“Hey,” I said casually, as if we weren’t crouched on the floor with a dying man, covered in blood. “What’s up?”
Don’t freak out. Don’t give us away.
The boy wrinkled his brow. “Are you …?”
“In costume,” I replied. “Got carried away with the fake blood.”
“Oh,” said the boy, clearly not believing me.
The girl stared at the folding man. “Is he …?”
“Drunk,” said Emma. “Soused out of his brain. Which is how he came to spill all our fake blood on the floor. And himself.”
“And us,” said Addison. The teens’ heads snapped toward him, their eyes going wider still.
“You goon,” Emma muttered. “Keep quiet.”
The boy raised a trembling hand and pointed at the dog. “Did he just …?”
Addison had said only two words. We might’ve played it off as a trick of echoes, something other than what it seemed, but he was too proud to play dumb.
“Of course I didn’t,” he said, raising his nose in the air. “Dogs can’t speak English. Nor any human language—save, in one notable exception, Luxembourgish, which is only comprehensible to bankers and Luxembourgers, and therefore hardly of any use at all. No, you’ve eaten something disagreeable and are having a nightmare, that’s all. Now, if you wouldn’t mind terribly, my friends need to borrow your clothes. Please disrobe at once.”
Pallid and shaking, the boy started to remove his leather jacket, but he’d only wriggled one arm free when his knees gave out and he fainted to the floor. And then the girl began to scream, and she didn’t stop.
In an instant the wight was banging at the chained door, his blank eyes flashing murder.
“So much for sneaking away,” I said.
Addison turned to look at him. “Definitely a wight,” he said, nodding sagely.
“I’m so glad we put that mystery to rest,” said Emma.
There was a jolt and a squeal of brakes. We were coming into a station. I pulled Emma to her feet and prepared to run.
“What about Sergei?” Emma said, whipping around to look back at him.
It would be hard enough to outrun a pair of wights with Emma still recovering her strength; with the folding man in my arms, it would be impossible.
“We’ll have to leave him,” I said. “He’ll be found and brought to a doctor. It’s his best chance—and ours.”
Surprisingly, she agreed. “I think it’s what he’d want.” She went quickly to his side. “Sorry we can’t take you with us. But I’m certain we’ll meet again.”
“In the next world,” he croaked, his eyes slitting open. “In Abaton.”
With those mysterious words and the girl’s screams ringing in our ears, the train came to a stop and the doors opened.
* * *
We weren’t clever. We weren’t graceful. The moment the train doors slid open, we just ran as fast as we could.
The wight leapt out of his car and into ours, by which time we had dashed past the screaming girl, over the fainted boy, and onto the platform, where we struggled against a crowd that was streaming onto the train like a school of spawning fish. This station, unlike all the others, was heaving at the seams.
“There!” I shouted, pulling Emma toward a WAY OUT sign that glowed in the distance. I hoped Addison was somewhere at our feet, but so many people were flooding around us that I could hardly see the floor. Luckily, Emma’s strength was returning—or a rush of adrenaline was kicking in—because I don’t think I could’ve supported her weight and threaded the human stampede, too.
We’d put about twenty feet and fifty people between us and the train when the wight burst out of it, shoving commuters and yelling I am an officer of the law! and Get out of my way! and Stop those children! Either no one could hear him over the echoing din of the station or no one was paying attention. I looked back to see him gaining, and that’s when Emma started tripping people, sweeping her legs left and right as we ran. People shouted and fell into tangles behind us, and when I looked back again the wight was struggling, stepping on legs and backs and getting swats with umbrellas and briefcases in return. Then he stopped, red-faced and frustrated, to unsnap his gun holster. But the gulf of people between us had yawned too wide now, and though I was sure he’d be heartless enough to fire into a crowd, he wasn’t stupid enough to. The ensuing panic would’ve made us even more difficult to catch.
The third time I looked back he was so far behind and swallowed by the crowd that I could hardly see him. Maybe he didn’t really care whether he caught us. After all, we were neither a great threat nor much of a prize. Maybe the dog had been right: compared to an ymbryne, we were hardly worth the trouble.
Halfway to the exits the crowd thinned enough for us to break into an open run—but we’d taken only a few strides when Emma caught me by the sleeve and stopped me. “Addison!” she cried, spinning to look around. “Where’s Addison?”
A moment later he came scampering out of the thickest part of the crowd, a long piece of white fabric trailing from a spike on his collar. “You waited for me!” he said. “I became entangled in a lady’s stocking …”
Heads turned at the sound of his voice.
“Come on, we can’t stop now!” I said.
Emma plucked the stocking from Addison’s collar, and we were off and running again. Before us were an escalator and an elevator. The escalator was working but very crowded, so I steered us toward the elevator instead. We ran past a lady painted blue from head to toe, and I had to turn and stare even as my legs carried me onward. Her hair was dyed blue, her face caked with blue makeup, and she wore a skin-tight jumpsuit, also blue.