touch of something on his spine. His hand fell away from Andrew's shoulder and he took a few steps back, trying not to look at the man. Louisa frowned at him.
"Are you sure you're okay, Derek?"
"Of course he's okay." Andrew began to pull her away again, and this time Derek did not intervene. Instead he began to walk back to the beach house. He needed to talk to Alex.
It was late in the day, and Samantha had gone to another room, to telephone her fiancÚ. Derek relaxed in a chair and cast a sidelong glance at Alex. She felt his gaze.
"So what did you see?" she asked. He smiled.
"How do you know I saw anything at all?" he asked, and she laughed quietly.
"Because you've gone all mysterious. You must have seen something."
"I did. I'm just not sure what." He shrugged. "There was a storm, and a woman crying."
"No. I had never seen this woman before. She seemed to be wearing old fashioned clothing, from a long time ago." He frowned.
"There's something else?"
"Yes... A cockerel. I heard it crowing. Then later I saw one. It was red."
"Red? I didn't know you got red cockerels. Are you sure that's what colour it was?"
"Positive. I only rarely see things in colour. This was very clearly red, with everything else in black and white."
"Everything else?" Alex prompted, obviously intrigued.
"I don't know. A sword, I think. And a building of some sort. In the background."
"Odd." Leaning back in her chair, Alex contemplated the ceiling. "Is that all?"
"Not exactly." He told her about the woman on the beach, and about her domineering husband. "It seems odd that I saw the cockerel when I touched him, and yet I heard it earlier."
"Maybe you were picking up vibes from him in the middle of the earlier vision." Alex shrugged. "Nothing is straight forward when you're talking about psychic visions. You know better than me how cryptic it can all be."
"True." He sighed, and stood up, beginning to pace. "All the same, I think I will go up to the house tonight, and try to talk to Louisa. There is a lot about her husband that I do not like."
"You don't want to antagonise him, Derek. There are a lot people in this world who give off bad vibes." She shuddered. "There was a kid in my Maths class at High School who felt like ice. Enough to chill your blood. People like that aren't necessarily within our jurisdiction."
"We don't have a jurisdiction," he reminded her. "We put things right when we see that they are wrong. The Legacy does not have to restrict itself to the undead, or the creatures of the night."
"Okay." She sighed and nodded. After all, she had brought Derek here. It was only to be expected that he would find something to investigate. "Do you want me to come with you?"
"I don't think so. It might be better to keep a low profile for now. Anyway," he glanced out of the window towards the sea. "You should stay here with Sam. Her figure may drop by for a visit at any time."
"Okay. Just be careful." Alex looked up as Sam entered the room. "Hi Sam. David okay?"
"Yes. I haven't told him anything. I didn't like to. Did I hear you say you were going somewhere Derek?"
"That's right. I thought I would pay a visit to your neighbours on the cliff, to see if they have seen anything of your visitor." He began to head for the door. "Is there a path up to the house?"
"Yes. Just follow the beach for a while, and you'll see it." Sam watched Derek leave. "I hope he doesn't make me sound like a complete fool."
"He won't. You can trust Derek completely." Alex positioned herself by the window. "I hope you're ready for a long night, Sam, because I'm not planning to go to sleep until we've had a visit."
"Sit up and wait for it you mean?" Sam looked horrified. "Can't you just... throw some Holy water on the sand or something?"
Alex laughed. "It's not that simple," she told her old friend. "Anyway, I've come here to see what's going on, not to exorcise anything. Not unless we decide it's dangerous."
"You can do that then?" Her fears forgotten, Sam sounded interested. "Have you ever had to exorcise something before?"
Her guest smiled, wondering how to answer that one without giving too much away. "Let's just say that more and more people have started to call on Derek when odd things happen," she said guardedly. "It's like a hobby for him."
"Wow." Sam shrugged, and settled down beside the window. "I hope he doesn't find my ghost too boring in that case."
Alex tried not to smile. How wonderful it would be, she thought with amusement, if for once they could discover a ghost that just wanted to sit and chat, instead of some insane beast hell bent on mass destruction.
"We don't even know that it is a ghost yet," she told her old friend. "And if it is there are any number of explanations for its being here. The trick is to find out who it is, and why they might have returned." She frowned suddenly. "Does anybody round here keep hens?"
Sam laughed at the absurdity of the question. "Hens? On the beach? Most of the people round here are so rich they wouldn't know what to do with an egg, let alone a hen. Why?"
"Nothing... Derek was saying something about cockerels earlier, that's all."
"You mean he saw one?"
Alex opened her mouth to answer, but then stopped herself. Derek didn't like to advertise the fact that he was psychic any more than she did herself. "He thought he heard one," she said finally. "Perhaps he was mistaken." She gazed out of the widow onto the darkening scene of silence and inactivity that was the beach. "Do you fancy a game of I-spy?"
The path was awkward, with sections that were loose and extremely steep, but Derek found his way up despite the fading light. The moon was up by the time he reached the top of the cliff, and in its light the house looked bigger than ever. He admired it for a second, imagining it as it must have looked before it was uprooted and brought to a strange country. It would take a while for the ivy to grow again. A rambling rose or two would look rather pleasant as well, he thought, thinking about the Rayne family house and its attendant creepers. The gardeners had always moaned about them, but he rather liked them. He had one or two memories of swinging from them as a child, probably after reading one too many Tarzan adventures.
Approaching the house from the side, Derek looked about for the front door and avoided it. Instead he made a circuit of the building, looking for the various entrances, moving carefully around the windows, and keeping alert for Andrew Marshall. The big man was not the sort to take kindly to nocturnal visitors, especially secretive ones. Eventually he heard the sound of a door slam, and worked his way back round to the front. Marshall walked down the garden path, climbed into a large saloon car parked in the driveway, and drove away. Gravel crunched under his wheels, and sprayed into the air, making Derek duck back beside the house.
"Have a nice trip," he whispered to the departing vehicle, and emerged from his hiding place with a smile. Perfect. Now he could try to talk to Louisa. He headed for the front door and knocked loudly, fully expecting to be greeted by a butler or a housekeeper of some kind. Instead Louisa answered the door herself. She was dressed in a long black dress and her hair was tied back. She looked tired.
"Derek! What are you doing here?" She looked nervously towards the driveway but Derek put her mind at ease.
"Your husband has gone. I wanted to talk to you. Can I come in?"
"Of course." She led him into a large entrance hall. Paintings hung from the walls, their eyes watchful and uniformly green. Louisa smiled.
"Andrew's ancestors. Spooky lot, aren't they. I hate them."
"It must be an old family." Derek wandered closer to the paintings, gazing up at one of them. There was something about it that attracted his attention, but he could not quite put his finger on what it was.
"They are. The house was built by them originally, and they've been living in it ever since. The family is old Cornish."
"Marshall isn't a terribly Cornish name." Eyeing a painting with an appraising stare, Derek was only half listening to the woman.
"No it isn't. The real name seems to have been lost somewhere along the line. There was a series of suspicious accidents a few generations ago, and the family splintered. Only one branch stayed in the house. When they died out Andrew inherited it." She shrugged. "But I don't care about his family. I've never met any of them. The house was out in the middle of nowhere, and none of the locals back in Cornwall seemed to know anything about the people who lived here. There were all kind of stories. I used to like hearing them, but now when I think if them, they..." She shrugged. "I suppose it sounds silly, but they scare me. All the talk of screams of pain, and the spirits that are supposed to haunt the place. If they ever existed I hope they stayed back in Cornwall."
Derek, who had had plenty of reason in the past to set great store by old tales, smiled at the woman, who suddenly seemed very small and alone in the great hall.
"Why did you bring the house here?" he asked. Louisa shrugged.
"My husband's idea. Something to do with his work. I guess he decided he might as well be comfortable if he had to come all the way to America." She smiled faintly. "I never thought I'd miss Britain so much. I even miss the weather."
