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Sapphire and Steel

by P. J. Hammond
Episode # 4,

"The Man Without a Face"

Transcripted by Jill
with some deeply appreciated assistance from Jamas Enright.






"See saw, sacredown, which is the way to London Town? One foot up and the other foot down, which is the way to London town? One foot up and the other foot down, this is the way to London town."

Ancient black and white photographs, filled with men leading horses, children at tables, old women farmers smiling at the camera, their arms full of wheat. A child appeared on the doorstep of the old tenement with a parasol in her hand. Like a photograph she seemed yellow and faded, her bangs tied back and hair hanging long down her back. She closed her parasol and came down the steps to join two other children in the cement yard, one a little blonde boy in a cap, the other a smaller girl with shoulder-length, dark hair. She whispered to them and then together they went into the building. They went up the stairs until they reached the apartment on the second floor. They were about to enter a room when jazzy music with the saxaphone overriding the other instruments blared from up the stairs. The dark-haired girl looked up, wonderingly. "Who's up there?" she asked.

The other girl pulled at her. "Come on." They entered a room full of photos and began searching, the younger girl looking at photos through a magnifying glass. There was a group of boys at a garden gate, hanging all over the fence. "No," muttered the older girl. There was a group of children riding in a hay wagon. Then there were some boys and a little girl playing at a drinking fountain next to a car. "Ah," she said. "Would you like to play with these children? Shall I bring them?"

The little girl smiled happily, "Yes, please!"

Out into the small, garbage strewn lot in front of the ancient tenement came a group of children, led by the tallest girl, some looking about in surprise at their strange surroundings. They began playing.

There had been a photo of children playing at a drinking fountain next to a car. The photo had changed. Where the children had been, there was only an empty sidewalk, wet where water from the fountain had splashed down.

The children played together, laughing. Outside the gate a tall blonde woman in a knee-length, brilliant blue muslin dress stared in. Her golden hair feathered about her face, the back down the nape of her neck. The children were so colorless. When the oldest girl saw the woman, she jumped up and headed into the building. The others began to follow, except for the dark haired girl who was playing with a doll. Then they all vanished. Startled, the blonde woman wandered past the cement walls of the yard, along the side of the tenement. She came to a side door where there was a great deal of noise. She waited patiently, hands folded behind her back, smiling slightly. At last the door opened. She smiled at the man on the other side.

He asked, "What is this?"

She answered, "The side door."

"Oh." He stepped through and looked around. He wore a dark gray suit with a light, almost silver tie. "The front door was simple. So was the alarm." He stepped past her, puzzling the area out.

"Good," she said. "There were children."

"Where?" he asked, walking away the direction she had come.

"In the yard, playing on the step. They disappeared, I thought perhaps they had gone inside."

He stared into the yard through the gate. "Nope. No one came through the door." He was puzzled and said mildly, "There doesn't appear to be anyone in the bottom part of the building." He glanced back towards her. She moved down the steps toward the gate. "How many children?" he asked curiously, joining her.

"Seven," she answered, gazing out the gate.

"What did they look like?"

"I don't know, they were just children. It wasn't very clear." She gazed into the lights.

"Were they real?"

"I didn't really see enough to s -- "

"From what you did see," he interrupted and urged her gently.

She turned to him and said steadily, "No, I don't think they were real. Nor do I think they were images. I think they were something in between."

They stared at each other for a second, and then the man asked doubtfully, "Is this the place?"

She glanced up at the building thoughtfully, then met his eyes. "Maybe."

He did not sigh, but he started up the steps to the door and inside the building. He opened a door to a large room on the ground floor and they walked in. "Some kind of shop."

She turned on the lights. "Lost property," she told him.

Row upon row of shelves with all sorts of knicknacks upon them. He lifted the barrier-gate of the entry. "That's what they sell?"

"And buy." They walked further in and investigated, touching the multitude of strange objects.

Beside an empty birdcage, touching a peculiar stand for oil and vinegar, salt and pepper shakers, he asked doubtfully, "You mean people lose these things?"

"The purpose of this place, and places like this, is to trade lost property." She peered into the red, triangular kaleidoscope she had picked up and set it down on a shelf, then walked farther in, her hands behind her back, looking around. "It's kind of a cross between a second hand bargain shop, and a pawn broker's."

"There's nothing new."

She joined him where he stood, and they both looked around. She said, "No."

He said bitterly, "A room full of triggers. Thousands of them. It could be any one of them." He stepped forward and looked all around.

"No," she said calmly, watching him.

He did not look at her, but he was puzzled. "Time has broken through, hasn't it?"

"Yes," she confirmed.

"And we as usual have been told too late," he grumbled.

Surprised, she said, "Well, we're not too late to stop whatever's happening."

"We're too late to have prevented it happening in the first place! We should have been here earlier. Before things happened. Before things... break through. Someone should be here, waiting." He looked around, bitterly angry.

She shook her head and said soothingly, "That's impossible."

"It's not a'tall impossible."

She stared at him, becoming annoyed. "There aren't enough of us!"

He flicked an angry look at her. "There are more than enough of us."

She asked reasonably, "Well who would volunteer?

Startled, he looked at her. "Volunteer?"

"Yes, simply to sit and wait. Maybe for hundreds of Earth-years. Would you?"

He sniffed and looked away. "That depends."

She began to smile and then smirked, turning away from him. "You wouldn't. I know you."

He walked around the shelving and she went the other way. He stopped to look at some glass objects, another birdcage, a pitcher and a bust of a head that looked as though it had been carved out of wood. He said, "Well, there are those of us who are very good at sitting about and doing nothing. They do it non-stop."

She smirked from where she stood studying another shelf. "The specialists," she answered.

Indignant, he snapped, "The specialists?! Well what are we? What am I?" He walked past a dusty, hanging coat.

She answered him mildly, "You're an operator. We're all operators."

He stopped in mid-step and muttered, "Oh, those." She smirked again. Then he said firmly, gazing about, "Well this particular operator has made up his mind about something. That in his expert opinion this room is loaded with active triggers. Any one of them could cause a breakthrough." She walked between shelves, looking about. Nothing reacted; nothing pinged her senses as having caused the latest trouble. From a point closer to her, he suddenly said, "Some of them even speak for themselves."

A long, metal blade that he held in front of her. She caught nothing from it and looked at him. "Well in that case, this one has nothing to say."


She touched the blade, running her palm against its dull edge. "No one's ever died by this sword, never ever been hurt by it. Ever." The blade was clean and un-responsive.

He sighed. "It's a depressing place, isn't it?"

"Yes," she agreed, and stepped on, passing a clock on a shelf and many odd, little objects.

"Nothing here but the belongings of the poor, the hopeless, and the dead." He lifted a hanger with a woman's shirt on it. The material was dusty.

"That's right."

"But it is in here..." he prompted her, looking around.

She stopped and listened. The room was still silent and she knew the answer. "No. In this building, yes. In this room, no."

Startled, he tossed the shirt back where it had been and crossed towards her. "You mean it hasn't had to use any of this? How can you be so sure?"

It came to her with ease and she shifted around, trying to listen. "It hasn't needed to." She walked between the shelves, looking around at books and other things. "But wherever the time break is, it's very close by. I do know that much." She brushed her fingers along and then pushed aside the dusty books. Nothing. But there was something here. She turned and looked between books on the shelves to meet the eyes of a girl, who ducked out of sight. The woman quickly moved aside a basket and saw the girl again, who ran. The woman moved to the next passage, then walked through it. There was no sign of the girl. She spoke to her partner. {Steel?}

He was holding a bizarre metal thing, like a box or a solid pot and trying to decide what it was. He answered her. [Yes?]

{Move to the door.} He blinked and set the pot down, obeying her quickly. She said, {Tell me what you see.}

Bewildered, he stared from the door and could find nothing. [Tell me what I'm looking for.]

{A child. Somewhere in here with us; hiding.} She shifted, looking alertly about. Very strange emanations, slight though they were, from that little girl. She walked to the next passage.

Uncertainly, Steel said, [I don't see any child.]

Sternly, she told him, {Just stay by the door. I'll try and find her.} Passing all the hundreds of knicknacks. Around a corner. She heard a tiny whisper and turned alertly.

A child's voice singing in a whisper, "One foot up and the other foot down, which is the way to London town? One foot up and the other foot down, this is the way to London town."

She reached to Steel. {Did you hear that?}

[Hear what?]

{A child's voice; chanting a rhyme. A kind of... skipping song.}

[No, I didn't hear it.] His brow furrowed slightly, revealing his puzzlement.

She heard a girl, giggling. Standing still, she let her eyes roam. She looked left and rounded the corner. More giggling. She tracked the sound and found a ceiling rack, from which hung a number of black umbrellas. {I think I've found her. Stay where you are. Watch the door,} she told him firmly. She gently pushed through the umbrellas, then stopped among them when she looked straight at the defiant child. Dark hair, colored like faded orange and reddish tints, a parasol over her shoulder, her mouth a dark slash. {I've found her. Whatever she is, I've found her.} She took a step closer and the child turned away and vanished. Startled, she took another step rapidly forward, not seeing the umbrellas behind her slowly rising. When she turned, they were in her face as if to attack. Startled, she called out, "Steel!!" Turning, she found more umbrellas menacing her from behind.

He began to spring over the counter and the moment was frozen in a black and white photograph leaning on one of the shelves, framed in pink.

The black umbrellas threatened and stabbed at her, flicking the edges of her dress, poking the back of her neck. They cawed like crows. She snatched up a non-threatening umbrella with a white handle and used it to knock the others away. As she moved, time stopped and it became another photograph.

The little girl was watching, thinking, "This is the way to London Town." But then something disturbed her. A shadow fell across her and she fled, vanishing.

Released from the frozen moment in time, the woman almost staggered but regained her balance. She dropped the umbrella and moved quickly towards where Steel was just coming free of his frozen moment. He met her amongst the shelves and snarled, "That was it!"

"The time break. That was part of it."

"And you said it wasn't part of this room!" he growled indignantly.

She growled back at him, "I said it didn't come from here. It didn't start here. It's simply using things from here as part of it's game!" She was as angry as he, crossing the room and forcing him to follow her.

"It?!" he demanded, catching up with her.

She met his eyes, her own blazing. "The child. It would appear to be a child."

He turned away from her, moving towards the door of the room. "I saw you." He brushed his fingers through the dust of the shelving. "From here I could see you. I couldn't move, but I could see. I could see you."

"Yes?" she urged him.

"It was... it was as if you were part of a photograph..." he moved his hands nervously over the shelf, puzzled by what had happened.

"You were the same," she told him.

He moved back into the main shop-area. "What did the child look like?" he asked, passing her.

"She looked as though she was from a photograph. Her hairstyle, her clothes, the color quality. Everything looked as though she was part of an old photographic picture."

Uncertainly, he asked, "Except that she was three-dimensional."


Steel walked worriedly into the next passage between shelves, picking up little objects. "And for a short time we weren't." He thumbed through some frames and pulled out a photograph of an old man sitting in front of a haystack. "Photographs. Is that how its being done? Is that how time's broken through?"

She said softly, "With a little help and encouragement, maybe." She watched over his shoulder.

He lifted his head and glanced about. "Let's look upstairs."

The children all stared up. The oldest girl was separated from them, in a bit of trouble with authority. She said, "I'm sorry. I just wanted to play, that's all." The other three girls and boys eyed her and then looked back at the other focus of their attention. "Anyway, I'm sorry. I have said I'm sorry!" she insisted, as though arguing with someone. "And... I think you'd better come home. Now. Please come home!"

