Sun and Moon (part 30 – conclusion)

“What are you girls doing to our poor Clayton?” Francesca asked. Clay was lying on the couch, a stricken look on his face. Julia was holding tightly onto his hand, while Umbry hovered over them.

Looking over at Francesca, Umbry immediately noticed the book. “What’s that?” she asked. “Are you keeping a diary?”

“No my dear,” Francesca replied. “It is indeed a diary, but it is not mine. It belonged to my late partner Frederick.”

That got Julia’s attention. “I didn’t know it was ok to read other peoples’ diaries.”

“Desperate times, my dear,” Francesca said. “This is a most extraordinary document. It would appear that Freddie was keeping secrets.”

Julia and Umbry looked at each other. “Yes, we know.”

Francesca looked quizzically from one to the other. “If understand correctly what I have read, it should not be possible for you to know. Are you saying that you have recovered your memories?”

Clay, who had been silently trying to regain his capacity for speech since Julia had uttered that name, finally managed to speak up. “What are the lot of you talking about? What memories? Is this a game anyone can play?”

“Clayton, we have little time,” Francesca explained. “Our deluded friend Noir believes that he needs to overpower us through force, when in fact we need to help him before time runs out. We need the full use of your mind to turn the tide, and this will require some effort and ingenuity.”

Clay looked dazed. “I really don’t know what’s going on, but obviously the three of you do. Whatever you need to do, let’s get it done.”

Francesca addressed herself to Julia and Umbry. “The loss of memory was unintentional, a side-effect of a process that was only partially completed. All that is required to undo the memory block is for the victim to be pushed to relive the blocked memories, while experiencing an intense personal connection with someone in the here and now.” She regarded the two young women with admiration. “It seems that somehow or other you were able to effect this process on your own, without the benefit of instruction. I must say I am impressed.”

Julia and Umbry looked at each other. Umbry was the first to speak. “We had the advantage of an unusually close personal connection. That was already there. I think we just stumbled onto the rest of it.” She smiled at her partner.

Julia chimed in. “Well, that worked fine for us, but what about Clay? He doesn’t have the benefit of the kind of closeness that Umbry and I have built through the years.”

“There are substitutes,” Umbry smiled mischievously.

Julia looked at her with an unreadable expression. “Oh, don’t tell me you mean what I think you mean.”

Umbry shrugged. “Why not? There’s closeness and there’s, you know, closeness. Is this going to be a problem for you, partner?”

Julia blushed. “I didn’t mean, uh, I mean, … really, it’s ok. One for the team, right?”

“Exactly!” Umbry beamed. “One for all and all for one. I’m doing this for all of us. Glad you’re ok with it.”

Clay had been sitting quietly on the couch, trying to follow the conversation, but it was all beyond him. “Could somebody please tell me what’s going on?” he asked timidly.

“I’ll explain,” said Umbry, as she climbed onto the couch, straddling him in a way that was distinctly more intimate than he would have expected. She snuggled her body close against his, and was gratified to detect that her friendly gesture was clearly having the intended effect.

Clay had a slightly dazed look on his face. “You see Clay, I feel very close to you. And I’m pretty sure, on the evidence of the other night, that you feel the same.” As she was talking, her body was saying the same thing in different ways. “You need to trust me here, go with this.”

Clay’s face was red. He felt both elated and completely out of his depth. “Yes Umbry,” was all he could think to say.

Francesca was amused to note that Julia was watching all of this with a stoic look of resignation. On an impulse, Francesca reached out and held Julia’s hand. Julia turned her and smiled. “Thank you,” she mouthed silently.

Meanwhile, Umbry was leaning her face close to Clay’s talking softly to him. Her dark hair was brushing against his cheek. She looked deeply into Clay’s eyes. “No matter how much it hurts, right now I want you to think of Bianca Renford.” Even as his face began to register pain, she placed her lips upon his, and began to kiss him. It was a long, slow kiss. She took her time about it and made sure to make every moment count. After a few moments, Julia and Francesca could see the pain and tension go out of Clay’s body. He began to kiss Umbry back, passionately. Silently Francesca squeezed Julia’s hand, and Julia squeezed back.

After several long delightful minutes they finally came up for air. Umbry and Clay were simply gazing at each other, sharing the same look of astonished delight. Francesca cleared her throat, in what she thought was a suitably diplomatic way. Neither of them seemed to notice. Finally she tapped them both on the shoulder.

When she at last had their attention, she asked Clay. “Who is Bianca Renford?”

“My wife,” he replied. “That is, she was my wife, before the bomb on the bus.”

“Excellent,” said Francesca. “Umbry, you’ve done it!”

But Umbry wasn’t listening. Neither was Clay for that matter. They would get back to the case in a few minutes. For now, they were preoccupied. Francesca looked with fond amusement at the two lovebirds, kissing each other as though kissing was something they had just discovered for the first time.

Julia was looking at them with a somewhat more impatient expression. “Excuse me, but isn’t it time we got back to the case?” This did not produce the desired response. In fact, for the next few minutes they gave no indication that they had heard a thing.


Francesca and Julia sat themselves down at the table, the blue diary the only thing in front of them. Julia stood up again and returned moments later with two hot drinks in her hand. Francesca smiled at the smell of espresso, and opened her mouth to compliment. “It’s okay,” Julia intervened. “You don’t need to make a compliment. I already know my espressos are wonderful.”

Francesca smiled curtly. “Actually, dear, I had planned on informing of you of how glad I am to see you back. But your espressos are indeed excellent.”

Julia blushed. “Why, thank you, Francesca.” Her face turned serious again as she returned to the diary and they opened it to the first page. Julia cleared her head and read through the pages, and found that her reading pace was about the same as Francesca. Finally, they closed the book, and Julia sighed.

“I wish I could have helped him.”

“Me too, darling. But none of us could have known of how closed he was.” Francesca placed a comforting hand on Julia’s. “All we can do for him now is help understand what he left for us.”

“In that case…” Julia said, and once again turned to the diary. “This entry here was after Bianca died, but he’s talking about how he needs her.”

“Oh? It could simply be him missing her.” Francesca read over the entry.

After all of these recent events, I find myself still in need of my beloved daughter. She has passed, but her presence must still linger here, so all of us can gain at least some peace of mind…

“No,” Julia said, shaking her head. “He’s not regretting anything – he’s speaking in the present. Don’t you agree?”

After reading it over a couple times, Francesca found herself nodding. “You’re right – he is talking about her in an active sense.”

“Who would need her? Clay, perhaps?” Francesca looked back at the quote. “No, I believe that peace of mind is the important phrase here. There’s someone who needs peace of mind, which would come from Bianca…”

“Noir!” Julia said suddenly.

“Yes, that’s it! Noir!”

They smiled at each other, their eyes holding each other’s gaze for just a moment longer, before returning to the diary. Julia bit her lip. “That’s not all of it, though. Noir needs her for peace of mind, sure, but that’s irrelevant if she’s dead.”

“Perhaps it isn’t, Julia.” Francesca pointed to the quote. “Her presence must still linger here, he says. Perhaps this means she is still alive.”

“No, that couldn’t be. It couldn’t be.” Julia shook her head. “The brain damage was too severe. The doctors said they had no chance. Frederick said–”

“Frederick, as it happens, was not always truthful, and was often withholding,” Francesca retorted. “You must think, Julia.”

Julia sighed and cleared her mind. “…You’re right. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Noir needs her. Frederick knew that, and he wanted his grandson to be alright… maybe… Noir needs her for his mind to be normal again.”

Francesca nodded. “Good job, darling. We know his secret now. With this, I’m sure we can win.”

Julia nodded. “I still feel sorry for him. He must be so confused. All he wants is his mother.” She looked down at her feet.

“There is nothing I can say to comfort you, is there, dear Julia?” Francesca asked, staring at her. Julia shook her head silently.

“Perhaps, then,” she said, smiling slyly, “there is something I can do.” Softly, she lifted Julia’s chin up with her fingers and kissed her. Julia felt a little bit like an etch-a-sketch being shaken – every worry that had once occupied her mind was whisked away. It might have only lasted a couple of seconds, but it felt like an eternity until Francesca pulled away, leaving Julia gasping a little. She blinked, and then caught Umbry’s eye. Her partner was staring at her with her mouth wide open, an expression of pure shock on her face. Julia, red as a tomato, looked away. “You know that Umbry’s right there, right?” She hissed.

“Consider it revenge, Julia. And hopefully you gained something else from it as well.” Francesca looked quite mischievous at that moment, and Julia couldn’t help but smile a little.

“Perhaps,” she said, returning the sly smirk with one of her own.


“Frederick, you see, had a secret, one he took to his grave,” Francesca was explaining. “He had developed a set of rather radical — if dangerous — techniques to revive a coma victim. It involved the use of several minds. The minds needed to be young and flexible, which — apparently — was why he never involved me in the scheme. It seems I was too old.”

Julia smiled. “You’ll never be too old for anything.”

Francesca blushed, and continued. “When the unconscious body of Bianca disappeared, he found himself in the middle of the process, with no way to continue — no way to give young Noir a complete and fully functional mind. Yes the boy woke up with a brilliant mind, but alas it was still an insane one. Freddie could not explain the problem to any of his three volunteers — Julia, Umbry and Bianca’s husband, our dear Clayton — they would promptly have forgotten the entire conversation in a matter of minutes.

