APOLOGY IN BLOOD
The last time they met face to face, Helen Magnus tried to kill him. Helen remembered feeling helpless, watching her hand clutch the knife and drive it through Nikola's flesh. She had wanted to scream as his cool blood coated her hands and ran into the snow.
Then she had straddled him, forcing his body into the freezing white powder as she stabbed him again and again – more than sufficient to kill any mortal. All Nikola had done was lay there in surrender to her, his hands and their sharp claws held at a safe distance, his black eyes pleading with her to stop.
John turned when he realised Helen was no longer walking beside him. He found her, lingering at the top of the stairs, staring absently into the semi-darkness of the house.
"I am not sure I can do this..." she whispered, her blue eyes fearful.
John set his lantern down and strode back up to her, taking her hand softly in his. She was cold. "This is your idea," he reminded her quietly.
"Yes but - " it sounded ridiculous – even in her mind. "There are things that you don't know about me John – things that I have done."
He fought a cruel smile at the depth of the unknown lurking in his own soul. If only she knew. He was willing to bet that her forgiveness would not be deep enough, even for him.
"I tried to kill him," Helen looked away, ashamed of herself. Nikola had cried out in pain with each sickening thud of her blade. What the hell drove her to such a senseless act of violence? Why did she keep losing consciousness around her four, closet friends... "There's something wrong with me, John – something that I can't fix."
She could not even blame the vampire blood. This was in her blood, her soul. Helen confessed everything to John and when she fell silent, he gently tugged her to rest against his chest.
Her blond ringlets bounced gently against his cheek as his long fingers trailed through her hair, stroking her. John knew how to calm a woman, what to whisper against her ear to make her sink further into his arms. He had forgotten though, what it was like to hold Helen Magnus. She was no common lady. John was drawn to her strength, her beauty – and her darkness.
Tesla always thought of Charles Fort as a gentleman older than himself but the truth was Charles barely scraped his years beyond twenty-three. He had one of those eternal faces and now it was riddled with fear. Mr Fort's back was pressed hard against the freezing window pane, his hands held up in a silent plea.
"I swear to you, Mr Tesla," Charles was ignoring the others. Nothing bore into him as sharply as Nikola's eyes – not even Sherlock's. "I had no idea that the organisation that hired me was the one hunting you down. I was sent as a favour – to save a life. It suited me to travel in the hopes of seeing, well – your sister again..." he admitted very softly.
Again...? Nikola thought with a growl.
"Your friend is under my care – Professor Griffin's son. I do what I can to assist him in his escapes but they always bring him back. They've been watching me closely," his voice dropped to a natural whisper. He shook his head sadly – if only he could have warned them sooner. "None of you will leave this place."
"Where is Nigel?" James whispered, his arms folded across his chest.
"I can take you to him," Charles replied quickly. "They have just brought him in again. Listen – I have a plan."
Charles Fort led the men up to the third story of the building. The air seemed to be slightly warmer up here, the paint fresh and the bars on the windows still free of rust. Nikola was never half a step from Fort. Betraying Nikola was one thing but to do the same to his sister was something else entirely.
The last cell in this level was empty. Its floor was wet with half-melted snow and there were a few smears of mud caked on the bars. Charles unlocked the cage-like cell, stepping inside it. Only Nikola followed, the other two deciding it was better not to walk into a trap.
Charles knelt down on the ground, reaching out until he found Nigel's invisible form.
"He's out cold," Charles whispered, slipping off his lab coat and wrapping it around the invisible man. Sherlock stared in fascination at the empty patch of ground. The camouflage was flawless, like a giant squid mimicking the rocks and coral.
"We've got to get him out of here," James whispered.
"I've tried," Charles sighed in defeat. "I may have succeeded with another of the test subjects in here but this is Griffin's child – he won't let him be taken. I am supposed to cure him of this affliction."
"But you cannot..." James said quietly.
Charles shook his head. "I cannot."
As the strongest, Nikola had the task of lifting Nigel onto a gurney. They covered his body with a sheet and made it look as if he were just another casualty of the Cabal.
"There is a transport, every afternoon back to London. If we can get him onto that cart we can take the drivers and ride out of here." Something that Charles had not been able to do on his own. He was an academic, an adventurous one for sure but certainly not a violent man.
They had no trouble working their way back to the ground floor. Most people knew Charles and nodded as they walked by. As a group, they crossed the muddy yard to the renovated stables where boxes of supplies and cages of abnormals were being stacked ready for loading.
"A late addition, Dr Fort?" the man standing beside the transport cart said, looking at the body. "It needs to be properly packed and documented before I can approve it." The man pointed at the long, shallow crates at the side. James and Nikola immediately lifted Nigel into one of them, fitting the lid carefully. "Paperwork..." the man shook his head, still refusing to take the box.
