“You’re alive!” Bronwyn cried. Enoch and Hugh were with her, and when she pulled away they moved in to shake my hand and look me over.
“I’m sorry I called you a traitor,” Enoch said. “I’m glad you’re not dead.”
“Me, too,” I replied.
“All in one piece?” Hugh asked, looking me over.
“Two arms and two legs,” I said, kicking out my limbs to demonstrate their wholeness. “And you won’t have to worry about that hollow anymore. We killed it.”
“Oh, stuff the modesty!” Emma said proudly. “You killed it.”
“That’s brilliant,” Hugh said, but neither he nor the other two could muster a smile.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Wait. Why aren’t you three at the house? Where’s Miss Peregrine?”
“She’s gone,” said Bronwyn, her lip trembling. “Miss Avocet, too. He took them.”
“Oh God,” said Emma. We were too late.
“He come in with a gun,” Hugh said, studying the dirt. “Tried to take Claire hostage, but she chomped him with her backmouth, so he grabbed me instead. I tried to fight, but he knocked me upside the skull with his gun.” He touched the back of his ear and his fingers came away spotted with blood. “Locked everyone in the basement and said if Headmistress and Miss Avocet didn’t change into birds he’d put an extra hole in my head. So they did, and he stuffed ’em both into a cage.”
“He had a cage?” Emma said.
Hugh nodded. “Little one, too, so they didn’t have room to do nothing, like change back or fly off. I reckoned I was good as shot, but then he pushed me down the basement with the others and run off with the birds.”
“That’s how we found ’em when we come in,” Enoch said bitterly. “Hiding down there like a lot of cowards.”
“We wasn’t hiding!” Hugh cried. “He locked us in! He would’ve shot us!”
“Forget that,” snapped Emma. “Where’d he run off to? Why didn’t you go after him?!”
“We don’t know where he went,” said Bronwyn. “We was hoping you’d seen him.”
“No, we haven’t seen him!” Emma said, kicking a cairn stone in frustration.
Hugh drew something out of his shirt. It was a little photograph. “He stuffed this in my pocket before he went. Said if we tried to come after him, this is what would happen.”
Bronwyn snatched the photo from Hugh. “Oh,” she gasped. “Is that Miss Raven?”
“I think it’s Miss Crow,” said Hugh, rubbing his face with his hands.
“That’s it, they’re good as dead,” Enoch moaned. “I knew this day would come!”
“We should never have left the house,” Emma said miserably. “Millard was right.”
At the far edge of the bog a bomb fell, its muted blast followed by a distant rain of excavated glop.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “First of all, we don’t know that this is Miss Crow or Miss Raven. It could just as easily be a picture of a regular crow. And if Golan was going to kill Miss Peregrine and Miss Avocet, why would he go to all the trouble of kidnapping them? If he wanted them dead, they’d be dead already.” I turned to Emma. “And if we hadn’t left, we’d be locked in the basement with everybody else, and there’d still be a hollowgast wandering around!”
“Don’t try to make me feel better!” she said. “It’s your fault this is happening!”
“Ten minutes ago you said you were glad!”
“Ten minutes ago Miss Peregrine wasn’t kidnapped!”
“Will you stop!” said Hugh. “All that matters now is that the Bird’s gone and we’ve got to get her back!”
“Fine,” I said, “so let’s think. If you were a wight, where would you take a couple of kidnapped ymbrynes?”
“Depends on what’s to be done with ’em,” Enoch said. “And that, we don’t know.”
“You’d have to get them off the island first,” Emma said. “So you’d need a boat.”
“But which island?” asked Hugh. “In the loop or out of it?”
“The outside’s getting torn apart by a storm,” I said. “Nobody’s getting far in a boat over there.”
“Then he’s got to be on our side,” Emma said, beginning to sound hopeful. “So what are we larking about here for? Let’s get to the docks!”
“Maybe he’s at the docks,” Enoch said. “That is, if he ain’t gone yet. And even if he ain’t and we somehow manage to find him in all this dark, and without getting holes ripped through our guts by shrapnel on the way, there’s still his gun to worry about. Have you all gone mad? Would you rather have the Bird kidnapped—or shot right in front of us?”
“Fine, then!” Hugh shouted. “Let’s just give up and go home then, shall we? Who’d like a nice hot cup of tea before bed? Hell, as long as the Bird ain’t around, make it a toddy!” He was crying, wiping angrily at his eyes. “How can you not even try, after all she’s done for us?”
Before Enoch could answer, we heard a voice calling us from the path. Hugh stepped forward, squinting, and after a moment his face went strange. “It’s Fiona,” he said. Before that moment I’d never heard Fiona utter so much as a peep. It was impossible to make out what she was saying over the sound of planes and distant concussions, so we took off running across the bog.
When we got to the path, we were breathing hard and Fiona was hoarse from shouting, her eyes as wild as her hair. Immediately she began to pull at us, to drag and push us down the path toward town, yelling so frantically in her thick Irish accent that none of us could understand. Hugh caught her by the shoulders and told her to slow down.
She took a deep breath, shaking like a leaf, then pointed behind her. “Millard followed him!” she said. “He was hiding when the man shut us all in the basement, and when he lit out Millard followed!”
“Where to?” I said.
“He had a boat.”
“See!” cried Emma. “The docks!”
“No,” said Fiona, “it was your boat, Emma. The one you think nobody knows about, that you keep stowed on that wee strand of yours. He launched off with the cage and was just goin’ in circles, but then the tide got too rough, so he pulled onto the lighthouse rock, and that’s where he still is.”