“For years he was wracked with guilt – feeling he had betrayed his closest friends with his failure, and had let a young madman loose on the world. Until recently, when he discovered that he had cancer. He told nobody, the old fool, not even me. Knowing he had, at most, mere months to live, he devised this scheme to fake his own murder, knowing it was the only way to bring together the minds of Julia and Umbry and Clay. It was mere circumstance that I became involved. But as it happened, it was a fortuitous circumstance.”

“Yes,” Clay nodded slowly. “All the pieces fit together now. The problem, if I understand correctly, is that time is now running out. Clearly this insanity is beginning to take control of Noir’s mind. We need to get to him before he becomes permanently insane.”


Julia sat apart from the others, still deep in thought. Her thoughts had almost completely returned to her since the kiss with Francesca (thinking about it made her lose her train of thought again, but she shook herself out of it) and she kept returning to the segment of the diary. Noir needed Bianca, and she still lingered here… Noir must have realized that, right? He really cared about Bianca. He wouldn’t have just let her disappear like that. No, that wasn’t something he would do at all… and he always got very wistful when he talked about Bianca – almost impatient, like he needed to – to get back to someone.

Of course!

“Bianca’s with him!” She said, leaping up. Everyone looked at her.

“She’s still alive, and she’s with him,” she explained. “He wants to find a way to bring her back.”

“How do you know this, Julia?” Umbry asked sternly.

She paused. How would Umbry react to this? It didn’t matter, she finally realized. Umbry would have to be fine with anything if she expected Julia to be fine with the whole fiasco with Clay. Yeah, that was still pissing her off. Even though she’d done something awfully similar with Francesca, she just didn’t think it was fair that she had to –

She quickly shut out the thought before it had time to finish, and looked up at her partner. “I took a walk with Noir, the night we stayed at his place. He tried to get me to remember, but I blacked out. I think I might have gone a bit too far back, but he kept looking impatient, like he wanted to get back to her. She’s still alive with him. No – he’s keeping her alive. And I think that in his mind, we’re the ones who can help him.”

There was a long silence.

“So what do we do now?” Clay asked.

“We have to go to him,” Umbry answered. “It’s the only thing we can do. Especially if you want to save your son.”

“And how shall we go about that, Umbry dear?” Francesca asked. “If I recall your account, you were both asleep for most of the ride to the island.”

“Most of the ride,” Umbry clarified. “But I’m more observant than I look. And Noir’s mansion is located near a very blue lake. In other words,” she said, laying out a map in front of them, “A dead lake.”

“Ah! From chemical experiments. I see.” Francesca scanned the map. “Those lakes would be characterized by an intensely blue color.”

“And the only dead lake near here,” Clay said, pointing to a spot on the map a few hours outside of the city, “is this one.”

They drove for a long time, occasionally having to stop and ask for directions and being met with people very confused as to why anyone would want to go to such a desolate place. None of them had a car, but as it happened Lindsay did. It was old and smelled like something awful was living inside – Julia explained to Francesca that this was probably the smell of Lindsay, and they would just have to deal with it. As they drew closer, Julia and Umbry found the area familiar, and Umbry was able to pinpoint the turn they should make to get to the bridge. The bridge was guarded by men with large guns, but seeing Julia in the car the men let them through. One of them smiled curtly at her, and she recalled that she had been polite to him in the past. She returned the smile and they ascended the hill. Everything was completely familiar now – the smell of the wilderness and the distant lapping of the waves. They pressed their faces against the windows like eager children.

Finally the wilderness disappeared and instead they saw pavement and grass, and the mansion out in front of them. The car sputtered to a halt and they stepped out. Clay stared in awe and Francesca looked on, somewhat impressed, while Julia and Umbry reveled in the opportunity to breathe fresh air again.

There were guards waiting outside the doors for them, and Francesca approached them fearlessly. “We are here to see Monsieur LeFevre,” she informed the one who seemed to be in charge.

“Yes. He is waiting for you,” he replied, beckoning for them to follow him inside. “Please, this way.”

He led them through the foyer and back into another large room in the house. The walls were lined with books of all kinds, and in one corner there was a place where perhaps Noir enjoyed reading. After that they passed through the dining hall and the parlor, and when they were just nearing the back of the huge mansion the guard turned and gestured them toward a small staircase nestled in the corner of the room. “He is down those stairs. Good luck.” With a last nod he left, although Umbry noted that he was still standing at the door of the room, watching them carefully.

They all took a deep breath. This was it. Francesca went first, followed by Umbry, then Julia and finally Clay, all of them descending into the darkness of the basement.

The staircase started off normally but soon became a spiral. After some walking they were in a large dome-shaped room without any windows. The lighting was ambient and almost eerie, like a hospital for vampires, Clay noted. There was an odd humming noise and a slow, steady beeping that Francesca recognized as a heart monitor. As they descended further and came close to the ground, Julia saw Noir, sitting alone in a comfortable-looking chair, staring at something off to the left that Julia couldn’t quite see. It was, in fact, Umbry who first saw it – her. Her hair was long and white and flowed in waves, parts of it flowing off of the bed and down towards the ground. She was hooked up to all sorts of strange devices. Noir didn’t blink when he looked at her. In his hands was a piece of paper, on which he was drawing – it was a card of some sort, she realized.

“It’s her birthday,” he said softly, not turning towards them. They all reached the bottom of the stairs.

“I know, Noir. I remember,” Clay replied. “She always loved your birthday cards.”

“How would you know?”

“Noir, I…” he didn’t know how to say this, but he knew he had to speak his mind. “I knew Bianca. I knew her very well. She liked angel food cake and loved the month of May, and when she gave birth to you she was so happy that we finally had a child.”

“…Basically, you’re telling me that you’re my father,” Noir said, still quiet, almost whispering.


Noir laughed to himself. “And that’s supposed to be surprising? It’s so obvious.” Finally he turned around in his chair, sporting a twisted smile. His black eyes were wide and sparkling with something almost otherworldly in its anger. “But you won’t get her back from me, dad. Mommy is mine, and so are they.”

The door locked upstairs. Julia and Umbry looked up at it. They turned back to react toward Noir, but were met with a harsh, resolute clicking noise. Noir was holding a gun, and pointing it at them. “You two, after all, are the key that my grandpa left.”

“Us?” Julia asked.

“He led you to me to you so that I could bring Bianca back, with this machine.”

“No, Noir,” Francesca said, shaking her head. “Frederick – your grandfather – wanted to bring you back, dear. Back to the way you were before, when your mind was fully capable.”

“You’re wrong!” He snapped. “See! I’ll show you! I’ll bring her back with this!” He pointed the gun at Umbry and Julia. “You two are just the sacrifices.”

“Noir, calm down,” Clay said, trying to sound soothing. “You have to think about this. You were unconscious, for a long time. Bianca died in that time. Grandpa was keeping her alive so that you could be brought back to normal, but you took her away when you woke up…”

“Shut up!!”

The room fell silent except for the strange hum and the heart monitor. Noir had backed against the wall, and now he was waving the gun shakily at the four of them.

“Noir, where’s the machine?” Umbry asked, looking around for it. “We can talk about this.”

“We can save you, Noir,” Julia added. “If you just tell us where the machine is, we can save you.”

He looked at them for a second, slightly hesitant, as if he desperately wanted to believe what they were saying. There was a battle inside of him that lasted for almost five seconds, and in those seconds he didn’t move.

“I… can’t be saved,” he spat. He reached for a lever hidden behind Bianca’s bed. Francesca could just barely see it from her place, and knew instantly what he was doing.

“The room is the machine! Noir, stop it!” She lunged at him.

He whipped around.

There was a shot. Umbry and Julia ducked. Clay shouted.

There was blood, and Noir stared in shock at what he had done. He dropped the gun.

Francesca fell to the floor, holding her side. “Francesca!” Umbry shouted.

Noir started to shake, watching as Umbry and Clay leaned over Francesca, who was bleeding profusely from the bullet wound. He couldn’t be saved. See? The only thing he could do was get his mother back… and then…

He felt pain in his head as he was pushed against the wall. He tried to breathe but instead was met with nothing. He opened his eyes and gasped. Julia’s arm held him up against the wall. “You little piece of shit,” she growled. “Didn’t I tell you what happens when you hurt people I care about?” He flailed against her, but in her anger she was stronger than he was.

Clay saw this. “Julia! No!” But she didn’t stop at that. He got up and ran to the lever. Noir was still flailing in Julia’s grip. “Julia, you’ll kill him!” Umbry shouted, but she was trying to stop Francesca from bleeding, and Julia still didn’t answer.

Clay decided. He had to do it now. If only he could trust himself with remembering how… he pressed a couple of buttons on the machine and one of the lights started glowing blue. He grabbed the lever. It could be pushed up or down now. Undoubtedly, one would bring Noir back to his senses and the other would attempt bring Bianca back — an incredible long-shot. He closed his eyes. He had to know which one to do, and it was a 50/50 chance. He took a deep breath. Heaven or Earth? Which way would he go to save the person he cared about?

He went to heaven, pushing the lever upwards.

