HEART OF THE STORM
"I don't want to leave -"
Nikola cut Lizzie off by pressing his finger gently to her lips. Even though Nikola knew that John was probably many city blocks away, he was afraid that even their whispered words would bring him back. The young woman was trembling in the moonlight, frozen and in shock.
"Take my coat," Nikola said gently, nodding to where it was abandoned on the floorboards. "Baker street, do you know it?" When she nodded, Nikola gave her directions to Sherlock's house where he knew she'd find safety. "Now go..." he begged.
She made it to her feet and then stooped to pick up his jacket. Nikola held his nerve, trying not to struggle against the sharp silver chains that still bound one of his wrists and both of his ankles to the ground.
"I'll find your friends," she promised softly, holding his gaze as she retreated towards the door.
Nikola nodded as the moon dipped down below the window, sending the room into a thick shadow. The air temperature dropped, cold against his vampire skin as it dried the enormous blood stain on his shirt. "Go..." he murmured again, when her hand lingered on the door handle.
She did, turning the handle and drawing the door open. It came toward her too fast. The heavy wood was thrust against her fragile body, hitting her in the face and throwing her back against the wall. She crumbled down to the floor with a soft cry.
John appeared in the doorway, slowly dragging a longer, curved knife harmlessly over the palm of his hand. He leaned menacingly against the doorway watching with cold amusement as the vampire struggled sharply against the silver.
As if he'd be so careless as to let them escape.
"Any sign of John?" Helen rushed at the door as James and Sherlock returned. Helen faltered when she realised that there was one man missing. More correctly, there was a vampire missing. "Where's Nikola?"
There were feathers all over the room. Sherlock stepped coldly by the distressed woman and prowled around to the fireplace where he found a slender pigeon taking cover in the light. The poor thing was cooing mournfully. All the windows had been closed to stop it from escaping. He reached out to the creature with his long, gnarled fingers but the pigeon pecked him sharply.
"Curious..." he whispered, as Miss Magnus and James squabbled behind him.
"You didn't leave Tesla on the streets, did you?" Nigel moved gingerly towards Sherlock, careful not to put too much weight on his ankle. "If John Druitt was going to kill one of us – it would be Tesla. They have hated each other from the start."
Sherlock leant against the mantle, happy to soak in some of the fire's heat. "Because of Miss Magnus...?"
"Partly." Nigel pulled the throw more tightly around his shoulders. He was still weak from his weeks in Cabal custody. "Even before that, they were set against each other. Tesla is methodical, reserved and still believes in humanity – John made a career out of deception. Oil and water, those two – waiting for someone to strike a match. "
"We'll give him an hour," Sherlock turned to the others, breaking up the escalating argument between Helen and James. "If Tesla's not back by then, we'll all go looking for him."
Helen folded her arms. "An hour's too long."
"An hour is how long we wait," Sherlock insisted, and the other two men nodded in agreement. He wanted to catch the Ripper this time and what better time to pounce than when he was settled into a killing?
The Ripper tied Nikola back down, properly this time so that the vampire could barely writhe against the floor. All Nikola could do was watch. John's face occasionally caught the moonlight. The fresh scar over his cheek looked like a black tear and was his bald head skull-like with eyes sunken into their sockets. He could have been Death, wandering from the pages of nightmares.
"Let – the girl – go..." Nikola whispered, turning his head, trying to avoid the old rag that The Ripper was about to stuff into his mouth. The only reply he got was a sharp hit across the face, breaking his nose and spraying blood over the floor.
Calmly, John waited for Nikola to heal, making sure he could breathe again before he stuffed the cloth in his mouth and tied another length of material over it, finally silencing Tesla. Then he went after the girl...
He didn't kill quickly.
For several minutes he let her stumble around the room in search of an escape, it was only when she went for the open window that he grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the floor next to Nikola. His weight was more than sufficient to hold her delicate form down as he teased his long blade over her skin.
The longer he kept her alive, the more blood he would see flow. He was turning it into an art form – prolonging their suffering to satisfy his lust of blood. There was just something about the way it tumbled over their cream skin – how it made him feel alive.
Soon, the small cuts weren't enough so his blade went deeper. A dark stain crept out over the floorboards, seeping into Nikola's shirt where he lay beside her. At some point, the woman had reached out to hold Nikola's hand. He was still holding onto her when her skin went cold and John re-arranged what was left of her for Sherlock Holmes to find.
Thick tears were running down Nikola's cheeks when John finally turned to him. John held the knife up and tilted it to catch the moonlight. Like him, it was drowning in blood.
Nikola struggled one last time as John knelt over him and ripped open Nikola's shirt.
"What was it that you were reading back in Oxford?" he said casually, as though they were in the library discussing an assignment. "Ah yes, something about vampires being immortal." John reached down and removed the rag from Nikola's mouth so that he could speak.
"Fuck you..." Nikola hissed, his voice heavily accented. He'd tried changing into his vampire form but it did no good. The silver chains were inescapable.
"I thought we might put your theory to the test, in the interests of science. You've always been so fond of facts and experiments. Let us see if you can die..."
John placed the tip of the knife in the centre of Nikola's breast plate.
"You better pray that I die," Nikola growled. "Because I will hunt you all the days of my life until the time comes when I can make you suffer all the pain you've inflicted on the world-" Nikola was cut short as the knife plunged through his chest, shattering bone and tearing arteries. It pierced his lung and made him gasp for air in a sharp cry of pain.
