Beth watched Robert as he ran his fingers along one of the blades. He froze when he turned around and saw the table. He slowly walked towards it. He touched the wood lightly, his fingers hovering above it.
“This is a torture chamber,” he whispered. “Designed specifically for vampires, though it would suit all sorts of magical beings. As well as humans.”
He closed his eyes and Beth felt the pain he was feeling. He was reliving a memory of some sort and, from the intense trembling of his hands, it wasn’t a good one.
“This isn’t a table, it’s a rack. It stretches the spine, arms and legs, excruciatingly so. This one here is made from the wood of an elder tree. The only wood in the world that will kill a vampire even if he isn’t staked properly. There aren’t many who survive such attacks.”
Robert’s fingers massaged an area just below his collarbone, his brow wrinkled.
“You did,” Beth said.
“Yes,” he murmured. “With the medicines of an otherworldly creature, a witch and an assassin.”
“One of my oldest friends. Known her since I was sixteen, which was a hell of a long time ago.”
“How did you meet her?”
“When I got cut off and kicked out, I went to train as an assassin in the tunnels underneath the city, nobody knew, of course. Alex and Catalin still don’t know—nor will they.” He rested his hand on the rack. “I was put on one of these once. Whether it was a punishment, or a test, I’m not sure. Dislocated both shoulders and one of my ankles.”
Beth didn’t say anything, partially because of not knowing what to say, but mainly because Robert wasn’t actually talking to her. He was talking to himself, reliving the memories in his mind.
When he turned around the face her, he was smiling and his eyes gave away nothing of what he was feeling inside. Beth couldn’t even tell; he’d made his mental defences so tight that he wouldn’t even let her through.
“I think we’ve done enough snooping for one day,” he said.
Beth nodded. She walked quickly up the stairs as Robert took one last look around the room, turned the light off and followed her. He shut the hidden door behind him.
“Can you smell that?” Beth asked, sniffing.
“Smell what, agnello?” he said absent-mindedly.
“You seriously can’t smell that? It stinks. It smells like someone’s mixed sulphur, petrol and road kill altogether.”
“What?” he said, suddenly alarmed by what she’d told him. “What did you say it smells like?”
“Sulphur, petrol and road kill,” she repeated.
He thought for a moment, the cogs in his brain whirring at full speed. “Follow it,” was all he said.
Beth did as Robert said, scared by how distressed he was. She eventually led him to a room they hadn’t seen before. The stench here was almost overwhelming. If it was like this to her, why couldn’t Robert smell it?