فصل 07 - 02کتاب: کتاب قبرستان / فصل 9
فصل 07 - 02
- زمان مطالعه 72 دقیقه
- سطح متوسط
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
Number 33 was a tall house, spindly-thin, in the middle of a terraced row. It was red-brick and unmemorable. Bod looked at it uncertainly, wondering why it did not seem familiar, or special. It was only a house, like any other. There was a small concreted space in front of it that wasn’t a garden, a green Mini parked on the street. The front door had once been painted a bright blue, but had been dimmed by time and the sun.
“Well?” said Scarlett.
Bod knocked on the door. There was nothing, then a clatter of feet on the stairs from inside, and the door opened to reveal an entryway and stairs. Framed in the doorway was a bespectacled man with receding grey hair, who blinked at them, then stuck out his hand at Bod, and smiled nervously, and said, “You must be Miss Perkins’s mysterious friend. Good to meet you.” “This is Bod,” said Scarlett.
“Bod. With a D,” she said. “Bod, this is Mr. Frost.”
Bod and Frost shook hands. “Kettle’s on,” said Mr. Frost. “What say we swap information over a cuppa?”
They followed him up the steps to a kitchen, where he poured three mugs of tea, then led them into a small sitting room. “The house just keeps going up,” he said. “The toilet’s on the next floor up, and my office, then bedrooms above that. Keeps you fit, all the stairs.” They sat on a large, extremely purple sofa (“It was already here when I came”), and they sipped their tea.
Scarlett had worried that Mr. Frost would ask Bod lots of questions, but he didn’t. He just seemed excited, as if he had identified the lost gravestone of someone famous and desperately wanted to tell the world. He kept moving impatiently in his chair, as if he had something enormous to impart to them and not blurting it out immediately was a physical strain.
Scarlett said, “So what did you find out?”
Mr. Frost said, “Well, you were right. I mean, this was the house where those people were killed. And it…I think the crime was…well, not exactly hushed up, but forgotten about, let go…by the authorities.” “I don’t understand,” said Scarlett. “Murders don’t get swept under the carpet.”
“This one was,” said Frost. He drained his tea. “There are people out there who have influence. It’s the only explanation for that, and for what happened to the youngest child…” “And what was that?” asked Bod.
“He lived,” said Frost. “I’m sure of it. But there wasn’t a manhunt. A missing toddler normally would be national news. But they, um, they must have squashed it somehow.” “Who are they?” asked Bod.
“The same people who had the family killed.”
“Do you know any more than that?”
“Yes. Well, a little…” Frost trailed off. “I’m sorry. I’m. Look. Given what I found. It’s all too incredible.” Scarlett was starting to feel frustrated. “What was? What did you find?”
Frost looked shamefaced. “You’re right. I’m sorry. Getting into keeping secrets. Not a good idea. Historians don’t bury things. We dig them up. Show people. Yes.” He stopped, hesitated, then he said, “I found a letter. Upstairs. It was hidden under a loose floorboard.” He turned to Bod. “Young man, would I be correct in assuming your, well, your interest in this business, this dreadful business, is personal?” Bod nodded.
“I won’t ask any more,” said Mr. Frost, and he stood up. “Come on,” he said to Bod. “Not you, though,” to Scarlett, “not yet. I’ll show him. And if he says it’s all right, I’ll show you as well. Deal?” “Deal,” said Scarlett.
“We won’t be long,” said Mr. Frost. “Come on, lad.”
Bod stood up, darted a concerned look at Scarlett. “It’s okay,” she said, and smiled at him as reassuringly as she could. “I’ll wait here for you.” She watched their shadows as they walked out of the room and up the stairs. She felt nervous, but expectant. She wondered what Bod would learn, and was happy that he would learn it first. It was his story, after all. It was his right.
Out on the stairs, Mr. Frost led the way.
Bod looked around as he walked up toward the top of the house, but nothing seemed familiar. It all seemed strange.
“All the way to the very top,” said Mr. Frost. They went up another flight of stairs. He said, “I don’t—well, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but—um, you’re the boy, aren’t you?” Bod said nothing.
“Here we are,” said Mr. Frost. He turned the key in the door at the top of the house, pushed it open, and they went inside.
The room was small, an attic room with a sloping ceiling. Thirteen years before, it had held a crib. It barely held the man and the boy.
“Stroke of luck, really,” said Mr. Frost. “Under my own nose, so to speak.” He crouched down, pulled back the threadbare carpet.
“So you know why my family were murdered?” asked Bod.
Mr. Frost said, “It’s all in here.” He reached down to a short length of floorboard and pushed at it until he was able to lever it out. “This would have been the baby’s room,” said Mr. Frost. “I’ll show you the…you know, the only thing we don’t know is just who did it. Nothing at all. We don’t have the tiniest clue.” “We know he has dark hair,” said Bod, in the room that had once been his bedroom. “And we know that his name is Jack.” Mr. Frost put his hand down into the empty space where the floorboard had been. “It’s been almost thirteen years,” he said. “And hair gets thin and goes gray, in thirteen years. But yes, that’s right. It’s Jack.” He straightened up. The hand that had been in the hole in the floor was holding a large, sharp knife.
“Now,” said the man Jack. “Now, boy. Time to finish this.”
Bod stared at him. It was as if Mr. Frost had been a coat or a hat the man had been wearing, that he had now discarded. The affable exterior had gone.
The light glinted on the man’s spectacles, and on the blade of the knife.
A voice called up to them from further down the stairs—Scarlett’s. “Mr. Frost? There’s someone knocking at the front door. Should I get it?” The man Jack only glanced away for a moment, but Bod knew that the moment was all he had, and he Faded, as completely, as utterly as he could. The man Jack looked back to where Bod had been, then stared around the room, puzzlement and rage competing on his face. He took a step further into the room, his head swinging from side to side like an old tiger scenting prey.
“You’re here somewhere,” growled the man Jack. “I can smell you!”
Behind him, the little door to the attic bedroom slammed closed, and as he swung around he heard the key turn in the lock.
