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60

J enny was sitting at her desk reading through a stack of printed sheets when Nightingale walked into the office just before midday. I got your message, she said. Something wrong at Gosling Manor?

Nah, I was looking for a book, he said. He held up a Sainsburys carrier bag. Found it, too. The Yank wants it and hes in town tomorrow

Christmas Eve?

Thats what he said.

Great, the money should come in handy.

Not necessarily, he said. Theres some sort of curse attached to it. He took off his raincoat and hung it on the back of the door.

What do you mean?

If you sell it you die. That sort of curse.

Well, dont go swapping it for a handful of magic beans, thats all. We dont have much in the way of cash and Christmas is always the quiet time of the year.

Nightingale looked down at the sheets she was studying. Whats this? he asked.

Mitchells diary, she said. The one you took from his house. Took as in stole, of course.

But its not mirror writing. I mean, its still nonsense but its the right way round.

Its not nonsense, its Latin, she said. I started doing that thing with the mirror but then I had a brainwave. I scanned all the pages into the computer and then used Photoshop to flip it.

Smart girl.

If I was smart Id have thought of doing it sooner, said Jenny.

Any mention of Frimost? Or Lucifuge Rofocale?

Not yet, she said. Itll take me some time to work my way through it. Ive sorted out the mirror image but its still in Latin and my Latin is a bit rusty.

Yeah, well, mines non-existent.

What happened to your head? asked Jenny, noticing the stitches in his scalp for the first time. Thats not from when you got hit in Wales, is it?

I was attacked, said Nightingale.

When?

Last night. After Id walked you home.

What happened?

Nothing.

Its clearly not nothing, Jack. What happened?

Nightingale smiled Guy wanted to give me a shave.

She narrowed her eyes. Dont mess around, Jack. Spill the beans.

I tell you what if you make me a coffee Ill tell you the whole story.

Jenny raised an eyebrow. Did you forget our deal?

Was it signed in blood?

It was a promise to make me coffee for the rest of the week, she said. And Im holding you to it.

Nightingale made them both coffee and they went through to his office. I was attacked by a serial killer, said Nightingale. Tried to slit my throat but I came off best.

What?

He did one of my tyres then offered to help me change the wheel, and then he pulled a knife. He grinned. Turns out hes got form. Chalmers is on the case.

Why would he attack you? You dont know him?

Complete stranger, said Nightingale.

What about the Welsh serial killer? Could it be him?

Nightingale shook his head. This guy wasnt interested in making it look like suicide, he said. He kept a diary, apparently. Detailing his murders. And Chalmers didnt say anything about them being in Wales. Nightingale sipped his coffee. Ive got a feeling that Proserpine is behind it.

Why? Nightingale looked away and Jenny sighed. Not again. What are you not telling me this time?

I sort of did a deal with her.

What sort of deal?

It sounds crazy, he said. Until last night I wasnt sure that I believed it myself.

Everything thats happened over the past few weeks is crazy; one more thing isnt going to worry me. What did you do, Jack?

Nightingale lit a cigarette before he answered. He needed the nicotine but he also needed time to think. Proserpine gave me the information I needed, but there was a price. For every question she answered, she said shed send someone to kill me.

Jenny folded her arms. She what?

That was the deal. By the time Id finished, she said shed send three killers after me.

She answered three questions?

Nightingale looked pained. Not really. Two. Well, three, but one of them wasnt helpful. He took another sip of coffee. You had to have been there. Shes cunning.

Shes a demon from Hell, Jack, of course shes cunning. What did she say?

She told me about a devil called Sugart. Hes on a par with Frimost. If I play it right, I can set them against each other.

How does that help?

He shrugged. Its complicated.

Dont you think you should have told me this before?

This whole devil thing, Im not sure what I believe and what I dont.

But, after last night, you know she means it? Shes going to have you killed?

Nightingale gingerly touched the wound on his scalp. The bang on the head shows shes serious, he said. One down, two to go.

Its not funny, said Jenny.

Im just trying to lighten the moment.

Yeah, well, youre failing miserably. She sighed and went back into her office.

Nightingale took out his wallet and found the receipt on which Joshua Wainwright had written his mobile phone number. He tapped out the number and the American answered almost immediately.

Howre things, Jack? he said.

Are you psychic? asked Nightingale. How did you know it was me?

Wainwright laughed. Caller ID, he said. Technology, not witchcraft.

I didnt give you my number, said Nightingale.

I stored it last time you called, said Wainwright. You sound mighty suspicious, Jack. Someone giving you a hard time?

No more than usual, said Nightingale. Where are you?

Here and there, said the American. Whats up?

That diary you wanted. The special one. I found it.

You did, huh? You remember what I said?

About not selling? Sure. Hardly likely to forget something like that. I thought youd want to see it straight away. You said you might be in London this week.

Darn tooting Id like it. Ill be in the Ritz tomorrow. Come round, but youll have to ask for Bert Whistler.

Bert Whistler?

Low profile, said Wainwright. So what do you want for it?

Why do you think I want something?

Wainwright chuckled. Maybe I am psychic, after all, he said. But I figure that if you cant sell it then youll have come up with a trade. A barter. A quid pro quo.

Youre right, said Nightingale. But all I want is some information. Advice.

Ill see you at the Ritz, said Wainwright. I should be there by noon. We can talk then.

Nightingale ended the call and went through to Jennys office. Wainwrights in London tomorrow and Im going to take the books round to him.

Jack, tomorrows Christmas Eve.

I dont think Satanists are big on Christmas.

She shook her head in exasperation. You know what I mean. Were going to my parents tomorrow. Remember? Im driving you to Norfolk in the morning.

Nightingale groaned. Im sorry, he said. Completely slipped my mind.

Yeah, I can see how high up I am on your list of priorities, she said.

Its not that, said Nightingale. Its just

That there are more important things on your mind, she said. I understand.

Hell be at the Ritz. Ill drop off the books and then Ill drive up myself. Ill be there in the afternoon. Its no biggie. The look of disappointment stayed on her face. Jenny, Ive already bought your dad a bottle of eighteen-year-old Laphroaig and some lemongrass shower gel for your mum.

Shower gel?

Im not good at buying gifts for women, said Nightingale. But the salesgirl said that it makes your skin go all tingly, so thats got to be good, right?

Okay, but youd better be there, Jack. I told them you were coming.

I wont let you down, I promise.


| Midnight | c