Steel and Sapphire eyed the staircase before he preceded her up the stairs. They heard voices in the yard, children singing a rhyme and laughing. "Eeny meeny macharaka, hie die doma nacka, sticka stacka rima racka, om pom push!"

Sapphire called, "Steel, look." He joined her and they stared out the window on the landing. "Can you see them?"

There was a small, dark-haired girl bouncing in one corner, another girl nearby, and at least three boys in dark clothes. Steel said softly, "Yes. Yes, this time I do."

"It's children again. It all seems to be children."

"Yes," he said thoughtfully. They looked up the stairs. There was a light on in one room at the very top of the staircase. Steel said, "Well, somebody's at home." They moved on up. First he opened the door to the second level room. It was silent and still, abandoned. He flicked the light on and they stepped in, investigating the mirrors and Sapphire running her fingers along the shelves and their contents. Steel rolled back the door of a desk to discover stacks of mail bound by rubber bands. "Well, someone isn't too bothered about opening their mail," he commented, picking up one bound pile. There were international envelopes amongst bills. Steel read the name labels atop different piles absently. "Mr. H. Williamson. H. Williamson Esq., H. Williamson."

Sapphire asked, "How far back do they go?"

"Hmm. A couple of months," Steel answered, bending down and flicking through an address-card rolodeck.

Sapphire abandoned an empty shelf and glanced out into the orange light coming through the window. "No food, no provisions."

"Whoever he is he appears to live here above his shop." Steel glanced down at the blankets and pillows piled on the couch, along with a book left open on its face. "He appears to sleep here, but he doesn't eat and he doesn't read his mail." They looked around suspiciously, Steel pursing his lips. "He reads books, though." He picked up the book. The title was, 'Photography Today', but the book was old.

Sapphire leaned against the desk and looked up at the laden shelving above. "There are more here on the same subject."

Steel pulled aside a curtain to find a closed door behind it. Alerted, he tried to open it but it was locked. He pushed the curtain all the way aside to fix it on a nail and stepped back.

Sapphire reached towards the knob, analyzing it. "Tumbler and spring. The wards are here, the bolt, there." She pointed for Steel.

He laid his palm flat over the area she had indicated and turned his hand slowly. The door unlocked. He opened it and they walked into another darkened room. Sapphire crossed to a heavy black curtain and pulled it open. "He does more than just read about it," she stated firmly. It was a darkroom.

"Old photographs again," he said, turning on the red light.


Steel thumbed through some photographs of people. Every one seemed ancient. Sapphire saw another photograph of three children sitting and standing. There was something... something odd about it. A photo of an old man with a dog, but that one seemed right. Steel lifted his head and asked, "When somebody makes a hobby, or a profession of photography, doesn't that mean that they take new photographs?"

"Usually, yes," Sapphire confirmed.

Steel was looking over the materials in the room. "Especially with this kind of equipment." For these things were not old. They were newer, powerful tools. He turned one small camera over in his hands. "Why aren't there any new photographs in here? Can you see any?"

Sapphire was glancing through a pile. "No."

They continued their separate searches. Sapphire stopped in confusion and picked up one large photo. Empty space.... There was huge empty space on the left and a car on the right, a woman walking beyond it. "Steel." He came to her side and looked at it with her. "There's something wrong with this photograph."

"Wrong?" he was puzzled.

"The balance is wrong. There're things missing from it."

"What kind of things?" he asked urgently.

"People," she said matter-of-factly.

He stiffened and drew in a breath. "Well, whose mistake was that? The original photographer?"

"No, the balance was there when the photograph was taken; the people were there." She touched her fingertips to the picture, following an invisible outline. "Four. Four small figures."

"Children," Steel stated firmly.

Sapphire looked at him. "There were four children in this photograph. They were part of it. They belong to it."

He lifted the photo closer to the bright light and touched the place where there was sidewalk and brick wall. He could not find any hint of something cut out. "You mean it's been faked. It's been worked on."

"No, the background is intact, and so too is the ground that the children are standing. And the water is still there."

"What water?"

She touched the photograph, drawing his eye to the image of liquid on the ground. "The water that they spilt when they were drinking at the fountain. In 1884." She looked at him gravely.

He met her eyes in brief surprise. "Ninety-six years ago."

"Mm," she agreed.

He brought the photo down into her hands and moved into the red light of the darkroom. "All right. Children. Children taken from photographs -- " he muttered, frowning.

"Or lost," Sapphire said, studying the photo herself.

"Or stolen," he emphasized. He opened a box near him and frowned again at the contents.

Sapphire said bemusedly, "I suppose you could call it a different kind of lost property." She set the photo down and looked at some of the others. Her eyes found the missing balance. "I think the same thing's happened to that one. And this." She looked closely at some of the photos on the shelf. "And to all of them." Steel came over to her. She had picked up another photo, this one of three girls with long, dark hair that waved past their shoulders, dark stockings on their legs. Between one child and the other two was a gap through which the lawn, bushes and trees could be seen. Touching that gap Sapphire said, "Steel, do you remember the child in the shop below? I think she belongs there."

She looked at him, but he was following her easily. "So these children are not alive. They're not living."


Turning away thoughtfully he added, "And you said they're not ghosts; they're not images. But something in between." He picked up one of the photos he had found in the box. A large group of young boys was the focus of the picture. "What about these?"

Somewhere, not quite in their conscious hearing, children's voices sang "One foot up and the other foot down, which is the way to London town? One foot up and the other foot down, this is the way to London town."

Sapphire stood next to him and looked at the photo. "I expect they're waiting to be brought here." He started to speak the rhyme with her, "This is the way to London Town." Nervously he looked behind him.

They went up the stairs to the next landing and opened a door. An ancient toilet with a pull-down flusher. "How quaint," muttered Steel.

Then music began playing from the next room up. Sapphire said, "There's someone in there, alone."

They moved together up to the last landing and opened the door, walking in. The young woman they thoroughly startled had been putting on her makeup. Her hair was cut short, dark, it framed a somewhat pretty face. She had large, white balls dangling from her pierced ears. Golden eyeshadow shone on her lids. She was wearing only her slip and reacted very quickly. "What th -- " she started. She sprang to her feet and glared at them, resting her left hand with its red fingernails on her hip, her elbow jutting out aggressively. "Look, if you want the landlord, he isn't in. And if you want me, I'm not in either!" she said defiantly. She stamped to her door, glared fiercely and gestured out towards the landing. "So... out!"

Sapphire was checking some of the odds and ends scattered about. The young woman was not the neatest of housekeepers, it seemed. Steel was left to deal with her and asked belligerently, "The landlord?"

"I said he isn't in."

"He lives below?"

Holding her temper just barely, she said, "Yes."

"He owns the shop?" Steel was beginning to turn to the young woman, while Sapphire sat down.

"He owns the whole building. And I pay my rent," she had both hands on her hips now, and her jaw jutted fiercely as she confronted him. "So, would you mind?!" She waited for him to leave.

Steel turned away from her. "We haven't finished, yet."

"Well, I have!" She walked over to where Sapphire was sitting and snapped angrily, "Look, tell your boyfriend, will you? Doors are for knocking on. You don't just barge in!" Sapphire was gamely hiding her amusement and watching her partner. Steel was opening the drawers of the young woman's vanity table and she rushed over to shove them closed. Steel gave her a puzzled look, as if he had no idea why she was angry. "Just a minute!! Who are you anyway? Police? Creditors?! What?"

Sapphire watched her steadily. "We're visitors."

This did not soothe the woman. "Well, I'm sorry but you're visiting -- "

"Do you live alone?"

She glared fiercely, "Of course I'm alone."

Steel flicked his eyes around and asked Sapphire, "Turn that thing off, will you?"

Sapphire did not get up, she just glanced at the turntable and used her power to lift the arm and shut the record down.

The defiant young woman gazed in surprise and then snapped, "Now just a minute!" She turned to go at Steel, furious, and was locked in place in mid-step. Fear began to color her voice her accent became more pronounced, dropping the 'h' at the beginning of her words. "Here, I can't move! For God's sake!"

It was Sapphire who was holding her in place, and who asked logically, "If you live alone, why are there two beds in this room? Why are there another person's clothes in the cupboard? Another person's possessions?"

Quivering, unable to turn her head or anything, the young woman answered, "They belong to my friend. Now let me move, will you? You're scaring me."

"Where's your friend now?"

"She hasn't been home for a while."

"For how long?"

"For several months!" She was using her anger to hold back her fear, and doing rather well at it.

Steel, beside Sapphire, was eyeing a cupboard, brushing his hand against it. Surprised, he turned his head towards the young woman. "You mean she left here without taking any of her things, any of her clothes?"

"Yes," she hissed defiantly.

He hesitated a moment, then asked, "Have you heard from her since?"

"No!" and that was a faint admitted agony.

Steel turned away and headed for the door. "Bring her with you."

Sapphire started to get up from the chair. The young woman, her voice shaking, tried to reason with them. "Look, I said I have to work."

Sapphire draped a pink robe across the woman's shoulders, sending a soothing pulse into her mind. As she was released, she also was calmed and eased. She turned to Sapphire half-hypnotized, her fear and anger muffled by the other woman's power. "The old landlord left."

"When?" Sapphire asked her gently.

"Several months ago." She followed Sapphire out onto the staircase easily, where Steel was waiting. They silently placed her between them as she tied her robe and they started down the stairs together. "I suppose he must've sold out! I mean, he left all his furniture. His photographic gear, his stock."

"Have you seen him since?"


At the bottom of the stairs, Steel turned to go inside the landlord's apartment. "What about the new landlord?"

"Oh, he's marvelous!" she answered. When Steel stopped and looked at her she said, "Well he doesn't bother me. He doesn't even ask for his rent! I just leave it on the top of the stairs when I feel like it." Between the two of them she stood, and looked up at the tall Sapphire. "All right, so he can't be earning much. Well he wouldn't, would he, if he never opened his shop!" She shrugged.

Steel said thoughtfully, "A man who earns his living in a shop that's never open?" He and Sapphire exchanged glances.

"Well, maybe he's waiting," said the young woman with a shrug.

Sapphire asked her, "Waiting? What for?"

The woman did not notice Steel go into the landlord's apartment as she answered with another shrug, "Well, I don't know! Do some work on the place. Get rid of the ghosts." She raised her eyebrows playfully.

Steel said from the apartment, "Ghosts?"

Startled, she turned her head. Realizing where he was she went in after him. "Here! You can't go in there! It's private!"

Steel was standing near the door to the darkroom. He glanced at her as she came up on his left and touched her shoulders from behind, soothing her instantly and moving her around in front of him. "These... ghosts."

She smiled flirtatiously and let him sit her down on the couch, settling on the arm next to her. Sapphire leaned against the back of the couch and listened. The woman looked up at Steel, trying to be seductive. "Oh, they don't bother me. Well, not so far." She grinned and let her shoulders go down in dismissal, baring her neck for him. "I mean, all right, so the place is haunted. But the rent's cheap. Anyway, they're only little ghosts." She held out her hand to demonstrate. "About that high."

Sapphire cut in softly, "You've seen them?"

"Well, glimpses of them. That's all." She rolled her head back to look at Sapphire, then around to look at Steel, who was staring at the wall, troubled.

"This... new landlord..." Steel began, speculatively.

"Ah, he's all right. Well, he must be," she added when Steel looked at her abruptly. "He's always talking about his kids." Sapphire and Steel looked at each other alertly, but the woman thought they were misunderstanding her and said teasingly, "Children. The way he talks about them he must have dozens of them. I've not seen them though, not yet."