The man Jack raised his voice. “It buys you moments, but it won’t stop me, boy,” he called through the locked door. Then added, simply, “We have unfinished business, you and I.” Bod threw himself down the stairs, bouncing into the walls, almost tumbling headlong in his rush to reach Scarlett.
“Scarlett!” he said, when he saw her. “It’s him! Come on!”
“It’s who? What are you talking about?”
“Him! Frost. He’s Jack. He tried to kill me!”
A bang! from above as the man Jack kicked at the door.
“But.” Scarlett tried to make sense of what she was hearing, “But he’s nice.”
“No,” said Bod, grabbing her hand and pulling her down the stairs, into the hallway. “No, he’s not.”
Scarlett pulled open the front door.
“Ah. Good evening, young lady,” said the man at the door, looking down at her. “We are looking for Mr. Frost. I believe this is his neck of the woods.” He had silver-white hair, and he smelled of cologne.
“Are you friends of his?” she asked.
“Oh yes,” said a smaller man, standing just behind. He had a small black mustache and was the only one of the men to wear a hat.
“Certainly are,” said a third, a younger man, huge and Nordic blond.
“Every man Jack of us,” said the last of the men, wide and bull-like, with a massive head. His skin was brown.
“He. Mr. Frost. He had to go out,” she said.
“But his car’s here,” said the white-haired man, as the blond one said, “Who are you, anyway?”
“He’s a friend of my mum’s,” said Scarlett.
She could see Bod, now, on the other side of the group of men, gesturing frantically to her to leave the men and follow him.
She said, as breezily as she could, “He just popped out. Popped out for a newspaper. From the corner shop down there.” And she closed the door behind her, stepped around the men and began to walk away.
“Where are you going?” asked the man with the mustache.
“I’ve got a bus to catch,” she said. Scarlett walked up the hill towards the bus-stop and the graveyard, and did not, resolutely did not, look back.
Bod walked beside her. Even to Scarlett he seemed shadowy in the deepening dusk, like something that was almost not there, a shimmer of heat haze, a skittery leaf that for a moment had seemed to be a boy.
“Walk faster,” said Bod. “They’re all looking at you. But don’t run.”
“Who are they?” asked Scarlett, quietly.
“I don’t know,” said Bod. “But they all felt weird. Like they weren’t properly people. I want to go back and listen to them.” “Of course they’re people,” said Scarlett, and she walked up the hill as fast as she could without actually running, no longer certain that Bod was by her side.
The four men stood at the door to number 33. “I don’t like this,” said the big man with the bull-neck.
“You don’t like this, Mr. Tar?” said the white-haired man. “None of us like it. All wrong. Everything’s going wrong.” “Krakow’s gone. They aren’t answering. And after Melbourne and Vancouver…” said the man with the mustache. “For all we know, we four are all that’s left.” “Quiet, please, Mr. Ketch,” said the white-haired man. “I’m thinking.”
“Sorry, sir,” said Mr. Ketch, and he patted his mustache with one gloved finger, looked up the hill and down again, and whistled through his teeth.
“I think…we should go after her,” said the bull-necked man, Mr. Tar.
“I think you people should listen to me,” said the white-haired man. “I said quiet. And what I meant was, quiet.” “Sorry, Mr. Dandy,” said the blond man.
They were quiet.
In the silence, they could hear thumping sounds coming from high inside the house.
“I’m going in,” said Mr. Dandy. “Mr. Tar, you’re with me. Nimble and Ketch, get that girl. Bring her back.” “Dead or alive?” asked Mr. Ketch, with a smug smile.
“Alive, you moron,” said Mr. Dandy. “I want to know what she knows.”
“Maybe she’s one of them,” said Mr. Tar. “The ones who done for us in Vancouver and Melbourne and—”
“Get her,” said Mr. Dandy. “Get her now.” The blond man and the hat-and-mustache hurried up the hill.
Mr. Dandy and Mr. Tar stood outside the door to number 33.
“Force it,” said Mr. Dandy.
Mr. Tar put his shoulder against the door and began to lean his weight on it. “It’s reinforced,” he said. “Protected.” Mr. Dandy said, “Nothing one Jack can do that another can’t fix.” He pulled off his glove, put his hand against the door, muttered something in a language older than English. “Now try it,” he said.
Tar leaned against the door, grunted and pushed. This time the lock gave and the door swung open.
“Nicely done,” said Mr. Dandy.
There was a crashing noise from far above them, up at the top of the house.
The man Jack met them halfway down the stairs. Mr. Dandy grinned at him, without any humor but with perfect teeth. “Hello, Jack Frost,” he said. “I thought you had the boy.” “I did,” said the man Jack. “He got away.”
“Again?” Jack Dandy’s smile grew wider and chillier and even more perfect. “Once is a mistake, Jack. Twice is a disaster.” “We’ll get him,” said the man Jack. “This ends tonight.”
“It had better,” said Mr. Dandy.
“He’ll be in the graveyard,” said the man Jack. The three men hurried down the stairs.
The man Jack sniffed the air. He had the scent of the boy in his nostrils, a prickle at the nape of his neck. He felt like all this had happened years before. He paused, pulled on his long black coat, which had hung in the front hall, incongruous beside Mr. Frost’s tweed jacket and fawn mackintosh.
The front door was open to the street, and the daylight had almost gone. This time the man Jack knew exactly which way to go. He did not pause, but simply walked out of the house, and hurried up the hill towards the graveyard.
The graveyard gates were closed when Scarlett reached them. Scarlett pulled at them desperately, but the gates were padlocked for the night. And then Bod was beside her. “Do you know where the key is?” she asked.
“We don’t have time,” said Bod. He pushed close to the metal bars. “Put your arms around me.”
“Just put your arms around me and close your eyes.”
Scarlett stared at Bod, as if daring him to try something, then she held him tightly and screwed her eyes shut. “Okay.” Bod leaned against the bars of the graveyard gates. They counted as part of the graveyard, and he hoped that his Freedom of the Graveyard might just, possibly, just this time, cover other people too. And then, like smoke, Bod slipped though the bars.
“You can open your eyes,” he said.
“How did you do that?”
“This is my home,” he said. “I can do things here.”
