فصل 07 - 01

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فصل 07 - 01

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Every Man Jack

SILAS HAD BEEN PREOCCUPIED for the previous several months. He had begun to leave the graveyard for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Over Christmas, Miss Lupescu had come out for three weeks in his place, and Bod had shared her meals in her little flat in the Old Town. She had even taken him to a football match, as Silas had promised that she would, but she had gone back to the place she called “The Old Country” after squeezing Bod’s cheeks and calling him Nimini, which had become her pet name for him.

Now Silas was gone, and Miss Lupescu also. Mr. and Mrs. Owens were sitting in Josiah Worthington’s tomb talking to Josiah Worthington. None of them was happy.

Josiah Worthington said, “You mean to say that he did not tell either of you where he was going or how the child was to be cared for?” When the Owenses shook their heads, Josiah Worthington said, “Well, where is he?”

Neither Owens was able to answer. Master Owens said, “He’s never been gone for so long before. And he promised, when the child came to us, promised he would be here, or someone else would be here to help us care for him. He promised.” Mrs. Owens said, “I worry that something must have happened to him.” She seemed close to tears, and then her tears turned to anger, and she said, “This is too bad of him! Is there no way to find him, to call him back?” “None that I know,” said Josiah Worthington. “But I believe that he’s left money in the crypt, for food for the boy.”

“Money!” said Mrs. Owens. “What use is money?”

“Bod will be needing money if he’s to go out there to buy food,” began Mr. Owens, but Mrs. Owens turned on him.

“You’re all as bad as each other!” she said.

She left the Worthington tomb, then, and she went looking for her son, whom she found, as she expected to, at the top of the hill, staring out over the town.

“Penny for your thoughts,” said Mrs. Owens.

“You don’t have a penny,” said Bod. He was fourteen, now, and taller than his mother.

“I’ve got two in the coffin,” said Mrs. Owens. “Probably a bit green by now, but I’ve still got them right enough.”

“I was thinking about the world,” said Bod. “How do we even know that the person who killed my family is still alive? That he’s out there?” “Silas says he is,” said Mrs. Owens.

“But Silas doesn’t tell us anything else.”

Mrs. Owens said, “He means only the best for you. You know that.”

“Thanks,” said Bod, unimpressed. “So where is he?”

Mrs. Owens made no reply.

Bod said, “You saw the man who killed my family, didn’t you? On the day you adopted me.”

Mrs. Owens nodded.

“What was he like?”

“Mostly, I had eyes for you. Let me see…he had dark hair, very dark. And I was frightened of him. He had a sharp face. Hungry and angry all at once, he was. Silas saw him off.” “Why didn’t Silas just kill him?” said Bod, fiercely. “He should have just killed him then.”

Mrs. Owens touched the back of Bod’s hand with her cold fingers. She said, “He’s not a monster, Bod.”

“If Silas had killed him back then, I would be safe now. I could go anywhere.”

“Silas knows more than you do about all this, more than any of us do. And Silas knows about life and death,” said Mrs. Owens. “It’s not that easy.” Bod said, “What was his name? The man who killed them.”

“He didn’t say it. Not then.”

Bod put his head on one side, and stared at her with eyes as grey as thunderclouds. “But you know it, don’t you?”

Mrs. Owens said, “There’s nothing you can do, Bod.”

“There is. I can learn. I can learn everything I need to know, all I can. I learned about ghoul-gates. I learned to Dreamwalk. Miss Lupescu taught me how to watch the stars. Silas taught me silence. I can Haunt. I can Fade. I know every inch of this graveyard.” Mrs. Owens reached out a hand, touched her son’s shoulder. “One day,” she said…and then she hesitated. One day, she would not be able to touch him. One day, he would leave them. One day. And then she said, “Silas told me the man who killed your family was called Jack.” Bod said nothing. Then he nodded. “Mother?”

“What is it, son?”

“When will Silas come back?”

The midnight wind was cold and it came from the north.

Mrs. Owens was no longer angry. She feared for her son. She said only, “I wish I knew, my darling boy, I wish I knew.”

Scarlett Amber Perkins was fifteen, and, at that moment, sitting on the upper deck of the elderly bus, she was a mass of angry hate. She hated her parents for splitting up. She hated her mother for moving away from Scotland, hated her father because he didn’t seem to care that she had gone. She hated this town for being so different—nothing like Glasgow, where she had grown up—and she hated it because every now and again she would turn a corner and see something and the world would all become achingly, horribly familiar.

She had lost it with her mother that morning. “At least in Glasgow I had friends!” Scarlett had said, and she wasn’t quite shouting and she wasn’t quite sobbing. “I’ll never see them again!” All her mother had said in reply was, “At least you’re somewhere you’ve been before. I mean, we lived here when you were little.” “I don’t remember,” said Scarlett. “And it’s not like I still know anyone. Do you want me to find my old friends from when I was five? Is that what you want?” And her mother said, “Well, I’m not stopping you.”

Scarlett had gone through the whole of the school day angry, and she was angry now. She hated her school and she hated the world, and right now she particularly hated the town bus service.

Every day, when school was over, the 97 bus to the City Center would take her from her school gates all the way to the end of the street where her mother had rented a small flat. She had waited at the bus-stop on that gusty April day for almost half an hour and no 97 buses had appeared, so when she saw a 121 bus with City Center as its destination she had climbed aboard. But where her bus always turned right, this one turned left, into the Old Town, past the municipal gardens in the Old Town square, past the statue of Josiah Worthington, Bart., and then crept up a winding hill lined with high houses, as Scarlett’s heart sank and her anger was replaced with misery.

