I watched Ichabod make his way down the street as if it had been any other morning. Only once he was out of sight could I convince myself that it was not so, for as long as he was in my sight, my eternal hope denied itself surrender. With his departure, the loneliness that I had known since my childhood burst its usually so carefully levied banks. I sank down in the corner rocking chair that had once been my mother's. Nights without number had seen me safely to sleep in her arms to its stilted creak-CREAK, CREAK-creak rhythm. I rocked myself into a frenzy of tears.
The events of the night before continued their grim task of ripping my conscience to shreds. How easy it would have been to embrace Ichabod, as it had always been, and erase the horror of his nightmare! But I had allowed the cold fear of rejection to rein my willing arms. Had I tried to hold him, would he have pushed me away? I choked anew, each sob a paroxysm that threatened my ability to hold down breakfast. My fear had been more than confirmed, for when I had reached to take his hand, he had denied me access. Not only had I failed to redeem myself, but I had failed to maintain his presence in our bed. Ichabod did not know it, but I had not slept a wink for the rest of the night on account of the most hair-raising thing he had ever said to me: "If you're going to continue to go there, I shall probably have to learn to get along without you."
I did not need to ask what he had dreamed. I doubted that even finding me on the bed with my pistol at unmoving fingertips' length would have been as horrifying as what he had seen last night.
I realized that in refusing to share my bitter cup, I had fragmented the entire household. I knew in my heart that someone as fragile as Ichabod could never come to grips with magic such as mine. My mother had warned me that it would mark me for life, had she not? My father had forbidden any mention of it. He was aware that his wife and daughter were the living remnants of a line marked by mysticism, but awareness was enough. However dearly my father had loved my mother and I, he had not loved what we were capable of. He had denounced with childlike fear the benign spells that my mother and I wove just as easily as he had denounced the tales of romance that we both so loved to read. I had married a man just like him.
The solution to our every grief- admitting to Ichabod the full extent of my magical repertoire- was impossible. Ichabod had made that clear enough earlier that morning during the discussion in his laboratory. Every time he had pointed out how much he needed me or feared for my safety, I had yearned to tell him that his fears were in vain. Yet my lips had played me as false as my arms.
As much as I wanted to carry the cross alone, I admitted grudgingly to myself that I could not take full blame for the ugly turn that our seemingly perfect marriage had taken. Ichabod's misbegotten reference to my childhood sweetheart had sealed the argument's fate. Perhaps I had been foolish to assume that Ichabod had seen himself as more than a consolation prize. My tears turned from ones of guilt to ones of mourning. Ichabod was the missing half of my soul that had been lost for so long, and he could not even recognize that the affection I had harbored for Brom was the frivolous innocence that precedes the ravages of true love. I longed to hold a looking glass up to the past, to reflect for Ichabod what nearly every moment alone since the Pickety Witch game that fateful night had been like for me. I had grown colder toward Brom with each passing day. I had spent hours standing on pins and needles while he was out on investigative errands; I had wept over the scuffed-out pentagram that I had drawn so lovingly under his bed. And in those morning hours after lingering by his side, after gently dabbing his bleeding palms until he slept again... I had returned to my own room and collapsed in a heap, winding myself into the sheets, sobbing in bittersweet joy for the sparing of Ichabod's life and for a kiss that had twice failed to come into being. I had bit my knuckles to keep my cries from waking my father in the next room. For those sobs had risen not only out of pained relief, but from a turmoil deep within me that I had not known existed. Then, I dared not imagine where morning might have found us if Ichabod had not been so gravely wounded. Would it have shocked Ichabod to know that he had awakened such a fire in me?
Although my hysterics subsided at length, as did the chair's agitated creak, the sight that met my eyes when I looked up threatened to toss me back into the unforgiving sea. David was standing in the doorway between the living room and dining room, studying me with tragic calm. In one hand he clutched his father's satchel, packed so full that the seams would soon burst. From the other dangled his book strap, each primer and storybook that he had collected carefully fastened in the belt-like closure.
"David, what are you doing?" I demanded uncertainly, hastily wiping my eyes with my sleeve.
"It was a hard decision for me to make, Katrina," David began almost inaudibly, unable to meet my gaze, "but I couldn't. I just couldn't. I know that you and Ichabod both want me to choose whose side I am on."
I felt nauseous. I could not respond. I opened my mouth, and only a sob came out.
"The answer is," David said, taking a deep, determined breath, "my own."
"No one ever asked you to take sides!" I cried. "No one! What on earth gave you such a ridiculous idea?"
"I thought it was obvious enough," David whispered, crestfallen.
"Oh, Lord," I sobbed, "dear, dear Lord.... Strike me dead if ever I put such a notion into your head!"
"It was more Ichabod, actually. We talked this morning. He sent me for you, after all."
I stood up even though my legs protested. "What did he say to you?"
"It wasn't what he said to me so much is was what he didn't say. Katrina, he won't think this battle is over until he wins it. I saw a side of him that you didn't during the time I worked with him in Sleepy Hollow. He's driven, Katrina, obsessed with being right. Even a little conceited. I... I..." David sobbed guiltily, joining me in tears, "I don't want to turn out like that! And I don't want to turn out as frightened of telling the truth as you are, either!"
He dropped his bags and ran to me. My arms were open to him without my having willed it. We held each other for a long time, sharing a misery too harsh to be spoken. Just as murder begets murder, failure begets failure. I rocked David disconsolately. The boy had seen my flaw and Ichabod's flaw without the benefit of a charm or telepathy. How far magic has yet to evolve, I thought, when it comes to crossing paths with the human spirit!
"If you must go," I said quietly, "at least wait a moment."
David nodded and stood rooted to the spot until I returned with the pistol that I had given him once before. I pressed it into his hand.
"Be more careful with it this time," I cautioned him, my heart breaking. "I'm sure your father has taught you well in self defense. Keep your wits about you, David, and I-" I stopped abruptly, a fresh trickle in my eyes announcing a new inundation- "I love you."
David dropped his bags again, collapsing on my shoulder. "I can't do it," he cried. "I can't!"
"Then stay," I said with conviction, the faint smile on my lips unseen to him. "Ichabod and I need you so much. It may be hard to believe that right now, but we do. We adults are the worst fools, David. A child's wisdom, I pray, will be our saving grace."
I helped David unpack his bags and put his books back on the shelf. As long as he believed that he had convinced me that he was running away, his consolation would be complete. And I intended to let him believe as much. I had pulled such a stunt when I was eight, when my father had threatened to destroy the willow switch that I had used to draw in the ashes.
We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon going over his French lesson. When he tired of the verbs finir and detruire, I made a trip to the butcher's less than a block away to make David's favorite dish for lunch: braised rabbit, enough only for two. I purchased a few Cornish hens for dinner. I did not anticipate Ichabod to have a very large appetite. Even if Ichabod had forbidden me to venture into McRaker's Alley, he had not forbidden me to shop on Raleigh Avenue less than a block away.
After we had eaten, David excused himself politely and went to study the scientific texts that Ichabod had given him. As I cleared away the dishes full of bones picked clean, my thoughts turned to Isobel. I had almost forgotten the silent plea she had made as Ichabod dragged me from her flat. Something very dear to us has been taken.
"Something very dear to both of us," I sighed, rubbing one china plate until it shone. I stopped in mid stroke.
Something very dear to us has been taken!
I realized with shock that Isobel had not been referring to our friendship. She had not been referring to Ichabod's intrusion to end our furtive meeting. She had been referring to something dear to her and Christopher. The twins had been robbed.
I dropped the plate into the soapy water, drying my hands hastily. I called for David until he appeared in the kitchen, visibly shaken.
"Katrina, what's wrong? You look as if you've seen a ghost."
"Perhaps I have," I muttered, still trying to catch my breath. How was I to resolve Ichabod's orders with a matter that so sorely needed tending? I had an idea. I fished a piece of paper from a drawer of the desk in the hall and scrawled a hasty inquiry:
What has been taken? It is imperative that you let me know. Will explain later, though I know not how. More apologies in regards to yesterday.
I folded the note and sealed it. Handing it to David, I said, "Listen closely. Take this to Raleigh Avenue and find a messenger who would be willing to carry this to McRaker's Alley. You know the Magellans' address; see that this messenger marks it as well as he marks the return address." I handed David a small pouch full of coins. "You will find it enough to pay off even the most reluctant of runners. Please, go in haste. I would rather forego a second trip out than be caught by Ichabod with such a correspondence in my hands. Do you still talk to Colin?"
"The boy who lives at the other end of Raleigh? Yes, why?" David replied.
"If for any reason one of Ichabod's coworkers should see you... I know well that Green covers Raleigh after one o'clock.... and should report seeing you, even offhand, to Ichabod... well, we'll have a good reason for you to be sending a message to someone."
David smiled fearfully but took the note willingly. "I'll be back soon," he reassured me. As he took off, I knew for certain whose side he had chosen: the marriage's. He was determined to do for Ichabod and I both whatever it took to save our relationship.
David returned safely enough, and I spent the rest of the afternoon flitting from chore to chore nervously while David resumed his studies. At about four o'clock, there was a knock at the door. I dropped the cloth I had been dusting with, rushing to the door. Finding myself trapped beneath Christopher Magellan's wary violet stare, I backed up a few steps, giving him all the space on our front walk that he cared to have. He handed me a slightly wrinkled piece of parchment that looked as if it had been used and bleached with correcting powder many times.
"Isobel talked me into delivering this," Christopher said expressionlessly. "Don't think I'm ignorant of what happened yesterday. Isobel and I never hide anything from each other, regardless of what conflicting views we might have."
