"Not so fast, Ms. Murray. We've been hoping to have a chat with you."
Lucy jumped and immediately turned to face the man who was stepping from the shadows of a nearby hallway.
There was a wide smile pulling at his lips but there was nothing friendly about the expression. The sides of his eyes crinkled, scrunching up the oddly shaped birthmark that framed the left side of his face.
"What do you want?" Mina asked, stepping closer to Lucy.
The man seemed to ignore the question and continued toward them in a slow but casual pace. "Such a lovely night, isn't it?"
Mina watched him warily but she was able to keep the fear she was feeling from creeping into her expression.
"We weren't expecting you to have company…" Birthmark mumbled, his eyes flicking toward Lucy. "But the more the merrier, right?" He asked, lurching forward suddenly and trying to grab for the brunette. Mina gasped, her hand clenching down over his as she tried to break the grip he had on her forearm.
Her eyes widened as she watched Lucy throw herself roughly into the man, knocking him off balance.
"Mina, go! Run, I-I'll distract them, or something." The blonde puffed, glaring at Birthmark and his approaching henchman. Mina hesitated but finally moved for the steps when Lucy repeated for her to run.
"So brave and selfless… Miss Westenra." Birthmark mocked, his eyes following the brunette's ascent of the classroom steps. His lips pulled wide again when the door Mina was reaching for opened to reveal another of his men.
His eyes flicked back to Lucy then and he took advantage of her diverted attention. He landed a solid blow to the back of her head with the butt of a gun he had pulled from his coat. The young woman crumpled to his feet unconscious and he returned the gun to where he'd previously had it holstered. "I like a girl with spirit... But only to a point."
"Lucy!" Mina cried, having turned around to try to run back down the steps when she'd seen the third man.
She glared at Birthmark and didn't have time to look behind her when she was pushed forward suddenly. She struck her head roughly on the edge of one of the benches before rolling the rest of the way down the steps.
Mina groaned and opened her eyes slowly. Her vision cleared and her heart clenched at the sight before her. Lucy was laid out across the demonstration table and in her unconscious state she looked all too similar to the cadavers that usually occupied it.
"Ah, so glad that you've decided to join us again, Miss Murray."
Mina tried to refocus her gaze and followed the man's voice so that she could shoot him a glare. He was holding a small vial in his hand as he approached Lucy and the table.
"Now, I'm guessing that an educated girl like you knows what sulfuric acid can do to a body." Birthmark said in a mocking tone, circling Lucy much like a predator and its prey. "It burns the flesh... Just like a fire."
He took a little liquid out of the vial with the dropper that was hidden in the lid before demonstrating its effects on the wood of the table.
"Hair, eyes, lips... They burn right off." He said, waving his hand once the dropper was placed back in the vial.
Mina struggled weakly against the two men holding her, her throat tightening as she realized where this was all going. The fog in her mind had made it difficult at first but she could tell he wanted her to know what was happening before he did it.
"Please, don't hurt her..." She begged, "If it's me you want, then let her go..."
Birthmark chuckled cruelly, his eyes rising to meet the brunette's. "What a lovely and selfless idea... Unfortunately, Miss Westenra has seen our faces."
Mina whimpered and struggled harder to free herself, her head throbbing in painful protest. She watched helplessly as the man released the entire contents of the dropper onto her unconscious friend's face.
Lucy woke instantly, a horrific scream ripping itself from her throat as she tried to raise her hands to her face.
"Now, now... It isn't so bad. The acid will only sink so far in, it won't kill you... We'll save that for a bit later, when you're begging for it." He said, holding her hands down and watching with satisfaction as she thrashed around fruitlessly.
"Stop, please!" Mina begged, cursing inwardly at her weak limbs and throbbing head. The men holding her in place tightened their grip and chuckled at her feeble attempts to escape. She could feel herself growing weaker and Lucy had already passed back out from the pain she was enduring.