The sound of shoes slapping against the pavement, and two men were on the other side of the gates, rattling them, pulling at them.
“Hul-lo,” said Jack Ketch, with a twitch of his mustache, and he smiled at Scarlett through the bars like a rabbit with a secret. He had a black silk cord tied around his left forearm, and now he was tugging at it with his gloved right hand. He pulled it off his arm and into his hand, testing it, running it from hand to hand as if he was about to make a cat’s cradle. “Come on out, girlie. It’s all right. No one’s going to hurt you.” “We just need you to answer some questions,” said the big blond man, Mr. Nimble. “We’re on official business.” (He lied. There was nothing official about the Jacks of All Trades, although there had been Jacks in governments and in police forces and in other places besides.) “Run!” said Bod to Scarlett, pulling at her hand. She ran.
“Did you see that?” said the Jack they called Ketch.
“I saw somebody with her. A boy.”
“The boy?” asked the Jack called Nimble.
“How would I know? Here. Give me a hand up.” The bigger man put his hands out, linked them to make a step, and Jack Ketch’s black-clad foot went into it. Lifted up, he scrambled onto the top of the gates and jumped down to the drive, landing on all fours like a frog. He stood up, said, “Find another way in. I’m going after them.” And he sprinted off up the winding path that led into the graveyard.
Scarlett said, “Just tell me what we’re doing.” Bod was walking fast through the twilit graveyard, but he was not running, not yet.
“How do you mean?”
“I think that man wanted to kill me. Did you see how he was playing with that black cord?”
“I’m sure he does. That man Jack—your Mister Frost—he was going to kill me. He’s got a knife.”
“He’s not my Mister Frost. Well, I suppose he is, sort of. Sorry. Where are we going?”
“First we put you somewhere safe. Then I deal with them.”
All around Bod, the inhabitants of the graveyard were waking and gathering, worried and alarmed.
“Bod?” said Caius Pompeius. “What is happening?”
“Bad people,” said Bod. “Can our lot keep an eye on them? Let me know where they are at all times. We have to hide Scarlett. Any ideas?” “The chapel crypt?” said Thackeray Porringer.
“First place they’ll look.”
“Who are you talking to?” asked Scarlett, staring at Bod as if he had gone mad.
Caius Pompeius said, “Inside the hill?”
Bod thought. “Yes. Good call. Scarlett, do you remember the place where we found the Indigo Man?”
“Kind of. A dark place. I remember there wasn’t anything to be scared of.”
“I’m taking you up there.”
They hurried up the path. Scarlett could tell that Bod was talking to people as he went, but could only hear his side of the conversation. It was like hearing someone talk on a phone. Which reminded her… “My mum’s going to go spare,” she said. “I’m dead.”
“No,” said Bod. “You’re not. Not yet. Not for a long time.” Then, to someone else, “Two of them, now. Together? Okay.” They reached the Frobisher mausoleum. “The entrance is behind the bottom coffin on the left,” Bod said. “If you hear anyone coming and it’s not me, go straight down to the very bottom…do you have anything to make light?” “Yeah. A little LED thing on my keyring.”
He pulled open the door to the mausoleum. “And be careful. Don’t trip or anything.”
“Where are you going?” asked Scarlett.
“This is my home,” said Bod. “I’m going to protect it.”
Scarlett squeezed the LED keyring, and went down on her hands and knees. The space behind the coffin was tight, but she went though the hole into the hill and pulled the coffin back as best she could. In the dim LED light she could see stone steps. She stood upright, and, hand on the wall, walked down three steps, then stopped and sat, hoping that Bod knew what he was doing, and she waited.
Bod said, “Where are they now?”
His father said, “One fellow’s up by the Egyptian Walk, looking for you. His friend’s waiting down by the alley wall. Three others are on their way over, climbing up the alley wall on all the big bins.” “I wish Silas was here. He’d make short work of them. Or Miss Lupescu.”
“You don’t need them,” said Mr. Owens encouragingly.
“Down by the alley wall.”
“Tell her I’ve hidden Scarlett in the back of the Frobisher’s place. Ask her to keep an eye on her if anything happens to me.” Bod ran through the darkened graveyard. The only way into the northwest part of the graveyard was through the Egyptian Walk. And to get there he would have to go past the little man with the black silk rope. A man who was looking for him, and who wanted him dead… He was Nobody Owens, he told himself. He was a part of the graveyard. He would be fine.
He nearly missed the little man—the Jack called Ketch—as he hurried into the Egyptian Walk. The man was almost part of the shadows.
Bod breathed in, Faded as deeply as he could Fade, and moved past the man like dust blown on an evening breeze.
He walked down the green-hung length of the Egyptian Walk, and then, with an effort of will, he became as obvious as he could, and kicked at a pebble.
He saw the shadow by the arch detach itself and come after him, almost as silent as the dead.
Bod pushed through the trailing ivy that blocked the Walk and into the northwest corner of the graveyard. He would have to time this just right, he knew. Too fast and the man would lose him, yet if he moved too slowly a black silk rope would wrap itself around his neck, taking his breath with it and all his tomorrows.
He pushed noisily through the tangle of ivy, disturbing one of the graveyard’s many foxes, which sprinted off into the undergrowth. It was a jungle here, of fallen headstones and headless statues, of trees and holly bushes, of slippery piles of half-rotted fallen leaves, but it was a jungle that Bod had explored since he had been old enough to walk and to wander.
Now he was hurrying carefully, stepping from root-tangle of ivy to stone to earth, confident that this was his graveyard. He could feel the graveyard itself trying to hide him, to protect him, to make him vanish, and he fought it, worked to be seen.
He saw Nehemiah Trot, and hesitated.
“Hola, young Bod!” called the poet. “I hear that excitement is the master of the hour, that you fling yourself through these dominions like a comet across the firmament. What’s the word, good Bod?” “Stand there,” said Bod. “Just where you are. Look back the way I came. Tell me when he comes close.”
Bod skirted the ivy-covered Carstairs grave, and then he stood, panting as if out of breath, with his back to his pursuer.
And he waited. It was only for a few seconds, but it felt like a small forever.
(“He’s here, lad,” said Nehemiah Trot. “About twenty paces behind you.”)
