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“Thin enough to see through,” Sally said. She was standing slowly now, and she seemed calmer than she had since Trix had first laid eyes on her. A tension had gone from her face, and her pose seemed more relaxed. “So she told you about the crossing points?”

“Veronica? Yeah. She said there were places where Uniques could cross between Bostons. The thin places worried her. Thought they meant the Bostons were reintegrating.”

“Just what she wants,” Sally said.

“She said it was easy for us to see, and she told us how.” Trix looked from the corner of her eye, turning in a slow circle, but then shook her head in confusion.

“You won’t see the three Bostons here,” Sally said. “Well, mostly not. Walk with me, and I’ll tell you where we are.”

“You said we’re safe here?” Trix asked.

Sally smiled, with little humor. “Walk with me.”

They moved through the cemetery, away from the entrance gate and the fence lining the boundary wall. It grew darker as they walked, but never so dark that Trix couldn’t see their surroundings. She looked left and right, still trying to catch those shadows that seemed to dance in her peripheral vision. She remembered entering this Boston through Thomas McGee’s ruined room, and how she and Jim had seen the three versions of Boston co-existing, once Veronica had told them how.

But this was something different.

“Special place,” Sally said, waving her hand to indicate the whole cemetery. “You’ll find this cemetery in each Boston, looking the same, with the same people buried here. It’s one of the oldest untouched places in all three Bostons—well, in two now. The Shadow Men from your Boston won’t be able to track you here. Whatever mark Veronica put on you—and I’ll work out exactly what that was soon enough—will be confused. There’s static between worlds, and it bleeds through here. It’ll confuse them.”

“They didn’t seem easily confused,” Trix said.

“In this form they’re drones, that’s all, dancing to Veronica’s song, but here they won’t hear it. I doubt they’ll wander within half a mile of here. The cemetery is unique.”

“Like me?” Trix asked.

“Not quite,” Sally said after a slight pause.

“What do you mean, ‘in this form’?”

“Let’s save the Q & A until we get you clear of her influence,” Sally said, and Trix didn’t argue. There was nothing she wanted more.

They passed rows of graves and tombs that cast uncertain shadows. The city was more alive than ever around them as rescue and recovery operations got under way, and that made the silence in the cemetery even more haunting. And when they approached a grave in the center of a path—the tombstone sprouting somewhere it should not have been—Trix felt a chill pass through her, and she asked, “What have you brought me here to see?”

But Sally did not answer that, and as they drew close enough to read the name on the stone, Trix found she could no longer swallow.

“Not you,” Sally said quietly. “This place is much older than that.” She stopped, hesitated, and then turned to Trix and grasped her hands. “This is the grave of a dead Oracle,” Sally said. “A Unique, of course, because we have to be. And it’s the only grave in the cemetery that doesn’t exist in each Boston.” She waved a hand at the bench, then walked past, dismissing the scene.

“So if Oracles can die, why haven’t the Bostons collided before today? You haven’t been Oracle for long, and there must be more who’ve died, in this Boston and the others.”

“An Oracle always knows when his or her time is coming, and so does the city. They both have time to prepare, look for a replacement.”

“But Peter O’Brien was murdered,” Trix said, understanding perhaps a little.

“Not only that. Those things Veronica sent …” Sally actually shivered, and Trix saw it in the darkness. She remembered the girl summoning her No-Face Men from the basement floor of her home, and her triumphant cry, and she wondered how much that had cost her. “They ripped out his soul and dragged it into the In-Between. Tore out the heart of the city. That was enough.”

They hurried on, and Trix wished there was some way she could reach Jim. She needed to talk to him, hear his voice, and tell him what was happening. Her cell phone had been smashed in the quake, and if they hadn’t had the sense knocked out of them by events, they would have bought new phones. But shopping had been the last thing on their minds. Besides, she suspected that tonight of all nights, the networks would be jammed. She hoped that he’d found Jenny and Holly by now. Hoped that they were safe, and uninjured by the cataclysm, and untouched by Veronica’s wraiths.

“We’re here,” the little girl said.

“Where?” Trix glanced around. They were at a corner of the cemetery, bounded by two tall buildings. There was a square paved area with several benches spaced around the edges and a small water fountain at the center. The fountain was not working. Small trees grew here, their shadows cast across the paving stones from weak floodlights fixed to the walls of one of the buildings.

“A focus point,” Sally said. “A place where the city’s power is at its greatest. It’ll help me do what I need to do to you.”

“Veronica’s mark.” Sally nodded. “Will it hurt?”

“I hope not,” the girl said, and Trix thought, You and me both.

She didn’t understand any of this. She’d been made aware of her Boston’s Oracle by her grandmother, but that didn’t mean that she’d even come close to understanding anything about her. Perhaps understanding would come later.

“So what happens?” she asked.

Sally walked to the center of the small paved square and pointed at her feet. “First, you come and sit here.”

It did not hurt.

Trix tried talking to Sally to begin with, asking her about the cemetery and the locus of power, and how it couldn’t have been a coincidence that they were in the same place, but the girl seemed unwilling to comment and most of the time did not even appear to listen. So then Trix started thinking about Jim, and Jenny, and Holly, and how likely it was that all of them would make it back to their Boston alive. The reality of what they were going through fucked with her senses, and a voice kept whispering, Unique, Unique. She could not decide whether her situation made her someone special, or a freak of nature that allowed what was happening.

Because nature had to allow it. Trix was no believer in God, and had always found the whole idea of a supreme being, sin, guilt, and worship troubling. If He’s there, He should let me know had always been her answer to devout friends. But at the same time, she had always acknowledged the wondrousness of nature, the incredible things that the universe contained and did, and the many facts that humanity, in its arrogance, still did not know. She was a follower of popular science, and well aware that the existence of the multiverse was now considered a valid theory rather than being confined to the realms of science fiction. What was happening here was something familiar to the universe. She and Jim had simply stumbled upon it.

