The Girl with the Iron Touch Page 16

Griffin picked the small spider up and studied it. “So, if we put this thing in the catacombs below Saint Pancras, it will lead us to Emily.”

Sam nodded. “It should.”

Peering over Griffin’s shoulder, Finley thought the machine was as good an idea as any. “Will other machines be able to detect it?”

“I don’t think so.” Despite his words, his voice was confident. “There are so many automatons in the underground every day that detecting a new signal, especially one I dampen, would be difficult if not impossible. Meanwhile, it should transmit back to us Emily’s exact location.”

Should was a tricky word, wasn’t it? “How do we track it?”

Sam held up a small compass. “Once the device is put to work, it will send a signal to the compass, which will lead us to Emily’s location. It vibrates when the target is nearby.”

It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best thing they had other than the cat, which would be discovered for certain.

“Do it,” Griffin said, giving the spider to Sam. “If it can find Em it’s worth the risk.”

His large head nodded, closing his fingers around the little machine. “I’ll take it to a spot not far from Saint Pancras and let it go.”

“Just go into the station,” Jasper suggested. “Won’t that be closer?”

“We don’t know what we’re up against,” Sam reminded him. “I’m going to assume that whoever has Em knows all about the rest of us. I’d rather not let them know we’re coming for them. If that’s all right by you.”

It took Finley a moment to realize Sam was speaking specifically to Griffin rather than the three of them. Sam’s father had worked for Griffin’s, who had taken him in when Sam began to show signs of the same heightened evolution as his own son. The two of them had grown up together, but it was obvious that as good of friends as they were, Sam deferred to Griffin because that was what lower class people did.

“Of course it is,” Griffin responded. “I trust your judgment, Sam. We’ll do whatever you think best on this one. I just want to bring Em home.”

If Griffin had given Sam a puppy she didn’t think the fellow could look any more pleased. Realization knocked hard against her thick skull. If Griffin was going to try to not be the Duke of Greythorne all the time and go all lord of the manor on them, then they owed it to him and themselves not to act like he was their superior. They were a unit, not a dukedom.

While Sam was out releasing the tracking spider, Finley, Griffin and Jasper began combing through the daily papers for strange crimes or occurrences. A blank-faced automaton man and Queen Victoria could not just be running amok beneath the city without some notice. No ransom demands for Emily’s return had been received, so they went on the assumption that the machines wanted her for something.

“Here’s mention of a robbery in Covent Garden,” Finley piped up, scanning the text. “Says that a group of workmen who were painting a theater had some of their equipment stolen—pulleys and rope.”

Griffin glanced up. “That might be what we’re looking for, or it could be completely random. Set it aside just in case.”

“I might have something,” Jasper joined in, giving the paper a snap so it was stiff in his hands. “A scientific medical society who had a large fish tank stolen from their premises a couple of months ago just reported another robbery. Looks like some scoundrels made off with quite a bit of surgical equipment and biological matter.”

Griffin and Finley exchanged a look. “Biological matter?” they chorused.

“That could be anything,” Griffin continued, “but when it’s stolen along with surgical equipment that means that someone needs medical attention.”

Jasper was still reading. “Goes on to say that witnesses saw a ‘strange’ machine that resembled a large spider near the building, and that it appeared to have a crate on its back.”

“A crate could carry a lot of equipment and biological matter,” Finley remarked.

Griffin frowned. “Automaton crimes. That sounds like Garibaldi’s usual sort of behavior. The biological matter is what bothers me.”

“Why?” Finley asked.

“Years ago, before my parents were killed, a friend of my father’s suffered an awful injury. He was very badly burned and no one expected him to live, and if he did he would be seen as a monster for the rest of his life. My father filled an old copper tub with a vile concoction of organic material—plant and animal, along with organites—immersed the man in the tub, ran a breathing tube into his mouth and then sat back and waited.”

“Did he survive?”

Griffin ran a hand through his thick hair. “Not only that, but he was completely healed. Not even the tiniest scar.”

“So, if the thefts are connected, the automatons could be healing someone?” Her immediate thought was Garibaldi. He had to be the first person Griffin thought of as well, judging from the expression on his face.

“I don’t want to jump to any wild conclusions just yet,” he said. “The thefts might not even be connected. The automatons might have another use for those particular items.”

Jasper set the paper aside. “Might not want to jump to conclusions, but it don’t hurt to prepare for any eventuality. I don’t much like thinking of Mei as a vengeful spirit, but I can’t deny what I saw.” His gaze locked with Griffin’s. “You don’t deserve to be punished for what you did. I know you’d take it back if you could.”

Griffin inclined his head. “In a heartbeat.”

Finley kept her mouth shut. Mei would have cheerfully slit her throat, and let Jasper take the blame for a murder she committed. Her death was unfortunate, but Finley preferred that outcome to her own death— and those of her friends. Mei made her own dark side seem sweet and innocent. Almost.

“Jas,” Griffin went on a second later. “Could you… would you, mind sitting in on my next session with Isley? Mei may be calmer if she comes and sees you.”

“I’ll do what I can. Not sure how much help I’ll be.”

“I hope that she might talk to you. Would you be agreeable with that?”

“I would,” Jasper said after a pause. “If it helps her move on, and stops her from attacking my friends, I’ll talk to her.”

Yes, wouldn’t want to keep Mei from her appointment with the devil. Oh, she was so judgmental, but really, if you couldn’t wish hell on those who tried to kill you and your friends, who could you wish it on?

As soon as the thought crossed her mind, Finley felt a breath of icy air on the back of her neck. Every hair stood straight on end. Brilliant.

“I have a feeling the two of you won’t have to wait long.” The words had barely left her mouth when she caught the faintest glimpse of the ghost. Maybe she could see her now because she had once before, or perhaps Mei was getting stronger, because Jasper appeared to see her, also. To Griffin she would appear almost as solid as anything in this world.

