"Evening, young lady," Sherlock Holmes announced himself, falling into step beside her.
Elizabeth, well accustomed to the manners of men after dark, eyed him with disapproval and hurried her pace discreetly.
James watched on from the other side of the road, struggling to keep sight of the pair as the rain beat down harder and harder until the street became a miserable blur. The entire city of London was vanishing beneath a dark cloud which filled the air with restless rumbles and the occasional flash of light as if it knew the hideous events unfolding beneath.
Eventually Sherlock brought her to a stop. She spoke for a while, waving her arm vaguely at the road behind her as if giving directions. He bowed low, thanking the lady, and then kissed her hand and let Elizabeth pass.
"And?" James prompted, upon his return.
Both men were drenched and suffered streams of water pouring off the rims of their hats and the trims of their equally long coats. The smell of wet dog stuck in the air as the animals of the street sought shelter, scurrying past them in frantic dashes before hiding under weed beds or discarded crates.
"Naturally, she is suspicious of strange men," Sherlock replied, "but she did mention that there was word of a tall, cloaked gentleman lurking about the area, sinister kind of creature that none of the other girls had seen before. He tried to enlist the services of a few working girls but they all refused him."
"Turned away by a prostitute - that would rub."
"Indeed it – Christ," Sherlock spun elegantly and peered intently down the street, "did you hear that?"
The rain poured down in an impenetrable wall until all James could make out was the pounding sheets of water against the cobblestone. He wiped the water out of his eyes bit it did no good.
The intense gaze of Sherlock's eyes could have split silver glass in two. The ordinarily reserved man screamed something at James that it was indistinguishable from the roar of the rain, then he threw his pipe to the ground and broke into a desperate sprint in pursuit of the woman who had vanished into the night.
Nigel pressed himself against the cold wall until even the smallest groove of the old brick surface dug painfully into his skin. He could still hear his father's voice inside the room, occasionally rearing above the drone of the others, directing them – controlling them.
He should have left then, when the first flickers of light bounced off his skin betraying his presence - but he didn't. Professor Griffin was inside that laboratory pacing from corner to corner like some kind of predator casing his territory and Nigel felt more like a child than ever. He could have been five years old hiding behind the barn door as his father killed the chickens, completely petrified, his arms and legs immobilised and heart shaking with every hushed word uttered.
"That's it everybody," announced another, softer voice. Nigel didn't have to see its owner to know that they were a born underling, the kind of creature that liked to lurk around the seat of power feeding off the scraps. "We're done for the night."
Chairs moved at once quickly followed by a shuffle of shoes heading for the door amidst the swish of thirty lab coats thrown into the corner.
"What a night - I'm getting too old for this shit," said the first scientist to reach the door. The rest of the group swelled behind him in a flood funnelled directly to the place where Nigel had chosen to hide.
"Won't be gettin' old," replied another voice, "if we keep this work up. If they didn' pay like they do..."
It was too late for Nigel to move as the crowd rolled past, bumping and nudging against him. His breath caught as the first elbow caught his side and stuck there for a moment. A shoulder clipped his chest, shoes crushed over his feet and clothing brushed across his naked skin but not a single one of them noticed as they filed down the stairs. When the final stragglers trickled into the stairwell, he let himself breathe.
"Professor..." said the soft voice again, just shy of the doorway. "He is waiting for you downstairs."
"It must be urgent if he is unannounced," replied Professor Griffin, gradually making his way towards the door, flicking off the panels of lights as he progressed. "Word on the source?"
There was a slight pause and the glow from the room diminished again.
"No... I believe he has come about your son."
Nigel's eyes flicked open so fast they nearly rolled back into his head. There was no time to creep along the wall. Shocked into action, Nigel pealed himself free and began his silent flight down the stairs before his father reached the door. By the time his father's cane clicked out of the room, Nigel was off the landing and had started on the long corridor toward the black hole at the end streaked by the driving rain.
He was almost there, so close that he could smell the rain, when a cloaked figure stepped into the tunnel, swearing at the weather and completely blocking Nigel's escape.