Steel said quietly, "Describe him."

The question surprised her. "What?" she asked.

"The new landlord," Sapphire clarified.

Steel added, "Describe him to us."

The young woman smiled and started, "Well he's..." she trailed off, her brow creasing in puzzlement.

A man in a dark green suit and bowler hat was approaching the side door, walking quickly.

The young woman sat forward on the edge of the couch, confused. "That's weird."

"What is?" Steel asked her.

"Well, I've known the man a few months. Talked to him enough times like I'm talking to you now, uh -- " she laughed sheepishly, smiling in embarrassed confusion and curled her hand under her chin, "that's crazy!"

"Tell us," Steel urged her.

"Well I -- I don't know what he looks like!"

The man entered through the gate and the children gathered to greet him, delighted. One boy took his hand. The oldest girl said, "There are some people here!"


"Yeah," she said.

"What kind of people?"

"A man and a lady. Can we hurt them?" When he did not answer right away, but locked the gate behind him, she reached for his hand eagerly. "Oh, please! Let's hurt them!" The other children scattered to play. He was still silent, walking towards the entrance to the building. The girl stared up at him, suddenly frightened. "What's wrong?! They haven't come to send us back, have they?!" She blocked his way, wanting answers. "Because we don't want that! We don't want to go back! We want to stay here with you!" A boy against the wall looked wide-eyed and frightened.

The man replied soothingly, "No one's come to send you back, my children. I brought you here. Brought you with me. No one else on this world can send you back. You just remember that." The children calmed at his words.

The young woman was still shocked by what she had realized. Sapphire rested her chin on her right fist, and Steel watched the young woman with concern. She said, "I mean that really is crazy! I've talked to the man!" She met Steel's eyes, struggling to recall, her nose wrinkling up in confusion. "Talked to him face to face and... I can't remember his face!"

He entered the building. The children crowded behind him nervously. He moved his hands soothingly. "Be still, my children. Be still." His face was a flesh-colored blob.

They brought her into the room that opened onto the dark room to show her the photos. Sapphire was closest to her, Steel beyond. The young woman stared in around in amazement. "Where'd they all come from?"

Steel said in surprise, "They weren't here at all?"


"So you've been in here before."

She kept gazing down and looking at all the photos. "Oh, yeah. While Mr. Williamson was here. But he never bothered with stuff like this. Except in the shop. Except when he was selling junk." Steel and Sapphire looked at each other. The 'except' troubled them. The young woman went into the darkroom and looked at the photos in there. She glanced back over her shoulder. "He was a very clever photographer," she told them conspiratorially.

Sapphire asked, "Is that how he made his living?"

"Oh, no. The shop was his living. This was just his hobby." She ran through the photos, studying them, her face serious. "Not just taking pictures," she threw back over her shoulder.

"What then?" asked Sapphire.

"Well, discovering things."

Steel perked up. "About photography?" Uneasy, Sapphire rubbed her cheek.

The young woman answered, "Yeah. New techniques and that. Anyway, that's what he told me. I mean, certainly he wouldn't have bothered with stuff like this." Her face twisted in confusion, she snorted and lifted one photo as Steel came over to her. "I mean, look! That's nothing. There's nobody on that." The photo was of a swing suspended from a bare tree. It was slightly out, as though it had been moving. No living human appeared in the image.

Steel gazed over her shoulder at the photo. "There was, once."

Startled, she craned her head around to look at him. "Once? What do you mean, once?"

Sapphire looked up at a picture above her on a shelf. There was something.... She called her partner. "Steel."

At the foot of the stairs, the man in dark green stared up at his apartment door.

There were three men in the picture. They were half-smiling at the camera, brushing up a counter in a shop selling rolls of fabric. The counter from the shop. The counter where Steel had been frozen for a moment in time. They looked at the next shelf down. Sapphire pointed at another photo. "And this one." There were two women on a beach, one with a parasol. The picture was the position Sapphire had been frozen in.

"The child did that to us," Steel hissed angrily.

"Looks like it, yes."

His voice and alarm brought the young woman to peer between their shoulders, alarming her as well. "What's wrong?" she demanded."

Steel did not hear her. "Chose those particular photographs for us!"

The young woman asked in frustration, "What is it?"

Sapphire ignored her, too, answering Steel. "Not exactly. I mean, she simply chose appropriate ones. After all, she's got enough to choose from," she laughed softly.

The young woman's voice was rising. "Look, will somebody mind telling me what's wrong?!"

They turned to her at last, their eyes steady. Steel asked, "Do you have somewhere else to stay?"

Shocked and outraged, she glared at him. "No!"

He said firmly, "Then you'd better find somewhere," and walked away.

She spun after him. "Now, just a minute! I happen to live here," she pursued him out of the apartment "and I happened to be getting ready for work when you lot arrived! Hey, listen!" She saw him enter her apartment and hurried after him. "Just quietly minding my own business when you lot come busting in!"

Steel was looking about the apartment. "You go to work at this hour?"

"Yes!" she hissed.

"For how long?"

She had finally caught up to him and clenched her fists at her sides. "For all night."

He looked at her. "Then pack a bag. Take it with you. Stay there."

"I can't stay there -- "

"Then stay with a friend!"

"I only have one friend -- "

"And she's disappeared."

"Look, she hasn't exactly disappeared -- "

"The same as the landlord who's disappeared."

Outraged, confusion and fear beginning to seep in again, she raised her voice. "Look, no one's proved he's disa -- "

He spoke over her words. "To be replaced by someone else, another man. A man without a face."

She laughed angrily. "Look, maybe he has got a face and I just haven't seen it." He stared steadily at her. She smiled and pursed her lips playfully, trying to reason with him. "I mean... I work in a club. When I'm allowed to." This was a dig at him, for keeping her from going to work. "So I suppose you see so many faces, that you end up not seeing faces. So it's unbelievable," she said mockingly.

"No," he said grimly.

She had better things on her mind, and she walked around him towards her vanity table. "Well, it'll have to do. Now, would you mind. I said I have to work."

She sat at her table and took her wig from its bust, beginning to fix it on her head. As she did so, they heard the voices of the children out in the yard. "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold. Peas porridge in the pot nine days old." Steel moved to look out her window. "Some like it hot. Some like it cold. Some like it in the pot nine days old!"

The woman refused to care about this odd man. She teased her wig. "It's all right. They're kids. Just children, for God's sake."

He moved away from the window, stepping around behind her. "Whose children?"

"How should I know? They just play outside, that's all."

"Have you ever seen them?" He watched her, marveling at the human ability to ignore what it did not understand.

"Not close up, no."

Coolly, he asked, "How long have they been there?"

Startled, she said, "What?"

"The children."

"Well, I don't know. Several months. Something like that." She was putting the finishing touches on her wig.

He moved over to a chair and sat down, watching her. "Since your friend and the landlord disappeared? Is that when the children arrived?"

Exasperated, she said, "Yes. But no one's disappeared. No one's been reported missing." They could hear the children giggling outside. She stopped, having put a green ornament in the wig. She looked at Steel laughingly. "Don't have any funny ideas about Mr. Williamson," she said gently. "Mr. Williamson was a very clean man. Not clean like you. Got on with his pictures, and he just liked to talk." She smirked at him and got to her feet. She moved to her record player and set a fast-paced song going, defying him with a look.

Sapphire was still in the photo room, looking through all the photographs. She found one picture that was underneath an overturned mirror, and turned it over to study carefully.

Words burst forth, "Everybody sing, hey lah!" and repeated cheerfully.

The young woman turned up the volume of her stereo and glared mockingly at Steel. "Nice, isn't it? You can't dance to it, but it stops you feeling lonely. I suppose you wouldn't know." She sat back at the vanity and continued working her hair. "Did she choose that suit for you?"

Steel started slightly. "What did you say?"

"You can turn it off, if you like." She worked at her hair and when the music continued, she glanced at Steel over her shoulder, grinning. "It's her, isn't it? You can't do anything!" She turned her head to look at the stereo, almost snickering. "The first time that thing just stopped. She did it, didn't she?" She skimmed his form with her eyes. "Picked your suit, as well?"

Sapphire's voice reached into his mind, a welcome relief from the young woman's persistent blather. {Steel?}


{This picture. There are two people in it who shouldn't be there.}

[What do you mean, they shouldn't be there?]

She answered softly, {They don't belong in it.}

Liz was still working at her hair, deliberately ignoring the strange, handsome man. When the stereo fell abruptly silent, she turned around. He was gone. She was the only person in the room and she had not even heard him take a step! Startled, she got to her feet and hurried into the hall. Looking down, she was surprised to see at the bottom of the stairs the smooth hair and dark suit of her young landlord. She leaned on the railing and stared down at his back. "Oh, it's you! What are you doing down there, hiding?"

"No, why should I hide?" he answered her, his voice light.

She snorted. Why, indeed. A man might hide for any reason. "Anyway, There's some people looking for you," she told him.

"I know."

"That's your problem, not mine. Last thing I need right now are other people's problems." She started to go back into her apartment, when she stopped and looked down at him again with a sigh. Those two weirdoes had raised so many questions. "Look, I know this is going to sound stupid, but... do you think I could see your face?" He did not answer her at once. "Go on, please!" she teased him.

He sounded surprised but he still did not look her way. "But you've seen my face."

"Well, no you see, that's the funny thing -- " he turned his head and she could make out his features vaguely in the shadows. He had a round face, pale skin and long nose, dark eyebrows. It was all indistinct. She could not have identified him if she saw him again. "Thanks, but I still can't see it," she said insistently. He leaned forward into the yellowy light and his features became clearer. Just a young man's face, clean, somewhat odd colored in the light from downstairs. "Oh, oh yeah. I suppose I wasn't looking properly before," she shrugged, embarrassed.

He tipped his chin to her. "That's right. You weren't looking properly."

She laughed weakly in relief and withdrew from the landing into her apartment. As soon as she vanished from sight, his features began to blur and round out until they were blank.

In the apartment, Steel had turned the picture over and whapped it against the shelf's edge until the glass shattered. "You say it hasn't been touched for ninety-seven years?"

Sapphire said wryly, "Until you broke the glass, yes."

He stared at it grimly as he cleared more glass away. "And yet those people are in there."

"Yes," she confirmed. With the edge of his fingernail, he tore the paper backing . "Careful, Steel. It's the only surviving copy!"

Startled, he looked at her. "If I destroy this I'd be destroying them?"

She glanced down and explained. "The sudden implosion of chemical molecules would cause an emission of photonous energy which would be impossible to contain or reverse." Steel was very careful as he tore the plain brown backing away. For each piece, Sapphire did a scan, running her palm across the paper before setting it aside. Eventually Steel took out the harder board backing. Sapphire scanned it and said, "The back hasn't been touched, either."

Steel reached a newspaper that had been used as cushion between the hard-board backing and the picture. He glanced at the date. "Ninety-seven years ago," he said in awe. He showed the paper to Sapphire, and she took it. They finally reached the photo itself and he gingerly turned it over. "They really look as if they were part of the photo," he murmured. It was astonishing.

Sapphire handed him a magnifying glass. "Except for their clothes, yes." He bent down and gazed at it intently.

Together they stepped out onto the landing. Steel was heading up with the photograph when Sapphire stopped, looking down the stairs, her hand on the pole. "Steel? There was something here."


She hesitated, but her senses were sure despite some confusion. "A few moments ago." She started down the steps, listening intently.

He followed behind her. "Did it go out?"

