N ightingale reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his lighter. He flicked it with his thumb and a small flame sputtered into life.
Jenny was sitting on her chair, her hands either side of her face as she stared at him in horror. She jumped out of her chair and grabbed Nightingale’s arm. ‘Get me out of here,’ she said, her voice trembling.
‘It’s okay,’ he said.
‘It’s not okay!’ she shouted. ‘Get me out of here now!’
Her outburst stunned him for a moment but then he took her with his left hand and guided her to the stairs. He kept the lighter in his right hand as he went up the stairs with her, but before he had got halfway the flame was burning his thumb and he let it go out. Jenny screamed again and he clicked the lighter despite the pain. The lighter sparked and then the flame flickered, casting shadows over the walls as he pushed her up the stairs ahead of him. She threw open the panel and staggered into the hallway. Nightingale followed her. He put the lighter in his pocket and tried to hold her but she thrust him away.
‘What happened down there, Jack?’
Nightingale shrugged but didn’t say anything.
‘Was that Robbie?’ asked Jenny.
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Some other spirit?’
‘I don’t know, Jenny. Maybe.’
‘And you knew what they were saying, didn’t you? That’s why you tossed the board.’
‘It was a message that I’ve seen before.’
‘It spelled out something about your sister, didn’t it? Your sister is going to- To what, Jack? What is your sister going to do?’
‘To Hell? Is that it? Your sister is going to Hell. Is that what it was trying to say?’
‘And when did you see it before? The messages you told me about before your birthday said you were going to Hell, right? Now they’re talking about your sister? Is that it?’
‘Now’s not the time, Jenny.’ He was sweating and he wiped his face with his sleeve.
‘Don’t shut me out!’ she shouted. ‘Damn you, Jack. You can’t half involve me in this. It’s all or nothing. There are no half measures.’
Nightingale sighed. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘Don’t. I want the truth, not an apology. I want to know why you tossed the board when you did.’
‘Because it wasn’t Robbie. He wouldn’t have said that. Somebody or something else was using the board.’
‘And the wind? Where did that come from? And why did the candles blow out?’
Nightingale put his hands on her shoulders and this time she didn’t push him away. He looked into her eyes. ‘I don’t know, kid. I’m sorry.’
Her eyes burned into his. ‘Where did you hear that before? The message?’
Nightingale took his hands off her shoulders and put them in his pockets. ‘When I went to see Connie Miller.’
‘She wrote it?’
‘She said it.’
Jenny frowned. ‘You said that she was dead when you got there.’
‘That’s the thing,’ said Nightingale. ‘She was.’
Jenny shook her head. ‘No,’ she said. ‘You’re not saying what I think you’re saying, are you?’
‘She was dead but her eyes opened and the words came out.’
Jenny slumped against the panelled wall. Nightingale tried to steady her but she pushed his hands away. ‘Don’t touch me,’ she said.
‘It just happened,’ he said. ‘But I couldn’t tell anyone. How could I explain that a dead woman spoke to me? They’d think I was crazy. Or lying.’
‘And she said that your sister was going to Hell?’
Nightingale nodded. ‘And when I went back the same words were written on her bathroom wall. At least I thought they were. Maybe I imagined it.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me this before?’
‘I couldn’t,’ he said. ‘Not on top of everything that’s happened. And deep down, I wondered if it was just my mind playing tricks.’ He took a deep breath. ‘And Alfie Tyler wrote the same words before he killed himself.’
‘How do you know that? You said you were stuck outside the gates.’
‘Chalmers showed me a crime-scene photograph.’
‘And he did… what? He wrote it how? He left a note?’
Nightingale looked uncomfortable. ‘Just leave it, Jenny.’
‘I can’t leave it. This involves me. Chalmers had me in for questioning, remember?’
‘Okay, he wrote it across his bedroom mirror. In faeces – shit.’
‘I know what faeces are,’ she said. ‘He used that to write on the mirror?’
Nightingale nodded. ‘That’s what Chalmers said. And he showed me pictures to back it up.’
‘Why would Tyler do that, Jack? Did he even know that you had a sister?’
‘I think I mentioned it to him when I first met him. But it was news to him. Gosling hadn’t said anything about having children.’ He shrugged. ‘He could have been lying, of course.’
‘But if he wasn’t, why would he write that your sister was going to Hell?’
‘You’re asking the wrong person, Jenny. I’ve got no idea what’s going on. I keep thinking that maybe my mind is playing tricks on me. That maybe I’m imagining things.’
‘A crime-scene photograph isn’t your mind playing tricks, is it?’ She jerked her thumb at the entrance to the basement. ‘And we didn’t imagine what happened down there. Something was moving the pointer because I’m sure that neither of us was doing it.’
‘I know,’ he said. ‘And whatever it was is still down there.’ He took a deep breath. ‘We have to go back, Jenny.’
‘No bloody way,’ she said.
‘If we’ve brought a spirit over it’ll stay here until we send it back.’
‘Just lock the door and brick it up,’ she said. ‘We should leave. Now.’
Nightingale put his hands on her shoulders again and looked into her eyes. ‘We have to do this, Jenny.’ She tried to look away and he shook her gently. ‘There’re no ifs, buts or maybes. We’ve opened a portal and we have to close it. There’s no telling what else might come through.’
‘Which is exactly why I’m not going back down there.’
‘It has to be the two of us, kid,’ said Nightingale. ‘We opened it, we have to close it.’
‘Jack, please…’ She was close to tears.
‘I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important,’ said Nightingale. ‘Believe me, if we don’t go down there and finish what we started, we’ll be opening up a world of hurt.’ He squeezed her shoulders. ‘I’ll be with you,’ he said.
She forced a smile. ‘That’s supposed to reassure me, is it?’
‘Good girl,’ said Nightingale.
‘You owe me,’ she said.
He put his arm around her and guided her towards the basement.