The strain that her struggling had on her body was becoming too much for Mina. She went limp in the arms of her captors, her eyes fluttering closed.
Inwardly, she was waiting for Lucy's screaming to return and was surprised when the voice of a fourth man met her ears instead. It was low and too quiet for her to make out but she could tell that he was no friend of the other men.
"Get him!" Birthmark growled and the man to Mina's right released her, almost immediately. A loud cry filled the room and she assumed that the source of it was Birthmark.
Her eyes fluttered open at the sound of a gun being cocked but the man didn't have time to fire it and instead was thrown into the stairs behind them.
Mina heard what she could only describe as a growl before the man who had been thrown cried out.
The brunette's eyes fluttered and she struggled to focus as the other man, who was still holding her, turned to face the mysterious newcomer. She could see a hazy outline but none of his details, even when she was pushed roughly toward him.
Whoever he was, he lowered her carefully to the floor before heading after the fleeing men.
Mina struggled to stay awake but her strength was leaving her as quickly as the blood from her forehead. Her chin fell to land on her chest and she sighed out Lucy's name weakly before she slipped back into unconsciousness.
Grayson looked up as Renfield entered his study, "How is she?"
"Dr. Van Helsing says that Mina is concussed and a little dehydrated... But otherwise, she's fine." The man paused, "Miss Westenra is another story."
"I know." Alexander sighed, rubbing at his temples. "The acid did quite a bit of damage..."
The other man remained silent, only moving to lean against the chair facing the desk. "What is troubling you, sir? I thought that you would have been relieved..."
"I am. For the most part." Alexander rose from his seat, his frown deepening. "While my end goal is to distance Mina from those she is close to... This is not what I had in mind. I fear it will only bring them even closer."
"So you do wish to turn her..." Renfield whispered, a knowing look crossing his features.
Alexander didn't respond and instead poured himself and the other man a drink.
"I had considered turning Miss Westenra and healing her wound. It would no doubt put me in Mina's good graces... And if she still cherished her friend, after her transformation... Then she could learn to do the same with me."
"Sir, while I understand your reasoning... Isn't that a bit risky?"
Alexander laughed, "Is it though? Isn't it Van Helsing himself who will be tending to the girl?"
"And Doctor Murray, Sir." Renfield cut in before taking a sip of his drink, "Even so... The daughter of a London elite was attacked, brutally so. If it were to get out that her burn healed so quickly and completely... The Order would be on it in an instant."
"Yes, I suppose you're right..."
A silence fell between the two men and they sipped their drinks occasionally, each lost in his own thoughts.
"Did you see any sign of Harker?" Alexander asked in a quiet voice, the other man shook his head.
"No, he hadn't arrived yet... But Mr. Murray had sent word."
"I see. I will wait until tomorrow, then. Did the good Doctor say if he would be stopping by?"
Renfield nodded, "Yes, as soon as he had cleaned and dressed Lucy's wound. And had any news on Miss Murray's condition."
"Good, we'll head over then, as soon as I've had my injection..." Alexander said quietly before finishing the rest of the liquid in his glass.
Mina groaned and cracked her eyes open slowly.
"Oh, thank God you're awake!"
"Jonathan?" The brunette croaked, her eyes moving weakly toward his voice.
"You scared me half to death, Mina. This is exactly why I insist you not go anywhere on your own!" Her Fiance exclaimed, leaning in to press a kiss to her cheek.
"I-it wasn't like that-" She paused, taking a sip from the glass of water he handed her before continuing. "They knew my name, they followed us..."
Her eyes widened then and she sat up, causing her head to throb painfully in response. "Where is Lucy?"
"No, where is she?" Mina cried, struggling against him when he gently tried to get her to lay back down.
"M-Mina! She's... She's alive." Jonathan said softly, his eyes avoiding his Fiancee's as she stopped struggling.
"Where is she?" The brunette repeated, knowing by the tone of his voice that Lucy's condition was not good.
"She's in a more private part of the hospital... In your Father and Doctor Van Helsing's care."
