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Beth squashed the panic. She’d waited for three and a half years; she wasn’t going to ruin everything now out of haste.

Drifting slowly out of the common room, as if returning to her cell. Drifting down the passage instead, whisking behind a curtain. The matrons at the front desk weren’t supposed to leave the entrance unattended, but they did, all the time. The patients were so quiet; there wasn’t any real risk—and besides, there were the walls outside to contain them if they wandered into the grounds. Matron Rowe, on the desk today, couldn’t go forty minutes without a cigarette . . . sure enough, she whisked round the corner after fifteen patient minutes of waiting. Beth slipped outside, barely breathing.

Down the stone steps. Beth remembered mounting those steps the day she came here, feeling like Alice fallen down the rabbit hole. I am not Alice any longer, thought the former Miss Liddell. I am no longer trapped inside the clock.

Drifting, not running, around the women’s wing toward the back of the house, crouching under the windows. The access door came into sight, and Beth checked the clock tower. Ten thirty—the orderlies made rounds of the wall on the hour.

She flung herself at the gate, fumbling the trio of keys out of her sleeve. First key didn’t fit. She yanked it out, panting, fumbled with the second key, dropped it—

“What are you doing here?”

An orderly stood staring at her, stopped buttoning his coat over his uniform. Ginger-haired, scrawny, clearly off duty and headed out. He was the one Beth had serviced in a linen closet, trying to learn what a lobotomy was. The one who had ruffled her hair afterward.

“You shouldn’t be out,” he began, coming toward her, and Beth didn’t hesitate. She threw the useless key at his head, and as he flinched, she flung herself on him. He yelled in surprise, trying to fend her off, but she darted her head forward like a viper and sank her teeth into his cheek. The man yelped like he’d been scalded, and Beth forced her hand over his mouth, trying to contain the shout. He fell heavily, and Beth felt the impact along her entire left side as she fell with him, but her teeth only sank deeper. She heard herself making a mad keening noise. All the helpless rage of the last three and a half years boiled up her throat and roared when it met the coppery tang of the man’s blood in her mouth. She tasted more than blood; she tasted the chalky flavor of sedative tablets and the antiseptic tang of nurses’ fingers thrusting into her mouth to force her jaws apart. She tasted shame and despair and the urge to wind a bedsheet round her throat and hang herself. She tasted bleak stony hatred for Giles and a blunter, smaller venom for the nurses and orderlies who bullied the inmates; she tasted the metal of the drill that would have cut her skull open and the tensile snapping of her brain’s strands as her codebreaking mind was mutilated. “Let go,” the orderly squealed into her ear, faces locked together as if they were dancing cheek to cheek. “Let go, you mad bitch—”

“No,” Beth snarled through her teeth clamped into his face, and managed to get her fingers into his hair to yank his head against the ground. She banged his head once, twice, and he went slack. She banged one more time to be sure.

Beth’s ears buzzed. Her jaws ached as she released her teeth, and she wiped an unsteady hand across her mouth, feeling blood smear. She looked at the unconscious man below her, his cheek torn open. She didn’t know if it had been his head hitting the ground or if he had fainted, but he was out cold. She checked his pulse. Strong.

He was too heavy to move, and she had no way to hide him. She’d have to take her chances it would be a while before he was found.

She got to her feet, shaking, and staggered back to the access door. Her hands trembled too much at first to fit the second key to the lock. Her mouth was still coppery with blood. The second key didn’t fit. Please, Beth prayed, fitting the third.

It turned.

She was through the door in a flash, wedging it shut and locking it from the outside: outside the walls, for the first time in three and a half years. The path led down a grassy slope, toward a road she’d never seen. Beth flew down it, legs pumping. She’d told them where to wait; if they weren’t there . . .

Please, she prayed again.

