Pressure. A light pressure. Against my head. What had I been drinking? I opened one eye and took a moment to focus. As the bright figure of a woman blurred into life, so did my memory. I tried to scowl, but the pain was too intense.
“Candy,” I said, quietly. My voice cracked on the first syllable.
“Ray.” Her bruises and cuts had been tended to. She smiled tentatively, and I tried to return the favour.
“What happened?” My voice still croaked but I needed to know. “Her –The paper – it all…” Candy turned away from me for a moment. A familiar face appeared behind her shoulder, and I laughed a laugh which, though short, came from the very depths of my bruised diaphragm.
“That would be me, I suppose,” said the man stood behind Candy.
“Donald Tannhauser,” I said, pronouncing it as though it were some kind of religious mantra. “Explanation, Don?”
“Well, what with you running off to Europe so suddenly, I figured you’d need some help. I lost all trace of you, but when I saw Ms Soosman here, I followed her and her companion until I found myself on top of your case – literally. Candy had been left bound and locked up in a back room of the Lichttrager warehouse by that old bastard, and so I waited it out. When he’d disappeared, I had a chance to step in.” Don paused. His attempts at drama were lost on me.
“So what about the paper…and Angeline?…”
“Your ‘contact’” he enunciated with disgust, “left this with Candy.” He walked to the other side of the room and lifted up the book. The thick, brown, leather-bound book. “And after we’d gathered our thoughts, we knew that the book had to be the source of all of this.”
Candy turned back to me. “Like Nachtigall said,” she grimaced at the man’s name, “the book must have contained all of the power that Lichttrager had over you and the others.”
“So all I had to do was get him to explain just how to revoke the power,” Don said. “And a dying coward is a very talkative informant.”
A silence hung over them for a moment. I realised that they didn’t want to go on with the story. I’d had enough stories to last a lifetime, but I had to go on to the end. “So you revoked her power, returning it all to that book,” I said. “ And the storm, the reams of paper, were snatched back. So what happened to Ange… to her?”
“She lost all of the power which Lichttrager gave her all those years ago…” Don finished. “Their power was all that she had, and when it was returned to the book, she couldn’t continue without it.” He paused, and for once it wasn’t just for dramatic effect. “She’s dead, Ray”
I closed my eyes, and corrected him with a simple sentence. “She’s been long dead…”
* * *
Step-by-step I limped my way to the taxi, a silvered cane supporting the weight of my splintered right leg, Candy’s shoulders supporting the weight of my left.
“C’mon, Ray,” she said, as Don opened the car door. “Just a few more…” Feeling older than ever I creaked into the back seat, Candy holding my left elbow as I did so. When I was in position, she leaned down and kissed my cheek, before walking to the other side of the cab to join me in the back seat.
As we drove away, Don twisted his head back from the front. He was framed int the spring sunshine. “I forgot to tell you – you remember that writer you mentioned – he was one of the other prisoners?”
“Uh-huh.” I intoned suspiciously.
“He told me he’s writing a book about this Lichttrager business – apparently the main character is going to be a private eye. Neat idea, huh?”
T H E E N D