She walked downstairs, edged forward, eyed the sign telling her not to speak to the driver when the vehicle was in motion, and said, “Excuse me. I wanted to go to Acacia Avenue.” The driver, a large woman, her skin even darker than Scarlett’s said, “You should have got the 97, then.”

“But this goes to the City Center.”

“Eventually. But even when you get there, you’ll still need to get back.” The woman sighed. “Best thing you can do, get off here, walk back down the hill, there’s a bus-stop in front of the town hall. From there, you can catch the number 4 or the 58, both of them will take you most of the way to Acacia Avenue. You could get off by the sports center and walk up from there. You got all that?” “The 4 or the 58.”

“I’ll let you off here.” It was a request stop on the side of the hill, just past a large pair of open iron gates, and it looked uninviting and dismal. Scarlett stood in the open doorway of the bus until the bus driver said, “Go on. Hop it.” She stepped down onto the pavement and the bus belched black smoke and roared away.

The wind rattled the trees on the other side of the wall.

Scarlett began to walk back down the hill—this was why she needed a mobile phone, she thought. If she was so much as five minutes late, her mother would freak, but she still wouldn’t buy Scarlett a phone of her own. Oh well. She would have to endure another shouting match. It wouldn’t be the first and it wouldn’t be the last.

By now she was level with the open gates. She glanced inside and…

“That’s odd,” she said, aloud.

There’s an expression, déja vu, that means that you feel like you’ve been somewhere before, that you’ve somehow already dreamed it or experienced it in your mind. Scarlett had experienced it—the knowledge that a teacher was just about to tell them that she’d been to Inverness on holiday, or that someone had dropped a spoon in just that way before. This was different. This wasn’t a feeling that she had been here before. This was the real thing.

Scarlett walked through the open gates into the graveyard.

A magpie flew up as she walked in, a flash of black and white and iridescent green, and settled in the branches of a yew tree, watching her. Around that corner, she thought, is a church, with a bench in front of it, and she turned a corner to see a church—much smaller than the one in her head, a sinister blocky little Gothic building of grey stone, with a jutting spire. In front of it was a weathered wooden bench. She walked over, sat down on the bench, and swung her legs as if she was still a little girl.

“Hullo. Um, hullo?” said a voice from behind her. “Awful cheek of me, I know, but would you help me hold down this, er, just really need another pair of hands, if it’s not too much trouble.” Scarlett looked around, and saw a man in a fawn-colored raincoat squatting in front of a gravestone. He was holding a large sheet of paper which was blowing about in the wind. She hurried over to him.

“You hold on to it here,” said the man. “One hand here, one hand there, that’s it. Frightful imposition, I know. Ridiculously grateful.” He had a biscuit tin next to him, and from the tin he pulled what looked like a crayon the size of a small candle. He began rubbing it back and forth across the stone with easy, practiced movements.

“There we go,” he said, cheerfully. “And here she comes…oops. A wiggly bit, down at the bottom here, I think it’s meant to be ivy—the Victorians loved putting ivy on things, deeply symbolic you know…and there we are. You can let go now.” He stood up, ran one hand through his grey hair. “Ow. Needed to stand. Legs got a bit pins-and-needlesy,” he said. “So. What do you reckon to that?” The actual headstone was covered in green and yellow lichen, and so worn and faded as to almost be undecipherable, but the rubbing was clear. “Majella Godspeed, Spinster of this Parish, 1791–1870, Lost to All But Memory,” Scarlett read aloud.

“And probably now lost even to that,” said the man. His hair was thinning, and he smiled hesitantly and blinked at her through small, round glasses which made him look a little like a friendly owl.

A large raindrop splashed down on the paper, and the man hurriedly rolled it up and grabbed his tin box of crayons. Another handful of raindrops, and Scarlett picked up the portfolio the man pointed to, propped up beside a nearby gravestone, and followed him into the tiny porch of the church, where the rain could not touch them.

“Thank you so much,” said the man. “I don’t think it’s really going to rain much. Weather forecast for this afternoon said mostly sunny.” As if in reply, the wind gusted coldly and the rain began to beat down in earnest.

“I know what you’re thinking,” the gravestone-rubbing man said to Scarlett.

“You do?” she said. She had been thinking, My mum will kill me.

“You’re thinking, is this a church or a funeral chapel? And the answer is, as far as I can ascertain, that on this site there was indeed a small church, and the original graveyard would have been its churchyard. That’s as long ago as eight, perhaps nine hundred A. D. Rebuilt and extended several times in there. But there was a fire here in the 1820s and by that time it was already much too small for the area. People around here were using St. Dunstan’s in the village square as their parish church, so when they came to rebuild here, they made it a funeral chapel, keeping many of the original features—the stained glass windows in the far wall are said to be original…” “Actually,” said Scarlett, “I was thinking that my mum is going to kill me. I got the wrong bus and I am already so late home…” “Good Lord, you poor thing,” said the man. “Look, I only live just down the road. You wait here—” And with that he thrust his portfolio, his tin of crayons, and his rolled-up sheet of paper into her hands and he set off at a trot down to the gates, his shoulders hunched against the driving rain. A couple of minutes later, Scarlett saw the lights of a car and heard the sound of a car horn.

Scarlett ran down to the gates, where she could see the car, an elderly green Mini. The man she had been talking to was sitting in the driver’s seat. He wound down his window.

“Come on,” he said. “Where exactly am I taking you?”

Scarlett stood there, the rain running down her neck. “I don’t take rides from strangers,” she said.