"I would expect that," I said humbly, taking the paper from his outstretched hand. "I apologize if my husband frightened your sister. His anger was targeted at me, not at her. He visited your flat yesterday with benign intent, I am certain. It was pure mischance that he found me there. I am sorry to say so, but you should leave here as soon as you can," I finished, even though I knew full well that Ichabod would not return home for a few more hours.
"So do I," Christopher agreed. He turned on his heel before I could say goodbye. Isobel, too, was in the care of an overly protective man. The only difference was, she was in greater need of guardianship than I. I sat down in the rocking chair, unfolding the note slowly. It read:
Dear Katrina, My prayer is that Christopher did not read this, as I asked him to kindly to refrain from doing so. My guess is that you will know whether he did or not the instant he opens his mouth. Regardless, the answer to your question is the Sanskrit tablet. It went missing two days before you last glimpsed me in the marketplace prior to our meeting face to face. I kept it locked in a strongbox beneath the floorboards. I opened the locked box and found it missing. Katrina, I am so afraid. I know that your magic is the only key to such a dizzying paradox as this. I beg you, plead with your husband on my behalf.
My prayer is that Christopher did not read this, as I asked him to kindly to refrain from doing so. My guess is that you will know whether he did or not the instant he opens his mouth. Regardless, the answer to your question is the Sanskrit tablet. It went missing two days before you last glimpsed me in the marketplace prior to our meeting face to face. I kept it locked in a strongbox beneath the floorboards. I opened the locked box and found it missing. Katrina, I am so afraid. I know that your magic is the only key to such a dizzying paradox as this. I beg you, plead with your husband on my behalf.
Much apprehension and faith,
I slumped in the rocking chair, crumpling the note in my trembling hands. This could not be happening to me; it simply could not. Just when I had resolved to place even a whit more faith in my husband's pleas, a plea just as strong arrived to oppose me. I quickly built a small fire in the hearth and burned Isobel's note to ashes. The rising smoke burned its contents into my memory. I did not know what to do. No, that is a lie. I did know what to do. But I still lacked the courage to do it.
Dinner was almost ready when Ichabod arrived home. My heart skipped a beat at the sound of his approach. I steeled my hands as I transferred a pot of boiling water to drain in the sink.
"How was... How was your day?" I asked absurdly, not turning to look Ichabod in the eye even though I knew he was hovering hesitantly a few paces behind me.
"Nothing extraordinary. Routine duty," Ichabod replied briefly, tension ebbing and receding in his tone as if it could not decide whether to go or stay. "And yours?"
I lowered the pot carefully into the sink, turning to face him slowly. I met his uncertain gaze and forced a tiny smile to dance on the corners of my lips. "I rescued a runaway, for one," I said with faint amusement.
Ichabod arched an eyebrow. "Meaning?"
"David," I said more seriously, resolved to improve upon that which the boy had found lacking in me. "He had his bags packed this morning less than an hour after you left."
"Why?" Ichabod demanded with feeling, pulling out a chair to sit because his legs would no longer support him.
"Because he was convinced that you and I demand that he declare his loyalty. Rather than do so, he chose allegiance to himself."
Ichabod looked as if I'd slapped him again. I found the courage to trap one of his hands firmly against the table with my own.
"It is proof enough that we both have been fools, is it not?"
"Yes," he said through clenched teeth, for the first time struggling to fight off tears in my presence. I let go of his hand.
"Can you no longer weep in my sight?" I asked, hurt. "Am I that much of a stranger to you?"
"Not so much as I am now a stranger to myself!" he cried, burying his face in his arms against the tabletop. Without hesitation this time, I embraced him from behind- even if my touch was faintly reticent.
"Then I beg you, let me make your acquaintance, if that is not too much to ask," I said quietly, rubbing his back. Ichabod shook his head hopelessly. I sighed. I would have to tell another truth.
"There is something that Isobel told me yesterday that I think you should know. I think it might be significant."
Ichabod looked up suddenly. "Relevant to the case?" he asked, determination shining through his despair.
"I don't know. An artifact left to them by their father has been stolen. A Sanskrit tablet, possibly even more valuable than the sentimental price they place on it."
"How was the flat broken into? A smashed window? Was the door tampered with?"
"That is the problem, Ichabod," I said hesitantly. "No one broke in. The tablet disappeared from inside a locked box."
Ichabod muttered something that I took to be a curse and rose from the table. His finger lit against my cheek briefly as if to return the light consolation that I had bestowed upon him, but he turned away abruptly.
"This case makes less sense with each passing day," Ichabod sighed wearily. "I will be in the laboratory. When dinner is ready, let me know."
"I certainly will," I acquiesced, my heart sinking. I felt as if I deserved the faceful of steam that rose up from the sink to greet me. I was left alone once more. And for coming clean for once in my life. I, too, cursed, knowing that full admission would be my only saving grace.
The three of us ate (for the most part) civilly. David made no mention of his runaway episode to Ichabod, nor did Ichabod mention it to him. A few terse comments were made in the course of the meal, however, that led to some unwarranted snapping. As I had predicted, more food was thrown away than eaten. Ichabod had quickly retreated to the laboratory upon finishing. Strangely enough, David had followed. I wondered if the boy didn't have a small speech prepared for Ichabod, too.
For the second night in a row I dressed for bed in an empty room. I took a seat at the bay window and stared out across the rooftops for a long while. Indeed, it could have been a far worse day than it had turned out to be. At least Ichabod and I were speaking. As if to confirm this small wonder, Ichabod's voice broke my reverie. I had nearly fallen asleep with my arms dangling out the window.
"Katrina, come to sleep before you catch a chill," he scolded with undisguised concern, moving toward me gradually. I stood, yawning.
"If you promise you won't run away, then I shall," I said.
Ichabod took me in his arms reluctantly, as though he feared I might break. I tingled with hope through and through at the touch of his lips against my forehead.
"You have my word."
We retired quietly, exchanging few words. I knew that I had put a damper on Ichabod's chances of immediate forgiveness by mentioning the Magellans again. But I could not have avoided it. He had the right to know.
We tossed and turned in the dark, both of us sure that we did not want to sleep back to back again, yet each of us in our turn deciding to turn our back on the other. I was dimly aware, as I drifted off to sleep facing the window, that Ichabod's arm crept furtively around my waist and settled there for the night.
I would have given much to have restored Katrinas good opinion of me by returning that evening with the mystery solved, but none of my continuing inquiries bore fruit. To make matters worse, the High Constable told me in no uncertain terms to stop wasting time on a case that had already been solved. I explained the physical evidence that eliminated St. James as a suspect for the hundredth time, but of course I was ignored. If my own wife has no respect for my methods, why should anyone else?
The evening at home was awkward. All three of us were trying far too hard to be civil, and every other sentence included some ill-chosen word that made the latent quarrel burst out again. The bread had been cooked for about ten seconds too long, or at least she believed so, and she murmured an off-hand apology for it. That set me off.
"Really, Katrina, you make the most heartfelt apologies for burning bread or dropping onion rings, and then you risk your neck without a qualm," I snapped. A tense silence followed, and I finally tried to mend matters by mumbling, "The bread is fine." Nor was I the only one lashing out at unexpected moments. Thus went the entire meal.
I even had to endure a lecture from David afterwards in my laboratory. It took me half an hour to assure him that I had never intended to make him take sides. It was not easy, considering how frustrated I was with Katrinas folly which had caused my simple request to end up tearing the boy two ways. I did the best I could in my turmoil to reassure him, and to apologize. I ended by spending an hour discussing the chemistry book he was reading with him, and I think such blessedly rational concerns eased the friction between us. I even remembered to praise his quick grasp of the basic concepts. Katrina has prodded me many times to praise the boy, claiming that my approval is paramount to him, and his expression when I do suggests that she must be right, amazingly enough. But then, had someone avenged my mothers death, would my small world not have revolved around him?
And that night I would have given all to be able to forget everything in Katrinas embrace, but we could not even look at each other as we prepared for bed. Nor did we put our arms around each other when we lay down. Even as we lay, side by side but not touching, I found myself thinking how absurd this was. Both of us wished to reach out, I knew this perfectly well, but neither of us could. But when I heard her breathing grow even and I knew that she was asleep, I could bear it no longer; I turned and slowly encircled her waist with my arm.
But I had the same nightmare that night, about what could happen to her in McRakers Alley. I awoke crying out, as usual. Then I collapsed back onto my pillow, trying to breathe.
Without a word, she moved closer and put her arms around me. I did not resist; I could not have. After the constraint of the previous day and a half, her embrace was an almost painful relief. But it was not her usual warm, unreserved embrace. There have been no other women in my life; I had no basis of comparison by which to know just how precious her complete offering of herself had been, until it was withdrawn.
We lay motionless in each others arms until we fell asleep again. Neither of us had spoken a word.
Breakfast went much the same way as dinner the previous night, though with fewer flare-ups. When I was preparing to leave for duty, she whispered, "You are still angry with me, arent you?"
She looked so woebegone. If our disagreement had been anything else in the world, I should have surrendered at once. I sighed and put my arms around her gingerly. "Do you still intend to go to that place?" Her silence answered my question. "Then yes, I am still angry with you," I said, and kissed her forehead before departing into the rainy morning.
Did she not realize what she was doing to me? This was the second day that I was forced to try to function through this mingling of fear, anger and hurt. It was so painful that my normal jitters and squeamishness would have seemed a reprieve. I was certain that I could not endure this for long and live.
I was hardly prepared for the news that awaited me at the watch house. Constable Green was the one who made the announcement.
"I never dreamed I would say this, but you were right, Crane!"
I stopped and glanced around at my fellow constables warily. Such words are so uncharacteristic that I promptly expected a prank of some sort.
"We found Gabriel Ericksons real murderer," Green explained.
"Who is he?"
"Lunatic came in and confessed. We found the weapon in his house, right where he said itd be. Some kind of old-time mace, with spikes all over it."
"You mean to say it was not a gunshot wound?" I asked with mock astonishment.
"Aw, come off it, Crane."
"What is this suspects motivation?" I demanded.
Everyone guffawed. "His motivation is, hes a lunatic! Same as yours!"
I sighed. "Then you released August St. James?"
"Last night." Before I could frame another question, he added, "Witherspoon tells me you brought a beauty of a country coquette with you from the back of beyond."
The gnawing physical pain of fear for her promptly made its way back to the forefront of my consciousness. "Indeed I did."
"I dont believe it. What would a beautiful girl want with a faint-hearted lunatic?"
"A womans heart is a mystery," I retorted. Perhaps that was just it, after all: she had wanted a husband who would be easy to bully. I forced my mind back to my work. "Where is the new suspect?"
Green jerked a thumb in the direction of the cells, and my stomach began to churn. I hate going down there.
I moved toward the cells, trying to seem purposeful. I felt a slight touch at my side and whirled. Green was holding my pistol, which he had snatched from its holster. He dangled it from two fingers, grinning. Green is half a head taller than me, and considerably brawnier. I sighed and turned back to the cells impatiently. I was not going to be drawn into his game.
The new suspect was indeed deranged. He had a vacant grin and a wide-eyed stare that fixed on one most disturbingly. He gloated about the murders he had committed. The things he said almost had me contributing to the filth on the cell floor.
I emerged into the light and the cleaner air with relief. Green shoved my gun at me with an irritating smirk. I took it brusquely and asked after the lunatics address.
I shall not dwell on what I found in his one-room flat. It was in a neighborhood Katrina would not doubt have enjoyed as much as she did McRakers Alley. The flat held numerous weapons, none so exotic as the mace, but all horrifying, and many stained with dried blood. There were also other items I need not list, souvenirs of other murders. And so it seemed the case was closed. At least one problem could be taken off my list.
Before the day was over, I received a message from Joseph Hawke.
Constable Crane Kindly call on me at your earliest convenience. I have a matter of importance to discuss with you.
Colonel Joseph Hawke
Kindly call on me at your earliest convenience. I have a matter of importance to discuss with you.
Colonel Joseph Hawke
It was still raining drearily and steadily as I made my way to Hawkes before returning home. I was glad enough to put off facing another awkward evening of sitting on top of the powder keg at home. I half hoped that he was going to confirm my suspicions of Colonel Dorn. But then, perhaps my suspicions of Dorn had been unfounded. Perhaps he was merely gloating over the coincidental misfortune of two rivals.
"Constable!" This time Hawke rose as I entered, now that I knew the shameful secret of his height. The fact was, it merely increased my liking of him. I shook his hand respectfully.
"Colonel Hawke," I said, slightly emphasizing his new rank. "I was intrigued by your message."
"You were meant to be. Shall we?" He indicated the more comfortable chairs by the fireplace, and we left the desk and straight chairs where we had conducted our previous interview. We settled down with no desk between us. I am unused to camaraderie, and it was strangely comfortable.
A manservant appeared, and Hawke asked me what I wanted to drink. I knew he was offering me liquor, but I said, "I prefer tea, if you do not mind. Alcohol clouds the mind." I did not add that my stomach had very little tolerance for alcohol, or that I had been able to eat very little in the last couple of days.
"A mind like yours should be kept clear," he answered respectfully.
I was flattered. I have never doubted my own worth, but others ability to see it, yes. "You seem to have formed that opinion on very little information."
"I have seen enough. And that is why I am asking for your assistance on a very delicate matter."
I leaned forward. My spirits lifted at the prospect of a challenge I was capable of meeting. "I am at your service." But a yawn broke my last words. He laughed, and I apologized, "Do excuse me. I did not sleep well."
He glanced at my wedding band, still conspicuously new, then at me. His brows lifted almost imperceptibly. I felt myself flushing slightly, but he was so subtle and so respectfully amiable that his silent implication did not offend me.
I managed a faint smile. "Actually, we were quarreling." For a second, that gnawing mixture of excruciating emotions gripped me again. It was never far below the surface.
My face must have looked rather grave, because Hawke asked with gentle amusement, "Did you think that you would never quarrel?"
I forced myself to smile again. "I suppose not."
He leaned forward with a confidential air. "You didnt really believe that husbands are the head of any household, did you? Were under their pretty little thumbs, all of us. Our only leverage lies in trying to stop them from learning it." He chuckled. "Which means very carefully choosing the occasions on which you put your foot down."
I glanced at his ring finger, which was bare. He noticed. "Always detecting," he chided. "Im a widower. But Im about to put my neck in the noose once more."
He acknowledged this casually, and I could not help but remember my own stammering, pleased embarrassment during my brief engagement. I could hardly imagine Hawke feeling shy over anything.
"Cheer up, Constable. Every couple has their spats, and they always blow over." He grinned. "Just as soon as we admit that were wrong."
I had to make an effort to smile, but his words were encouraging, lending a little perspective to the volcanic eruption I had survived. Perhaps he was right, perhaps I was taking it all too much to heart and in a few days we would be back to normal. It was our first real quarrel, after all, so perhaps that made it seem worse than it truly was.
But the thought of McRakers Alley loomed dark and foreboding in my mind.
"I did something foolish," I confessed, suddenly glad to be able to talk to someone who had no stake in my troubles and thus could not be hurt or offended. "I brought up her childhood sweetheart."
He smiled wisely. "Ah. We never stop being jealous of their first infatuations, do we?"
"I suppose not."
"Anyhow, youre the one she married."
I looked out the window and nodded. I saw no need to explain that death had removed my chief rival from the contest.
He clapped me on the shoulder, just as the manservant returned with port for him and strong tea for me. "Dont fret, Crane. When she cools down, shell be flattered youre still jealous. Take it from a veteran, Constable: never let a woman think youre not jealous."
I nodded briefly and took a swallow of tea. It was still too hot to drink, but I needed the stimulation of it. I brought us back to the purpose of my visit as soon as the servant had departed.
"What is this delicate matter?"
He looked serious. It was clear from his long pause that he was going to tell me something very grave for him. "I suspect that two of my acquaintances are breaking the law."
"First I must explain. Aside from this one irregularity, they are good men, Crane. If they are guilty, I would prefer to confront them with the proof privately and give them the opportunity to mend their ways without losing their good names."
"In other words, you wish me not to arrest them."
He looked me in the eye. "Not unless they refuse to stop of their own accord, at least."
"Have you confronted them with your suspicions?"
"What if I am wrong? How could I insult their honor so? That is why I need proof."
I set my jaw. "Colonel Hawke, I will investigate and allow you your chance to persuade your friends to mend their ways. But if your persuasion is useless, I must follow the dictates of my conscience."
His eyes settled on me admiringly. "I would never expect anything else from a man like you, Crane."
"What do you suspect?"
He squared his shoulders. "I suspect that Colonel Dorn and Senator Trevayne are misappropriating government funds."
"Tell me what leads you to believe this."
We spent another hour discussing his suspicions. I left with a promise to look into it, on my own account, not as a constable.
The rain had slackened, but the streets were muddy. I considering hailing a cab, but my inner turmoil demanded movement, so I walked home. At first I considered Hawkes concern. His case appeared refreshingly straightforward, non-violent, unghostly. Being able to exercise my mind on such a case would be a relief.
But something else kept nudging the embezzlement case out of my head. Not just the turmoil over Katrinas caprice, either. It was something about the new solution to the Erickson case that had so unexpectedly presented itself.
I knew this feeling. Something nagged in the back of my mind. It meant that I had not fully comprehended the significance of one of the facts. But reviewing them all in my mind did not yield any answers. Generally the answers to such puzzles come unbidden, unexpectedly, not through constant brooding. With annoyance I put it out of my mind.
I arrived at Karrigan Square eager to dry off. I stopped only a couple of steps inside the door to pull off my boots so that I would not track mud all over the floor. I had scarcely begun to tug at the first boot when my eye fell on the prints I had already made.
There was something something about footprints .
I froze. Katrina came into the foyer to tentatively kiss me. I put an arm around her absently, my eyes focused intently on nothing. She peered at me inquiringly.
"My God ."
"What is it?"
I began to pace before I answered. "There was only one set of footprints!"
Distantly I noticed her wince as she glanced at the mess my boots were making, but like the patient wife she usually is, she said only, "What are you talking about?"
I kept pacing. "That lunatic is indubitably a murderer, but he did not murder Gabriel Erickson." I added absently, "Ill clean it up." Had it not been for her reluctance to say anything unpleasant in the aftermath of our quarrel, I am certain I should never have gotten away with muddying the floor that way.
"That is all right. What lunatic?"
"A lunatic confessed to the murder of Gabriel Erickson. August St. James was released. In the lunatics home, I found well, never mind. But while he must be guilty of several murders, he is not guilty of this one."
"Why do you think so?"
"He left no footprints."
"Unlike you," she teased. "Shall I subject you to onion torture to make you tell me what in heavens name you are talking about?"
Something in the back of my head noted that my focus on detection had eased the edginess between us. But most of me was concentrated on what I had discovered.
"When I arrived at the crime scene, the only footprints were St. James. He went into the room where Erickson was, got Ericksons blood on his shoes, walked down the hallway and out the door to summon a constable, and then walked back down the hall to show them where the body was. Those were the only bloody footprints in the hall when I arrived. There should have been some left by the murderer. None of us was able to leave that room without getting blood on our shoes ." I found myself shuddering at the memory.
"Then August St. James did commit the murder?"
