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Louisa awakened to a vague headache and the odor of damp that is generally associated with basements and other belowground spaces. She was lying on a hard, cold surface. Panic slammed through her.

Im in a morgue. Dear heaven, Im dead.

No, that wasnt right. Surely if she were dead she would not be so uncomfortable. Unless, of course, she had gone straight to hell for the sin of being a murderess.

She opened her eyes. Close, deep shadows enveloped her, but there were bars of light on one wall. The bands of light were quite distinct, not fuzzy. Good. She was still wearing her glasses. It was another clue indicating that she was still in the realm of the living.

She tried to summon up some coherent memories that would explain her present situation. An image of Digbys inert body sprawled on the floor floated through her mind. She suddenly recalled the terrifying sensation of being pinned in a grip of steel while she kicked and struggled.

Damn bitch. Quinbys voice. After that, everything went blank.

She sat up cautiously and pushed her glasses more firmly onto her nose. Mercifully the headache did not worsen. Her stomach felt unsettled, however. She took some slow, deep breaths. That seemed to help.

How much time had passed? She staggered to her feet and turned slowly on her heel, trying to make out the details of her surroundings. The dim, glary light of a lamp filtered through three iron bars in the opening in a heavy wooden door. She was in a small space with a low, vaulted ceiling. There were no windows. An ancient storage chamber, she decided, or a nuns cell. Judging by the stones and the masonry, it dated from medieval times.

She went to the door without much hope and tried the knob. It did not turn. When she felt the cold iron under her fingers, she realized she had lost one glove. She had a dim recollection of having removed the glove to check Digbys pulse

The opening in the door was at eye level. She peered between the bars and found herself looking into another ancient, low-ceilinged stone room. The lamp that was the only source of light sat on a low table in the middle of the outer chamber. It cast just enough illumination to reveal a closed door in one wall and the darkened entrance to a narrow flight of worn stone steps cut into the opposite wall.

She was about to turn away to explore her cell when she heard the faint echo of shoe leather on stone. A new wave of fear flooded through her. Someone was descending the staircase. She saw the skirts of a stylish black gown and a pair of fashionable black walking boots first.

The woman arrived at the bottom step and moved into the main chamber. The last element of her wardrobe, a small black hat, was perched atop a wealth of golden hair. A heavy black lace veil concealed her features.

Louisa took a deep breath. Victoria Hastings, I presume? Or should I call you Madam Phoenix?

The woman paused slightly, startled that she had been recognized. Then she glided slowly across the stone floor to the door of the cell. Coolly she reached up with one black-gloved hand and crumpled the veil onto the brim of her hat. Victoria possessed the face of an angel, Louisa decided, but the unwholesome, pitiless glint in her blue eyes was nothing short of demonic.

I regret the necessity of having you kidnapped, Victoria said, but you have only yourself to blame. You were, indeed, getting much too close to the truth, Mrs. Bryce. Or should I call you I. M. Phantom?

| The River Knows | c