“Quite right too,” said the man. “But one good turn deserves, and, um, all that. Here, put the stuff in the back before it gets soaked.” He pulled open the passenger door, and Scarlett leaned inside and put his graverubbing equipment down on the backseat as best she could. “Tell you what,” he said. “Why don’t you phone your mother—you can use my phone—and tell her my car’s number plate? You can do it from inside the car. You’re getting soaked out there.” Scarlett hesitated. Rain was beginning to plaster her hair down. It was cold.

The man reached over and handed her his mobile phone. Scarlett looked at it. She realized she was more afraid of calling her mother than she was of getting into the car. Then she said, “I could call the police too, couldn’t I?” “You certainly can, yes. Or you can walk home. Or you can just call your mother and ask her to come and pick you up.”

Scarlett got into the passenger seat and closed the door. She kept hold of the man’s phone.

“Where do you live?” the man asked.

“You really don’t have to. I mean, you could just take me to the bus stop…”

“I’ll take you home. Address?”

“102a Acacia Avenue. It’s off the main road, a wee bit past the big sports center…”

“You are out of your way, aren’t you? Right. Let’s get you home.” He took off the handbrake, swung the car around, and drove down the hill.

“Been living here long?” he said.

“Not really. We moved here just after Christmas. We lived here when I was five, though.”

“Is that a brogue I detect in your accent?”

“We’ve been living in Scotland for ten years. There, I sounded like everyone else, and then I came down here, and now I stick out like a sore thumb.” She had wanted it to sound like a joke, but it was true, and she could hear it as she said it. Not funny, just bitter.

The man drove to Acacia Avenue, parked in front of the house, then insisted on coming up to the front door with her. When the door was opened he said, “Frightfully sorry. I took the liberty of bringing your daughter back to you. Obviously, you taught her well, shouldn’t accept rides from strangers. But, well, it was raining, she took the wrong bus, wound up on the other side of town. Bit of a mess all around really. Say you can find it in your heart to forgive. Forgive her. And, um, me.” Scarlett expected her mother to shout at both of them, and was surprised and relieved when her mother only said, Well, you couldn’t be too careful these days, and was Mr. Um a teacher, and would he like a cup of tea?

Mr. Um said his name was Frost, but she should call him Jay, and Mrs. Perkins smiled and said he should call her Noona, and she’d put the kettle on.

Over tea, Scarlett told her mother the story of her wrong bus adventure, and how she had found herself at the graveyard, and how she met Mr. Frost by the little church… Mrs. Perkins dropped her teacup.

They were sitting around the table in the kitchen, so the cup didn’t fall very far, and it didn’t break, just spilled tea. Mrs. Perkins apologized awkwardly, and went and got a cloth from the sink to mop it up.

Then she said, “The graveyard on the hill, in the Old Town? That one?”

“I live over that way,” said Mr. Frost. “Been doing a lot of grave-rubbings. And you know it’s technically a nature reserve?” Mrs. Perkins said, “I know,” thin-lipped. Then she said, “Thank you so much for giving Scarlett a ride home, Mr. Frost.” Each word might have been an ice cube. Then, “I think you should leave now.” “I say, that’s a bit much,” said Frost, amiably. “Didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Was it something I said? The rubbings, they’re for a local history project, it’s not as if I’m, you know, digging up bones or anything.” For a heartbeat, Scarlett thought that her mother was going to strike Mr. Frost, who just looked worried. But Mrs. Perkins shook her head and said, “Sorry, family history. Not your fault.” As if she was making a conscious effort, she said, brightly, “You know, Scarlett actually used to play in that graveyard when she was little. This is, oh, ten years ago. She had an imaginary friend, too. A little boy called Nobody.” A smile twitched at the corner of Mr. Frost’s lips. “A ghostie?”

“No, I don’t think so. He just lived there. She even pointed out the tomb he lived in. So I suppose he was a ghost. Do you remember, love?” Scarlett shook her head. “I must have been a funny kid,” she said.

“I’m sure that you were nothing of the, um,” said Mr. Frost. “You are raising a fine girl here, Noona. Well, lovely cup of tea. Always a joy to make new friends. I’ll be toddling off now. Got to make myself a little dinner, then I’ve got a meeting of the Local History Society.” “You’re making your own dinner?” said Mrs. Perkins.

“Yes, making it. Well, defrosting it really. I’m also a master of the boil-in-the-bag. Eating for one. Living on my own. Bit of a crusty old bachelor. Actually, in the papers, that always means gay, doesn’t it? Not gay, just never met the right woman.” And for a moment, he looked rather sad.

Mrs. Perkins, who hated to cook, announced that she always cooked too much food at the weekend, and as she ushered Mr. Frost out into the hall, Scarlett heard him agree that he would love to come round for dinner on Saturday night.

When Mrs. Perkins came back from the front hall, all she said to Scarlett was, “I hope you’ve done your homework.”

Scarlett was thinking about the afternoon’s events as she lay in bed that night listening to the sound of the cars grinding their way along the main road. She had been there, in that graveyard, when she was little. That was why everything had seemed so familiar.

In her mind she imagined and she remembered, and somewhere in there she fell asleep, but in sleep she still walked the paths of the graveyard. It was night, but she could see everything as clearly as if it were day. She was on the side of a hill. There was a boy of about her own age standing with his back to her, looking at the lights of the city.

Scarlett said, “Boy? What’re you doing?”

He looked around, seemed to have trouble focusing. “Who said that?” and then, “Oh, I can see you, sort of. Are you Dreamwalking?” “I think I’m dreaming,” she agreed.

“Not quite what I meant,” said the boy. “Hullo. I’m Bod.”

“I’m Scarlett,” she said.