"How often do I have to say it?" I was not truly speaking to her, but to my own thoughts. "He could not have. There was no blood on his clothes, no weapon, no motive." My voice dropped as I added to myself, "No interruption of the bloodstains." I started for the sitting room and my desk, but caught myself in time and pulled off my boots before they could do further damage. Striding to the desk, I called, "David! Where are you?"
He appeared, holding one of the scientific texts I had loaned him. "Yes, sir?"
"Go outside. Find a hackney to deliver a message."
"I could deliver it," he offered.
"No, this message is going to McRakers Alley. You are not going there when there are no reckless females to chaperone."
His eyes met Katrinas briefly before he left at a run as I pulled out a sheet of paper. Katrina came to stand beside the desk. "What is this about?"
"I am going to ask your friends the Magellans to perform another séance for me," I explained, beginning to write the letter. "In fact, that was why I went there the other day."
Her eyes widened incredulously. "You want another séance?"
"There is something very wrong with the séance they performed for the Ericksons. Katrina, there is no way I can think of that that murder could have been committed, yet it was, I saw the scene. Which means that, in all probability ." I grew cold and had to steel myself to continue. "That the assassin was not a man of flesh and blood."
She looked at me, faintly shocked, before putting a hand on my shoulder. "Shall we ask them if they can do it tonight?"
I looked up from the letter and raised an eyebrow. "We?"
Up went her chin. "Of course I am going with you."
"Absolutely not!" I declared. These words were exactly as effective as they usually are.
"You gave me permission to"
"Do not remind me of that!" I snapped. "I did indeed, but you know perfectly well why I did so. I certainly am not going to take you to that hellish place again."
"Ichabod, magic is my province. I cant let you meddle in it without me to look after you."
"You will not permit me to look after you," I said shortly as I wrote.
"Do you think they would perform another séance for you? After their previous encounters with you?"
I cursed silently. She was right, as always. Almost always.
"But because Isobel needs you, she will do it for you?" I inquired with asperity, turning. Katrina held my eyes silently. I brooded for a moment, then crumpled the letter I had started and stood up. "Sit down." I held the chair for her. When she picked up the pen, I instructed, "Ask your good friend Isobel Magellan if tomorrow night, she would be so good as to come here and perform a séance for us."
At those words she turned her head quickly to look at me.
"Tell her well pay for the cab. And I shall try to get back their Sanskrit tablet," I added.
With a slight smile, she nodded and wrote the letter with my request. A moment later, David came in with the news that he had found a messenger. We entrusted the note to the man. Then Katrina and I both set to cleaning my muddy footprints off the foyer hall, each of us refusing the others help and each refusing to leave it. In spite of the remaining contest between us, we were almost comfortable again.
Isobel's reply arrived later that evening, but this time, Christopher did not deliver it. The message arrived in the hands of the same runner through whom I had sent my own. Ichabod looked up expectantly as I claimed a seat beside him on the sofa. I unfolded the note and read:
Dear Katrina, I had not expected to hear from you again so soon. I must admit that the arrival of your request made my night! I am anxious to be of service to you, as I cannot shake the feeling that our causes are not so far from one and the same. Expect us at eight o'clock tomorrow evening. I confess that it was the offer of paid cab fare and your husband's assistance in the tablet matter that sealed Christopher's complicity, for he was quite adamantly against performing a séance outside our own domain (let alone one for you, I am ashamed to say!) Please forgive my brother's obstinance as willingly as I forgive your husband's.
I had not expected to hear from you again so soon. I must admit that the arrival of your request made my night! I am anxious to be of service to you, as I cannot shake the feeling that our causes are not so far from one and the same. Expect us at eight o'clock tomorrow evening. I confess that it was the offer of paid cab fare and your husband's assistance in the tablet matter that sealed Christopher's complicity, for he was quite adamantly against performing a séance outside our own domain (let alone one for you, I am ashamed to say!) Please forgive my brother's obstinance as willingly as I forgive your husband's.
Most hopeful regards,
I adroitly omitted the lines between "tomorrow evening" and "Most hopeful regards." I pursed my lips a little too quickly, folding the note in my lap with unsteady hands. I had not expected such a personal reply. But then again, I should have. Isobel had more than proved her sentimentality in the previous day's correspondence. Ichabod gave me a quizzically suspicious look.
"What does she mean by 'I had not expected to hear from you again so soon' ?" Ichabod asked tersely, his word-for-word recitation of Isobel's opening tightening the bolts on my conscience.
"Exactly that. I sent her a message yesterday," I confessed.
"You probably delivered it yourself," Ichabod replied with contempt.
"That is not true!" I shot back indignantly. "I did the same thing that you did this afternoon! I sent Joshua to Raleigh Avenue to fetch a courier."
"How can I be sure that you're not lying?"
I glared, knotting my fingers together in my lap for fear that I might slap him again. "How can I convince you that I am not?" I implored.
Ichabod heaved a remorseful sigh. "Very well," he muttered, still far from giving up his interrogation. "What matter was so pressing that you found it necessary to contact her?"
Ichabod's eyes narrowed. "I thought that matter had been established prior to my intrusion on your little tête-à-tête?"
"It had!" I blurted helplessly, not daring to imagine what Ichabod would think if he knew how Isobel had actually transmitted the piece of information to me. "And had not.... Oh, Ichabod, can you believe me? She was quite disturbed. How would you feel if you had been the victim of a thief for whom a lock is not an obstacle?"
Ichabod looked away. "Forget that I made an issue of it," he sighed, but continued in direct contradiction of himself. "Did she send a reply?"
"Yes. Before you arrived home yesterday."
"May I see it?"
I froze, feeling the color drain from my cheeks. "Yes," I said quietly, "if you do not mind getting soot all over your hands again."
Ichabod stared at the fireplace for a long time.
"Why does every piece of evidence that you get your hands on end up as ashes?" he demanded coldly.
"Because," I whispered, memories full to the brim with emptiness flooding my soul, "fire has been the only living thing to warm me when I am truly alone. It never reviled the spells that I scrawled into the remnants of its death. It consumed without contempt or protest every secret grief that I fed it." I added bitterly, "Ironic, that witches are most often put to death by that which they confide in most."
I gave Ichabod a searching look, but he only glanced down at his hands with tear-filled eyes. He would never know how much I longed to tell him until he could look the matter- the matter of me- in the face.
"The note is... not important," Ichabod murmured in a strained voice.
"Do I hurt you that much?" I asked plaintively.
"No," Ichabod said, pained. "But certain things about you do."
He embraced me briefly with great discomfiture, as if the wound in his shoulder had suddenly reopened. He did not say another word as he left the room, moving quickly up the stairs.
I was left alone to cry again, but my tears were not as convulsive as before. This grief was deeper, more sentient. We could not survive much longer like this. Another day? Perhaps. But another three, or four? I could not bear it that my husband would rather hide in his laboratory like a wounded animal than face the fact that I was finally ready to confess the full scope of my abilities.
In a roundabout way, I had offered to tell him. I had even bared my loneliness before his disbelieving eyes. And he had refused not only to listen, but to look.
"There are certain things about you that hurt me, too," I said to the vacant, ash-strewn fireplace.
What kind of a witch fails to rise as a phoenix from the ashes of her own defeat?
What kind of a wife, for that matter?
Alas, the interval of comparative ease between us was not to last. When we received the reply to our message, I discovered that she had been in communication with Isobel Magellan the day before, and I could not leave off cross-examining her. Naturally our tempers started to flare again, and before I knew it I had accused her of lying to me. She responded, not by continuing to try to smooth the quarrel over, but to expand it by dragging in other matters that had long annoyed her, such as my reluctance to hear about her blasted hocus-pocus. For the entirety of our marriage she had seemed quite content to skirt the topic, knowing of my dislike of such things. And now she suddenly claimed to have been deeply hurt by my simple avoidance of it, as if her charms and potions could compare in importance to her wanton endangerment of herself. I was not about to open a new quarrel. Especially I did not wish to risk finding that violent rage welling up in me again. There was nothing for it but retreat, to my laboratory that was seeming less of a haven and more of a prison each passing day.
While we had waited for the Magellans reply, I had begun a list of questions in my ledger to ask the spirit of Gabriel Erickson. In my laboratory I continued with the list for a few minutes before finding myself folding my arms on the table and lowering my head onto them. Tears trickled slowly from my eyes.
For the last six months, I had experienced more happiness every day with her than I had expected to have in my entire life. This bounty of Fate had only made me greedy for more. I could not endure to see the only true blessing of my life destroyed, even though she was determined to destroy it.
The fact was, no moment of my life was complete without her, or had been since the Pickety Witch had caught my face and my heart. As always, I had been keeping to the edges, trying to stay in the shadows. But she had broken through her charmed circle to come to me, to bestow her blessing upon me.
"Your pardon, Miss, I am only a stranger."
Had she sensed the loneliness in my soul through her blindfold? Was that what gained me that kiss on account? Or was it only her playful whimsy?
Forever after that, her presence had been the suns light and warmth for me. The peace of my mind was at an end, and my only study had been how to gain the affections of the peerless daughter of my host. I had listed suspects and analyzed clues while dreaming of her all-seeing eyes and gentle voice. Scarcely had I laid eyes on her before she had broken my heart, because it had been clear that she was bespoke already, to a man who seemed quite willing and able to break me in half if I so much as spoke to her.
Yet I had not been able to stop myself from hopelessly dreaming, and cherishing the moments of her time I was able to snatch. That night I found her reading The Knights of the Round Table was the night I knew that I was going to have to propose in time, however hopeless my suit. In her innocence, she had trusted that I would not take advantage of that unchaperoned meeting, nor had I. But had she known what I was thinking, seeing her in her nightdress and dressing gown I found myself imagining that she was my wife, that I had a right to see her thus . Having begun these imprudent musings, I soon had to exert all my willpower to refrain from crushing her in my arms and kissing her till we could not breathe.
