Dolores knew something was wrong as soon as she was home. There was a vibe, a coldness that wasn’t cool, a subsonic tension pervaded the room.
This room, like its occupants, was elegant and spare. A picture window looked out over the Brighton coastline. Two white leather settees flanked a glass-topped coffee table. A large fish tank, water and weed-filled but otherwise empty, occupied a recess in the wall. Above the tank were three unusual photographs:
The deep-sea exploration vessel Iron Herring with her bathyscaphe deployed on the crane;
The bathyscaphe submerged in sunlit, shallow water;
Deep-sea fumaroles along the mid-Atlantic ridge.
Imelda stood by the window, Electra sat with her legs tucked up on one of the settees. Dolores threw her coat and the green jacket onto the bed. ‘What’s wrong?’
Imelda turned from the window. ‘We’ve been thinking.’
Electra patted the settee. ‘Come and sit down.’
‘All right.’ Dolores sat beside Electra. They’d had their spats, she wasn’t concerned. The three of them had been together since they’d discovered their common interests at that exclusive New England college. They had barely legal adventures, they got their kicks from taking risks, they were brilliant at oceanography. They bonded in their souls.
Now they were going to change. Yes, she had been the cause, but they would still be together. Things were bound to be different in a different world.
Electra smiled her icicle smile. ‘We’ve been worried.’
‘Worried you’d forgotten,’ Imelda said. ‘You’ve been spending so much time with him.’
For Dolores it was simple. ‘I like Markus. He likes me. We like doing things together.’
‘We noticed.’ Imelda cracked her knuckles, one after the other. Pop, pop, pop.
Electra put her hand on Dolores’ knee. ‘Koponen won’t change.’
‘I know.’ Dolores’ eyes showed regret. ‘He’s done so much for us.’
‘He nearly got us killed,’ Imelda snapped.
‘Not on purpose.’
‘And Jarglebaum knows more than he’s letting on.’
That was definitely true. Fat cop, yes. Stupid cop? Not in the slightest.
‘The time will come when they will both need to be stopped,’ Electra said. ‘That time is very soon.’
Dolores’ eyes widened. ‘Stop Markus’s plans, you mean.’
Imelda’s nails dug into the leather of the settee. ‘That too.’
‘I–’ Dolores began.
Electra lifted Dolores’ chin with a finger. ‘When that time comes Imelda and I need to know you won’t hesitate.’
Suddenly Dolores understood the anxiety in her friends’ hearts. ‘You think I’d not come?’ she exclaimed. ‘You think I’d let you travel that wild path alone?’
Electra’s flawless, ice-blue eyes shifted uncomfortably.
Imelda chewed her thumbnail. ‘We’ve been worried.’
Dolores took Electra’s hand in her own, reached for Imelda and pulled her close. ‘I have dreamed the same dream as you. I have heard the voice of the sleeper. Ever since that day down in the deep we have a common destiny. Yes, I fear it, but I want it too. With you–’ Her heart fluttered, she heard the words before she spoke them and knew she must be mad. ‘With you at my side I would rejoice.’
‘I want to have the nice dream again but you’re never here,’ Imelda said.
‘Then I promise I will be tonight,’ Dolores said. ‘We will make a dark place and lie and dream of what will be. The three of us together.’
‘I never left,’ Dolores said, then gasped as Imelda gripped her upper arm hard enough to bruise.
Angry tears sparkling in Imelda’s eyes. ‘You’ll stay and never leave.’
‘I say you will,’ Imelda said, squeezed her arm even harder.
Dolores tried and failed to break Imelda’s grip. ‘You’re hurting me.’
‘I know. Is it nice?’
Electra reached across Dolores, gripped Imelda’s little finger and lifted. The finger dislocated with a sharp click, Imelda yelped and let go.
‘Dolores is right,’ Electra said. ‘We don’t work for the Koponen anymore but he needs to think we do. She should go to him and find things out.’
Dolores solemnly nodded. ‘I will do that.’
‘Find out everything. Stay with him – until we swim in warmer waters.’
Imelda tugged at her little finger with her teeth. ‘Tell us everything. Tell us THAT too!’
‘Everything?’ Dolores smiled.
‘We want to know,’ Electra said.
‘We’re jealous,’ Imelda said.
Dolores hugged them both. ‘Don’t be. Not tonight. Tonight we’ll have the Sleeper. Tonight we’ll dream.’
‘I’m hungry.’ Imelda glanced at the fish tank. ‘Let’s go out. You talk, we’ll listen.’
Dolores looked at the tank. Air bubbled up through the water, weed waved in the slow current. ‘It’s empty. Again.’
‘I– yes, well,’ Imelda grinned bashfully.
‘Come on then. The sushi bar?’
‘There’s a new one up in the North Lanes,’ Electra said.
‘What’s wrong with the usual place?’ Dolores said.
Dolores laughed. ‘So there are things you need to tell me too.’
‘Wait.’ Imelda held out her hand.
The three of them studied her dislocated finger. Imelda gripped it, pulled out and down. The finger snapped back into place with a nasty, wet clack.
Imelda splayed her fingers, made a fist and nodded. ‘All right, let’s go.’
Electra kissed Imelda’s cheek. ‘Did that hurt?’
To be continued…