He looked at her again, as if he were seeing her for the first time. “Of course, you are! I knew you looked familiar. You were in the graveyard today with that man, the one with the paper.” “Mr. Frost,” she said. “He’s really nice. He gave me a lift home.” Then she said, “Did you see us?”

“Yeah. I keep an eye on most things that happen in the graveyard.”

“What kind of a name is Bod?” she asked.

“It’s short for Nobody.”

“Of course!” said Scarlett. “That’s what this dream is about. You’re my imaginary friend, from when I was little, all grown up.” He nodded.

He was taller than she was. He wore grey, although she could not have described his clothes. His hair was too long, and she thought it had been some time since he had received a haircut.

He said, “You were really brave. We went deep into the hill and we saw the Indigo Man. And we met the Sleer.”

Something happened, then, in her head. A rushing and a tumbling, a whirl of darkness and a crash of images…

“I remember,” said Scarlett. But she said it to the empty darkness of her bedroom, and heard nothing in reply but the low trundle of a distant lorry, making its way through the night.

Bod had stores of food, the kind that lasted, cached in the crypt, and more in some of the chillier tombs and vaults and mausoleums. Silas had made sure of that. He had enough food to keep him going for a couple of months. Unless Silas or Miss Lupescu was there, he simply would not leave the graveyard.

He missed the world beyond the graveyard gates, but he knew it was not safe out there. Not yet. The graveyard, though, was his world and his domain, and he was proud of it and loved it as only a fourteen-year-old boy can love anything.

And yet…

In the graveyard, no one ever changed. The little children Bod had played with when he was small were still little children; Fortinbras Bartleby, who had once been his best friend, was now four or five years younger than Bod was, and they had less to talk about each time they saw each other; Thackeray Porringer was Bod’s height and age, and seemed to be in much better temper with him; he would walk with Bod in the evenings, and tell stories of unfortunate things that had happened to his friends. Normally the stories would end in the friends being hanged until they were dead for no offense of theirs and by mistake, although sometimes they were simply transported to the American Colonies and they didn’t have to be hanged unless they came back.

Liza Hempstock, who had been Bod’s friend for the last six years, was different in another way; she was less likely to be there for him when Bod went down to the nettle-patch to see her, and on the rare occasions when she was, she would be short-tempered, argumentative, and often downright rude.

Bod talked to Mr. Owens about this, and, after a few moments’ reflection, his father said, “It’s just women, I reckon. She liked you as a boy, probably isn’t sure who you are now you’re a young man. I used to play with one little girl down by the duck-pond every day until she turned about your age, and then she threw an apple at my head and did not say another word to me until I was seventeen.” Mrs. Owens sniffed. “It was a pear I threw,” she said, tartly, “and I was talking to you again soon enough, for we danced a measure at your cousin Ned’s wedding, and that was but two days after your sixteenth birthday.” Mr. Owens said, “Of course you are right, my dear.” He winked at Bod, to tell him that it was none of it serious. And then he mouthed “Seventeen,” to show that, really, it was.

Bod had allowed himself no friends among the living. That way, he had realized back during his short-lived schooldays, lay only trouble. Still, he had remembered Scarlett, had missed her for years after she went away, had long ago faced the fact he would never see her again. And now she had been here in his graveyard, and he had not known her… He was wandering deeper into the tangle of ivy and trees that made the graveyard’s northwest quadrant so dangerous. Signs advised visitors to keep out, but the signs were not needed. It was uninviting and creepy once you were past the ivy-tangle that marked the end of the Egyptian Walk and the black doors in the mock-Egyptian walls that led to people’s final resting places. In the northwest, nature had been reclaiming the graveyard for almost a hundred years, and the stones were tipped over, graves were forgotten or simply lost beneath the green ivy and the leaf-fall of fifty years. Paths were lost and impassable.

Bod walked with care. He knew the area well, and he knew how dangerous it could be.

When Bod was nine he had been exploring in just this part of the world when the soil had given way beneath him, tumbling him into a hole almost twenty feet down. The grave had been dug deep, to accommodate many coffins, but there was no headstone and only one coffin, down at the bottom, containing a rather excitable medical gentleman named Carstairs who seemed thrilled by Bod’s arrival and insisted on examining Bod’s wrist (which Bod had twisted in the tumble, grabbing onto a root) before he could be persuaded to go and fetch help.

Bod was making his way through the northwest quadrant, a sludge of fallen leaves, a tangle of ivy, where the foxes made their homes and fallen angels stared up blindly, because he had an urge to talk to the Poet.

Nehemiah Trot was the Poet’s name, and his gravestone, beneath the greenery, read:

Here lies the mortal remains of

NEHEMIAH TROT

POET

1741–1774

SWANS SING BEFORE THEY DIE

Bod said, “Master Trot? Might I ask you for advice?”

Nehemiah Trot beamed, wanly. “Of course, brave boy. The advice of poets is the cordiality of kings! How may I smear unction on your, no, not unction, how may I give balm to your pain?” “I’m not actually in pain. I just—well, there’s a girl I used to know, and I wasn’t sure if I should find her and talk to her or if I should just forget about it.” Nehemiah Trot drew himself up to his full height, which was less than Bod’s, raised both hands to his chest excitedly, and said, “Oh! You must go to her and implore her. You must call her your Terpsichore, your Echo, your Clytemnestra. You must write poems for her, mighty odes—I shall help you write them—and thus—and only thus—shall you win your true love’s heart.” “I don’t actually need to win her heart. She’s not my true love,” said Bod. “Just someone I’d like to talk to.”

