Johann had just gotten out of the anxiety-ridden state he had been in since Dominic Sapping’s second death, after long periods where he would make himself physically sick with worry. The only good thing that had come out of it was that Deirdre had helped take care of him, and talked to him, and in exchange he had helped her with her own problems, and they had grown much closer. She was not as afraid to show affection as she had been, and he was not as afraid of talking to her. He supposed that their relationship was official now, and that he ought to start calling her his significant other.
The other thing that had happened was that his confidence had shot up. He had determined that he was not afraid of things he saw while on drugs, and he was not afraid of shrimpy little blonde boys. He was afraid of the nightmares he had, Dominic Sapping’s bloody corpse, hellfire, the Man in Red, and what might happen to him because of his part in giving Duke Janson an infected wound. He was not afraid of hallucinations, or what some child might do because his mother had died in an extremely commonplace way. In fact, it irritated him that everyone else seemed so concerned about it. Ransom Egerton was a child. Johann Faust had the powers of Hell behind him.
He was called away from his work a week after Mrs Egerton died to try and save the life of the child she had died giving birth to. He did all he could, and by morning the girl’s fever had broken. Even as he worked tirelessly to save his sister’s life, Ransom glowered at him the whole time, but Johann ignored it. He wouldn’t show that he was worried – which he wasn’t – and Ransom wouldn’t do anything to him. Fear was something people relied on, and by taking it away Johann was certain that he had dissuaded Ransom from retaliating for some perceived crime.
Some roof shingles nearly fell on him the next day as he was standing outside waiting for the landlord to appear so he could pay his rent. They fell mere inches away from his head, and if Johann had been standing just to the right he might have died.
This near death experience had only increased his confidence. Johann tipped his hat at Ransom as he climbed the stairs to his attic, and got a glare and a swear in return.
The next day, he found that someone had tampered with his chemicals and made it so that when held too close to the flame, several of them would have exploded. He dumped the liquid out and washed the bottles thoroughly before reusing them.
That night he told Deirdre about it. The nights were getting colder, so she often slept in his bed to keep warm.
“Don’t you think that you should be worried?” she asked. “It sounds an awful lot like someone has it out for you.”
“God?” Johann asked.
Deirdre laughed, but still looked scared. “I just think that we should be careful.”
“We will be, don’t worry.” Johann shivered. “It’s cold in here. Did I leave the window open?”
“You’ve closed that window every night for months, without fail. Why would you have forgotten now?”
“Everyone makes mistakes.” Johann stood up and went over to the window. It was indeed open, so he latched it shut.
The floor in the attic squeaked badly, which was probably what saved Johann’s life. He heard Ransom running towards him from behind, and managed to jump aside before the axe came down on his head. He hit his arm on the way down, probably bruising it badly, but he had avoided death.
Deirdre jumped up behind Ransom, and somehow managed to get the axe away from him. Johann stood up, holding his arm, and stumbled away from the struggle. Ransom punched Deirdre in the face, and her head snapped back, but she managed to keep the axe far away from where he could get it. Johann grabbed Ransom around the neck from behind, and tried to wrestle him to the ground, but it turned out that being a shrimpy scientist who hardly ever worked out and didn’t have the best diet was not a factor that helped win fights.
Ransom threw him off easily, and went at Deirdre again with his fists. She knocked his hands aside with the shaft of the axe, which caused Ransom to yell and bend over to rub his bruised knuckles.
“What are you doing here?” Johann asked. He was still processing what was happening. A boy had just broken into his home to try and kill him, and Deirdre had smashed his fingers with an axe.
“Killing you,” Ransom snarled. “For killing my mum.”
Ransom flew at his throat, and Johann had to throw himself across the room again to avoid him. Deirdre pounced on Ransom, and smacked the blunt end of the axe into the back of his head. He fell instantly, and Deirdre dragged him out of the room before he could come to.
Johann was initially shocked by her fast, violent reaction, but when he thought about it it made perfect sense that Deirdre, who had told him something of her past and given him an idea of why she couldn’t talk about it, was so good at spur-of-the-moment survival now. She’d been forced to survive in a spur-of-the-moment way all of her life as a child, of course she would be perfectly willing to fight off a maniac with an axe.
Deirdre came back up the stairs, slammed the door, and latched it shut.
“I didn’t think he would do that,” Johann said.
“I noticed,” said Deirdre.
“I thought he was just a kid.”
“I noticed that, too.”
“I guess I probably should have listened to you a little more.”
“So, you admit that you were wrong?”
“No,” Johann said. “I’m just saying I should have listened to you more, and that I’m sorry I didn’t. We could have died.”
“And that was your fault.”
“Actually Ransom Egerton-”
Deirdre shook her head. “Can we go to sleep? Please?”
Johann climbed back in bed and pressed his back up against the wall. Deirdre liked to sleep facing out, facing the door so that she could see anyone coming into the room, so he had moved his bed to the back wall. She crawled into bed next to him, and pulled the blankets up so that they were cocooned in a warm bubble.
“I’ll listen to you next time,” Johann said. He meant it, too. The experience of nearly being murdered had shaken him to the core, and he didn’t want to repeat it.
“I think Ransom may take drastic measures,” said Deirdre. “He might do something big.”
“I don’t know, but I think he’s going out of his way to hurt you, and he might try something else.”
“In that case, it’s not safe for you to be around me for the next few days.”
“I know. I was planning to leave the building altogether and go stay with Richard. I wasn’t sure how to tell you.”
“That’s a good plan. I’ll get a message to you when everything smoothes out, alright?”
Johann pulled her closer to him, and she sighed contentedly. He was feeling anxious again, but not to the point of sickness like he had been. He told himself that everything would be alright, that everything would turn out fine. Deirdre would go stay with Richard, he would continue his work here, and Ransom Egerton would calm down. Everything would be alright.
Apologies for the short length of today’s chapter. Hopefully, this will be compensated by Thursday’s chapter and the fact that this Saturday something new and considerably longer will be released.
Thank you for reading!