"No." She took another step. "That's strange." Then her hand touched the rail where the thing had been. The signal came clear, but still bewildering. She said swiftly, "Wait! It's as if... whatever it was was alive but... in the wrong sort of way. A different sort of way."

Steel paused on the step. "A manifestation."

She moved farther down and said fiercely, "No, more than that. Stronger than that."

Puzzled, he tried again. "A likeness, then."

She frowned, continuing down the stairs. "No, because there's nothing to liken it to." She paused, sniffing the air. "And the smell! The smell of dust and paper... and copper, and chemicals!"

Steel came down and squatted a few steps up from her, the picture held carefully between his fingers. "Which chemicals?"

"It's a mixture. Silver bromide, iodine, but... so -- so old. It's like a cupboard that's been shut for two-hundred years."

"Paper, copper, chemicals." He held the photo in his hands gingerly, stared at it a moment and then at her.


"But nothing human."

She thought for a moment. "No." She turned and took a step up to him, right into the exact place the faceless man had stood earlier. Her senses locked on and she hissed, "Yes!" Instinctively, she reached out to touch the railing again and backed against the wall. "Just here. A man-shape."

Steel stiffened, his eyes went bright. He pointed at her. "A man! A man who is a photograph, is that it?"

She pressed against the wall, shaking her head. "No, it can't be."

"But you just said -- "

"No, it can't be! The structure is here, the texture is here, but not the subject. There never was a subject." She shook her head at him.

Staring at her he asked, "A photograph of nothing?"

"Of nothing human, yes." She looked around uneasily.

Steel came down the stairs on his feet. He looked about then turned back to her. "And the children. The children that attacked you."

She was still gazing about, but answered thoughtfully, "Oh, they were human. Once."

Steel nodded to himself. "But whatever it is that brought them back, that stole them from the photographs. That's not human." He sought confirmation, coming closer to her, gazing up into her eyes as she was on an upper step. She gave a slight shake of her head. "Then what is it?" He looked up pleadingly, then walked out into the shop.

In the cellar, the children huddled against the wall. The round-faced non-man stepped forward, feeling Steel's approach.

Sapphire sensed the malicious pulse and called her partner nervously. {Steel?}

[It's all right.] The room was silent around him. He hesitated, nervous himself. [I'm just looking.]

The man without a face turned to the frightened group behind him and gestured, speaking gently. "There's nothing to worry about, my children. Nothing to fear."

Steel continued walking between the aisles. There were children's toys on one shelf. However, they were not covered with dust as so much in the room was. He lifted a smiling puppet into his hand and looked at the toy boats and plastic trucks. At last he set the toy aside and found a picture of a crowded street with tenements on either side. He said thoughtfully, [A man who has the texture of a photograph, but has the strength and power -- ]

{Careful, Steel,} Sapphire warned him quickly. There were things that should not be said when they might attract the wrong sort of attention.

He stared at the picture and then moved away. [It's all right.] He walked quietly.

The children and their man, but his face now had the shape Liz knew, hid down one aisle. They were very alert to Steel's every move.

[How long since he was on that stair?] he asked fretfully.

{About seven minutes,} she told him.

Steel brushed his fingers against the faces of some plates that were really clocks. He strode away, determined. [It's time we had a proper look at him.] He left the store and hurried to where Sapphire was standing. "Bring it back! It was here, so let's see it!"

She smiled teasingly. "There's about to be a complication."


She did not answer, but looked up. Steel moved up past her to follow her gaze. The young woman from the uppermost room opened her door and came down the steps. She headed for the bathroom but when she saw them, she stopped and said cheerfully, "Well, I'm still here. And I'm still going to work. And you mate," she smirked mockingly at Steel, "you must be some kind of nut. All that old chat about the new landlord. He was there. Standing there."

"Where?" Steel demanded.

She stopped again on her way and looked down at him saucily. "Where she is now. And there was nothing wrong with him. I saw his face. He showed me his face."

Sapphire startled and asked, "He showed you his face?"

The woman shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on. Are you trying to be as creepy as your boyfriend? I saw the man! He was standing there, right there and there was nothing wrong with him!" She pointed to emphasize.

But Steel gazed steadily up at her. "There was nothing odd about him?"

"He was as normal as you and me." Her eyes twinkled and she cocked her head at him. "Well, me, anyway." She turned with a flourish of her blue toiletry bag and went into the bathroom.

Steel rolled his eyes and hurried up the stairs. He stopped in front of the bathroom door. "Where is he now?"

"What?" she asked in surprise through the door.

Shifting impatiently, Steel said, "The new landlord. Where is he now?"

"Look, how should I know?" She opened the door and stepped out, lifting her head to confront him defiantly. "Look, I pay my rent and I keep out of trouble. So if you want him, you find him." She went back into the bathroom, closing the door lightly to try to show him he did not bother her.

Clenching his hands nervously, Steel looked down at Sapphire who was amused by all this. He said roughly, "A cupboard that's been locked for almost two-hundred years."

"What?" she asked him.

"Well, that's how you described it," he pointed out.

"Oh I did, yes."

He leaned against the rail, thinking hard. "When was the first photograph ever taken?"

She was silent for a long moment as she accessed the historical databases. At last she read the data off, leaning on the railing below. "On pewter, J.N. Niecpe's, in 1826. The negative/positive process by Fox Talbert in..." her eyes narrowed as she sought the data, "August, 1839."

Steel asked thoughtfully, "And could some... some force have found its way in then?"

"Into a photograph?" she asked in surprise.

He bounded down the stairs to join her. "Yes, let's say the first photograph ever taken. It's a unique access point, isn't it? A useful time-break for whatever it is that wanted to get in."

She stepped aside so he could stand against the rail next to her, his face pale with worry. She said softly, "Like a genie in a bottle."

"Who?" he asked, confused.

She let it pass. He did not need everything explained. "If it did get in through that very first photograph...."

"Well then it's been trapped there ever since." The idea pleased him.

"Yes, but where?" she asked thoughtfully.

"I don't know," he said morosely.

Sapphire blinked calmly. "Well, wherever it is this man Williamson certainly found it."

His throat dry and mouth twisted in distaste, Steel said, "Yes, probably by accident, but he found it. Turned it loose. Unlocked the cupboard if you like." Steel bounded down to the bottom of the stairs. "Well come on, let's see it! Can you take time back for just this?" He knelt and indicated the step that Sapphire had told him the thing had been on. "For just this piece of stair..?" he touched it tentatively.

She answered, "Yes, but I can't isolate it for long."

He stood up and stared at her in surprise. "I would have thought with all your knowledge and experience -- "

She cut him off, going down a few steps to meet him coming up, "It doesn't belong to me. I can only borrow time, I can't keep it." They gazed at each other for a moment.

"Surprise me," Steel challenged her, waving the photograph to urge her down. She bit back a sigh and walked slowly to the step. Then she began to use her power.

She was distracted by the voices of the children outside, singing the same nonsense rhyme from earlier. "Eeny meeny macharaka, hie die doma nacka, sticka stacka rima racka, om pom push!" Steel glanced out the window, but there were only the same shadowed children. Sapphire turned and began again, they were distracted this time by the young woman who raced out of the bathroom and up to her flat, a towel slung over her shoulder.

Exasperated, Steel said, "Now."

Sapphire began again, and turning knelt to stroke the stair and the bit of railing that mattered, fixing it in her mind. For a long moment, she leaned against the wall, her head tilted up. Steel asked, "Nothing?"

"Just wait," she told him. Then there was a hum of arriving power and she twitched. She hurried up the stairs to nervously pass behind Steel, hugging the railing and staring at the step intently.

Puzzled by her actions, Steel started, "Well if it won't come back -- "

She said quickly, "It has to come back. In one form or another it has to come back." She crouched behind the railing at the top of the landing, twining her fingers around the thing rails, and used her power. From the stair where the thing had stood came a hissing, howling snarl. It cut the air with violence. Steel raised his hand to his head as the noise hurt him and he hurriedly joined Sapphire where she crouched.

[It's coming.]

{Yes. The stairs. Watch the stairs.}

The air began to ripple and distort. As though from a great distance they heard a voice speaking, repeating the same phrase until they could hear it clearly, "Why should I hide?" For an instant a man appeared on the stair and then his form wavered out.

Sapphire said firmly, {There.}

[Keep him there,] Steel said.

Sapphire started to protest, {I can't!} Steel was moving down the stairs to get a better look. Sapphire warned him firmly, {No!} He sat down quickly and waited. She concentrated.

Like a film negative, blue, orange and white, a human form wearing a hat fuzzed in and out. Steel protested, [That's only the shape we know it's in.]

Another instant, another phrase repeating again and again until it came clear. "But you've seen my face." The sound was painful, forcing Steel to bring a hand protectively to his head. The photo in his hand suddenly flared orange. He stared at it in surprise, and then the heat made him drop it with a hiss of pain. It fell through the rails. The words spoken began to distort and slow.

Sapphire objected. {No. Show us,} she commanded. All over the building, photographs were falling, pulling their frames and cases as they jerked and shuddered, glowing briefly red. The human form at the center of the step blurred and changed shape. Many, many shapes. Sapphire began to understand what she was seeing. She said, {That's where it entered. In every photograph. In every picture that was ever taken. It can be any shape. It can be any shape it wants to be.} Millions of faces, rippling through the space on the stair where the thing had stood as time replayed itself.

Liz was putting the finishing touches on her wig, pleased with how she looked, when one of the pictures on the wall behind her came crashing down. She jumped in surprise and turned around to look at the fallen frame. Great, just great. It was probably the weirdoes' fault.

Steel said urgently through the noise and distortion, [No, Sapphire. No, its real shape. I want to see its real shape.]

Liz bent down to pick up the picture. It was one of her favorites, showing a Spanish villa under a brilliant blue sky. It was so hot it burned her fingers. "Jesus!" she hissed, flicking her hand to cool it.

On the stair, negative images flashed past. Steel urged, [Find it, Sapphire. It's real shape. Let me see it!] She began to stand, using more power.

"Why should I hide?" was what was repeating now.

Sapphire concentrated. On the stair they could almost see the man-shape in the suit, with brown hair and a not-quite formed face. Steel grew excited and urged, [Come on, find it it's real shape! Let's see it!] then aloud, "Let's see it!"

It was over. Silence fell. The thing on the stair was gone. Steel blinked and stood, looking around at Sapphire. She was sitting limply in the shadows on the stair, her head drooping. Concerned, he asked, "Sapphire?"

She lifted her head wearily. "I'm sorry. I can't do any more. There was a b -- a barrier. I'm sorry."

In the shop the creature had its eyes closed and sighed with relief.

Steel exploded, jumping to his feet. "You're sorry?! What do you mean you're sorry? You almost had it! I mean it was -- It w -- " he stopped in frustration for a moment, then started again. "Well at least we know what it is! We haven't seen it, yet," he snarled on that last word, "but we know what it is, so let's try and find it! Well, come on." He started down the steps.

In the shop, the creature that wore the face of a young man opened its eyes in alarm. It reached down to a photograph of a city street and stepped inside.

Sapphire pulled herself together and started down the stairs. She stopped to pick up a framed photo that had fallen to the floor of the first landing. There was nothing strange in it, so she replaced it on the wall and joined Steel in the shop. There were framed photographs strewn all over the floor, the results of her battle to draw the creature into the open. Steel was tentatively tapping a framed photo of an old city street. He looked up at her, met her smile and said wryly, "Well whatever you did, you certainly caused havoc." He looked back at the photo and said thoughtfully, "In every photograph that ever was." He lifted the street scene and began pointing at men inside it. "Well, who is he in this one? Him? Him? Him?" He hung it on a protruding nail so they could look at it.