"Couldn't you have persuaded your husband to stay in Britain?" Finally tearing his eyes from the paintings on the wall, Derek turned his attention fully on the withdrawn young woman.
"Not really. Andrew's work means so much to him. He gets so excited by his research. But it's started to change him. Sometimes I almost don't recognise him any more." She blushed. "Sorry. I shouldn't be telling you this."
"You can if you want to." Derek let his eyes run over the carvings in the woodwork which decorated the ceilings. The house was a real work of art. "What line of work is your husband in?"
"He's an author. He's doing research for a book on ancient cultures." She smiled again, but it seemed sad and oddly reflective. "I guess it means a lot to him, but I wish he wouldn't let it take him over so much."
"He works too much, you mean." Derek hoped that he didn't sound too pushy, but he wanted to find out more about the large man who had given him such a powerful image of evil.
"Sort of." She frowned. "You know, it's odd, but I don't really remember him doing any work. I know he must do, but I can't seem to recall..." She wobbled slightly, and Derek was by her side in a second. He caught her arm and guided her to the stairs so that she could sit down.
"Are you alright?" he asked her, his voice anxious. She frowned up at him.
"What are you doing here? If Andrew comes home he'll be angry. I don't want you to get into trouble."
"Don't worry about me." Derek sat down on the step beside her. "What happened to you just then? You seemed to come close to fainting."
"I don't know. Andrew tells me that I haven't been well. That's why I mustn't go out much. I don't remember being ill, but if he says I was..." She smiled her pale, sad smile again, and Derek felt a strong desire to protect her. She seemed so terribly alone. He put his hand on her shoulder, and felt a burst of sadness and confusion. A picture flitted through his mind. Smoke, and the smell of incense. He frowned, trying to clear his head.
"You really must go." Louisa stood up. "I like having visitors, but Andrew doesn't like me to be tired out. He says I must take care of myself. I was very ill, you know."
"Even though you don't remember it?" Derek did not stop her from standing up and moving away across the hall. He followed her, and stood in front of her, trying to make her look at him again. "When were you ill, Louisa? Were you in hospital? What was wrong with you?"
"I don't know..." She looked up at him, her eyes suddenly tearful. "Andrew says my mind hasn't recovered yet, but sometimes I think I'm remembering things, and I don't understand them at all. I see things in my head..." She gave a small sob. "Andrew says I shouldn't talk about it. He wouldn't like it if he knew you were here."
"Why are you so scared of your husband?" It was hardly a tactful question, but it tumbled out before he could stop it. Louisa frowned.
"I'm not," she began, sounding defensive, then her resolve broke.
"I'm not supposed to talk to you," she whispered, sounding on the edge of despair. "You're not supposed to know about this. You don't know me. You can't know how I feel. It shouldn't be that obvious."
"It's not," he attempted, as a way of making her feel better. She smiled.
"Yes it is. It must be. You saw, didn't you, down on the beach. The way I looked at him. He does scare me. He used to be so gentle, then as soon as we got married he changed. I don't know him anymore. He scares me, and I don't know why. I don't remember anything."
"Anything about what?"
Her eyes lowered. "The time we spend together in the house. When he's here in the evenings we sit together, but I don't remember anything about those times. Andrew says it's because I was ill..."
"How convenient." Derek frowned. There was definitely more going on here than had originally met the eye. He remembered his original mission, and thought guiltily of Alex waiting down on the beach. She was probably expecting him to join her down there. Well, it wasn't as if she wasn't capable of handling a simple situation like that one. A restless ghost enjoying a sea breeze didn't really require his experience. "Help me." Louisa was looking up at him, her eyes pleading. "I don't know what's going on anymore. Please help me."
"Of course." He took her hand, and she ran forward, hugging him tightly. He gasped. Images flooded his consciousness, and he had to fight to remain on his feet. He saw more smoke; could smell the incense again. Flames leapt up in the peripheries of his vision, and voices reached his ears. He heard a man, calling a woman's name. He heard her cries of fear. He heard the man shouting words, rhythmical and precise. They were words that meant nothing to Derek, but he understood them nonetheless. Languages changed, and legends varied, but he knew a spell when he heard one. He swayed, hearing the rhythm of the man's words filling his head. The smoke became more dense. Suddenly he was standing in a darkened room, watching the fire in the hearth, watching it as it broke free, and sent tentacles of flame about the floor. They reached for his feet, and he tried to back away. There was nowhere to go. He felt the flame touch his ankles, but it was cold instead of hot, and there was no pain. More tentacles reached for his wrists, and he was flung back against the wall, held there by the strange force within the fire. He heard a scream and turned his head. A woman was lying on the floor, her face turned away from him towards the man towering above her. Andrew Marshall. It was his voice that chanted the rhythmical incantations. He was grinning, his face fixed in an expression of madness, his eyes ablaze with all the light of the fire, and all of the flaming fervour of a fanatic.
"Andrew, no!" Derek recognised the voice of the woman on the floor without surprise. It had to have been Louisa. Who else would Andrew use to help him in whatever insanity he was a part of? He struggled against the hold of the tongues of fire, but it was no use. Andrew looked up. Through the smoke that stung his eyes, Derek saw Andrew looking at him. He smiled. Derek blinked. Wherever Andrew was, whatever he was, he knew that he had been discovered. He knew that the Legacy man had seen him; and Derek knew with a sudden cold certainty that Andrew was in the vision with him now. He struggled to win back full consciousness. He had to get away from the house. Andrew would be heading back there. He had to get Louisa away. Desperate, Derek tore himself away from the woman. The black and white haze left his mind, and he blinked at Louisa, trying to focus on her face. Confusion flooded through him. He thought, as he stared at her, that her eyes were red, and her expression was one of dislike. He swayed on his feet, and tried to speak, then the whole world faded away in front of him, and everything went black. Staring down at him, Louisa gave a small, faint smile, then she turned and walked away.
Alex stretched, feeling stiff and bored. It had been ages since Derek had left to go up to the house on the cliff, and she suspected that he was staying up there in an attempt to avoid the possible boredom of waiting for Samantha's ghost to appear. She sighed and stood up, taking care not to wake Sam up. Her old friend had fallen asleep on one of the nearby chairs, her legs drawn up beside her and her face covered by her hair. Alex smiled. It would be nice to go to sleep, but she had promised Sam that the ghost would be her first priority. After all, it was the reason why she had come here in the first place. She thought about Derek again and scowled. He was probably up at the big house now, discussing its history and architecture, and admiring the numerous antiques that they no doubt had hanging from every surface. Derek Rayne seemed to attract eccentrics. Perhaps they recognised the oddities of his own character, or perhaps he was just lucky. Either way they flocked to him in just the same way that ghosts and demons always seemed to. If ever Derek came to be stranded on a desert island, Alex would bet a considerable amount of money that pretty soon the place would be crawling with weird people or ghosts. Probably both. The thought made her smile, and with a sudden feeling of resolve, she left the beach house and began to walk down to the water's edge.
She looked about, first at the open expanse of beach and then at the dark, still water. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She began to wander down the beach a little way, casting the occasional glance up towards the house on the cliff. What was Derek up to? What had he found up there to hold his attention so? She scowled up at the dark silhouette of the building. They probably had a library full of first edition Dickens novels, or a collection of books on ancient magic.
"Who are you?" Alex jumped, startled by the voice which came from behind her. She swung round. A woman stood on the sand, unconcerned with the surf which splashed about at her ankles. "Why have you come here?"
"Who are you?" Alex did not have to move closer to the woman to feel that something was not right about her. She felt cold.
"I'm not sure." The woman smiled, and her eyes showed warmth and compassion. "I... don't know where I am."
"Do you want to come back to the house with me? You could sit down." Alex knew instinctively what the woman's answer would be, but she still asked the question.
"No. I have to stay here. I have to watch." The woman frowned. "Why have you come here?"
"To watch." The woman nodded, satisfied by the answer.