The Jack called Ketch saw the boy in front of him. He pulled his black silk cord tight between his hands. It had been stretched around many necks, over the years, and had been the end of every one of the people it had embraced. It was very soft and very strong and invisible to X-rays.
Ketch’s mustache moved, but nothing else. He had his prey in his sight, and did not want to startle it. He began to advance, silent as a shadow.
The boy straightened up.
Jack Ketch darted forward, his polished black shoes almost soundless on the leaf-mold.
(“He comes, lad!” called Nehemiah Trot.)
The boy turned around, and Jack Ketch made a leap towards him—
And Mr. Ketch felt the world tumbling away beneath him. He grabbed at the world with one gloved hand, but tumbled down and down into the old grave, all of twenty feet, before crash-landing on Mr. Carstairs’s coffin, splintering the coffin-lid and his ankle at the same time.
“That’s one,” said Bod, calmly, although he felt anything but calm.
“Elegantly accomplished,” said Nehemiah Trot. “I shall compose an Ode. Would you like to stay and listen?”
“No time,” said Bod. “Where are the other men?”
Euphemia Horsfall said, “Three of them are on the southwestern path, heading up the hill.”
Tom Sands said, “And there’s another. Right now he’s just walking around the chapel. He’s the one who’s been all around the graveyard for the last month. But there’s something different about him.” Bod said, “Keep an eye on the man in with Mr. Carstairs—and please apologize to Mr. Carstairs for me…”
He ducked under a pine-branch and loped around the hill, on the paths when it suited him, off the paths, jumping from monument to stone, when that was quicker.
He passed the old apple tree. “There’s four of them, still,” said a tart female voice. “Four of them, and all killers. And the rest of them won’t all of them fall into open graves to oblige you.” “Hullo, Liza. I thought you were angry at me.”
“I might be and I mightn’t,” she said, nothing more than a voice. “But I’m not going to let them cut you up, nohow.” “Then trip them for me, trip them and confuse them and slow them down. Can you do that?”
“While you runs away again? Nobody Owens, why don’t you just Fade, and hide in your mam’s nice tomb, where they’ll never find you, and soon enough Silas will be back to take care of them—” “Maybe he will and maybe he won’t,” said Bod. “I’ll meet you by the lightning tree.”
“I am still not talking to you,” said Liza Hempstock’s voice, proud as a peacock and pert as a sparrow.
“Actually, you are. I mean, we’re talking right now.”
“Only during this emergency. After that, not a word.”
Bod made for the lightning tree, an oak that had been burned by lightning twenty years ago and now was nothing more than a blackened limb clutching at the sky.
He had an idea. It was not fully formed. It depended on whether he could remember Miss Lupescu’s lessons, remember everything he had seen and heard as a child.
It was harder to find the grave than he had expected, even looking for it, but he found it—an ugly grave tipped at an odd angle, its stone topped by a headless, waterstained angel that had the appearance of a gargantuan fungus. It was only when he touched it, and felt the chill, that he knew it for certain.
He sat down on the grave, forced himself to become entirely visible.
“You’ve not Faded,” said Liza’s voice. “Anyone could find you.”
“Good,” said Bod. “I want them to find me.”
“More know Jack Fool than Jack Fool knows,” said Liza.
The moon was rising. It was huge now and low in the sky. Bod wondered if it would be overdoing it if he began to whistle.
“I can see him!”
A man ran towards him, tripping and stumbling, two other men close behind.
Bod was aware of the dead clustered around them, watching the scene, but he forced himself to ignore them. He made himself more comfortable on the ugly grave. He felt like the bait in a trap, and it was not a good feeling.
The bull-like man was the first to reach the grave, followed closely by the man with the white hair who had done all the talking, and the tall blond man.
Bod stayed where he was.
The man with the white hair said, “Ah. The elusive Dorian boy, I presume. Astonishing. There’s our Jack Frost hunting the whole world over, and here you are, just where he left you, thirteen years ago.” Bod said, “That man killed my family.”
“Indeed he did.”
“Does it matter? You’re never going to tell anyone.”
“Then it’s no skin off your nose to tell me, is it?”
The white-haired man barked a laugh. “Hah! Funny boy. What I want to know is, how have you lived in a graveyard for thirteen years without anyone catching wise?” “I’ll answer your question if you answer mine.”
The bull-necked man said, “You don’t talk to Mr. Dandy like that, little snot! I split you, I will—”
The white-haired man took another step closer to the grave. “Hush, Jack Tar. All right. An answer for an answer. We—my friends and I—are members of a fraternal organization, known as the Jacks of All Trades, or the Knaves, or by other names. We go back an extremely long way. We know…we remember things that most people have forgotten. The Old Knowledge.” Bod said, “Magic. You know a little magic.”
The man nodded agreeably. “If you want to call it that. But it is a very specific sort of magic. There’s a magic you take from death. Something leaves the world, something else comes into it.” “You killed my family for—for what? For magic powers? That’s ridiculous.”
“No. We killed you for protection. Long time ago, one of our people—this was back in Egypt, in pyramid days—he foresaw that one day, there would be a child born who would walk the borderland between the living and the dead. That if this child grew to adulthood it would mean the end of our order and all we stand for. We had people casting nativities before London was a village, we had your family in our sights before New Amsterdam became New York. And we sent what we thought was the best and the sharpest and the most dangerous of all the Jacks to deal with you. To do it properly, so we could take all the bad Juju and make it work for us instead, and keep everything tickety-boo for another five thousand years. Only he didn’t.” Bod looked at the three men.
“So where is he? Why isn’t he here?”
The blond man said, “We can take care of you. He’s got a good nose on him, has our Jack Frost. He’s on the trail of your little girlfriend. Can’t leave any witnesses. Not to something like this.” Bod leaned forward, dug his hands into the wild weed-grass that grew on the unkempt grave.
“Come and get me,” was all that he said.
The blond man grinned, the bull-necked man lunged, and—yes—even Mr. Dandy took several steps forward.
Bod pushed his fingers as deeply as he could into the grass, and he pulled his lips back from his teeth, and he said three words in a language that was already ancient before the Indigo Man was born.