She skimmed it quickly. "No, they have their own faces. The figure we're looking for would always be half-seen." She pointed to the driver of the cart a horse was drawing in the photo. "Or turned away, like that one. Or not even seen at all."

Steel looked down at one of the other photos on the floor. "And what about that one?"

Sapphire knelt to look at the picture of a man and woman at a table, smiling. "It could be behind the fence. Or on the street beyond. Or in the next room." She pointed at the wall of the building the couple stood next to.

"But always in there somewhere."


They stood up and Steel stared at the photos somberly. He murmured, "So every photograph is a photograph of infinity."

Sapphire might have said something to comfort him, but then they heard children giggling. They turned and went in opposite directions to see if they could trap them. And in the photograph of the street, one figure moved, just a step. He turned around, his round face a splash of color in the black and white photo.

Sapphire found bubbles drifting through the air. Entranced, she reached out to catch one. It burst in her hand and turned into little wisps of paper. She blew them off in surprise. Steel raised his brow at this, and the two of them moved on. Sapphire found the umbrellas. Steel was at the counter again when he felt the change and stiffened, trying to fight it, but he was caught in a photograph.

Sapphire stepped farther in among the umbrellas and found herself in a bright color scene. There were two girls standing under a garden trellis, giggling as they blew bubbles. Something tapped her shoulder and she turned around. There was the girl she had first chased, menacing her with the point of a parasol, silently threatening to poke her in the eye. With the girl were other children, who all were from similarly old photographs. Sapphire stood very still, thinking. Unseen, the man moved out of the shadows to watch. The child murmured, "See saw, sacredown, which is the way to London Town?" and raised the parasol as though to strike.

Sapphire said coolly, "Paper bubbles." The children froze in surprise at her voice. She snatched the parasol from the girl and crushed it in her hands. "Paper parasols." She rolled it into a ball and tossed it back to the startled girl, who caught it automatically. Then with a cunning smile, she stepped forward threateningly. "Paper children?" They fled and vanished. Her hands closed on solid, real umbrellas. She was both angry and amused. She spun and hurried to where Steel stood frozen. As she got to him he moved, reaching to rub his stiff neck.

"A photograph," he grumbled as she came to him. Then his gaze flicked beyond her. [Look behind you.]

She spun around. There was an older man, leaning nonchalantly against one of the shelves. He was watching them through narrowed eyes, smiling slightly. Something about him rang unreal. Steel started to walk towards him and Sapphire said urgently, {Not yet. Tell me what you see.}

He stopped, bewildered. [What I see?] He looked closer. [Well, I see the same as you see, I -- ]

{Describe his face,} she cut him off sternly.

He stared, and the man met his gaze. Round face, features seeming too small for their frame. [It's a youngish face. Dark hair, narrow eyes, pointed chin.]

{Well, that's not the face I'm looking at.} She saw a very different face, with a wide forehead and squinting eyes, smiling at her. They were seeing two entirely different images. They blinked, but neither perception changed. Steel stepped to the right, around toward the next passage between shelves. {Where are you going?} she asked him.

He said firmly, [You stay there. Watch here. I'm going to go take a closer look.]

Then a new voice touched their broadcast line, rippling with double-shaded echoes, bringing Steel straight back to peer at the man from Sapphire's side. {{Excuse me. Would you prefer us to communicate in this way?}} it said. It smoothed out, became younger sounding. {{I mean, it doesn't make much difference to me. So I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll let you choose. How's that.}} It rippled back to the older voice

Sapphire sucked in a startled breath, exchanging glances with Steel. Finally she smiled and said, "All right. Let's communicate like this, shall we?"

For her, she saw and heard the voice of the older man as the thing said, "Why not?"

She added patiently, "With our true voices."

"Fine," it replied.

"And our true faces?" she questioned him cheerfully. She swept her hand past her own eyes. "These are ours. The only ones we possess, I'm afraid." She took a step closer, abreast of Steel, who watched both her and his image of the young man nervously. Sapphire came yet closer, broadcasting confidence and strength, her eyes dancing. "How about you?"

"Me?" it replied.

Steel stepped forward, refusing to let Sapphire face the thing alone. "Yes. Well we'd like to see your true face. The real one."

The thing with the young face uttered an arrogant half-laugh. "I'm afraid this one will just have to do."

Steel shook his head indulgently. "No it won't, not for us." His eyes widened and he said challengingly, "But then again maybe you don't have a real face. Not the human kind." It watched him without expression. "Am I right? I mean, you have millions to choose from, don't you?" Steel lowered his voice menacingly. "But we'd really like to see what you look like, Before we send you back where you came from."

It raised its eyebrows slightly and shook its head. "Oh, that can't be done."

Steel shook his head back at it. "Oh, it can."

Sapphire smiled and stepped yet closer. "That's our job. That's why we're here. Tell me about the children. Why do you need them?" The oldish face smiled back at her. "Why have you brought them back with you?" She lost her own smile as she was deeply concerned about this.

Steel cut in. "And the people."

It asked him in moderate surprise, "People?"

Steel held his temper. It would not do to lose this chance to question the creature. "Yes. The man and the woman. They belong in this time, in this period. They don't belong in the photograph that you've chosen for them."

It shifted slightly and said belligerently, "So?"

Steel said reasonably, "So, before we get rid of you, we'd like them returned."

It shifted again, nodding slightly and said, "Well, perhaps you could tell them that."

Steel stiffened at this unexpected statement. "What?"

"Yes. When you join them," it told him.

Steel held very still and continued speaking. "What do you mean, join them?"

"Oh, you'll find out. Later."

The children's voices erupted behind them, speaking another rhyme mockingly. "I'm the king of the castle, get down you dirty rascal!"

They whirled to find nothing and when they looked back, the thing was gone. Steel hurried to look but saw nothing. Then Sapphire pointed at the picture they had hung earlier. "He's here."

Her finger indicated one image, a man with his back turned. That image faded away. Sapphire met Steel's glare when he growled, "Now where?"

They looked down at another photo where he was. Sapphire said, "There." He faded out and they started snatching at photos. "He must be somewhere!"

Steel grumbled, "Don't you mean anywhere? I mean, if he can disappear into photographs like, like some kind of tunnel system -- " he stared at the framed photo in his hands and pointed, "I mean, we can't follow him into that thing, can we?" Sapphire stood up abruptly. "What's wrong?" Steel asked nervously.

"When you join them," she quoted tensely. "I wonder what he meant by that."

Steel felt his flesh crawl and he started to gather the photos. "All right, we'll destroy every photograph in the place!" He got to his feet to meet refusal in her gaze and asked sharply, "Well why not? Remember the house?! It got into a picture and we destroyed the picture! We destroyed all the pictures."

She overrode him firmly, shaking her head at his unreasonableness. "One painting in one house. This is the whole process; the entire art of photography. Now do you have time to destroy every photograph that exists in the world?" It was beginning to sink in. He looked down at his useless pile and dropped the framed photos on the floor with silent exasperation.

Up in her flat, Liz was finally ready to leave for work. She swept up her coat and glanced uneasily at the photograph lying on her floor. She knelt beside it and touched it lightly. It was once again cool, so she picked it up to hang back on the wall.

Steel walked towards the bottom of the stairs, ignoring the sound of the music blaring above him. There on the floor lay the picture he had been holding and had dropped when it burned his fingers. He looked at it thoughtfully. Then the music fell silent. Sapphire had joined him, and they both looked up, surprised.

Liz got the picture straight on her wall and started to leave. She did not see a man appear in the picture. Its hair was the older image's style, as it turned its blank face and looked out at the apartment. Liz was at her door and turned out the light. In the photo, in the white building pictured there, a light blinked and flashed.

She stepped out and started down the stairs to find that strange man coming the opposite way. As he passed her she said mockingly, "You still here?"

He inquired in return, "Elizabeth Owen?"

The shock nearly made her stumble. Her name? She turned on the stairs and looked up at him. "How do you know that?"

He held out a photo at her eye level. "Take a look at this."

She glared up at him. She would not be distracted by that hair, those eyes, that chin, those hands... dammit. "I said how did you know that? That name? I haven't used that name for years!"

He ignored her question. "Take a look at this photograph."

She kept her eyes on his determinedly and said firmly, "Liz Dupre. That's my name. That's been my name for the past -- "

He said harshly, "The photograph."

Obviously she was not going to get anywhere with him until she did as he demanded. Men were all alike. She glanced at the photograph. It was of a crowded city street, and it was obviously very old. "Yeah, well what about it? It's just a photograph, there's hundreds like it in this place!" She lifted her eyes to meet his, exasperated. "And I'm late for work."

"Look closely at it."

She sighed and glanced at it again. "Yeah, very nice."

The woman spoke from right behind her. "Your friend Ruth Phillips."

Shocked, Liz turned and met her eyes. Looking at the lady was almost as bad as looking at the boyfriend. She was incredibly beautiful in a natural way, and she seemed like real class. And now they were asking her about Ruth. Jesus. No detail seemed too small for them. "Yeah that's her name! I never told you."

"She shared a room with you," the other woman said gently.

This she had told them. "Of course she shared a room with me!"

"Until a few months ago."

The pain of her only friend leaving her was still sharp. She would have left for work, but they were the only people she had ever met who seemed interested in her life. "Yes, I've already told you that!"

The woman continued in that same, ever so gentle tone. "Can you see her in the photograph?"

Bewildered, Liz glanced back towards the photo. "See her in it? In that thing?" She looked at the woman, but the lovely blue eyes meeting hers were grave. She shrugged in confusion. "How could I see her in that thing? That thing must be a thousand years old!" She glanced at the old photo again to be sure. They were so serious.

"Eighty-seven," said the other woman.

She was beginning to feel afraid again. "What?"

"It's exactly eighty-seven years old, give or take a week."

Liz stared at the picture, looking harder despite herself. It was just a photo of people. The man said quietly, "The building at the far end of the street. The top floor, in the window."

Sapphire and Steel, they had said. The names suited them. Liz came with them into the darkroom, to stare at the photo under a bright light. They were just so serious... and so many strange things had happened. She held onto her cynical nature and peered at the image intently. The image was so small. "I'm not sure. I mean it could be anybody."

Steel took the photo from her fingers and laid it down, then handed her a magnifying glass despite how she rolled her eyes. "Here."

She peered through it. In the magnifying glass the image was surprisingly clear, but still tiny. A woman staring through a window. A woman whose face was strikingly familiar. She tried to shrug it off. "All right, so it looks a bit like her. Quite a coincidence."

He said firmly, "This is Ruth."

Exasperated, "Look, if this picture's eighty years old it -- "

He pointed firmly at another corner of the picture. "Look here."

Damned bossy man! She started to say angrily, "Then how the hell can it -- "

He snarled, "I said look there!!"

She calmed down. Angry men were predictable. "What am I looking for this time?" she mocked him.

"Just look."

Forced by his will, she turned her gaze into the magnifying glass. There was an all-too familiar man among the crowd. His jacket was a modern type, his beard was distinctly Mr. Williamson's, though his face was not clear. She felt a cold shock. "I don't believe it," she said quietly. "It's him."

"Williamson," the man said coldly.


"Your previous landlord."

"Yeah," she said unsteadily.

"Who disappeared about the same time as your friend Ruth did." He released the magnifying glass and she was unable to hold it steady. He caught it again. "One," he said, then guided it up to the other image. "Two."

She was no fool, though. Pictures could be altered and new ones made. She turned to him cheerfully. "Now, wait a minute. Anyone can play tricks with a photo! Fake it!"

