We are going back. Back to the time and place where we belong.Johnny’s with me. We’re running towards the Tower, running through the driving rain. He holds my hand, and I feel tension - desperation – in his cold fingers. As the dark shape of the Tower looms up ahead, my courage fails. I stumble on the dirty cobblestones and fall to my knees. He hauls me to my feet and almost drags me along. I belong to the present day and it belongs to me, but I’m scared like I’ve never known true fear until today.
“I can’t do this!” My voice sounds wrong here. My American accent marks me out as someone who should not be here - in London, five centuries ago.
Johnny’s voice is cold and terse. “You must. Only a little further now!”
We’re so close. If we’re in time, we can leave this scary, unfamiliar place. We can leave all this behind. The crooked streets full of beggars. The timber-framed houses that seem to huddle together to share their secrets. The smell of the ancient River Thames, which has washed away the sins of this city since the early dawn of time.
We can go home - if we’re in time. We have to get back to the Tower of London before the tide turns. That’s how it works. We have to go through the doorway that leads from one time into another. If we are too late, we’ll be trapped here. That’s how it’s works. Cruel. Harsh. Unrelenting. Like a jury handing down a death sentence. Which is pretty much what I have done to Johnny, now that I come to think about it.
I have made him what he is today. This is all my fault.
We cross the moat and approach the Tower. Johnny barks an order to the guards on duty, and they fall back and let us pass.We run through the gateway. Our footsteps echo on the stones as we race across the wet courtyard. My skirts are sodden with water and stained with mud. My old-fashioned leather shoes are caked in dirt.
“We have to get to the Constable’s Chamber,” he yells.
I follow him towards the old stone building, with a pain in my side like a sharp spear. Johnny hammers on the door, and then, to my horror, he breaks it down, smashing through its solid oak timbers as if it were made of little more than matchwood. He pushes the broken pieces down onto the floor and then shouts at me. “Make haste, my love! Make haste!”
I follow him into the chamber, stepping gingerly over the splintered, broken timber. A man with scared eyes is coming towards us, holding up a lantern. He wears a long crumpled nightshirt and a white linen nightcap. Outlandish garments from a time long forgotten. In his right hand he carries a set of keys, quite redundant now, but jangling - in fear.
Johnny barges right past him. “My apologies, sir. We are in desperate haste. Here, take this in recompense for the damage.” He hurls a small leather bag onto the floor and it spills unfamiliar coins onto the flagstones. Large, round coins, imperfectly fashioned. Some of them tarnished with age. The man is too stunned to pick them up.
The room is lined with wooden panelling. Johnny storms across the room and smashes one of the panels as if it were a piece of rice paper. As the wood falls away, a hidden doorway is revealed.
He makes me go ahead of him now. Up the stairs. Up and up the cold, spiral staircase made of stone. Out onto the parapet. Into the shivering darkness.
“Go on!” he says.
I turn, sick with fear. “No. Not without you!”
This is an excerpt from 'Johnny and the Vampires of Versailles' - due for release soon - the sequel to my time travel adventure, Johnny Doesn't Drink Champagne.