Nigel stopped and slammed himself against the wall as the man rung out the bottom of his cloak onto the floor where a sizable puddle was busy forming. His father's voice, which had followed him down the stairs, was rounding the platform and entering the corridor. It was a narrow stretch and Nigel was hemmed in on both sides by the approaching parties. Though he was invisible from a distance, he wasn't sure he wanted to test his ability in close quarters.
"Evening Bill," Professor Griffin raised his hand in greeting as he and his assistant closed in.
To Nigel's horror, 'Bill', not content to wait in the entrance, began pacing forwards.
"I came as soon as I could get away," Bill replied, reaching to remove his hat. "It's not easy getting coaches in this weather." He pulled the soggy item on his head free to reveal a cluster of damp, white hairs. Nigel had to stop himself from gasping as the sleepy face of his college professor glanced meaningfully back at the rain.
The two encroaching parties were almost on each other now, neither more than a few yards away from Nigel.
"It's not all good news, Samuel- your boy was hurt. He's - he seems to be recovering fast but you asked me to watch over him and I have."
"And I am grateful for the favour."
"But it is not why I came all this way..."
"It isn't? Griffin's eyes widened.
"I must confess, when you raised this other matter with me I doubted that I would be of any assistance to you. There have been a lot of years go by since those days at Oxford and I had my doubts."
"Gregory asked your help?"
"I have not seen Gregory since the night we dismissed him. As for the object you desire, I have not come across that either, not directly, but I believe I have learned its fate." He ran a nervous hand through his hair, unable to hide its subtle quiver. "I am quite certain of my suspicions."
Griffin's eyes flared dangerously.
"I don't know how they did it," continued the Professor, with a touch of jealousy, "but a group of my students have had the source in their possession and have –" it took him a moment to garner the courage to make the accusation as its content was so filthy - so despicable even to the dark workings of the Cabal that he feared uttering it, "ingested it."
Samuel couldn't stifle the laugh cracking through his throat. "A group of school children in possession of one of earth's most powerful substances?" he shook his head, whipping his cane against the wall beside where Nigel was hiding.
"Not just any children," the college professor went on, "sometimes they frighten me – more than you," he added, not quite in jest. "One of them is Gregory's child. There's something wrong with them - something different since all this started. I've spent my whole life watching children grow into adults but these kids, they grew up overnight."
Griffin turned and whispered to his assistant.
Bill's hearing was sharp. "You're going over there now?"
"At once," Griffin snapped, breaking into as much of a stride as he could given his bad leg. "And you shall accompany us."
Watson and Sherlock hit the warehouse door at a run. The horses on the carriage storming up behind them startled - throwing their heads back in shrills, pulling against their reins as they veered and slammed to a halt on the side of the poorly lit street.
"Whoa, whoa girls!" the driver tried to calm them, as the creatures reared again. They stamped their hooves and backed away from the small alley beside the main road where two men pounded on a large factory door.
"Open the door, open the dooooor!" screeched Sherlock, rattling the large iron handles furiously before moving onto the hefty bolts attaching the door to the wall. Watson leant his knee, Sherlock climbed onto to it and stretched up to pull the top bolt free. Together, Watson, Sherlock, and the owner of the carriage took a run at the door.
It squealed and fell inwards, still attached via the lock. All three men spurned forwards into the lamp-lit shed which turned out to be a grain house full of machinery grinding and packing in the background.
The rain became a dull presence in the background and Sherlock was finally able to explain why they were breaking into private property.
"There's a woman in here," he said to the two gentlemen, who were struggling to catch their breath. "And we have to find her before..."
The carriage owner stepped forward and knelt down to the dusty floor where a dark smear of blood was glistening, still fresh. There was a crack – like lightening but inside the shed, accompanied by a quick flash of purple light.
"There..." Watson pointed to the sound, and the three of them darted around a giant set of grinding stones to find nothing but an empty corner."Nothing," whispered Watson, shaking his head. "He was right here, I know it."
"He was here," said Sherlock, creeping around the churning stones where he stooped to examine the elegant knife cast aside by the killer. Its blade was coated in a jewel-like liquid which trickled off its sharp surface.
Watson's face lost all of its colour. "I've seen that before," he said slowly.
