AN HONEST GENTLEMAN
The first man to lunge was the tallest with a thick red beard and cold, grey eyes. He swung his machete just shy of Sherlock's head. Sherlock ducked, the cold sound of metal cutting air ringing in his ears. Like an insect, Sherlock spun under the man's blade and quickly slashed his sharp cane against the killer's chest. The material of his jacket and shirt shredded to reveal a slender line of red.
"Nice shot..." James whispered, still a spectator.
"You worry about your own problems, my dear Watson," Sherlock replied, spinning out of the way of another heavy blow. His opponent may be slow but it would only take one hit from a creature like this to kill.
Watson's problems came in the form of a crate, easily lifted by one of the remaining men and thrown straight at James's head. As a gentleman unaccustomed to such things, he gasped, ducked into a tiny ball and cried out as he was covered in splinters and hay from the crate exploding on the wall behind him.
"That wasn't very friendly," James muttered, standing up and brushing the hay from his shoulder.
"They are not subjects for you to study, James," Sherlock said, scratching his opponent with his cane again, this time down his chiselled cheek. "And I dare say they are less behaved than your notes and bottles of scotch."
James fished around in the hay and found a broom, brandishing it proudly at the man that had attacked him. The man chuckled coldly, reaching forward. James swung the broom as hard as he could but the man merely caught it in his enormous hands and – snapped it, leaving James with a very sad looking broom head.
"Well done, old boy..." Sherlock's sharp eyes glistened.
When the vampire went still, Charles Fort let him slip out of his arms leaving Nikola slumped against the wall. There was blood everywhere, far more than he had ever expected. It was sprayed over the broken glass from the window, smeared across the cream walls and dripping from Charles's neck. The dark stains had ruined Nikola's shirt and vest, some of it still oozing slowly down the vampire's chest to form a pool on the floor.
He could not look into Nikola's eyes. They were a clear blue – very human eyes that had not been ready to leave the world. So young. Now they were empty.
Charles withdrew a syringe from his jacket and quickly drew what he could from Nikola's arm, filling a small glass vial. Then, he moved over to the tiny cabinet on the wall and threw everything inside it to the floor, shattering the samples of Nigel's blood, every last one of them. All of Professor Griffin's work was destroyed in an instant.
There were rushed footsteps outside just before the door was thrown open, slamming back against the wall. The scene was grim; Nikola lifeless against the wall with Mr Fort standing over him, a bloody hand print on the sleeve of his shirt.
It was Professor Griffin and two of his goons, both of them raising a gun towards Charles.
"What is this?" Griffin barked. His anger had made his frail body stronger. He saw the shattered remains of the cabinet.
Charles straightened, holding up the single vial of vampire blood.
"Is this what you're looking for?" he asked, a slight waver of fear in his voice. This could not be undone and his life would certainly be forfeit for it.
Griffin's eyes tracked slowly from the vial in Fort's trembling hand to Tesla, dead and cold against the wall. A wry smile tugged at the corner of the old man's lips. Clever.
"The last vial of vampire blood..." Griffin hissed, taking a step into the room.
"If you want to live forever," Charles whispered, his fingers ready to crush the vial if they moved any closer, "then blood from your son will not suffice. I've studied the files you gave me, the reports of the five children at Oxford and their experiment. Only one possesses the required gene from the original sample of blood..." Charles motioned to Tesla behind him. "This is his blood. With it, I can give you what you want – the immortality that you dream of and a cure to the plague that ravishes you."
Griffin shifted, leaning on his cane.
"Your terms..." because there were always terms.
"Their lives, all of them," Charles whispered, despite Griffin's snarl. "You let Watson, Sherlock and Nigel Griffin go and they can take the body of their friend with them," he nodded at Tesla. "Then I will help you. I'll give you everything you want. You hired me, Professor – brought me from the other side of the world. You know I can do this."
"Give up my son?"
Charles nodded. "Those are my terms."
John teleported Helen to the grounds of the Cabal manor. They were behind a bank of hedges, over looking the pair of white buildings near the main driveway. One of them was a barn of sorts, surrounded by armed men.
"Take your hands off my jacket, it's worth more than that mat of horse hair masquerading on your-" Sherlock was silenced as the man dragging him out of the barn hit him sharply over the face. Another man had James, a knife to his neck.
Helen gasped and went to move but John caught her wrist and tugged her back down next to him.
"Wait..." he whispered. "We have no idea what's going on."
Something wasn't right... A man ran from the main house toward the barn, stopping to talk with the men there, motioning over to the barn and then to horses and carriage already waiting in the driveway. The men didn't look happy about the conversation and soon, a crate was brought out from the barn and loaded into the carriage while James was ushered into the back.
More shouting went on between the men and then a bloody body emerged from the main house. Helen knew at once that it was Nikola. It only took one man to carry his slight body and load it roughly next to James. Helen gasped softly, covering her mouth. It couldn't be. Not like that. Not so easily...
Sherlock was hunted up into the front of the carriage and handed the reins.
