N ightingale tensed and relaxed his fingers as he stared at the dwarf. Lucifuge Rofocale grinned up at him, showing yellowed, pointed teeth.
‘Sophie’s dead,’ whispered Nightingale.
Lucifuge Rofocale laughed. ‘And dead’s dead, is that it?’
‘You really don’t 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. ‘Haven’t you realised that yet? Everything changed on the day she died, didn’t it? Your life was heading in one direction, but after she jumped from that balcony everything changed, didn’t it?’
‘So it was a pivotal moment. And she was a pivotal person. If she hadn’t 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, wouldn’t 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, isn’t she?’ He reached out to stroke her dress with a hand that was festooned with jewelled rings.
‘Jack,’ she moaned. ‘Help me. I don’t like it here.’
‘That’s not her,’ whispered Nightingale. ‘It can’t 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 you’d rather see her?’ said Lucifuge Rofocale. He waved his hand again.
Time folded and Sophie’s 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.
‘Don’t do this,’ said Nightingale quietly.
Lucifuge Rofocale smiled. ‘Do what?’
‘Use her to hurt me. Anyway, that’s 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.
‘We’re done,’ Nightingale said to the dwarf. ‘You can go.’
‘We’re done when I say we’re done, Nightingale,’ said Lucifuge Rofocale, his voice a throbbing roar that hurt Nightingale’s 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.
‘There’s one more thing,’ said Lucifuge Rofocale. ‘About your sister.’
‘We agreed what you’d 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.’
Lucifuge Rofocale’s lips curled back into a snarl. ‘By your sister, of course.’