The Book of Life Page 74

When I had spent as much time with them as I dared, I returned downstairs, slowly and on foot this time, and demanded to see the video feed.

“Ysabeau is in the family library, watching it now.” Miriam’s palpable worry made my blood run colder than anything had since Gallowglass materialized at the Bodleian.

I steeled myself for the sight, but Ysabeau slammed the laptop shut as soon as I entered the room.

“I told you not to bring her here, Miriam.”

“Diana has a right to know,” Miriam said.

“Miriam is right, Granny.” Gallowglass gave his grandmother a quick kiss in greeting. “Besides, Auntie won’t obey your orders any more than you obeyed Baldwin when he tried to keep you from Philippe until his wounds healed.” He pried the laptop from Ysabeau’s fingers and opened the lid.

What I saw made me utter a strangled sound of horror. Were it not for Matthew’s distinctive gray-green eyes and black hair, I might not have known him.

“Diana.” Baldwin strode into the room, his expression carefully schooled to show no reaction to my appearance. But he was a soldier, and he understood that pretending something hadn’t happened didn’t make it go away. He reached out with surprising gentleness and touched my hairline. “Does it hurt?”

“No.” When my body had absorbed the Book of Life, a tree had appeared on it as well. Its trunk covered the back of my neck, perfectly aligned with the column of my spine. Its roots spread across my shoulders. The tree’s branches fanned out under my hair, covering my scalp. The tips of the branches peeked out along my hairline, behind my ears, and around the edges of my face. Like the tree on my spell box, the roots and branches were strangely intertwined along the sides of my neck in a pattern resembling Celtic knotwork.

“Why are you here?” I asked. We hadn’t heard from Baldwin since the christening.

“Baldwin was the first to see Benjamin’s message,” Gallowglass explained. “He contacted me straightaway, then shared the news with Marcus.”

“Nathaniel had beaten me to it. He traced Matthew’s last cell communication—a call made to you—to a location inside Poland,” Baldwin said.

“Addie saw Matthew in Dresden, en route to Berlin,” Miriam reported. “He asked her for information about Benjamin. While he was with her, Matthew got a text. He left immediately.”

“Verin joined Addie there. They’ve picked up Matthew’s trail. One of Marcus’s knights spotted him leaving what we used to call Breslau.” Baldwin glanced at Ysabeau. “He was traveling southeast.

Matthew must have wandered into a trap.”

“He was going north until then. Why did he change direction?” Marcus frowned.

“Matthew may have gone to Hungary,” I said, trying to envision all this on the map. “We found a letter from Godfrey that mentioned Benjamin’s connections there.”

Marcus’s phone rang.

“What do you have?” Marcus listened for a moment, then went to one of the other laptops dotting the surface of the library table. Once the screen illuminated, he keyed in a Web address. Close-up shots from the video feed appeared, the images enhanced to provide greater clarity. One was of a clipboard.

Another, a corner of fabric draped over a chair. The third, a window. Marcus put down his cell phone and turned on the speaker.

“Explain, Nathaniel,” he ordered, sounding more like Nathaniel’s commanding officer than his friend.

“The room is pretty barren—there’s not much in the way of clues that might help us get a better fix on Matthew’s location. These items seemed to have the most potential.”

“Can you zoom in on the clipboard?”

On the other side of the world, Nathaniel manipulated the image.

“That’s the kind we used for medical charts. They were on every hospital ward, hanging on the bedrails.” Marcus tilted his head.

“What do you see?” Nathaniel asked.

“It’s an intake form. Benjamin’s done what any doctor would—taken Matthew’s height, weight, blood pressure, pulse.” Marcus paused. “And he’s indicated the medications Matthew is on.”

“Matthew’s not on any medications,” I said.

“He is now,” Marcus said shortly.

“But vampires can only feel the effects of drugs if . . .” I trailed off.

“If they ingest them through a warmblood. Benjamin has been feeding him—or force-feeding him—spiked blood.” Marcus braced his arms against the table and swore. “And the drugs in question are not exactly palliative for a vampire.”

