Mr. Longsdale, bending over Margaret's arm, carefully worked the long cut along the elbow. Mother could be seen behind the consultant's back, but Miss Sheridan paid almost no attention to her. She looked from under her eyelashes at the hero of the day and felt like a princess, who was brought out of the dragon's den by a powerful warrior, twisting the lizard in the ram's horn with his bare hands.
The consultant was very strong. He picked up Margaret, like a feather, pressed her to himself, not paying attention to the fact that she was covered in mud, and carried her to the carriage. The hound trotted along and did not take its burning eyes off the girl. And in the carriage, when Mr. Longsdale laid Maragret on the seat, she looked into his face and did not recognize: for exactly a second a completely different person appeared in front of her. Although he did not say a word to her, his gaze burning with fury was firmly imprinted in the girl's memory. But just a second later, the consultant again turned into a calmly cool gentleman, and Margaret still could not understand whether it really seemed to her or was.
He wrapped her in his coat, and the hound curled up in a ball at his feet, warming her with a hot side. Further Margaret hardly remembered - she finally fell into befitting young lady fainting oblivion. Mr. Longsdale brought her home, carried her to her room under the ohs and ahs of the maids and the mother's exclamations — grateful, turned to the consultant and indignant, addressed to the crying companion. After the bath, the girl was put to bed, and the consultant took up her cut.
Margaret dropped her hand from the bed and scratched the mane of the hound. In response, it hotly breathed into her palm and gently licked her with a tongue the size of a towel. Strange, now Miss Sheridan was not at all afraid of it, as if it was not it who inspired her so much fear in the alley...
"Done, miss," said the consultant and began to put the ointments, bandages, and emplastrum in the suitcase.
"Thank you," Margaret touched his hand and blushed; her heart fluttered like a butterfly in the fist. "If it weren't for you..."
"It is not worth gratitude," he did not answer her touch, did not even glance at her. "Be careful from now on, miss."
"Oh, of course," Margaret whispered, holding his hand. His palm with long strong fingers was so big that the girl's cam could hide in it whole.
"Your daughter needs a sound sleep, peace and quiet," said Mr. Longsdale. Mrs. Sheridan, clearly determined to tell her daughter everything, reluctantly retreated.
"Okay, young lady, we'll talk in the morning. Maybe you stay for a cup of tea?"
"No, thank you," the consultant took the suitcase. - Urgent business awaits me. I advise you to inform Commissar Brennon as soon as possible.
"I'll say," Mother said through set teeth ominously, and Margaret grunted. Uncle definitely will not like mother's opinion on the quality of his work as a police Commissar.
After half an hour, the girl was left alone. She was lying in bed, and little by little she began to shake finely, as if she had finally been overtaken by the fear that was supposed to be experienced when attacked by bandits with a knife. Margaret's teeth pounded finely. Lord, what if Angel hadn't time to teach her the most basic spells?! She is alive only thanks to "freeze and see," otherwise the hound and Longsdale would only have to fight for her corpse! And... and... oh God, what did these three want to do with her?!
Everything swam in her eyes from the hot moisture, and tears rolled down her temples. Margaret buried in a pillow and covered with a blanket over her head. Curled up in a ball, she quietly sniffed her nose until no one sees and hears. Gradually a strange numbness seized her, the memories mixed up chaotically, and oblivion began to come, as if they had mixed sleeping pills to her. She was already falling asleep when Angel's voice rustled over her ear:
The girl jerked so hard that she nearly crashed the top of her head into his chin, and fussy wrapped her blanket.
"W-w-why are you s-sneaking up on me like this?!"
He stood by her bed, resting his knee on the feather, and his hand on the bed head, and hung over Margaret like a vampire: his face was pale, his lips were almost invisible, his eyes were huge, almost black, full of anxiety.
"What? Why?" She quickly wiped away her tears and stared in surprise at Angel. "For what?"
