N ightingale finished speaking and sat back. Robyn stared at him, her eyes wide in disbelief.
‘You’re mad,’ she said. ‘You are stark raving mad.’
‘Every word I’ve told you is the truth,’ said Nightingale quietly.
‘Ainsley Gosling sold my soul to the devil before I was born?’
‘To a devil. Yes.’
‘A devil? How many devils are there?’
‘What do you mean, a lot?’
‘Millions or billions, it depends who you talk to. It’s the truth, Robyn. I know it’s hard to believe. But the fact that Marcus Fairchild killed those children and had you put away for it shows that there are dark forces at work that most people never even dream about. If someone else had told me this two months ago, I’d have called them crazy too.’
‘You know, I’m starting to think that you should be in here with me. Maybe crazy runs in the family.’
‘You may be right. But, the way I see it, doing something crazy is the only chance you’ve got of getting out of here, and of saving your soul.’
‘You believe in souls, do you?’
Nightingale stared at her for several seconds, then he nodded slowly. ‘I’m starting to, yes.’
‘And how exactly are you proposing that I do this?’
‘Okay,’ said Nightingale. ‘This is how it works. There are three superior devils in Hell. Lucifer, Beelzebuth and Astaroth. They’re the heavy hitters. Below them are six subordinates. And below them are seventeen ministers.’
‘What are you talking about?’ said Robyn.
‘I’m talking about doing a deal that will get you out of here,’ said Nightingale. ‘With one of the seventeen ministers. His name is Sugart.’
‘Would you listen to yourself? That’s a plan? To do a deal with one of Satan’s ministers?’ She sat back in her chair and folded her arms. ‘You know, Jack, there are murderers in here who are a hell of a lot less crazy than you sound right now.’
‘You don’t deserve to be in here. If you want to get out you’re going to have to fight fire with fire.’
‘So I do a deal with the devil? Do you realise how crazy that sounds?’
‘A devil, not the devil.’ Nightingale opened the carrier bag. ‘You have to do this, Robyn.’
‘This doesn’t make sense.’
‘None of this makes any sense. Look at me, Robyn. Please, look at me.’ He waited until she was looking into his eyes, then he reached over and held her hands. ‘I need you to trust me. I can’t tell you everything because if I do it’ll ruin it, but I swear on my soul, I swear on everything that I hold dear, on all that’s holy, that I only want what’s best for you. And I swear that if you don’t do this, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.’
Robyn tried to pull her fingers away but he held her tightly. ‘You don’t know me,’ she whispered.
‘You’re my sister,’ he said. ‘You’re the only family I’ve got left. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.’
‘And on the basis of you being the big brother, the big half-brother that I have met only twice in thirty-one years, I’m supposed to do a deal with the spawn of Satan?’
‘He’s not a spawn. He’s more of a subordinate.’
‘Have you heard yourself?’
‘Please, Robyn. Do this for me.’ He forced a smile. ‘It’ll make up for all the birthdays and Christmases that you missed. You owe me a lifetime of presents.’
‘You didn’t get me any presents, either.’
‘This is my present to you,’ he said. ‘Getting you out of here.’
‘And how do I do this deal with this devil?’
‘I’ll tell you how. And when. And you have to do exactly what I say and when I say.’
‘It’s not a sex thing, is it?’
‘I don’t have to dance naked around an oak tree or anything like that? Because they don’t let me out.’
‘You can do it in your cell,’ said Nightingale. He couldn’t tell if she was joking or not.
‘They don’t call them cells here. They call them rooms.’
‘Your room will be fine. It doesn’t matter where you do the ritual. What matters is that you do it right and you do it at the right time. It has to be done at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Literally as the clock strikes twelve. The timing is important and so is what you say. You have to follow my instructions to the letter. It’s your only hope of getting out of here.’
‘Why can’t we just get another lawyer?’
‘Because no one is going to believe us. Do you want to stay here for the rest of your life?’
Robyn shook her head slowly. ‘No,’ she whispered.
‘You’re only in here because Fairchild made you believe that you killed those children. But what’s done is done. This is your only chance to get out.’
‘How do you know it’ll work?’
Nightingale swallowed. His mouth had gone dry. ‘Because I’ve already done it,’ he said. ‘I called up Proserpine and I did a deal with her. It works, Robyn. The fact that I’m here talking to you and not burning in the fires of Hell is proof of that.’
‘But how can you prove that my soul has been promised to a devil?’
‘There is one way,’ he said. ‘Anyone whose soul has been sold has a mark. A pentagram. Somewhere on their body. It can be tiny or in somewhere inaccessible, but there has to be a mark.’
Robyn’s right hand jerked up to touch the right side of her head, just above her ear.
‘You’ve got it, haven’t you?’ said Nightingale. ‘You’ve got the mark?’
‘It’s a birthmark,’ she said. ‘It’s tiny. You can hardly see it.’
‘That’s your proof, Robyn,’ he said. ‘The pentagram is the proof.’
‘It’s a birthmark,’ she whispered. She continued to stare into his eyes for several seconds, then she nodded slowly. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘Tell me what to do.’