A long moment in the gloom and silence passed. Funny how snow has its own form of hush. Like it makes some kind of anti-sound, a textured silence that doesn't just drown out sound, but overrides them.
The Hounds cocked their heads, crouching and wary. Not afraid, per se, but it was clear they had bad memories of the place, memories of blood, pain, and restraints. Of helplessness and fear. "Maybe there's no one here," ventured Spike. Her toes were cold, cold in the way that presaged burning prickles when they started to thaw once more.
Totenberg cocked his head. "Nah, just . . . Tock is limping. Slow."
The good doctor had two assistants, nearly identical. Perhaps he'd made them, perhaps he'd found them, perhaps some of both. Tick and Tock, mirror images of one another. She wondered how he could tell them apart through the door. Considered asking, but before she'd decided, the door swung slowly, silently open. A door like that should creak, Spike thought, creak and groan on its rusty, squealing hinges. It was creepier that it opened without a sound, smoothly and easily.
It was Tock who stood there, head cocked to the left, slender and fragile as a bird in close-fitting black. A scarecrow of a man, his hair was sliced in an assymmetric cut, long on the left, shaved to stubble on the right, tapering towards the back. He peered down his long, blade-thin nose at the trio, lips pressed together in a seam, one long-fingered spidery hand on the doorframe.
Spike took a deep breath. You are the heir to the throne of skulls. You own the clothes on his back, the food on his table, the very breath in his body. If he breathes. She blinked hard at that, telling herself it was against the sting of the cold dry air. *You will be the mistress of his master one day, he has no authority to tell you where you may or may not go. So own it, be it. Tell him what you want. "We're here to see . . ."
He cut her off with a wave of one arm, thin as knotted string, sweeping through the icy air. He swung the door open, gliding smoothly out of the way. He and Tick were graceful in their movements, smooth, oiled, and precise. Even with the slight limp, he moved as if he were mounted on casters. As if the doctor couldn't bear to have anything truly ugly around him, but could not quite manage beauty, either.
They knocked the worst of the snow off against the stoop, and entered the hallway.