I didn't want to go down in the storage area, but I hadn't seen Inquisitor in days, and no one said he had left. I was worried.
We haven't had any prisoners since that woman died. So I haven't had to go down to feed anyone or empty any buckets. (Well, do you expect them to just go in a corner?) Inquisitor told me to stay away from Creeper (that's what I've decided to call the guy), so I assumed he was feeding him... But then no one had seen Inquisitor since Sunday night, and he doesn't usually just leave without giving orders or putting someone in charge.
I hurried down the hall. More lights have gone out now. Creeper didn't make a move or a sound, but I felt his eyes on me as I passed. Inquisitor's workshop was empty though. I didn't dare turn on the light in case someone saw it peeking out from the cardboard taped over the windows, but there was no one there.
Then I had to go back up the dark hall, past Creeper again.
It was too much to hope that he'd leave me alone.
"Does he talk about me, little morsel?" he asked as soon as I left the room. When I didn't answer, he tried to be all comforting and sweet. He doesn't do it well. Just the sound of his voice made my skin crawl. "Tell me how my brother's been, eh? I have some sweets here, little morsel. Little girls like candies, yes?" He held up some kind of hard candy, the wrapper reflecting the dim light of the nearest lightbulb.
"I am not a little girl," I said and could have kicked myself. Should have just kept my stupid mouth shut, especially with how my voice shook. And I hadn't even passed him yet.
"Nooooooo, course not." He grinned or at least his mouth moved into something resembling a grin. He made the candy disappear down his sleeve like a magician, waving his fingers to show the candy had poofed. I wasn't fooled. I've seen such tricks before. Lots of elders have picked up sleight of hand and other tricks over the years and like to impress the noobs with them. "You don't know who I am at all, do you." He said it sullenly, a statement not a question.
"You're a darkling," I said, almost past him.
"You only know that because Kristoph called me thus," he snarled. Another of the lights went out, this one near the door to the stairs, and I looked away from him to the dead light. There were only three left.
I looked back at him and stumbled away. He'd moved to the door of his cage. I didn't even hear him get up. But that wasn't what made me stumble. It was Inquisitor in the cage. The darkling grinned at me, his teeth filmy with bluish black slime.
"We're twins," he said. "Can't you tell?" Another light went out with a ~*POP*~
I broke and ran for the door, and that's when it opened, and I ran right into someone.
"Oi, poppet. Is that anyway to greet an old friend?" The old woman asked in her vaguely British accent.
And it was Whistler, and I was so glad. She didn't scold me at all or ask questions, and I was too shaken up to ask her the million that crowded my head, like where she'd been for so long and why she was back. Whistler glanced down the dark hall where the darkling chuckled, but she let the door fall shut behind us and guided me back up the stairs without a word.