Kerry had tried her best, but the coins Payton had given her just didn’t seem to be warming to her. He’d attempted to give her physical form to them, but so far, nothing. No response. They were just metal.
‘I’m going to bed,’ she announced to the others. She couldn’t sit down here much longer without an annoying cycle of thoughts buzzing round her skull.
It went like this – These people are so nice. I’m glad I’m sitting here in the warm. Why do I deserve to be treated so nicely by strangers? I don’t think I do. I feel like I’m abusing their hospitality just sitting here.
Do you? Of course you don’t. You’re just sitting here. You have to, in fact, for your own safety, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
Should you be sitting here at all? This might all be a trap and these so called ‘nice people’ might spring on you in your sleep and take you straight to the Wraiths.
Wait a minute. How could you think something like that? Get a hold of yourself and stop being paranoid. Be glad you’re sitting in the warm with these nice people.
‘You’re going to bed now?’ Auntie Jo said incredulously. ‘It’s only eight.’
‘I know,’ said Kerry, rising from the chair. ‘I’m just tired.’ She waved awkwardly at Payton and Claudia. ‘Goodnight, everyone.’
Sighing, she took herself up the stairs, her coins still grasped tightly in her hand. She entered her celery-green bedroom for the second time to sleep and flopped onto the bed. The curtains were still closed, as she had not had the time to open them that day.
Kerry took a last look at the coins. She glanced at the engraved Latin message. She turned them all round, so that five crescent moons were lined up in front of her on the bed.
‘Utor vestri animus,’ she said quietly, staring at the coins.
She repeated the words, this time holding all five coins in her hand. Still nothing happened. Sighing, she put them down.
Kerry did a double take and quickly snatched the coins back up again. She turned one over and held it up to the light. Where one side had been blank, there were now scratched the words ‘Kerry Grail’.
She turned over the others. They all had her name written on them. The coins had accepted her.
Grinning, she put them under her pillow. Many people get into the practice from a young age of putting things under their pillow under the assumption that this may give them magical properties or something like that. This, of course, is nonsense, although it does make whatever it is easy to find in the morning. This would seem far more sensible than placing some personal belonging or important item in an obscure spot somewhere in one’s house... or worse still, ‘in a safe place’.
Many children place their teeth under the pillow for the tooth fairy to collect and replace with money. This is a perfectly acceptable practice, as tooth fairies can wriggle under any pillow; they are all skilled contortionists apparently. However, it does not do to cram all the toys and books you own under the pillow with said teeth, as this could trap the fairy, and it would be in a rather unfortunate shape the next morning when you threw off all your bedclothes looking for your cash.
When Kerry awoke the next day, there was money under her pillow – but only because she had put it there. She turned it over in her hands and checked all the ‘Kerry Grail’s were still there. They were.
She went to get her Auntie Jo.
* * * * *
The same evening, two French tourists made their way into a three-star hotel on the England/Wales border. One was blonde and looked like a businesswoman, the other was casually dressed and had her dark hair tied off her face. The receptionist greeted them warmly and pointed up the stairs. They took their bags to room 36.
The room was unpleasant, too ostentatious in the floral displays on every surface and pretentious and ugly paintings on every wall to be comfortable. The temperature was also ridiculous, and Sandrine was immediately greeted with a waft of hot air from within as the door opened.
‘This can’t possibly be room temperature,’ she said.
Élodie waved her in and shut the door. With a flick of her blonde hair, Sandrine stomped across the room to open a window.
‘I also cannot believe that the woman in reception told us which fast food places were open at this time of night. The eating habits here are so disgusting.’
‘I know,’ Élodie replied. ‘I can maybe eat chips during the day, but not now.’
‘So tell me a little more about Ranajay Banker,’ she said as soon as the window had swung open to a satisfying degree. ‘What exactly has he done?’