"Give me a few minutes, I will collect the necessary documentation," Charles said calmly. Nikola, naturally, followed. When they were back in the main building, Charles lowered his voice at Nikola. "Mr Tesla, Griffin will recognise you..."
"And he will know you betrayed him if he finds you in his office," Nikola replied simply.
It took nothing for Nikola to disable the lone guard outside the door and pick the lock. Charles was keenly aware that Mr Tesla could snap his neck just as fast.
"I want you to see something, Mr Tesla," he beckoned the vampire over to the far wall. There was a wooden cabinet nailed to the plaster board, not very deep. It was locked but Charles had managed to steal a key during his long months here, opening the delicate doors to reveal rows upon rows of vials. Each one was a slightly different shade of red. Blood. "This is his obsession..." Charles whispered.
"From Nigel..." Nikola realised, stepping closer. "He is trying to extract the Source Blood from Nigel's?"
"And failing." Charles picked one of the vials from the cabinet. "Its impurities are too great. Nigel is no vampire. His blood lacks the one quality that Professor Griffin hungers for..."
"Immortality," Nikola whispered. What else did dying men crave?
"He mistakenly thinks that he requires all five of you to piece the blood's properties back together." Charles shifted his weight, setting the vial back down onto the shelf. "All he needs is you, Nikola."
James and Sherlock waited calmly by the crate containing Nigel. No one paid them much attention. The place was full of men in lab coats, coming in and out. The horses were still being fed, pawing boredly at the ground with their noses buried in hay buckets.
"They've been gone a while..." James whispered. "What if he wakes up in there?"
"My dear Mr Watson," Sherlock drawled calmly, sitting on the crate. "The more you fret the longer time will feel to you. As for Mr Griffin well... we never specified that our cargo was dead."
There were less people in the room. At first, Sherlock thought it strange that he had noticed this fact but soon it was joined to another fact – one of the barn doors had been closed. A third fact, the man verifying cargo had just walked out.
"It's quiet," James muttered absently.
Sherlock tilted his head as the boy sweeping out vacant horse stalls also ducked out under the remaining door – closing it behind him. The horses fussed softly, leather and metal straining over their coats.
"James..." Sherlock whispered. "I don't want to alarm you but -"
But the three burly contractors were pacing towards them.
Helen had her father's gun concealed under her skirts, a knife too. Nikola had left her notes, one on her bed – another in his attic. She followed the notes to the British Museum in London, John's ability allowing them to cover ground quickly.
"How quaint of the vampire," John half chuckled as Helen stalked through one of the exhibits – searching. "It's like a treasure hunt."
"He knew that I would be coming for him," she replied, ducking down to reach behind one of the sarcophagi. Another note.
"Where to this time?" John ran his long fingers across the glass edge of a display. It felt threateningly sharp.
"Windsor..." she whispered, folding the note backup. She never let John see the writing at the bottom; 'very truly yours'... Helen only hoped that Nikola could forgive her.
"Without the Source Blood, you are the only creature left that Griffin can use to solve the riddle of immortality," Charles looked sad, guilt washing through his eyes. "I'm sorry Nikola."
There was a scuffle outside, a dozen armed personnel running towards the barn, surrounding it. Nikola stepped over to the glass. It was too late, the Cabal knew.
"You betrayed us..."
Charles shook his head, his resolve firm. "No, Mr Tesla," he said, watching the vampire brush his hand uselessly over the glass window, "I told you that the Cabal watch me."
Nikola could see that in moments the others would be trapped but there was nothing that he could do. He turned to face Charles, his eyes clear this time – a human blue. "What are you doing, Charles?"
Charles pulled the doors shut on the cabinet.
"Saving you – forgive me."
The glass window behind Nikola shattered. A crack followed; sharp thunder on the air. Nikola felt the cold stream of blood first, seeping through his shirt. Charles discarded the gun on the table, crossing quickly to Nikola, catching the man before he fell to the ground.
Straight through the heart. Even a vampire's body quaked under the wrecked flesh. Nikola grasped at Charles' arm, his bloody fingers gripping at the man that had killed him.
A flare of red. Not in the room but between the leaves kicking over the university lawn. Nikola could still remember the day they had met, her scarlet dress trailing out behind her; the first time she glanced back over her shoulder to see him watching from the park bench.
"Which ones are you taking?" Sherlock asked, quickly on his feet, cane in hand. He twisted the handle and unsheathed a slender blade.
"Uh..." James stood also but the best he could do for a weapon was an old broom used to sweep up the hay. He brandished it anyway, trying to look threatening. "Whichever one lunges at me?"
"Good man," Sherlock grinned.
Bloody hell, thought James, he's enjoying it...