Squire loved this time of day.

The hobgoblin, clad only in boxer shorts and a wife-beater T-shirt, squirmed around in the leather recliner, trying to get comfortable.

He called it Squire time, that special time of day when everyone seemed to just leave him alone. He wasn't sure what made these hours between eleven in the morning and one in the afternoon so damn special, but it was almost as if the Dark Gods had set a small pocket of time aside for him alone, a time when he could think only of himself - his wants and desires.

Squire time.

His hearing was ultra sensitive, and he listened to the heartbeat of the brownstone: the gentle hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen below, the ticking of the grandfather clock in the foyer, the exhalation of comforting heat blown up from the ancient furnace in the basement through the many vents that opened into every room.

But not a sound of life. Conan Doyle and Ceridwen had yet to return from England, Danny and his mother had gone out a short time earlier, and Graves and Clay had left the brownstone in the wee hours of the morning, and no one had seen hide nor hair of them since.

Squire was alone.

Well, Eve was in her room. But she was dead to the world and would remain that way until the sun started to creep below the horizon. He could have run a marching band through her room, and she still wouldn't have been able to get that beautiful ass out of bed.

He remembered a time about ten years back when Conan Doyle had suspected the house was under attack by a spell of decimation - a nasty piece of sorcery that was almost like an airborne cancer, though not as pleasant - and had ordered everybody into a circle of protection he'd conjured. It had been up to Squire to pass the news and gather the troops together. He'd saved Eve for last, knowing what it would be like to drag her from her bed.

Squire smiled, raising a hand to his chest, slowly running his nubby fingertips over the front of his shirt, feeling four raised scars through the material. It was probably the fact that he'd pulled back the covers, exposing her naked body that had caused her to practically tear out his heart.

His smile got wider as he continued his stroll down memory lane. He'd almost bled to death from the gashes made by her talons, but what he had seen beneath the covers had made it all worthwhile. She's one hot tamale, the Hobgoblin thought, scratching at his crotch.

He reached down to retrieve the remote from between him and the cushion and turned on the big screen television in the large wooden cabinet across the room. He wasn't sure what he was in the mood for, considering The Price Is Right before moving on to one of the multiple movie channels he subscribed to through local cable. He could always find something to hold his interest there. Yesterday while channel surfing, he'd caught an Ernest movie he hadn't seen yet, the one where the hilarious son of a bitch saved Christmas. He'd just about pissed himself it was so funny.

He didn't find anything with half of Ernest's entertainment value, so he flipped back to The Price Is Right.

"Awesome," he grunted, seeing that they were playing the High/Low game. He was good at that one and would probably kick ass if he had the opportunity to play, but he couldn't see Mr. Doyle agreeing to allow him to appear on the morning game show. Too bad, he would have loved to rub elbows with Bob Barker.

He reached down beside his chair and picked up the can of Pringles he had waiting, just the first of many snacks he would indulge in during Squire time.

"Thatta girl," he squawked through a mouthful of chips, cheering on a housewife that he would've let eat Pringles in his bed any time. She was getting closer to winning herself a pair of Waveriders when the phone started to ring.

"You gotta be kiddin' me," Squire grumbled, spewing crumbs toward the television set. He considered letting the machine pick up, but realized it was probably something relatively important since no one ever called the Doyle residence just to shoot the shit.

The hobgoblin reached down under the leather seat cushion, fishing for the phone, and finally found it behind him, wedged beneath his left buttock. He stared at the Caller ID and saw the name Hook. It took him a minute, but then he remembered Hook was the homicide detective that Conan Doyle had assisted with some matters over the last few years.

"Thrill me," Squire said as he picked up, quoting the great thespian Tom Atkins from one of his '80s favorites, Night of the Creeps.

There was a long pause, but he knew somebody was there.

"Hello?" He was ready to hang up if nobody started talking.

"Is this the Doyle residence?" the voice on the other end asked tentatively.

