Hourglass Page 38

“Not really,” Vic said. “Don’t get me wrong. Compared to the rest of what’s going on, it’s not that big a deal. I understand that you’re having a way, way worse week than I am. Okay? But that doesn’t make it any easier for me to explain to my parents about the dead body in the backyard.”

I sighed. “True.”

“I suggest pulling some greenery over the location,” Ranulf said.

“That’s your total contribution to this discussion?” I asked.

“Yes.” Ranulf appeared unruffled. “I will say what is useful. That is the only useful suggestion I have at this point.”

Vic pointed at him, two finger-guns of approval. “I like a man who knows the value of words, doesn’t spend ’em too cheap.”

Ranulf nodded. “That is the manner in which I roll.”

With that, Vic turned back to me. His expression seemed odd until I realized that I’d never seen him this serious before. “Bianca, I hate that this happened to you. If I couldn’t look you in the eye and say that—if you weren’t just dead but, you know, dead dead—I don’t even want to think about it. Maybe things can’t be like they were before, but—if there’s a way—we can still be friends, right?”

I felt like I’d never smiled before, at least not for real. “We’re friends no matter what,” I said. “And you’re the best person I ever met.”

Vic ducked his head, surprisingly bashful. “So, how did you figure all this stuff out?”

“Your ghost helped me,” I explained. “Her name is Maxie.”

“What? My ghost has a name?”

“Why wouldn’t she?” It seemed offensive to assume that ghosts wouldn’t have names. We’d all been people once, hadn’t we? Then I realized I was thinking of ghosts as “we” already.

“If she can appear, how come she never appeared to me?” It was Vic’s turn to be offended. Clearly, he thought of Maxie as his ghost.

“She didn’t want to scare you. Maxie?” I called to her, though I knew she’d probably been eavesdropping on our every word. “Hey, Vic wants to meet you. Come say hello!”

“I am socializing with wraiths,” Ranulf muttered. “This is not a thing that is done.”

To Ranulf, Vic said, “Remember what I said about social conformity being the prison of the mind?” Vic’s sandy hair stuck out from the brim of his trucker cap, so unruly it made him look a little wild in his eagerness as he spoke again, this time to Maxie. “We’re all nonconformists here, so, you know, drop on by.”

Why did you tell him my name? I could see Maxie without seeing her—as a vision in my mind, the same way she’d briefly appeared to me in the attic. He doesn’t need to know who I am!

“She’s talking to me,” I said to Vic and Ranulf. “Not aloud. I think she’s shy.”

“Aw, man.” Vic looked around the wine cellar avidly. Maybe he thought he might glimpse Maxie hiding between the bottles.

“Seriously, Maxie, it’s okay. Come say hi.”

I’m not coming out there.

So far as I could tell from the tone of her “voice,” Maxie felt genuinely terrified at the thought of finally seeing Vic face-to-face. Apparently his opinion meant a lot to her.

I realized I could use that to my advantage. Was that playing fair? I decided it was at least as fair as the wraith trying to freeze me to death. My best chance of getting good information from her was to ask now, while he was a witness. “She’s agreeing to help me out,” I said loudly. “Can you explain more about how the bracelet works, Maxie? I just want to understand.”

Maxie’s consternation felt obvious, at least to me. Ranulf and Vic were both staring at the ceiling, as if wraiths were dangling from above like a chandelier. Vic muttered, “I have got to get a Ouija board.”

Well? I thought to her. You don’t want to let Vic down, do you?

Like you even need my help, she snapped. You can already walk around and hug people. I never could get solid like that, and look at you now. Bet you could walk around the whole day.

“I can pretty much act naturally while I’ve got the bracelet,” I said to Vic and Ranulf. I couldn’t wait to surprise Lucas. He’d be so happy. Well, first he’d probably be scared out of his wits. But after that, he would see that there could still be some kind of future for us. We had a lot to mourn for; my lost life killed so many possibilities. Already I dreaded the long stretch of centuries that would follow after Lucas was gone. Nevertheless, it was more than I’d had before. “Does the same thing apply to the jet brooch? The one he took with him?”

Lucas took it along? Maxie relaxed a little; she still sounded sullen, but not as angry. Then you’re in luck, kiddo. Like I said, all the stuff we imprinted on in life, we can use in death. Not just to become corporeal—like you are now. You can also use them to travel.

“Travel? What are you talking about?” At this point, I was talking to the ceiling, too. From the corner of my eye, I could see Vic and Ranulf gaping in total confusion.

Ever been on a subway? Then you know how it works. You can travel anywhere the train stops. The things you connected to most strongly during your life? Those are the subway stops. You can go wherever those things are.

The gargoyle. How many hours had I spent staring at that thing grimacing outside my bedroom window at Evernight? Apparently I’d imprinted on it strongly enough that I could now travel back to the school whenever I wished. There would be other “subway stops” that I could find. My world had just expanded—if not back to the freedom I’d had when alive, at least a lot farther than this one house.

“The brooch,” I repeated. “Lucas took it with him. You mean—I could go to Lucas, right this second? Would I still have substance? Could he see me?”