A rush of frightened whispers filled the room as the carriage driver backed away, crossing his chest at the sight of Elizabeth, strewn across end of the room beyond the churning stones.
The carriage roared off into the night and Nigel followed, dashing out into the storm clear forgetting his clothes. His skin may have been mimicking the dreary surrounds of the derelict streets leading to the bridge, but the rain gliding over his body was just enough to create a shimmering outline like a mirage streaking through the dark.
He had no hope of catching his father and the professor on foot, so when Nigel came across an unattended horse tethered to a garden fence neighing irritably, he freed it and rode bareback through the night.
The horse galloped down the streets, over the bridge and back into the main city where the few people left outside parted in fright as the 'unmanned' horse tore madly past them. Once at the university gates, Nigel swung his leg over and fell down the side of the stallion and onto the muddy street. As far as he could tell, he had preceded their arrival but they could not be far behind. Terrified, Nigel made it through the main doors and flung himself up the marble stairs and along the corridor to Tesla's attic.
The ladder was down and a soft glow lit the entrance to his room. Nigel had not expected that after the horrific and terrifying events of the previous night.
"Tesla?" he called, between gasps of breath. There was a shuffle in the ceiling and shortly after Nikola's perfectly preened head popped into view looking quizzically down at the empty corridor.
The only thing out of place was a streak of water that ended at the base of the stairs put there seemingly by magic.
"Is Helen with you?" the empty space asked hurriedly.
Nikola narrowed his eyes and took a closer, more careful examination at the corridor. "Nigel," he trailed off with an air of displeasure, "a sight for sore eyes I presume..." he snipped.
The ladder rattled as something grabbed on and started climbing. Nikola ducked out of the way of Nigel's well camouflaged body as it protruded into the ceiling and caught sight of Helen seated by a rather mangled experiment.
"Who is it, Nikola?" she asked softly, still unaware of Nigel surveying the room.
Nikola straightened and leant his hand to the vacant air which took a hold and pulled itself into the room. "The great, invisible man," replied Tesla lazily.
"We have to leave right now," Nigel jogged over and took Helen by the arm, pulling her roughly from the floor. He dragged her toward the exit amid her protest until Nikola intervened.
"Steady on, Nigel!" he hissed, unable to detach him completely. "What's all this about?"
"There's no time to explain," he whispered, reaching out to take hold of Nikola's arm as well. "But if we don't leave this building right now, we'll be pets of the Cabal inside the hour. They know 'bout us, what we did, and they're comin' to collect. Personally, I'd rather not be their latest attraction but it's up to you."
Nikola broke away and ducked over to the open window. He had a clear view of the front gates and soon after saw the carriage lights pull up at the gates. Nikola threw himself away from the window and nearly tripped as he pushed the others toward the ladder.
They were trapped.
The three of them had planned their exit through the lower levels and out the kitchens but as they had begun their descent of the stairs, the front doors were thrown open and three gentlemen hurried across the marble, coming to a pause in the grand foyer. Instinctively, Nikola, Helen and Nigel had recoiled and backtracked to the side of the stairwell where they could peer over the balustrade.
Nikola instantly recognised the natural sciences professor but couldn't place the other two. Beside him, Helen had frozen and gone pale, glaring at the man tapping his cane over the stone.
"It's him," she whispered, hiding in the shadows at the top of the stairwell. "The man from the street. He is the one after the source blood and my father."
Nigel was bitterly ashamed of himself, of his connection to work of his father, so much so that he kept quiet as the gentlemen whispered to each other and the professor finally pointed at the stairwell where they were huddled.
"You will find the Magnus girl and Mr Tesla this way," said the professor.
"Our professor works for the Cabal?" Helen whispered.
"We have to go," Nikola took hold of Helen and pulled her away down the corridor, flying over it as the gentlemen took to the stairs behind them.
"This way," Nigel said, opening one of the doors along the corridor for the others to slip into.
Their pursuers heard the click of the door and followed easily, coming to a stop at the library doors several minutes later.
"Strange," whispered the professor, pushing the doors open quietly, "there is no way out from here – it is a dead end."
"Stay here..." Griffin directed his assistant to guard the doors, and then snuck into the dark library with the professor at his side.