Ironic that on our wedding night, when I actually had the right to do exactly that, I could scarcely bring myself to look at her. I was desperate to make her happy, and I had no idea how to do so. When she had entered the room, wearing that same blue brocade dressing gown, I had stared at the floor and begun to stammer something, I think an apology in advance for my own uncertainty. But she had come toward me without hesitation and stopped my words by placing her fingertips gently on my lips. At the touch, all my nervousness had evaporated and I had known exactly what to do, as if not I but some more powerful force was directing every move we each made. I had begun by kissing the fingers that were brushing my mouth, and even that small contact had been so intense that I could scarcely endure it. And that bliss did not end that night, but continued through many, many nights of white magic since.
I had to find a way to put us back to where we had been. But she was the one who held all the power in this struggle. I had ordered, reasoned and pleaded. I would have surrendered anything to mend this, but it was she who insisted on risking her life and my happiness.
The only way out I could think of was to find that Sanskrit tablet on which the Magellans put such a high value. Once they had it back, presumably the girl medium would no longer need my wife so urgently, and without such a strong tug to her heartstrings, I thought I could prevail upon her to act out of compassion for me instead of this stranger.
With a course of action set, I lifted my head and jotted a few quick notes on a new page of my ledger about how to proceed in the matter of the tablet. I noticed that it was late. I had a great deal to do the following day, and the sooner I found the tablet the sooner my present misery and that of my two charges would end. I felt calmer now that I had a plan. Perhaps I could sleep.
Katrina was already in bed, lying quietly, the room dark. I moved softly as I prepared for bed, not wishing to wake her if she were asleep. But suddenly a sound broke the silence, a shuddering breath quickly stifled.
All my obduracy instantly faded. I did not speak, but silently lay beside her and wrapped my arms around her. For a second she pulled against me, as if she were going to scorn my embrace, but then she burst into tears and buried her face in my shoulder.
I sighed, holding her, stroking her sunlit hair. There had been very few occasions on which I had been the consoler. Her hands clutched at me desperately, as if I were the one who might disappear.
After sobbing for quite a while, she caught her breath enough to say, "I thought you were going to sleep up there."
I decided to tell a half-truth that might comfort her. "Of course not. I was taking notes about how to find that Sanskrit tablet."
She lifted her head to look at me in the very faint light before burrowing in my shoulder again. "Thank you," she whispered.
I thought about asking if she would stay out of that hellish neighborhood once I had found it, but decided to wait until I had succeeded. Gratitude might make her more receptive to my request then.
She was still weeping, but more quietly now. I kissed her forehead sadly; I have not been able to kiss her mouth since finding her in the Magellans tenement.
"Katrina, everyone under this roof is miserable. Is your stubbornness so great? You could end all this with a word." At this she only cried harder.
"I wish I could!" she gasped a minute later. "But it would take so many words, too many, and you dont want to ." And she went back to wordless sobs, until she cried herself to sleep in my arms. I lay awake for a long time, with my wife lying in my arms and more distant from me than she had ever been.
Katrina seemed to think that the Magellans case was far more baffling than it truly was, but of course, this was my province as magic was hers. Lock-pickers are a dime a dozen in a place like McRakers Alley. Obviously someone had known of the twins strongbox and had crept in while they were out to pick the lock and make off with the artifact. The only thing that troubled me was that there had been no sign of forced entry, but further inquiries when I spoke with the Magellans should clear that up. It should be a simple enough matter to track down the fences who dealt in such curios, and a Sanskrit tablet was sufficiently rare that locating it should not be a difficulty. The following day at work I made a few inquiries about fences who might handle such artifacts. There were quite a few who were known to frequent McRakers Alley; one of the shadiest, I noticed with distaste, was a priest. I could not do much more before I had a chance to question the twins about the item.
My next task was to make discreet inquiries about Colonel Dorn and Senator Trevayne. Trevayne, certainly, seemed to be living a bit beyond his means, and was known to love ostentation. I looked into his political record and found that his votes in the Congress seemed to have little consistency with each other, though he had ardently supported the brief fad for sumptuary laws a few years ago. His shifting policies made me wonder what he gained by them. He might be guilty of accepting bribes as well as embezzlement.
At the watch house at the end of the day, I was summoned for another lecture from the High Constable about wasting time gathering evidence. I was fool enough to leave my ledger in the outer room while I answered the summons. He and I argued for an hour, following the familiar routes we had already covered many times before, he unable to make me give in, I unable to make him acknowledge the falsehoods behind his outdated notions. When he grew bored with this oft-replayed debate, he dismissed me. I emerged to see my ledger gone from the table where I had left it.
I groaned inwardly. "Wheres Green?" I asked of the room in general. When my things make temporary absences, usually Green is responsible.
Everyone snickered. "Gone home for some very dull reading."
"What, he can read?" I retorted acidly as I hurried for the door. Witherspoon stopped me with a hand clamped on my shoulder.
"Dont bother, Crane. Hes long gone. Youll just have to get along without it tonight."
I cursed briefly, violently. This was not the first time Green had amused himself by "borrowing" my possessions, and he invariably tossed them back to me the following day, generally in good condition. The ledger had nothing of a personal nature in it Katrinas peek at my ledger in Sleepy Hollow had cured me of that habit so I feared no embarrassment. And I could most likely remember all the questions I had for the Magellans and for Gabriel Erickson. It was simply mortification that I could not even stop my fellows from stealing my possessions that made me spit such words.
Witherspoon made a face of mock reproach. "Now, Crane! What would your pretty little golden-haired lass think if she heard you?"
"She would probably turn you all into toads," I retorted, and left without another word. I would have time to write out my questions again before the Magellans arrived at Karrigan Square.
I was awakened by a headache so fierce that it was agony to simply move my head from side to side. I gasped as the morning sunlight plunged needle-like into my squinting eyes, cried out as corresponding streaks of pain shot through my temples. I extended a lethargic arm in either direction. I was alone. Ichabod had risen long ago, leaving me to sleep in. I groped for the other pillow, pulling it over my throbbing head. The scent of Ichabod's hair lingered upon it, mocking me with each breath I took in the suffocating whiteness.
I had never been so miserable in my life.
At length, the pillow grew stuffy, and the pain in my head was no less. I shoved the pillow away with all the strength of an invalid, wincing as I opened my eyes for the second time. My brief attempt to sit up was awarded by a sick wave of dread that forced me to lie back down. I moaned into my own pillow. The madness of our quarrel had reduced me to physical illness. Feeling irrationally childish, I snatched Ichabod's spare alarm bell off the bedside table and rang it until the sound fused with the vacuous ache in my head. David's pale, worried face appeared in the sliver of hallway that I could see through the cracked door, as I had hoped it would.
"Are you all right?" he asked hesitantly.
"No," I whimpered, dropping the bell back onto the table with slack fingers. "I don't think I can get up."
"You're sick, then?" David asked, his voice fret with concern.
"I think so."
David hung in the hall a few moments more before timidly crossing the threshold. He had entered this room only on brief, perfunctory errands such as fetching Ichabod's ledger. It was a strange, hallowed territory to him, a sort of inner sanctum. I could not have been more pleased with his obedience had he been my son by birth. But all that I wanted was human contact- any human contact. I beckoned him to my bedside, grateful that I was wearing not only a modest nightgown, but also a robe. I had unaccountably caught a chill the night before. My guess is that it was from anticipating on Ichabod not coming to bed. Thankfully, he had.
"Can I get you something?" David said with anxiety.
When I looked at him, finally, standing there with sad dark eyes focused fearfully upon me, his hands folded pitifully in front of him, I realized how foolish I was being. Regardless of how terrible I felt, it was no excuse to frighten a child out of his wits. I sat up groggily, feeling the pain rush from my head to my limbs. My blood was molten lead.
"Just... Just put a kettle on to boil," I said. "If I woke you, I'm-"
"Oh, no," David reassured me quickly, and with embarrassment I realized that he was dressed. "I've been awake since Ichabod left. We had breakfast together."
"What time was that?"
"About a quarter 'til eight, I think."
I glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner. Eleven!
I struggled to free myself from the bedclothes. "Forgive me," I mumbled, "I should have been up hours ago."
David's reflexes proved to be quick. He caught me as I stumbled out of bed.
"Is it your stomach?"
"No," I laughed derisively, "my head."
David looked at me in renewed concern. "That means you probably cried yourself to sleep," he blurted before he could stop himself. Clapping a hand over his mouth, he muttered, "Nothing. Katrina, I'm-"
"Why are you sorry? You have no need to be. You're absolutely right," I replied candidly, marveling at his astute judgment. I sat down on the bed at his bidding.
"You're still fighting, aren't you?" David asked, crestfallen. "I saw that Ichabod didn't stay in the laboratory again last night. I thought maybe that was a good sign."
"Good and not so good," I sighed, shutting my eyes against that passing of a shadow that never once fails to brighten the sun in its wake. "Lord, but it hurts!"
"Your head or Ichabod?"
"Both. But I meant my head."
David's eyes brightened. "I could get you some laudanum! Ichabod has some in the attic." David's face fell as quickly as his eyes had been illuminated. "But it's locked."
I laughed- honestly laughed- for the first time in days. "Thank you, but painkiller or no, more sleep is the last thing that I need right now."
"Do you want the water for tea?"
"Yes. A special kind of tea. One that will make my head stop hurting without dulling my wits."
"You need a miracle," David said glumly, and I knew that he was no longer talking about my headache.
"What I need is a husband who will listen to me. Come on. Help me down the stairs, put the water on, and I'll show you how to make a miracle."
