It was ten past four in the morning and all was quiet. Every light in the small industrial unit was on and had been all through the night.
But it still felt like the darkness outside was constantly pressing against every wall, testing the joins between the concrete sides and the flat roof of the unit, trying it's hardest to deflect and push past the tiny threads of light that escaped from around the sides of the sliding steel door that guarded the front of Nadia's home.
Harry was sitting up alone, Nadia having reluctantly gone to sleep over an hour ago. They'd spent some time discussing Samedi and Grace and what they thought they might be up to together. They'd studied the silver-topped cane that Nadia had kept hold of throughout their night-time adventuring and she'd even tried to use it to try to establish a mental contact with Samedi, so that they could get an idea what he was doing and what his intentions were, but she'd got nothing back from it at all.
All they could do was wait and try to prepare for the unexpected.
Harry sat with yet another mug of tea in his hand; this being one he'd prepared for himself with a generic tea-bag brewed in a thick builder's grade mug. This mug was one that Nadia had bought for him to use whenever he came round and was bright green, covered in purple flowers and had the motto 'Gardeners do it, but they also soil their beds' emblazoned in orange on the side facing the drinker. Harry had made a point of bringing a number of other mugs for himself to use, but it was usually this mug that was put into his hand every time Nadia made him a drink. He took a long sip of the sweet black tea, settled himself into the single arm chair and then looked protectively across at Nadia.
Nadia was fast asleep. The stress and worries of the day had been too much for her and, even though she'd been understandably anxious about what had happened and what might happen, she'd fallen asleep almost as soon as she'd closed her eyes.
Harry stood up again and put his tea to one side. He straightened the bed-clothes covering Nadia where she'd disturbed them when turning over onto her side and then began another circuit of the commercial unit.
It was unusual, living inside a concrete box with no windows and only the one door and, although it was easily defended, it also disturbed him that they could be so easily trapped inside with no means of escape. It was such a pity that he had to house-share or else he would have insisted that Nadia stay with him, but he could never risk drawing his house-mates into this Samedi and Grace matter if there was the slightest chance that it could endanger them at all.
Harry worked his way through the clothes' racks one by one, checking them just to be sure, although he didn't expect to find anything this time. He checked behind the chairs, under the bed – clucking gently to reassure Tomas that he meant him no harm – and then looked quickly through the few small cabinets that stood nearby.
Nothing. Nothing at all.
He looked at Nadia again. She hadn't moved at all, so he guessed that she would not be likely to wake for a while.
But he still felt uneasy.
He moved quietly up to the front of the unit and then slowly and gently eased the sliding door aside on it's rollers, wincing when it began to squeak. He looked back at Nadia, checking to see if it had disturbed her.
No. Still sound asleep.
Harry looked outwardly through the six inch gap he'd made between the door and the door frame.
It all looked quiet out there, the rain had stopped and the clouds had backed off, leaving gaps for the stars to shine through.
Nothing going on at all.
Harry checked back inside. Nadia was still fast asleep.
Easing himself through the gap, Harry went outside, carefully pulling the door closed behind him. He walked across to the pick-up, looking all around as he went, then stopped to examine the damage that had been done by driving through the gate earlier that night. Nothing too bad; one headlight would need replacing and the rest was only superficial damage.
He looked back. All was still quiet. The door hadn't been pulled any further open than the six or so inches gap he'd left it open behind him.
But hadn't he closed it to keep the warmth inside...
Harry ran back around the pick-up and threw the sliding door aside, the castors screaming as they ran along the rusty track.
'Nadia! Nadia! Are you alright?'
Grace turned around to face him, her face serious and ashen. 'Hello, Harry. It's good of you to join us. Nadia and I were going to have a little chat, but you're welcome to join us. I'd just popped round to collect something that belongs to a friend of mine, but your dear lady-friend doesn't seem to know what I'm talking about. Perhaps you can help me to help her remember?'
'Harry, don't look at her,' Nadia warned him. 'There's something wrong with her, she's not at all what you'd think.'
'Don't listen to her,' Grace purred huskily. 'She's only jealous. She's only worried that you might prefer the attention of a proper full-sized woman with some real life experience. Look at her, she's barely more than a schoolgirl. What has she got to offer you, Harry, that I can't do better? She elegantly flowed the three feet across to Harry, every movement accentuating her slim but womanly body, locking eyes with him and then slowly but firmly pulling him close. 'Do you like this, my love? I can give you so much more than this, if you would only help me.'
