Stepney had rarely left the Temple in four weeks. The only communication she received from Dinsen the Wise was from a divination and it was an instruction she'd received before. Dinsen was pointing her too the old texts and rituals. No allusion to Rob's disappearance, or death, Lawlim's unrest, or Stepney's incompetence. All Stepney could do was obey the will of her deity. She'd fallen asleep in the safety of the Inner Sanctum when a noise woke her up. It was footfall in the Temple above so why had it disturbed her? Clerics used the Temple all day long. That was it. It wasn't daytime. Stepney left the Inner Sanctum and made her way up the narrow, stone steps to the Temple. A young Cleric was looking under the seats and cushions of the long benches and she almost jumped out of her skin when she saw Stepney.
"High Priestess! I thought the Temple was empty." The Cleric bobbed a bow.
"I didn't mean to startle you. What brings you here at night?" Stepney asked.
"I lost my bracelet during prayers, High Priestess. I'll look in the morning. Excuse me."
"Only holy symbols of Dinsen the Wise are allowed to be worn by her servants." Stepney preached.
"I'm aware of that, High Priestess. A dear friend gave me the bracelet only this morning. I put it in my belt pouch, intending to store it safely at home. I'll look tomorrow for it. I'd better go."
"Just a minute. You look familiar. Have you been in the Temple long?" Stepney asked. Usually the only Clerics she recognised were the ones that had grown from childhood through the Temple, as she'd done herself, yet she couldn't recall this one's name.
"Only a few months, High Priestess. May I go, please? I have work to do at home." The young Cleric bowed her head and left the Temple. Stepney frowned after her. She definitely was familiar but how? And what was she looking for in the Temple? Stepney had a belt pouch too and used it to keep all manner of things. They were as secure as any money belt or purse. She began searching the seats used for prayers, and the mats beneath them. She was lying flat on her stomach when a glint caught her eye. Something very shiny had been poked into the join of the bench leg and the seat. Stepney drew one of her hand scythes and gently eked the object from it's niche. It wasn't one object but two. Two glittering silver rings less than half an inch wide and and only a sliver's worth deep. Stepney had seen them before, but not as independent items. These rings were meant to form part of a safety chain for her wristcuffs. "You heretic sow." She ran out of the Temple, straight into McLintock.
"I was just coming for you. Lady Julia is worried sick about you."
"Yes and I'm sorry. McLintock we have a thief and an impostor. A girl claiming to be a Cleric has had access to my Divine wristbands and removed the safety chain. I never even noticed! Those wristbands have been imbued with the power to cross the realms, McLintock! These rings are part of my wristbands. I'll chuck the little hag through the Barrier."
"Calm down. Did you see this impostor?" McLintock began walking back to The Den.
"Yes and she looked very familiar but I don't know why. She's obviously hidden these in the Temple and was trying to retrieve them tonight. She didn't know I was there. Don't you see? I wasn't the only one capable of travel between Lawlim and Rob's world! I have to go back." Stepney kicked open the door to her private rooms.
"Just hold on a minute. Stepney! Just wait." She'd unlocked the chest that held her artifacts and held the brilliant cuffs out to show McLintock. Both safety chains were missing.
"How dare she deface a sacred artifact! May Dinsen strike her down for this!" Stepney half shouted, half sobbed.
"Stepney I need you to calm down! Please sit and hear me for a while." McLintock stood behind a chair and Stepney slumped into it. "Can you tell me how the cuffs work? Or should I say who can use them?"
"Someone blessed by Dinsen the Wise. They were blessed for me and no one could possibly contemplate that they'd be defaced and abused." Stepney said miserably. "I seem to fail Her time and time again."
"Clearly not. You're still her High Priestess." McLintock reasoned. "So even though they were blessed for you only and they're absolutely unique, another Cleric could use them, or components of them. Is that right?"
"I don't know for certain." Stepney hung her head. "No one's ever been so unforgivably disrespectful before. The Clerics of Dinsen the Wise take an Oath of honesty and respect, both of people and the possessions of others. These cuffs are the possessions of Dinsen herself and they were locked in that not so secure chest." She booted the chest for being so insecure.