As we descended the stairs, something my mother used to say came to mind: "If the head says no, then the limbs will likely follow. The trick is, katjie, to make them say yes. Four to one is a strong vote." Katjie, my mother used to call me in her lilting Dutch. Kitten. Such an odd nickname for the willful child that I was!
David was enchanted by the simple brew that I taught him. He asked me the name and use of each herb that I added to the water before I had the chance to tell him.
"Do you know what I can't stand more than anything else?" David mused thoughtfully.
"What?" I asked, intrigued. I stirred the herbs in my teacup patiently.
"Seeing people sick or in pain."
David smiled intently as he spoke. In that instant, the depths of his gaze yielded up a shadow of things yet to come. The combining of anatomy, chemistry, the healer's art, and classical language.... I marveled at this revelation that had come to pass with no particular charm or wonder. Fleetingly, I wished that my own magic were so guilelessly uncomplicated. I had reached the point of wishing for anything that would make it easier for Ichabod to love me.
After I had finished my tea and seen to it that David was thoroughly immersed in an arithmetic lesson, I drew half a tub full of water and boiled a few pots more to add to it. The warm bath calmed my nerves and melted away a great deal of my discomfort. I knew that I would be in need of a clear mind and steady tongue that evening. Though I had no idea how I was to go about it, my goal was to make amends with Ichabod as peaceably as possible.
It was for that very reason that I refrained from reading his thoughts as I went about the most mundane of tasks: dressing, preparing lunch, touching up the spots of mud in the hall that Ichabod and I had missed in our blundering haste. By three o'clock, it had turned into such a fair afternoon that David and I could not resist a game of hoops on the back lawn. I had saved my childhood set not only for the nostalgia, but also for the enjoyment. David had not had much experience, but in our five and a half months of living on Karrigan Square, he had become a master handler of both the sticks and spinning rings juggled perilously thereon.
Afterward, the two of us strolled Raleigh Avenue in search of dinner. We found it in the same small specialty butcher's that carried David's beloved rabbit. Like the boy, Ichabod had a particular liking for certain small wild game. I planned to make the one thing that I knew he would have no trouble eating: quail baked in apricot preserves. Whence he acquired such an unusual taste, I have never asked, but the fact that there were tears in his eyes when I prepared it correctly on the first try told me that it had something to do with his mother.
I was stirring a pan full of buttered string beans when I heard the front door open. Even though my heart leapt into my throat, I composed myself sufficiently enough to hand over the task to David, who had been most vigilant in keeping me company. All day, I had perceived his subtle fear that I might relapse.
I put on a smile that was tense at best as I stepped into the living room. Ichabod was concentrating on the floor as he removed his boots. Even though we had not made eye contact, I sensed a distance about him that rendered me immediately aloof.
"Have you no mud to track today?" I teased as lightheartedly as I could.
Ichabod glanced up at the sound of my voice, comically forcing his face into the same expression that I wore. I stifled a nervous giggle.
"No, but I can see that you're pleasantly disappointed that I do not. Do you enjoy cleaning up after me that much?" he asked with bemused weariness.
"As much as I enjoy cooking for you," I replied hopefully, disheartened by the fact that he had not shown any sign of noticing the aroma that had followed me from the kitchen.
Ichabod chanced to breathe deeply as he stepped forward to plant a hesitant kiss on my cheek that never made it there. His eyes widened.
"You shouldnt have," he said, humbled.
"Why not? You deserve it. I can tell youre exhausted."
"It has been a long day," Ichabod sighed, settling for a kiss on top of my head. "You have no idea."
You would be surprised, I thought wryly, following him as he made a beeline for the kitchen.
Ichabod ate less heartily than I had expected he would. It shattered my nerves all over again to know that I had let him spin yet another duty out of my control. David was genuinely relieved to see Ichabod, for I could tell that he still expected me to keel over at any moment.
A soft turning of pages lured me away from washing the dishes. I found Ichabod sitting on the sofa with his brow knit in unconcealed discontent. He flipped through the pages of his flimsy backup notebook, pausing now and then to scrawl a line or two in his bewitching script.
"Is something wrong?" I asked.
Ichabods eyes flew up quickly, furious that he had allowed himself another moment of weakness under our present circumstances. I had caught him completely off guard.
"Im trying to remember the questions that I wish to ask Erickson and the Magellans," he muttered. "I left my ledger at work."
Ichabod glanced down evasively, intent upon his notes once more. I noted with suspicion that his discomfiture had increased. I could stand it no longer. I loosed the burning and twisting mind probe that I had restrained all day upon him. If he was lying, then I was going to find out.
Ichabods thoughts were fretfully erratic. The event manifested itself plain as day. I knew a moment of shocked remorse as Green snatched Ichabods ledger behind his back. My pity swelled into rage. Ichabods dolt of a colleague had dared to make a fool of him in front of his wife. Well. It was time to make a fool of Green in front of his.
As I closed my eyes, the entire living room dissolved around me. I soared and spiraled through a dozen errant streams of consciousness. Ichabod to Witherspoon; Witherspoon to Green; Green to Greens home
I found the ledger sitting on a coffee table on the other side of town. I grasped it, flickered, and returned, bringing the object slowly into focus on the armchair in my own living room. I opened my eyes.
"Left it at work?" I asked with mild, feigned confusion. "You must have forgotten it when you left this morning. Isnt that it sitting on the armchair?"
I did not bother to look. "No, Katrina, I left it at the watchhouse." I was not about to admit to her that my fellow constables had as little respect for me as she did I stopped that thought. Enough sulking for one day, I told myself sternly. She has been trying, even if she will not do the only thing you are asking of her .
"Look," she prompted. I glanced at her. She was smiling calmly, but there was something in her eyes, a tiny glint . Out of mere courtesy, I glanced over, and then looked back.
It was my ledger.
But of course, it could not be. I got up, went to the armchair, and examined it.
The ledger had the little scuff mark at the bottom corner that it acquired when I dropped it a few months ago. Slowly, I picked it up and opened it. It fell open to the page of questions I meant to ask the spirit of Gabriel Erickson. I turned a few pages. They were covered with my own familiar handwriting and sketches.
I kept staring at it. No matter how long I looked at it, it was still my ledger.
My hands were cold, and though I think my voice was even, my lips felt numb and stiff.
"Katrina, I did not leave this at home today."
Her shoulders sagged. She looked suddenly weary. "You must have," she murmured, looking away.
"How did it get here?"
"How would I know? It is your ledger."
"I could not have left it home, because I had it at work today." I opened it to the newest page that had writing on it, covered with notes about Colonel Dorn and Senator Trevayne. "I took these notes today."
She answered sharply, but did not look at me. "Ichabod, if you want to quarrel again, just say so."
No matter how many times my brain feverishly added up the facts, they still reached the same impossible conclusion.
"Katrina, look at me."
Her eyes flitted nervously about the room, everywhere but at me. With the suspicion that was dawning, it would have been a relief to see her glare straight at me.
"Look at me!"
Nervously, slowly, she obeyed. I looked into her eyes. The bottom dropped out of my stomach and my world.
Why did I never see it before?
I did not say the words, they moved out of my mouth of their own accord. "Katrina, Constable Green has my ledger."
She looked wary at the unnatural sound of my voice. "You must be mistaken"
"Are you trying to drive me mad? Green stole my ledger! It cant be here!"
Alarm widened her eyes. I stared at her as if I had never seen her before and I hadnt. I had fallen in love with a pretty girl with a playful nature and a kind heart. And now I was sharing a house, and a life, and a bed, with .
"You did it, didnt you?" I whispered. "You conjured it!" Her eyes dropped, just for one second. It was all the confirmation that I needed. I went cold all over. My ledger fell from my fingers that could no longer hold them and landed with a thud.
She took a step toward me, extending her hand, palm upward. On shaking legs I stepped back, away from her. Had I struck her, I think she would have looked so.
My voice sounded as if it were very distant, but she heard it.
She turned very white. Her rich, warm brown eyes swam with tears. She lifted her chin as if she were facing a firing squad.
It was the last thing I saw before I fainted.
I did not step forward to catch him. I did not even watch him fall.
Sickened, I turned away. My hands were trembling so badly that I could barely lift them to brush away the deluge of tears forcing its way beneath my closed eyelids. I took a shuddering breath and knit my fingers together so tightly that my knuckles cracked.
"David! David, come here at once!"
But when I looked up, I saw that there had been no need to call him. He stood on the threshold between the dining room and living room with a dishtowel in his hand. It slithered as though alive from his disbelieving grasp.
"What did you do?" he whispered fearfully.
"Something that I should not have!" I cried. "How much did you see?"
"I heard him call you a witch. I heard him hit the floor," David replied, eyeing me with uncertainty. He, too, had the look of one whose entire world had come crashing down.
I buried my face in my hands, tears giving way to wild, uncontrollable sobs. It was not supposed to end this way. Nothing was supposed to end this way. Every blessed moment that I had ever known slid away with my husband's consciousness. If this was kindness' treatment of the wizard adept, then I wanted no part of it. I could no longer think; I could only feel. I blindly started for the door.
"No you don't!" David demanded, catching me by the hem of my gown. I tried to get away, but he held me fast with amazing tenacity. I heard the gauzy blue overskirt of my gown rip. I turned to face him with blazing eyes. But I was frightened. I had never heard such fury in a child's voice.
"You're going to help me get Ichabod onto the sofa," David ordered, breathing in fierce, determined gasps. "Get his arms."
I bowed my head, new cries of grief welling up violently from my suddenly aching lungs. "I don't deserve the two of you!" I sobbed.
