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“No,” Sally had replied. “What’s left of McGee—whatever he’s become—has seen you now.”

“I’d fight him.” Anne had pursed her lips, her cheeks glowing red, and even Trix’s soft touch had done little to quell her shaking.

“And you’d lose,” Sally had said. “He’s not our enemy. He’s not the threat. His crime happened more than a century ago, and he was its first victim. Whatever he is now, I don’t think there’s much of Thomas McGee left in him.”

So they walked, and Jim wished it was all over. He could not let go of his wife, and he wanted to hold his daughter to him, but it was impossible to walk holding them both. So he gave Holly a piggyback ride and got Jenny to curve her arm through his. Soon Holly was snoring gently on his right shoulder, and he felt the sting of tears at that gentle, innocent sound. “How could she be such a bitch?” he asked out loud, and Jenny shook her head because she didn’t know what he meant. But Trix did.

“I can still hardly believe it,” Trix said. “After what she did for my family. What she’s done for so many.”

“You can’t purge your sins with good deeds,” Sally said.

“So what are we going to do to her?” Jim asked. Before, his desire had been for revenge, payback for what Veronica had done to Jenny and Holly—using them as objects, disregarding their humanity, and causing the disaster he walked through even now. But now, with his family back, gentler emotions had swallowed his rage. He still hated her for what she had done, but the thought of perpetrating violence on the old woman—whoever and whatever she might be—was horrible.

Still, he wasn’t the only person here. And Anne’s anger glowed like a beacon.

“What happens to her will be her choice as much as my own,” Sally said. “But you know I can’t go through with you, don’t you?”

“Of course,” Jim said. “But you Oracles … you don’t need to be there to get things done.”

As they crossed Boston, the closeness of his family—he included Trix in that circle now, and Anne as well—inspired conflicting thoughts. He felt stronger than ever before, and able to face any and all dangers that could be thrown their way. But he also felt incredibly vulnerable. He had gone through so much to save his family, the idea of something happening to them now …

He heard Jennifer’s screams, and knew he always would. She knew we were running, knew she was doing it to make time for us, and she’d have done her very best not to scream. How terrible it must have been.

It took them almost two hours to walk the two miles to Hanover Street. They crossed Boston Common, where thousands of displaced people had set up temporary shelters, and relief agencies were busy erecting tents and treatment areas. There were tears, but there were also children running between the tents playing hide-and-seek, teens playing soccer, and many groups of people had joined forces to prepare and hand out food and water. Spirits were generally high, but Jim knew that would not last longer than a couple of days.

None of them had any true idea about the level of destruction wrought on the city, or the death toll. That was for afterward. For now, they still had more than one world to consider.

Holly snored, and Jim wondered what was going on in her mind. Veronica wants your daughter dead because she’s the next Oracle of Boston, the redheaded kid had told them. That gave Jim and his family’s future a whole new landscape—but it was something else he was desperate not to think about right now.

When they finally found themselves closing on Veronica’s house, Sally called a halt and gathered them together in front of a tall townhouse. “Right,” she said, and told them what to do.

“I won’t let you go. I can’t lose you again.”

Trix and Anne faced each other. They had spoken at the same time. On any other occasion that might have made them smile, but not now.

“No,” Trix said. “Just … no. If anything happens to me through there, you’ll be stuck, and it’s a different world, and—”

“Is it?” Anne asked.

“Yes,” Trix said. And it was a different world. One where she and Jenny were best friends, but nothing more, except in her own guilty dreams. A world where Anne had never existed and could never live. Over there—back where Trix had come from—she hoped to find that everything was still normal, hoped that bringing Jenny and Holly back would weave them into the fabric of that world again.

And yet …

“I’ll see you again,” Trix said.

Anne’s eyes opened wider, and she swallowed hard.

“I’m coming back,” Trix said. “I promise you that.”

“A promise isn’t enough,” Anne said. “Nothing’s enough. I’ve lost you once already, Trix. I buried you and buried myself in grief, and I can’t go through that again.”

The others were milling, speaking in low voices while Trix said her good-byes. She caught Sally’s gaze over Anne’s shoulder, and the little girl nodded. Maybe she really can read my mind, Trix thought. Sally crossed the sidewalk and held Anne’s hand. “She’s right,” Sally said, not quite able to sound like a little girl. “You can’t go. But Trix is Unique. She can come back.”

Anne lowered her gaze, muttering something.

“What’s that?” Trix asked.

Anne lifted her eyes and Trix saw the tears streaming down her face. “Will you want to? Once you’re back to your old life and everything is normal again, maybe you’ll forget all about me. Maybe you’ll just be happy things are the way they’re supposed to be, and—”

Trix silenced her with a kiss, her own tears falling as she twined her fingers in Anne’s hair. Then she broke the kiss, reluctantly. She pressed her forehead against Anne’s and looked into her eyes. “You don’t get it, do you?” Trix whispered. “This … in my heart, this is the way things were always supposed to be.”

Anne smiled, wiping her tears. “I bet you say that to all the girls.”

Trix could have made a joke out of it, but she didn’t even return Anne’s smile. “No,” she promised. “Never.”

Anne took a shuddering breath, then nodded. She would go along with Sally’s plan. “You make this work,” she told Trix. Then she looked at the others. “All of you. Take care of each other.”

Jim put his arms around his wife and daughter. “We always have.”

Trix kissed Anne’s forehead. “We’ll try our best not to die.”

Anne hit her. “That’s not funny.”

“No,” Sally agreed. “It’s not.”

