“I don’t need to shoot you. I can hurt you in a hundred different ways.”
“I’m heir to his fortune?”
Arika was frowning down at the wad of papers. She ran her fingers through her hair. “Two centuries of savings and investments.”
“Two centuries? What is that worth?”
“It doesn’t say. Oh wait. Here’s a list. The farm. The shop. A castle in Hungary. Gold bullion in a Norwegian bank …”
“Oh my God.”
“… more bank accounts. Another castle …”
“Two castles? What am I gonna do with two castles?”
“What would you do with one castle?”
Pushing himself out of the chair, Dylan went to see the list for himself.
“Why would he do that? He wants me dead.” He wondered whether Wilfred really had meant it when he said he was in his debt and would look after him. But leaving him gold and two castles …? Then suddenly it hit him what the crafty old necromancer was up to. “No. Of course: he wants Waite dead.”
Arika’s eyes widened. “He’s leaving his fortune to himself.”
Dylan felt a surge of nausea. The walls and ceiling closed in on him, his legs buckled and he swayed and held onto the table for support. “Oh shit, I’m gonna puke.”
“Don’t worry, Dylan,” Arika reassured him. “We won’t let anything happen to you.”
“I feel sick. Oh shit! No, no! Not now!”
“Here,” said Arika, taking his arm and helping him to the door. “Do it out there.”
“He’s coming back!”
Her eyes flew up the passage.
“It’s Waite!” cried Dylan, tearing his arm away. “He’s in my head! Y’ai’ng’ngah Yog-Sothoth! The Tseg of Kra! They’ve breached the gulf! The gulf … The gate … Ia! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!” He grabbed Arika’s wrist. “We’ve got to get out of here!”
His face froze. He stared at her, terror-struck, not moving. Then slowly his rheumy eyes glazed over, his grip relaxed, his mouth stretched into a brown, derisive grin.
“Well, well, well,” Wilfred declared in a throaty voice, “I see there are benefits in not having full tenancy over my new vessel.”
“What?” piped Arika, confused.
“I find out what my young benefactor has been getting up to. Naughty Dylan. Down in the dark with a dolly bird.”
Arika pulled her arm away. It was clear from the evil shining from those black-rimmed eyes that this was no longer Dylan.
“A lady should not stand there gawping with her mouth open,” Wilfred sneered, sinking into a seat. “Ah, that’s better. Damn these old bones. They do crack something awful these days.”
Arika grabbed the rifle from the table and pointed it at him.
He glanced at her. “And a lady should not hold a rifle like a common infantryman.”
She looked him up and down. Dylan had always seemed weighed down by the burden of Wilfred’s frail and failing body, but with the return of its owner, it had taken on a rigidity born of contempt and conceit.
“Come now, dear, would you really shoot an unarmed man?”
She raised the rifle. She needed him to believe it was full of bullets, not darts, but so far he was acting as if he didn’t think the rifle was loaded at all. “What did you do to my father?”
“Put down that weapon, you silly girl. You’ll put someone’s eye out.”
“Where is my father?”
“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re bluthering about.”
“My father was looking for this farm and now he’s missing. What did you do to him?”
Wilfred raised his eyebrows. “Your father? Are you sure about that? I can’t see any family resemblance. You surely didn’t inherit his good looks, did you dear?”
Arika ignored his pathetic attempt at an insult. “So you did know him.”
“Did I say that? No, dear, you’re confused. I’m young Dylan Gates, your beau’s brother. What would Master Dylan know about your precious papa?”
“I’m not afraid to use this thing.”
Wilfred raised his hands in mock surrender. “What do you think my brother would do if you shot his only remaining sibling; what with our dear parents fresh in the ground? I dare say he would tear you limb from limb and leave you rotting down here with the rest of the dead things.” He leaned forward. “You can’t trust the boy, you know. He would turn on you in an instant if he thought you had the nerve to cross him.”
“Does he know you’re only sniffing around him for your own selfish reasons?”
“Where is my father?”
“No doubt he doesn’t. He probably feels … how do you say it? … you have the hots for him. He’s not thinking with his brain, I can vouch for that. He is an impressive specimen, don’t you think? A shame it was his brother who responded to my call. But never mind. Youth is youth. I have a lifetime to bend that young body to my needs. And then I will find another … and on and on until I evolve to my next glorious incarnation. I certainly have a debt to pay to that old curmudgeon, Jonathon.”
“Shut your mouth or I’ll shut it for you.”
“Nice way to talk to a defenceless old man.”
Arika lowered the rifle. “That’s right. You’re a defenceless old man. I don’t need to shoot you. I can hurt you in a hundred different ways.”
“Now you’re starting to impress me. I could use someone like you by my side. Not in this old throwaway of course,” he added, gesturing down at his body. He squirmed to the edge of the seat. “But think about me in my lithe new body. I’ll harden it up, so it’s just like its brother’s. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I’ll have you panting after me. You must find me tempting: a young body with a mind that’s travelled down through the ages. I’ve had eons of practice in the erotic arts, you know. Though I must admit to have slowed down a tad in recent times. But now I’ve acquired a powerful new engine, and you can be the first to road test it.”
“Will you shut up? You’re making me sick.”
Wilfred seemed to find her disgust amusing. “You won’t say that when I’m back in my fresh new skin. You’ll be begging me for it.”
“Just answer my damn question!”
“What question was that, dear?”
“Where is my father?”
“Who is your father again?”
“Corbin Livingston. A private detective. He came looking for this farm.”
“If he found it, surely you would have heard?” He glanced around the room. “I can’t see him bound and gagged in a corner. Can you? So I’d venture he failed.”
“You did something to him; I know it.”
“Maybe he grew sick of you and your whingeing harridan of a mother. Maybe the old fishwife was dry and he went in search of sweet new fruit. Did you think of that?”
“You’re a disgusting old man. And you can’t be more wrong about my family.”
“The truth can sometimes be dirty.”
“You know what happened to him. I can see it in your eyes. You’ve seen him. If you don’t tell me what happened, I’ll …”
“You’ll what, dear? Pull out my fingernails? Choke the truth out of me?”
Arika scowled at him.
“I love a good throttling as much as the next man,” sighed Wilfred, pushing his old body to its feet, “but regrettably there’ll be no time for that, young lady. Something knows you are here, and it’s been loosed from its pen.” He moved towards her. “Can you hear it, dear? It hears you: your fast-beating heart, your pathetic whining. And it smells you; smells the flesh cooking inside from the heat of your tender young body. My pet has a special appetite for hot sweet marrow like yours. It will have such a feast when it arrives.”
Arika backed away, felt for the door jamb, glanced nervously down the passage.
Wilfred stood watching her. “Can you hear it yet? It slithers like a slug and crushes like a snake. It will pull you in and suffocate you as it digests you alive. The end is closer than you imagine.”
“Kane!” yelled Arika, leaning into the passage. “Kane!”