Sandrine walked briskly down platform 3 of Paddington Station. She was not in a great mood. The flight from France had been delayed twice and they ended up squashed in the middle seats of the plane. For the wraith, this meant wrapping herself in an enormous coat, to avoid accidentally touching another passenger. Then, after an uncomfortable overnight stay in a London bed and breakfast, they set off for Wales. This was their second train journey of the day.
Behind her, Elodie was having to stride at some speed to keep up. "I don't want to get on if this one's full," she announced.
"Can't you wear that coat again?"
An unkempt commuter plodded past them, noisily chewing gum. Sandrine noted his appearance the yellow hoodie, the impossibly heavy rucksack slung over one shoulder, making him look like some bizarre human/camel hybrid.
"I wouldn't complain if I were you," Sandrine said. "This is the easiest way of getting from London to Abergavenny, unless you're offering to pay for a taxi. Besides, if it's crowded, nobody's going to overhear us, are they?"
"Yes, but you may end up squashed against the window with somebody's elbow in your ear," Elodie countered.
Their train arrived twenty minutes late. The delays were beginning to seriously annoy Sandrine. This wouldn't have happened in France. The two of them boarded and shimmied along the train, finally settling on a spot that seated four. An old woman took up one of the window seats and appeared to be asleep.
Sandrine settled beside the woman and began taking out a book and some sandwiches. Elodie took the second window seat across from the sleeping passenger.
"Have you ever been to England before?" Sandrine asked.
"Once or twice. Yourself?"
Sandrine nodded. "My parents took us camping in Devon when I was fourteen. During the day we walked around the city centre and along the beaches in Woolacombe. I visited England once or twice after that, but those were hardly good experiences."
She half expected Elodie to comment, but she merely gazed out of the window.
The wraith wasn't very interested in talking, Sandrine had noticed. All they seemed to talk about was practical things like how to get the Book of Truth. The mind of a wraith seemed to be permanently fixed on matters of logical importance.
Another of the things Sandrine picked up on was that Elodie had no hobbies. Nothing gave her joy - not watching TV, not reading, not painting her toenails. At the hotel, she just sat on the bed, reciting sentences in Mandarin. All she seemed to be interested in was gathering more skills.
Maybe, Sandrine considered, maybe the only thing a wraith was interested in was survival. Not that survival was a problem for Elodie, not with so many weapons at her disposal. In fact, with something like a tactile drain, Elodie was like a weapon herself.
"By the way," Sandrine mentioned, "I was going to thank you for finding us this information broker. He got back to me this morning to say he was chasing Paul Newfield, who apparently bought a book from the internet with the title 'The Book of Truth'. Whether it's the one we're after, he's still unsure, but it's a start."
"So are we still proceeding to Wales?" asked the wraith.
"That would probably be best. We have conclusive evidence that that was the last known whereabouts of the Book. I thought we might start with their Consortium of Silencers. Doubtless they know where it is... if they haven't claimed it as their own," Sandrine added bitterly.
Sandrine's phone buzzed. Four new messages from Andrew. She cleared them from her inbox without reading them.
"Tell me more about what Carbin has found."
"Well, Paul Newfield is supposed to have bought the Book off the internet before passing it on or hiding it. Now he's missing dead, probably so Chris is snooping round for clues."
"Do you think Newfield is dead?" Elodie said.
Sandrine couldn't help but notice that the wraith's eyes were turning red. She'd read about this the change in eye colour was supposedly an indication of an urge to kill although Elodie was very good at suppressing it.
"Er, probably," answered Sandrine, still fixated on the eyes. "I think people are willing to kill for the Book of Truth. I would be. But then again, that's why I have you. Talking of which, you're looking rather... distracted."
Elodie's eyes flashed. "You noticed."
"Why don't you take her?" Sandrine proposed, pointing at the sleeping woman. "She's old. Nobody'll ask too many questions."
So the wraith shrugged and, much to Sandrine's delight, reached across to clasp the woman's hand. The woman gasped awake, clenched her teeth and then slumped forward. Slowly a purplish hue began to spread in the hand Elodie had grabbed.
Sandrine couldn't help but smile in amazement. "It works that fast?"
"That is fascinating."
Elodie shrugged at her again, picking up one of the sandwiches Sandrine had prepared. "What kind of cheese is this again?"