The humming of the machine got very loud, and Julia and Umbry immediately felt dizzy. Noir gasped for air. Umbry knew they would all faint soon as the light of the entire room went to a faded blue, almost entirely dark. She got to her feet and stumbled to Julia, who was determined to kill him. “Julia, you have to stop,” she said. “Julia, please, stop… you have to. Remember us! Remember – remember the eclipse! Please, Julia!”

Julia hesitated for a second, as Noir’s flailing became weaker and weaker. Then she loosened her grip on him and he slumped to the floor. Julia stumbled back into Umbry’s arms and they both fell backwards.

“An eclipse…” Julia whispered. “So it’s true, then.” She fainted, and Umbry went out right after her.

The machine’s humming became too loud to handle, and Clay held on to Bianca’s body as everything went black.


It was very quiet when Julia and Umbry came to. The first thing they saw was Noir, still slumped on the floor, still breathing. Umbry turned around to see Francesca’s blood on the ground, with her still lying in it, but her wound had seemingly stopped bleeding, and she was still breathing. Julia looked up, and saw Clay, hovering over Bianca.

Their hearing returned, and the first thing they heard was a long, steady beep. The heart monitor showed no signs of life. The respirator had been unplugged. Clay was staring at the body, unblinking, just like his son had once done for hours at a time. Of course, it made sense – her face was almost like an angel’s..

They helped each other up and the blood rushed to their heads. “Did… did it work?” Umbry asked.

“We’ll have to see. Francesca is okay, but I still have a headache.” He looked up at them and cracked a smile. “And for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of that idiot college student.”

“Huh. Neither can I,” Julia agreed. “Larry? Lenny? Landon?” She laughed. “Guess he doesn’t matter much.”

“You three seem quite alright to me,” Francesca chimed in from the floor. She had regained consciousness and was looking at all three of them. Julia ran to her side, followed by Umbry.

“You know,” Julia said, “for the victim of a bullet wound, you seem pretty blase about it.”

“I have lived through such things before, Julia dear,” she said, touching her stomach. “Although I will need to go to the hospital soon, or I may suffer greatly from my injuries.”

Umbry nodded and went to the stairs. “I’ll get help,” she said. The guards had been nice to them before, and they would be again. Before she ascended them, however, she touched Clay’s cheek and smiled at him. He nodded at her and she ran up the stairs, knocking on the door politely.

Clay turned to Noir. He checked the boy’s heartbeat and sat him up, but left him alone for Julia and Francesca. “You’re still nervous about talking to him?” Julia asked, and he nodded.

“I wish I could have helped him. It would have been better if I’d remembered, so I could have stopped him from running away.”

“It is all in the past now, dear. Now you have to make amends with him. So what will you do?”

Clay sighed, shaking his head, obviously out of ideas.

Noir let out a sigh as he shook himself to life, lifting his eyelids to see four people staring right back at him. His hands shook a little bit, and he took a breath to speak.


“Hello, this is the SunMoon detective agency. We solve your cases, day or night, earth or heaven. How may I help you?” Lindsay held the phone on his shoulder, staring at pictures of cats. The person on the other line seemed very serious about their case, so he pretended to type on the computer to please them. “Uh-huh. Yeah. Well, they’re a bit busy with cases right now, but we can get back to you by tomorrow. Yes, they’re that fast. Oh, I’m sorry. Can you hold?” He clicked the button to go to the other line, simultaneously changing the cute cat picture on his computer. “Hello, this is the SunMoon–oh, Noir.” He looked away from the computer. “You won’t hurt me, will you? …Okay. I’ll get him.” He put the phone down and sighed. “Gladly,” he added, still mystified as to why Julia and Umbry had been so keen on accepting a former mob member and murderer as their sponsor. Still, they accepted him, so it was alright. “Clay!” he called. “It’s Noir.”

“Oh, Noir? Really?” Clay looked a bit bashful. Even after a month of conversation it was a bit hard to talk to him. “Ah… I’ll talk to him in a second, I’m still trying to work out this puzzle…”

“He says Francesca sent him the puzzle, and that the answer is Andrew Sixson.” Lindsay couldn’t help but smirk when Clay gave a startled look and then the puzzle pieces fit together inside his head.

“Ah! I get it now!” He said, standing up, but then looked back at Lindsay in confusion. “But isn’t Francesca still in the hospital? How could she have–”

“Hello, Clayton darling.” The bells of the door rang and Francesca entered, still a little weak but seemingly fine. Her hair was longer than before, but still beautifully curly, and she looked like she was glowing.

“Francesca!” He couldn’t help but hug her, which made her wince. Still, she appreciated it nonetheless.

“I thought Noir might be able to help with your case. I hope you don’t mind.” She smiled at him.

“No, it’s perfectly fine. Most of the time he’s smarter than me at these things, anyways.” He smiled back, a little sheepishly.

Lindsay stared at the two and finally picked up the phone. “Noir? Yeah, these two are having a bit of a heartfelt reunion… can I get Clay to call you back?”

Noir laughed on the other line. He was staring out the window from his living room, having just finished a book. “Sure, Lindsay. Just get them to mail me with the next puzzle and I’ll be sure to help.” He clicked the phone off and sighed. Perhaps he should start the next book while he waited.

Those detectives were quite strange sometimes, but he was finally a little bit happy. He smiled to himself and stared out at the blue lake far off in the distance, between the trees. Hopefully they would come to visit sometime soon.

“Does Julia know about you coming back?” Clay asked, looking up towards their apartment upstairs.

“Yes, she does. She did come visit me every day, and brought flowers. It was quite kind of her.”

“She was pretty worried about you,” Clay agreed.

“Hey, are those two still asleep?” Lindsay asked from the computer desk. “And do they really still sleep in the same bed?”

“Yes. They sleep quite late,” Francesca answered the first question.

“And yes, they sleep in the same bed,” Clay added. “…unfortunately.”

Upstairs, however, they had already woken up. Julia was brushing her teeth and Umbry was just getting out of bed and following her to the bathroom. Having finished, Julia’s teeth looked very white. She stared at herself in the mirror. She looked really mature now, and definitely happier.

She gasped as she felt arms around her, but calmed down when she realized it was Umbry. “Good morning,” Umbry mumbled, holding her.


“So Francesca’s back.”

“So I heard,” Julia said, smiling as Umbry let go of her.

“So you two,” Umbry started, not really knowing what to say. “You’re really… you’re actually involved?”

“Pretty much.” Julia paused. “And you and Clay? You two…?”

“Pretty much.”

They both stood silently for a while, looking at each other’s reflections in the mirror.



At the same time, they both hugged each other.

“It’s okay! I won’t leave you!” “Don’t worry, because I’ll always be here for you!”

They pulled away from the hug a little bit, their arms still around each other, and looked at each other, and then they both laughed.

“We always think the same things, don’t we?” Julia sighed.

“It’s true. We do,” Umbry agreed.

They looked at each other for a while, both smiling.

When they met, it had been during an eclipse.

It was a start. They didn’t know when or where they would find the rest of those far away memories, but now they had a start.

And they had friends – people who would support them, no matter what they had to do.

And they had each other, for which they would never stop being thankful.

Neither of them had to say anything to communicate any of this – they both just took each other’s hand and left the bathroom, going towards the downstairs, to new mysteries and whatever else they might find.

They stopped at their bed, where a fluffy white cat slept. “You’re so sleepy these days, Bianca,” Umbry said, scratching its ears. Julia gave it a belly rub and it purred in contentment.

Then, nodding at each other, they walked down the stairs. Julia gave one last look at Umbry before they emerged to another day, and they both knew what they were going to say in their last moments of alone time. They smiled together.

“Let’s get cracking.”


Sun and Moon (part 29)

Remembering things one wasn’t supposed to remember was a tricky thing to do. It was so difficult, in fact, that Julia and Umbry had to come up with a step-by-step plan, something that they were almost never reduced to doing. The plan, as they finally decided, was as follows:

1. Figure out all the things they logically should remember, but don’t.

2. Think of those things and see what comes to mind.

3. Say those things out loud and write them down. Headaches may ensue – try to record the memories someplace where they won’t be forgotten.

4. Deal with possible symptoms and repeat steps 1-3 as necessary.

The thing was, these steps weren’t all feasible for them to do on their own. Figuring out things that should be remembered, but aren’t, is something that requires logical thinking and a linear thought process. Yet one’s intuition could easily be thrown off before there was any time to think. Therefore, they decided that Umbry would take the lead in performing the first step, since she was the logical one. Conversely, using a form of word association takes a natural instinct and emotional connection – relying only on logic to see what comes to mind runs the risk of eliminating the very things one needs to recall. So Julia would take the lead on the second step. Of course, this meant that at a certain point they each would need to rely completely on the other.

This was, perhaps, the biggest test of their mental skills they had yet encountered. They had both realized this at the same time, and with not a little trepidation, but now, as they were about to begin, they were utterly calm. Noir’s strange and volatile actions had to have some reason in them – clearly he had a plan. He thought he knew them, and maybe he knew Julia Strype and Umbry Stykes. But he didn’t know SunMoon. And he didn’t know how formidable they could be when they fully utilized their skills.

They looked at each other and nodded at the same time. Julia took Umbry’s hand and their fingers interlocked. “You first,” Julia said softly, her eyes fixed on her partner as the rest of the world faded away. Umbry nodded again. She took a deep breath, and closed her eyes.