"Good. Somebody else had to come. Somebody else had to help. I don't think I can do it on my own. He never listened to me, and now he can't even see me. Not many people can." She frowned. "Am I dead?"
Alex blinked. "I... think so," she replied, her voice hesitant. A ghost who didn't know she was a ghost? This was a new one on her. The woman nodded.
"I thought so. I thought I must be, but nothing seemed to have changed. I still feel the same. I still feel afraid." She looked suddenly urgent. "It's Simon, you see. I don't know what's got into him. I did the only thing I could do." She lowered her head. "I don't know why I came back."
"Who's Simon?" Alex asked, rapidly beginning to feel that she was losing control of the situation. Where the hell was Derek?
"My husband..." The woman's voice trailed off. "Except that he's not my husband anymore. He's... someone else. Something else. I don't know where my husband has gone."
"Your husband being...?"
"Simon. Lord Simon Falthorp, that is. He scares me." She lowered her head. "He wanted to kill me, but I got away. I went where he couldn't get me, except that he's come back too. Or maybe he never went away." She looked up, suddenly sounding brighter. "Will you help me?"
"Of course. That's why I came." Alex smiled reassuringly. "What can I do?"
"Take my hand." The woman reached out, one long, white gloved hand, its fingers reaching out for those of the legacy woman. Alex took her hand, and felt a vision envelop her. She saw a raging storm, with huge waves that battered the coast. She saw flames that reached out to engulf everything. She was scared, and she was cowering in the darkness. Suddenly she heard a man's voice. Terror consumed her, although she had no idea why it should do so. She felt herself rise to her feet and begin to run. She ran on and on along a cliff top, until she was standing on the edge, the crumbling stones beneath her feet making her desperate to step back onto firmer ground. She couldn't. Instead she felt herself drawn closer and closer to the edge. A gust of wind blew around her, whipping her hair across her face and snatching the air from her lungs. She gasped, and the ground vanished beneath her feet. She was falling, faster and faster, with the rocks and the lashing waves coming closer and closer towards her. She thought she heard herself scream, but all that she could be sure of was the crowing of a cockerel, and as the waves came up to meet her she saw the bird, small and red, running along the beach. Everything went black.
Rachel Corrigan entered the Legacy House feeling bright and cheerful. The world looked good on this sunny morning, and with only Nick in the House it should be a quiet and peaceful day. It wasn't that she objected to a lot of people around, but the less of them there were, the less likely another inconvenient and potentially lethal mission was. With no Derek around to unfalteringly lead them all into trouble she and Nick should be in for a well earned rest.
"Rachel!" Nick grabbed her arm as soon as she was in through the door. "Is Kat with somebody?"
"It's a school day, Nick. She's in school. What's wrong?"
"I just got a call from the police in Hope."
"The little town where Alex's friend lives?"
"You got it." He was dragging her to the door so fast that she could hardly think straight.
"Nick, what's wrong?"
"Alex was found on the beach last night, unconscious. She hasn't woken up yet, and no one's seen anything of Derek since early yesterday evening. Alex had our number on her, so that's how they knew to call here. We have to get down there."
"Of course. Is there any word on how Alex is?"
"Nothing." He hurried her to her car and climbed in behind the wheel. "I don't know what they've walked into down there, but I don't like the way this sounds."
"And I thought it should be pretty quiet with Derek away." Rachel smiled ruefully, the smile quickly fading to a look of concern. "I hope they're okay."
"Me too." He spun the car about. "Alex is in the local hospital. Her friend Samantha is with her. With a bit of luck she should be able to tell us what's going on."
Alex was lying in a room. It was quiet and still, and completely empty. She could feel an overwhelming sense of desolation. She lifted her head. Bare stone walls greeted her, and an empty hearth showed where a fire might be built, on other, more hospitable occasions. She wondered where she was, and why she had been brought here. The woman on the beach had been trying to show her something, but everything had become confused. She sat up. Maybe Derek was around here somewhere. Then she remembered that he had gone up to the house on the cliff.
"Hello?" She tried to make herself heard to someone, but only her own voice came back to her, sounding lonely and afraid. She wandered round the room, shaking at the door, and trying to see out of the windows, but they were too far above her head.
"Who are you calling to?" She swung round, shocked by the sudden sound of a voice, but unsurprised to see that it was the woman from the beach.
"Why am I here?" Alex rounded on the woman. "Why have you brought me here?"
"It's the only place I know. He put me here, so that I couldn't stop him. Sometimes I get out, but I'm not strong enough to do anything on my own. You have to help me."
"Who put you here?"
"My husband, Simon. He's not who you think he is." The woman smiled secretively. "He thinks he's invulnerable, but he isn't. You're going to help me stop him, aren't you."
"If that's what you want. I told you I wanted to help." Alex frowned. "You have to tell me your name."
"Lady Falthorp of course." The woman smiled, as if at a child. "That's not important. What's important is that we have to stop Simon, before he becomes too powerful. It all gets out of control, you see, and then he'll be gone again."
"What gets out of control?" Frustrated, Alex let her anger show in her voice, and the woman backed away.
"The power. Simon's power. Whatever it is that he calls to." She cocked her head on one side. "I thought you understood. I looked inside your mind and you looked as though you would understand. I saw lots of things inside your mind." She frowned. "Your friend. He saw me on the beach earlier on, didn't he? He understands now."
"Derek? You've seen Derek? Where is he?"
"Here, somewhere." The woman shrugged. "I don't know for sure. I can't see everything. Simon gets in the way."
"Simon is dead. He must be. Listen, Lady Falthorp, you have to understand that the world has changed. It's been a long time since you died. Whatever your husband did to you he's paid for it by now. He must have died years ago."
"You don't understand." The woman sounded downcast. "I thought you would. I should have spoken to your friend, but the others beat me to it. I can't reach him now."
"Derek? Who got to him?" Almost frantic, Alex turned on the woman. "Tell me!"
"You can go now. I'll send you back." The woman began to fade. "There's nothing you can do here."
"No, wait!" Alex lunged forwards but the woman was gone. Almost immediately the walls began to fade away. Soon the room was gone, and there were only clouds, flitting aimlessly about in a great, empty sky. Voices spoke to her from somewhere. She thought they sounded familiar, but she was still looking about for the woman. The voices annoyed her, disturbing her concentration. She tried to block them out, but they became louder and louder. Soon she became aware that the voices were all around her. They were above her, and she recognised some of them. She looked up.
"Nick? Rachel? What are you doing here?"
"Alex!" They both looked inordinately relieved.
"Where am I?"
"The town hospital." Nick smiled down at her. "You had us all real worried. You've been out like a light since some time last night."
"Last night... Of course. The beach." She frowned. "Have you spoken to Derek?"
Nick and Rachel exchanged a look.
"Nobody's seen Derek since he left you yesterday," Rachel told her. "Sam told us he went to some house on a cliff, but when the police went there this morning the couple that live there said they hadn't seen him. They even let the police search the place."
"Damn." Alex struggled to sit up. "We have to find him. I think he's in danger."
"Whoah. Take it easy." Rachel tried to push her back down, but she resisted.
"Lady Falthorp said--" She frowned. "I don't remember much of what she said. She wasn't making much sense."
"Who's Lady Falthorp?" Nick looked perplexed. "What have you been getting up to? You're hardly gone a day and already this is more complicated than a soap star's love life."
Alex smiled. "We have to get some information. Do you have your portable computer, Nick?"
"It's in the car."
"Good. You have to connect up to the main computer back at the House. Find out all that you can about a man named Simon Falthorp. Judging by what his wife was wearing I'd say you're looking for something around the eighteenth century."
"His wife?" Nick decided not to ask. "Okay..." He left immediately, and Alex clambered out of bed, ignoring the bemused looking doctor standing beside Rachel. "We have to get back to the beach. Whatever is going on here is centred around there. Both Derek and myself experienced strong forces there." She gently pushed the doctor out of the room so that she could dress. "Derek definitely went up to that house. He said the man there felt cold. Evil. Whatever he told the police, I don't believe it."