"Go!" the man grunted at him, still sporting a couple of nice scratches from Sherlock's cane. "Go now!"
Sherlock, for once, didn't ask questions. They were being offered freedom and so he snapped the reins against the horses and took off down the gravel driveway.
Charles waited by the window, watching as the carriage raced away, nearly missing the turn on the main road. Then it was gone, joining dozens of other identical carriages all on the main road to London. They were safe. It was the best that he could do and hopefully, it was enough to redeem his soul.
The two men lowered their guns.
"All right, Mr Fort. You and I have work to do. I have held up my end of the bargain."
Charles was looking at the bare trees bending softly in the wind. The flurries of snow kicked up and sent tumbling into the air made him smile, each one of them a complex riddle of ice crystals. The world was beautiful. Not as beautiful as Milka.
Still smiling, Charles closed his eyes and smashed the vial against the window pane.
"Nikola – Nikola!" James whispered. The man was sprawled awkwardly over the back seat, frighteningly still.
He'd been shot – his clothes soaked in blood. James undid Nikola's shirt, pushing it open; shot through the heart but the wound was oddly small. The skin that had been shredded was fresh as though it had just healed.
Nikola should be dead but James was observant... He held his hand up to cover Nikola's open eyes for a moment, then removed it, watching the pupils shift size. Alive, even if he wasn't breathing yet.
"Bloody vampire," James breathed in relief.
"I cannot believe you tried to hit them with a broom!" Sherlock yelled from the front of the carriage, trying to keep a handle on the horses as they raced over the uneven, icy road. "How's the vampire?"
James relaxed back into the cracked leather seat, one hand on Nikola's chest.
"Alive..." James replied.
He took a moment and then pulled at the leather separating the seats from the luggage. The wooden crate containing Nigel was there, being battered from side to side. James reached over and prised off the lid. Nigel was half conscious, blinking back the sudden light.
"They're going to let them go?" Helen whispered. She was in shock, preferring to ignore what she had seen. She could not lose her closest friend and father in the same week – it was too much to bear.
John had his hand settled on the small of her back as they remained hidden behind the ice-laden hedge. "Looks that way."
"That doesn't make any -" Helen was cut short by two quick gunshots. Their sound was dull, as if they'd come from inside the main building.
"James keeps a small apartment in London. I wager that's we're they're heading. We can meet them there..." he whispered.
It had just finished snowing on Baker street. Everything was peaceful. The wintry sky was oddly inviting. A strong wind earlier had lifted the smog out of the streets and left nothing but the crystal sky above, starkly perfect against the muddle of city beneath.
"Why is James staying here?" Helen asked, running her gloved hand down the banister. They were lingering outside. The others should arrive soon.
"Our dear James is working on a case. He'd dabbling in Scotland Yard."
Helen looked up at the unassuming building. It was set tight between the other houses, wall to wall, a copy of its brothers.
"There is a particularly juicy crime at the present," John continued when Helen said nothing. He was almost disappointed that she didn't ask about The Ripper. Did she even know? "A serial murderer is working his way through-"
"His?" she asked, her gaze flicking up. "Is there not a debate in the papers at present regarding the gender of the killer?"
Ah – so she did know... John's brown eyes seemed all the deeper, his hand resting low on Helen's back again. "A lady could not do such things."
Helen could still feel Nikola's warm blood over her hands. "Yes they could."
A very tired pair of horses dragged a carriage to a stop in front of Helen and John. The beasts were panting, not even bothering to fuss against their reins. They'd been run a long way at high speed. Sherlock, dusted in snow, waved at the pair.
"And you, I presume, are the lady Magnus..." the tall, wiry man grinned. He could easily see why Mr Tesla was so taken with her. She was a beautiful woman, if somewhat wild. She was no lady of the court, so to say but she was a stunning creature. Sherlock tossed her the key to the door, which she easily caught. "We have to get them inside."
They laid Nikola on James's bed. Helen would let none of them near him, ushering them all back into the main room and closing the door. James and John were back to their old habit of sitting by the fire, scotch in hand whilst Sherlock tended to Nigel. He had slipped back into a deep sleep and not yet spoken to any of them.
Nikola stirred as Helen sat down on the bed next to him.
"Sh..." she whispered, pressing a warm washer to the small wound on his chest, wiping some fresh blood away. It had nearly healed.
He looked so fragile in the candlelight. Nikola had always been a slight man but his charisma hid it well. When he was awake he was as fierce as any man, his blue eyes burning them into submission. She'd seen him stare down lecturers, businessmen and frighten the life out of the Cabal men come to kill them. The only time she had ever seen him afraid was when she'd come at him with a knife.
"Helen?" he choked out, his hands clutching softly at the bedding. His blue eyes reappeared under heavy lashes, the world a blur but for her blond hair and smile. "Are you – hurt?" Nikola whispered, an unsteady hand lifting up to her cheek.
She chuckled softly, taking his hand and guiding it to her warm skin.