“Of all the organs,” said Nehemiah Trot, “the tongue is the most remarkable. For we use it both to taste our sweet wine and bitter poison, thus also do we utter words both sweet and sour with the same tongue. Go to her! Talk to her!” “I shouldn’t.”

“You should, sir! You must! I shall write about it, when the battle’s lost and won.”

“But if I Unfade for one person, it makes it easier for other people to see me…”

Nehemiah Trot said, “Ah, list to me, young Leander, young Hero, young Alexander. If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.” “Good point.” Bod was pleased with himself, and glad he had thought of asking the Poet for advice. Really, he thought, if you couldn’t trust a poet to offer sensible advice, who could you trust? Which reminded him… “Mister Trot?” said Bod. “Tell me about revenge.”

“Dish best served cold,” said Nehemiah Trot. “Do not take revenge in the heat of the moment. Instead, wait until the hour is propitious. There was a Grub Street hack named O’Leary—an Irishman, I should add—who had the nerve, the confounded cheek to write of my first slim volume of poems, A Nosegay of Beauty Assembled for Gentlemen of Quality, that it was inferior doggerel of no worth whatsoever, and that the paper it was written on would have been better used as—no, I cannot say. Let us simply agree that it was a most vulgar statement.” “But you got your revenge on him?” asked Bod, curious.

“On him and on his entire pestilent breed! Oh, I had my revenge, Master Owens, and it was a terrible one. I wrote, and had published, a letter, which I nailed to the doors of the public houses in London where such low scribbling folk were wont to frequent. And I explained that, given the fragility of the genius poetical, I would henceforth write not for them, but only for myself and posterity, and that I should, as long as I lived, publish no more poems—for them! Thus I left instructions that upon my death my poems were to be buried with me, unpublished, and that only when posterity realized my genius, realized that hundreds of my verses had been lost—lost!—only then was my coffin to be disinterred, only then could my poems be removed from my cold dead hand, to finally be published to the approbation and delight of all. It is a terrible thing to be ahead of your time.” “And after you died, they dug you up, and they printed the poems?”

“Not yet, no. But there is still plenty of time. Posterity is vast.”

“So…that was your revenge?”

“Indeed. And a mightily powerful and cunning one at that!”

“Ye-es,” said Bod, unconvinced.

“Best. Served. Cold,” said Nehemiah Trot, proudly.

Bod left the northwest of the graveyard, returned through the Egyptian Walk to the more orderly paths and untangled ways, and as the dusk fell, he wandered back towards the old chapel—not because he hoped Silas had returned from his travels, but because he had spent his life visiting the chapel at dusk, and it felt good to have a rhythm. And anyway, he was hungry.

Bod slipped through the crypt door, down into the crypt. He moved a cardboard box filled with curled and damp parish papers and took out a carton of orange juice, an apple, a box of bread sticks, and a block of cheese, and he ate while pondering how and whether he would seek out Scarlett—he would Dreamwalk, perhaps, since that was how she had come to him… He headed outside, was on his way to sit on the grey wooden bench, when he saw something and he hesitated. There was someone already there, sitting on his bench. She was reading a magazine.

Bod Faded even more, became a part of the graveyard, no more important than a shadow or a twig.

But she looked up. She looked straight at him, and she said, “Bod? Is that you?”

He said nothing. Then he said, “Why can you see me?”

“I almost couldn’t. At first I thought you were a shadow or something. But you look like you did in my dream. You sort of came into focus.” He walked over to the bench. He said, “Can you actually read that? Isn’t it too dark for you?”

Scarlett closed the magazine. She said, “It’s odd. You’d think it would be too dark, but I could read it fine, no problem.”

“Are you…” He trailed off, uncertain of what he had wanted to ask her. “Are you here on your own?”

She nodded. “I helped Mr. Frost do some grave-rubbings, after school. And then I told him I wanted to sit and think here, for a bit. When I’m done here, I promised to go and have a cup of tea with him and he’ll run me home. He didn’t even ask why. Just said he loves sitting in graveyards too, and that he thinks they can be the most peaceful places in the world.” Then she said, “Can I hug you?” “Do you want to?” said Bod.

“Yes.”

“Well then.” He thought for a moment. “I don’t mind if you do.”

“My hands won’t go through you or anything? You’re really there?”

“You won’t go through me,” he told her, and she threw her arms around him and squeezed him so tightly he could hardly breathe. He said, “That hurts.” Scarlett let go. “Sorry.”

“No. It was nice. I mean. You just squeezed more than I was expecting.”

“I just wanted to know if you were real. All these years I thought you were just something in my head. And then I sort of forgot about you. But I didn’t make you up, and you’re back, you’re in my head, and you’re in the world too.” Bod smiled. He said, “You used to wear a sort of a coat, it was orange, and whenever I saw that particular color orange, I’d think of you. I don’t suppose you still have the coat.” “No,” she said. “Not for a long time. It would be a wee bit too small for me now.”

“Yes,” said Bod. “Of course.”

“I should go home,” said Scarlett. “I thought I could come up on the weekend, though.” And then, seeing the expression on Bod’s face, she said, “Today’s Wednesday.” “I’d like that.”

She turned to go. Then she said, “How will I find you, next time?”

Bod said, “I’ll find you. Don’t worry. Just be on your own and I’ll find you.”

She nodded, and was gone.

Bod walked back into the graveyard and up the hill, until he reached the Frobisher mausoleum. He did not enter it. He climbed up the side of the building, using the thick ivy root as a foothold, and he pulled himself up onto the stone roof, where he sat and thought looking out at the world of moving things beyond the graveyard, and he remembered the way that Scarlett had held him and how safe he had felt, if only for a moment, and how fine it would be to walk safely in the lands beyond the graveyard, and how good it was to be master of his own small world.

