Gitano’s dark eyes watched me as I helped Ruth prepare her ritual. His face glowed with rage.
How can you help them? he asked me. Don’t you know what they have done to me?
Thin streaks of rain pattered against the window.
Armand held the glass jar of pungent ointment lightly between his thumb and middle finger as if he were about to drop it.
Ruth had cleaned my blood from Greg’s skin and at my insistence she had thrown the cloth into the fire.
Greg hadn’t moved a muscle. His breathing was soft and quick.
Ruth added something to the glowing charcoal of an incense burner. Then with minimal drama she cut her own hand and added several drops of her blood. The scent pulled at my senses.
Everything comes back to blood in the end.
Finally, she laid the weight of the book across her arms and looked over to me. I nodded. The words emanated from her like plainsong, rising and falling. My mouth opened in wonder. I have no idea what I had expected this spell to sound like, but I knew that it wasn’t what I might have imagined. Her tone was soft and caressing and the cadence was simply lyrical. I could close my eyes and dream to this sound.
There was a low sigh from Greg but he didn’t move. His face was damp and pale.
Gitano’s voice came again. You never really cared about me, did you?
Armand flashed me an innocent smile.
The chant continued. I didn’t know the language, but I could sense the meaning: words that called upon the power of the spell, lost words that had no meaning, not even to Ruth: words that formed invisible chains about our foe like the silken threads of a web.
A squall of rain rattled the windowpane. The storm was passing, thrashing the small town outside with the last of its life.
Ruth’s voice gained in volume and power, her mouth bruised and misshapen, her eyes fixed on the page before her. The sweetness of the chant gave way to certainty.
Abruptly, she stopped.
I glanced at Greg and back at her. Silence.
‘Well?’ I said at last.
‘I don’t know!’ said Ruth. She was exhausted. She laid down the book as if she had been about to drop it.
‘It hasn’t worked,’ said Armand quietly. He pinched out one of the candles.
‘Is that right?’ I demanded. ‘Where is it?’
‘It should have worked!’ Ruth’s voice was strained. ‘There is no reason why this shouldn't work.’
‘It didn’t have him anymore,’ said Armand, peering down at the sleeping boy. ‘It’s gone.’ Had he known all along?
'Gone!' I groaned in frustration. 'How can it be gone!'
Ruth slipped past him to touch a ministering hand to Greg’s face. She looked close to tears.
'It must have left him when you had him in your arms. His body was suddenly still.'
It had all been for nothing. The demon had known what we were about to do and made its escape. It was the only explanation. The dratted thing was learning fast.
And this time, we hadn’t the slightest idea how to find it or what we might do to defeat it.
Greg and Ruth were packed off to London. Armand returned back to his impossible palace above the sea and I was left alone in my half-hearted search.