And then she went into her mind.

Almost immediately, thoughts began to flood into her mind. But she wasn’t concerned with those words or the memories they implied. She made a mental list and crossed out every memory that made sense, every memory that was complete, starting with their most recent cases. Lindsay’s betrayal, the first time she saw Clay, the first time she and he had kissed, the time that she and Julia had cried together in the darkness of her office and the time they had first discussed the case.

Wait — there was something Julia had said on that very first day. “…The name rings a bell, but I can’t say.”

Who had Julia been talking about? Frederick White? She remembered that name from the case files, but there was something familiar that she couldn’t place about him. She and Julia had fought quite persistently – and successfully – to establish his innocence in a case. Why would they fight that much? For the truth? No, not just that.

She knew him – perhaps in private life. She remembered his record. He was smart, and quite obsessed with inventing strange machines, their purposes not always known. A machine… she remembered a machine… and a woman with white hair…

“Agh…” She squeezed Julia’s hand, shaking with pain. Her head throbbed. She might faint soon if she kept trying to remember.

“Frederick White,,” she said through her teeth, “And the machines he always worked on.”

And then she let go of the thoughts she’d conjured up, willing her mind to be empty. She loosened her grip on her partner’s hand, gasping for air. She opened her eyes, just in time to meet Julia’s stare.

“My turn,” Julia said, smiling at her partner, silently commending her for her effort. Umbry relaxed a little more, her headache starting to disappear.

Julia’s smile faded from her face as she closed her eyes. Frederick White. They had worked on his case. She remembered wanting desperately to establish his innocence, poring through hours of evidence to prove what her instincts had told her about the crime in the first place. Why had she wanted so badly to help him? Was it because he would have done the same for her?

He was kind, she remembered, but was going through an awful time in his life. He spent all of his free time working on a machine – a big one. Why would he be sad, and what would make him want to work so much? A loved one…? Yes, someone had just died. A woman, with long white hair. That someone was very dear to him… was he trying to bring her back? No, it was someone else he wanted to bring back. But who…?

Julia’s head started to hurt. Umbry saw the pain on her partner’s face and squeezed her hand gently. “Tell me what you’re thinking about.”

“He was trying to bring someone back to life with his machines… there was someone who was asleep, and he wanted to wake him up… but he needed parts of a mind. He needed brain activity, so things would start up properly…”

“Someone was sleeping?”

“No.” Julia took deep breaths, her head hurting more than it had ever hurt. She keeled over in pain, wanting to faint, wanting to bleed until she forgot everything, but she had to keep pushing forward. She felt Umbry’s hand and collapsed into her arms. Umbry hugged her back. She needed to remember this. Someone was asleep… no… not asleep. In a coma.

He was in a coma.

“A coma, Umbry. He was in a coma.”

“Who…?” But Umbry was already realizing what Julia meant. The pieces of the puzzle in her head all came together and the headache came rushing back in full force. They clutched each other, both shivering from the pain.

Him. The boy with the empty eyes. Frederick wanted to bring him back to life.

And they had helped.

There was a long long silence.

They remembered.

And the headache was gone.

They didn’t look up for a long time. Julia was bleeding from her nose and Umbry wanted to vomit. When they finally did look at each other, they realized that they were both crying. At the same time, in the same way, they both wiped the tears from each other’s eyes.

“Did we really give him parts of our mind, Julia…? Is that even possible?”

“I think we did. It makes sense, doesn’t it? These blank parts…”

“And the memory blocks were a side-effect of that.”

They both sighed, their hands still interlocked, and leaned against each other. And they were quiet again.
Slowly, deliberately, Julia lifted her hand up. Umbry looked up at her and was at first hesitant, then a little shocked, and then confused as Julia took the long strands of hair that covered Umbry’s eye and pushed it behind her ear. She felt a bit dizzy to finally see out of both eyes again. Julia looked at the eye that had once been hidden from the world, and smiled a little to herself.

“What do you see?”

“Take a look at mine. You’ll see the same thing.”

Umbry did the same to her partner, taking the shorter hair that had hid her eye and pushing it behind her ear. The eye behind it was strangely empty of expression, with flecks of light that reflected off and seemed to refract. It was similar to Noir’s – and Bianca’s, she added in her head, with some surprise at the new memories.

“There are still mysteries,” Umbry said matter-of-factly.

Julia nodded. “I’m a bit disappointed. Even now, after we’ve remembered, neither of us know where we’re from…”

“…or how we met each other,” Umbry finished. She brushed through Julia’s hair, smiling at her in a way that was both comforting and understanding. She pulled the hair from Julia’s ear and placed it once again over her eye. “I think it’s better that way, at least for now.

“We can’t make things too easy, can we?” Julia smiled back, pulling Umbry’s hair in front of her face. They finally pulled away from each other, still smiling from their accomplishment.

They had finally done it – remembered that strangely cruel boy with the empty eyes, and why he was so kind to them. And without telling each other, they had both already figured out what he wanted to do with the technology that had been passed down to him from his grandfather. He wanted his mother back – or something that perhaps resembled her, even if only slightly.


Clay was lying down on the couch, still a little dizzy from the events of the previous night. The cat slept at his feet. Julia and Umbry had just let themselves in, but he’d been too worn out to greet them at the door. They approached him and stood over him, one girl at each end of the couch. Umbry stood above his head.

“You’re back,” he said with a smile.

She returned the smile with a courteous nod. “Yes indeed. And we remember.”

“Remember?” He asked, wiping the sleep from his eyes and taking the ice pack off of his head. He started to sit up, appeared to think better of it, and then with a concerted effort managed to sit up all the way. “Remember what?”

“Clay, don’t let yourself react as usual when you hear this. You need to break the pattern. You need to remember as well.”

Julia squeezed Umbry’s hand, giving her the last bit of strength she needed. The name still felt strange on her lips. Clay looked at her expectantly.

“You need to remember Bianca Renford – you need to remember your wife.”

Sun and Moon (part 28)

It had happened right as mommy bent down to kiss him. He liked when mommy him. and he liked the sound of the bus – the steady sound of the engine, the way the seat hummed. Riding the bus with mommy was very nice, one of his most favorite things to do.

Everything was good, comfy, he was with mommy and he was happy, until the moment of the loud noise. Suddenly there was panic, screaming. He hadn’t known that grown-up people could scream like that. There was a big bang, and then the bus was moving quickly, in the wrong way, sliding across the road. Not at all the way a bus was supposed to move. “Mommy!” he shrieked, but didn’t hear a answer. He saw her head, in slow motion, slam against the side of the bus, snap back. There was something strange about the way her head moved, the rapid movement of her neck. He called her name, over and over, but she didn’t answer.

When he realized that mommy was not waking up, he made his way along the bus, toward the front, trying to find somebody who could help, maybe the bus driver. Everything was at a strange angle, and it was hard to climb over the people – especially the ones who were still awake, moaning and sobbing in their seats. They kept moving, and grabbing, and he had to walk around them.

He had tried talking to mommy, but mommy was just not answering, no matter how many times he called her name. The bus driver wasn’t moving either, and that was when he had started to cry. After a long time there was grandpa, he hadn’t been on the bus — maybe he came after the — after. He was with daddy. They were arguing, shouting back and forth. Grandpa was saying “yes, we have to, it’s the only way.” Daddy was shouting back “it’s too soon, it’s not ready,” Even long afterward he remembered that. Then they were looking at mommy, and they were looking at him, they were saying something about he was bleeding from his ear, and it was kind of funny, like watching a dream. Except instead of waking up, everything went blurry and after that he couldn’t remember anything.


Francesca read through the newpaper a third time, to make sure she had missed no detail. The pages were yellow with age, but the paper was still perfectly readable, even after all these years. Many people had died on the bus. Apparently a madman had set the explosives, nobody was quite sure why. There had been no way to find out, since he had blown himself up with the bomb.

The mother — Bianca — was listed as deceased, killed in the explosion. The boy had ended up in a coma, that much was clear, apparently for several years. The oddest part was that after three years he had mysteriously disappeared. His grandfather had called for an investigation, but it hadn’t gone anywhere.

She still found it hard to believe that Frederick had kept something like this from her. They had always shared everything, or so she had thought. She found herself realizing that she might not have known Freddie as well as she had believed. Those weekends when he went on his business trips. She had thought it was something harmless — another woman, or another man perhaps, not that it would have mattered — but there might have been something else going on entirely. She realized that the part of the record she now needed to see was not in the office of municipal records.

As she was walking out, she could see the blue flickering of the monitor in the little office where the clerk sat. She decided not to disturb him, watching his blue movies. He had been more than helpful, simply by allowing her to spend so much time looking through the old files. Besides, there was much to do, and she did not have any time for the idle chitchat.

When at last Francesca got back, she did something she had promised herself she would never do. But now it was different — there were lives at stake. The blue notebook was old — it had not been opened in years. Slowly she unwound the string that bound it. Just before she opened the book, she took a moment to stare at the cover. “Frederick,” she said softly. “I am doing it, the thing I promised I would never do. I am not such a good keeper of your secrets after all. But you are dead my dear, and the living must continue to live. I hope you will forgive me.”

And then she opened the diary and began to read.