Black, wispy tendrils floated around her, like seaweed in the ocean. They were with her, but not of her. These were the things that had attacked Griffin in New York. What were they doing with Mei? Had they brought her, or had she brought them?

“Mei?” Poor Jasper looked like hell. His face was white, his eyes huge. The ghost looked at Jasper for a moment, expression sad, before turning on Finley.

She didn’t look so sad now! In fact, she looked angry. Frustrated. She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out.

“What do you want?” Griffin asked, his voice strong and commanding.

The wisps broke away from Mei and launched themselves at him, turning into teeth and claws. One raked his face and drew blood. The others converged. Griffin made a strangled grunt of pain.

They would rip him apart.

“Stop it,” Finley commanded, clenching her fists as she took a step closer to Mei. “Make them stop.”

The ghost looked at her and shook her head, holding up her hands in supplication. Frustration mounted in Finley’s gut. Was Mei trying to tell her that she couldn’t stop them, or was she just being a bitch?

She tried again. “Stop them.”

Mei shook her almost translucent head, and then pointed at Finley. No need to guess what she meant by that.

“How am I supposed to do it?” If Griffin couldn’t and his power was the Aether, how the devil could she have any effect on them?

Mei held out her hands, as though she was about to wrap them around Finley’s throat.

“Finley, don’t.” Jasper shot her a fearful glance.

Finley turned her head. Griffin was still on his feet as he battled the wisps, but his face had been clawed on both sides and his neck was bleeding. She could either trust Mei or let those tendrils of black have him.

“You better not be lying to me,” she warned Mei. “If I die, I’m going to kick your arse, understood?”

Mei nodded.

“Do it, then.”

“Finley, no!” Jasper reached out for her, lightning quick, but his former love had no substance on this plane, not unless she wanted to.

The hands that closed around her throat were bonechillingly cold and so very strong. They cut off Finley’s air immediately, leaving her gasping and choking. She looked into those black eyes and saw nothing. Mei’s mouth was grim, and there was no joy in her expression. She was killing Finley, but she wasn’t enjoying it.

Blackness swamped the perimeter of her mind, darkening her vision. Blood roared in her ears as she slowly sank into oblivion. Mei kept squeezing. Finley forced herself not to struggle, not to fight. She heard Griffin shout her name.

And then she died.

Chapter 11

The world of the dead was not what Finley expected. She expected something out of one of Mr. Dickens’s stories—all torment and rattling chains. Instead, she found herself in a world washed with a blue-gray tinge that reminded her of Griffin’s eyes, and it felt a peaceful place.

Now she knew why people referred to it as “beyond the veil.” It did have a diaphanous sort of quality to it, like it was trapped in gauze placed over the living world. It gently tugged at her soul, filling her with that peace, that sense of rest.

She could stay here forever. No one would judge here. No one would ever make her wonder if they cared about her or not. She’d never have to explain herself….

A sharp pain in her ribs snapped her out of the languid feeling taking over her body. But it wasn’t really her body, was it? Because her body was two feet away, and Mei was standing next to her with her arms folded over her chest. She had bony elbows for a ghost. Finley rubbed her side.

“All right, you’ve killed me. Now what?” she demanded. Perhaps she ought to be a bit more upset about being dead, but she couldn’t quite manage it. She felt as though she was about to set forth on a wondrous journey… .

“Ow! Bloody hell, stop jabbing me! What?” Mei pointed. “Look, you stupid girl!”

Finley followed her finger, ignoring the insult. There was Griffin, and he was being attacked by angry wisps of black that seemed to have teeth and claws though they had no real form.

Viciously, she turned on Mei. “Are you doing that?” What was she going to do if she was? Stare her to death? Mei could touch her but… Wait. This was the Aether. Right now she was technically dead.

“No,” Mei retorted. “But I can’t touch them, and he can’t hear me.”

Finley threw herself at Griffin’s attackers. If she was dead, she didn’t have much time before she stayed that way, maybe Griffin, too.

Her hands stung as she seized one of the wisps. Blood welled up around the black, trickling down her wrist. Little buggers hurt.

Griffin’s face was bloody, his neck and hands, too. His body glowed with his power, but the wisps didn’t seem to care; in fact, they seemed to feed on it. The more he fought the more delicious they found him.

Bloody little demons. “Griffin, stop struggling!”

He didn’t hear her. His power was building, the light around him increasing its halo. It brightened, pulsed…

“Oh, bugger.” Finley threw her arms up in front of her face just in time. The light coming off Griffin exploded into a kaleidoscope of color, raining down tiny iridescent snowflakes that were hot to the touch.

The wisps backed off. There were fewer of them now. Finley watched in horror as they grew in size, claws and fangs elongating. The blast had only made them stronger. They drew themselves up, preparing to attack.

Right. That was enough of that nonsense. She didn’t care what they did to her, but they would not take Griffin.

She stepped in front of him and smiled gently at his ravaged face.

“Fin,” he whispered, eyes widening. “Don’t.”

“I’ve got this,” she promised. “I need you to bring me back, Griffin. Don’t let me die, all right?”

He nodded. It was the oddest thing, because in the Aether he retained the same form he had in the mortal realm. Finley watched him through the veil as he moved to where her body sprawled on the floor.

“You just going to stand there?” she asked Mei.

The girl shrugged. “I told you I cannot touch them. Whatever keeps me here also keeps me from interfering. Now stop talking and fight.”

She was right, of course, though Finley bristled at the words. The wisps, done with waiting, surged after Griffin, but Finley stepped into their path. Drawing back her fist, she sent it forward as if her muscles were coiled springs. Her knuckles connected with the wisp as hard as she could punch.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

Prev Next