Girl of Nightmares


Page 57


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"What about the athames in the picture, Gideon? Are they just props? Or are there others out there like mine?"

Gideon holds out his hand. "May I have it, Theseus? Just for a moment."

Thomas shakes his head, but it's all right. I've always known that Gideon has secrets. He must have lots more than even this. It doesn't mean I don't trust him.

Reaching into my back pocket, my fingers slide the athame out of its sheath, and I flip it gently to place it handle out in Gideon's palm. He accepts it solemnly and turns toward a dark oak shelf. Drawers open and close. He's working close to the vest, but I still glimpse a flash of steel. When he turns back to us, he's holding a tray, and on it are four knives, all of them identical. Exact replicas of my athame.

"The traditional athames of the Order," Gideon says. "A bit more valuable than a dime a dozen, as you'd say, but-no. They're not like yours. There are no others like yours." He motions to Jestine, and curls his fingers for her to step closer. When she does, there's a look of reverence on her face that almost makes me snort snarky laughter. But at the same time I feel sort of ashamed. She looks so … respectful. I don't know if I've ever looked at the athame that way.

Gideon sets the tray on the edge of his desk and rearranges the knives once, shuffling them like a three-card monte dealer. When Jestine stands before the tray, he straightens and commands her to select the real one.

Even though my athame has never been damaged, and there are no nicks or scars to identify it from the others, I know immediately. It's the third from the left. I feel it so strongly that it may as well be waving at me. Jestine has no idea, but her green eyes glitter at the challenge. After a few deep breaths, she extends her hand over the tray and passes it slowly back and forth. My pulse quickens as she hesitates over the wrong one. I don't want her to choose correctly. It's petty, but I don't.

She closes her eyes. Gideon's holding his breath. After thirty tense seconds, her eyes fly open, and she smiles before reaching down to the tray and picking up my knife.

"Well done," Gideon says, but he doesn't sound pleased. Jestine nods and hands the knife back to me . I slide it into its sheath, and try not to look like a kid with a broken toy while I do it.

"This is all fun," I say, "but what does that have to do with anything? Listen, does the Order know how to cross over to the other side, or not?"

"Of course they do," Jestine replies. Her face is flushed from whatever parlor trick she just used to identify my knife. "They've done it before. They'll do it again for you, if you're willing to pay the price."

"What price?" Thomas and I ask together, but the two of them are tight-lipped, ignoring the question like it wasn't even asked.

"I'll contact them," Gideon says, and when Jestine looks at him he says it again, more firmly. He never once looks at me, instead focusing on the dummy knives, wiping them with a soft cloth like they're important before placing them back in their drawers. "Get some rest, Theseus," he says, implying heavily that I'm going to need it.

Upstairs in the guest room, Thomas and I sit silently on our respective bunks. He's uneasy about all this. I don't blame him. But I haven't come this far to do nothing. She's still waiting for me. I can still hear her voice, and her screams.

"What do you think the Order is going to do?" he asks.

"Help us open a door to Hell, if we're lucky," I reply. Lucky. Ha ha. The irony.

"She said there would be a price. Is she sure? Do you have any idea what it's going to be?"

"I don't. But there's always a price; you know that. Isn't it what you witches are always going on about? Give and take, balancing things, three chickens for a pound of butter?"

"I've never said anything about bartering farm goods," he says, but I can hear that he's smiling. Maybe tomorrow I should send him home. Before I get him hurt, or tangled up in something that after tonight feels like only my business.

"Cas?"

"Yeah?"

"I don't think you should trust Jestine."

"Why not?" I ask.

"Because," he says quietly, "when she was doing the athame lineup downstairs, she was thinking about how much she wanted it. She was thinking it was hers."

I blink. So what? is my knee-jerk response. It's an unattainable wish. A fantasy. The athame is mine, and it always will be.

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