Sun and Moon (part 27)

The morning came, and finally Umbry woke up, feeling slightly woozy but otherwise ok. Her leg had mostly healed by now, so at least she could walk properly. Julia woke up just a few minutes later, and they sat together on the couch, each of them trying to pull their thoughts from their fading dreams and back into the world. Something about a scary story, they both remembered… but they didn’t talk about it. It was too strange for words, and had an eerie feel to it.

Julia wasn’t surprised to find Noir sleeping across from them on the chair, but Umbry eyed him with suspicion. “What’s he doing here?” She asked, wiping the sleep from her eyes. “I didn’t hear him come downstairs.”

“You slept pretty deeply,” Julia replied softly. “He came in the middle of the night. I heard him come downstairs, but I guess I must have fallen back asleep…” She yawned.

“You trust him now?”

“He’s not all bad.”

“He knifed Lindsay.”

“People do bad things sometimes…” she didn’t know why she was defending him. It wasn’t as though she had any reason to be on his side.

They both stood up and stretched, slowly, at the same time. Noir still slept soundlessly on the chair. They occupied themselves by looking at the pictures on the wall. Umbry took another look at the very-blue lake out the window. Julia thought the pictures looked awfully familiar. This whole house was very familiar, actually. One picture in particular caught her eyer. It was a photograph of a beautiful young woman, with almost white-blonde hair and dark blue eyes. She was smiling with a sort of thoughtfulness that reminded Julia of Umbry. This woman… what was her name?

Umbry seemed attracted to it too. She stared at it for a long while. “She looks like you,” she said, smiling. Julia nodded. “I thought she looked like you, but…”

They both noticed Noir standing behind them at the same time. “She’s quite pretty, isn’t she?” He asked. “That’s Bianca. The woman from our story last night.”

Julia gave him a quizzical look last night. “I don’t recall anything like that.”

“Neither do I,” Umbry agreed, puzzled.

Noir stared at them for a second, and then figured it out. He looked a little sad. “Ah, I must have been dreaming. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Julia smiled at him, “that happens to me a lot too.”

“Do you want any breakfast? If not, I can simply get my guards to drive you back to your agency.”

“We’ll be fine without any food, thanks,” Umbry said.

Noir went to leave the room.

“Why are you being so nice to us?” Umbry asked. He stopped in the doorway.

“…You wouldn’t understand right now,” he replied, not looking back at her. “But you will, in time. For now I’ll just say there is something of yours that is very precious to me.” After that, he left, and he must have retreated into another area of the house, because they couldn’t find him before they were taken to leave.

The ride home was long and quiet. Umbry and Julia each stared out a window of the car.

“I wonder what he’s looking for,” Julia finally said.

“Hmm.” Umbry seemed to be thinking about the same thing.

Silence, again.

“Hey, Umbry.”


“Do you think that maybe we’ve forgotten something?” Julia held her head in one hand. “My head hurts whenever I think about these things, but there are just all these blank spots, and…”

“I know exactly what you mean.” Julia looked up at her partner, and Umbry was looking almost too serious.


“Well, for one,” Umbry said, staring sternly at Julia, “you have blood on your shirt. You didn’t last night. Do you know why?”

“I don’t remember…” Julia looked at the blood on her shirt. “It seems like we have a mystery on our hands. And something tells me that maybe that’s what Noir is looking for–”

“Our memories,” Umbry finished. “And you know us. We solve any case…”

“…Night or day,” Julia smiled. “So let’s get cracking.”


Noir walked down each step, slowly, deliberately. The room was large and dimly lit, and only one corner was saved for the important things – an IV drip and a heart monitor, which was beating softly and steadily. A respirator, and feeding tubes. And a woman, with long, off-white hair and grayish skin, lying unconscious under the blankets, hooked up to all the equipment around her but still retaining some sort of angelic aura. Surrounding her were pictures that chronicled the growth of a strange child, separated from the rest of the world by something that no one could name but everyone noticed. There were get well cards, and come back cards. Sitting on the bedside table were the three music boxes she had once loved so much – all three were open. When they were opened like this at the same time, a soft melody came out, every box creating harmony with the others. The woman was deeply asleep, and Noir sighed as he regarded her tenderly.

“You’ll be okay, mother,” he whispered to her, taking a stray lock of hair and pulling it behind her ear. “I promise. Once I get your soul back, you’ll be fine.”

Sun and Moon (part 26)

With Clay laid out on the couch, an ice pack over his forehead, Francesca found herself on her own. She sat at the table for a long while, allowing the clues to shift around in her mind, trying different configurations. Something crucial was still missing. Looking over the table, her eyes landed on the fake ID tag she had made for Clay. “Ah,” she smiled to herself, “There is more than one way to scare a cat!”

It took very little time to change the name on the ID card. Forgery was one of the useful skills one acquired up in the Movement. Soon she found herself in front of the office of records. It was a rather drab buildling. Perhaps, she supposed, looking over the worn stone facade, it had been magnificent in its time. But that time must have been long ago indeed. Now it was almost a forgotten edifice, a sad building behind a sad stone facade, in a part of town that was not what it once was. How ironic, she mused — a department of records in a buildling that time forgot. Ah well, she shrugged as she entered, none of us are as we once were.

She looked idly around after ringing the bell. The interior must have been beautiful in its day. The high walls with their ornate faux columns spoke of a sense of grandeur one no longer generally encounters in the offices of government. The clerk, when he finally came to the outer desk, appeared to be a young man in his twenties. He barely glanced at her identification before waving her over to the stacks and quickly removing himself back to his office. She marvelled at how eager he was to return to work, impressed by his dedication and focus. Looking briefly into his doorway on her way to the stacks, Francesca got only the briefest glimpse of the image upon his computer scene. She blushed at the sight — the young man appeared to have decidedly unmunicipal interests.

The records were a bit of a jumble, with various volumes out of their proper order. Clearly the young clerk’s mind was otherwise engaged. Methodically she began to go through the thickly bound tomes, placing each in turn in its proper order, until a sense of organization had begun to emerge.

She was almost all the way through before she found what she was looking for. The birth records, at least, were reasonably well organized. It took her very little time to find the name — Bianca Renford. The girl had been an orphan. Renford was apparently a name given to her by the Sisters. Her mother was unknown. There were not many details, but there was a written addendum to the record that clearly referred the reader to a later volume — a record of deaths. “At least,” she said to herself, “Here was a clerk who showed some interest in the job.”

She took down the volume in question and laid it on the table, standing over the heavy wooden tabletop. It was quite a bit larger than the first. The region had grown in population in a few short decades. Flipping to the correct page, she ran her finger down the small print of the column until she found the reference at the very bottom of the page. “Hmm,” she mused, “it seems the birth father was eventually identified after all.” Turning the page, she saw that the girl, now a young woman, had been a victim of homicide, but the details were not provided. She made a mental note that she must later look through the news reports from that day and week.

Francesca read on. Three years before her untimely death, Bianca had borne a child. The father of the child had been recorded as well. It also seemed that at the time of the her demise, Bianca’s own birth father had at last been identified, and had been duly recorded as her child’s grandfather.

It was all quite neatly entered, but in exceedingly small print. The name of the child was Noir LeFevre. The last name was apparently that of a man Bianca had married and then rather quickly divorced. But it seemed that this man had not been the boy’s actual father. The biological father was identified as “Clayton Adam Terransky”.

Francesca didn’t know what to think. What could possibly have happened that would have caused Clay to have retain an odd and traumatic memory of Bianca, and to have had no recognition of the name of his own son? Is it possible she had simply not told him he was a father? Francesca tried to place herself in the position of this young woman.

It was possible the grandfather would know something — she could perhaps find him and the mystery would be cleared up. She looked to see the name of young Noir’s grandfather, and then Francesca had to sit down. It was not clear to her, in that moment, whether her legs would have continued to support her. Bianca’s father was identified as one “Frederick White”.

Sun and Moon (part 25)

That night, the twins slept on the couch, curled up next to each other in their clothes. Noir had offered them a room and nightclothes, but they declined – obviously, they were far from trusting him. And they probably still didn’t believe his story, either. He made an effort to walk on the creaky parts of the stairs when he went up to bed so that they would sleep comfortably with the knowledge that they would hear him if he came back down. Now, he padded silently down to the foyer and into the living room. He sat down in the chair across from them and watched them sleep.

They looked peaceful. He wondered what he looked like when he slept, if he looked troubled or as contented as they did, cuddling up together like that. Umbry didn’t even look like she was in pain from her injury. He sighed as quietly as he could, smiling to himself as he realized it sounded similar to when Umbry did it out of habit.

Julia wrinkled her nose and then her eyes opened, and she glared at him. He stared back at her, forcing her to look away.

“I knew you’d try something,” she hissed.

“I’m not trying anything,” he retorted. “And shouldn’t you be quiet? Your Umbry is sleeping.”

“She won’t wake up for a while.”

He stared at her for a second and then grinned when it dawned on him. “You slipped sedatives into her water, didn’t you? Where’d you get them?”

“The hospital.”

“Did you steal them?”

“Does it matter?” She straightened herself up, softly lowering Umbry to the pillows of the couch. Umbry’s sleeping form didn’t even react. “I’d tell you not to tell anyone, but obviously you will when you find it profitable.”

“I won’t tell if you take a walk with me,” Noir offered, standing up.