The Wraith called Élodie shrugged its shoulders. ‘From what I’ve been told, he’s been up against some of our kind before. He didn’t kill them obviously, because he didn’t have the weapon, but managed to stop them from killing another person. He broke into the Consortium of Silencers with a man who calls himself Chris Carbin, and they somehow escaped with their lives.
‘Now Banker goes around actively telling people about Wraiths and Silencers, not caring about how it might affect things for us or them. And that’s not all he’s done. It’s hinted that Ranajay Banker has committed massive crimes against Wraithkind due to his ‘chosen lifestyle’, but I wasn’t told any more than that.’
‘I see.’ Sandrine dumped her bag on her bed and unzipped it. She pulled out a laptop and mouse. ‘I hope you won’t mind acting as my translator as long as we’re here?’ she asked.
Élodie didn’t mind. It had more space in its head for picking up new skills, unhampered as it was by human emotions and attachments.
‘How many languages do you know?’ Sandrine asked.
‘Just French, English, German and Afrikaans.’
‘I see,’ Sandrine said again.
Sandrine switched the computer on and waited for it to load. ‘This man, Chris Carbin... you’ve already spoken to him, haven’t you?’
‘Yes, I have,’ the Wraith said. ‘He has been surprisingly cooperative in telling us about his experiences with Banker. He’s also offered to give us his location once we get closer to the area.’
‘That is good of him,’ Sandrine said with a hint of suspicion.
‘Well, I paid him. He only deals in information for money but he does keep his mouth shut.’
‘Have you questioned his motives?’ Sandrine asked curiously. ‘Why is he helping us?’
‘The fact that I look and sound like a girl perhaps has something to do with it,’ Élodie responded casually.
‘Did you tell him what you were?’
‘Don’t be stupid.’
The computer made a noise. Sandrine picked it up and started navigating around.
‘You must thank Carbin for passing on the URL for the Consortium website,’ Sandrine said, looking intently at the screen. ‘It will be risky, because they’re usually armed, but if we take them by surprise, they don’t stand much chance. There’ll be none of that sneaking up on us that Silencers like to do.’
Although Élodie the Wraith was more annoyed with Silencers in general than wishing to fulfil some personal vendetta, and although it didn’t appreciate being talked down to, as Sandrine sometimes did, it wasn’t going to pass up on the chance to scare some Silencers. Élodie turned its head to Sandrine.
‘When I was younger,’ it told her, ‘I was living with another of our kind called Giselle. Perhaps we were sisters in a sense, I don’t know. But we found each other and taught each other to kill. But I remember one night we were sleeping. And I could hear somebody approaching, very quietly. But Giselle couldn’t, because it was less old than me or whatever... He was close enough for me to see him – red robes, a stupid little badge – before he got Giselle. The weapon went off, and Giselle made this noise that hurt my ears. It was sort of like it was stabbing my brain, you know? But I kept still until it had disappeared completely and the Silencer had gone away. I don’t think he even saw me.’
‘So you saw another Wraith being killed?’ Sandrine said with interest.
‘Yes, I did.’
Sandrine sat there for a second. ‘I’m trying to remember where my make-up bag is.’
The Wraith got up and dug around in one of the bags. ‘Is this it?’
‘Yes.’ Sandrine accepted the bag and applied a baby wipe to her burning face. ‘You can’t have been upset by the incident of course, because you have no soul, but I imagine you didn’t like the Silencers much after that?’
‘No. I still don’t.’
‘And yet you can’t hate them.’
‘Of course I can’t. Haven’t you learnt anything?’
Sandrine looked at the Wraith. ‘So why don’t you like Silencers?’
‘Because if one of them gets me, I won’t be able to kill anymore and I will die.’
‘Fascinating. And of course you don’t want to die, do you?’
‘I am not a lemming,’ Élodie said in an annoyed voice.
Unperturbed, Sandrine slid the laptop back onto her knees and started clicking away again. ‘Right,’ she said. ‘It’s time to send off my application.’