It was Miss Wren he’d wanted to snatch away from the wights, not us—but we were the realistic save, farther from the train, and he’d made a snap decision and taken what he could get.
“Of course we’ll help,” I said. “Isn’t that what we’re doing now?”
“Yes, yes,” he said. “But you must realize, as an ymbryne, Miss Wren is more valuable to the wights than peculiar children, and thus she may prove more difficult to free. I worry that, if by some miracle we are lucky enough to rescue your friends …”
“Now wait a second,” I snapped. “Who says she’s more—”
“No, it’s true,” Emma said. “She’ll be under heavier lock and key, no question. But we won’t leave her behind. We’re not leaving anyone else behind, ever again. You have our word as peculiars.”
The dog seemed satisfied with that. “Thank you,” he said, and then his ears flattened. He hopped up onto a seat to look out the window as we pulled into the next station. “Hide yourselves,” he said, ducking down. “There are enemies near.”
* * *
The wights were expecting us. I glimpsed two of them waiting on the platform, dressed as police officers among a scattering of commuters. They were scanning the cars as our train pulled into the station. We dropped down below the windows, hoping they’d miss us—but I knew they wouldn’t. The one with the walkie-talkie had radioed ahead; they must’ve known we were on this train. Now all they had to do was search it.
It came to a stop and people began filing on board, though not into our car. I risked a peek through the open doors and saw one of the wights down the platform, speed walking in our direction as he eyeballed each car.
“One’s coming this way,” I muttered. “How’s your fire, Em?”
“Running on empty,” she replied.
He was getting close. Four cars away. Three.
“Then get ready to run.”
Two cars away. Then a soft, recorded voice: “Mind the closing doors, please.”
“Hold the train!” the wight shouted. But the doors were already closing.
He stuck an arm through. The doors bounced open again. He got on board—into the car next to ours.
My eyes went to the door that connected our cars. It was locked with a chain—thank God for small mercies. The doors snicked shut and the train began to move. We shifted the folding man onto the floor and huddled with him in a spot where we couldn’t be seen from the wight’s car.
“What can we do?” said Emma. “The moment this train stops again, he’ll come straight in here and find us.”
“Are we absolutely certain he’s a wight?” asked Addison.
“Do cats grow on trees?” Emma replied.
“Not in this part of the world.”
“Then of course we aren’t. But when it comes to wights, there’s an old saying: if you’re not sure, assume.”
“Okay, then,” I said. “The second those doors open, we run for the exit.”
Addison sighed. “All this fleeing,” he said disdainfully, as if he were a gourmand and someone had offered him a limp square of American cheese. “There’s no imagination in it. Mightn’t we try sneaking? Blending in? There’s artistry in that. Then we could simply walk away, gracefully, unnoticed.”
“I hate fleeing as much as anyone,” I said, “but Emma and I look like nineteenth-century axe murderers, and you’re a dog who wears glasses. We’re bound to be noticed.”
“Until they start manufacturing canine contact lenses, I’m stuck with these,” Addison grumbled.
“Where’s that hollowgast when you need him?” said Emma offhandedly.
“Run over by a train, if we’re lucky,” I said. “And what do you mean by that?”
“Only that he came in quite handy earlier.”
“And before that he nearly killed us—twice! No, three times! Whatever it is I’ve been doing to control it has been half by accident, and the moment I’m not able to? We’re dead.”
Emma didn’t respond right away, but studied me for a moment and then took my hand, all caked in grime, and kissed it gently, once, twice.
“What was that for?” I said, surprised.
“You have no idea, do you?”
“How completely miraculous you are.”
“You have an amazing talent,” Emma whispered. “I’m certain all you need is a little practice.”
“Maybe. But practicing something usually means failing at it for a while, and failing at this means people get killed.”
Emma squeezed my hand. “Well, there’s nothing like a little pressure to help you hone a new skill.”
I tried to smile but couldn’t muster one. My heart hurt too much at the thought of all the damage I could cause. This thing I could do felt like a loaded weapon I didn’t know how to use. Hell, I didn’t even know which end to point away from me. Better to set it down than have it blow up in my hands.
We heard a noise at the other end of the car and looked up to see the door opening. That one wasn’t chained, and now a pair of leather-clad teenagers stumbled into our car, a boy and a girl, laughing and passing a lit cigarette between them.
“We’ll get in trouble!” the girl said, kissing his neck.
The boy brushed a foppish wave of hair from his eyes—“I do this all the time, sweetheart”—then saw us and froze, his eyebrows parabolic. The door they’d come through banged closed behind them.