Still the house sat, silent, a monument to Farrier’s struggle. It had given up no clues, told no secrets. It had seemed to laugh and pity him in turns, wanting to tell if only it could, taking delight in its own inability to do so. To Farrier the house had taken on a personality over the last year, he had grown to love and hate it, attracted and repelled by its secrets, by the past his mind conjured up within its walls.
Yet its nature had not changed since the first time he had seen it, the first time he had entered it, surprised and pleased to be given such a high profile and seemingly easy case. The ivy had grown, the garden had become overgrown, the trees ragged and the gravel drive scarred deep with the visiting hordes of cars and vans that had flocked to the house as ants to sugar, as moths to a flame. Yet it remained the same.
It was ordinary, that was what struck Farrier, just another house, rich and large and old like so many houses scattered along this road and roads like it, suburbs of previous centuries for the popular country retreat that Lewiston had once been.
The only thing that had been different was Mark and he had caused the place to explode with activity, police tape thicker than the ivy, vans blocking the entrance, cameras flashing, men scurrying, searching, filling the spaces of quiet growth with their buzzing and roaring machines, their harsh voices and radio traffic.
Now the strangers had left and the house was as it ever had been. Left alone it was going back in time, shedding the intrusion of the previous year. The lawn was cut; the trees cut back, the flowers opened up to breathe in the deep earth. The windows gleamed, letting bright light into the house and the events of the previous year seemed never to have happened.
Farrier was stuck dumb by the reversion. It seemed suddenly that the secrets the house had refused to reveal were still there, started up again from their hibernation. In Farrier’s absence the house had recovered.
On Farrier’s instructions the police of five counties were searching for the transcendence cult. He didn’t know whether Mark’s assailant had been working alone or had just been one of a larger ring but if it turned out that this was bigger than one house and one man then he wanted the appropriate police response to be ready to go at a moments notice. His theory had filled the headlines and most of the rest of the news not only in the local press but nationally as well. Transcendence had been dragged into the public eye and tarred with a brush so black it should never rise again.
The psychologists claimed it was likely that Mark’s assailant would return to the place he had spent so much of his time as soon as he felt it was safe again. The fact that the person had spent so long at the house meant it could hold some special, possibly religious significance for him or for the cult in general.
Farrier wasn’t certain of this, other police psychologists had cast doubt. But most felt that it was pretty likely this mysterious man would chose to remain in England, probably close. Farrier was ready, his mind working quickly to establish operational controls for the event of a lead, the high profile of the case was bringing huge resources into play, armed police units were being brought into camps closer to the scene, ready to respond in minutes to any sighting.
The deaths of the policemen at the house, first Lawford and then Phillips, the first man in, his chest crushed, had served to make sure the first response team at the scene this time round would be prepared and ready for anything. The chaos that had ensued before was not to be repeated. No one knew how Phillips had died, what the assailant had used to inflict such crushing damage, but whatever tricks this person and his potential friends had, Farrier determined the police would be ready.
Farrier still wondered about Mark as he drove up to the front door of the house. Mark had seemed to be trying to protect his captor for some reason. Farrier, in his despair had taken it as a genuine fear of remembering memories repressed through their horror. Stanhope, with his methodical approach, had determined that the fruitless and pointless interviews go on. They had got nothing from Mark and Farrier had come to the eventual conclusion that the only witness they had knew nothing.
But now he wasn’t so sure, now he was starting to realise that maybe Mark had believed the transcendence cult himself, maybe even volunteered for his abuse thorough the cults promises of immortality. It was a shame he had left the hospital so early but the home address he had given the doctors was this house again and Farrier was sure he would be here. He wanted to ask some very strong questions to Mark and this time he was determined he would get answers. If only Mark had returned and not disappeared. And so Farrier returned to this house. It was always this house; everything seemed to lead back to it.
Farrier stared up at the building that loomed above him. Despite the sunny, warm day the house seemed to be shadowed to him. To him, seen through his beliefs about the place and the things that had gone on in there it was a place of evil. The windows seemed to stare balefully down at him; the walls loomed blankly up into the sky, cold and unwelcoming.
He clenched his teeth as he remembered the abuse that had taken place behind those simple, ordinary walls, abuse that might happen again if he couldn’t prevent it, could even by taking place right now. He shivered. Surely the cult couldn’t have resurfaced so quickly, someone must have noticed something. After questioning the neighbours for a year he wasn’t so certain of that.
He strode up to the front door and banged the heavy iron knocker down twice on the small metal plate in the middle of the door. The sound reverberated through the space behind the solid barrier. An eerie sound echoing in the inspector’s ears, the hollow spaces behind the wall filled with the crashing of metal against metal. There was no answer, no movement behind the door.