He put his palm to the girl's forehead, at the same time caught her hand with a cut, and his eyes suddenly flashed fiercely, like a beast. Margaret involuntarily cringed.
"I should have taught you at least one self-defense spell," said Angel. "I had to - and did not teach."
"But if you had not taught me to "freeze and see," I would not be alive."
"And since I didn't teach," the mentor continued gloomily, "I is obliged to defend you myself. You were there only because I told you to find the ingredients and make the searcher potion."
It was as pleasant to hear as the voice of Mr. Longsdale; Margaret even felt better.
"Well, you're not my nanny, and you don't have to follow me round the clock, not to mention that it's simply indecent."
Angel did not answer the joke. He put the suitcase on the bed and decided:
"Let's deal with your damage. Where else?"
"B-but they have already been taken care of!" Margaret squeezed out with timid protest, pulling the blanket higher. Why did he always try to catch her in her nightgown?! How does he even manage to do this?!
"Who?" Angel asked dryly. "Your consultant?"
"He's not... not all, only my hand... Mom wouldn't let him examine my shoulder, she said that our family doctor..."
"Your family quack?" Angel snorted. "No way! Which shoulder?"
"Right... what are you doing?! Sto..."
"Shhh," he pressed two fingers to her lips, confidently pulling off the blanket from her with his other hand and unfastening the collar of her shirt. "Do not make noise. Your modesty is completely safe."
"Yes?!" Margaret blushed thickly, especially since Angel was already feeling her shoulder. The sensations were both painful and completely... immodest. He opened the suitcase (if he'd come in early – he and Longsdale could have had a consultation, the three of them, including the hound) and took out a weighty jar with a transparent gelatiniform substance, in which there were finely crushed green leaves and silver inclusions.
"What is it?"
"Our ancestors called it an elven ointment for all diseases, although this, of course, is an exaggeration," Angel unscrewed the lid, and a strong grassy-metallic smell crept up the bedroom.
"A potion from all diseases does not exist, like a stone that turns any metal into gold. And you will get acquainted with various healing compositions later, when we move on to the study of the magical properties of organics and inorganics."
"Is it organic or inorganic?" Margaret asked suspiciously: she did not like both of them.
"A mixture of both."
Miss Sheridan flinched at the touch of a cold ointment and his dry warm fingers. Angel began to rub the ointment in a circle into a huge bruise on her shoulder. The skin became a little itchy, but the pain almost immediately disappeared. Although it was still completely indecent! Margaret pulled the jar to her and sniffed.
"Did you make it yourself?"
"Does something bother you in this?"
He asked in such a tone that the girl became red-hot and preferred to leave the jar with its contents alone. Angel wiped his hand with a handkerchief, closed the jar, put it in the suitcase... and calmly stretched out on the bed next to Margaret, leaning back on the pillows and throwing his long legs on the headboard.
"And now, young lady..."
"You what?! You can't do that! It's indecent!"
"And now, young lady, think and say: why did not "freeze and see" affect them?"
Margaret herself froze from the unexpectedness of the question and frowned, biting her lip. In fact, it acted, but for some reason it was not as it should! It's as if something was preventing it... or she was just dabster. Redfern looked at her expectantly, drowning in a pillow, and the girl finally reluctantly admitted:
"Because I wasn't focused enough."
"Not focused enough on the desire to survive?"
"But I have never been attacked while casting spells, and even with a knife! This is somehow confusing."
"Tell everything in order. And do not lean on this shoulder until the ointment is absorbed."
Miss Sheridan wrapped in a blanket, like a caterpillar, lay down on her side, leaving her shoulder open, and began from the moment when the unfortunate Miss Thay met with "freeze and see."
"Curious," Angel said when the girl finished. "Very strange behavior for the drunks."
"Why? That is, I do not understand the behavior of drunkards..."
"But I understand. And I think you already know why your spell didn't work."
"Then you know more than me. Doesn't it work on drunk people?"
