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95

N ightingale tensed and relaxed his fingers as he stared at the dwarf. Lucifuge Rofocale grinned up at him, showing yellowed, pointed teeth.

Sophies dead, whispered Nightingale.

Lucifuge Rofocale laughed. And deads dead, is that it?

Isnt it?

You really dont understand anything, do you?

Apparently not. He fiddled with the piece of paper he was holding. What does she have to do with any of this?

Everything, said Lucifuge Rofocale. Havent you realised that yet? Everything changed on the day she died, didnt it? Your life was heading in one direction, but after she jumped from that balcony everything changed, didnt it?

So?

So it was a pivotal moment. And she was a pivotal person. If she hadnt died, you would never have left the police, never become a private detective. So many things would have been different.

But we would still be standing here, wouldnt we?

Maybe. And maybe not.

He waved his hand lazily and time folded in on itself, then Sophie Underwood was standing next to him, dressed exactly as she had been when she jumped off the balcony, her Barbie doll dangling from her right hand. She had her head down and her long blonde hair covered her face.

The dwarf leered up at her. Pretty little thing, isnt she? He reached out to stroke her dress with a hand that was festooned with jewelled rings.

Jack, she moaned. Help me. I dont like it here.

Thats not her, whispered Nightingale. It cant be.

Why do you say that? said the dwarf, running his hand along her hair.

Because she fell thirteen stories, said Nightingale.

Is that how youd rather see her? said Lucifuge Rofocale. He waved his hand again.

Time folded and Sophies dress was drenched in blood. Jack moaned Sophie. Jack, it hurts. She turned to look up at Lucifuge Rofocale. Nightingale saw that the left side of her face was crushed and her eyeball was half out of its socket. Her jaw had been shattered and her teeth broken.

Dont do this, said Nightingale quietly.

Lucifuge Rofocale smiled. Do what?

Use her to hurt me. Anyway, thats not really her.

Sophie turned to look at him. It is me, Jack, she said.

Nightingale forced himself not to look at her. He glared at Lucifuge Rofocale. Make her go away.

Jack, please, you have to help me, sobbed Sophie. She reached out her left hand and took a step towards him.

Were done, Nightingale said to the dwarf. You can go.

Were done when I say were done, Nightingale, said Lucifuge Rofocale, his voice a throbbing roar that hurt Nightingales ears. He waved his hand and Sophie went limp, her arms at her sides, her hair hanging down over her face.

It went suddenly quiet and Nightingale could hear his own breathing. He was panting like a horse that had been ridden hard and he fought to steady himself.

Theres one more thing, said Lucifuge Rofocale. About your sister.

We agreed what youd do, said Nightingale. He felt as if all the strength had drained from his upper body and his legs were shaking. Neither can claim her soul so it remains unclaimed.

Yes, you are right, said Lucifuge Rofocale. Her soul will not be claimed by either party. But nobody gets something for nothing. Your sister is getting back her soul, so there is a price that will have to be paid.

By whom?

Lucifuge Rofocales lips curled back into a snarl. By your sister, of course.


| Midnight | c