Nikola continued whispering in his native language. It was almost like he was chanting to himself, willing his body to survive as John hacked through it.
The storm was behaving in a most peculiar fashion. It had been building slowly over London for hours but it seemed to have stalled, concentrating over a corner of the city, rumbling above it. The pigeon pecked at the glass window, brushing its beautiful wings against it.
Helen had dressed and was seated facing the door. She watched it like a hawk, waiting for Nikola's return but he hadn't come.
"Satisfied?" she growled, when the full hour was up and the others assembled at the door.
Nigel had opted to stay behind in case Nikola returned. He draped Helen's coat over her shoulders as she advanced upon the other two.
"We'll start where we parted from him. It's best we don't separate this time," Sherlock picked up his long cane and nodded for them to follow.
The night was no place for a lady but Helen Magnus had always had something fierce about her... She was a hunter at heart and quickly pulled ahead of the others, instinctively hiding in the long shadows. James and Sherlock ducked in and out of whore houses but no-one had seen a man matching Nikola's description. Helen followed the pigeon instead, trailing the white creature as it flew and hopped down the filthy streets.
Freezing air had pushed the smog down below their knees. It stank of smoke and industrial chemicals and several times Helen tripped over steps she couldn't see. The sky above them rumbled again – it seemed that the bird was leading them toward the heart of the storm.
Gregory stood perfectly still. Even then, his shallow, frightened breaths sounded like thunder rumbling through the half-collapsed cave.
He was surrounded by a weak halo of light – too bright against his skin and yet hopelessly faint on the tunnel walls. What he really needed was a flaming torch – even a lantern was of more use than this artificial light. Immediately in front of him he could see the rough walls of the tunnel. At his feet where broken fragments of rock with freezing water lapping gently at their bases. The rock closest to him was stained red on its side where something bloody had been dragged over it.
"Ranna..." he whispered, slowly inching forward.
The ground shook again and he was forced to duck as more rock and sand showered him. His useless light flickered and when he straightened up, the smear of blood was gone.
Gregory swore. Either his mind was playing tricks on him or this half-creature that she had described to him was intelligent enough to cover its tracks. He couldn't go back alone. The residents of the underworld city would kill him and without Ranna he would be trapped in the tunnels. So he pressed on.
Awkwardly, he lifted himself up onto the first large stone and climbed over its wet surface, sliding down the other side where he landed in a deep puddle of water. More sand. It had fallen along the walls and beneath his feet it was carved out by tiny channels of water. He knelt down with the light, illuminating a sequence of depressions in the sand. They were long, loping footsteps.
He followed them. They led deeper into the collapsed tunnels which seemed to tilt downward, tracking through the softer, more unstable layers of earth. Down here, the air was stale and the limestone walls flecked with opal.
Then suddenly, the narrow tunnel ended. He looked up at the raw edges where it had been cut through the rock. Whoever had been mining down here had given up and walked away from this band of opal and there was simply nowhere else that the cave creature could have – oh...
Slowly, Gregory turned. The air in front of him rippled.
"Clever bastard..." Gregory whispered, at the sand creature.
The bolt of lightening came from nowhere. One minute the sky was an unsettled grey, lit from beneath by a sinking full moon. The next, a river of light rushed down and into a small room, striking a killer through the chest. It flashed as the air ripped apart around it, deafening Nikola as John lurched sharply backwards.
It was over. The world went black as John fell sideways onto the blood-drenched floor.
Two streets over, Helen jumped as the thunder made the ground shake.
"Bloody hell!" yelled James, who was holding onto a wall for support. "What the devil was that?"
"It came from over there," Helen pointed behind the buildings where they were standing.
Sherlock tugged at their clothes. "This way..." he said, taking off at a run.
The pigeon was ahead of them, coming to rest on the open window of an unassuming residence. She cooed into the darkness that smelled of death and blood.
Nikola, barely conscious, opened his eyes and saw his faithful bird, backlit by the moon. He was sure that it was a dream – or a ghost before the darkness claimed him.
"Goodnight, beautiful..." he whispered to it, letting the darkness claim him.
James forced the door in with a violent kick and then turned around quickly, catching Helen before she could rush by him. He forced her back out the door, preventing her from seeing the carnage inside. Sherlock sidestepped them both, moving swiftly into the room. Oh yes, they were in the right place.
"Let me go – let me go!" Helen struggled against him but James was having none of it.
"I don't care what your father lets you do, while ever I am around, I will not allow a lady into a crime scene."
"Fine!" she hissed, breaking free from him. "Just go to him. Please – I can't bear to think of him alone."
James nodded and vanished into the room after Sherlock, leaving Helen to hail down a carriage outside and bribe the driver to wait.
"God in heaven..." James breathed.
A woman was dead – no question. James had to turn away to steady his stomach. It was too similar to the death of his beloved companion. Nikola though...
"He's alive..." whispered Sherlock, finding a pulse on what was left of the vampire's throat. "Your friend didn't get to finish." Nikola may have been alive but he was in a bad way. "We need to get him back to my house at once. I have medical supplythere that will help him."
"And him?" James growled at an unconscious John Druitt. The lightening bolt had struck him straight through the chest, blackening his clothes and leaving angry red rashes over his skin.
"We take him to Scotland yard. Our cellars there are most accommodating."