"I need to see her." Mina stated firmly before trying to get up again.
Jonathan shook his head, "Darling, that isn't going to happen just yet. They haven't even let Minerva see her..."
Tears burned at Mina's eyes and she tried to blink them away. "She saved me, Jonathan. That should be me!"
He frowned and leaned in to hold her, his hand soothing her hair down in long, slow strokes.
"I'm sorry... You must rest now. If you do, I'll wake you as soon as your Father says she's allowed visitors." He promised, he could feel her shift slightly before she pulled away from him enough for their eyes to meet.
"Lucy and I might not always get along... But I would never keep you from her, Mina... Especially not at a time like this." He said, pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead. "Rest now, darling... Please."
The brunette cracked her eyes open slowly, moving them toward the voice that had woke her.
"Good morning." Jonathan said gently, his lips curving up at the edges.
"Is it?" Mina croaked, her head throbbing painfully.
"Yes, I think so." He said, smile broadening. "Your Father is bringing you some breakfast to take your medicine with and then..."
"Then, you can go and visit Lucy."
The brunette's eyes widened and she tried to sit up. "I'll eat after I've seen her."
"Mina, you must eat so that you can take your medicine. Otherwise you'll keep that splitting headache."
"I'm fine." Mina grumbled, throwing back the covers and twisting her body so that she could put her feet on the floor.
"You're lying, the pain written all over your face proves it." Jonathan pointed out, his accuracy only annoying the young woman further.
She was about to argue when her Father rounded the corner, a small tray between his hands.
"Ah, maybe you can talk some sense into her... She wishes to go see Lucy before she's had her breakfast."
Dr. Murray looked between his daughter and her Fiance. "No, you need to eat first, darling."
Mina shot her Father a weak glare before settling herself back on the bed and allowing Jonathan to cover her lower body back up.
Mina reached out a tentative hand to push open the door to her friend's room. She stepped inside slowly and her breath caught in her throat as soon as her eyes fell on Lucy's bedridden form.
Her long hair appeared to have been tied back and the left side of the blonde's face was completely covered in gauze and the dressings to hold it in place.
Trying to hold back her tears, Mina settled herself on the edge of her friend's bed. She heard the door close quietly behind her and for the first time that morning, Mina was grateful for her Fiance.
"Lucy." The brunette breathed gently, trying to keep too much emotion from seeping into her voice.
The blonde groaned, the sleepy fog clouding her mind fading away slowly.
"Lucy, darling... Please wake up."
"Mina?" Lucy asked weakly, her right eye fluttering open.
The brunette smiled, a tear rolling down her cheek despite her attempts to hold them back. She reached out quickly and covered the blonde's hand with her own.
"Your head..." Lucy breathed, her free hand rising off of the bed to try to reach out and touch her friend's face.
"It's fine. Nothing but a small gash." Mina said, not all that surprised that Lucy was more concerned about her than her own well being.
The blonde swallowed thickly, realizing that the pain she was feeling... Even through the obvious sensation of some form of medication, meant that she was most likely worse off. She couldn't remember all of what happened but she did know that it wasn't anything good.
"How bad is it?" Lucy asked, her voice a little more clear and coherent as she came to.
The brunette dropped her gaze to her hands, the small smile that had blossomed on her lips disappearing just as quickly as it had appeared.
"That bad, huh?" Lucy asked, squeezing the brunette's fingers with her own. The gesture was originally meant to reassure Mina but she could feel panic and emotion rising in her chest. "And to think... I'd been worried recently that I'd never find a woman who shared my romantic tastes... Now I'll be lucky to marry at all."
"Nonsense!" Mina argued, "You're still beautiful, brave and charming... Anyone, man or woman would be lucky to have you."
Even with only one eye visible, the pain in Lucy's expression was easy to read. The anyone but you hung between them unsaid for several minutes until Lucy spoke up, changing the subject.
"Is my Mother here?" She asked, voice soft and vulnerable.