"Fine, but--" Alex waved aside Rachel's protestations and led the way out of the hospital room.
"Never mind. I want to hear what Nick's found."
"How do you know he's found anything?"
"He will have done." Whatever this Simon Falthorp had got up to two hundred years ago, Alex was certain that there would be something about it on record. "I'm sure of it."
They joined Nick outside the hospital. He was sitting in the front of the car, his laptop computer and mobile phone resting on his legs. He glanced up as they approached.
"You've found out all about Simon Falthorp," Alex answered, and he nodded.
"Nice guess. Anybody would think you were psychic."
Alex made a face. "Get on with it..."
"As you wish." He looked down at the small screen. "Okay... Simon Falthorp, born 1739, vanished 1769. He was the son of Lord Samuel Falthorp, a Cornish landowner. Bit of a black horse. It seems old man Falthorp used to like dabbling in black magic. The Cornish Legacy House of the time had more than one run in with him before he was murdered by locals in 1750. Women had been vanishing. They believed that he had been using them in some kind of ritual designed to give him power of some sort. Something demonic, you know the score. Anyway, Simon Falthorp became a bit of a local celebrity because of the vehemence of his opposition to what his father had stood for. He was a dedicated Churchman and a philanthropist. He married a girl called Rebecca in 1767. She was from a wealthy Devonshire family. She also vanished in 1769."
"Rebecca. That must be Lady Falthorp, the woman I met." Alex leant against the car. "She said that her husband was involved in something bad; that he had changed and wasn't the same as when he married her."
"So we can assume that Simon wasn't the goody two shoes he liked to make himself out to be." Nick read more from the screen. "Just after his disappearance, and the disappearance of his wife, local young women started to vanish again. Nobody could find an answer for it, but it stopped when some relatives of Simon's moved into the Falthorp estate. After that, the family hit some bad luck. Lots of mysterious deaths, disappearances, that sort of thing. Eventually the male side of the family died out, and the house passed onto female heirs. The records stop there."
"Interesting." Rachel frowned. "So what you're saying is that Simon Falthorp probably started to dabble in the same black arts as his father had done, and that his wife was presumably a victim of his. Maybe he didn't vanish in 1769. He must have gone into hiding, and carried on with his work after everybody had assumed him to be dead."
"He didn't kill his wife. She told me she took her own life to stop him from doing something. She showed me..." Alex sighed, trying to remember the jumbled details. "He needed her for some kind of ritual, but she wouldn't let him have her."
"Poor woman." Rachel shuddered. "Goodness knows what he was planning for her."
"Is that why she came back?" Samantha asked. The others looked surprised, having forgotten that she was with them. "She couldn't rest, or something, because of the way that she died, so she wound up still wandering around?"
"I assume so." Alex frowned. "But why here? Why in California?"
Nick shrugged. "Could be any number of reasons." He glanced down at the screen again. "Ah ha. Here's a picture of the good Lady Falthorp. Is this the woman you saw, Alex?"
Alex looked at the picture. It showed a tall, pretty woman with a serious expression. Even though it was a small, well worn painting, the face was the same. She nodded.
"That's her. Rebecca Falthorp. What's that in the background?"
"Er..." Nick enlarged the picture. "Looks like a family crest. There's something written in Latin and a picture. A pair of crossed swords and... looks like a bird. Could be a cockerel."
"A red cockerel?" Alex grabbed the laptop to take a better look. "Yes, it's a red cockerel. That's what both Derek and I saw, in our visions. I didn't believe him until I saw it myself. It was on the beach."
"Must be a strong symbol to her. Probably represents her husband." Nick took the laptop. "And speaking of which, here's the man himself." He pointed at a second picture. "Lord Simon Falthorp. Philanthropist, Churchman, black magician and murderer. That makes up quite some CV."
The others looked at the picture. Simon Falthorp had been a large man, with a powerful physique and an unpleasant look in his eyes. Rachel grimaced.
"He doesn't look like much of a philanthropist to me," she commented with feeling.
"Me neither." Alex turned to Sam. "I certainly wouldn't marry him." She frowned, for Sam seemed fascinated by the picture. "Sam?"
"Alex..." Sam looked from Simon Falthorp's two hundred year old likeness to her old friend. "That man. That's not Simon Falthorp. It can't be."
"It is." Nick glanced at the screen, seeming almost protective of his beloved computer system. "The Legacy Computer is never wrong." He caught a look from Alex and shrugged. "Well, almost never."
"No, you don't understand." Sam's gaze surveyed them all, anxious and intense. "That man in the picture. I know him. His name is Andrew Marshall and he's my neighbour."
Derek awoke, feeling confused and heavy headed. He tried to focus on his surroundings, but everything seemed too vague. He groaned, and forced himself to sit up. No point in lying around feeling miserable. He glanced around. Pictures swam about in front of his eyes, none of them seeming to make any sense, until finally his vision cleared. He breathed a sigh of relief. Now to find out where the hell he was.
He was sitting on a the floor of a large stone room. A fire burned in the hearth and windows allowed light to filter down to the ground. They were large, stained glass affairs, far above him, and he was unable to see through them. He paced around. Wood panelling on the walls, a large oak door which was most definitely locked. He scowled at that. It would take half an army to break through it. His quick eyes surveyed everything, from the rugs on the floor to the paintings on the walls, but nothing gave him any cause for celebration. The room might as well have been a dungeon, for all the hope it offered him. He kicked at the door angrily and then turned his attention to the windows. Although they were quite high up, there was always the possibility that he could find some way to climb up to them. There was no furniture in the room, but the walls were not entirely smooth, and there were the paintings, which might help to form handholds.
He headed for one of the window-bearing walls and looked up at it. He was just about to begin thinking about a climb when a strange sound reached his ears; a wailing, followed by an indistinct shout. Rage? Pleasure? Derek could not be sure. He hurried to the door, trying to listen for the sounds again. When they returned they were louder, and the wailing had become more intense. It sounded despairing and tormented, as if it came from the depths of misery. He shook the door, knowing that it was impossible to break through it, but knowing that he had to try. Every fibre of his being demanded that he try to reach the source of that desperate wailing, and try to find some way to help.
"Hello?" He shouted as loud as he could, but other shouts drowned him out; shouts of rhythmic madness, as though somebody were invoking some ancient spell. Derek felt the hair on the back of his neck rise up. Such spells were known to him, and to every other experienced Legacy Precept. They meant evil and madness, and the approach of something unspeakable.
"Let me out of here!" Rattling the door furiously, Derek was surprised to suddenly hear the sound of a key. He stumbled back a few steps, and as the door opened he saw Louisa standing before him. She frowned.
"Not now." He pushed past her, and began to run down the corridor. "Where's your husband?"
"Andrew? I don't know." She sounded sleepy and uncaring. "What does it matter? I don't love him. Can't you take me away from here, Derek? He would never find us. I don't want to stay here anymore."
"Where is your husband?" There was real urgency in his voice, but she responded to it with sullen despondency. "I have to find him."
She cocked her head on one side, and smiled. As she opened her mouth to speak, her voice was loud and hollow, and most definitely not her own.
"I can't let you do that."
"What?" Derek took a step towards her, grabbing her by the shoulders. "Who are you?"
"I can't let you do that," Louisa repeated, and caught hold of Derek by the arm. With no sign of effort, she lifted him up, and slammed him into the wall. His vision blurred, and he struggled to free himself.
"What have you done with Louisa?"
There was no answer, and with an almighty effort the Precept dragged himself free from the superhuman grip on his arm. He staggered away from the British woman, confused and angry. Louisa took a step towards him, and he realised that she was intending to prevent him from reaching Andrew Marshall. He must have some kind of control over her, but it could not be complete, or she would never have come to free him from the room.
"Louisa? Can you hear me? I know you're in there. Fight back. You must be strong."