Julia stared at him. “At night? Is it safe?”

“I own this entire island, and my guards know every family of squirrels that live here. We have every square meter covered by cameras. Is that safe enough for you?”

She dutifully got to her feet and followed him out the door.

“Of course,” he added, slowing down so she’d catch up, “That isn’t saying that you’re safe with me, but that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.”

Julia took one last look at sweet Umbry, still sleeping soundly on the couch, lit by the moonlight coming in from the window, and hesitated a moment. Then she hurried to stay next to Noir and they left the building, emerging into the humid night air.

They walked silently for a long time. Noir seemed to know his way around. Julia watched him as carefully as she could, but when he turned to look at her she’d always pretend she was looking at something just past him. He would look at her for another second and then turn back to the path. Then she’d look at him again after a few seconds. This repeated a few times. Finally he gave up on catching her eye and just looked off into the distance.

They reached the edge of the water. The moon was big now – Julia recognized it as a waxing gibbous moon. Noir stopped and squatted in front of the water, submerging one of his hands to touch the sand.

She wanted to say something, but what he was doing seemed rote. She squatted down next to him, watching as he made a handprint in the sand and returned his hand to his lap. He watched carefully as the water lapped over the handprint, which slowly disappeared, one grain of sand at a time. “It’s different when the moon’s different,” he said. “Sometimes it goes away faster, and sometimes it evn stays there overnight.”

“Do you come here every night?”

“Almost. I don’t really sleep much.”

“Oh.” They fell silent again, and she felt like maybe this was the best time to ask. “So, uh, was all that stuff you said about–”


“Yeah. Was that all true?”

“Every word.”

She bit her lip. “It sounded so awful. I just wondered if it was exaggerated at all. But I guess not.”
Noir nodded. “Does it sound familiar at all?”

“…I can’t say it doesn’t sound familiar,” she said after some thought. “But some things are just like that.”

“Hmm.” He stared at her until she was uncomfortable. It took longer this time. “You’re not afraid of me anymore?”

“I still am,” Julia assured him. “It just feels like I’m not.”

They stood up and he continued to walk, drying off his hand on his shirt. She was deep in thought for another minute, and then finally spoke up.

“You made Umbry jump off that roof, didn’t you?” She asked, looking down at the ground instead of at him. “She usually has excellent balance.”

“I had a hand in it,” Noir admitted.

“So you can control us.” She glanced at him. “You control Umbry’s logic, and my emotion. That’s why I don’t feel as afraid of you as I did before.”

“You know, Julia, you’re pretty smart in your own right.” He smiled at her, watching with interest as she tried to avoid looking at his face.

“Well I know you can control her better than you can control me,” she said softly, “and if you ever do anything to her like that again, you’ll wish you hadn’t.”

He didn’t reply to that. They were quiet again for a long time, but she thought he’d gotten the picture.

After a while they started heading back uphill.

“You know,” Julia finally said, “When I met Umbry I thought we were soulmates, like everyone says. But now that this whole thing is happening with Clay, and with all of this stuff about Bianca, I really wonder…”

“I thought you and Umbry always knew each other.”

“We have.”

“But you just said…”

She stared at him blankly, and then her eyes grew ground. She fell to her knees with a sob. He watched quietly as she knelt on the ground, shaking, her head clutched between her hands. Finally she got a hold of herself. “It … hurts … I shouldn’t think about these things …”

“But don’t you want to know?”

The headache persisted. “Y-yes, but…”

“I want to know.”

She looked at him. “You…?”

“Yes, Julia. It’s very important to me that you remember.” He spoke slowly, and with conviction. “Because I–”

They were quiet for a while.

“…I just need to know.”

She hesitated and then looked up at him.

For the first time, she really looked into his eyes, past the emptiness. It hurt, but she looked.

And he was sincere, so she closed her eyes.

It was a full moon… no. It wasn’t just that. It was an eclipse when they first met – a solar eclipse, one of the few that had happened in that area. That was why they were SunMoon.

And it was in the darkness. They hadn’t seen each other at first. They were blind – being blinded? – and their hands touched. It was the warmest she’d ever felt. Then she looked at Umbry for the first time.

One eye? No… she remembered the other eye, the one that was hidden now. Sometimes she forgot that was there, but in this memory it glowed in a strange way. It was different, somehow. Glossy and brittle – like a mirror.

She felt warmth again, over her lips. Her eyes snapped open and she felt her mouth. Her nose was bleeding warm blood all over her pants and shirt.

The headache came back in full force and she collapsed.

She felt herself being picked up. Noir was carrying her. He didn’t seem strong to look at, she thought, yet he was easily able to carry her.

“…Sorry…” she mumbled, tilting her head back to keep her nose from bleeding more.

“It’ll take time.”

“…Why do you want this…? Everything was okay… before we had to remember…” she strained to stay awake. The loss of blood was making her dizzy, and she was tired.

“That’s exactly why, Julia. It can’t just be okay. It has to be better.”

She looked at him and realized something. Behind that emptiness, there were flecks of something else, like shards of something that had once been intact. Who could’ve been so cruel to do that…? Were they the same person who’d done that to Bianca?

Bianca… that poor girl. She would do anything to make sure Umbry didn’t end up like that.

Because they were so similar… even down to their smile, and the way they walked and talked and… her brain seemed to think that was too much, and she fainted in Noir’s arms.

He was tempted to look into that eye of hers, that one that right now was just barely covered by hair. But he didn’t. She would show him at some point. Instead, he looked up at the house and relaxed when he saw Umbry through the window, still sleeping like a baby.

They both looked peaceful when they slept. They had the same look on their faces, as though they were dreaming about something nice.

Noir wished he could dream.

Sun and Moon (part 24)

After they had subtracted out the letters from the third box, Clay and Francesca found themselves looking at a much smaller set of letters – some black and some white. In alphabetical order, the black letters were:


and the white letters were:


“Well,” Clay said, “you’re the expert. See any patterns?”

Francesca shook her head slowly. “I see no obvious words here. Perhaps it is a letter substitution code.”

“Or maybe,” Clay suggested, “one of these people is Norwegian.”

“Norwegian?” Francesca looked puzzled.

“Yes, you know, Mr. Eeefil Norrv from Flekkefjord, international man of mystery,” Clay grinned.

Francesca laughed, and realized it was the first time she had truly laughed in days. “My dear Clay, I think perhaps you have been staring at letters for too long.”

“You could be right,” he grinned. “What got you started as a cryptologist anyway?”

She smiled inwardly. “You ask an interesting question. It is quite a story, my dear, quite a story indeed. And like many stories, this one has a rather obvious beginning. Let us just say that there was a young man. He showed up in my life quite unexpectedly. At the time I was, with difficulty, hiding my roots, so worried that my fellow students at the University in Milano would discover they were in the presence of a peasant.

“I forbade my parents or brother to visit — young and foolish I was then — although they had scraped together everything to send me there. I was the one with promise, `La Lumina’, my mother would call me. My brother never was given such opportunity. Someone needed to keep the farm going you see. And yet, I forbade them to visit.”

Francesca’s face took on a mournful look, an air of sad regret, and Clay realized once again just how beautiful she was. He hated to see such sadness upon her lovely face. “You said there was a young man?” he prompted helpfully.

“Ah yes, Giovanni, dear sweet Giovanni,” she smiled. “Late nights we would share cheap cigarettes and even cheaper wine, and discuss liberal philosophy. He saw through my pose right away. Giovanni loved the intellectual in me, but he loved the peasant girl also. I never had to pretend with him, you see.”

She looked up at Clay, to see whether he understood. He nodded, marvelling at the way her eyes flashed as she spoke of Giovanni, as though she were a girl of sixteen. “Go on,” he said.

“He introduced me to the others, the Movement — everyone was so young then — but we two had something more. We shared a passion for the ideals of equality,” she explained. “A belief that things could be better. Eventually — eventually we shared more.” Francesca looked down and blushed.

“You loved him very much,” Clay said.

“Yes, I loved him, but I was the idiot. The trusting idiot.”

“I don’t understand,” Clay said, looking puzzled. “Did he leave you for another?”

Rather than answer, Francesca stood up and turned away. For a long moment she remained silent. When at last she spoke, it was in a quiet voice. “I learned from others in the group that he had been discovered to be a spy for the Neofascists. They were infiltrating, waiting for the right moment to strike, all at once.”

“Of course at first I did not believe. How could one believe such a thing? But there were documents, there were — photos. Giovanni had not known he was under suspicion, so he had not been careful. And of course, as it happened, I was not the only naive young girl in the Movement. Giovanni was, you see, something of the specialist in this area. Oh, how I longed to go back to the innocence of not knowing,” she said bitterly.

“What became of him?” Clay asked quietly.

“I told the others I would take care of it. Of course I wanted my Giovanni back, the dear sweet man that I had loved,” she explained without emotion. “But he did not exist. Soon the other Giovanni did not exist either.” She looked steadily at Clay.

“I see … What happened then?” he asked.

“It was after this that I began my interest in cryptology. To look at what is false, and find the hidden truth, this became my obsession. It was, as you say in your country, my therapy.”

“Is that how you healed? What about other men? We aren’t all such bastards, you know.” he smiled.