“What is he on?” My mind felt numb, and the only parts of me that seemed to be alive were the cords running through my body like roots, like branches.

“A cocktail of ketamine, opiates, co**ine, and psilocybin.” Marcus’s tone was flat and impassive, but his right eyelid twitched.

“Psilocybin?” I asked. The others I was at least familiar with.

“A hallucinogen derived from mushrooms.”

“That combination will make Matthew insane,” Hamish said.

“Killing Matthew would be too quick for Benjamin’s purposes,” Ysabeau said. “What about this fabric?” She pointed to the screen.

“I think it’s a blanket. It’s mostly out of the picture frame, but I included it anyway,” Nathaniel said.

“There are no landmarks outside,” Baldwin observed. “All you can see is snow and trees. It could be a thousand places in Central Europe at this time of year.”

Matthew’s head turned slightly.

“Something’s happening,” I said, pulling the laptop toward me.

Benjamin led a girl into the room. She couldn’t have been more than four and had on a long white nightgown with lace at the collar and cuffs. The cloth was stained with blood.

The girl wore a dazed expression, her thumb in her mouth.

“Phoebe, take Diana to the other room.” Baldwin’s order was immediate.

“No. I’m staying here. Matthew won’t feed on her. He won’t.” I shook my head.

“He’s out of his mind with pain, blood loss, and drugs,” Marcus said gently. “Matthew’s not responsible for his actions.”

“My husband will not feed on a child,” I said with absolute conviction.

Benjamin arranged the toddler on Matthew’s knee and stroked the girl’s neck. The skin was torn, and blood had caked around the wound.

Matthew’s nostrils flared in instinctive recognition that sustenance was nearby. He turned his head from the girl deliberately.

Baldwin’s eyes never left the screen. He watched his brother first warily, then with amazement. As the seconds ticked by, his expression became one of respect.

“Look at that control,” Hamish murmured. “Every instinct in him must be screaming for blood and survival.”

“Still think Matthew doesn’t have what it takes to lead his own family?” I asked Baldwin.

Benjamin’s back was turned to us, so we couldn’t see his reaction, but the vampire’s frustration was evident in the violent blow he slammed across Matthew’s face. No wonder my husband’s features didn’t look familiar. Then Benjamin roughly grabbed the child and held her so that her neck was directly under Matthew’s nose. The video feed had no sound, but the child’s face twisted as she screamed in terror.

Matthew’s lips moved, and the child’s head turned, her sobs quieting slightly. Next to me Ysabeau began to sing.

“‘Der Mond ist aufgegangen, / Die goldnen Sternlein prangen / Am Himmel hell und klar.’”

Ysabeau sang the words in time to the movement of Matthew’s mouth.

“Don’t, Ysabeau,” Baldwin bit out.

“What is that?” I asked, reaching to touch my husband’s face. Even in his torment, he remained shockingly expressionless.

“It’s a German hymn. Some of the verses have become a popular lullaby. Philippe used to sing it after . . . he came home.” Baldwin’s face was ravaged for a moment with grief and guilt.

“It is a song about God’s final judgement,” Ysabeau said.

Benjamin’s hands moved. When they stilled, the child’s body hung limply, head bent back at an impossible angle. Though he hadn’t killed the child, Matthew hadn’t been able to save her, either. Hers was another death Matthew would carry with him forever. Rage burned in my veins, clear and bright.

“Enough. This ends. Tonight.” I grabbed a set of keys that someone had thrown on the table. I didn’t care which car they belonged to, though I hoped it was Marcus’s—and therefore fast. “Tell Verin I’m on my way.”

“No!” Ysabeau’s anguished cry stopped me in my tracks. “The window. Can you enlarge that part of the picture for me, Nathaniel?”

“There’s nothing out there but snow and trees,” Hamish said, frowning.

“The wall next to the window. Focus there,” Ysabeau pointed to the grimy wall on the screen as though Nathaniel could somehow see her. Even though he couldn’t, Nathaniel obligingly zoomed in.

