“I wanted to catch it, not kill it Morland. It is near impossible to question destroyed Sandmen.” With a frustrated sweep of her blade, she splattered all that was left of the Sandman across the room. It quickly melted back into the reflected sunlight from which it first formed.
Stoically, he rose to his feet, bracing himself against the wall as Grey paced around the room. Though the intensity faded to almost nothing with the dispersal of the creature, his head still throbbed with reaction. Ignoring that, Morland asked for want of anything else to say. “And what exactly is a Sandman? I assume the children’s tales of the man with his little sack is inappropriate to the case?”
Without stopping or looking at him, Grey deigned to explain. “It is a construct, mostly mindless, crafted of nightmare, usually a little bit of death, and some element associated with sleep, in this case, moonlight. Darkness, breath, and mist are more usual. It feeds on your dreams. In effect it prevents all the restful restorative things a body does during REM sleep. I could tell you how to make one, and all its limitations and all that, but it is rather beside the point. The point is that thing had a master, and there is not a single thing to stop that master from making another one and sending it after you tomorrow night except perhaps the time and effort involved.” She stopped pacing, and sighed, “Sandmen can be devilishly difficult to ward against if their master is clever, and even then he could just change tactics…” Grey drifted off, studying him. “Your head doesn’t still hurt does it?”
Morland shrugged, “It is nothing to be concerned about.”
“Oh it does.” To his surprise, Grey started, gradually, to grin. The grin turned into a giggle, and that grew into a full blown belly laugh.
“Not so clever…after all.” She gasped regaining control, and started studying the room intently. With a positively child-ike joy she pounced on the door of his wardrobe, and dragged it open, sword poised.
With a disappointed raspberry, she lowered the weapon, and turned to plop down on the edge of Morland’s bed. That is not to say she was wrong. The Sandman’s master was hidden in the over-sized piece of furniture, but the figure who stepped out to meet them already held his hands in the air when revealed.
“Mortimer James Calloway! You promised not to play with normals anymore, no matter how much you were offered.” Morland could not decide which startled him more, the fact that Grey obviously knew the strange man with the young face and boyish curls of pure white, or the disappointed older sister tone she addressed to his tormentor.
“You can hardly call him a normal, can you Jig. He has a reputation to rival yours in his own sector, and it took me over a month to worm my way past his shields. You know that is almost unheard of for me.” As he spoke, Calloway’s hands moved to accent his words then fell to which Grey said nothing, to Morland, that “Jig” sounded suspiciously like an endearment.
With a sigh Calloway continued, “You’re going to make me break my contract and turn over my employer and all that aren’t you?” He had the effrontery to sound amused. Grey nodded. “And, if I refuse you will employ violence, pain, and other unpleasantries to convince me, won’t you?”
“I have been known to use such methods, yes.” She said with a mock solemn tone and twinkling eyes.
“So I really have no choice.”
It was obvious that this man was going to give them all the information they could possibly desire. However, the bantering gnawed at Morland’s frayed nerves. Also, the realization that this man who hounded him so long would be let go without any return of pain offended him somehow, even though the last of the headache faded when the wardrobe opened.
“You cannot seriously intend to just release this man once he answers your questions!” Morland broke into the conversation he no longer listened to. Grey and Calloway just looked at him with infuriatingly similar astonished expressions. Morland went on, speaking much louder than he intended. “He just admitted to perpetrating a slow diabolical attempt at murder for money.”
“Not murder,” Grey responded soothingly, and what she said next quite robbed Morland of speech, “Uncle Morty never does anything a mundane doctor couldn’t produce a full recovery from, though he does not inquire as to what his employers do once he softens someone up. He is almost totally amoral, but he does have some principals.”
“Quite so, young chap, don’t worry, I never consent to hit the same mark twice, either. It is no challenge. A few good night’s sleep should see you right as rain, and Jig here can set you up with some quite decent charms against any more jiggery-pokery of this sort.” Calloway’s tone was damnably urbane, but Morland regained control rather than push any farther against apparent family bonds.
Calloway turned back to Grey and his interrupted sentence. “As I was saying, Jig, I don’t think you will have any trouble with the little scientist fellow who hired me. It seems your friend Morland got him into trouble over some great take over the world with super robot’s scheme or other, and now Her Majesty’s government keeps him on a rather short lead. He’s doing some damned good work for them, I understand, but he still bears the grudge. He kept babbling about how, ‘Those the gods would destroy, they first make Mad.’ or some such. I imagine a discreet word in the right ear among his keepers would do the trick.”
With a few more words of a mundane familial nature about visits, letters, and telephone calls, Grey let Calloway step out of Morland’s dream. Suddenly, he just felt so very tired and let down. He felt a gentle caress on his hair beyond the sleeping world.
“Are you going to want my help with the scientist?” Grey asked him gently, fading out of his mind’s eye.
“No, that is all right, I think I can handle what needs to be done.” He felt that shift that he interpreted again as a nod.
“I will stay and guard you tonight and leave in the morning then.” She returned her hand to his shoulder. “Get some rest,” she whispered, and he did.