"You got it," Squire replied. "What can I do for you?"

He turned the volume down on the television set. His sweet potato of a housewife had won the Waveriders and was jumping around like a duck on a hotplate. Bobby B was practically knocked unconscious by her overflowing excitement.

I'd like to show her some overflowing excitement, the hobgoblin thought, waiting for the detective to spill his reason for calling.

"I'm looking for Joe Clay," the man said. "I saw him last night - but something's come up this morning that I think he . . ."

"Clay ain't here," Squire interrupted. "Is there something I could do, Detective?"

"You know who I am?" Hook asked, surprise in his voice.

"Mr. Doyle told me all about you," Squire replied. "Said we should give you a hand whenever we could. So what's the scoop?"

"I'm in an alley way off of Tremont Street," the detective began. "The remains of two bodies were found here this morning by an old lady walking her dogs. And they aren't the first. There's another crime scene just like it in Copley station."

"Go on," Squire said, helping himself to another handful of Pringles. "What's the angle?" he asked. "You wouldn't be calling here if it was just your average homicide."

"One of the bodies," Hook started. "One of them appears to be partially eaten and the other . . . the other is missing all its skin. The one in the T station was even worse."

Squire swiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "I can see why you called," he said. "Have the remains been removed yet?"

"The Copley victim, yeah. But not these two. Not yet," Hook said. "Forensics is finishing up at the scene now and -"

"Don't move anything," Squire told him. "I wanna check out the scene."

"I'm not sure how long I can hold them off," Hook explained. "How quickly can you get down here?"

"Give me a minute to get on a shirt and some pants," he told the detective.

"How will I know you?" Hook asked him.

"Just look for the handsome son of a bitch stepping out of the shadows," the hobgoblin replied, and broke the connection.

So much for Squire time.

Danny had always loved the New England Aquarium.

He stood to one side, away from the line, as his mother bought their tickets. It was cold today, and the wind was blowing across the harbor. People wearing heavy coats and hats stamped their feet in line, trying to stay warm, but Danny really didn't feel it. He was wearing a heavy hooded sweatshirt, a wool cap on his head to cover his horns, and dark sunglasses to protect his sensitive eyes from the glaring sun and hide their yellow, reptilian look. The clothing wasn't meant to keep him warm, only to hide the changes to his body.

His mother left the head of the line, putting her change away inside her wallet. "Let's go inside," she said. "It's freezing out here."

"Yeah, freezing," Danny answered.

Stepping into the semidark, concrete building, Danny felt a comforting wave of nostalgia. For a brief moment, he was able to tune it all out - the people pushing strollers, the school field trips, the knowledge of how much he had changed over the last few weeks - and he remembered how it felt to be that kid again, that ten-year-old boy who loved the aquarium.

"Hey, are you all right?" his mother asked, grabbing his arm and giving it a gentle squeeze.

Danny didn't want to lose the feeling, the memory, holding on to it with both hands. "Yeah, I'm good." He removed his sunglasses. "Let's go look at some fish."

And that's exactly what they did, starting on the first level, checking out a special exhibit on jellyfish before moving on to the penguin pool. He'd always loved the tuxedoed birds, and he and his mom spent a fair amount of time laughing at their antics within the exhibit that dominated the first floor.

They moved on to the giant ocean tank that rose up in the center of the building. It was one of the world's largest cylindrical saltwater tanks - an elaborate, man-made twenty-four-foot deep reef. Fifty-two large windows allowed a view of all kinds of ocean life; sharks, sea turtles, moray eels, and tropical fish of all shapes and sizes. Danny slowly climbed the concrete walkway to the second floor, face pressed against the cool glass, losing himself in the underwater world.