The young Oracle closed her eyes and muttered something, words lost beneath the roar of a police cruiser passing by. Anne’s eyes widened in surprise as her No-Face Man slipped from her and flickered in the sunlight, fading quickly to nothing as it obeyed Sally’s careful orders. “You won’t need him anymore,” Sally said.

Trix held Anne as she slumped slightly. Anne sighed as she realized she was only herself again.

“I love you,” Trix whispered. And Anne relaxed before letting her go, because that seemed to have made everything all right.

It should have been impossible for her to fall in love so fast—in a single day, only hours, really—but in a fundamental way, she had been in love with this woman for many years. Thomas McGee might have done something monstrous, and become a monster in the process, but the splintering of the city had also given both Trix and Anne second chances at the love they’d always wanted.

“Remember,” Sally said, “the only way is to fool her. Holly goes forward. You’re offering her.”

“She’ll never believe that,” Jim said.

“It’ll confuse her long enough for you to tackle her.”

“And then?”

“And then kill her.”

They shuffled their feet, none of them wanting to catch another’s eye.

“That’s just nasty,” Holly said at last.

Trix sighed and looked around. The street was relatively undamaged other than smashed glass and a few fallen tiles. People walked here and there with shopping bags, panic-buying food and drink. Others stood on their stoops and watched the world go by, perhaps counting their blessings. What would they think of this strange group of scruffy, serious people?

“Gotta be done,” Trix said softly. Though her voice was strong, she had no idea if she could do what Sally asked.

“So these things in us?” Jim asked.

“I’ve already instructed them,” Sally said. “When it’s over, they leave. One way or another.”

“Thanks for your vote of confidence,” Jim said. But Sally’s awkward smile made him realize something—she was socially inept, even for a girl of her age. She might be the Oracle, but that meant she would never be normal. Relationships were her work, in many ways, but she could never have one of her own. She was doomed to a life alone. It made him fear for Holly, and wonder whether there had been Oracles in the past who had managed to have love in their lives.

“Good luck,” Sally said, and she turned and walked away.

“Sally,” Jim said. The girl paused and turned around, and Trix had a sudden, shattering sense of déjà vu. She remembered watching a program once with Jim and Jenny about the discovery of the concentration camps in Germany and Poland. It had been a moment of pure immersion, when the camera had focused on a young girl walking behind a wire fence. She had paused and turned to look at the camera, and even that seventy-year-old footage had done nothing to lessen that girl’s haunting, hopeless expression. Who is she where is she now is she still alive? Trix had thought, and it had become a preoccupation of hers to find out. She never had, and she often dreamed of that little girl, still standing there staring through a fence, waiting to be discovered. Sally reminded her of that little girl now—eyes deepened by exhaustion, mouth slack, her skin wan and ashy.

“It’ll be okay!” Trix said. Sally glanced at her and smiled, and Trix thought perhaps she’d found that little girl at last.

“I’ll be watching from here,” Sally said, “but you’ll be a world away. I don’t have to stand here and watch.” She tapped her foot on the sidewalk and looked down at the tinkle of broken glass. “Besides, I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied now. So many who need my help.”

They watched her leave.

“So, what’re you waiting for?” Anne asked. She sat on a fire hydrant, arms crossed, head tilted to one side. “Get it done, and get your cute ass back here.”

Holly giggled. Even Jenny managed a soft laugh and said, “That’s not something I ever thought I’d say.”

“Don’t know what you’re missing,” Anne said, and winked at her. The two women, facets of each other, smiled conspiratorially.

“So?” Trix said. She looked from Jim to Jenny to Holly and felt a rush of love.

“So,” Jim said. And as they walked along the street toward Veronica’s house, even Holly was silent, because the unspoken truth hung heavy around them.

If they were successful, today would end with a woman dead by their hands.

“We need to go upstairs to your bedroom,” Trix said, and the man’s expression barely changed. Behind him in the hallway stood another version of him, slightly plumper, longer-haired, but wearing the same shell-shocked expression. As both wives peered from the living room doorway, Trix began to really understand how fundamentally everything here had changed. Her Boston was still safe and sound, ignorant in its single existence of anything so surreal as what she was witnessing right now. But here, everything was different. The earthquake had not only taken lives, it had shattered them as well. The two worlds where these merged Bostons had once been different were forever changed. How would people overcome such a shock? How could they?

But then she saw the two teenaged girls coming giggling down the stairs, and she thought maybe it would be fine after all.

“You two again!” one of the girls said.

“You know these people?” the other girl asked.

“Sure. Well. Not really. But they were in our house, and Dad scared them off.”

“I like your hair,” the other girl said.

“Thanks,” Trix said. “Er …” This was becoming more surreal by the moment, and when the women started berating their daughters, that only increased.

“Really,” Holly said, “we need to do what Auntie Trix says. Otherwise my daddy says it might all happen again, and then there might be three of you. Or maybe there won’t be any.”

“You need to what?” the man said.

“Upstairs,” Jim said over Trix’s shoulder.

“Why?” the other man said.

“There’s …” Trix gave what she hoped was her best smile, unsure how her grubby, bruised face would present it.

“It’s something to do with the ghost, isn’t it?” the man asked. He nodded wisely. “I knew it the first time I saw you. The ghost.”

“What ghost?” Trix asked.

“We’ve never used the room,” he said. He turned to his longer-haired twin. “Have you?”

The man shook his head slowly. “Never liked it. Always felt weird. And smelled.”

“Cotton candy,” Trix said, and everyone facing her—the four adults, the two girls—knew what she was saying.

The man stood back from the doorway, his motion inviting them to enter. Trix went first, then Holly, and Jim and Jenny followed. “What’s happening?” he asked softly as Trix passed. She saw in his eyes the doubt and fear that he had been trying to hide from his family.