"You're wrong there," David said, his voice reaching its normal level again, but maintaining its intensity. "We deserve each other. Look at what we've been through together. Katrina, you love him! He's your husband, for God's sake!" David pleaded, all at once the frightened young man whose tear-stained face I had sheltered in the crook of my neck against the sight of his father's severed head. "You can't leave us. I'll no sooner let you leave than you would let me leave!"
I knew then for a certainty how blessed we were to have David. Contrite and still choking, I wiped my eyes on my sleeve. "If it were not for you, David," I said, "there would be little sense and reason in this household indeed!"
The two of us lifted Ichabod carefully onto the couch. As numb as I was, the healer in me emerged without hesitation. I unbuttoned my husband's vest and checked his pulse.
"Get me some water," was all that I said. David obeyed.
I tossed the glass of cold water in Ichabod's face, heedless of the mess it made on his fine shirt and our even finer sofa. I was too shocked and angry to care.
His eyes flew open and fixed on me dazedly. With a convulsive, furious cry he sat up and huddled as far into the corner of the sofa as he could.
"Don't you dare touch me! Witch!" he cried. I had never heard such raw terror in a human voice. Still, I was so hurt by his irrational aversion that a retort was my only choice for a reply.
"What did you think I was? A mermaid?" I cried, flinging the last of the water into his eyes.
"A healer, but certainly not a sorceress!" he spat. I was appalled. Not even his first brush with the horseman had rendered him so hysterical. "Stay back! If I had a crucifix, I'd-"
"Have no sure protection," I replied coldly. "I even wear one from time to time. It hasn't disintegrated me yet."
"You had better have it exorcised, then, for no doubt it's as possessed as you are- I SAID, KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF ME!"
No sooner had I raised my hand to slap him than he had wrestled my arm away, forcing me to the floor. I knelt clutching my twisted arm, staring up at him with pained disgust.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner? You seemed to like it well enough on our wedding night!"
"Enough! Katrina, I don't bloody know what you are!"
"It seems the British blood hasn't left you any more than the accent has," I remarked sourly.
"Must you bring up my father at a time like this? Curse you both!"
"Watch your mouth," I cautioned him tartly. "There's a gentleman present."
Ichabod's eyes darted crazily in David's direction. The boy was cowering behind the armchair. He darted out of his hiding place and snatched the glass from where it had dropped when Ichabod threw me.
"I'll take this to the kitchen," he mumbled, disappearing swiftly.
"Look what you've done. Just look what you've done," Ichabod cried, tears streaming from his glazed eyes. I choked a sound that was half-laugh and half-sob. He was losing his mind. I stood unsteadily, instinctively reaching to feel his forehead. Ichabod slapped my hand so hard that it stung.
"I don't want you!" he cried disconsolately, sounding more like a terrified child than ever. My broken heart was ground to dust. Just then, an ominous dong sounded in the dining room. I rushed to the clock, staring at it in horror.
I had forgotten that the Magellans were coming. It was a quarter 'til eight.
I rushed back into the living room, returning Ichabod's depraved, quaking stare. "I have fifteen minutes," I said tautly, "to restore your sanity and clean up this mess. Do you remember what's scheduled to take place at eight?"
Ichabod uttered the nearest thing to a scream that I had ever heard pass his lips. "I'd sooner die than let a ghost in through the front door!"
"What a pity. It was your idea, too."
"Well, I don't want it, then!"
"You can't disown an idea, Sir Rational."
"Because of you, I am anything but!"
I'd settle for that. It was proof enough that at least a shred of his mental capacity remained. I smiled, but it faded as my face blanched at the sound of the doorbell.
"Good God! They're early!" I hissed, scooping the dishcloth up off the floor, darting first in the direction of the door and then away from it.
"Hide me!" Ichabod cried shrilly.
I rounded on him vengefully. "Hide you? Oh, no, I won't! You're going to stay right where you are. You're going to stay huddled up in that couch corner for as long as it takes me to explain this fiasco to the Magellans and see them out the door. It was your idea, after all."
Ichabod just whimpered, snatching up his vest and hiding behind it. I answered the door, dishtowel still in hand.
Christopher and Isobel stood side by side, wearing the same anxious expression. It was the first time that I had ever seen Christopher look remotely frightened. Isobel's eyes were full of shocked pity as she studied my torn gown and grief-reddened eyes.
"Have we come at a bad time, Katrina?" she whispered tremulously.
"No," I said firmly, smiling at them. "Please come in."
They entered reluctantly, their eyes invariably landing on Ichabod first. Christopher stared at my cowering husband. I could not identify the motive behind his faintly bewildered expression.
"I knew you were foppish, but I wouldn't have pinned you for a sissy," he said bluntly to Ichabod. There was an odd mix of pity and amusement in his voice. Ichabod did his best to look outraged, but the instant he opened his mouth to speak, only a hyperventilative rush of breath issued forth. His eyes rolled, and he was gone once again.
"Christopher!" Isobel shouted at her brother. "That was uncalled for."
"About as uncalled for as asking us here to perform a séance," he replied vindictively, looking me straight in the eye. I was humiliated not only for Ichabod, but also for myself.
Isobel shifted the velvet bundle in her arms. "Katrina, we'll leave if you prefer," she said gently, placing a hand on my arm. I nodded mutely.
"Yes.... I think that would be the best thing," I said hollowly, losing my composure at last and collapsing on her shoulder. "It wasn't supposed to happen this way," I sobbed quietly.
I felt a small, hesitant hand rise to stroke my hair. "Nothing is," Isobel reassured me patiently. I looked up, and she was smiling sadly. Her eyes had fallen on the marble eye pendant that had somehow escaped its usual hiding place in my bodice. She leaned close to my ear and whispered, "Send word again tomorrow, my sister. I will return to help you even if my brother will not."
I began to cry even harder. She, too, was willing to risk her good standing with the one man in her life to assist a newfound friend.
When at last I had composed myself enough to formally apologize and say goodbye, I found that Christopher's eyes were focused on me impatiently, if not a little penitently. Isobel was glaring at him.
"I had forgotten," I said softly, fetching a small pouch off the mantelpiece. "This should cover both the cab and your trouble."
"Thank you," Christopher said awkwardly. He was breaking down beneath Isobel's insistent, scornful gaze. He took my hand stiffly and kissed it. "I'm sorry," he mumbled.
"And I also."
I watched them go with a heavy heart. Gabriel Erickson would once more be denied the chance to speak. I closed the door and turned to find David hovering over Ichabod.
"I'll help you carry him upstairs," the boy said respectfully.
"Thank you, David."
My feet, too, were leaden as David and I struggled up the stairs with Ichabod. It seemed an eternity had passed when we finally laid him out on the bed. I embraced David. We held each other for a long time.
"Go get some sleep," I told him, teary-eyed. "I'll still be here in the morning."
"I know you will," he cried softly.
I watched him go with the same despair I had felt upon the Magellans' departure. I was alone once more. And I realized that being alone was what I feared more than anything in the world.
I cried quietly as I stripped Ichabod and dressed him for bed. I dressed myself and lay down beside him, not darkening the room for fear that he would wake in a condition that I knew all too well. I held him with fierce determination, not caring that he could injure me quite seriously if he woke and discovered in whose spell-weaving arms he slept. He would wake in my arms whether he liked it or not.
And I would hold on until the end of our shattered world if necessary.
I stood in darkness, peering into a brightly lit window. From the safety of the darkness, I watched her.
She knelt before the hearth, holding a nosegay of wildflowers in one hand and a twig in the other. A secretive smile played about her lips. She tossed the flowers onto the flames, and smoke rose and twined about her, lifting her golden hair until it floated like a cloud. I put on my magnifying spectacles and tried to study the trails of smoke, but they told me nothing. She began to trail her twig in the ashes, and as she made her weird symbols, my ledger rose phoenix-like from the flames. It floated into her hand, and she tossed it carelessly aside. It landed with a thud that shook the floor. At the impact, the scene dissolved and another took shape.
We were outside. I was in the shadow of some trees, again watching her from that distance, that safety, while she was in the light. Not firelight this time, sunlight, turning her hair radiant like a halo. She was at the center of a perfect circle of red toadstools, a perfect fairy ring. She lifted her face to the sun, closing her eyes, absorbing the benediction of its warmth. Slowly, she raised her arms, and with her eyes still closed, she began to dance.
In a leisurely circle she twirled, as if to music that only she could hear. She was hearing something that I could not, the music of the spheres, perhaps, or the whispers of spirits.
I saw my mother do this. So I was not in the slightest surprised when she rose above the ground, still spinning, still with that mysterious smile, her flaxen hair becoming one with the rays of the sun.
A half a dozen cardinals flitted to her and circled her, as if at her bidding. They flew around her outstretched arms and lit on her fingers for a second before flying on, joining her dance.
A cardinal came to rest on her hand. It perched there for a moment before she extended her hand down to me. She did not look at me as she sent the scarlet messenger in my direction. It flew toward me at once, obeying her will.
Hesitantly, I stretched out my hand. It perched there, trustingly. I smiled and drew it close, the shade enfolding it as it did me. It sang for me for a moment. And then it transformed into an owl, and rent my flesh with its claws before I was able to shake it away. My palms were bloody. I glanced up at the tree, where the owl now perched, watching me with wise eyes.
The scene dissolved once more and we were inside again, and she was standing blindfolded on a huge pentagram of pink chalk, spinning with her arms outstretched. She was twirling in the circle, while others gathered round her, hovering about her like moths about a flame.
Pick me, they each asked wordlessly. Choose me. Bring me into your realm.
I was outside the circle, skirting it, trying to stay out of the light, out of the way. It was warm inside the circle, and beautiful, and the runes on the floor promised adventure and unnamed rewards, but I am acquainted with cold and darkness. I know how they are. In the light are many vibrant hues, a bewildering profusion of them, far too many to make sense of. So I stayed away, outside the charmed circle, in the outer darkness where I am cold and alone but I know what is what.