Impatiently Farrier raised and slammed the knocker down again. The house seemed deserted, despite the obvious work that had gone on in its grounds and to its windows. Farrier walked to a window and peered through it, the room beyond dusted and cleaned, the light from the window shining on newly painted walls. The furniture had been uncovered and moved, the chandeliers unwrapped and made to sparkle. It seemed like a new house. Farrier was astonished. How had it changed so much in such a short space of time.
Farrier moved on, to the side path, peering through the window as he did, astonished at the change in the rooms beyond, rooms he had stood in and watched as every inch was combed by forensics teams. Still nothing moved within, still no one answered his calls. He went back to the door and knocked for longer and louder. He refused to leave, he would come again tomorrow, and the next day if necessary.
He thought of getting a warrant for the house, imagined searching the place again, the new beauty evident within, the new horrors hidden behind it. This house had caused so much fear and horror in this town; it had almost destroyed him and his career. He would break it; he would break Mark if he had to. He was close, he could feel it, in his mind were the pictures he had memorised, the police photos, the press shots. The man coming out of the house, bewildered, frightened at the glare of flashes and the shouts of the throng before him. Farrier knew him well and if he saw him again. He dreamed of that day. Not only vengeance on the evil that had come close to beating him, to bringing under everything he had worked his life for. But the fame, the honour of capturing this man. All that was locked within this house, so close. Tomorrow it would be his. He turned to go.
“May I help you?” Farrier whirled around, startled.
The voice that had broken into his focused determination was clam, distinct, warm. There seemed no surprise or anger at the policeman peering through windows and beating the front door to death. It came from a man, good looking, not from his features but from his manner, the way he held himself, the radiance of health and vitality that seemed to emanate from him. Light blond hair, clear, flawless skin, deep brown eyes, youthful looks. Farrier almost gasped at the presence of the stranger. He wore a loose white t-shirt and light blue denim jeans and his shoes, a light brown, were clean of mud or grass, despite standing on the dew soaked grass by the verge of the path.
Farrier guessed he must have walked over from the side of the house where a small path ran round to the back garden. To do so would have meant approaching the Farrier as he banged on the front door in total silence, not announcing his presence for at least ten seconds as he walked until he was standing almost directly beside Farrier. The man’s smile was warm and willing to help. Farrier’s determination and shock were almost dispelled by the peace that seemed to be caused by the man’s presence and demeanour. Farrier ignored such feelings of peace and prepared for war.
“Who are you.” He clipped, professional and hostile.
“My name is Sean Docherty. We met last year I believe, at the hospital once when you came in to interview a patient.” Farrier tried to place him but couldn’t remember anyone in his memory who looked like this man before him, either in the hospital or elsewhere. The man looked so clean, so comfortable in his skin, so contented with his position, on the grass, talking to Farrier. No one gave off such a presence. It was his eyes that were the most different. Within their bright depths was something Farrier couldn’t read, something different, alien. Farrier couldn’t realise what it was and ignored the man’s eyes as he ignored his name, filing it to the back of his mind for later scrutiny. But within Sean’s eyes was simple joy, the happiness of existing, here, in this place, at this time.
Farrier shook himself out of his shock at seeing the strange man appear silently beside him and forced his face back into the all knowing inspector’s visage that he liked to wear.
“What are you doing here doctor?” he asked. The question was accusatory, hostile but the inspector’s impassive face slipped as the accusation washed over Sean without reaction. Even the innocent squirmed under Farrier’s glare but Sean continued his warm, open expression, showing a genuine desire to help.
“I’m visiting my patient’s house Inspector.” Sean replied calmly. “May I ask what brings you out here?” The question carried not a hint of accusation. And Farrier had been listening for it.
“The same.” Farrier replied with a wry grin. “I would like to speak to Mark Camden if I may. I have to ask him a few questions.” Farrier loved that last phrase. It seemed made for the police, designed to put the fear of God into any criminal and to make any innocent citizen feverishly scan his own memory wondering what they’d done. Sean refused to react.
“I’m afraid he’s on holiday at the moment.” Sean replied. “My fiancée and I promised to take care of the house and grounds for him while he was away, make it habitable again for him while he took a break.”
Farrier stared, astonished that Mark had slipped away so easily, so unnoticed. Yet Sean’s voice betrayed nothing but the truth. Farrier raged inside.
“How long is he away for?” he demanded curtly
“I don’t know how long exactly. It’ll be a few more weeks yet I’m sure. He has a lot to recover from and he considered a change of scenery best. This house…I’m sure you understand.”
The dead end was so frustrating. Farrier had been so sure that this would be the key. The house, so much the centre of things had to have provided the answers. He was loath to leave it but with Mark away he had no choice.