As a clearer picture emerged, I couldn’t imagine what Ysabeau thought she saw. The wall was stained with damp and had not been painted for some time. It might once have been white, like the tiles, but it was grayish now. The image on the screen continued to resolve and sharpen as Nathaniel worked.

Some of the grimy smudges turned out to be a series of numbers marching down the wall.

“My clever child,” Ysabeau said, her eyes running red with blood and grief. She stood, her limbs trembling. “That monster. I will tear him to pieces.”

“What is it, Ysabeau?” I asked.

“The clue was in the song. Matthew knows we are watching him,” Ysabeau said.

“What is it, Grand-mère?” Marcus repeated, peering at the image. “Is it the numbers?”

“One number. Philippe’s number.” Ysabeau pointed to the last in the series.

“His number?” Sarah asked.

“It was given to him at Auschwitz-Birkenau. After the Nazis captured Philippe trying to liberate Ravensbrück, they sent him there,” Ysabeau said.

These were names out of nightmares, places that would forever be synonymous with the savagery of mankind.

“The Nazis tattooed it on Philippe—over and over again.” The fury built in Ysabeau’s voice, making it ring like a warning bell. “It is how they discovered he was different.”

“What are you saying?” I couldn’t believe it, and yet . . .

“It was Benjamin who tortured Philippe,” Ysabeau said.

Philippe’s image swam before me—the hollow eye socket where Benjamin had blinded him, the horrible scars on his face. I remembered the shaky handwriting on the letter he’d left for me, his body too damaged to control a pen’s movement.

And the same creature who had done that to Philippe now had my husband.

“Get out of my way.” I tried to push past Baldwin as I raced for the door. But Baldwin held me tight.

“You aren’t going to wander into the same trap that he did, Diana,” Baldwin said. “That’s exactly what Benjamin wants.”

“I’m going to Auschwitz. Matthew is not going to die there, where so many died before,” I said, twisting in Baldwin’s grip.

“Matthew isn’t at Auschwitz. Philippe was moved from there to Majdanek on the outskirts of Lublin soon after he was captured. It’s where we found my father. I went over every inch of the camp searching for other survivors. There was no room like that in it.”

“Then Philippe was taken somewhere else before being sent to Majdanek—to another labor camp.

One run by Benjamin. It was he who tortured Philippe. I am certain of it,” Ysabeau insisted.

“How could Benjamin be in charge of a camp?” I’d never heard of such a thing. Nazi concentration camps were run by the SS.

“There were tens of thousands of them, all over Germany and Poland—labor camps, brothels, research facilities, farms,” Baldwin explained. “If Ysabeau is right, Matthew could be anywhere.”

Ysabeau turned on Baldwin. “You are free to stay here and wonder where your brother is, but I am going to Poland with Diana. We will find Matthew ourselves.”

“Nobody is going anywhere.” Marcus slammed his hand on the table. “Not without a plan. Where exactly was Majdanek?”

“I’ll pull up a map.” Phoebe reached for the computer.

I stilled her hand. There was something disturbingly familiar about that blanket. . . . It was tweed, a heathery brown with a distinctive weave.

“Is that a button?” I looked more closely. “That’s not a blanket. It’s a jacket.” I stared at it some more. “Peter Knox wore a jacket like that. I remember the fabric from Oxford.”

“Vampires won’t be able to free Matthew if Benjamin has witches like Knox with him, too!” Sarah exclaimed.

“This is like 1944 all over again,” Ysabeau said quietly. “Benjamin is playing with Matthew—and with us.”

“If so, then Matthew’s capture was not his goal.” Baldwin crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes at the screen. “The trap Benjamin set was meant to snare another.”

“He wants Auntie,” Gallowglass said. “Benjamin wants to know why she can bear a vampire’s child.”

Benjamin wants me to bear his child, I thought.

“Well, he’s not going to experiment on Diana to find out,” Marcus said emphatically. “Matthew would rather die where he is than let that happen.”

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