He walked away from her to turn on the red lights of the developing room. "They can, yes."

She continued as merrily as she could while he went through the drawers. "Especially if they know what they're doing. If they're professional! And he was. Mr. Williamson was!" As the man began pulling out weird metal instruments she came to him and shrugged dramatically. "He probably did that! Faked that thing."

"And why would he do that? Listen, would you mind taking those thi -- "

"Well it was his job, his hobby, all of it was, everything!"

He was getting to his feet, looking at her and said harshly, "Listen! I have to work." Low and frustrated he sent, [Sapphire!] "To concentrate! So, would you mind?"

Liz clenched her fist and glared back at him. "Would I what? Listen, you're not the only one who has to work -- "

Sapphire arrived at her side. "Liz," she said softly, glancing at Steel before smiling at the young woman, "would you come with me? I need your help."

Vulnerable to the gentleness and the smile given her, Liz blinked and followed Sapphire immediately. Steel sighed to himself and began fixing a triangular magnifying frame to a camera on a tripod.

Sapphire and Liz left the flat and started down the stairs. Sapphire asked, "Is Ruth interested in photography?"

"Oh, yeah. She couldn't take a picture, though, to save her life." She followed Sapphire cheerfully. "She likes watching, though. Seeing how it's done. She used to spend hours in that darkroom with old Williamson. Hours and hours, just watching the man as he worked. He used to fascinate her." Liz smiled merrily at the memory of her friend's obsession with photography. Behind her Steel was coming down the steps, less his dark jacket and tie, on his way to the shop. Liz watched his straight back as he passed, then turned to Sapphire, who was studying the door under the stairs. Liz said, "It's only a cellar."

Under the stairwell the children all huddled together in fear. Liz followed Sapphire into the dusty darkness. They turned on the lights and Sapphire looked around alertly. Frustrated and tired, but still willing, Liz asked, "Have you finished with me yet?"

Sapphire set down something she had glanced at and looked at Liz. "Was Ruth in the darkroom that night?"

Startled, Liz asked, "What night?"

Sapphire walked past her. "The night she disappeared."

With quiet exasperation, Liz shrugged. "Look, no one's proved she's disappeared." When Sapphire gazed at her mildly, she shrugged with more aplomb. "I don't know. I suppose she must've been!" Sapphire turned away again to look at the little things piled around. "I mean, she never took her coat so I doubt if she'd gone out. Yeah, I suppose she must've been there." Liz stared at Sapphire. She had tried for so long to believe Liz was all right. But now as she watched this serious, beautiful woman who seemed to be the only person in the world who cared about her or Ruth....

Steel gathered equipment from the store, ignoring anything that did not apply to what he was doing. He found an ancient telescoping spyglass and put it to his eye. Interesting, but not good enough for his purposes.

Liz held her things tight in her hands and watched Sapphire work. She said with all the calm she could muster, "Mr. Williamson, what did he do?" Who are you with your magic, why are you here asking all these questions?

"Do?" Sapphire asked, going through a wicker basket.

"Yeah. Well, he must have done something wrong."

"Accidentally, yes."

A shiver ran through Liz and she stepped closer to Sapphire, needing an answer. "Well, what was it? Something to do with his photography?"

Sapphire glanced briefly away from the pictures she was skimming through. "Yes. He let something in."

Startled, Liz demanded, "From where!?" her nose wrinkling with confusion. "In the house? What?" Exasperated by Sapphire's silence she demanded, "Just what are you talking about?!"

Sapphire looked directly at her. "Well we're hoping perhaps Ruth will be able to tell us. When we talk to her."

Liz blinked in confusion as Sapphire walked away from her. She had just begun to think Ruth was dead. What were they going to do, a seance?

Steel took the photograph that Ruth was in and placed it at the end of a long line of magnifying pieces he had strung together. He was working as best he could with the primitive equipment. He needed only the part of the photo that showed Ruth. He needed it large enough to work with.

Sapphire came up from the cellar with Liz not far behind her. Liz closed the door and caught up with the other woman. She had regained her easy manner and said, "If you reckon that Ruth is stuck in some picture, then how're you gonna talk to her?"

Sapphire smiled at her, trying the next door. "You'll see."

"Nobody can talk to a photograph and get an answer." Seeing Sapphire run her hands along the sill of the door, Liz grinned and came over to her with a saucy swing of her hips. "It's not locked. Just jammed. Something I do happen to know. I've spent half my lifetime making quick exits!" She grinned cheerfully and winked, even as she heaved at the door. "How about you?" Sapphire raised her brows.

In a moment Liz had the door open and led her out. "Backyard, okay?" She turned and looked around in surprise. The yard was silent and empty. As usual the cement walls were dingy, covered with graffiti. The usual junk was piled about and silence reigned. "Here, that's funny! Where's the kids? They must've gone. Oh, what a shame. They bring a bit of life into the place." She wandered across the yard. "The sound of them playing their games. Skipping and that. Singing their funny songs." Sapphire watched her as she investigated a corner before turning back. "You know it's funny. I used to think they were foreign or something. Or from the country. Their songs always seemed so... old." She came back to the stairs to join Sapphire. "Sort of old fashioned. You know what I mean?"

"Yes," Sapphire agreed mildly.

Liz looked about. "It's funny though. I've never seen their parents. I mean, no one comes to look for them and take them in. I mean they're out here playing leapfrog 'til all hours and no one comes and gets them! Anyway, they're definitely not here now." She walked up, intending to head back inside the building.

Sapphire did not move, but remained gazing out at the small yard. Liz followed her look and saw to her surprise a group of strangely dressed children huddled together. "Oh, there they are! They must've been hiding!" They did not speak or move, watching her and the other woman with dark, nervous eyes. "There, what's the matter with them?"

Amused, Sapphire said, "I frighten them."

Liz looked at her and was surprised to see a faint smile on her face. "Frighten them? Do you like frightening children?" she felt a surge of annoyance at the superior woman.

Sapphire's smile broadened somewhat. "They're not exactly children." At Liz's expression she said, "You don't entirely believe me, do you?"

Liz snorted and chuckled. "Well, not a hundred percent, no."

Sapphire nodded towards the huddled group. "Go and look."

Liz said defiantly, "I will!" She walked down the steps towards the nervous group.

Sapphire said softly, "Small ghosts. Isn't that what you once called them?"

Liz snorted again and turned to her. "Yeah, but I didn't mean these!" She turned and looked at them. Now she could see better the darkness of their lips, the peculiar cast even in this light of their faces. She hesitated. "I say! Ghosts?" she pointed at them and looked at Sapphire for answers.

"That's one way of describing them. Except these are ghosts before death, not after."

Liz turned again to look at the group. The tallest girl shoved a small, blond boy forward. "Well, what's the matter with them? Their clothes, the color?" The boy, knowing himself a sacrifice, looked miserably up at her.

Sapphire said softly, "That's close enough, Lizzy."

But she was looking at the pale-haired child, seeing tears welling up in his eyes and roll down his cheeks. "Awe. Poor little boy." She knelt in front of him and set her coat down. "Do you want your mum and dad, do you?" she asked him.

"Liz?!" Sapphire called warningly.

Tears streaked the child's face and Liz's heart went out to him. "Poor little soul." Instinctively, she reached out to take him into her arms. The moment she touched him he crumped into paper and dust. The other children all smiled and vanished.

Sapphire knelt next to the stunned Liz and lifted a scrap of paper. "Is that proof enough for you?"

In the darkroom, Steel was developing his blowup of that one area of the photograph. He turned on the light and held up the picture of Ruth. It was finished. He reached out to Sapphire. [I'm ready.]

In the picture on Liz's wall, the creature heard him.

Liz stared at the picture. It had to only look strikingly like Ruth. Oh, but it really, really was her. It was her. Steel was fastening his tie. He said mildly, "And are those the clothes she was wearing the night she disappeared?"

Liz turned her head and stared at him, then back at that picture. She turned to Sapphire on her right, trembling. "Photos. You mean this man can actually put people into photos?"

Sapphire nodded slightly. "Yes."

Hopelessly, Liz said, "And take them out again, like those children?"

"He can, yes."

The child who had disintegrated in her arms. She shuddered in anguish. "Poor Ruth."

Sapphire said softly, "Now, I'm going to try to communicate with her."

"Can I help?" Liz asked anxiously.

Steel's hand came down firmly on her shoulder. "You just sit there and be quiet."

She looked anxiously at him. "Are you sure I can't put myself in a trance for you? I mean, that's my friend!" Her natural belligerence was only temporarily submerged. She was rallying in the face of his sternness. "My best friend!"

Steel said calmly, "You just sit there. If we need you to be put into a trance then she'll do it." He dropped his hand from her shoulder and turned away. Sapphire was looking at her sympathetically, then glanced around at her partner who snapped angrily, "Well get on with it!"

Sapphire nodded and clasped her hands in front of her. She leaned forward and began. As Liz watched, an eerie blue glow spread across Sapphire's irises. "Ruth. Ruth," Sapphire repeated the name firmly. More gently she said into the silence, "Can you hear me, Ruth? Can you try to speak to me? Try, Ruth. Try it. Try to speak to me with your mind. I can help you. Please Ruth. Try very hard."

Ever so faintly a voice made itself heard, murmuring in the room. |As I was going up the stair....|

Liz nearly jumped out of her seat in excitement. "That's her! Her voice!!" Steel moved quickly to hold her still.

"Be quiet!" he whispered urgently.

Ruth spoke more to herself, it seemed, than to them. |What is it? A rhyme I knew when I was a kid. How did it go?|

"Tell us!" Sapphire urged her.

|Hang on. I'm trying my best. Yes, that's it.| She began again. |As I... as I was going up the stair I met a man who wasn't there.|

On the stairs outside the flat the creature appeared, it's face a blank blob. Down in the cellar the children paced out of hiding, less one child, the one they had sacrificed.

Sapphire, Liz and Steel listened to Ruth. Her voice was becoming clearer as she spoke. |He wasn't there again today. I wish... I wish he'd stay away. Yes! That's it! That's the one. I remember it.|

Sapphire murmured to her, "Why do you remember that rhyme in particular?"

She said wistfully, |'Cuz I remember a lot of things these days. Like... like it's... like daydreaming. Oh no, I know why I remember that, it was the man. The man on the stair.| Disturbed, Steel shivered. Sapphire nodded her own understanding. |That's weird. That seems like the last memory I've ever had. There's been nothing to remember since.|

Liz felt like weeping, but held on as best she could. Sapphire asked Ruth softly, "Do you know where you are?"


"Can you see anything?"

|Not really, no. Only my thoughts. The things I remember. It's... well, it's a bit like being asleep. Like having an operation.| Steel bowed his head for the poor girl in the photo. |When I was a kid I had an operation. It's a bit like that. Dreams and real things, they all sort of get mixed up in my head.| Her voice suddenly came stronger. |Am I gonna be all right?| The communication was waking her, bringing her to a vague awareness that something was terribly wrong.

Liz started to get up. "Ruth?" Steel caught her shoulders and held her on her seat with a soft shushing sound.

He telepathed to Sapphire, and the thing on the stairs heard him. [The experiment. Ask her about the experiment.]

Sapphire spoke. "Yes, you're going to be all right."

|Oh. Good.|

"Ruth, the man on the stair?"

|He just appeared, that's all. I was... with Mr. Williamson and he was working and then the man came.| Steel paced quietly, listening. |He just appeared.|

"What was Mr. Williamson working on at that precise moment?"

|I don't know. Some sort of photograph.| Her voice came stronger again, urgently. |Are you sure I'm not in danger?| Liz bit her lip. She was not sure. Not at all.