“Oh yes, there were other men, one after another, but each time I felt nothing. The trust was gone. Eventually of course I made my little arrangement with Frederick. Dear sweet Freddy, my darling harmless Labrador. We became inseparable, but not really lovers in the way you and everyone thought. Fortunately he also was not looking for a lover. We were a perfect match, you see.”

“”You never loved another?” Clay asked, astonished. “I mean, as in, well you know…”

Francesca laughed. “Oh yes, there have been quite a few. I was well and done with men, but fortunately they are only half of the human race.”

“But how … oh,” Clay said, turning a little red. “I had no idea. I always thought of you and Frederick…”

“A very convenient little lie,” she shrugged. “And harmful to nobody. I have not lacked for lovers through the years. It is remarkable how easily some truths can be communicated under cover of a lie, to those who know how to look.” She smiled.

Clay returned her smile. “Thank you Francesca.”

“For what?” she asked.

“For telling me something true about yourself — something you clearly don’t tell the entire world. I am honored that you count me as someone you can trust.”

“Of course, my dear Clayton,” she laughed. “I have always trusted you. If a man were what I was looking for, I would have found my way to you long ago.”

Clay blushed, and quickly changed the subject. “What about our Norwegian friend, Mr. Norvv?”

“Ah,” replied Francesca, “while we were speaking of things past, it appears that the back of my mind was working. I have an idea about him.”

Clay went over to the table and looked down at the letters. “What’s your idea?”

“The constructor of this puzzle,” she explained, “he was very fond of the themes. We look for the words that contain the theme.”

“And what is the theme?” Clay asked.

“Why, isn’t it obvious?” Francesca said. “The theme is black and white.”

“Hmm,” Clay said, “I don’t see the word ‘black’ anywhere in Eeefil Norrv.”

“Nor do I,” Francesca said. “But I am quite convinced it is there.”

“Is it ok if it’s french?” Clay asked. “I see the word ‘noir’. Does that count?”

“Why yes!” Francesca replied, “That most definitely counts. ‘Noir’ — the night — what image could better describe the essence of the black spiral?”

“That leaves us with black letters for … eeeflrv,” Clay said. “That the hell kind of word does that make? Fleever … feveler .. refelve.”

“Refelve?” Francesca asked, dubiously.

“It’s like when you’ve already felved,” Clay explained, “and now you need to felve again.”

“There is such a word in English?” Francesca asked. “I have never heard of this.”

“OK, no, I was just making that one up. Sorry.” Clay grinned sheepishly.

“Oh dear,” Francesca laughed, “if I were still interested in men, you would be at the very top of the list.”

“Thanks,” he grinned, “I’ll take that as a compliment. But seriously, what could this mean? ‘Fleever noir … noir feveler …”

“Wait,” Francesca said, “That last sounds familiar. I’ve heard something like this before.” She thought for a moment. “Where are the files from the case where SunMoon exhonerated my Freddy?”

Clay looked around the room at the massive piles of loose papers and files. “I’m sure they’re here, but it might take hours to find them.”

“Never mind then,” Francesca said. “They will be on the computer as well. We must search for the word ‘noir’.”

Clay sat down at the console. “Shouldn’t be so hard. The case files are sorted chronologically in this folder. Here it is. OK, let’s see what comes up…”

“Noir LeFevre” Francesca read off the screen. “That’s it — the name I remember. But it is impossible. He was a mere infant at the time, and would be but a boy now.”

“How did this child fit into the case?” Clay asked.

“Ah, it is a grim story indeed. I think perhaps one sad story is quite enough for the moment. Let us decypher the white letters, and see what they spell out. I strongly suspect the answer will lie in the way two names fit together.”

They went back over to the table. “A word that means white…” Clay mused.

“Aha, I see it!” Francesca said.

“What do you see?”

“A woman’s name, again from another language.”

“Sorry,” Clay said, “I don’t see anything. Funny, I’m usually so good at these things.”

“Why it is obvious, my dear,” Francesca exclaimed. “Bianca!”

She turned to Clay excitedly, but was surprised to see him stand there, stunned, the blood slowly draining from his face. “Excuse me,” he mumbled, and dashed out of the room. He just barely made it to the bathroom in time to be violently sick.

“Ah bella,” Francesca smiled, looking down at the letters. “So Bianca is her name. I believe finally we are going someplace.”

Sun and Moon (part 23)

There was a long silence in the room. Julia and Umbry both tried their best to regain their composure, while the boy – Noir – watched with interest and bemusement.

“You’ve been searching for us?” Umbry inquired.

“Your whole life?” Julia asked, at the same time. They both looked at each other, a litle startled, both having expected the other to say the same thing. Umbry then turned back to Noir, albeit reluctantly, but Julia kept staring at her partner. This boy seemed capable of splitting their thought processes up. They had never tripped up before. And those eyes…

“You heard me correctly. I’ve been searching for so long, so it’s quite nice to finally have the both of you here…”

“Then, it’s not us you’ve been searching for,” Umbry observed. “If you’d been searching for Julia and Umbry, the detectives, you could easily have gotten our address. Were you searching for the music box we possessed?”

“No, Umbry.” The tone in his voice was suddenly cold. Umbry got the hint and stopped talking. “You are right, however, in deducing that I was looking for something of yours that could not have been defined at face value.”

He smiled at Julia, who was still trying to figure him out. “Although I knew the first time I saw you on the television that you were the ones I was looking for. I just needed to wait until everything was in place for you.”

“How did you know we were the ones you were looking for?” Julia finally asked, biting her lip.

“Your eyes.” He looked straight into her – straight through her. She gulped and looked down. “Just like you read people by looking into their eyes – or try to – I can see a lot from how people look at me. Take now, for example. The two of you are assessing me in completely different ways. Umbry, you are assessing my posture and checking to see my reactions to things, and cross-referencing them with common disorders and associated personality traits. Julia, you’re trying your best to look into my eyes and see what you can see – and failing, I might add. You two normally come to the same conclusion about people, do you not?” He smiled at them, beckoning a challenge. “What do you see about me?”
The partners cast nervous glances at each other. Finally, Umbry spoke up.

“You’ve been alone most of your life. That much is obvious. And I doubt you’ve had a prominent parental figure. Your clothes are too big and your hair is messy. I suspect that none of your maids or bodyguards know you well enough to buy clothes of your size. Of course, that’s only if you don’t buy clothes for yourself, but you live so far out here that it would be illogical to go out in the open to buy clothes when you could stay here in the safety of your house. Anyway, you’re exceptionally smart, and have a lot of time on your hands. You’ve bought all this art here, so you must be very confident in the security of this house. Otherwise you’d trust the bank more, but instead you’re investing in material possessions that you could easily sell for more money.” She paused to sigh and then looked at Julia. She didn’t know why she was buying into this, but this boy seemed to have some sort of manipulative control over her. Somehow he was making her do it.

Julia swallowed as she took in the information Umbry gave her. She realized Noir was staring at her, but she refused to stare back.

“Julia?” He asked, somewhat impatiently.

“You’re empty.” She stared pointedly at his feet. “That was my first impression.”

“Empty?” Umbry asked.

“The eyes,” Julia said, refusing to look at them. “He’s right. I look at people’s eyes to see what they’re like. But with him it’s just like trying to look into the eyes of a hurricane. I can’t make sense of it. Empty.”

“But that wasn’t your most recent conclusion, was it?” Noir prodded, leaning forward in his seat.

“…No. I think you’re telling the truth when you say you’ve been looking for us. And I think… maybe you’re looking for…” she stopped herself.


“Nothing. It wouldn’t make sense.”

Noir opened his mouth to dispute her claim, but instead wrinkled his nose. Julia was stubborn, but she’d say it to him at some point. Later. For now…

“That’s quite impressive, you two, although I must admit at this point that I like Umbry better. You’re more communicative, I think.” He looked up at the ceiling, tilting his head. “Is that why Clay kissed you, I wonder?” He mused.

There was a long pause.

“What?” Julia finally asked.

Umbry sighed. “Julia, let’s not get into this.”

“You could at least have told me.”

“It’s not a good time.”

“Of course. It’s never a good time for me, is it?”

“Can’t you see, Julia, he’s trying to get us to argue!”

“Yes, I am,” Noir chimed in, shutting both of them up. “You two are awfully easy to control, aren’t you?”
They both calmed themselves down, but Julia gave one last look at Umbry before continuing. They would go over this when they had time alone. Until then –

“Why did you bring up Clay?” Julia asked.

“He has the last music box, so he’s involved, isn’t he?” Umbry added.

“…In a way, yes.” Noir stroked his chin. “He’s the last piece of the puzzle and the odd one out.”

He looked down at them, the two girls who had been so hotheaded a minute ago that were now staring at him obediently. “I’d be insulted,” he sighed, “if you didn’t know about her.”

Umbry nodded. “I saw the files.”

Julia also nodded, to Umbry’s momentary surprise that she’d read the files. Julia understood this reaction and shook her head. “It’s obvious there was a woman in his life at some time in the past. He’s so depressed all the time.”

Noir nodded in agreement. “He was definitely better in the past. But you two only know the bare minimum, don’t you? Would you like me to tell you more?”

“What will you gain from it?” Julia asked.

“The pleasure of your company,” he taunted, smiling at the fact that she’d actually expected a real response from him.