Scarlett said that she didn’t want a cup of tea, thank you. Or a chocolate biscuit. Mr. Frost was concerned.

“Honestly,” he told her, “you look like you’ve seen a ghost. Well, a graveyard, not a bad place to see one, if you were going to, um, I had an aunt once who claimed her parrot was haunted. She was a scarlet macaw. The parrot. The aunt was an architect. Never knew the details.” “I’m fine,” said Scarlett. “It was just a long day.”

“I’ll give you a lift home then. Any idea what this says? Been puzzling over it for half an hour.” He indicated a grave-rubbing on the little table, held flat by a jam jar in each corner. “Is that name Gladstone, do you think? Could be a relative of the prime minister. But I can’t make out anything else.” “’Fraid not,” said Scarlett. “But I’ll take another look when I come out on Saturday.”

“Is your mother likely to put in an appearance?”

“She said she’d drop me off here in the morning. Then she has to go and get groceries for our dinner. She’s cooking a roast chicken.” “Do you think,” asked Mr. Frost, hopefully, “there are likely to be roast potatoes?”

“I expect so, yes.”

Mr. Frost looked delighted. Then he said, “I wouldn’t want to put her out of her way, I mean.”

“She’s loving it,” said Scarlett, truthfully. “Thank you for giving me a lift home.”

“More than welcome,” said Mr. Frost. They walked together down the steps in Mr. Frost’s high narrow house, to the little entrance hall at the bottom of the stairs.

In Krakow, on Wawel Hill, there are caves called the Dragon’s Den, named after a long dead dragon. These are the caves that the tourists know about. There are caves beneath those caves that the tourists do not know and do not ever get to visit. They go down a long way, and they are inhabited.

Silas went first, followed by the grey hugeness of Miss Lupescu, padding quietly on four feet just behind him. Behind them was Kandar, a bandage-wrapped Assyrian mummy with powerful eagle-wings and eyes like rubies, who was carrying a small pig.

There had originally been four of them, but they had lost Haroun in a cave far above, when the Ifrit, as naturally overconfident as are all of its race, had stepped into a space bounded by three polished bronze mirrors and had been swallowed up in a blaze of bronze light. In moments the Ifrit could only be seen in the mirrors, and no longer in reality. In the mirrors his fiery eyes were wide open, and his mouth was moving as if he was shouting at them to leave and beware, and then he faded and was lost to them.

Silas, who had no problems with mirrors, had covered one of them with his coat, rendering the trap useless.

“So,” said Silas. “Now there are only three of us.”

“And a pig,” said Kandar.

“Why?” asked Miss Lupescu, with a wolf-tongue, through wolf teeth. “Why the pig?”

“It’s lucky,” said Kandar.

Miss Lupescu growled, unconvinced.

“Did Haroun have a pig?” asked Kandar, simply.

“Hush,” said Silas. “They are coming. From the sound of it, there are many of them.”

“Let them come,” whispered Kandar.

Miss Lupescu’s hackles were rising. She said nothing, but she was ready for them, and it was only by an effort of will that she did not throw back her head and howl.

“It’s beautiful up this way,” said Scarlett.

“Yes,” said Bod.

“So, your family were all killed?” said Scarlett. “Does anyone know who did it?”

“No. Not that I know. My guardian only says that the man who did it is still alive, and that he’ll tell me the rest of what he knows one day.” “One day?”

“When I’m ready.”

“What’s he scared of? That you’d strap on your gun and ride out to wreak vengeance on the man who killed your family?”

Bod looked at her seriously. “Well, obviously,” he said. “Not a gun, though. But yes. Something like that.”

“You’re joking.”

Bod said nothing. His lips were tight-pressed together. He shook his head. Then he said, “I’m not joking.”

It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning. They were just past the entrance to the Egyptian Walk, out of the direct sunlight, under the pines and the sprawling monkey puzzle tree.

“Your guardian. Is he a dead person too?”

Bod said, “I don’t talk about him.”

Scarlett looked hurt. “Not even to me?”

“Not even to you.”

“Well,” she said. “Be like that.”

Bod said, “Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—” just as Scarlett said, “I promised Mr. Frost I wouldn’t be too long. I’d better be getting back.” “Right,” said Bod, worried he had offended her, unsure what he should say to make anything better.

He watched Scarlett head off on the winding path back to the chapel. A familiar female voice said, with derision, “Look at her! Miss high and mighty!” but there was no one to be seen.

Bod, feeling awkward, walked back to the Egyptian Walk. Miss Lillibet and Miss Violet had let him store a cardboard box filled with old paperback books in their vault, and he wanted to find something to read.

Scarlett helped Mr. Frost with his grave-rubbings until midday, when they stopped for lunch. He offered to buy her fish and chips as a thank-you, and they walked down to the fish and chip shop at the bottom of the road, and as they walked back up the hill they ate their steaming fish and chips, drenched in vinegar and glittering with salt, out of paper bags.

Scarlett said, “If you wanted to find out about a murder, where would you look? I already tried the Internet.”

“Um. Depends. What kind of murder are we talking about?”

“Something local, I think. About thirteen or fourteen years ago. A family was killed around here.”

“Crikey,” said Mr. Frost. “This really happened?”

“Oh yes. Are you all right?”

“Not really. Bit too, well, bit of a wimp, really. Things like that, I mean, local true crime, you don’t like to think about it. Things like that, happening here. Not something I’d expect a girl of your age to be interested in.” “It’s not actually for me,” admitted Scarlett. “It’s for a friend.”