"Yes, I'm quite sure. Ruth, where was Mr. Williamson working? In his photographic room?"

|Yeah. In the darkroom.|

Troubled, Sapphire frowned. "But you can't remember exactly what he was doing."

Sounding depressed, Ruth answered, |No. Not really. He was very pleased. Excited. He said he'd discovered something.| Her voice rose with her own excitement. |And I said would it make him rich and he laughed and -- I remember!|

In the hall the faceless man raised his hands, summoning with his power.

|He was ever so pleased. He said he'd found a way to -- | There was a crash as the photo they had found her in fell to the floor. Alarmed she asked, |What's happening?!| Sapphire looked quickly at Steel, and they hurried towards it. The photo rose into the air and then vanished as Steel reached for it.

It reappeared in the man's hands. His face was that of the older image. A wind picked up.

Ruth, aware that something was going on, something changing, was frightened. Her voice rose almost to the level it would have had if she were physically present. |What's happening?!| she repeatedly begged, becoming terrified.

The wind buffeted Liz's wig. Steel hurried out into the hall and heard faintly the sound of flames. They saw the man at the top of the stair, burning the photograph, and heard Ruth screaming in agony, |No! No! No! Nooooo!| Her picture vanished from the blowup of the photograph as the original disintegrated.

And then Sapphire was caught in a surge of power and became a flat, photographic image. Steel turned and stared down at her in horror. He looked up and saw the monster holding the last piece of the picture turn and vanish into the wall. Steel ran into Liz's flat. He hit the switch and looked around. He saw the photo of the white building, saw the man in it and snatched it up. But then the man was gone. Realizing the pointlessness of it, he dropped the photo and rushed back onto the landing. Below him, Sapphire restored to flesh and blood. She looked up at him, her eyes wide and frightened but not for herself so much.

She met his glare. "It's too late!"

"Yes," he said bitterly.

"It's too late to save those people!"

Steel glared at her. "That's the second time you've failed."

She glared back at him and ground her teeth. "He creates a kind of barrier."

"He?" Steel countered contemptuously.

She bit out, "It," and turned her back on him to walk into the flat.

Steel looked back up the stairs. His eyes narrowed as he muttered, "Williamson. What did he discover?"

The photograph of the empty window. Steel pulled it off the wall. Liz was shaking in her seat and said weakly, "She just... she just disappeared from there." They flanked her, watching alertly and with sympathy. "From that thing." She looked up into Sapphire's eyes. "I watched it. I saw it happen! I heard her screaming!! She asked if she was in danger. I heard her. You made her talk. Made the picture talk." The two women stared at each other. Steel walked around behind her with the photo. "Is she in danger?"

Sapphire took a breath. "Liz -- " she began.

Steel glowered at her. [Don't tell her,] he said sternly.

Sapphire hid her sigh of exhaustion. "We are all in danger."

"Because of him, the man on the stair?" Liz asked painfully.

"Yes. That's why you must leave. You must pack a case and leave now."

Liz looked anguished. She bowed her head and then glanced up pleadingly. "The other picture. The big one you blew from. Could I have it, please?" The only thing truly left of Ruth.

Sapphire turned to look at Steel, not wanting to answer that question. He drew in a slow breath, waving another picture, and avoided both women's eyes. "We haven't finished with it yet."

"Oh. See..." Liz's shoulders drooped and she hung her head. "She's... well, I suppose she's the best friend I've ever had. You could say the only friend." Sapphire met her eyes and understood, keeping her silence. "I don't really collect friends." She got to her feet, trying to sound strong and cheerful. "Anyway, I'll pack a case."

"Good," said Sapphire.

Liz looked her tearfully in the eye. "Oh, it's not good. But it comes easy to me," she said with a weak laugh. "Story of my life, knowing how to pack a case. I'm almost an expert at it." She gathered her coat and purse, moving towards the curtain sheltering the darkroom. She looked back at them, then around at the equipment scattered about. "Sort of like this lot, sometimes. Looking like they've been somewhere, going somewhere. But when you think about it, they're staying where they are. They're going nowhere. Right?" She looked at Sapphire, who could not meet her eyes for a moment and stared instead down at the photos before looking back at her. "Well, anyway." She walked out into the main apartment. She stopped and turned at the door, to see Sapphire standing at the other end of the room, watching her. She pleaded softly, "When you bring Ruth back from wherever she is, will you let me know, somehow?"


"Thanks," Liz smiled wearily at Sapphire and went out that door.

Steel moved through the curtain past Sapphire to the desk. "William Esq.," he quoted, lifting a batch of envelopes. "Just exactly what did he discover?" He looked around the room and dropped the envelopes back on the desk. When he went back into the darkroom, Sapphire picked up the envelopes, tore the rubber-band off of them and began scanning each envelope to see if something might jump out at her.

Steel was going through the drawers again. He brought out a three piece mirrored surface, an old photograph and anything else that rang his attention. He could hear the repeated thrums of Sapphire's scans in the next room, but he ignored those. Opening a cabinet he searched it. Nothing. But under the sink next to him there was a strange, large box. He dragged it out, noting with interest the triangular opening in the side.

Outside at the bottom of the stairs, the creature waited. They would be his, soon. He was sure of that.

Steel held up small slides one at a time to the red light. It was something here, his instincts were telling him. Something in these slides were the clue he needed. If he could only find... one slide had something bizarre about it. And then he knew. He picked up another picture and held the slide beside it to compare them. There. He had found it.

Liz grabbed all the things she would pack. Then she heard something strange. When she looked up into the mirror of her vanity desk, she saw a flesh-colored blur where her face should be. She looked quickly behind her, but there was nothing there. The blur was still covering her reflection in the mirror. And then two other faces appeared overshadowing hers. And older man, and behind him a younger, like the man on the stair. Both wore the same clothes. Frightened, she grabbed the sides of the mirror and changed the angle. The faces vanished.

Sapphire was skimming through some books when she heard Steel shout furiously, "Tricks!" The outrage in his voice brought her to him. "Tricks! Tricks, tricks with film, tricks with cameras." His back was to her and he was gathering a slide projector. He had already set up the small screen to view it. Fuming, he said, "We've been looking for proof. For evidence of some great photographic discovery! Mr. Williamson, photographer, was no more than a clever conjuror!" He was trying to find a plug for the projector, glowering bitterly all the while. Sapphire waited. "Light patterns. Multiple images. Mirrors! That was the extent of his talent! Excuse me." He plugged in the machine near her legs. "To someone like Ruth it was no doubt talent enough! A few, cheap tricks to impress the ladies!!"

Bemused by his carping, Sapphire said, "Well, at least he bothered to impress them." Steel paused for a moment to stare at her in confusion. She looked away and smirked.

"He simply used photography. Slides. Nothing spectacular." He held up a slide for her and she bent to look at it, ignoring how he watched her face.

She knew what she was seeing. "He combined them."

Steel confirmed her statement, clarifying, "He combined pictures of people with pictures of places. But more important, he combined pictures taken at different times." His voice became grim.

She said pityingly, "They never learn, do they."

He agreed thoroughly. "Not the dangers of mixing the old and the new. No." He put the slide in the projector and turned it on. "Excuse me," he told her abruptly and moved past her to turn out the light. There on the screen was a clear, beautiful slide of a modern city street flanked by skyscrapers. The bottom was part of an ancient picture of the same city street, with horse-drawn carriages, children.... The images blended smoothly. Steel almost sighed. "Combining the old and the new. That was his first trick."

She stared at the screen. "And his last."

He almost laughed. "Oh, no!" He turned on the light and hooked his thumb towards the curtain. "Go sit on the sofa." She looked at him. "Come on," he encouraged her gently. She obeyed.

In the shop, the creature had chosen the photo he thought best and was on his way.

Steel marched out into the living room. "It's so primitive I don't know why he bothered," he complained, setting something heavy on a shelf. Sapphire turned her head to watch him, wondering what he was up to. He brought a table over. "I suppose Ruth was curled up on a cushion, so he felt he had to put on a bit of a parade for her." He marched back into the darkroom. Sapphire edged closer to the table and touched it, curious. Soon Steel was back with the box and its triangular hole. He set it on the table, then set up the tri-parted mirrored surface and looked at her through it.

Sapphire looked into it, her face reflected on all sides and smiled with delight. "A kaleidoscope! A toy invented in 1817!"

He stood up and began fastening the kaleidoscope into the triangular hole obviously meant for it. He had to wedge a small stand underneath to keep it from falling. He muttered sourly, "There was no way he could have known that he was manufacturing an instrument of such power." Sapphire blinked her eyes. Steel looked over at her. "A mirrored prism." He held up a photo, the image he had shown her earlier. "A photograph taken from the multiple image slide. And that..." he hit the switch, and light shone brightly through the prism, then began placing the photo against the other side of the box, "goes in here." He closed it up and pointed at the prism. "The field of vision is fairly small, but it's enough."

She lifted her head to get a good look. Reflected on the mirrored surfaces, she could see all the images in eerie beauty. "Oh, goodness, you are clever. No wonder Ruth was impressed."

He glared at her and she ignored his outrage, waiting. He moved away and picked up a small camera to show her. "The shorter the focal length of the lens, the more numerous the reproduced images." He began to set the camera in front of the prism.

Sapphire quickly moved to push it away, her eyes wide with alarm. "Is there a film in that camera?"

"No, not this time," he said grimly.

"Well take the picture out," she said, preventing him from putting the camera in place.

Exasperated he started to say, "It's perfectly safe provided I -- "

Her voice was sharp as ice. "Take the picture out!!" When he looked at her she added more gently, "You can never be sure."

Conceding her point, he did as she said and removed the picture from the box. Then he set the camera against the prism as if to take a picture and said, "It was an accident. He brought it here by accident." He pressed the button. "And he didn't just bring it here. He invited it here, he dragged it here," he touched the prism and met her eyes, "with this. A mirrored prism, acting like a kind of... a kind of funnel."

Sapphire clarified, "Like a siphon."

"Yes, for something that's been trapped for almost two hundred years."

"Between times," Sapphire agreed, as astonished as he by what could be done without evil intent of any kind.

The creature mounted the steps, recalling Ruth's all too fitting childhood rhyme. "As I was going up the stair I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today. I wish, I wish he'd stay away."

Steel continued his explanation. "He dragged it in there, and held it there for a while. But then he decided to take his apparatus apart!" Steel demonstrated, picking out the prism from the group of equipment. "But in here was a force that had adopted not one human shape, but many. Trapped, and held by their own reflections." He opened the prism and pointed at the mirrored surface, on which Sapphire's face was shown three times.

She stared at it thoughtfully. "There are seventeen mirrors in this house."

"Yes. Now we know where he's hiding. We've got him!"

Sapphire looked at him coldly. "No." She stood up and moved towards the mirror on the wall.

Startled, he snapped, "What do you mean, no?"

Firmly she snapped, "No!" She gazed into the old oval mirror. "Containing him is not enough!"

He raised his voice. "Well it'll have to do for the time being! Until we think of a way of sending him back!" Steel came to her side and met her eyes firmly. "Ruth and Williamson were killed by him. He imprisoned them in a photograph and then burned them alive!! That must never happen again." Low and furious, he stepped out of the flat into the hall. She watched him go and then followed. Out the door, into a frozen moment in time.

"See saw, sacredown, which is the way to London Town? One foot up and the other foot down, this is the way to London town."