There was Osla, perched on the long hood of a forest-green Bentley, hair ruffling in the cold breeze. Mab slouched behind the wheel, lighting a cigarette, saying, “. . . been trying to stop, but the week you stage an asylum breakout is not the week to quit smoking.” They looked up, hearing her footsteps, and Beth saw them both flinch at the blood on her mouth. They tried to hide it, but she saw. For an instant her step faltered.

Osla slid off the hood and threw open the door. “Coming?”

Beth crawled into the backseat, lying flat. She was suddenly dizzy, inhaling scents she hadn’t smelled in years: leather upholstery, Osla’s Soir de Paris, Mab’s Chanel No. 5 . . . and her own smell, fear and ammonia and sweat. I want a bath. Mab started the car up, and they were swinging round. “Don’t speed,” Beth said. “We don’t want to attract attention.”

“Hide under this,” Osla ordered, shoving a car rug over the partition.

Beth squirmed under it, but she couldn’t resist a peek through the rear window as they turned off the asylum road. Just a big gray stone house behind a tangle of dead roses and high walls, receding into the distance. Sleeping Beauty’s crumbling castle. The air coming through the open window was freezing cold, fragrant with bracken. Free air . . .

“Lie down,” Mab hissed, mashing the pedal.

Beth lay down, head spinning. Mab and Osla were arguing, low voiced.

“—once they realize we aren’t Beth’s sisters—”

“—they have no blinking idea what our real names even are—”

The question burst out of Beth from under the blanket. “Can you tell me what happened to Boots?”

A startled pause. Beth shrank, dreading the answer. “He was returned to Aspley Guise after you were taken away,” Osla said. “Our landlady kept him. She mentioned him in her last Christmas card.”

Beth squeezed her eyes shut. Her dog was alive, safe. That seemed like the best omen in the world.

Mab spoke up then. “Where are we going, Beth?”

Beth opened her mouth and closed it again. The first real decision she had been offered in three and a half years. The Bentley rocketed over the moor as Beth Finch shut her tear-filled eyes with a sob of joy.

Alice escaped the looking glass, Giles. And now she’s coming for you.

Chapter 75

Why did Giles get mixed up with Soviets?” Mab wondered, changing gears. The Bentley was speeding past Blackpool now, well south of York, even further from Clockwell. “We had more than a few at BP who flirted pink on the political side, but Giles didn’t seem to have an ideological bone in his body.”

“He thought BP wasn’t doing enough to help our allies.” Beth was sitting up in the backseat now, wearing a print dress from Mab’s traveling case; it sagged off her gaunt frame. Osla had pressed a comb on her too, and some scent: Not to put too fine of a point on it, darling, but you look like a dog’s dinner. “He saw an opportunity to help the Soviets win their war, so he did. In his eyes”—she spat the words—“he was a patriot.”

“The PM was stingy about sharing our findings with the Soviets,” Osla pointed out. “I used to get in a wax about that, too.”

“Yes, but you didn’t betray your country,” Beth said.

Would I feel quite so defensive of my country if it had locked me up in a madhouse? Mab wondered. Because Giles might have planted the seeds, but it was BP’s obsession with secrecy that made Beth’s imprisonment possible . . . then again, Beth had always had that peculiar rigid streak. It didn’t matter that her country had betrayed her; she’d taken an oath to it, and she would uphold that oath until she died. Maybe that streak of unbending iron in her soul was what had kept her from crumbling, surrounded by lunatics.

“We could contact Commander Travis first,” Osla began. “He’s living in Surrey now. He knows us, and with his connections, contact with MI-5 would—”

“No.” Beth cut her off. “No Travis, no MI-5. Not yet.”

Mab took her eyes off the road long enough to stare. “We need to regularize your position as soon as possible. We’ve already risked charges, breaking you out—”

“You put me there to begin with,” Beth flared.

The undercurrent that had been running through the Bentley snapped taut.

“Beth.” Osla reached to touch Beth’s hand where it rested on the backseat partition, then apparently thought better of it. “We didn’t know they were thinking of sending you to a sanitarium. If we’d known that when we were questioned—”