“We will be here for a while, though” he added, half-seriously, looking outside at the afternoon sky. “You see, this is an island, and in about half an hour the only bridge to the mainland will close for the night. It won’t open until about nine tomorrow morning.”

Umbry scowled. “So we’re stuck here with you.”

He nodded, his smile turning to one of – excitement? although his black eyes didn’t betray any emotion.

“In the meantime, girls” he said, beckoning for the bodyguard to turn down the lights, “Why don’t we hear a scary story about Bianca Renford?”

Sun and Moon (part 22)

“No matter how I piece the words together, the totality makes no sense,” Francesca frowned. “Every combination produces only a string of nonsense phrases. I’m afraid, my dear, that I am defeated.”

Clay was pacing around the room, feeling exhausted and at wits end. “Let’s go over it one more time. Maybe there’s a clue we’ve missed. How about the infrared photos Julia took of the desk?”

“I transcribed all of the letters,” Francesca sighed. “Unless some letters were physically removed, I do not see what we could have missed. And it would have made no sense for our opponent to assemble his message without the use of all of the letters in the third box.” She reached over to one of the many stacks of papers in the room, picking up a file labeled “infrared photos” and handing it to Clay.

He looked through the images one at a time. “There’s something here, I’m convinced of it. Something we missed… Wait — did you say the third box? Where is the box in this picture, exactly? I see the two empty boxes — Sun/Moon and Earth — but I don’t see the box that contained the nouns.”

Francesca came over and peered over his shoulder, as they both went through the pages again. “Here,” she said, pointing with one long slender finger. “It is dark, but one can just barely make out a rectangular shape. This must be it.”

Clay peered down at the page where she was pointing. “Yes, I agree, but it’s almost impossible to see. Let’s have a look at Julia’s original downloaded images.” They went over to the computer, and soon they were staring at a dark and indistinct image on the screen. “Here you can see, when I zoom in, that it’s definitely a music box, the same size and shape as the others,” Clay said. “Only dark in color — very dark. I wonder what happens if we enhance the contrast way up, setting the cutoff shade down around here…” He fiddled with the sliders for a few moments, and then sat back in his chair. “Voila!”

“Yes,” Francesca nodded. “The image is grainy, but it is unmistakeable. The lid contains an image of a black spiral. It is like a smoothed out version of the Black Sun of Wewelsburg.” She pronounced this last word with a distinctly German accent.

Clay looked at her, puzzled. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” she explained. “You are too young, and that is your good fortune. The infamous black spiral sunwheel was originally an occult symbol, believed to have arisen during the great Allemanic migration period, around fifteen centuries ago. It was later adapted as the symbol of the Obergruppenführer of the Third Reich — the elite inner circle of generals who answered directly to the Führer himself. In my days of struggle against the ever arising forces of fascism I have come upon the black spiral many times. The Sonnenrad can denote great power and even greater evil. And yet its meaning is often ambiguous, changeable. This version of the dark symbol is particularly curious — the smoothed shape suggests that there is something else at work here, some other influence.” She looked at Clay.

“The other two boxes are Sun/Moon and Earth.” Clay mused. “What is the connection? Does the black spiral have any astronomical meaning?”

“Ah, of course!” Francesca said, excitedly. “More recently the symbol of the black sun has been adapted by some as the symbol for a cosmological black hole — a star that powerfully absorbs rather than emits light. It is a concept that of course did not exist at the time of the Third Reich.”

“So the symbol actually represents not so much a presence,” Clay said thoughtfully, “as an absence. Intriguing, but where is this going?”

“I see it now,” Francesca’s eyes flashed in sudden understanding. “You have provided the key. It is, as you say, not a presence, but an absence. This was the element that I had failed to grasp until now.”

“Sorry, I still don’t get it,” Clay said, shaking his head.

“These letters, which form the nouns of many origins, they are not meant to be added to the message my dear, they are meant to be subtracted!” Francesca said triumphantly.

“I see,” Clay smiled. “The black hole completes the answer, but in a negative way. Although it seems to take something away…”

“…It is actually providing what was missing!” Francesca completed the thought.

“Ok, then,” Clay said, now finding himself newly invigorated. “Let’s take away these letters and see what the message says!”

Sun and Moon (part 21)

When Umbry woke up she was in a car, speeding down an unfamiliar road. She was lying down without a seatbelt on, and when the car came to a slightly sudden stop, she was jolted into stronger consciousness. She felt heavy, as though she’d been given a sedative. She saw it was daytime now, so it must have been a long time since she had fallen off the roof.

The roof… What happened? She remembered being with Clay, and waiting for Julia, and…

a voice.

She needed to get out of here. She needed to get up and get back to Julia and Clay and Francesca. She needed to get out of this car, even if that meant breaking a rib. Whatever she did she wouldn’t talk to him again.

She tried to sit up and pain shot through her leg. The sedative must have been for pain, she realized. It had been a long fall, and she had probably sprained her ankle at the very least. She settled for lying down across the car seats, and decided that she would make her escape when the car stopped. She tried to see where they were, but the landscape was too generic to make out. They were going through a forest, but the road was smooth and often-traveled. She tried to pick out the types of trees. White pines…? They weren’t common anywhere near the city, so she was probably at least three hours away. She tried her best to sit up and look for moss on the trees, to find which way was north. The forest was thick, but on the right side of the road there was a steep hill leading down to a very blue lake. The car turned a sharp left and went uphill, and eventually they slowed down. The trees were replaced by tame grass and flowers, and then they came to a very sudden stop, which jerked Umbry from her position and left her lying in pain when the driver and passenger came to get her. She glared at them but didn’t say anything, and when they offered her a hand she instead used the car door and limped toward the door of the mansion in front of them.

It was huge, she realized. In a house with this much space around it, it wouldn’t be possible to slip away and find help – besides, in her condition, running through a forest would be unwise. It didn’t seem like there was anyone else living nearby, so she assumed the land was privately owned, meaning that there might be cameras and there would definitely be guards. She limped as fast as she could, trying to see if maybe she could get inside and make a phone call or send some sort of message before anyone could stop her.

She heard a car pull in next to theirs, but didn’t stop until she heard the footstep land on the ground. Then she stopped and turned around, and gasped.


Julia had already seen her — ran to her, embraced her, and for a second Umbry was too shocked to respond. When the pain kicked in after that she almost fell over, but returned the hug, holding Julia there even when she tried to pull away. “Why are you here?” Umbry whispered into her ear, using her long veil of hair to conceal the exchange.

“I knew you were hurt.”

“You shouldn’t have come. This guy, he’s–”

“It’ll be okay, Umbry. I’m here.”

Umbry sighed. How could she have thought there was a problem? Julia was always able to deal with people, even ones as scary as this one seemed. When Umbry failed because of her inability to deal with emotion, Julia could handle it with ease. So this enemy of theirs was obviously no match.

Julia put an arm around Umbry once they released each other and walked her to the door. The guards offered to help them, but Julia declined with a kind smile.

And then they entered the mansion.

The foyer was huge, with a large chandelier in the middle twinkling brightly and refracting light to create rainbows all across the room. The furniture was old but well-kept, and from the looks of things there were obviously maids in the household. They took off their jackets and shoes and proceeded, at the guards’ request, past the foyer to the right and into the living room. A large fire was going in the fireplace and the room had a very homey atmosphere, despite the extravagant decorations and art (was that a Van Gogh? Julia wondered) that lined the walls. Out the window there was a beautiful view of the lake. Umbry took all of this in as she sat down on the couch, quickly followed by Julia. Umbry was still a little scared, especially in her current state, so she moved closer to Julia, whom she was sure would protect her. Julia noticed her nervousness and gave one of her smiles, the kind that always helped Umbry calm down. It worked this time, to perfection, and Umbry even found herself smiling back a little bit.
They waited a few more minutes and finally heard creaking of stairs. Umbry felt herself becoming nervous again, just a little, and even Julia looked a little concerned. The creaking was slow, but by no means unhealthy – the one walking was slow because he wanted to be.

“Hello, Julia, Umbry.” His voice was smooth and cold, and Umbry found herself shivering a little.

And then he emerged at the doorway.

Long, unkempt black hair half-covered both of his eyes. Long and bony fingers held tightly onto two music boxes, each kept carefully half-open. Tall and gray-skinned, he seemed to float across the room into the chair across from the couch. Finally his eyes were close enough to see clearly as he stared at them, unblinking and unmoving now in the silent room.

His eyes were pitch black, with no visible pupils. Umbry felt that if she stared at them too much, she might get sucked in and cease to exist. So she stared down at the ground instead, trying to keep her hands from shaking.

Finally, she looked over at Julia, trying to find some sort of comfort.

But Julia was shaking too, her one visible eye wide with a terror Umbry hadn’t seen before.

Those black eyes, and that shivery-cold voice… was this man even human? “W-who are you…?” Umbry managed to spit out.

“I’m no one, Umbry,” he answered curtly, as if what he was saying was common knowledge. “But you’re looking for a name, I suppose, which means I’ll have to give one.”

He smiled at Julia, seemingly pleased with her reaction to him. Umbry wanted to defend her, but when he turned back to her she found herself once again unable to move. And so he continued.

“I’m Noir LeFevre. And I’ve been looking for you two my entire life.”