Pleased with itself, the creature walked down the stairs towards the cellar. He had them! He hit the switch and joined the children at the bottom of the stairs. The oldest girl asked excitedly, "Who is it this time? Who is it, please?"

"Two more people," he replied with great pleasure. "People we've been looking for for a very long time."

The little girl on his left cried, "Let me see!"

He turned the photo, Sapphire and Steel frozen in a doorway, so that she could see it. "Now, where shall we put them?"

Liz finished packing her small, red case and was headed for her door.

The oldest girl pointed at a blank spot on the wall. "There. Just there! Let's put them there!" She watched with glee as he set the framed photo in its spot. She turned anxiously to him. "Can we play games, now? Can we play games with them?"

"Later," he soothed her. "There'll be time for games, later." He walked away from the photo. They followed him.

And in the picture, Sapphire and Steel remained.

Liz gathered the last of her things. It was hard for her. She had been very content here for a long time. She pulled the rent book out of the freezer and dropped her key on top of it. Grieving for Ruth, she swallowed.

In the silent, empty basement, a voice spoke. {Steel?} Sapphire said uncertainly. Everything about her was dim and silent. She could make out vague shapes. She knew Steel was near her, but he was stunned, unresponsive. {Steel,} she called again.

Finally, he answered her, his thoughts vague and disconnected, pushed out with tortuous effort. [Th -- th -- the girl. L -- Liz. The only one left to help us is -- is Liz.]

Sapphire said sadly, {We sent her away. Do you remember?}

Unsteady confusion. [You... told her to leave?]

{Yes...} she breathed the answer heavily. {Can you see anything?}

After a moment he said, [Not clearly, no.]

{Can you move?} For brute strength he exceeded her, if she could only wake him up enough to make the attempt, they might be able to escape.

There was a longer silence, but she could feel him struggling to focus. Finally he groaned. [Uh, no.]

{Neither can I. Do you remember what the voice of Ruth said to us?}

[N -- n -- Yes!] Galvanized by the need to respond, he was dragging to greater awareness.

{Like being half-asleep. Half-aware. Like... like daydreaming.}

His thoughts were erratic. [Like being... inside a photograph. Part of a... of a... of an old photograph.]


[I'm also remembering something... something else.] His mind was quickening with alarm.

{Go on,} she urged him.

[Whatever it is that has put us here, it has access to any photograph, including this one. And... it... it can also move around... inside a photograph. I mean we... we witnessed that! So... so why can't we move?] he half-wailed. Scrabbling at hope he asked her, [Can you take time back?]

{That's impossible, now.}

[The girl then. It has to be the girl. Try it, she may still be here!]

And Sapphire tried. She spoke as loud as she could. {Liz? Elizabeth Owen.}

Liz was walking down the stairway, carrying her bag. {Liz?} It was tiny, her name that seemed to drop out of the air, spoken by Sapphire.

In the basement Sapphire became excited. {Steel, I think she's still there! Liz? Please, Liz! Liz! Try to hear me!}

Liz stopped in mid step on the first landing. She thought she could hear Sapphire speaking, a pleading whisper. {Try to hear me. In your mind.} She kept going down uncertainly. {Please, Liz!} Sapphire's voice called urgently. It was coming from... coming from the basement? No, it had to be her imagination. She picked her umbrella off the stand and turned to gather her bags. The landlord... or rather the whatever... was standing next to them. She froze.

In the basement, Sapphire felt her intent. Panicking she said, {Oh, she's going! She's going away!}

[What?! No!] Steel wailed.

{Liz!!} Sapphire called urgently.

Liz's mouth dropped open when she met the man's eyes. "I was... well I'm leaving." She smiled shyly, doing her best to be calm. "I know it's short notice. No notice. But I found somewhere better. Closer to me work," she managed to smile nicely and shrug for him.

He gazed steadily at her. "I see."

"Anyway, the rent's paid up. Well paid in advance, so you can keep what's left over." She shrugged again.

He nodded and half-smiled at her. "Oh. Thank you."

"Keys and rent book are upstairs in me room."


She gathered up her things. "Now, uh... would you mind?" she asked him. He stepped aside for her. "Thanks." She went to the door, set her bags down, opened it and stepped out closing it behind her.

The man's face changed, to become the menacing mien of the older man. Of course he could hear Sapphire and Steel talking. It was time to silence the annoyances.

Liz set her bag on the step. She thought she heard Sapphire's voice again, calling her name.

Sapphire said despairingly, {I think she's gone, Steel.}

Fully awake he snapped, [There's something else. We can try something else!]

The creature slammed the cellar door behind him. It was time to get rid of these two. Or at least to punish them.

Steel said urgently, [We can... we can make a mirror. Make a mirror from... from this... this glass.]

{But how?!} Sapphire asked.

[If we concentrate, both of us! Think of Mercury, and Silver!]

{Yes,} she agreed.

[Think of what they can do. Borrow from their minds! It can be done if we both concentrate!] he told her determinidly.

Hearing them speak, the angry creature did not comprehend exactly what they intended. It knew it had them at its mercy. It grinned wickedly. At that moment Sapphire picked up its presence.

{Steel!} she called in warning.

Liz still felt something was terribly wrong. She was reminded of Ruth's screams. The horror and pain in them.

The creature held a lighter and heated the surface of the glass. Then to its surprise the glass turned into a mirror, reflecting its image back at it. And then there was a sound. It turned in surprise. Someone was opening the cellar door.

Liz stared down, seeing that the light was on, "Who's there?"

The creature stepped onto one photo and vanished into it just as Liz reached the bottom steps. Nervously she entered the main room of the cellar. "Who's there?" she called again. She could see nothing, but as she looked around, the glass restored to its natural state.

Sapphire's senses cleared, too. {He's vanished!}

[Where?!] Steel asked nervously. [Where's he gone?]

{He's... he's escaped into a photograph!}

Terrified, Steel said, [Then he's coming here!! He's coming into this one! He's gonna destroy us!]

Liz was just about to give up and go back up the stairs, when she heard Sapphire's pleading voice. {Liz! Please, Liz!}

Startled, Steel asked, [She's here?]

{Yes. And so is he. He's in here, with us.} It might be too late.

Liz stared about. At last she saw the photo leaning against the wall, Sapphire and Steel imaged within. She knew without a doubt, that it was not merely a photo of them, but them just as it had been Ruth.

Steel was muttering, but Liz could not hear him, [A prism. A mirrored prism! We must create one!]

{Liz?} Sapphire called hopefully.

Staring at the photo, Liz answered, "Yeah?"

{You must help us!}

"Yes, of course. But I really don't know what to do!" The memory of Ruth's screams was still fresh in her mind.

[Quickly!] snapped Steel.

{No questions, there isn't time,} Sapphire told Liz. {Just do as I say, Liz.}

"Yeah," she said quickly.

{Now there are some framed pictures in the corner of the setee, do you see them?}

Liz glanced back over her shoulder. Sure enough they were there. "Yeah."

{Then bring them here, now. Bring them to this photograph. Now!!} Sapphire urged powerfully.

Liz shook her head in confusion and dashed for the pictures. When she turned she met the gazes of a group of children, pouting at her. Sapphire said swiftly, {Don't look at them, Liz!} Uncertainly, she moved through them. They followed her to the photo that once again had a mirrored surface. Sapphire spoke again. {Put the pictures by the mirror, one on each side.} Liz obeyed, and her purse fall to the floor. She was about to snatch it up when Sapphire urged, {Leave your bag! Leave it! Now do you remember the mirror on your dressing table!}

Liz nodded. "Yeah!"

{Angle the pictures towards you.}

She shifted them. "Like that?"

Not quite able to see, only able to go by sense, Sapphire had to agree. {Yes like that, like that. More! More!! Hurry, Liz!}

The man came into the picture, wearing the older face for it was more menacing. He was moving and colored, while they were frozen in black and white. He looked at Sapphire, first.

And then Sapphire and Steel turned all the glass into mirrors, and the creature howled as he was drawn out of their frame. The children fled up the stairs, vanishing. Liz held the shaking frames tight, her fingers lit blue by the light pouring up between them. Then another hand came down firmly upon hers and she nearly jumped out of her skin, leaping back. It was Steel taking her place, holding the three mirrors together and ignoring the furious howls from within.

When she got over her near-heart attack, she asked, "What's happened to him?"

Steel met her eyes, his own ablaze. "He's trapped."


"No, not yet."

While he moved away she bent to pick up her purse, only to find herself looking up at Sapphire when she stood. Trembling, she forced herself to ask the question, though she suspected she already knew the answer. "Tell me what happened to Ruth."

Sapphire met her eyes gravely. "She's dead, Liz."

Liz let out one small sob and Sapphire held her against the pain.

Steel stalked into the shop. Sapphire soon caught up with him and he handed the prison to her. "Take it." He helped her brace the sides with heavy objects as Liz also entered the room. The shaking and howling went on.

Sapphire said firmly, "We need something to keep him in."

Steel agreed absolutely. "A genie in the bottle."

She said agreeably, "Well let's find the bottle!"

They searched the shelves. There had to be something usable. They knocked things about in their search. In the meantime, the children were reappearing in their photos. Most went quietly.

The creature hissed and snarled, then spoke to Liz. {{Each and every photo is mine. You belong to me. Trees and towns and villages, all made of paper. And paper burns! You, girl! No one hides from me,}} it menaced as she drew nearer. {{In years to come, I'll find a photograph. Your photograph. I'll be back.}}

Sapphire and Steel ran into each other at the end of one shelf and had a sudden realization. Sapphire voiced it. "The kaleidoscope!" They raced off in between the shelves. Steel ran past it, but Sapphire found it where she had set it down, hours ago when they had first searched the shop.

The creature hissed, {{Paper burns. Nothing lasts. Only me.}}

Liz was horrified. Steel had prepared the kaleidoscope and he and Sapphire brought it to the prism. Liz said to them desperately, "He says it can never be forever!"

Sapphire replied firmly, "We can arrange something! A kind of forever!"

The howling and shaking fell silent the moment Steel set the kaleidoscope at the center of the prism. In the darkroom, the last child, the callous girl, screamed her refusal to the heavens. "No! No! Please, please! No! No!!" But it availed her nothing. She vanished and joined her sisters in the photograph she had come from.

Steel was as upset as Liz. They were taking the mirrors away, leaving only the red kaleidoscope. "You said a kind of forever!" he accused.

"Yes," Sapphire answered.

"Well that isn't," he accused, pointing at it.

Liz interjected, "Can I see?"

Steel snapped at her, "No! That won't hold it for long." He gazed desperately at his partner.

Sapphire said matter of factly, "For seventy-five years." When they both gazed blankly at her she continued, "In twelve minutes and nine seconds a ship is due to sink."

Steel blinked at her, and Liz did as well. "Where?" Steel demanded.

"In the Arctic Ocean, west of the Bering Straight. It will remain immersed in a pyramid of ice for three quarters of a century." Liz was gaping at her as she spoke. "We must be sure that this is on board when the ship goes down." She picked up the kaleidoscope and smiled wickedly at Liz, handing the toy to Steel.

Liz asked nervously, "And in seventy-five years time?"

Sapphire smiled confidently. "We will be waiting."

Steel met Liz's eyes. "There will be other shipwrecks," he said grimly.

They started to walk out the door, Liz gaping after them. Then both stopped and turned back to her. Steel brought the kaleidoscope over to her and held it up. Before she could look in it he said softly, "Find every photograph of you that there is. Burn them. Never have another taken." He held it up and she looked inside. She could see multiple images of the man and hear him howling, pinned inside this tiny prison.


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