Your bracelet wouldn’t go with you. But, hey, the brooch is jet, right? You might be able to use it once you get there.

“Jet is fossilized wood!” I grinned. Jet, too, used to be alive; that meant it was as powerful as the coral.

Vic said, “Please tell me the other half of the conversation is going to make the stuff you just said make sense.”

“Kind of.” I summarized the situation for them as best as I could, with only Maxie’s explanation to draw from. “I’m going to give it a try and see if I can do it. I need to tell Lucas we can still speak to each other—that there’s still some way—”

“Yeah, get out of here,” Vic said. “Lucas needs to see you as soon as possible, I’d guess.”

“How do I do it?” I asked Maxie.

She sounded fainter, like she resented my success too much to hang around much longer. You concentrate on it, really hard—see it in your mind’s eye—and then you ought to get there. Might take you a few tries.

I closed my eyes, determined to get it right away.

In my mind, I heard Maxie add, You can hang around the living all you want. Sooner or later, they’re going to forget you. And you’ll forget them. You’re dead, Bianca. The sooner you face it, the better.

I ignored her.

If there was one thing in the world I could picture perfectly, it was that brooch. The ornate carving—the outline of the strange, sharp-bladed flowers I’d seen in my long-ago dream—the cool weight of it in my hand, the way it fit into my palm—


Startled, I tried to figure out where I was. This wasn’t the terrible enveloping mist, but it wasn’t any place I recognized. No lights shone, save a few bars of red that I recognized as distant exit signs. The ceiling was high—very high—and I floated near it, trying to make out what was happening below.

Then I heard Balthazar’s voice echo, “Lucas! Look out!”

Beneath me I made out movement—two people struggling. They fell to the ground, limbs in a tangle. Fear pushed me downward, and I managed to get a bit closer. Still, in the darkness, I couldn’t see much besides rows of seats, as though we were in a church. But Balthazar couldn’t possibly be fighting inside a church—

Then I realized the white wall at the far end of the building wasn’t a wall—it was a screen. This was a movie theater of some kind. Like most of the places Charity preferred, it had apparently been long abandoned. Multicolored graffiti decorated the walls, and half the seats had been ripped out.

I looked closer at the people doing battle below me. The figures pushed apart from each other, and I could see them as they faced off. One was Lucas, his T-shirt ripped and a trickle of blood on his hairline. He was breathing hard, and in his hand he held a switchblade—a weapon nearly useless against vampires.

The other half turned, so that I could see her face. Charity.

“You let the ghosts have her,” Charity taunted. Her eyes shone like a cat’s, bright and flat. “Bianca’s body is rotting, her spirit is hostage, and it’s all your fault.”

Lucas shuddered, and I knew she’d cut him to the quick. His voice was deadlier than I’d ever heard it when he said, “You’ll pay for hurting her.”

“Do you even believe what you’re saying?” Charity smiled.

“You don’t want to kill me, boy. You want to die.”

I wanted Lucas to deny it. He didn’t.

Charity laughed. “Don’t worry, Lucas. You’ll be reunited with Bianca soon enough—in your graves.”

“No!” I cried—but I wasn’t in the dark room any longer. I was back in the wine cellar. Vic and Ranulf were staring at me, even more bewildered than before.

“Bianca?” Vic said. “What happened?”

I grabbed his arm. “If we don’t get to Lucas right away, he’ll be killed.”

Chapter Twenty-three

“BALTHAZAR’S EVIL SISTER, CHECK,” VIC SAID AS we ran from the wine cellar toward his car. The streetlight nearby cut through the night to outline his thin shadow against the driveway; I no longer had a shadow. “Lucas and Balthazar at the end of their tether, check. Lots of crazy-ass vampires, check. Have I got the situation here?”

“Pretty much.” I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to explain in more depth. “I don’t know where they are, though.”

Vic grimaced. “Philly’s a big city, Bianca. Can’t you use your subway magic whatever to go back there, maybe describe the place?”

“I’ve been trying,” I snapped. Spectral traveling required concentration, apparently, and I was far too frightened to concentrate. Then it hit me that I did have one more clue to go by, one I’d have thought of earlier if I hadn’t been panicking. “It was a movie theater but one that had been abandoned a long time. Graffiti taggers had hit it hard. Does that sound familiar to you?”

To my relief, Vic’s face lit up. “The McCrory Plaza Six shut down two years ago—Yeah, that’s got to be it!” He turned to look for Ranulf, who had calmly walked out after us and headed to the garage. “Ranulf, buddy, you with us?”

“I am collecting items that may be useful,” Ranulf called.

“Weapons.” I ought to have thought of it before. “Vic, we need to be armed for this. Can you fight?”

Vic didn’t look thrilled by the idea. “Uh, I took karate—”

“That’s awesome!”

“—for two months,” Vic continued. “When I was seven. The first time I tried to break a board, I sprained my wrist. My parents pulled me out of lessons. Doesn’t count, huh?”

What was I even thinking, trying to mount a rescue party? Vic wouldn’t stand a chance against a homicidal tribe of vampires. Ranulf would be strong enough—stronger than most, given his great age—but I had difficulty imagining him even raising his voice. That left me as our only fighter.

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