Angel clicked his tongue in exasperation. Margaret sniffed. Why should she even think about it after such suffering?! "Freeze and see" worked, but for just a couple of seconds!
"Come on, girl, think! You yourself saw everything; you just don't analyze it!"
Margaret sighed heavily. The words " Come on, think!" and "Analyze! Reason!" already must have been forever carved into her brain. She focused again on the unpleasant memories and muttered with displeasure:
"I don't know what drunken bandits usually do when they grab a victim."
"You beg for clues, young lady. Well, here's one for you: why did you get the idea that they are drunk?"
Margaret flinched and sat in bed. But if they were not drunk and didn't want to rob her... after all, none of them led an eyebrow in the direction of money! And... and... why did this redhead want to poke her in the face with a knife?!
"You see," Angel said quietly: he suddenly appeared very close, looking worriedly at the girl, "everything is much worse than just an unsuccessful robbery."
"They repeated the same thing as a wind-up toy," Margaret whispered; chills swept through her. "And this redhead... I thought he was just threatening, but he didn't threaten, he wanted to poke me in the face with a knife!" Why would he poke a knife in my face?!"
"To cut it off."
The girl was trembling so hard that her teeth chattered. Angel hesitated and pressed her to him, so carefully as if he were afraid of damage. Margaret closed her eyes and grabbed at him with all her might: the only way she felt that she was at least a little safe. He froze for a moment, then hugged her much tighter.
"As a wind-up toy, Margaret, you are right: someone subjugated these three to his will, and therefore your spell has acted so badly on them. You are still too inexperienced to break the spells of others."
"B-b-but... maybe they are just crazy b-b-bas..." she choked on words. Who will cut off the face of a living person?!
"If they were just killers, then "freeze and see" would have acted in full. But someone gave these people a specific order, and they carried it out without even thinking about what they were doing and why."
"Oh God," the girl stammered out. "Oh my God."
She clung to him, trembling with her whole body. How could she go out on the street now, if even at home she could be overtaken?! Any person, even mom, obeying someone's will...
"I will find out who it is," Angel whispered, touching Margaret's cheek, "and he will regret it."
It was already the twelfth hour when the Commissar finally reached the morgue. Kennedy left him a brief report on the inspection of the body; the autopsy was planned tomorrow. Byrne managed to describe and decompose all the things of the deceased, while Nathan rushed between the Sheridan house, the Longsdale house and the hospital, where Raiden took the three injured thugs.
Great end to the day, Brennon thought tiredly as went down the stairs. Although the consultant, of course, apologized, this did not improve matters: during the interrogation, the Commissar did not get anything from the trinity except incoherent babble. Which is not surprising, given the two torn hands, soft-boiled ribs and close acquaintance with a huge hound. Longsdale, unlike his beast, looked confused.
"But the tracking charms worked," he said hastily, as if trying to make amends for his mistake. "Although I was a little late, Miss Sheridan was barely affected."
Nathan caught himself and belatedly thanked him. His debt to the consultant was growing by leaps and bounds, and the Commissar once again reminded himself of what promise Longsdale had made.
At the door to the morgue, Brennon stopped. A faint, barely perceptible light flickered under the door, as if someone had silently walked along the morgue, covering the candle with his hand. But neither Kennedy nor his assistants have been there for a long time. Nathan slipped the report under his armpit, pulled a revolver from the holster, and carefully pushed the door with his shoulder. It opened silently, and the Commissar looked inside.
...at that very moment he was overcome by a great temptation to fire a bullet directly into the head of this critter! He stood at the table with the girl's body and studied it in the light of a round ball floating in the air. The coat, the frock coat, and the scarf hung casually from a chair nearby, and the hat was worn to the corner of the back. Like at home, damn it!
"Don't stick around like a cuckoo in a clock," the pyromaniac said sharply. "Either come in or go away."
The commissar, without lowering the revolver, entered and closed the door with his foot. The wizard gave Brennon a cold look.
"Is that how you protect her?"