“Skagh! Thegh! Khavagah!”
He opened the ghoul-gate.
The grave swung up like a trapdoor. In the deep hole below the door Bod could see stars, a darkness filled with glimmering lights.
The bull-man, Mr. Tar, at the edge of the hole, could not stop, and stumbled, surprised, into the darkness.
Mr. Nimble jumped toward Bod, his arms extended, leaping over the hole. Bod watched as the man stopped in the air at the zenith of his spring, and hung there for a moment, before he was sucked through the ghoul-gate, down and down.
Mr. Dandy stood at the edge of the ghoul-gate, on a lip of stone and looked down into the darkness beneath. Then he raised his eyes to Bod, and thin-lipped, he smiled.
“I don’t know what you just did,” said Mr. Dandy. “But it didn’t work.” He pulled his gloved hand out of his pocket, holding a gun, pointed directly at Bod. “I should have just done this thirteen years ago,” said Mr. Dandy. “You can’t trust other people. If it’s important, you have to do it yourself.” A desert wind came up from the open ghoul-gate, hot and dry, with grit in it. Bod said, “There’s a desert down there. If you look for water, you should find some. There’s things to eat if you look hard, but don’t antagonize the night-gaunts. Avoid Ghûlheim. The ghouls might wipe your memories and make you into one of them, or they might wait until you’ve rotted down, and then eat you. Either way, you can do better.” The gun barrel did not waver. Mr. Dandy said, “Why are you telling me this?”
Bod pointed across the graveyard. “Because of them,” he said, and as he said it, as Mr. Dandy glanced away, only for a moment, Bod Faded. Mr. Dandy’s eyes flickered away and back, but Bod was no longer by the broken statue. From deep in the hole something called, like the lonely wail of a night bird.
Mr. Dandy looked around, his forehead a slash, his body a mass of indecision and rage. “Where are you?” he growled. “The Deuce take you! Where are you?” He thought he heard a voice say, “Ghoul-gates are made to be opened and then closed again. You can’t leave them open. They want to close.” The lip of the hole shuddered and shook. Mr. Dandy had been in an earthquake once, years before, in Bangladesh. It felt like that: the earth juddered, and Mr. Dandy fell, would have fallen into the darkness, but he caught hold of the fallen headstone, threw his arms about it and locked on. He did not know what was beneath him, only that he had no wish to find out.
The earth shook, and he felt the headstone begin to shift, beneath his weight.
He looked up. The boy was there, looking down at him curiously.
“I’m going to let the gate close now,” he said. “I think if you keep holding onto that thing, it might close on you, and crush you, or it might just absorb you and make you into part of the gate. Don’t know. But I’m giving you a chance, more than you ever gave my family.” A ragged judder. Mr. Dandy looked up into the boy’s grey eyes, and he swore. Then he said, “You can’t ever escape us. We’re the Jacks of All Trades. We’re everywhere. It’s not over.” “It is for you,” said Bod. “The end of your people and all you stand for. Like your man in Egypt predicted. You didn’t kill me. You were everywhere. Now it’s all over.” Then Bod smiled. “That’s what Silas is doing, isn’t it? That’s where he is.” Mr. Dandy’s face confirmed everything that Bod had suspected.
And what Mr. Dandy might have said to that, Bod would never know, because the man let go of the headstone and tumbled slowly down into the open ghoul-gate.
Bod said, “Wegh Khârados.”
The ghoul-gate was a grave once again, nothing more.
Something was tugging at his sleeve. Fortinbras Bartleby looked up at him. “Bod! The man by the chapel. He’s going up the hill.” The man Jack followed his nose. He had left the others, not least because the stink of Jack Dandy’s cologne made finding anything subtler impossible.
He could not find the boy by scent. Not here. The boy smelled like the graveyard. But the girl smelled like her mother’s house, like the dab of perfume she had touched to her neck before school that morning. She smelled like a victim too, like fear-sweat, thought Jack, like his quarry. And wherever she was, the boy would be too, sooner or later.
His hand closed around the handle of his knife and he walked up the hill. He was almost at the top of the hill when it occurred to him—a hunch he knew was a truth—that Jack Dandy and the rest of them were gone. Good, he thought. There’s always room at the top. The man Jack’s own rise through the Order had slowed and stopped after he had failed to kill all of the Dorian family. It was as if he had no longer been trusted.
Now, soon, everything would change.
At the top of the hill the man Jack lost the girl’s scent. He knew she was near.
He retraced his steps, almost casually, caught her perfume again about fifty feet away, beside a small mausoleum with a closed metal gateway. He pulled on the gate and it swung wide.
Her scent was strong now. He could smell that she was afraid. He pulled down the coffins, one by one, from their shelves, and let them clatter onto the ground, shattering the old wood, spilling their contents onto the mausoleum floor. No, she was not hiding in any of those… Then where?
He examined the wall. Solid. He went down on his hands and knees, pulled the last coffin out and reached back. His hand found an opening… “Scarlett,” he called, trying to remember how he would have called her name when he was Mr. Frost, but he could not even find that part of himself any longer: he was the man Jack now, and that was all he was. On his hands and knees he crawled through the hole in the wall.
When Scarlett heard the crashing noise from above she made her way, carefully, down the steps, her left hand touching the wall, her right hand holding the little LED keyring, which cast just enough light to allow her to see where she was placing her feet. She made it to the bottom of the stone steps and edged back in the open chamber, her heart thumping.
She was scared: scared of nice Mr. Frost and his scarier friends; scared of this room and its memories; even, if she were honest, a little afraid of Bod. He was no longer a quiet boy with a mystery, a link to her childhood. He was something different, something not quite human.
She thought, I wonder what Mum’s thinking right now. She’ll be phoning Mr. Frost’s house over and over to find out when I’m going to get back. She thought, If I get out of this alive, I’m going to force her to get me a phone. It’s ridiculous. I’m the only person in my year who doesn’t have her own phone, practically.
She thought, I miss my mum.
She had not thought anyone human could move that silently through the dark, but a gloved hand closed upon her mouth, and a voice that was only barely recognizable as Mr. Frost’s said, without emotion, “Do anything clever—do anything at all—and I will cut your throat. Nod if you understand me.” Scarlett nodded.