How much more does Sally know? she wondered. The possibilities were chilling. Perhaps, if this was ever over, she’d ask.

“I need to touch you,” Sally said. “Your head, your neck. While I’m doing that, think about Veronica. Did she touch you at all? Is there a moment you can recall with her when you felt … unusual, or unsettled? As if you were experiencing déjà vu, or someone was walking over your grave?”

“After this I might walk over my own, and see how it feels.”

“It won’t feel good,” Sally said, and then she placed her hands on Trix’s shoulders.

“What about Jenny and Holly?” Trix asked.

“Soon.” For the first time Sally sounded like a little girl—scared, uncertain, confused. Trix resisted the temptation to look around at the Oracle’s face. She was terrified herself, and now that she’d found this girl who seemed to possess some kind of understanding and an ability to counteract what was happening, she wanted to hold on to it.

“Anything?” Sally whispered.

“She gave us tea and cookies.”

“Ahh,” Sally said, smiling. “Cookies.” And she moved her hands from Trix’s shoulders down to her stomach.

It was as if she’d swallowed the coldest, sweetest drink imaginable—a blend of liquid nitrogen and chemical sweetener. And yet she’d swallowed nothing at all.

“You might have a bit of an upset stomach for a while,” Sally said.

“No kidding,” Trix said. She groaned as she stood, and already the girl was walking away. “Hey, where are you going?”

“Away from the static,” Sally said. “And I’ve got to stand on a road. Veronica’s Shadow Men can’t track you anymore, so now it’s time to find the woman and the child.”

“But Jim?”

“They can track him, yes.”

“Then we have to—”

“The woman and child are the priority,” Sally said. She was standing beneath a tree, and she looked like a lost little girl, but Trix knew that was far from the truth.

“So you can send your own mark back with them,” she said.

“Both of them, yes. And you, if you’ll let me.”

“And how will you mark us?”

“I have my means. Better than that old bitch’s methods. I mean, cookies? Seriously?” She shook her head, glanced at Trix, then nodded into the darkness. “Come on. Lots to do.”

Trix could only follow.

When they reached the cemetery gates, Sally paused, remaining in the shadows as she scanned the street.

“I thought you said they couldn’t track me anymore?” Trix asked.

“They might have followed, then waited after they lost you.”

“Oh, great.”

But there were no Shadow Men in the street. It was silent, the buildings dark and still, bearing mute witness to the chaos in the rest of the city. Sirens serenaded the darkness, and Trix wondered how bad it had been, how high the death toll. And she couldn’t help thinking of that old lady who had helped her grandmother, and who said she’d help Jim, but who in fact had set the seeds for terrible destruction. How could an Oracle be so brutal? But she looked at Sally and realized that she didn’t know the girl at all. Appearances, she had already learned, could be deceptive.

“Their names,” Sally said, and she passed through the gate and walked to the center of the road.

Trix glanced left and right for traffic, then stood on the sidewalk.

Sally sighed impatiently. “Roads are the city’s arteries. People travel along them. It’s the traveling that helps me see, the floating of souls from here to there, the movement of life. I could find them sitting in my dark basement, maybe. But the city’s in turmoil tonight.”

“But if a car comes—”

“No car is coming. Their names.” The girl’s voice had lost all trace of childhood, even its timbre and tone bearing the weary cynicism of someone thirty years older.

“Holly and Jenny Banks.”

“Come here, hold my hand, and picture them for me.” Sally was kneeling, right hand pressed to the road’s surface, left hand held up ready for Trix to grasp it. Any other time, Trix might have laughed at how ridiculous this was. But it would take a lot to make her laugh tonight.

So she pictured Jenny and Holly, and concentrating on her lost friends suddenly seemed to drive everything else away. She remembered Holly’s soft child’s laughter, her innocent beauty, and the way nothing really seemed to bother her. And she remembered beautiful, intelligent Jenny, and how the awkwardness made them closer friends rather than pushing them apart. Her eyes misted, and as she wiped a tear away, Sally sighed in frustration.

“Turmoil,” she said. “Fuck it, then—just the mother. I can’t concentrate on two. Just think of Jenny Banks.”

Trix looked down at the girl and wondered what people would think if they saw them. But no one would see them, she knew, and no traffic would come. This silent street was unnatural in a city so shaken, and perhaps the girl had cast some subtle, strange ward to give herself the time and peace she needed.

She’s at war, Trix thought, the idea shocking but fitting. Those No-Faces and Shadow Men had been savage as they’d fought each other. She had no wish to witness more of their efforts. So she thought only of Jenny, and moments later Sally’s eyes snapped open.

“I have her,” she said. “Leaving a restaurant called—”

“Junction 58,” Trix said.

The girl glanced up. “This world’s Jenny.”

“You’re sure?”

“I found her too quickly. Your Jenny will be more … fuzzy. Think some more, something about her that’s personal to you. You’re Unique, so your thoughts will apply only to your Jenny.”

My Jenny, Trix thought, closing her eyes, and the more she tried to avoid the gentle love she felt for Jenny, the more it came to the fore. So she went with it, remembering uncomfortable stares and glib comments meant as jokes, but hiding something more serious. Jenny and Jim knew, and Trix knew that Jenny was flattered and touched. But she’d always kept secret just how much her feelings sometimes fucked her up inside.

It took longer this time, and at several points Sally squeezed her hand so hard that her finger bones grated together.

“Marlborough Street,” the girl breathed, and Trix gasped and let go.

“Where on Marlborough Street?”

“Across from a church … in my Boston, before the collision, it was the First Lutheran,” Sally said, standing and looking at Trix. “You know that place?”