"What?" Nathan also studied he from head to toe. The revolver in the hip holster, a reflection of light on the handle of the dagger in the sheath on the lower back, bottles with potions in the belt, the ring on the finger, and the watch in the vest pocket, judging by the round bulge. He came fully armed.
"If you continue in the same vein, then I will take her to where she will be safe even from imbecile defenders."
"If you do not move away from the body, then I will blow your brains out," Brennon said through set teeth.
"Come on," the sorcerer said. "Try it. Just look at the corpse first with your eyes, and not with what you usually see."
The commissar approached the girl; he and the pyromaniac were separated by an autopsy table.
"Look," the pyromaniac demanded. "Attentively, damn it! No face, nothing distracts."
Brennon gave the deceased a quick look. No wounds, no injuries, only bruises on the wrists and a pair of abrasions on the legs.
"Compare the height," the sorcerer continued, "physique, age, hair color, estimate weight..."
Nathan lowered his weapon.
"Oh hell," he whispered. "Damn it!"
The wizard jerked forward, slammed the dead girl's hair with his palms, and hissed:
"How well you protect her, huh?" He grabbed chestnut curls into a fist and poked them in the face of the Commissar: "What, you like?!"
"If it were Peg..." Brennon began mechanically and fell silent. Lord, if it were Peg!..
"Oh, if it were Margaret, you would not breathe!"
"Oh really?" The commissar thought inertly, but the thought of the fervent feelings of the pyromaniac barely touched his mind. More important now is another...
"They mixed her up," the Commissar said quietly. "She's either been mistaken for Peg, or someone was hunting girls of this type."
"Don't make excuses," the pyromaniac spat out. "Hunting! Where are other corpses then?"
"They will," Brennon sank heavily onto the stool. He already saw how this began... "But three scumbags with a knife attacked Pegg..."
"They tried to cut off her face."
"My God, how are you…" the Commissar shuddered and, instantly his sight, roared: "What the hell?! You climbed into her house?!"
"I take care of her," the pyromaniac threw his frock coat over and picked up his coat and scarf. "What you obviously are not able to do. Yes, by the way, I removed all your tracking charms from her. Once again I will find it - and you will never see her again."
"Stand!" the commissar almost point-blankly buried the revolver in the chest of the pyromaniac, but he did not flinch. Nathan did not even understand how the sorcerer found a bottle, which he calmly slammed to the floor. A dense white fog crawled through the morgue, enveloping Brennon with a suffocating blanket. Coughing, Nathan rushed across the sorcerer, hit the edge of the table and heard the door slam. The commissar growled, gropingly (sometimes sensitively bumping into the surrounding tables and shelves) he made his way to the door, crashed into it with his shoulder and fell out into an empty narrow corridor. Ahead, fast-moving footsteps sounded, and Brennon rushed in pursuit. There was nowhere to turn, and the duty officer was sitting in the waiting room. The commissar flew through the corridor like a bullet, in two jumps overcame the ladder, burst into the waiting room - and cursed violently. It was completely empty, and the duty officer stared into this emptiness with a frozen look.
"I'm sorry," Longsdale repeated again. "I did not know that he would come here simply as a visitor. And the morgue..."
"I remember," Brennon interrupted grimly. "Kennedy forbade you. Well, here it is, the result."
Even Mrs. Van Allen's honey tisane could not improve his mood in the morning. Kennedy chose to hide out of sight, in order to finally do an autopsy after the consultant collected the remains of the powder into a cone. Although now it are of no use...
"Have you been to Miss Sheridan yet?"
"Not yet. Sister forbade me to bother her. Nothing, I'll bother her today," the commissar promised threateningly. "How did you not keep track of your own spell?"
"I examined the site of the attack on Miss Sheridan and was carried away. When I realized that the spell was breaking, it was too late. And in light of his threat it is unsafe to restore it."
"And you still think he's a human," Nathan snapped.