"Derek..." A shadow of doubt passed across the pretty face, and then was gone. She smiled, and the voice reverted to the hollow voice of the power within her.
"Be quiet. She is mine!"
"No. Louisa you must listen to me." Derek thought hard. He had dealt with possessions in the past, and any number of similar phenomena, but it never got any easier. "You can beat this thing."
"Silence!" With a sudden burst of speed, the British woman moved forwards again, and struck out. Not fast enough to dodge the blow, Derek was thrown clear across the corridor and into the wall. He nearly fell, but managed to retain his footing out of pure stubbornness.
"You can't stop me," he told the power within his new found friend. "I will find Andrew Marshall." He dodged suddenly, as if trying to get past Louisa, then pushed her hard, knocking her to the floor. Without waiting to face her again he raced down the corridor, running so fast that he nearly tripped, constantly aware that his enemy was on her feet again, and coming after him.
There was a door ahead. Derek saw it as he turned a corner, and he almost laughed in relief. He threw himself towards it, and at the last second before he reached it, his instincts told him to look behind him. He turned, and saw Louisa flying towards him down the corridor, her face transformed into a mask of pure evil, her eyes glowing red. He gazed up at her as she came towards him at incredible speed, and with no other option open to him he seized the closest painting on the wall and hurled it at her. She collided with it in mid air, and crashed to the ground, leaping to her feet again almost immediately. Derek took advantage of her brief incapacitation to open the door and hurl himself through it. He slammed it shut, and immediately heard her throwing herself against it, desperate to reach him, and no doubt tear him limb from limb. He breathed a sigh of relief and then turned around, his powerful sixth sense warning him that he was not out of trouble yet. Immediately he recognised the room from his vision. The same fire burned in the hearth. The same man chanted the same rhythmical incantations. The same feeling of madness and evil filled the air. He felt it everywhere, almost as if it were suffocating him.
"Marshall." Derek took a few steps forward and the chanting stopped. Marshall smiled at him, his face one of charming innocence.
"Why Doctor Rayne. Good of you to join us. Your reputation precedes you. It's really rather an honour."
"Not for me." Derek looked about the room. Just as in his vision, there was a woman on the floor, but this time she was not Louisa. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, use your imagination Derek." Marshall laughed. "I really do expect a little more from a Legacy Precept." He smiled. "I know all about you, you know. All of you. I know all kinds of things. Well, it pays, really, doesn't it. In my line of work I mean. Puts me at a disadvantage if the ghost busters arrive and I don't know them from the caretakers, if you catch my drift." He smiled charmingly. "Now, if you'll excuse me I have a ritual sacrifice to perform." He turned away slightly, and Derek started forward. Marshall grinned.
"Now now. Don't be so impatient. I'll get round to you, I promise." He raise a hand, and Derek felt his feet leave the floor. He hung, suspended in mid air, unable to move.
"You're crazy. You can't do this." Feeling helpless, Derek tried to struggle. "Think what you are doing. It's not too late to stop all of this. You can still do the right thing."
Marshall laughed. "Really, Derek, you are terribly slow." He paused in his menacing walk towards his prostrate victim. She had not moved, Derek noticed, so she was probably drugged. He wondered who she was.
"What do you mean?" he asked. Marshall grinned at him.
"It is far too late for me. Far, far too late. I performed the final rituals more than two centuries ago. There were other rituals, before I was even born. I am not what I look like, Derek. Surely that's obvious to you? Stop using your eyes, Legacy Man. Open your mind." He cocked his head on one side, and suddenly Derek felt the mad man's eyes burning into his own. He gasped, feeling Marshall within him, feeling the other man's thoughts inside his own. The room was intensely cold, the flames of the fire had become sheets of leaping ice. The floor was moving. The stone flagging had become a mass of writhing, twisting snakes, their hissing filling the room. Derek couldn't breathe. He felt as though he were drowning, but the more he struggled to free himself the more he felt himself being sucked into the horrific insanity that he had found himself in. He looked deep into Marshall's eyes, and saw blackness; deep, empty blackness that threatened to swallow him. Pain shot through his head, and he heard Marshall laugh. The images faded.
"You see?" Andrew smiled up at him. "Stop fighting it Derek. I am your worst nightmare. I am undead, all powerful. I am everything that you've ever fought, and more. I was born by means of ancient rituals, created by my father and his spells. I was born from the blood of his sacrifices. I was raised by empty headed mortal fools who honestly believed that they could end my father's powers simply by killing him. He had already schooled me in all that was necessary. All that I had to do was bide my time and then continue his work. I married, planned so many wonderful things for my wife; but she refused it all. She retired to her Bible reading, and wouldn't play any part in my plans. Then she killed herself, just to prevent me from creating my own son; and I took pleasure in exacting my revenge on her soul. Souls, Derek. They are the key to my power. The more people I kill, the stronger I become. I have so very many of them."
Derek frowned. He could sense the man's power; could feel the strength of many years. That could mean only one thing.
"You are not Andrew Marshall," he said darkly. Marshall grinned.
"Of course not. But we all need an alias at some time, if we are to remain undiscovered. You see, my family acquired something of a bad reputation. I had to fake my own death to avoid being unmasked, but they kept producing heirs... others to live in my house. I need my house. Their presence prevented me from doing what I must do. They read the Bible..." He visibly cringed. "So I killed them. I killed them all. Year after year, decade after decade, they kept coming and I kept killing them, until finally there were no more left. Then all I needed to do was to come out of hiding. All those souls made me so very powerful, Derek. I could have destroyed the whole town. Instead I chose to come here. It's easier where there are no legends. No tales to make men wary. The creatures of the rituals prefer unknowing souls, and here no one has heard of me or my house. And I took the opportunity to take a new wife. Wives are to be cherished. Their souls are so dedicated to the one that they love. I can use that. It gives me more power."
"What are you going to do to Louisa?" Derek asked. Marshall laughed. He raised an arm and the door flew open. Louisa walked in. She looked pale and drawn. Her wondering eyes looked up at Derek and she gasped, in fear and concern.
"She is my wife, Derek. What do you expect me to do with her? She will give me her soul; her loving, dedicated soul."
"Why? In Heaven's name?" At the mention of heaven, Marshall flinched.
"Why? Because it is what the rituals demand. I need to make the sacrifices to keep my blood boiling with the powers of eternal life. I need to keep the fires within me burning bright. I must have power, Derek. It's what my father created me for."
"You're insane." Derek put as much feeling into the words as he could, but Marshall merely laughed.
"You think so? I'm already part of the way there. She obeys my every word without even being aware of it. She brings me others to add to my collection." He grinned. "People like you. They come to her, and she gives them to me."
"She's not a wife. She's a slave. Is that the sort of dedicated soul that your ritual demands?" Derek struggled, and felt Marshall's grip on him relax. He was lowered to the ground.
"I know my wife better than you do, Derek." Marshall smiled at him. "She is quite devoted, I assure you. Watch." He turned to Louisa and held out a long, black bladed knife. "Complete the sacrifice, my dear."
Louisa took the knife, looking at it as though she had no idea what to do with it. Derek started forwards, but almost immediately, he saw a change come over her. Her back straightened, her head rose, and she smiled an evil smile. Her eyes flashed red.
"Louisa--" Derek tried to get in her way, but she pushed him aside with a strength that should have been impossible. He tried to get to his feet, but found that his legs would not obey him. Marshall smiled at his distress as he struggled to break loose, and get to the nameless woman before it was too late.
"No--!" He voice became an echo, his anger and despair just empty emotions. He saw the knife plunge down, saw the woman's body twist and stiffen. The fire leapt up higher, the light outside the windows dimmed, and Marshall threw his head back, ecstasy showing in his face. He shouted with joy and the flames of the fire rushed out of the hearth to embrace him. Derek turned his head away, unwilling to look as the flames became snakes, twisting and hissing, their red eyes burning with fierce light. Silence fell.
