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Mortal Kiss: Fool's Silver *Chapter 16*
Jeff led them to what he called a ‘shack’; to Finn it seemed little more than a temporary lean-to. The door didn’t shut properly and there were holes in the roof big enough to see the stars through. It was only a single room, with a stove in one corner and a bed in the other. Not that it mattered, really – Finn had no intention of going to sleep.
‘We have to take a look around,’ he said to Faye, as soon as Jeff had left them. ‘Something feels very wrong here.’
Faye nodded. ‘Do you think you’re being affected by the silver?’ she asked. ‘We must be surrounded by it here. We’re so close to the mine.’
Finn shook his head. ‘No, it’s something else: we haven’t seen any people around except Jeff, but I know there are others here. Lots of them. I can feel them.’
Faye shuddered. ‘I don’t like this place.’
‘Neither do I.’ He watched as she looked at something in her hand. ‘What’s that?’
She frowned. ‘Something that Jeff dropped. It’s just a piece of paper,’ she said, uncrumpling it in the dim light. ‘I was going to give it back to him, but I think it’s just rubbish, anyway. I—’ She stopped.
‘What?’ Finn asked. ‘What is it?’
Faye looked up at him, her eyes wide with shock. She held out the scrap of paper for him to see. He took it from her shaking fingers. It seemed to be torn from a notebook. Whoever had ripped the page had torn a sentence in half. Finn frowned as he read the words: . . . And even the night is . . . He shook his head. ‘I don’t think it means anything, I’m afraid.’
‘Don’t you know what that is?’ Faye asked him.
Finn looked puzzled. ‘Should I? It just looks like a scrawl to me.’
Faye snatched the scrap of paper back. ‘Summer’s here,’ she quoted. ‘Summer’s here at last. It’s about time, we’ve waited so long. And even the night is warm, now that winter has passed.’
Finn shook his head, confused. ‘What?’
‘It’s one of Lucas’s lyrics, Finn!’ Faye said, shaking the paper at him. ‘This is from his notebook!’
‘No,’ said Finn. ‘No, it can’t be.’
‘It is. He’s been playing this song over and over, trying to get it right. It’s Lucas, Finn. He’s here.’
Finn looked at her, still not quite believing that it could be true. He didn’t recognize those words. It could just be a coincidence that they matched Lucas’s song. He still didn’t understand what his brother could have to do with all this. But if he really was here somewhere . . .
‘Come on,’ he said. ‘It’ll be safer while it’s dark. The rest of the pack will take care of the creatures and look for Arbequina and Harris and Johnson. They’ll send a messenger if they need me. You and I can concentrate on working out what’s going on.’
They slipped out of the door, leaving it to fall back on its rusty hinges. Finn led the way amongst the wooden buildings. He soon realized that trying to find anything from ground level would be impossible. Apart from the main street, the town was a mess of jumbled streets, like a maze.
‘We need to get up higher,’ he whispered. ‘If we can work out how the town is laid out, we’ll be able to find our way better. It’s like a rabbit warren down here.’
Faye nodded and pointed to what looked like an old chapel. It had a small bell tower, though the bell itself had clearly long since rusted away to nothing. ‘Up there,’ she whispered back. ‘If the stairwell is still intact, that’ll be perfect.’
They found their way to the chapel, which was as deserted as everything else they’d seen in Silver Cross. The pews looked as if no one had sat in them for decades, and there were floorboards missing where the wood had rotted away. They picked their way carefully across the main room towards the bell tower, where they discovered their first stroke of luck – the stairs were made of iron, not wood. They spiralled up, unbroken, covered in rust but otherwise intact.
Finn glanced at Faye before going ahead of her. If any of the steps were rotten, he didn’t want her going through them. But they held as the two of them wound their way slowly upwards. The stairwell finally emerged onto a small square platform edged by a low parapet. Below them the town stretched out in the moonlight, and beyond that they could see the mountain, surrounded by the huge and empty desert. The night had cooled the fierce heat, and Finn took a moment to enjoy the freshness of a sudden breeze as it brushed against his face.
A sound echoed up from the silent streets. Finn froze, then ducked below the parapet, pulling Faye down with him onto the dusty planks. They peered over the top as a door opened and shut somewhere below them. Finn tried in vain to pinpoint the source of the noise, but then Faye nudged him and pointed. A figure had emerged from one of the other shacks below them. It was indistinct in the shadows, shuffling slowly along. Then a second door opened, and another, and another. More and more figures joined the first, moving slowly through the town, all heading in the same direction. Like Jeff, they looked emaciated and old. Some carried picks and other tools. As Finn and Faye watched, they formed a silent, shuffling line, making for the edge of town – where the ground sloped up towards the mountain. They were making for the mine.
Finn was just trying to work out what it was about the shambling figures that bothered him, when Faye let out a cry. She covered her mouth immediately, eyes wide, terrified that one of the strange, vacant people below might have heard her. But none of them turned; they were too intent on their task to take any notice of sounds in the night. Faye gripped Finn’s arm and pointed at the end of the line. There, following the rest of the group, was one of the creatures that had attacked them outside Silver Cross. It shuffled along on its spindly, malformed legs, heading in the same direction as all the others.
Finn leaned over and whispered in Faye’s ear. ‘It looks as if they’re all drugged, or something. But they must be the miners that Jeff was talking about, mustn’t they? I mean, that’s where they’re going, isn’t it? That must be the entrance to the mine.’
‘But the mine can’t really still be working, can it?’
Finn frowned. ‘I think this Koskay person has reopened it. Jeff said he was interested in the silver.’
‘Who do you think he is?’ Faye asked. ‘Have you ever heard of him before?’
‘No,’ Finn replied. ‘Have you?’
Faye shook her head. Finn watched as she put her hand in her pocket and pulled out her phone, looking at the screen. ‘There’s no reception,’ she said, ‘or I’d call Jimmy and ask him to do some research.’ She looked up at him, and Finn could see her trembling. ‘Well, I guess there’s only one way we’re going to find out, then, isn’t there? We’re going to have to follow those people. Wherever they’re going, the answers we need will be there, won’t they?’
‘Yes,’ he agreed. ‘I think you’re right. But you could stay here, Faye. I think you’d be safe here. No one will find you. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’
She shook her head again. She was still trembling, but her voice was firm. ‘I’m coming.’
Finn smiled. ‘I knew you’d say that.’
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