Bod saw the chaos on the floor of the Frobisher mausoleum, the fallen coffins with their contents scattered across over the aisle. There were many Frobishers and Frobyshers, and several Pettyfers, all in various states of upset and consternation.
“He is already down there,” said Ephraim.
“Thank you,” said Bod. He clambered through the hole into the inside of the hill, and he went down the stairs.
Bod saw as the dead see: he saw the steps, and he saw the chamber at the bottom. And when he got halfway down the steps, he saw the man Jack holding Scarlett. He had her arm twisted up behind her back, and a large, wicked, boning-knife at her neck.
The man Jack looked up in the darkness.
“Hello, boy,” he said.
Bod said nothing. He concentrated on his Fade, took another step.
“You think I can’t see you,” said the man Jack. “And you’re right. I can’t. Not really. But I can smell your fear. And I can hear you move and hear you breathe. And now that I know about your clever vanishing trick, I can feel you. Say something now. Say it so I can hear it, or I start to cut little pieces out of the young lady. Do you understand me?” “Yes,” said Bod, his voice echoing in the chamber room. “I understand.”
“Good,” said Jack. “Now, come here. Let’s have a little chat.”
Bod began to walk down the steps. He concentrated on the Fear, on raising the level of panic in the room, of making the Terror something tangible….
“Stop that,” said the man Jack. “Whatever it is you’re doing. Don’t do it.”
Bod let it go.
“You think,” said Jack, “that you can do your little magics on me? Do you know what I am, boy?”
Bod said, “You’re a Jack. You killed my family. And you should have killed me.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. He said, “I should have killed you?”
“Oh yes. The old man said that if you let me grow to adulthood your Order would be destroyed. I did. You failed and you lost.” “My order goes back before Babylon. Nothing can harm it.”
“They didn’t tell you, did they?” Bod was standing five paces from the man Jack. “Those four. They were the last of the Jacks. What was it…Krakow and Vancouver and Melbourne. All gone.” Scarlett said, “Please, Bod. Make him let go of me.”
“Don’t worry,” said Bod, with a calm he did not feel. He said to Jack, “There’s no point in hurting her. There’s no point in killing me. Don’t you understand? There isn’t even an order of Jacks of All Trades. Not anymore.” Jack nodded thoughtfully. “If this is true,” said Jack, “and if I am now a Jack-all-alone, then I have an excellent reason for killing you both.” Bod said nothing.
“Pride,” said the man Jack. “Pride in my work. Pride in finishing what I began.” And then he said, “What are you doing?” Bod’s hair prickled. He could feel a smoke-tendril presence twining through the room. He said, “It’s not me. It’s the Sleer. It guards the treasure that’s buried here.” “Don’t lie.”
Scarlett said, “He’s not lying. It’s true.”
Jack said, “True? Buried treasure? Don’t make me—”
THE SLEER GUARDS THE TREASURE FOR THE MASTER.
“Who said that?” asked the man Jack, looking around.
“You heard it?” asked Bod, puzzled.
“I heard it,” said Jack. “Yes.”
Scarlett said, “I didn’t hear anything.”
The man Jack said, “What is this place, boy? Where are we?”
Before Bod could speak, the Sleer’s voice spoke, echoing through the chamber, THIS IS THE PLACE OF THE TREASURE. THIS IS THE PLACE OF POWER. THIS IS WHERE THE SLEER GUARDS AND WAITS FOR ITS MASTER TO RETURN.
Bod said, “Jack?”
The man Jack tilted his head on one side. He said, “It’s good to hear my name in your mouth, boy. If you’d used it before, I could have found you sooner.” “Jack. What was my real name? What did my family call me?”
“Why should that matter to you now?”
Bod said, “The Sleer told me to find my name. What was it?”
Jack said, “Let me see. Was it Peter? Or Paul? Or Roderick—you look like a Roderick. Maybe you were a Stephen…” He was playing with the boy.
“You might as well tell me. You’re going to kill me anyway,” said Bod. Jack shrugged and nodded in the darkness, as if to say obviously.
“I want you to let the girl go,” said Bod. “Let Scarlett go.”
Jack peered into the darkness, then said, “That’s an altar stone, isn’t it?”
“I suppose so.”
“And a knife? And a cup? And a brooch?”
He was smiling now, in the darkness. Bod could see it on his face: a strange, delighted smile that seemed out of place on that face, a smile of discovery and of understanding. Scarlett couldn’t see anything but a blackness that sometimes erupted in flashes inside her eyeballs, but she could hear the delight in Jack’s voice.
The man Jack said, “So the Brotherhood is over and the Convocation is at an end. And yet, if there are no more Jacks of All Trades but me, what does it matter? There can be a new Brotherhood, more powerful than the last.” POWER, echoed the Sleer.
“This is perfect,” said the man Jack. “Look at us. We are in a place for which my people have hunted for thousands of years, with everything necessary for the ceremony waiting for us. It makes you believe in Providence, doesn’t it? Or in the massed prayers of all the Jacks who have gone before us, that at our lowest ebb, we are given this.” Bod could feel the Sleer listening to Jack’s words, could feel a low susurrus of excitement building in the chamber.
The man Jack said, “I am going to put out my hand, boy. Scarlett, my knife is still at your throat—do not try to run when I let go of you. Boy, you will place the cup and the knife and the brooch in my hand.” THE TREASURE OF THE SLEER, whispered the triple voice. IT ALWAYS COMES BACK. WE GUARD IT FOR THE MASTER.
Bod bent down, took the objects from the altar stone, put them in Jack’s open gloved hand. Jack grinned.
“Scarlett. I am going to release you. When I take the knife away, I want you to lie, facedown, on the ground, with your hands behind your head. Move or try anything, and I will kill you painfully. Do you understand?” She gulped. Her mouth was dry, but she took one shaky step forward. Her right arm, which had been twisted up to the small of her back, was now numb, and she felt only pins and needles in her shoulder. She lay down, her cheek resting on the packed earth.
