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100

N ightingale opened his eyes and blinked under the fluorescent lights. He swallowed, which hurt, and there was a bitter taste at the back his mouth. A familiar face loomed over him. Jenny. She smiled.

Welcome back, she said.

Where am I?

Hospital, said Jenny.

Water, croaked Nightingale.

Jenny picked up a glass of water and helped him drink.

What did she give me? he asked as she took the glass away from his lips.

It was Valium, thats all, she said. Not enough to kill you, just to make you really relaxed. They had to pump your stomach, though, just to be sure. It was the plastic bag that was going to do the damage. She was planning to make it look like you had killed yourself. She had a typed suicide note in her bag, with you blaming yourself for your aunt and uncles death.

She got me to sign a form saying that Id spoken to her. She was probably going to forge my signature on the letter. He groaned. How long was I asleep for?

Fifteen hours.

You hit her, right? I remember that much.

Thats right. Riding to the rescue, like the cavalry.

What did you hit her with?

My fist.

Your fist? Since when did you know how to fight?

Jack, Ive got a black belt in tae kwon do. You really should read my CV some time.

And who was she? Im assuming she wasnt a real cop.

Jenny shook her head Her warrant card was a fake. I had a look at her driving licence before the cops came. Her names Katherine Whelan. She lives in Caernarfon.

Nightingale frowned. She didnt sound Welsh.

She didnt sound like she was from Manchester, either. But shes definitely the killer.

But how did she know we were after her? We thought the killer was a man, remember?

I used the office computer to talk to Caernarfon Craig. That was her. If she knew what she was doing she could track the computer down. Once she had the office address she must have done some digging and found out about your aunt and uncles funeral and then traced you here. Im guessing shed have got my address too.

Nightingale winced. My head hurts, he said. Can you raise the bed a bit?

Jenny pressed a button to adjust the bed. It made a metallic grinding noise and slowly levered Nightingale into a sitting position.

Anyway, the Welsh cops are over the moon, she said. Her flat was full of souvenirs. Every time she killed she took something from the victims home as a reminder. And her computer was chock-a-block with emails and website stuff. Shes already got a lawyer and theyre working on an insanity defence.

Nightingale forced a smile. Maybe shell end up in Rampton.

Jenny grinned. She can have your sisters room. She sat down on the edge of the bed. Yesterday you said you wanted to talk about what happened. With the deal.

Nightingale nodded. Yeah. He agreed. Neither gets her soul. It was bargained twice, both times in good faith. So neither deal can stand and Robyn gets her soul back.

Thats great, said Jenny.

Nightingale looked uncomfortable.

Whats wrong? she asked. What arent you telling me?

He wasnt happy, said Nightingale.

Im sure he wasnt, because at the end of the day you tricked them. But alls well that ends well, right?

Nightingale looked even more uncomfortable.

Jack, what is it?

Its not as simple as alls well that ends well. I had to negotiate.

What do you mean?

Nightingale reached over for the glass of water and took another drink. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. I need a cigarette.

Youre in hospital, Jack. Smoking isnt an option. Tell me what happened.

Nightingale sighed. He wasnt prepared to let Robyn walk away without some payback.

Payback? Youre not making any sense.

Jenny, please dont push me. You werent there. You didnt see what he was like. The power he had He ran his hands over his face. He let Robyn have her soul back. Its hers again. No one has any claim on it.

But? Theres a but, isnt there?

Nightingale nodded. Yeah. He sighed again. Heres the thing. Robyn gets to keep her soul but she dies on her thirty-third birthday. In two years time.

Jenny opened her mouth in astonishment.

There was no room for manoeuvre. Thats what he wanted. It was a deal-breaker. He said that if I didnt agree then hed let one of them take her soul and to hell with the consequences.

Jenny stood up, her eyes blazing. You gave away your sisters life? How could you do that?

It wasnt mine to give, Jenny. Dont you see that? If I hadnt done anything shed have died in two years anyway. Only theyd have taken her soul as well. This way, at least

At least what, Jack? Shes got two years to live? Does she know?

Nightingale shook his head. And she wont ever know. I dont even know if Im going to see her again.

Where is she?

I dont know. And so long as everyone thinks she killed those kids, I dont want to know.

So she stays underground, lives her two years and then dies? How is that a good deal for her?

She gets to keep her soul.

We dont even know what a soul is, Jack. We dont even know if there are souls.

If there arent, then what is all this about?

I wish I knew, said Jenny. But I know one thing: no one has given you the right to play God.

Thats not what happened.

Thats exactly what happened. You did a deal with a devil and as a result of that deal your sister is going to die in two years.

Youre playing with words.

No, Jack, thats your prerogative. Im telling you how I see it. You sold your sister out.

I did a deal to save her soul.

You had no right to do a deal like that. You should have talked to your sister first.

That wasnt possible. I had to do what I had to do.

As always, Jack Nightingale is at the centre of the bloody universe.

Jenny

Jenny shook her head and held up her hand. Enough.

You dont understand.

No, I do understand. Thats the problem. Im out of here. She turned and walked away.

Jenny!

She didnt look back and walked out of the room.

Nightingale cursed as a plump West Indian nurse walked in. She grinned mischievously at him. Girlfriend trouble, honey? she asked.

Shes not my girlfriend, said Nightingale.

Theres a spark, said the nurse, looking at his chart. A definite spark.

Shes always like that just before she bursts into flames, said Nightingale. Speaking of which, I really need a cigarette.

This is a hospital, honey.

I know. But theres a smoking room, right?

She chuckled. You do know that smoking is bad for you, dont you?

Lots of things are bad for you. Life is bad for you. At the end of the day, everyone dies.

The nurse frowned and put down the chart. Honey, what made you so cynical? Life is to be lived to the full and then you have an eternity with the Lord.

Whats your name?

Mary-Louise.

You believe that, Mary-Louise?

Of course I do.

Even working here in a hospital? You must see people die every day.

I see people go to meet their maker. And I see miracles. And if you had your eyes open youd see them too.

And what about angels? Have you seen angels?

She smiled at him, her eyes twinkling. Ive seen doctors send home people whod come here to die, and Ive seen them turn suffering into release. If thats not the work of angels then Id like to know what is. What about you, Mr Nightingale, have you seen angels?

Not yet, he said.

Well, keep looking, because theyre out there.

Nightingale swung his legs over the side of the bed. I might just do that, he said. In the meantime Im checking myself out. And before you ask, I didnt take anything from the minibar.

We dont have minibars, said the nurse.

Exactly, said Nightingale. Now, where are my clothes?


| Midnight | c