“I used to be able to levitate pencils and things,” I said, “but now I can’t even get one to stand on end. I think I’m … out of order, or something.”
“Happens to the best of ’em.” She looked to Addison. “And you?”
Addison rolled his eyes. “I’m a talking dog?”
“And that’s all you do, talk?”
“Sometimes it seems that way,” I couldn’t resist saying.
“I don’t know whom to feel more insulted by,” said Addison.
Lorraine took a final puff of her cigarette and flicked it away. “All right, sugars. Follow me.”
She started to walk away. We hung behind a moment and conferred in a whisper.
“What about Sharon?” I said. “He told us to wait here.”
“This will only take a minute,” Emma said. “And I have a hunch she knows a lot more about where the wights are hiding than Sharon does.”
“And you think she’s just going to volunteer such information?” said Addison.
“We’ll see,” Emma said, and she turned to follow Lorraine.
* * *
Lorraine’s place had no window and no sign, just a blank door with a silver bell on a pull chain. Lorraine rang the bell. We waited while a series of deadbolts were slid from the inside, and then the door opened a crack. An eye glinted at us from the shadows.
“Fresh meat?” said a man’s voice.
“Customers,” Lorraine replied. “Let us in.”
The eye disappeared and the door opened the rest of the way. We came into a formal entrance hall, where the doorman waited to look us over. He wore a massive overcoat with a high collar and a wide-brimmed fedora, the hat tilted so low that all we could see of his face were two pinprick eyes and the tip of his nose. He stood blocking our way, staring us down.
“Well?” said Lorraine.
The man seemed to decide we weren’t a threat. “Okay,” he said, stepping aside. He closed and locked the door behind us, then trailed after as Lorraine showed us down a long hallway.
We came into a dim parlor flickering with oil lamps. It was a sleazy place with delusions of grandeur: the walls were trimmed with gold scrollwork and velvet drapes, the domed ceiling was painted with tanned and tunicked Greek gods, and marble columns framed the entrance to the hall.
Lorraine nodded to the doorman. “Thank you, Carlos.”
Carlos glided away to the back of the room. Lorraine walked to a curtained wall and pulled a cord, and the fabric slid aside to reveal a wide panel of sturdy glass. We stepped forward to look, and through it saw another room. It was very much like the one we were standing in, but smaller, and people were lazing about on chairs and sofas, some reading while others napped.
I counted eight of them. A few were older, graying at the temples. Two, a boy and a girl, were under the age of ten. They were all, I realized, prisoners.
Addison started to ask a question, but Lorraine gestured impatiently. “Questions after, please.” She strode to the glass, picked up a tube connected umbilically to the wall below it, and spoke into one end. “Number thirteen!”
On the other side of the glass, the youngest boy stood and shuffled forward. His hands and legs were chained, and he was the only peculiar wearing anything resembling prisoner’s garb: a striped suit and cap with the number 13 stitched boldly onto them. Though he couldn’t have been older than ten, he had a man’s facial hair: a bushy, triangular goatee and eyebrows like jungle caterpillars, the eyes below them cold and appraising.
“Why is he chained like that?” I said. “Is he dangerous?”
“You’ll see,” Lorraine said.
The boy closed his eyes. He seemed to be concentrating. A moment later, hair began to emerge from the brim of his cap, creeping down his forehead. His goatee grew, too, twisting into a clump, then rising and swaying like a charmed snake.
“Heavenly herons,” said Addison. “How marvelously strange.”
“Watch closely now,” said Lorraine, grinning.
Number thirteen raised his shackled hands. The pointed end of his charmed goatee aimed itself at the lock, sniffed around the keyhole, and wriggled inside. The boy opened his eyes and stared ahead, expressionless. After ten or so seconds, the twisted goatee stiffened and began to vibrate, making a high musical note we could hear through the glass.
The padlock opened and the chains fell away from his wrists.
He bowed slightly. I stifled an urge to applaud.
“He can open any lock in the world,” Lorraine said with a hint of pride.
The boy returned to his chair and magazine.
Lorraine covered the tube with her hand. “He’s one of a kind, and so are the rest. One’s a thought reader, very adept. Another can reach through walls up to her shoulder. That’s more useful than it sounds, believe me. The little girl here flies if she’s had enough grape soda.”
“Is that right,” Addison said thickly.
“She’d be happy to demonstrate,” said Lorraine, and speaking into the tube, she summoned the girl to the window.
“It’s not necessary,” Emma said through clenched teeth.
“It’s their job,” said Lorraine. “Five, come forward!”
The little girl went to a table stocked with bottles, selected one filled with purple liquid, and took a long drink. When she’d drained it, she set down the bottle, let out a dainty hiccup, and went to stand by a cane-backed chair. A moment later she hiccupped again and her feet began to lift off the ground, pivoting upward while her head remained level. By the third hiccup, her feet had risen ninety degrees and she lay flat on her back in the air, her only support the top of the chair beneath her neck.