Harry looked into the green depths of her eyes, seeking the reassurance from her that what she wanted was right and honourable and that he should acquiesce to her will. 'But what about Nadia...,' he began.
Grace lowered her eyes momentarily, looking disappointed. 'Shush, my love', she said, placing an exquisitely manicured fingertip on his lips. 'Don't worry about a thing. Just tell me where the cane is and then we can take it and leave this rag-girl to her rubbish heap pickings. You know that you deserve so much better than she can ever give you.'
Nadia had now got out of the bed and was now standing up to her full five feet two inches, defiantly facing the older taller woman. 'Grace, stop that right now! Harry, listen to me! Harry, please don't let her do this to you. Please?'
It was proving difficult for Harry to decide, though. He looked from Nadia to Grace, and then back to Nadia again, not once but twice.
'Grace... Nadia... Grace...,' he began.
'Look at her then,' Grace spat, suddenly turning Harry to face Nadia. 'There she stands, in her little white cotton briefs and camisole top, looking like a child. Is that what you want, Harry? A child? What does that make you? Are you a paedophile, or are you a man?' She spun Harry back towards herself. 'Decide now; will you be my lover or will you be damned like that troublesome schoolgirl soon will be?'
'ENOUGH! STOP THAT NOW!' Nadia pulled Grace away from Harry, her strength surprising them both. She held Grace's gaze then pushed her away, the older woman's composure seeming to waver momentarily.
'Little girl, little girl, what have you done?' Grace straightened up to her full height and then sprang back toward Nadia, her long nails slashing like claws. Her eyes looked like the eyes of a crazed animal, as she began to stalk Nadia around the room, forgetting Harry altogether. 'I'm going to make you regret the day you were brought into this world,' she raged, her voice now harsh and shrill like a blade cutting through steel.
'YEAH? Come on then, you evil bitch! You want to try to take him away from me? You're gonna have to do better than that!' Nadia circled the bed, always keeping it between her and Grace. She took a quick look behind her, looking for Harry. 'Harry,' she shouted. 'Just a hint. A little help from you any time now would be much appreciated, my love'
Nadia's moment of inattention was her undoing. Grace chose that moment to vault over the bed, surprising both Nadia and Harry. She fell upon Nadia and knocked her to the floor, snarling and growling as she thrashed at her with her teeth and nails. She rolled on top of Nadia and then pressed her shoulders to the ground.
And then stopped, as the arm of a mannequin caught her a fierce blow to the side of her head.
Harry stood over her, the fibreglass limb held ready for another blow. 'Come on Grace,' he glowered, 'get up and get yourself out of here. And don't come back.'
Grace glared back at him, pulling herself back up to her feet. 'Oh my dearest boy, Harry.' She shook her head, clearing her senses. 'For that, dear boy, you are going to be so truly sorry! How would you like to see me tear the throat out of that dear child you are so attached to? To rip the still beating heart out of her chest and to then make you swallow down the warm flesh while I watch? I can do all that and more.'
She closed in on him, pressing him against the wall.
'I can be very inventive,' she continued, smiling evilly as she considered the options.
'ME TOO!' Nadia pulled the bed-clothes aside to reveal the silver-topped cane, grabbing it with both hands, ready to strike.
Grace turned back to face Nadia again.
'Oh, are you still here?' She smiled, holding out her hand. 'At least you've saved me the bother of looking for that. Come on, little girl, give it to me. Now.'
Nadia defiantly planted the tip of the cane on the floor, clasping the silvered head in both hands.
The volume of air within the room rippled, momentarily growing cold.
'Harry,' Nadia asked anxiously, looking across to find comfort, 'what's happening? I feel strange. I feel like there's someone trying to get inside my head.'
The black cane began to radiate dark waves of shadows, pulsing in time with the quivering of the air. Nadia's hands clenched tightly on one another, her knuckles locking so that it would be impossible to release the cane.
'Harry....,' Nadia pleaded.
Grace turned away from Nadia, retracing her route around the bed, retreating toward the door.
'Grace, you stop right there,' Nadia shouted, challenging her. 'You never ever come back here, you hear me? You leave this place and never come back.'
Grace turned back toward Nadia, her head turning around until their eyes met.
The immaculate make-up had vanished and the skin hung loosely across her face, with one of the eyes now clouded and dull.
'You bitch,' she whined. 'You've put a Prohibition upon me. I can never come back now.' She hesitated momentarily on the threshold of the doorway, then continued. 'At least I'll have the consolation that you'll never know what you are now. At least not until Samedi comes for you and finishes you off for good.' She smiled liplessly and then disappeared into the night.