Jack shook his head. “We’re not implicated anywhere. I’ve been watching. That’s almost worse. It means the Circle really thinks we did it and they don’t want the rest of the world involved.”
Elodie let out a hacking cough. And another, so hard that she sat up and buried her face in her hands. “Must have gotten something in my throat on that bus. I told you I’m allergic to public transportation.”
I kept staring at her. That was a weird cough. Not that we actually had to worry about the virus, but . . . No. She was fine.
“Where’s the clue?” I said. Elodie pulled it out of her bag. “My followers will watch over us, at the thirteenth at the center of the twelve. Where Olympias’s followers could watch over her. That’s what we’re looking for. Elodie, you had someone researching whether there was an Order headquarters here in Olympias’s time, right?”
She nodded. “I’ll call and see what they’ve found.”
I ran a hand over the scrubby grass as seagulls called overhead. “Can we stop somewhere and get us phones? And a toothbrush? And something besides this tiny knife? Can you even buy guns here?” I added, remembering once again that we no longer had Circle privileges.
“Black market,” Stellan said shortly. I’d noticed how quiet and tense he’d been since Jerusalem, but it had only gotten worse since my panic attack at the border. He’d barely said a word to anyone the past few hours.
“We should get a taxi,” I said just as I realized it was weird to have to say that. We’d spent time in Alexandria before. Usually in an area this touristy, there would be dozens of drivers trying to convince us that their air-conditioning was better than the next guy’s. People really must be nervous if even taxi drivers were hiding.
Finally, I spotted one, a minivan waiting in the actual taxi queue at the bus station. “I’m going to look.” When I approached, I was surprised to see a girl get out of the driver’s seat. She wasn’t too much older than me, wearing a full-length robe and a pretty, rosepatterned hijab.
“Hi,” I said. “English?” She nodded and smiled, showing dimples and crooked teeth. “Could you take us a few different places around the city?” She nodded again and I motioned everyone over.
Elodie slammed the van door behind her after we’d clambered inside. She turned to the driver and said something in what I assumed must be Arabic, and the girl grinned.
Ten minutes later, we’d moved about four blocks. Judging by the number of cars on this freeway, I guess not everyone was staying inside. Lining the road were dingy-looking apartment buildings with swaths of chipped plaster that exposed the brick beneath. There were satellite dishes on every balcony, and a mess of electrical cords snaked between them. This part of the city was not nearly as pretty as the old city.
No one seemed to care about lane designations, and there were at least six cars across on this three-lane road. A little boy leaned out of the car next to us, waving frantically at the car full of foreigners. I waved back halfheartedly. I could have held hands with him if I’d put my arm out our window. I tried not to think about him contracting the virus.
I was understanding more and more why I had spent my whole life avoiding getting attached to anything, to any place, to anyone.
“How far is it to where we’re going?” Jack said from the backseat, and then repeated it in Arabic.
“Only a few kilometers, but the traffic is bad at this time of day,” our driver answered in perfect English. “Or at any time of day,” she added after a second.
I tried to shake the thoughts out, and when that didn’t work, I repeated the slow, steady breaths into my stomach to keep from panicking.
We made stops at a huge shopping center for a couple of changes of clothes and new phones, and at a smaller, seedier market for weapons. I didn’t know when I’d become a person who felt better carrying a weapon, but somehow I had.
I flipped on my new phone. I meant to look through the news, but I found myself searching Napoleon Book of Fates. I found the same website I’d seen before, and the list of questions again. My eye was immediately drawn to one: Shall I be successful in my current endeavor? I clicked on it, then on a set of stars.
The map to one’s fate is seldom straightforward; that deemed adversity may be but a fork in the road toward what is longed for, it read. I wrinkled my nose. Seriously? The map to one’s fate?
I clicked off it and pulled up a news site. I didn’t like what I saw. “The UK just closed their borders,” I said. There were curses around the car. “That’s a huge overreaction. All that’s going to do is make the whole Western world panic even more.”
Jack held up another news article. “The United States has made a statement that no one needs to be alarmed and that the CDC is working on isolating the cause of the virus right away. The Fredericks are trying to calm this hysteria before it gets out of control.”
“And the Saxons are doing all they can to fan the flames right back up,” I said. “Closing borders sends even more of a message than a government statement. Do you think maybe people will be reasonable, though? The death toll from the virus is maybe a couple dozen right now. That’s terrible, but it’s not enough for worldwide panic, is it?”
“Unfortunately, the world pays more attention to frightened hyperbole than reason,” Elodie murmured.
Our driver, Mariam, pulled over to the curb. We piled out, and Jack pulled a twenty-euro bill out of his wallet. I leaned back in the window. “We have to change money, but here’s this for now. Can you wait for us?”
She nodded, then called after me as I started to walk away. “Miss?”
I turned back.
“Are you a spy?”
I cast a worried glance at Jack. We shouldn’t have said so much in front of her. “We were just talking about the news,” I said quickly. “You’re not going to get in trouble, I promise.”