There was a diver in the tank, feeding some of the more popular residents. His mesh bag of food trailing behind him, the diver dropped down to an area of caves in the artificial coral reef, and Danny saw a moray eel floating in the darkness there. He loved to watch them feed the morays. The eel gradually emerged from its hiding place, and Danny fixated on its sleek, serpentine form. The animal seemed to be looking right at him, ignoring the aquarium worker who dangled a piece of fish for it to eat. Instead, it slithered through the water, heading for the glass - for him.

The eel swam back and forth in front of the glass, as the diver continued to try to interest it in a piece of fish. It was staring at Danny. Slowly, Danny raised his hand, laying it flat against the glass. The eel attacked, smashing its pointed face repeatedly against the glass, even breaking off a few of its sharp teeth, before swimming off to hide in one of the caves in the artificial reef.

"What the hell was that all about?" Danny heard his mother ask, as she sidled up beside him. The diver was watching him now, swarms of brightly colored tropical fish plucking at the piece of food he'd been attempting to get the moray to eat.

"Guess I pissed it off," he said, looking away from the tank and the diver's stare. "I'm getting kind of hungry. Want to hit the cafe for something to eat?"

She thought about it for a moment and then nodded slowly. "I suppose. I only had a muffin about six this morning, I could go for a bite."

The cafe was on the first level, so they started back down the curving walkway. Danny was wondering what the cafe would have for him to eat when he heard their whispering voices.

Walking alongside his mother he saw two boys - ten-year-olds, if that. He'd noticed them back at the tank and thought they were with a school group. Now they were alone, walking slightly back and to the side of his mother. They were pointing at him, talking in hushed voices; wrinkling their noses in disgust, touching the tops of their hands as they spoke.

Danny glanced down at his own hands, at the horribly discolored and scaly flesh there. The two kids were laughing now, high-pitched girlish giggles as they reached the bottom of the walkway. They looked over their shoulders at him as they headed off in the opposite direction, hip-checking each other so that they would bump into people as they walked.

The anger rose in him, and there was nothing he could do to hold it back. He started after the boys.

"Danny?" his mother asked, pointing toward the cafe. "I thought that you -"

"I'll be right back," he grumbled, navigating the crowds like a shark swimming through warm waters in search of prey. His eyes hunted for the two boys who had taken it upon themselves to remind him of his difference, to bring reality crashing down around his ears. He wanted to thank them properly for what they had done.

He saw them hovering around the entrance to the jellyfish exhibit, then one shoved the other through the entrance and took off toward the administrative areas, emitting a high-pitched laugh. The other boy followed his assailant, grabbed him in a headlock, and brought him down to the ground.

Then they were out of the way of the crowd, in a shadowed corner near the administration offices. Danny glanced around to be sure no one was watching him and silently approached the wrestling boys. He exhaled loudly so that they would notice he was standing there. They stopped fighting, staring at him - momentarily defiant. He was sure one of them was about to crack wise, when apparently they realized where they had seen him before.

They were still holding on to each other, watching him cautiously, as he removed the hood of his sweatshirt to give them a good look at his leathery skin, thin lips, and razor teeth. Then he took off his wool hat to reveal the horns beneath. The stink of urine filled the air.

"It's not nice to make fun of people," Danny said, slowly stalking toward them.

They were scared speechless, staring at him with ever-widening eyes, frozen in place. He gave them a better view of his teeth, nasty and sharp, as he flicked his pointed tongue over them.

"'Cuz you never know who you might be offending."

Danny was amazed that they hadn't run away or started to scream. It was almost as if his gaze - something in his eyes - was holding them in place. He'd heard that some kinds of snakes, cobras, maybe, could mesmerize their prey before attacking it.


"Do you know who you offended today, boys?"

They stared, mute.

"You've pissed off the Devil." Danny shook his head. "Ain't that the stupidest fucking thing you ever done?"

One of them nodded, a single teardrop running down his face to land on his Patriots sweatshirt.

"So, for being the little fuckers you are, I'm going to drag both your asses back to Hell with me, but first I'm going to rip your bellies open and string your steaming guts across the floor and then . . ." Danny paused, wanting it to be good. "Then I'm gonna eat your eyes."