“Where did he go to?” Farrier asked, wearily now.
“He didn’t say. He just seemed anxious to get away from this place. He said it made him feel afraid.”
Farrier would alert the police across the country, keep an eye on customs, airports, ports. But he knew it would be fruitless. The final answer, the keys always eluded him. He stepped back and nodded.
Thanking the doctor he stormed back to his car. Time for another plan. His brain was already working as he drove out, the gravel crunching under his passage. Yet even as he thought the tendrils of the familiar despair clung at his brain, the depression he thought had been dispelled at the sight of the yellowed headline in the filing cabinet. It was not over yet though. His determination solidified.
“Who was it? “ Mark asked as Sean appeared beside him.
“You were right, it was Inspector Farrier.” Sean replied. “He wanted to ask you some questions.”
“Again? I thought I’d put him off in hospital.”
“He may be getting desperate, the local paper was calling for his resignation.” Mark sighed.
“How did you know he was there?”
“I don’t know. I’ve lived in this house for so long I seem to be attuned to it. If I concentrate I can tell where everyone is. I can’t see them but I can feel them. It only works within the house’s grounds and fades off when it gets close to the gate. I don’t know why though.” Mark looked up with a smile. “It’s another mystery of transcendence. I never worried about how it was or why it was until you came. You think it’s interesting?”
“It’s fascinating. You’ll have to show me how you do it.”
Mark looked out of the window as Farrier’s car disappeared along the road outside.
“ I expect Farrier’s only following up old leads like you said. I doubt he’ll be back.”
“How are Jane and Nick?”
“All right. They’re comfortable at least. Sleeping for the moment. Jane was tossing a bit in her sleep; I think she’s scared. Nick seems all right. They’ve been fasting in various degrees for almost fourteen days now; they’re getting thin. It’s frightening to watch.”
“They’ll be fine. We did it.”
“ Is it safe?” Mark paused at Sean’s concern. He thought.
“I don’t know. It worked for us but it does seem dangerous. If anything goes wrong, if they fight the transition rather than embrace it, if they don’t follow the steps right… I don’t know.”
“They could die?”
Mark looked up at him.
“Maybe. We’re dealing with things we don’t understand.”
They stood in silence.
“If I’d told you I didn’t really know what this was would you still have come?”
Sean held his hands in front of his face, marvelling at the play of light against the psuedo-skin, the form and texture of his hands.
“I don’t know. I didn’t know how good it was before. I might never have taken the risk. And that would have been terrible, never to have known this, never to have felt these feelings, this happiness.”
“Should we have told Jane and Nick. They think we invented this, that we know what’s happening.”
“If it gives them transcendence it’s worth keeping them in the dark”
“And if something bad happens?”
Sean was silent.
Mark spoke, changing the subject. “It might take longer for Jane but she seems to believe. She seems to want it enough.”
“It’s just another adventure for him. And anything he does he does with everything he’s got. He’ll be fine.”
“Jane said something about her clients. They’ll need to be told that Jane won’t be working with them any more.”
“Angela’s doing it.”
“Is that wise?” Mark asked.
“What do you mean?”
“She seems very interested in recruiting others. Look what happened when she went to visit Jane. We got two more people wanting to transcend.”
“That’s not a bad thing is it?”
“It may be. Not in itself but the more people are hanging around here the more attention we draw. And if Farrier is hanging around again it could be dangerous. We might be raided again.”
“We talked about this. About letting others know. You told us you wished we could bring this gift to the whole world. Have you changed your mind.”
“No, not exactly. I just think…We should be cautious.”
“I suppose you’re right. Shall I tell Angela?”
“No. I don’t think she will convince anyone else. The danger is though if the police start hearing what she’s saying. We’ve got three near-corpses in this house and until Jane and Nick transcend we have two people we are trying to starve into the same state.”
“I suppose it would look quite damning if the police came in. Let’s hope next time they come I sense them again. You can bluff them away again.”
“I can’t…I don’t like to lie.” Sean managed. “I lied outright to him. It… It was like pain.”
Mark stared at him. “You shouldn’t feel pain, not now.”
“Didn’t you say you felt bad when you killed that policeman. Perhaps it’s the same thing.”
“If it is we need to be careful. Any more of that and we could go back.”
The two were struck into silence at the prospect.
“Lets hope Angela doesn’t spread the gift we have too well then. I want to leave as soon as Jane and Nick transcend.”
“Where will we go?” Sean asked.
“I don’t know. It’s just getting too dangerous around here. We will probably have to leave the country.” Mark stared down at his feet, his expression drawn.
“It’s a shame. I’ve grown quite attached to this place.”
Sean looked around himself at the clean walls and beautiful architecture of the Georgian country house. “I think I have too,” he replied quietly.