"Regardless of who uses them, are they restricted to Rob's realm? Can they only be used to find him?"
"Yes. That I do know. They were imbued so I could work with Dinsen's chosen man." Stepney nodded then blinked at McLintock. "That harridan was after my man? Er ... Dinsen's man, but my man in a different way." She babbled and McLintock tried so hard not to smile. He'd known Stepney Lions for almost ten years and in all that time she'd been completely and entirely devoted to Dinsen the Wise. She was a Cleric of the purest type with no love spare for a mere man. To see and hear her like this was almost like another Stepney and that wasn't just down to Rob's unknown religious role.
"Not for any ... romantic reasons, I'm sure." McLintock said tactfully. "Stepney I want you to listen to me carefully and sensibly here. Pardon what I'm about to say but would those cuffs still work if ... well if Rob was no longer alive. Believe me, I'm not trying to upset you."
"I can only think of one way to find out." Stepney looked at her cuffs. "What if they don't respond? I don't ever want to give up on him, McLintock."
"Maybe we should find this rogue Cleric first. I doubt she'll show up at the Temple again, not if you partially recognised her. This is an island, Stepney. We'll find her and ..."
"Rip her hair out."
"Ask her a few serious questions." McLintock corrected. "For now, I beg you to go and see your mother, and Fenton."
"I'll ask my mother to lock these in the family vault. Far better than that pile of crap chest. What a shoddy job."
Rob was pacing his room when Jonty arrived at the hospital. He was thankful that Kate wasn't there too. It was bad enough just Jonty seeing him the house of fun.
"Fine set up this is, eh?" Rob said awkwardly.
"It is if you're ill. It's a hospital." Jonty shrugged. "I could have come weeks ago if you'd bloody told me. I would have even hidden in the coats until the coast was clear." He smiled and Rob snorted a laugh at the memory, and the visual.
"Well hiding in the coat rack isn't all that unusual in here. There's a bloke up the other end who won't put his feet on the floor. Seriously. He puts tissues and bog roll down to step on. Hell it takes him hours to go for his dinner. So what did you find out?" Rob went and closed the door properly.
"Rob you aren't in any trouble, are you? I'd still be here to help you but I'd like to know." Jonty sat on a plastic chair.
"No. Just my head's in trouble and that's what I'm here for. Depression, not axe wielding maniac stuff."
"I did think of that when you were at our house. You just weren't yourself at all. From what I can tell, Jean Docherty was a character you created, then didn't know what to do with it." Jonty handed Rob a bedraggled bit of paper. "You toyed with a few ideas. High Priestess' side kick. Fenton's lover. Rigman's lover. Long lost cousin of Lady Julia. It looks like you just couldn't fit her in anywhere so she stayed in the margins."
"They must have just been swift notions. I can barely remember making her up." Rob frowned. "Ah I remember scribbling this." He showed Jonty a two inch sketch done roughly in Biro. It was a hooded female figure holding a ring full of keys. "But I don't know what I was thinking. I think they're lock-picks, not keys. A thief? I can't remember. I was probably half asleep. She didn't get past the doodle stage anyway.""
"Why is she important to the story? You seem keen on fitting her in." Jonty looked at the doodle. Even that was good.
"I want to know what she's done." Rob said absently. "Er ... I mean what she would do if she was in it." He quickly corrected.
"Well if you knew that she'd already be in it." Jonty pointed out.
"Bugger. OK we're doing this arse ways first. Did you look at the rest of my junk?" Jonty nodded. "Stepney's wristcuffs were magical. They let her ... teleport."
"You never expanded on that. Shame really. You could have had her teleporting beyond the Barrier or something like that."
"You don't say." Rob mumbled. "I could never think of an olde world word for teleport. Captain Kirk teleports, High Priestesses don't. Anyway! Magic cuffs, unique because they were blessed by a deity. Yes? So how would Jean Docherty get to teleport too? Keep it in mind that Stepney guards her gear like a rottweiler."
"We're talking about a thief here, with lock-picks." Jonty sat forward. "Could she have stolen them?"
