Pritchard flung the lever on the machine. Bright blue light flew up the wires above Evangeline's lifeless body. An electric hum filled the air, building up into a crescendo. Then the lights turned to flames, the noise became deafening. Something wasn't right. Pritchard grabbed the lever and wrenched it back but it was too late. The machine exploded with a giant plume of grey smoke, knocking Pritchard to the floor.
"Perhaps I could be of assistance." a smooth voice floated out of the dust and smog.
"Who the hell are you?" Pritchard squinted into the dark trying to make out the face of the shadowy figure that had appeared as if from nowhere among the ruins of his attic laboratory.
"Ambrose old chap," the man stepped forward into the dim moonlight coming through the windows, which had somehow survived the blast. "Name's Ambrose. I'm a business man. Got your name from an acquaintance of mine, Montgomery Smith. He told me something about your work and suggested I look you up next time I was in London."
"Montgomery Smith's no friend of mine anymore." Pritchard dusted himself off, rolling his sleeves down. Montgomery Smith had been Pridgeon's best friend for years, until the accident that had killed Evangeline.
"Last time I saw him he wished me the devil and I him."
"Indeed," Ambrose smiled and swung his cane jauntily. "Do you mind if I take my hat off?"
"I do as a matter of fact," replied Pritchard but Ambrose ignored him and took his hat off anyway.
"What do you want?"
"I told you, I'm a business man and I have a client who's very interested in your work."
"What are you, some sort of American?" Pritchard drew back in disgust. As an Englishman and a scientist he abhorred commerce. "I don't need your money."
"Ahh, but we're not here to offer you money."
"What are you here for then. State your business. I've no time for word play I've work to do." Pritchard gestured to the table where her body lay cold and lifeless despite all his efforts. If only she hadn't taunted him so. If only she'd accepted his proposal then she'd still be alive and he wouldn't be here trying desperately to save her.
"You don't have much longer you know."
"Another week maybe two before the thickening becomes irreversible and her immortal soul crosses over for good."
"You know something of these thing?"
"I know much about these things. Or my employer does."
"Your employer? Who is he? Is it Murchison or Roposte? Are you here on behalf of the Italian? I've heard he's done amazing things with frogs."
Ambrose laughed. It wasn't a pleasant sort of a laugh either but Pritchard was too excited to notice.
"Let me show you something."
He strolled over to Pritchard's machines and adjusted the connections. Then he pulled the lever, the same one Pritchard had pulled himself only hours earlier. The machine hummed to life. The coils glowed the steam pumps began to throb. A delicate white arm lifted and a voice as soft and sweet as summer wine murmured.
"Where am I? Edmund? What's happening?"
Then it stopped. The machine went dark and still and the arm dropped back beside the lifeless body.
"What happened? Why did it stop? What did you do?" Pritchard rushed forward intending to grab Ambrose by the shirt collar. Intending to force him to show him what he'd done but instead somehow he ending up on the floor at the other man's feet. Ambrose seemed to have grown taller. His features had become clearer and more defined, his skin darker and his eyes almost black.
"Please Mr Pritchard, you must be patient. I've shown you what we can do for you now we must talk about what you can do for us."
"Anything," said Pritchard. "Anything if you can bring her back."