"What do you think, Derek?" Marshall was suddenly standing before the Legacy Precept, panting slightly from the force of the sudden energy rush. "Are you going to give me your soul too?"
"For what?" Derek looked at the dead woman, feeling sick. "You said yourself that you need people who don't know what you are. I know all that now. I'd be no use to you."
"True. The ritual demands the souls of the unknowing. But there are other rituals." Marshall laughed. "The Legacy has been here forever, Derek. Do you think that people like me have been idle all of that time? We adapt, you know. There are other rituals. Rituals which demand the souls of Legacy members. The more powerful the Legacy member, the more powerful the ritual." He smiled. "You are second generation at least. You have certain talents, certain abilities. Your soul would be a most welcome addition to my collection. The ritual I have in mind would give me so very much strength. I would be able to do so much. Will you give me your soul, Derek?"
Derek laughed. "You're asking me?" It became clear to him. "You have to ask. I have to give it to you willingly. That's quite an oversight, Marshall. You must know that I would never give in to you. You'll just have to make do with killing me straight."
"Not necessarily." Marshall smiled. "I can do much to change your mind, but perhaps there are others who would be more successful." He stepped back. "Prepare to meet your fan club, Derek. Any time you want me to send them away, just ask; but they are so very anxious to talk to you." He raised his hand. Immediately the fire crackled, sending coloured sparks up into the air. Smoke flooded the room. Derek coughed, suddenly finding that he could stand again. He tried to back away from the choking fumes, but all at once they cleared. Only the lack of light showed that something was wrong. His sixth sense began to burn again and he turned round. He froze. Standing in the doorway was a collection of people; faces he had never thought that he would see again. People who had been gone for years; all of them people that he had encountered during his Legacy career, and had defeated. They were all dead, and they were all here. Here to come for him. He began to retreat across the room. They came closer and closer and he tried to move faster. He felt the wall against his back, and could move away no further. Still they came, on and on, their hands reaching out for him, their eyes burning with anger and insanity. He began to shake. He looked into the face of one of them, recognised the features as those of a man he had killed himself, some ten years previously. Mad red eyes burned out of skeletal sockets, decaying flesh hanging from the arm which reached out to grab its victim. Derek was trapped. Fear welled up within him and he prepared himself to fight his way out. He had to do something, but there was nothing that he could do. They caught him, their cold, hateful hands seizing his arms, dragging him into their midst, pulling him off his feet and onto the ground. He struggled uselessly, fighting against he knew not what, feeling as though he were sinking down, down into black, hopeless despair.
"Derek!" He heard Alex's voice, but could not see her. He sensed, rather than saw, the approach of all of his friends. Lost somewhere in the depths of confusion and fear, he saw a light, and struggled towards it. The figures were gone. The cold, grasping fingers were gone. He was lying on the floor, gasping for breath. Somewhere, amid the relief, and the wonderful realisation that he was no longer alone, he heard Marshall laughing again. Alex's arrival couldn't be another of the evil man's tricks, could it? He didn't think that he could take that. He felt hands hold his arms, but they were warm, comforting hands this time, and he knew that Marshall could not have created them. He relaxed, and allowed them to help him to his feet.
"Derek?" It was Nick's voice, and Derek smiled in its general direction. He still felt considerably less than healthy, but knowing that his colleagues had arrived was a help. "What the hell is going on?"
"Trouble." Derek gathered his team together. Marshall was watching them all, an evil grin on his face. "This is Andrew Marshall. He would like us all to donate our souls to his collection fund."
"His name isn't Andrew Marshall, it's Simon Falthorp. He's a Cornish landowner, born in the eighteenth century." Alex stared at Falthorp, feeling his darkness and the icy cold emptiness of his heart. Derek nodded.
"Good job. He mentioned a wife..."
"The woman Sam saw on the beach. Her name is Rebecca."
"You saw Rebecca?" Marshall stepped forward. "I thought I had her imprisoned."
"She's fighting you." Angry and hateful of this extraordinary man, Alex drew herself up to her full height. "You tried to lock her spirit away, but she managed to get out. She led us right to your front door."
"Lies!" Marshall - Falthorp - sounded enraged. Sparks flew from his eyes. "Nobody defies me! She killed herself to foil my plans, and she suffers now in eternal imprisonment. She cannot have escaped!"
"Wrong." Alex took a step forward, but Derek caught her arm.
"No Alex. You don't know what you're dealing with. He's not human, and he never was. He was created by his father in some insane ritual. He is the child of something I don't understand. His wife killed herself to prevent him from making her a part of an identical ritual, and now he wants to do it all over again with Louisa."
Nick made a face. "Now that's what I call a loving marriage." Marshall laughed.
"You see, all of you? You can't win. I will crush you all, and the passing of your souls will unlock even more power. I will drink the blood of thousands."
"You're not going to get invited to many dinner parties." Nick shot a look across at Derek. "Who's the woman on the floor?"
"I have no idea." The Precept lowered his eyes. "A local woman I presume. She was sacrificed."
"The records show that women have gone missing before when this joker's about." Nick stared at Marshall, a challenging expression on his face. "So what's your problem, Falthorp? Can't handle men?"
Marshall glowered. "I can handle anything," he said darkly. "But the blood of women tastes sweeter to me." He smiled. "Perhaps it is time for me to get started on yours." He threw his head back and began to chant. Derek recognised the words from earlier, and saw Louisa react as well. Her eyes burned brighter, and her body tensed. The Legacy members gathered together, Sam with them. She was terrified, but she listened calmly as they whispered together.
"We haven't got much time. He can command all kinds of powers. " Derek shot a look back at his enemy, scared that he might see the terrifying procession of the dead emerge from the fire once again. He could still feel the touch of their decaying hands, and feel their hot, rancid breath.
"What's he doing?" Rachel asked. Derek gestured helplessly.
"Calling on whatever it is that he serves. He plans to kill us all, and he can do it without thinking. Believe me, he can hold us as helpless as children for the sacrifice."
"Then we have to stop him." Nick indicated the collection of spears and swords which decorated the walls. "We can kill him."
"I don't think it is that easy. He is no fool, Nick." Derek heard the chants growing louder, and saw the flames in the hearth begin to sway in time. "But you're right, we have to try something." He glanced about at the collection of weaponry. "I will distract him. You do what you can; but don't underestimate him."
"What will you do?" Alex asked. He shrugged.
"Perhaps Louisa will help." They all turned to look at her. Her eyes were bright red, and her face was a deathly shade of white. It was beginning to change shape; revealing the face of the beast within, Derek thought, with more than a touch of pain. Nick grimaced.
"Rather you than me, Derek."
"Thankyou." He stepped away from his friends. Purposely turning his back on Marshall, he faced Louisa. She growled in the back of her throat, and he looked with trepidation at the long claws on her fingers. They could easily tear his throat out. Blood from the dead woman soaked her arms and hands, and dripped onto the floor.
"Louisa?" he asked, his voice soft and questioning. Her growl became louder, more menacing. "Can you hear me?"
"What do you want?" Her voice was deep and throaty, the voice of whatever was within her.
"I want to talk to you. You know me, don't you."
"You are from the Legacy..." she pronounced the word with a hatred that chilled his blood. Behind him, he was aware that Marshall was taking an interest. His chants had ceased, and Derek's sixth sense told him that he was being watched. He heard footsteps.
"Listen to me Louisa. The Legacy is your friend. We want to help you. You are not a part of this. It isn't you."
"It is now." Marshall's hand came down on Derek's shoulder, and he felt his knees buckle under the pressure. Once again, contact with the man brought visions rushing into his head, and the close presence of so much evil and depravity hurt him. He gasped, fighting for breath.
"Louisa..." He fought to get the words out, hearing them as if from a long way away. "Help me..." Marshall laughed.