He could have kept it going, tormenting them some more, but he was hungry, and decided that maybe they'd had enough.

"Naw," he said, picking at his front fangs with the tip of one of his clawed nails. "You'd probably make me puke."

He lunged at them then. "Get the fuck out of here!" he roared, and the kids ran, screaming, running as if the Devil himself was on their tails.

Chuckling, Danny pulled his hat down over his horns and then, throwing the hood of the sweatshirt over his head, he turned around to join his mother at the cafe.

. . . And saw her standing there, watching him, the look of horror on her face telling him that she'd seen the whole encounter.

"That ought'a teach the little shits," he mumbled, walking past her. "Let's get out of here. I'm not hungry anymore."

Squire strolled through the all-encompassing darkness of the shadow paths, chewing on the last of a microwave burrito as his preternatural instincts zeroed in on his destination. This was the gift of being a hobgoblin. Every shadow in the world was connected. Sunshadow, moonshadow, it made no difference. All shadows were a part of the same substance, an entire dimension filled with the stuff, and hobgoblins were one of the few races that could walk the shadow paths. Squire could slip into any shadow, anywhere in the world, and travel the paths until he found his way to the very spot he wanted. All he needed was a shadow to come back through on the other end.

Like this one.

"Here we go," he said, reaching up with both hands and hauling himself out of the surrounding gloom. He emerged from a thick patch of shadow thrown by a heavy, metal dumpster in an alley off Tremont Street.

The goblin pulled the collar up on his short leather jacket and adjusted the Red Sox cap on top of his strangely shaped head as he emerged from behind the dumpster. He stood there, waiting for somebody to notice him. Any day now, he thought, tempted to start whistling.

He looked around as he waited, obviously not too late, judging by the number of uniformed cops and detectives flitting about. There's definitely something about this alley, he thought, feeling the thick hair on his arms and at the back of his neck stand at attention. Something happened here once, something bad that left a little piece of itself behind. Whatever transpired here last night was probably attracted to the wickedness inherent in the spot like a fat kid to a box of Twinkies.

"Hey, buddy, what the hell are you doing there?" a cop asked, striding over toward Squire, hand resting on the butt of his gun.

"I'm waiting," the hobgoblin replied.

The cop stopped, giving him the hairy eyeball. "Well you can wait your stumpy ass behind the yellow tape," he barked. "This is a crime scene and -"

"I'm waiting for Detective Hook," Squire interrupted.

The cop looked toward the crowd. "Detective Hook is busy. If you want to leave a name I'm sure he'll -"

"He's expecting me," Squire interrupted again, rocking back and forth on his bright red, high-top sneakers.

"If he doesn't know exactly what I'm talking about, I'm coming back for you," the cop said, then went off, grumbling under his breath as Squire waited.

He watched as the officer reached a guy who had been standing over a sheet-covered body lying on the floor of the alley. The cop nudged the guy, starting to speak and then pointing in his direction. The detective turned to look, and Squire waved.

The man finished up what he was doing then walked toward the hobgoblin.

It's about freakin' time, Squire thought. "Detective," he said aloud, with a slight nod.

"You have me at a disadvantage, Mister . . . ?"

"Squire, short and sweet, just like moi." The goblin smiled, showing off his dazzling grin.

"Wait, you're Doyle's driver - right?"

"And so much more," Squire said, shaking his head.

The man looked uncomfortable, looking around, as if this could be some kind of setup.

"I assure you, Mister Doyle will be notified about everything we discuss here. And you do trust Mister Doyle, don't you, Detective?"

The man said nothing, staring down at him.

"Of course you do," Squire said with a smile. "Now why don't we look at those bodies you told me about?"