"Yes! Oh wait. No. Jean and Stepney were in another location at the same time and Stepney had the cuffs, not Jean." Rob was pacing the floor.
"A second pair of cuffs, or something similar?" Jonty suggested.
"No." Rob shook his head. "They were given magical properties by a deity, Dinsen. I can't imagine that happens willy-nilly. One High Priestess, one set of cuffs."
"There's a picture of them in your stuff at home. I presume the arms are Stepney's?"
"Definitely Stepney's." Rob agreed.
"That one is Kate's favourite. She's really impressed with your artwork Rob and she studied art at University." Jonty told him.
"Yeah? Wow." Rob wasn't used to such praise. "Well she can have that one if she wants it." He said awkwardly.
"She can? Are you sure? That isn't why I mentioned it."
"Yes if she wants it. Call it a thanks for ... well letting me in your home and stuff." Rob fiddled with the doodle.
"We'll get a frame for it. She'll be delighted." Jonty smiled. "So about these magic cuffs. When I was about six or seven I read a story about a King who had a magic crown. His crown gave him some sort of mind control powers over his subjects. Anyway, along came a rival with the same powers, but he didn't need a crown so he reckoned he should be King. They all had a war, as they would, and it turned out that this rival had somehow lobbed a bit off the crown and made the sliver into an earring. That's how he had the same powers. Same artifact. Would that work? Or something like it?"
"Oh whoa! Whoa, whoa bloody whoa! You devious wench, Jean Docherty. So ... so ... she breaks into Stepney's stash of gear hacks a bit off the cuffs ... no. Stepney would notice, surely. I'd have noticed." Rob tried to remember. He'd seen the cuffs twice. Once before the librarian had appeared on the scene, and once after. "I can't remember the details! Sod these bloody tablets."
"Hang on. I can sort that out." Jonty took out his mobile phone and called Kate. "Can you spare ten minutes, Kate? I know you're busy but this won't take long. You're a gem. You know that picture with the armbands? The one you like? Can you scan it into the laptop and send me a copy? It's for Rob. Cheers Kate."
"Huh?" Rob was officially confused.
"I love phones. They're better than physics." Jonty laughed.
"Jonty, having your toenails pulled out is better than physics. So what did you just ask Kate to do?"
"I'll show you." Jonty said as his phone pinged. "See? One jpg file. Open it and ... there we go. Stepney's cuffs."
"Well bugger me." Rob edged behind Jonty so he wouldn't have to hold the phone. "I can't make out that bit there. Oo!" Jonty zoomed in on the area. "That's nifty. It's a chain. A bracelet?"
"More likely a safety chain. Kate has a gold charm bracelet with a safety chain incase the clasp comes loose. Alot of expensive jewellery have them." Jonty told him.
"So if that chain was removed, Maybe Kate wouldn't notice straight away?" Rob tried and better tried to remember if the chain was there when Stepney took him to Lawlim. It had certainly been there when she'd first appeared in his flat. He'd drawn it, along with the hand scythes and leggings.
"No maybe about it. It had snapped once and she didn't notice until it fell off in the car. So we have you busted, Jean Docherty. You're really filling in the plot holes here Rob. Shouldn't you be writing this down?" Jonty suggested.
"Trust me, I definitely should not be writing this down." Rob said ruefully.
"Supper's out!" Jeff barged in with the scrabble under his arm. "Oh hello. Are you the doctor?" He shook Jonty's hand.
"Bah!" Rob elbowed Jeff out of the way. "I don't want any supper. Naff off."
"Go get your supper, Rob." Jonty stood up. "They'll be putting me out soon anyway. I'm in Wales for the next two days. Rugby final. Kate could come though. Just for the company?"
"Rugby? Bloody rugby? You freak, Styles! Rugby my mentally unstable arse! Er ... Kate doesn't have to come, Jonty. It's OK. I know she's great and she wants to help but ... but ... not in here. I'm not at my best."
"As though I'd inflict you on my wife when you're 'at your best'." Jonty said grimly and made Rob laugh."See you in a few days Rob. Hang in there, you're doing great."