Girl of Nightmares


Page 82


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"So," I say as he closes the door. "What can you tell me about this ritual?"

"I can tell you that it begins soon," he replies. Vague. It's like I'm talking to Morfran.

"Where are Carmel and Thomas?"

"They'll be along," he says. A smile breaks the solemnity of his face. "That girl," he chuckles. "She's a firecracker. I've never heard such a tongue. Normally I'd say she was insolent, but under the circumstances-it was rather lovely to see Colin's face turn that shade of red." He cocks an eyebrow at me. "Why didn't you pursue her?"

Carmel, antagonizing Burke all day long. I wish I could've seen it.

"Thomas beat me to it," I reply, and grin.

Our smiles fade slowly, and I stare at the shrinking candles. The flames float on the wicks, so small. It's strange to think that they can reduce the wax pillar to nothing. Gideon goes to his closet and slides the door wide. At first it looks like he's reaching for a bundle of red curtains, but when he lays them out on the bed, I see that they're actually ceremonial robes, just like the one he was wearing in Thomas's stolen photo.

"Ah," I say. "I was wondering when the robes and censers were going to show up."

Gideon straightens both robes, pulling at the hoods and sleeves. I'm wearing an army-green t-shirt and jeans. It feels fine to me. The robes look like they weigh twenty pounds separately.

"Is wearing one of those going to help me with the spell?" I ask. "I mean, come on, you know most of the ceremony is just ceremony."

"The ceremony is just ceremony," he repeats, sort of like my mom does. "No, it won't really help you. It's only tradition."

"Then forget it," I say, eyeballing the plain rope that ties around the waist. "Tradition can shove it. And besides, Anna would laugh her ass off."

His shoulders slump and I brace for impact. He's going to yell now, about how I never take things seriously, about how I never show respect. When he turns I step back, and he grabs me by the shoulder.

"Theseus, if you walk out that door right now, they'll let you go."

I look at him. His eyes are shining, almost shaking behind his wire glasses. They'll let me go, he said . Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn't. Burke would probably come after me with a candlestick if I tried, and the whole thing would turn into a life-size game of Clue. I tug free gently.

"Tell Mom," I say, and then stop. My mind is blank. Her face floats in it for a second, and disappears. "I don't know. Tell her something good."

"Knock, knock," Thomas says, and pokes his head in. When the rest of him follows and Carmel after that, I can't suppress a smile. They're both wearing long, red robes, the hoods down in the back and the sleeves hanging over their hands.

"You guys look like Christmas monks," I say. The toes of Thomas's Converses poke out at the bottom. "You know you don't have to wear those."

"We didn't want to, but Colin had a bird." Carmel rolls her eyes. "They're really heavy. And sort of itchy."

Behind us, Gideon takes his robe off of the hanger and puts it on. He tightens the waist and straightens the hood on his back. Then he takes one of the dummy knives from the velvet and tucks it into the rope at his hip.

"You'll each need one," he says to Thomas and Carmel. "They've already been sharpened."

They exchange a look, but neither one turns green when they go over and take a knife.

"I talked to my grandfather," says Thomas. "He says we're idiots."

"We?"

"Well, mostly you." We smile. I might be an idiot, but Morfran will be watching. If Thomas needs protection, he can send it from across the ocean.

I clear my throat. "Listen, I-I don't know what kind of shape we're going to be in when we get back. If they try to do something to Anna-"

"I'm pretty sure Anna could rend the Order into bits," Thomas says. "But just in case, I know some tricks to slow them down."

Carmel smiles. "I should've brought my bat." A strange look comes on to her face.

"Has anyone considered how we're getting Anna back to Thunder Bay?" she asks. "I mean, I'm pretty sure her passport has expired."

I laugh, and so do the others, even Gideon.

"You two had better go along," Gideon says, and motions out the door. "We'll be right behind."

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