It was getting dark outside and Gabriel had not yet returned. Jacob had retired to one of the house’s many sitting rooms to escape the increasingly angry stares he’d been receiving from Ilse as the evening progressed. The rest of the guests had kept up their apparently incessant chatter.
Staring out of the window, Jacob saw his reflection in the glass. He had to admit that he was certainly a strange sight. He’d been bald for as long as he could remember. His father had called it the ‘family curse’. Jacob called it alopecia. He didn’t even have any hair on the rest of his body. It didn’t bother him, although he gathered other people found it unnerving.
Then there was the brand on his cheek. The little smiling face. Seeing it in the window, Jacob was reminded once more of the words of Pilgrim.
‘See you later, my little two-faced friend.’
Why couldn’t he forget those words? Cursing under his breath, Jacob pulled himself away from the window and shoved his hands into his pockets. There was no way that Pilgrim could know anything about his past. Even so, those words had sent an icy spear shooting into Jacob’s heart. Their awful familiarity made him feel sick.
“Mr Locke,” said a voice from behind him. Jacob nearly jumped with surprise. Turning, he saw that Gabriel was standing behind him in the doorway. His face was grim.
“Gabriel,” Jacob spread his hands wide, “did you deal with that business satisfactorily?”
“What do you know about my father?” Gabriel almost growled the words, taking a menacing step forward. Jacob noticed that his hands were balled into fists. He almost laughed. If Gabriel wanted to fight, he’d find that Jacob was an adept.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he murmured, perching himself on the back of an armchair.
“Don’t mess around with me,” Gabriel said, “Edward, very tall, there’s no way you know someone matching that description.”
“You’re right,” Jacob shrugged, “what are you going to do about it? Throw me out?”
“No,” Gabriel snarled, “I made a vow long ago that I would never refuse another my hospitality. You’re welcome to stay as long as you like. If you’d prefer to leave, however, don’t let me stop you.”
“Actually I’ve taken a bit of a shine to this place,” Jacob grinned, “I think I’ll stay a bit longer. So, tell me, did you kill him? Edward, I mean.”
Gabriel’s stare was filled with wrath. For a moment Jacob thought that his host was going to attack him. Even his glass eye looked angry. Then, without warning, Gabriel exhaled and all life left him. He sagged like a rag doll.
“I don’t know,” he said, “he couldn’t equivocate his way to heaven, either way.”
Walking over to another armchair, Gabriel sunk into it. His whole body looked limp. The stare he gave Jacob was like the glassy-eyed glare of a corpse.
“Haunt you, does he?” Jacob asked, avoiding his eyes.
“He didn’t” Gabriel said, his voice hushed, “until you came along. What are you, Jacob Locke?”
“Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it?” Jacob chuckled, “What about your friend Pilgrim? He seems a strange fellow. He told me you met in America.”
“Ah yes,” for the briefest of moments, Gabriel smiled, “Pilgrim. My dear guardian angel. That’s what I call him. He saved my life in America. I’ve never refused him anything since. I have a big debt to repay.”
“You think you have a debt to him?” Jacob said, “Sounds more devilish than angelic.”
“Don’t talk about devils,” Gabriel smirked, “you know nothing of the devilish.”
This time it was Jacob’s turn to frown, though he was not quite sure why what Gabriel had said annoyed him.
“You don’t know that,” he muttered.
For a minute, they sat in silence, sizing each other up. Jacob found himself interested in Gabriel. Perhaps the jovial, charming man was a facade for a darker, more wrathful Gabriel hiding underneath. It certainly seemed that way.
Jacob wondered what Gabriel made of him. Could he see into his past? He doubted it. If there was one thing Jacob knew he was good at, it was hiding things.
Standing up, Gabriel moved to leave the room.
“I’ll be returning to the others,” he said to Jacob, “if you’re wise you’ll wait a minute or so before coming back. We don’t want them to see that we’ve been arguing.”
“I wouldn’t call it arguing,” Jacob said from his chair. Gabriel didn’t react to his words, instead turning to walk through the door.
“Gabriel,” Jacob was struck by an urge to say something, “I’m… I’m sorry if I brought back unpleasant memories for you. That was wrong of me. We all have things we’d like to forget. I know that as well as anybody.”
Looking back at him, Gabriel arched a sceptical eyebrow.
“Don’t apologise to me,” he said, walking out, “apologise to my father.”
Jacob opened his mouth to reply, then stopped. As Gabriel had said those words, a strange cold feeling had taken hold of him. He grimaced. The door shut behind Gabriel, leaving Jacob alone.
‘I’ll see you soon, my little two-faced friend,’ said a voice in his head.
Damn! Why couldn’t he just forget those words! Jacob clenched his fists and exhaled sharply. He had a headache. It seemed to him that the walls around him were closing in. He shook his head violently. That sort of thinking softened the brain. That was what Florence Dukes had said and he believed her.
Who was this Pilgrim man anyway? He’d tried to find more about him from Gabriel, but his host had been cryptic. Perhaps if he found out more about Gabriel’s trip to America, things would become clearer. It seemed to keep coming up.
That and damn Edward Lye. Jacob almost regretted mentioning him at the seance, though it had certainly given him an insight into Gabriel.
More and more, Jacob was becoming interested in Gabriel. The stories about his father, his time in America. It was all fascinating. Jacob hadn’t lied, he was going to stay. While he did so he was going to tease out as much information about Gabriel Lye as he possibly could.