“What do you mean?” I asked, as the man on the other side of the wall started to shout at the drunken girl.
“Let me show you,” Murphy whispered, as he started to crawl away from the wall and back towards the farmhouse.
“If you want to help her, we need to push back,” Murphy said over his shoulder.
I glanced one last time over the wall, but Sophie’s lifeless body was hidden from me by the man and the drunken girl who stood over her.
There was a part of me that was glad I could no longer see her. I didn’t want to remember her lying face-up in the road, her arms and legs splayed at unnatural angles from where the car had crushed her body. Turning away, and hoping Murphy was right about being able to help Sophie by pushing the world back, I followed him up the hill.
Careful not to step in the fur-covered remains of the wolves that Murphy and I had slain, I made my way across the living room. I snatched up the rucksack that I had taken from Kiera’s flat.
In it, I found one of Sophie’s dresses, her iPod, and the letters that had somehow seeped through into this world. Holding them in my hands, I looked at Murphy and said, “I sent these to Sophie before I died and came back.”
“I know you did,” he said. “I found them while you were in her room and read them. I know all about you and Sophie.”
“You read them?” I glared.
“Yeah,” Murphy shrugged and carried on buttoning up his shirt. “I think parts of this world are overlapping – merging – with the world we once knew.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
“Those letters shouldn’t be here,” he said, sliding his feet back into his slippers. “Imagine laying a piece of tracing paper over a map of the world. You make an exact copy, but then you move that piece of tracing paper to the right – just a fraction. It still looks like the world, but you can still see the one underneath; however faint, it’s still there. Well, that’s what I think has happened.
Someone has moved the tracing paper but didn’t expect the world underneath to start shining through. Get it?”
“I think so,” I said, looking down at the envelopes with the smudged ink on them. It did look as if my handwriting was hidden beneath a piece of tracing paper.
“Those letters slowly made Sophie remember you,” Murphy said. “Then when you showed up, she remembered completely. It was as if her two worlds had been merged, laid on top of one another.”
I looked up from the letters and stared at Murphy.
“Get your stuff together,” he said. “I want to show you something.”
“Just get your stuff,” he ordered, and left the farmhouse.
I placed the picture of Kiera and her father in the bottom of the rucksack along with her police badge and the roll of money I had taken from the cookie jar. Over these, I placed the small amount of clothes I’d managed to swipe before the Skin-walkers had shown up at her flat. I took Sophie’s iPod and earphones and placed them in my jeans pocket. Then, I picked up her dress, rolled the letters up inside it and tossed them into the fire. I stood for a moment and watched it start to burn. Like Murphy had said, those letters had no business being in this world. They were written in another where – in another when.
I put on the scarecrow’s coat, turned my back on the fire, and left the farmhouse.
We raced through the night sky and it felt great to be flying alongside Murphy again. I’d missed his friendship, even if he could be an annoying old fart at times. I couldn’t wait to take him back to the manor; Kiera and the others wouldn’t believe who I had found again – although I got the feeling he had found me. The thought of having the old team back together again made me feel, for the first time, that coming back from the dead hadn’t been so bad after all. But the old team, the one we had before wouldn’t be the same, as there was someone missing.
Murphy dropped through the night and I followed. The very first rays of the morning sun lit the underbellies of the rain clouds that were starting to form around us. I raced alongside Murphy and could see the spire of a church some way off in the distance and we headed towards it.
I glanced sideways at Murphy, and his face looked grim, as if there was something troubling him, and I knew there was stuff about this world that he had yet to tell me.
With our wings arching behind us like giant black sails, we dropped out of the sky and landed in the grounds of the church with the spire, which shone like a giant needle in the dawn light.
Dead leaves rustled amongst the gravestones that lay before us in neat rows. Some of the headstones looked ancient and tilted to the right, more green than grey now where moss had spread over them. The early morning was quiet, and only the sound of the wind could be heard as Murphy led me to a small plot of land at the back of the graveyard. There was a tree with twisted black branches and roots that poked up through the ground like snakes.
“Where are we going?” I whispered, the rucksack swinging from my fist.
“Shhh!” he said. “Show some respect, we’re amongst the dead here.”
“We are dead, remember?”
Ignoring me, Murphy weaved his way amongst the headstones, his wings brushing against the fallen leaves. Beneath the tree, he came to a sudden stop between two small headstones. Unlike most of the others that we had passed, these were newer-looking and didn’t have the moss and ivy covering them. Murphy remained silent as I read the names that had been chiselled into the headstone.
The first read Kayla Hunt and the second Isidor Hunt.
Feeling as if I’d been punched in the stomach, I looked at Murphy and said, “I thought Isidor’s surname was Smith.”
“He was raised with his sister here,”
Murphy said, his head bowed, as if in respect.
“What happened to them?” I asked, and although I knew both Kayla and Isidor were both safe and well back at Hallowed Manor, I couldn’t help but feel a massive sense of loss – it was like I was grieving for them all over again, just like I had in The Hollows.
“They were both murdered,” Murphy said, his cold, blue eyes fixed on their graves.
“I know that, I was there,” I told him.
“Luke murdered them.”
“Elias Munn,” he said bitterly.
“Yes,” I said. “He fooled all of us.
“I don’t want to speak of him,” Murphy barked. “He sold us all out, and was the person behind the deaths of my daughters.”
“And your death,” I reminded him.
Then turning to face me, he said, “You were right about Jack Seth. I should have listened to you.”
To hear Murphy say that – to give me credit at long last – made me feel that I had finally achieved something, and that I was not a no-hoper after all. I couldn’t tell him how those few words of his made me feel, but I would never forget them. “Thanks,” I said to him.
“For what?” he asked, cocking one of his silver eyebrows.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, then added, “So what happened to them here?”
“They weren’t murdered by Elias Munn here,” Murphy said. “They were murdered by their father, Lord Hunt.”
“Get the fuck out of here!” I gasped.
“Shut your filthy mouth! You’re in a graveyard, for fuck’s sake!” Murphy shot back at me.
“But you just said the ‘F’ word too, didn’t you?”
“Look, Potter, I’m in no mood for trick questions,” Murphy snapped at me. “Do you want to know what happened to our friends here or not?”
“Of course I do,” I told him.
Taking his pipe, and knocking out the old ash against Isidor’s headstone, Murphy started to explain what had happened to our friends. “Lord Hunt was a scientist, just like we knew him to be.
But most people thought him to be just some crazy old man. He believed that winged demons lived beneath the earth.”
“Not so crazy,” I said, watching Murphy push a lump of tobacco into his pipe and light it.
“Not to us perhaps,” he said, “but to the people in this world, his theories were just insane ramblings. His wife wasn’t as crazy, but over time he got her to come around to his way of thinking.
Lord Hunt believed that these winged demons were building an army, which would rise up out of the ground and attack the humans. He thought they would join forces with the wolves and destroy the human race – if they didn’t turn them all into vampires first by feeding off them. So convinced was he by his theory, that he spent his life’s work designing a synthetic blood, which by chance – or not – he called Lot 13.”
“So that’s why there are bottles and bottles of the stuff left at the manor,” I said. “So where are Lord and Lady Hunt now?”
“I’m coming to that, be patient, Potter,” he mumbled as he sucked on his pipe. “Lord and Lady Hunt had two children, Kayla and Isidor. As they grew up, Hunt, in his paranoid state, began to suspect that his children were, in fact, winged demons sent from beneath ground to start the infiltration of the human race. When his wife refused to follow him down this path, he became suspicious of her, suspecting that she had been impregnated by one of these winged demons, who he believed lived below ground.
“Of course, no one believed in his insane ramblings, and he spent some time incarcerated in mental institutions. While Hunt was locked away, his children flourished and lived semi-normal lives, both attending boarding schools, as their mother often struggled to cope on her own. Just a few weeks before their deaths, Lord Hunt was released and considered fit and well to return home, his delusional state now under control with the aid of medication. But he had only been home a few weeks when the paranoia returned. He started to argue with his wife, accusing her again of falling pregnant to one of these winged demons.