"My Father has sent for her... She was here but she must have gone home for the night when they wouldn't let her see you."
Lucy gave a small, almost imperceptible nod. "What happened, how did we get away?"
"I'm not exactly sure." The brunette said with a sigh, pointing toward the bandage on her forehead with a small smile. "All I know is I heard the voice of another man, he must have chased them off or something."
"Well, regardless of what I might say while wallowing... I'm glad... So glad that we got away. That you aren't more hurt than you are."
Mina swallowed thickly, her fingers gripping Lucy's once again. "I wish you hadn't been hurt... It was me that they were after, not you..."
Lucy shrugged, "I still get to look at your beautiful face."
Mina chuckled, swatting the back of the blonde's hand lightly with her own. They sat together a while longer, Mina trying to comfort her friend as best as she could.
The two looked toward the door a while later when Dr. Murray and Minerva finally interrupted their quiet conversation.
"Oh Lucy, what have they done to you?" Minerva cried, rushing to her daughter's bedside opposite Mina to inspect what she could of the younger blonde's face.
Dr. Murray came up behind his daughter, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. "She was burned with some manner of acid, we're thinking sulfiric..."
Mina nodded, "That's what he said it was..."
He shot her a surprised look before looking back to Minerva, "The damage was mainly to the surface of the skin... But some of it did make it's way into her eye... She will most likely lose all of her vision on that side, I'm afraid." He said, his voice sympathetic as the Mother and Daughter absorbed the information. "I'm sorry that I don't have better news for you..."
"Is there nothing we can do for her?" Minerva asked, holding her daughter close gently as the news sunk in.
"It may be possible to graft skin to replace what was damaged by the acid... But that method isn't well practiced. I would have to find someone who would be willing to try it. But I'm afraid there is nothing we can do to repair the damage of the eye."
A sob escaped Lucy's throat and she cried out as pain followed the quick movement. Minerva frowned before frantically turning her attention back to Dr. Murray. "She's in pain, please... At least make it so she's not in pain." The Mother begged, her eyes wide and her heart visibly breaking before them.
"Y-yes, I'll be back shortly with more medicine... She'll need to eat before she takes it, though." He said, before disappearing back into the hall. As soon as he was left, Minerva turned her attention back on Lucy and began fussing over her. The blonde's blank stare was easy to read, even with more than half of it covered by gauze and the medical bandages.
"Leave." She said in a monotone voice, "Please. I need to be alone."
Minerva froze immediately and Mina could sense the tension forming, "Darling... Are you sure? I've only just arrived and surely you can't mean that-"
"I do. Leave, both of you. Please." Lucy said, her voice holding a hint of anger to it now.
Mina gently took Minerva's hand in her own, a small frown playing on her lips as she and Mrs. Westenra made their way to the hallway.
"I'm so sorry..." Mina whispered, nausea bubbling up the back of her throat at the thought of what this diagnosis would mean for her friend. She knew that it had been bad, she knew as soon as she heard Lucy scream the night before but her mind hadn't let her entertain the truly bad possibilities that could become reality.
Minerva shook her head, "It's not your fault, dear... You didn't do this to her."
"No, I didn't but they were after me..." Mina said sadly, glancing toward her feet.
"They are terrible, awful people. And as much as my Daughter is upset now and needs to grieve... You're her best friend. There is some part of her that is grateful that it's not you in that bed." Minerva said, her voice thick with emotion. "And I feel the same, darling. You're my daughter too, you know that, don't you?"
Mina nodded, a small smile appearing on her lips. "Thank you... Here you are supporting me, when I should be the one making you feel better. If you'd like, you can stay in my room for a bit... Until she's calmed down some. I'd enjoy the company."
Minerva smiled, "Thank you, I'd like that."
Mina looked up as footsteps approached where she, Jonathan and Minerva were talking by her bed. "Oh, Alexander, hello!"