"You are beyond help, Derek." He raised his hand, and with a flick of his wrist, sent the Precept flying across the room. He crashed into a wall and lay on the floor, stunned. Through half closed eyes he saw his friends standing behind Marshall. They all carried spears, raised and ready to strike. Marshall sensed them too, and turned, but at the same instance the spears descended. They cut through his body, slicing through him as if he was nothing. Blood poured onto the ground, and his body tumbled onto the floor, writhing in fury. He tried to speak, but was unable to command himself to do so. His eyes burned, and the Legacy members, still accompanied by Sam, stared down at him, horrified and fascinated.
"You will die..." Marshall at last managed to get the words out, then began to choke on his own blood. Nick ran to the wall and tore a sword down. He looked down at Marshall, watching him as he tried to stand, hearing him begin to whisper his chants, ready to fight back from the brink of death. The flames in the fire were rising up, angry and red.
"You first." With a downward stroke that made the others leap out of the way, Nick swung the sword towards Marshall, and beheaded him with one blow. Sparks danced across the floor, and the sword struck the stones with a loud, ringing sound. There was an abrupt silence. Derek got to his feet and rejoined his friends, staring down at the decapitated demon.
"Is it over?" It was Louisa's voice, and he recognised it with a surprising burst of joy. He turned to her, grinning in relief.
"I think so." He looked her up and down. "You look a lot better."
"I feel a lot better." She stared down at her dead husband. "I suppose I should feel sorry for him."
"I shouldn't bother." Derek hugged her, unable to stop himself, and she hugged him back. She was shaking a little. Suddenly he felt her convulse in his arms.
"Derek..." She stepped back and he let her go, watching as she stumbled away from him. Her face showed disbelief. "Help me Derek." The words were met with a river of blood which burst from her mouth as she spoke. She coughed. "What's happening?"
"Louisa!" He stared at her, horrified, and took a step towards her. Her chest was beginning to swell, and she looked down at herself, and then at him.
"Oh please, no. Derek please." Her face showed her fear and desperation, which mirrored his own. He knew what would happen next; knew it with more certainty and clarity than his visions could usually show him. Her body swelled further, and she screamed in agony, backing further away from him as he tried to run to her. Finally, with a last, choking cry, her body burst open, and in a shower of blood and flame she was gone. Marshall stood in her place, a grin on his evil face.
"Now," he said, his voice deep and menacing. "Where were we?"
Andrew Marshall threw back his head and laughed, his amusement echoing around the big, stone room. He was a fearsome sight, the beast within in him beginning to show through its human facade. Long fangs hung over his bottom lip, and a tail twitched restlessly behind him. Horns protruded through the thick hair on his head. He watched them all, his bright, wicked eyes seeing each of them, missing nothing.
"What the-?" Staring at the man in stupefied disbelief, Nick glanced over at Derek. "What happened?"
"His rituals..." Derek was struggling to understand himself. "He wanted to create a son, in the same way that he was created. I think he must have already begun."
"Precisely." Marshall grinned. "I suppose it seems a little unfair, hijacking my own child's birth, but I couldn't allow myself to die. I cannot die."
"You mean--" Sam stared at Marshall. "He transported his own spirit into his wife's body?"
"Quick, isn't she?" Marshall raised a hand. "But not a Legacy member. Quite useless to me." He waved vaguely at Sam, and she was swept backwards through the air. Marshall had not come close to touching her, but she was hurled across the room as though he had picked her up and thrown her.
"Sam!" Alex watched her friend, horrified, then turned to Marshall. "Why you..."
"No Alex!" Derek shouted, but his colleague had already started forward. She caught up one of the blood soaked spears from earlier, and held it up, advancing on the enemy with a look of rage on her face. Marshall watched her come, a crooked smile on his face.
"Pitiful," he said, and reached out one hand. The spear broke and its splintered shaft snapped back into Alex's face. She went down, the point of the spear hovering barely an inch above her throat.
"Alex!" Shocked, Derek started to go to her, then changed his mind, knowing that Marshall could kill her without thinking about it. He wouldn't necessarily have to keep them all as his sacrifices. He swung round to face the powerful man. "Let her go."
"Why ever would I want to do that? Derek, my friend, surely you can't have forgotten who I am? I'd no more met her go, than... than let you leave this room alive; and I have no intention of doing that."
"What now?" Nick might have been speaking to his colleague as much as to Marshall, but it was the demon who answered.
"Now you prepare to die."
"Only if we agree to your sacrifice." Derek straightened up and stared back at his enemy. "Or have you forgotten that you need our permission?"
"I forget nothing." The creature smiled, his huge teeth bared with more than a hint of theatricality. "A minor obstacle, Legacy Man, I can assure you." He clicked his fingers. "Perhaps you would care for a demonstration?" He pointed at Alex. "You. Stand up."
As if by an unseen command, the hovering spear point fell away, and Alex rose to her feet. She smiled.
"What do you want?"
"I want your soul." Marshall smiled at Derek, who was watching in disbelief. "Are you prepared to give it to me?"
"Of course." Alex smiled. "I am yours to command."
"Alex!" Nick took a step towards her, but was brought up short by an unseen force which caught hold of him. He heard voices inside his head, shouting things. Images flooded his mind, of obedience and loyalty. He thought he heard Marshall's voice speaking to him. He wavered, almost losing balance.
"You are prepared to be my sacrifice in this most sacred of rituals?" Marshall was asking Alex. He glanced at Nick too, and they both nodded mechanically.
"Good." The demon sounded almost cheerful. "You see, Derek? My forefathers were not so short sighted. It doesn't take much to own a man's soul. It's only minds like yours which can resist me for long."
"Well I will not agree to what you ask. I cannot allow you to do this." Derek looked over at his two friends, wondering whether he would be able to kill them if he had to. He caught up another of the fallen spears. "You will have to do without me in your ritual."
Marshall shrugged. "So be it." He laughed as Derek held the spear ready for action. "Do you really think I'd let you use that?"
"How about me?" Sam, forgotten but by no means finished with, hurled herself forward, a sword in her hands. It was heavy, and she was barely able to hold it up, but she swung it with ferocious energy. Marshall's eyes widened, as if in fear, and she struck at him with the blade. Immediately he vanished, and in his place, lying on the floor, was a new born baby, its tiny eyes closed, and its small face showing peace and restfulness. Sam jerked back, shocked, and the sword clattered to the ground. The baby's eyes snapped open, and it laughed. A bolt of energy came from within it, and Sam was hurled away. This time as she crashed to the ground she lay still.
Marshall appeared again, the baby gone.
"That was fun," he commented dryly. "I think I might do it more often."
"You're mad," Derek told him. Marshall shrugged.
"And you're dead, but who cares." He glanced across at Rachel who still hung back. "You want to join in the fun?"
Rachel backed away. It was crazy, she thought, how much she had seen since joining the Legacy, and yet at moments like this she still found it hard to accept what was happening. She honestly couldn't believe that Marshall was real. She felt him inside her head, and her whole being recoiled against the sensation. That was crazy too. Both Alex and Derek, not to mention Kat, had proved to her that there was nothing so very remarkable about psychic theory. So why could she not believe that Marshall was capable of forcing her to bend to his will? He was persistent, but she couldn't give in to him. She was a psychiatrist. She knew all about the mind. This just wasn't possible. Marshall frowned.
"She's good," he breathed to Derek. "Perhaps I should try something else." He raised his fists, and all at once Patrick Corrigan - or a likeness of him at least - stood before them. He reached out for Rachel, his face showing distress.
"Rachel. Help me. He's hurting me."
"Patrick!" Rachel stepped back. This was impossible too. Her husband couldn't be standing here now. He couldn't be. She began to shake.
"Help me Rachel." Patrick stepped towards her. "You can free me. Come over here."
"No!" Rachel looked across at Derek. "Derek, what's going on. This isn't Patrick, is it?"
"I don't know." Derek looked from the man to his frantic widow. "I don't know!"
"It can't be." Rachel gasped as the figure before her began to twist and writhe in agony.
"Help me Rachel!" it gasped. She stared at it, horrified.