"But he does nothing that goes beyond human capabilities!" The consultant frowned. "True, if, as you say, he is about thirty-five, then I don't know when he managed to gain so much experience and such knowledge that he so free..."
"You don't look ninety either," Brennon caustically remarked. "Maybe he's been crafted in some way."
"But he is not like me!"
Nathan was even amused by such sincere indignation. The hound, who attentively sniffed at the rest of the powder, turned on his master and snorted loudly.
"Don't get distracted, Red," the commissar strictly commanded. The animal gave him a cannibalistic look and returned to studying the only evidence.
"Red?" Longsdale asked perplexedly.
"Well, he doesn't answer to Sturdy and Paw. And you need to name him somehow."
"But you don't name him at all?"
"No," the consultant answered in some confusion. "He is always there."
"Exactly," Brennon thought. "A permanent guard. Or an escort."
He had never seen the hound and Lonsdale far apart. And what is this ability to see through the eyes of a hound worth...
"Okay. Is there any way to slip the tracking spell back into place?"
Longsdale shook his head.
"If he visits your niece, then when communicating in person he will immediately notice them. He is a professional."
"Heck! All right, let's forget about decorum and all that. Will you be able to hide her in your house if something happens?"
The consultant stared at Brennon so stunned that the Commissar chose to hush up this topic for now. Moreover, the hound left the powder alone and sat in front of Nathan, looking at him as if about to report extremely unpleasant news.
"I... I would not risk letting her into my house, with the laboratory and the library, because... because she conjured," Longsdale admitted. Brennon nearly choked on honey tisane.
"She used the "freeze and see" spell. It acted very badly on the bandits, but still thanks to it I managed to intervene. Strange," the consultant suddenly said in the thought, "why did it work so badly? She may be inexperienced, but the spell is simple..."
"This bastard teaches her how to conjure," Brennon said quietly. "So, the foul geek needs something from her. So she is of her own free will, without coercion..." he gritted his teeth. All this time! Cute baby Peg!
"What a strange feeling," Longsdale muttered. "As if someone was leading me like a puppet, and it was such ... such burning fury here," he touched his chest. His eyes blurred, like in half asleep. The hound impatiently banged its tail on the floor. Brennon scratched his whiskers in surprise.
"You ripped off the arm of one bandit and broke two-thirds of the ribs the other while your hound ate the limb of the third. Do you mean that such behavior is uncharacteristic for you?"
"Yes," Longsdale blinked out the haze. "Is that what you call the "appearance of another"? I had never thought about it before..."
Red impatiently kicked the commissar with its hind paw.
"Do you recall anything? Name, surname, place name, face of any person?"
"No," Longsdale answered. "Nothing like this."
Wonder if he recognizes the pyromaniac, if he sees?
"Okay, let's leave it for now. What can you say about the attackers?"
"They were under hypnotic influence. Before they felt the pain. But unfortunately, until they come to their senses and I examine them, I can't say anything more precise."
"We'll arrange that," Brennon nodded. "Let's move on to point two. Visit of the pyromaniac."
"I cannot enchant the entire department from the arrival of outsiders. It is simply pointless: there are always a lot of new people here. But I installed tracking amulets everywhere except the morgue and... and the reception room," the consultant admitted with a sigh. "Because..."
"Kennedy is in the morgue, and the waiting room is Packed with people, you can't keep track of them all," the commissar muttered. "Which our bastard took advantage of. I don't know why the hell he went to the morgue, but that's where I found him."
"Do you think he is right?"
Brennon rubbed the whiskers.
"I don't know," finally he said reluctantly. "But I would appreciate it if you looked at the corpse. At first glance, there is nothing supernatural in it, but... but you never know."
"Good. Don't you think that Miss Sheridan could have been attacked by the enemies of this sorcerer?"
"Apparently, he doesn't think so," the Commissar answered viciously. "But it seems to me anything. By golly, for the first time I want it to be an ordinary crazy maniac."
The hound sniffed softly, sympathetically.
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