Mr. Frost finished off the last of his fried cod. “The library, I suppose. If it’s not on the Internet, it’ll be in their newspaper files. What set you off after this?” “Oh.” Scarlett wanted to lie as little as possible. She said, “A boy I know. He was asking about it.”

“Definitely the library,” said Mr. Frost. “Murder. Brr. Gives me the shivers.”

“Me too,” said Scarlett. “A bit.” Then, hopefully, “Could you maybe, possibly, drop me off at the library, this afternoon?” Mr. Frost bit a large chip in half, chewed it, and looked at the rest of the chip, disappointed. “They get cold so fast, don’t they, chips. One minute, you’re burning your mouth on them, the next you’re wondering how they cool off so quickly.” “I’m sorry,” said Scarlett. “I shouldn’t be asking for rides everywhere—”

“Not at all,” said Mr. Frost. “Just wondering how best to organize this afternoon, and whether or not your mother likes chocolates. Bottle of wine or chocolates? Not really sure. Both maybe?” “I can make my own way home from the library,” said Scarlett. “And she loves chocolates. So do I.”

“Chocolates it is, then,” said Mr. Frost, relieved. They had reached the middle of the row of high, terraced houses on the hill, and the little green Mini parked outside. “Get in. I’ll run you over to the library.” The library was a square building, all brick and stone, dating back to the beginning of the last century. Scarlett looked around, and then went up to the desk.

The woman said, “Yes?”

Scarlett said, “I wanted to see some old newspaper clippings.”

“Is it for school?” said the woman.

“It’s local history,” said Scarlett, nodding, proud that she hadn’t actually lied.

“We’ve got the local paper on microfiche,” said the woman. She was large, and had silver hoops in her ears. Scarlett could feel her heart pounding in her chest; she was certain she looked guilty or suspicious, but the woman led her into a room with boxes that looked like computer screens, and showed her how to use them, to project a page of the newspaper at a time onto the screen. “One day we’ll have it all digitized,” said the woman. “Now, what dates are you after?” “About thirteen or fourteen years ago,” said Scarlett. “I can’t be more specific than that. I’ll know it when I see it.”

The woman gave Scarlett a small box with five years’ worth of newspapers on microfilm in it. “Go wild,” she said.

Scarlett assumed that the murder of a family would have been front page news but instead, when she eventually found it, it was almost buried on page five. It had happened in October, thirteen years earlier. There was no color in the article, no description, just an understated list of events: Architect Ronald Dorian, 36, his wife, Carlotta, 34, a publisher, and their daughter, Misty, 7, were found dead at 33 Dunstan Road. Foul play is suspected. A police spokesman said that it was too early to comment at this stage in their investigations, but that significant leads are being followed.

There was no mention of how the family died, and nothing said about a missing baby. In the weeks that followed, there was no follow-up, and the police did not ever comment, not that Scarlett could see.

But that was it. She was certain: 33 Dunstan Road. She knew the house. She had been in there.

She returned the box of microfilm to the front desk, thanked the librarian, and walked home in the April sunshine. Her mother was in the kitchen cooking—not entirely successfully, judging from the smell of burnt-bottom-of-the-saucepan that filled most of the flat. Scarlett retreated to her bedroom and opened the windows wide to let the burnt smell out, then she sat on her bed and made a phone call.

“Hello? Mr. Frost?”

“Scarlett. Everything still all right for this evening? How’s your mother?”

“Oh, it’s all under control,” said Scarlett, which was what her mother had said when she had asked. “Um, Mr. Frost, how long have you lived at your house?” “How long? About, well, four months now.”

“How did you find it?”

“Estate agents’ window. It was empty and I could afford it. Well, more or less. Well, I wanted something within walking distance of the graveyard, and this was perfect.” “Mister Frost.” Scarlett wondered how to say it, and then just said it. “About thirteen years ago, three people were murdered in your house. The Dorian family.” There was a silence at the other end of the phone.

“Mister Frost? Are you there?”

“Um. Still here, Scarlett. Sorry. Not the sort of thing you expect to hear. It’s an old house, I mean, you expect things to happen a long time ago. But not…well, what happened?” Scarlett wondered how much she could tell him. She said, “There was a little piece on it in an old newspaper, it only gave the address and nothing else. I don’t know how they died or anything.” “Well. Good lord.” Mr. Frost sounded more intrigued by the news than Scarlett could have expected. “This, young Scarlett, is where we local historians come into our own. Leave it with me. I’ll find out everything I can and report back.” “Thank you,” said Scarlett, relieved.

“Um. I assume this phone call is because if Noona thought there were murders going on in my home, even thirteen-year-old ones, you’d never be allowed to see me or the graveyard again. So, um, suppose I won’t mention it unless you do.” “Thank you, Mr. Frost!”

“See you at seven. With chocolates.”

Dinner was remarkably pleasant. The burnt smell had gone from the kitchen. The chicken was good, the salad was better, the roast potatoes were too crispy, but a delighted Mr. Frost had proclaimed that this was precisely the way he liked them, and had taken a second helping.

The flowers were popular, the chocolates, which they had for dessert, were perfect, and Mr. Frost sat and talked then watched television with them until about 10 P.M., when he said that he needed to get home.

“Time, tide, and historical research wait for no man,” he said. He shook Noona’s hand with enthusiasm, winked at Scarlett conspiratorially, and was out the door.

Scarlett tried to find Bod in her dreams that night; she thought of him as she went to sleep, imagined herself walking the graveyard looking for him, but when she did dream it was of wandering around Glasgow city center with her friends from her old school. They were hunting for a specific street, but all they found was a succession of dead ends, one after another.