"How are you feeling, Miss Murray?" The man asked, a smile tugging at his lips as he paused beside Jonathan before handing her a single rose. Jonathan's eyebrows pulled higher on his forehead and he looked between the two of them, a frown playing at his lips.
"I'm alright." She answered pleasantly, feeling better now that she wasn't walking around. Smiling as she slid the rose into the small vase on the table next to her bed containing the flowers Jonathan had brought for her.
"I'm so glad to hear that. Forgive me for being so blunt but do you know who it was who did this to you? Do you think you could describe them?" He asked gently, settling himself on the bottom of her bed. "I may just be Jonathan's boss... But I do have some connections. I want to ensure that the two of you can feel safe in your own home. I need my employees safe and well rested." He joked with a charming smile, although she knew that he was sincere in his concern.
"Most of it is a blur, honestly... I do remember one face though, he was the leader of the group. He had a large birthmark or scar down the side of his face. The left side, I believe." Mina mumbled, her brow furrowing as she struggled to concentrate over the details.
Jonathan's eyes widened and he sat back slightly in his chair, "Are you sure Mina? The left side?"
"Yes, positive. It wrapped around his eye... From just above his eyebrow the whole way down to the middle of his cheek." She confirmed, her eyes widening when Jonathan quickly rose from his seat and headed for the hallway. Alexander caught up to him just as he made it to the top of the steps that lead to the first floor.
"You look like you've seen a ghost, you know this man, don't you?" He asked, his eyes narrowing.
Jonathan nodded before pulling his arm from the other man's grip. "I believe so... And if I'm right, he works for Lord Davenport."
"Where do you plan on going with this information?" Alexander pressed, making sure to move in front of Jonathan so that the younger man couldn't just bolt for the stairs again.
"The police, of course!"
Alexander scoffed at the idea, "Do you really think they're going to do anything against Davenport or his men? On your word? I take it they haven't even shown up to question the girls, yet?"
"No... But Lucy's just woken." Jonathan tried to argue weakly and the shorter man shook his head.
"Miss Murray has been awake since this morning and was awake as early as last night. There was no sign of the men when they arrived, was there? I'm a friend of Van Helsing's... He told me his classroom was a mess but that they had no leads last he heard."
"They have one now!" Jonathan argued, trying to push past Alexander.
"No, they will never act against a man with that much money, he'll buy his way out."
"Then I'll talk to him myself then, Davenport won't lie to me." Jonathan said firmly, "I'll make him answer."
Alexander watched as the younger man turned and made his way down the steps in a hurried pace, a small smile twisting at his lips.
"Hackett and the others never returned, sir... And I've news that Miss Westenra and Miss Murray are both being treated at the hospital." A man said, his head bowed as he related the news to his Master.
Davenport rose quickly from his chair, his hands slamming harshly into the wood of his desk. "How? How did this happen?!"
"I don't know, sir... The police haven't found any sign of them, apparently..."
"No blood, nothing?" He asked, his voice rising slightly. "And both of the girls are alive?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so... Sir." The man gulped, paling visibly. "Miss Murray is merely concussed... Her friend, she's a bit worse off."
"A bit worse off? She should be dead, they should both be dead!" He cried, his fingers curling into his short hair, digging into his scalp. The man that stood before him had been there the night of the attack but Hackett had insisted he go back to inform Davenport of Lucy's presence on the off chance that something went wrong. And even with two women, the men had believed themselves capable of dispatching them without a fourth set of hands.
"You'll take someone, anyone with you... And repair this situation, tonight." Davenport said, exhaling slowly before shooting the man a harsh glare. "I want this finished, I want them both dead. And make sure it's done this time."
"I'll not be home when you return, I'll send word for you... When I think it's safe." Davenport said, turning away from his man to pour himself a rather large drink.
"Tell no one but your accomplice of this conversation, do you understand me?" He asked, glancing back over his shoulder. A dangerous glint in his eye, the man nodded quickly. Knowing full well that his fate depended on his competence.