We are dead, she thought, and it was not even tinged with emotion. It felt as if she were watching something happening to other people, a surreal drama that had turned into a game of Murder in the Dark. She heard the noise of Jack taking hold of Bod… Bod’s voice said, “Let her go.”
The man Jack’s voice: “If you do everything I say, I won’t kill her. I won’t even hurt her.”
“I don’t believe you. She can identify you.”
“No.” The adult voice seemed certain. “She can’t.” And then it said, “Ten thousand years, and the knife is still sharp…” The admiration in the voice was palpable. “Boy. Go and kneel on that altar stone. Hands behind your back. Now.” IT HAS BEEN SO LONG, said the Sleer, but all Scarlett heard was a slithering noise, as if of enormous coils winding around the chamber.
But the man Jack heard. “You want to know your name, boy, before I spill your blood on the stone?”
Bod felt the cold of the knife at his neck. And in that moment, Bod understood. Everything slowed. Everything came into focus. “I know my name,” he said. “I’m Nobody Owens. That’s who I am.” And, kneeling on the cold altar stone, it all seemed very simple.
“Sleer,” he said to the chamber. “Do you still want a master?”
THE SLEER GUARDS THE TREASURE UNTIL THE MASTER RETURNS.
“Well,” said Bod, “haven’t you finally found the master you’ve been looking for?”
He could sense the Sleer writhing and expanding, hear a noise like the scratching of a thousand dead twigs, as if something huge and muscular were snaking its way around the inside of the chamber. And then, for the first time, Bod saw the Sleer. Afterwards, he was never able to describe what he had seen: something huge, yes; something with the body of an enormous snake, but with the head of a what…? There were three of them: three heads, three necks. The faces were dead, as if someone had constructed dolls from parts of the corpses of humans and of animals. The faces were covered in purple patterns, tattooed in swirls of indigo, turning the dead faces into strange, expressive monstrous things.
The faces of the Sleer nuzzled the air about Jack tentatively, as if they wanted to stroke or caress him.
“What’s happening?” said Jack. “What is it? What does it do?”
“It’s called the Sleer. It guards the place. It needs a master to tell it what to do,” said Bod.
Jack hefted the flint knife in his hand. “Beautiful,” he said to himself. And then, “Of course. It’s been waiting for me. And yes. Obviously, I am its new master.” The Sleer encircled the interior of the chamber. MASTER? it said, like a dog who had waited patiently for too long. It said MASTER? again, as if testing the word to see how it tasted. And it tasted good, so it said one more time, with a sigh of delight and of longing, MASTER… Jack looked down at Bod. “Thirteen years ago I missed you, and now, now we are reunited. The end of one order. The beginning of another. Good-bye, boy.” With one hand he lowered the knife to the boy’s throat. The other hand held the goblet.
“Bod,” said Bod. “Not Boy. Bod.” He raised his voice. “Sleer,” he said. “What will you do with your new master?” The Sleer sighed. WE WILL PROTECT HIM UNTIL THE END OF TIME. THE SLEER WILL HOLD HIM IN ITS COILS FOREVER AND NEVER LET HIM ENDURE THE DANGERS OF THE WORLD.
“Then protect him,” said Bod. “Now.”
“I am your master. You will obey me,” said the man Jack.
THE SLEER HAS WAITED SO LONG, said the triple voice of the Sleer, triumphantly. SO LONG A TIME. It began to loop its huge, lazy coils around the man Jack.
The man Jack dropped the goblet. Now he had a knife in each hand—a flint knife, and a knife with a black bone handle—and he said, “Get back! Keep away from me! Don’t get any closer!” He slashed out with the knife, as the Sleer twined about him, and in a huge crushing movement, engulfed the man Jack in its coils.
Bod ran over to Scarlett, and helped her up. “I want to see,” she said. “I want to see what’s happening.” She pulled out her LED light, and turned it on… What Scarlett saw was not what Bod saw. She did not see the Sleer, and that was a mercy. She saw the man Jack, though. She saw the fear on his face, which made him look like Mr. Frost had once looked. In his terror he was once more the nice man who had driven her home. He was floating in the air, five, then ten feet above the ground, slashing wildly at the air with two knives, trying to stab something she could not see, in a display that was obviously having no effect.
Mr. Frost, the man Jack, whoever he was, was forced away from them, pulled back until he was spread-eagled, arms and legs wide and flailing, against the side of the chamber wall.
It seemed to Scarlett that Mr. Frost was being forced through the wall, pulled into the rock, was being swallowed up by it. Now there was nothing visible but a face. He was shouting wildly, desperately, shouting at Bod to call the thing off, to save him, please, please…and then the man’s face was pulled through the wall, and the voice was silenced.
Bod walked back to the altar stone. He picked up the stone knife, and the goblet, and the brooch, from the ground and he replaced them where they belonged. He left the black metal knife where it fell.
Scarlett said, “I thought you said the Sleer couldn’t hurt people. I thought all it could do was frighten us.” “Yes,” said Bod. “But it wanted a master to protect. It told me so.”
Scarlett said, “You mean you knew. You knew that would happen…”
“Yes. I hoped it would.”
He helped her up the steps and out into the chaos of the Frobisher mausoleum. “I’ll need to clean this all up,” said Bod, casually. Scarlett tried not to look at the things on the floor.
They stepped out into the graveyard. Scarlett said, dully, once more, “You knew that would happen.”
This time Bod said nothing.
She looked at him as if unsure of what she was looking at. “So you knew. That the Sleer would take him. Was that why you hid me down there? Was it? What was I, then, bait?” Bod said, “It wasn’t like that.” Then he said, “We’re still alive, aren’t we? And he won’t trouble us any longer.” Scarlett could feel the anger and the rage welling up inside her. The fear had gone, and now all she was left with was the need to lash out, to shout. She fought the urge. “And what about those other men? Did you kill them too?” “I didn’t kill anyone.”
“Then where are they?”
“One of them’s at the bottom of a deep grave, with a broken ankle. The other three are, well, they’re a long way away.” “You didn’t kill them?”