It began as a small dot of discoloration in the air, something barely noticeable in the formal living room of Arthur Conan Doyle's Louisburg Square home. But then it started to grow, the faint whistling sound it made intensifying as it increased in size and mass. In seconds what had once been a mark hanging inoffensively in the air above the center of the room became something so much more.

The air was alive, a swirling maelstrom of gray, feeding off the environment. A stray magazine, ash from a recent fire in the fireplace, accumulated dirt and dust, it all added to the growing mass of the unnatural cyclone. From its center, there sounded a rumble of thunder like the stomach of some great beast, anxious to be satisfied. Then there came lightning flashes from within the mass of the whirlwind, and something was revealed at its center. Something more than flotsam and jetsam.

In the belly of the storm, figures grew and shifted. Its mass became more and more substantial, the seething winds shrieking and wailing around it, as if heralding the coming of something great.

Or someone.

"You are home, mistress," the wind moaned in a language as ancient as time itself, the fury of its coming gradually calming. Two shapes sheltered within the womb of elemental fury emerged. Two travelers, weary from their journey and grateful to be home.

"Thank you, wind," Ceridwen said in the language of Faerie, dispersing the last of the traveling wind with a gentle wave of her hand.

Conan Doyle set the bundles and packages that he was carrying down onto the floor with a heavy sigh. He was tired, as much mentally as physically. He watched the expression on his lover's face as she looked around the sitting room, a faint smile tugging at the corners of her regal features.

"It's good to be home," she said, glancing toward him.

"Yes," he replied, stretching his tired joints as he stepped over and around the bags at his feet. It had been a busy day. After leaving Cottingley and paying their respects to a number of other locations in the land of his birth, Ceridwen had decided it would be wise to visit those few who still worshipped the old ways, those upon the Blight that had embraced the teachings and attitudes of Faerie, and thusly had earned her respect and gratitude. These women and men were kind to her, treated her as both friend and goddess, and they had laden their visitors with all sorts of gifts, from handwoven quilts to jarred peaches.

A long day.

"I wonder where everybody is," Conan Doyle said, closing his eyes and muttering a spell of connection beneath his breath, communing with his home. "It would seem that Eve is the only one at home," he said, opening his eyes.

Ceridwen knelt by the bags, reaching inside one to slowly withdraw its contents. "Aren't these wonderful?" she said with awe as she examined her gifts.

"Quite lovely," he replied, but he knew his demeanor said otherwise. He had to wonder exactly what the elemental sorceress would do with a rooster-shaped teakettle, but he guessed that was not the point. They were all gifts to the goddess that her devotees loved with all their hearts.

And if there came a time when their goddess asked more of them than rooster-shaped teakettles and embroidered doilies? If a far greater sacrifice was someday needed?

With the threat of the Demogorgon looming in the future, Conan Doyle suspected that even loyal acolytes such as they would be called upon in the world's hour of need.

"What is it, Arthur?" Ceridwen asked, holding a homemade rag doll fashioned to look like the Fey princess.

"I'm just tired," he said, the weight of the future suddenly bearing down upon him now that they were home. "I'm not as young as I used to be, you know." He managed a small smile.

Ceridwen dropped the doll to the floor and moved to stand beside him. "I was going to suggest that we clean up the mess we've made with our return," she said, reaching out to stroke the side of his face with a long, delicate finger. Her breath was warm against his skin and smelled strongly of mint, as she spoke softly into his ear.

"But I guess it can wait - until after you've rested from your travels." Her tongue darted out, snake-like, sensually tracing the inside of his ear.

Conan Doyle pulled her close. "An excellent suggestion, my love." He kissed her fully on the mouth. "I do so appreciate your concern for my well-being."

She chuckled, taking his hand in hers.

So much for rest. There would come a time in the foreseeable future when the opportunity for distractions would be rare. Dark times were on the horizon, and he would need the memories of times such this, when they could surrender to their passions, to give him the strength to deal with the realities of an uncertain future.

A future that was inexorably drawing closer.