I was resolved to stay outside of it. But drawn by some arcane impulse, she moved in my direction, breaking the circle of those who wished to feed off her light to grasp me. She took my hands and backed into the circle, onto the pentagram. I tried to resist, but I might as well have resisted gravity, for I was borne into the circle. And it was just as blissful, as joyful there as I had expected. And just as frightening. I could not keep my feet on the ground. My head spun.
She kissed my cheek and removed her blindfold, and I fell into her eyes and drowned. Eyes like my mothers. That power lurked in both of their eyes. I can never find the words for it, but a careful look will reveal it there. She was serene, preternaturally so. I was afraid of being in this circle, as I was afraid of so many things. She had no fear in her. But no, there was a fear, though I could not fathom what it was.
She held my hands and led me into her timeless dance, guiding me, showing me what to do. If only I did as she wished, followed her lead, all would be well. But the panic rose just the same, for this was not my province.
As we moved together, things appeared and disappeared: spellbooks, ledgers, cardinals, tablets with peculiar writing, mandrake roots, all materialized around us, suspended in midair, and then evaporated dreamily. A fire rose up, and we moved right through it without being harmed, though I knew that if I let go of her hands I would be burned. Strange apparitions, too, flew at us, ghosts and demons, but she was unafraid and drew me on. Drew me on towards more uncanny things that she could face and I could not. For this was her province.
I pulled at her hands, trying to escape her grasp. All at once she was no longer the mysterious woman with the serene smile; she was a frightened young girl who was clinging to my hands with pleading eyes. She wanted me to stay in the circle with her, I had been chosen, but I could not. It was too frightening.
With a desperate wrench, I broke away and fled, her anguished cry following me. I ran into the darkness, and was brought up short by a sudden pool of cold white light. In that white light all I could see at first was warm, mysterious dark brown eyes. I stopped. Had the Pickety Witch caught me again?
But no, this womans hair was not golden, but as dark as her eyes. I stopped, held by the command in her eyes, the message. And then he was there, clutching her, dragging her away from me. I made a grab for her hand, but could not reach it. I started to run after them, to stop him from taking her there.
He turned and looked at me and I was paralyzed. There is only one feature that he and I had in common: our opaque black eyes. Our eyes locked, and for one moment I understood him completely.
He turned his back on me and dragged her on. I tried to follow, but they were moving away from me so swiftly.
And then I heard her voice.
I am not the one you are to rescue.
I stopped striving to follow and listened, and then I turned around and tore back in the direction from whence I had come. It was dark and I did not know the way, but somehow, I would find her again.
And I opened my eyes, and I had.
The false dawn was just passing into the utter blackness that precedes the sunrise. Before the dim light faded completely, I looked at her.
For once I had awakened without starting or crying out, and so she was still asleep, the sleep of exhaustion. I could make out the traces of tears on her face. Her arms were still grasping me, even in sleep. I suspected that not even death would have loosened their hold.
This was not the poised woman who had befuddled me since the moment we had met. Nor was it the stranger with the uncanny abilities I never would have credited. I had not known this vulnerable little girl existed, not even when I had been frantic for my wifes safety, not even when she had been pleading for my forbearance. Every so often I had glimpsed her, but so briefly that I had not credited her.
I did not move; I scarcely dared to breathe for fear I would wake her. I could not face her now. I felt exhausted, as though I had journeyed a thousand miles.
"Perhaps there is a bit of a witch in you, Katrina."
Why had I not heeded the unease on her face when I said that?
I had known she was a witch, of course. But I had been thinking in terms of intuitions and potions and perhaps the ability to charm the birds out of the trees, not the harrowing ability she had exhibited the day before.
I lay as still as I could until she awakened shortly after dawn. She started a bit and looked at me. I could not look directly at her, but I could see that her eyes were guarded. She was prepared to be hurt, but she did not try to avoid me. Imagine, she looked at me as if she were the one who had cause to be afraid.
After a time, I asked, "Why are you here? With me?" I dimly remembered waking briefly after fainting the previous night and telling her to stay away from me. It seemed the Magellans had been there too, though the memory was hazy. I had a vague impression of that pup Christopher taunting me.
Her voice was that of someone with no more strength left, only the determination of one damned. "Because I am your wife."
Slowly, trying not to give offense, I disengaged myself from her arms and began to sit up. I had to get up, clear my head, get away from her spell for a bit.
"Where are you going?" she asked at once.
"To get some breakfast."
She sat up and threw the covers back. "Ill cook it."
"It is not necessary, I can get it."
Her chin lifted, even in her state, which was clearly almost as exhausted as mine. "I am your wife and I am going to cook your breakfast," she declared, like an obstinate child. I ceased arguing. We dressed on opposite sides of our bed, not speaking or looking at each other. Both of us moved slowly, as if underwater.
I sat in the kitchen and watched her cook as I often had, but this time we did not talk. She averted her gaze from me, but I watched her steadily, trying to comprehend her. I could not. I had always loved her playfulness, her serenity. Now I saw something I had not been privy to very many times: that she could be hurt.
With all her power, what could possibly hurt her?
And whichever side of Katrina I saw, one thing was constant: she was still lovely. Beauty like hers can stop the heart. Even now, with her eyes puffy and her expression glum, she was lovely.
David entered the kitchen when she was in the middle of cooking. He glanced at both of us quickly, and his eyes settled into alertness, waiting to see which way the wind would blow. I suppose it was clear enough even to a child that matters were at stalemate. The three of us ate in silence. To my own surprise, I had an appetite. My stomach was rebellious, but I needed food. For the first time in days, I cleaned my plate.
When the meal was over, I still felt the need to get away, into air where I could think clearly. I stood and spoke hesitantly. "Im going ."
"To hide from me," she finished, not looking at me. "But when you descend from your ivory tower, I will be here to cook your dinner, or whatever else you wish."
I could think of no response, so I turned to David. "Go to the watchhouse and tell the High Constable Im ill. I wont be on duty today or tomorrow."
He left at a run. I silently climbed the stairs to my laboratory. Once the door was closed behind me, I looked around at my scientific texts, my jars of chemicals, my instruments all my trappings of sense and reason. All the aids to clear thought I had gathered over the years. My eyes ran over them, and I waited for them to clear my thoughts so that my rational mind could grapple with the things I had learned.
Perhaps I had hoped that in this room, logic would tell me that what I had been thinking since I had awakened was not so. It did not. It was as true in my laboratory as it was in her fairy-tale bed and in our mundane kitchen.
I had no idea who this woman I had married was. I was petrified of her.
And I loved her completely.
So now I knew what my father knew.
It was frightening to share your life with someone who had powers you could not even begin to understand.
It was terrifying when such a woman ruled your heart.
Was this how my father felt?
Did he love her?
I should have asked her what she could do months ago, of course, but after we sent the Headless Horseman back to Hell, it took all of my remaining stock of courage to propose. I am proud of how seldom I surrender to my own blasted cowardice, but in that case I could not bring myself to face one more bit of magic.
Are you afraid of knowledge, then, Crane? Afraid of the truth?
But of course, I was. I had been running from the truth about magic since it brought disaster on my mother, and tried to compensate by seeking out other truths the more urgently. When I went to Sleepy Hollow, I was given no choice but to acknowledge the truth about magic. I had hoped that would be the end of it, but magic, it seemed, was determined to dog my steps throughout my life.
And didnt you make a vow, Crane, never to let your craven fears stop you from doing anything you needed to do?
And so I should have to face it. Katrina had been right: Fate would accept no half measures. No longer could I indulge my fear of magic, any more than I may indulge my fears of blood or violence. I face both of these almost daily, and now it seemed I must face magic again. And where better to begin than under my own roof?
I looked at the clock on its high shelf. David should be back by now. I went to the laboratory door, opened it and called loudly, "David!"
"Yes, sir?" said a voice at my elbow. I jumped. David had taken up a post right outside the laboratory door, sitting on the floor with his knees drawn up to his chest. He stood as I turned to him.
"Go and tell Katrina that I should like to speak to her." He started down the stairs and I went back into the laboratory to wait. Only a moment later I heard steps on the stairs, but they were not hers.
David appeared in the doorway, looking awkward. "She says er, she says that if you want to talk to her, you can come downstairs."
I gazed at him for a moment. Then I spoke in the firmest voice I had managed in days.
"Tell my wife that I expect her in here within two minutes," I declared in a tone that brooked no argument. Davids eyes widened and he hurried back down the stairs. If Katrina was so set on reminding me that she was my wife, I should remind her of the same thing.
I suppose I could have predicted that she would take exactly three minutes before appearing. She entered without knocking and closed the door behind her. Her eyes were watchful, as if she were waiting to be executed. Which was exactly how I felt.
I gathered my courage and spoke.
"I must ask you something. It seemed that this room was the proper place to discuss it." I felt, absurdly enough, that my scientific instruments would make me feel protected from what I was about to hear. The final absurdity: I needed scientific talismans to protect me from magic.
Uncertainly, I held one of the chairs for her. As I did so, I noticed with annoyance that my hands were shaking. Very slowly, she walked over to it and sat down. I sat across from her and drew a breath.
"It is about your white magic." My voice faltered, and it took me a minute to continue. I forced myself to ask, "What exactly can you do?"
She searched my face. I realized that I probably looked as if I were pleading with her not to answer.
"Katrina, please." My voice was rough. "With everything that has happened I need to know. Tell me."
She examined me again, and licked her lips. I realized with apprehension that now she was nervous. Katrina, who is afraid of almost nothing.