"No. You're not Patrick. You can't be!" Turning around, Rachel ran from the room, dashing down the corridor in desperation. She had to get away. She had to think. She gasped for breath, remembering her friends. She had left them. How could she have been so stupid? Alex and Nick were in the demon's control, and that left Derek alone against the creature. She had to get back to him. She looked around. Which way was the room? All of the corridors looked the same. She stared about in desperation. She was in the entrance hall. Be calm, she told herself. Think about it logically. Which way had she taken earlier, with Alex and Nick?
"Get a hold of yourself." Her voice sounded loud, and it made her jump. She smiled at her own fear. Slowly she turned to look about her. Something caught her eye, and she looked at it more closely; a coat of arms, carved out of wood and positioned by the front door. It was small, and easy to miss, but unmistakable when viewed close to. It showed a pair of crossed swords above a red cockerel. She frowned, a thought coming to her, as if placed in her head by somebody she could not see. The thought formed itself into a plan and she nodded. It sounded like a long shot, but it just might work. As she turned to go back to her friends, a shape appeared in the corridor ahead of her, and she recognised it. Suddenly the way seemed very clear.
"Are you ready to join me yet, Derek? Ready to offer yourself to me?" Marshall laughed. "You've lost your friends. One is unconscious, and might as well be dead, another has run away." He laughed again. "And I thought you Legacy types were supposed to be so brave."
"You haven't won yet, Marshall." Derek faced his enemy, thinking fast, but unable to come up with a plan. Was this how it was all going to end? After so many years fighting for his cause could it really come down to this? Alone before a creature he had no idea how to defeat.
"So?" Marshall raised his hand again, and the fire began to inch its way out of the hearth, crawling towards Derek across the floor. He backed away, watching as the fiery tentacles of his vision reached out for him. He dodged aside, but they caught at him, wrapping around his waist and his chest, lifting him up into the air. Once again he felt their icy touch, and sensed the evil that was behind them. He watched as Marshall began to chant, preparing the ritual that was to end in the sacrifice of both Nick and Alex. Derek called out to them both, but neither reacted. He remembered the helpless servitude of Louisa, and the calm, drug like state of the earlier victim, and felt as though his heart were about to break. There was nothing that he could do.
With a sound like thunder the door burst open and Rachel ran in, clutching something in her hands. Derek could not see what it was, but he heard Marshall scream in rage. He saw the man raise his hands, ready to strike Rachel down, but as he moved towards her, a second figure entered the room. She was dressed in the clothes of centuries past, and Derek got the feeling that he had seen her before. She stood in front of Marshall, and raised her own hands.
"Enough, Simon," she said, her voice calm. "Enough!"
"Rebecca..." He stared at her. "You can't be here. You're dead."
"And so should you be." She turned to look at Rachel, who was looking confused. "Do it."
Derek saw Rachel raise something above her head and Marshall screamed out in anger. Rachel did not hesitate, and hurled the object into the heart of the flames. Marshall roared in pain and fear, and his body was immediately surrounded by smoke. He fought back against it, thrashing his arms in the air, trying to chant his mad spells, but unable to do so. His body began to decay. All at once the powerful, strong body was gone, and in its place was a tiny, wizened old man. He tried to raise his arms for one last strike, but did not have the energy. In a last burst of flame and a huge plume of scarlet smoke he was gone, and only his last scream was left, echoing around the room.
The fire released Derek, and he crashed to the ground. Nick and Alex stood, blinking in confusion, before Alex noticed Sam and raced to her side. Derek looked from Rachel to Rebecca and stepped forward.
"Lady Rebecca Falthorp, I presume?"
"For what its worth." She stared back at him. "I have to go now."
"But" he broke off, for the woman merely smiled at him and was gone. He looked across at Rachel. "Would you mind explaining what just happened?"
She grinned. "The thing I threw on the fire. It was the Falthorp coat of arms. Remember how Rebecca tried to tell you and Alex about the red cockerel? The odd thing is, I don't think she was trying to warn you; she was trying to ask for your help. He was holding her prisoner as revenge for her suicide. The coat of arms must have represented his hold over her."
"And it also represented his powers to him. The symbol of the man who created him." Derek wandered over to the fire, and watched the last of the crest burn away. "We should destroy this house too."
"But it's beautiful," Rachel said, sounding vaguely shocked. The destructive nature of her Legacy work was one thing that she would never get used to.
"And it is also a symbol of Falthorp's power." Derek glanced around at the room. "And there is nobody left to argue with us."
"I'm sorry about Louisa." It was Alex, coming up to put a hand on his shoulder. He smiled at her.
"Poor Louisa; but I don't know that she could ever have lived a normal life again, after what he had done to her. There is a lot that that man must answer for."
"Well it's over now." Nick picked up the sword and swung it. "I kinda liked knocking his block off with this. Maybe I should take up fencing."
"I will teach you if you like." Derek frowned. "But put that thing down before you behead one of us with it." His friend laughed.
"Sorry." He threw the sword aside and took Sam's arm. "Here, allow me."
"Thanks." She smiled at him gratefully, and allowed him to assist her from the room. One by one the others followed. The last to leave, Derek watched the others depart and then pulled a heavy tapestry from the wall and threw it into the hearth. It began to catch, and he tugged it loose, dropping it onto the hearth rug. It would not take long for the rest of the room to begin to burn. He could only hope that the fire would not be reported before it was too late.
Outside, the Legacy members and Sam gathered together on the beach to watch the house above them as it began to give way to the flames. The first light of dawn was beginning to touch the eastern horizon, and the fire gave an added pink glow to the early morning. Rachel looked up at Derek.
"That wasn't Patrick in there, was it?" she asked. He shook his head.
"I don't think it can have been; and even if it was, you did the right thing."
"Thanks." She frowned. "And what about Rebecca? Is she free now?"
"Yes, for what it's worth. Along with all of the other souls that Marshall has taken over the years." He sighed. "Not that it means a whole lot. All we have done is win them the right to move on. It's not as if we were really able to save any of them. Louisa included."
"Don't feel too bad." Sam smiled at him. "For all I know, I might have ended up as one of those sacrifices, if you and Alex hadn't taken me seriously." She looked around at them all. "I saw a lot up there that I don't understand, and I'm not even going to ask about this Legacy, but I want to thank you all."
"No problem," Nick told her. "I don't suppose you've got any coffee at your place?"
"Help yourself." Sam laughed. It felt so gloriously normal to be feeling thirsty and tired. She watched as her new friends headed off towards the beach house, and grinned at Alex.
"I'm really not going to ask," she told her. "I know you probably can't tell me anyway. I just want to say... Whatever it is you're a part of, it must be worthwhile. I owe you a lot."
"Rubbish." Alex grinned and threw an arm around Sam's shoulders. "It's all in a day's work." She winced. "And I thought there might be the chance of a holiday." They both laughed, and began to follow the others. As they did so, somewhere in the distance a cockerel crowed.
It was not the knowledge that an old friend could have been put in
danger by Simon
Falthorp that made me hate him so much... Alex stared down at the journal that she
kept so scrupulously, trying, as ever, to put her awkward feelings and sense of confusion into
words. It was not easy, recording her Legacy work in the manner that was required. ...Simon
Falthorp was an abomination; a creature who had been created from the unwilling body
of a sacrificial victim. He was a corruption of nature, and represented some dreadful
distortion of the process of conception and birth. We witnessed a similar process in his rebirth
from the body of his wife... She sighed, remembering that travesty of life that she had seen,
at such close quarters. ...I think, more than anything, my revulsion toward Falthorp was
based upon my knowledge that he, as a creature of such a dark and evil nature, had been
so readily able to create life from within the body of a victim; whereas it seems that I, with
all my adherence to the path of light and righteousness, will never see my own desire to create life
fulfilled. Closing the book, Alex laid her pen carefully down on the desk, and walked away.
Only the light from the desk lamp illuminated her lonely figure in the doorway, and then that
blinked out, and she closed the door behind her.