“Of course not.” Bod said, “This is my home. Why would I want them hanging around here for the rest of time?” Then, “Look, it’s okay. I dealt with them.” Scarlett took a step away from him. She said, “You aren’t a person. People don’t behave like you. You’re as bad as he was. You’re a monster.” Bod felt the blood drain from his face. After everything he had been through that night, after everything that had happened, this was somehow the hardest thing to take. “No,” he said. “It wasn’t like that.” Scarlett began to back away from Bod.
She took one step, two steps, and was about to flee, to turn and run madly, desperately away through the moonlit graveyard, when a tall man in black velvet put a hand on her arm, and said, “I am afraid you do Bod an injustice. But you will undoubtedly be happier if you remember none of this. So let us walk together, you and I, and discuss what has happened to you over the last few days, and what it might be wise for you to remember, and what it might be better for you to forget.” Bod said, “Silas. You can’t. You can’t make her forget me.”
“It will be safest that way,” said Silas, simply. “For her, if not for all of us.”
“Don’t—don’t I get a say in this?” asked Scarlett.
Silas said nothing. Bod took a step towards Scarlett, said, “Look, it’s over. I know it was hard. But. We did it. You and me. We beat them.” Her head was shaking gently, as if she was denying everything she saw, everything she was experiencing.
She looked up at Silas, and said only, “I want to go home. Please?”
Silas nodded. He walked, with the girl, down the path that would eventually lead them both out of the graveyard. Bod stared at Scarlett as she walked away, hoping that she would turn and look back, that she would smile or just look at him without fear in her eyes. But Scarlett did not turn. She simply walked away.
Bod went back into the mausoleum. He had to do something, so he began to pick up the fallen coffins, to remove the debris, and to replace the tangle of tumbled bones into the coffins, disappointed to discover that none of the many Frobishers and Frobyshers and Pettyfers gathered around to watch seemed to be quite certain whose bones belonged in which container.
A man brought Scarlett home. Later, Scarlett’s mother could not remember quite what he had told her, although disappointingly, she had learned that that nice Jay Frost had unavoidably been forced to leave town.
The man talked with them, in the kitchen, about their lives and their dreams, and by the end of the conversation Scarlett’s mother had somehow decided that they would be returning to Glasgow: Scarlett would be happy to be near her father, and to see her old friends again.
Silas left the girl and her mother talking in the kitchen, discussing the challenges of moving back to Scotland, with Noona promising to buy Scarlett a phone of her own. They barely remembered that Silas had ever been there, which was the way he liked it.
Silas returned to the graveyard and found Bod sitting in the amphitheater by the obelisk, his face set.
“How is she?”
“I took her memories,” said Silas. “They will return to Glasgow. She has friends there.”
“How could you make her forget me?”
Silas said, “People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.”
Bod said, “I liked her.”
Bod tried to smile, but he could not find a smile inside himself. “The men…they spoke about trouble they were having in Krakow and Melbourne and Vancouver. That was you, wasn’t it?” “I was not alone,” said Silas.
“Miss Lupescu?” said Bod. Then, seeing the expression on his guardian’s face, “Is she all right?”
Silas shook his head, and for a moment his face was terrible for Bod to behold. “She fought bravely. She fought for you, Bod.” Bod said, “The Sleer has the man Jack. Three of the others went through the ghoul-gate. There’s one injured but still alive at the bottom of the Carstairs grave.” Silas said, “He is the last of the Jacks. I will need to talk to him, then, before sunrise.”
The wind that blew across the graveyard was cold, but neither the man nor the boy seemed to feel it.
Bod said, “She was scared of me.”
“But why? I saved her life. I’m not a bad person. And I’m just like her. I’m alive too.” Then he said, “How did Miss Lupescu fall?” “Bravely,” said Silas. “In battle. Protecting others.”
Bod’s eyes were dark. “You could have brought her back here. Buried her here. Then I could have talked to her.” Silas said, “That was not an option.”
Bod felt his eyes stinging. He said, “She used to call me Nimini. No one will ever call me that again.”
Silas said, “Shall we go and get food for you?”
“We? You want me to come with you? Out of the graveyard?”
Silas said, “No one is trying to kill you. Not right now. There are a lot of things they are not going to be doing, not any longer. So, yes. What would you like to eat?” Bod thought about saying that he wasn’t hungry, but that simply was not true. He felt a little sick, and a little lightheaded, and he was starving. “Pizza?” he suggested.
They walked through the graveyard, down to the gates. As Bod walked, he saw the inhabitants of the graveyard, but they let the boy and his guardian pass among them without a word. They only watched.
Bod tried to thank them for their help, to call out his gratitude, but the dead said nothing.
The lights of the pizza restaurant were bright, brighter than Bod was comfortable with. He and Silas sat near the back, and Silas showed him how to use a menu, how to order food. (Silas ordered a glass of water and a small salad for himself, which he pushed around the bowl with his fork but never actually put to his lips.) Bod ate his pizza with his fingers and enthusiasm. He did not ask questions. Silas would talk in his own time, or he would not.
Silas said, “We had known of them…of the Jacks…for a long, long time, but we knew of them only from the results of their activities. We suspected there was an organization behind it, but they hid too well. And then they came after you, and they killed your family. And, slowly, I was able to follow their trail.” “Is we you and Miss Lupescu?” asked Bod.
“Us and others like us.”
“The Honour Guard,” said Bod.
“How did you hear about—?” said Silas. Then, “No matter. Little pitchers have big ears, as they say. Yes. The Honour Guard.” Silas picked up his glass of water. He put the water glass to his lips, moistened them, then put it down on the polished black tabletop.
The surface of the tabletop was almost mirrored, and, had anyone cared to look, they might have observed that the tall man had no reflection.
Bod said, “So. Now you’re done…done with all this. Are you going to stay?”
“I gave my word,” said Silas. “I am here until you are grown.”
“I’m grown,” said Bod.
“No,” said Silas. “Almost. Not yet.”
He put a ten-pound note down on the tabletop.
“That girl,” said Bod. “Scarlett. Why was she so scared of me, Silas?”
But Silas said nothing, and the question hung in the air as the man and the youth walked out of the bright pizza restaurant into the waiting darkness; and soon enough they were swallowed by the night.
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