Deep beneath the hill in Krakow, in the deepest vault beneath the caves they call the Dragon’s Den, Miss Lupescu stumbled and fell.

Silas crouched beside her and cradled Miss Lupescu’s head in his hands. There was blood on her face, and some of it was hers.

“You must leave me,” she said. “Save the boy.” She was halfway now, halfway between grey wolf and woman, but her face was a woman’s face.

“No,” said Silas. “I won’t leave you.”

Behind him, Kandar cradled its piglet like a child might hold a doll. The mummy’s left wing was shattered, and it would never fly again, but its bearded face was implacable.

“They will come back, Silas,” Miss Lupescu whispered. “Too soon, the sun will rise.”

“Then,” said Silas, “we must deal with them before they are ready to attack. Can you stand?”

“Da. I am one of the Hounds of God,” said Miss Lupescu. “I will stand.” She lowered her face into the shadows, flexed her fingers. When she raised her head again, it was a wolf’s head. She put her front paws down on the rock, and, laboriously, pushed herself up into a standing position: a grey wolf bigger than a bear, her coat and muzzle flecked with blood.

She threw back her head and howled a howl of fury and of challenge. Her lips curled back from her teeth and she lowered her head once more. “Now,” growled Miss Lupescu. “We end this.” Late on Sunday afternoon the telephone rang. Scarlett was sitting downstairs, laboriously copying faces from the manga she had been reading onto scrap paper. Her mother picked up the phone.

“Funny, we were just talking about you,” said her mother, although they hadn’t been. “It was wonderful,” her mother continued. “I had the best time. Honestly, it was no trouble. The chocolates? They were perfect. Just perfect. I told Scarlett to tell you, any time you want a good dinner, you just let me know.” And then, “Scarlett? Yes, she’s here. I’ll put her on. Scarlett?” “I’m just here, Mum,” said Scarlett. “You don’t have to shout.” She took the phone. “Mister Frost?”

“Scarlett?” He sounded excited. “The. Um. The thing we were talking about. The thing that happened in my house. You can tell this friend of yours that I found out—um, listen, when you said ‘a friend of yours’ did you mean it in the sense of ‘we’re actually talking about you,’ or is there a real person, if it’s not a personal question—” “I’ve got a real friend who wants to know,” said Scarlett, amused.

Her mother shot her a puzzled look.

“Tell your friend that I did some digging—not literally, more like rummaging, well, a fair amount of actual looking around—and I think I might have unearthed some very real information. Stumbled over something hidden. Well, not something I think we should spread around…I, um. I found things out.” “Like what?” asked Scarlett.

“Look…don’t think I’m mad. But, well, as far as I can tell, three people were killed. One of them—the baby, I think—wasn’t. It wasn’t a family of three, it was a family of four. Only three of them died. Tell him to come and see me, your friend. I’ll fill him in.” “I’ll tell him,” said Scarlett. She put down the phone, her heart beating like a snare.

Bod walked down the narrow stone stairs for the first time in six years. His footsteps echoed in the chamber inside the hill.

He reached the bottom of the steps and waited for the Sleer to manifest. And he waited, and waited, but nothing appeared, nothing whispered, nothing moved.

He looked around the chamber, untroubled by the deep darkness, seeing it as the dead see. He walked over to the altar stone set in the floor, where the cup and the brooch and the stone knife sat.

He reached down and touched the edge of the knife. It was sharper than he had expected, and it nicked the skin of his finger.

IT IS THE TREASURE OF THE SLEER, whispered a triple voice, but it sounded smaller than he remembered, more hesitant.

Bod said, “You’re the oldest thing here. I came to talk to you. I want advice.”

A pause. NOTHING COMES TO THE SLEER FOR ADVICE. THE SLEER GUARDS. THE SLEER WAITS.

“I know. But Silas isn’t here. And I don’t know who else to talk to.”

Nothing was said. Just a silence in reply, that echoed of dust and loneliness.

“I don’t know what to do,” Bod said, honestly. “I think I can find out about who killed my family. Who wanted to kill me. It means leaving the graveyard, though.” The Sleer said nothing. Smoke-tendrils twined slowly around the inside of the chamber.

“I’m not frightened of dying,” said Bod. “It’s just, so many people I care for have spent so much time keeping me safe, teaching me, protecting me.” Again, silence.

Then he said, “I have to do this on my own.”

YES.

“That’s all, then. Sorry I bothered you.”

It whispered into Bod’s head, then, in a voice that was a sleek insinuating glide, THE SLEER WAS SET TO GUARD THE TREASURE UNTIL OUR MASTER RETURNED. ARE YOU OUR MASTER?

“No,” said Bod.

And then, with a hopeful whine, WILL YOU BE OUR MASTER?

“I’m afraid not.”

IF YOU WERE OUR MASTER, WE COULD HOLD YOU IN OUR COILS FOREVER. IF YOU WERE OUR MASTER, WE WOULD KEEP YOU SAFE AND PROTECT YOU UNTIL THE END OF TIME AND NEVER LET YOU ENDURE THE DANGERS OF THE WORLD.

“I am not your master.”

NO.

Bod felt the Sleer writhing through his mind. It said, THEN FIND YOUR NAME. And his mind was empty, and the room was empty, and Bod was alone.

Bod walked back up the stairs carefully yet quickly. He had come to a decision and needed to act fast, while the decision still burned in his mind.

Scarlett was waiting for him on the bench by the chapel. “Well?” she said.

“I’ll do it. Come on,” he said, and side by side they walked the path down to the graveyard gates.

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