Afterlife Page 58

“Next time Mrs. Bethany’s going to have people there waiting for them,” Dana said, shaking her head. “Black Cross knows that. If they ever run 154 into Lucas again, they’ll turn on him in an instant, but they wouldn’t target Riverton after failing there the first time.”

“Then that works. Maybe you could come to Riverton again, Dana. Lucas — !think he thinks you wouldn’t want to see him.”

“That boy never did have any sense.” Dana’s scowl told me that she loved Lucas as much as ever. ;’Name the day. We’ll get there.”

I took in our surroundings for the first time — a cheap but comfortable hotel room, with enough clutter around to show that they’d been here for a while. Saving up money for private accommodations was impossible in Black Cross, where any money was supposed to belong to the group rather than the individual. “So, you guys really did it. You left Black Cross for good.”

“Not like we had much choice in the matter after we’ d fired at Kate,” Raquel said. For the first time, she met my eyes without flinching. “But we’d do it again in a heartbeat.” Then she winced, obviously afraid that was a tactless thing to say to a dead person.

Dana sighed. “We started having doubts after what they did to you two in New York. Then, when they turned on Lucas in Philadelphia — that was the breaking point. We lit out a couple weeks ago. Holed up here, but we’ll find a real place sometime. We’re making minimum wage and feeling fine.”

“We might be eating ramen,” Raquel added, “but we’re eating.”

A weird silence fell in the room. I began, “Raquel, I actually came here to talk to you.”

“I’m sorry.” Raquel was trembling, but she got out of bed. She wore a beat — up old T — shirt and sweatpants — and of course the leather bracelet, the one I remembered so well it had possessed the power to draw me here. “Bianca, I’m so, so sorry. You’ll never know how … forget it, how I feel doesn’t matter. You were a good friend to me, and I should’ve protected you, and I didn’t. I suck. If you want to haunt me or — or whatever, I know I deserve it.”

I hadn’t realized how much I needed to hear that. But there were also things I needed to say. “I lied to you. I had my reasons, but still. If I’d told you the truth in the right way, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.”

“That doesn’t excuse what I did,” Raquel said, her voice shaky. She kept balling her hands into fists, so worked up that it startled me. “You could’ve been killed. I mean, killed killed. You know what I mean. When I realized what they were going to do — if I had known that, I would never have told. Not ever.”

“I know. I always knew that, I think. Besides, you guys came through for Lucas when it mattered the most. That’s the main thing.”

As I smiled unevenly at Raquel, she tried to smile back. The weight of her old betrayal hung between us, but lighter somehow than it had been before. It was going to take more time to heal, but at least now it was all out in the open. We were back on the same side. Everything else, I decided, could heal over time.

“I didn’t come here to talk to you about that, actually,” I said.

That caught Raquel up short. After glancing at an equally bewildered Dana, she said, “Then why are you here?”

“The wraith who haunted your old house,” I said, bracing myself for what was to come. “The one who hurt you.” Raquel’s dark eyes searched mine, as if pleading with me not to bring up anything that painful. “What about it?”

“We’re going to take care of him — for good.”

As it happened, Dana and Raquel were living in a suburb of Boston, not terribly far from where Raquel had grown up. Also, when they’d left, they’d taken one of the Black Cross vans with them.

“Some might call it stealing,” Dana said cheerfully as we piled into the old van, which smelled like gunpowder and Fritos. “But seeing as how Black Cross stole it from a dead vampire in the first place, I think of it as repurposing the vehicle. Sounds nicer, don’t you think?”

“Looks like you repurposed some weapons, too.” I glanced over the armory in the back. “Stakes, holy water, and … is that a flamethrower?”

“You never know when one will come in handy,” Raquel said, and I had to smile.

Our joking around didn’t last for long, though. The closer we got to the house, the tenser Raquel became. She had shotgun in front; I was the phantom in the backseat. “How is this going to work?” she asked.

“It’s pretty simple: I sort of didn’t mention I hadn’t done this before. No need to add to her nervousness, right? “We just need a mirror. Does 156 one of you guys have a compact? You know, for powder, makeup?”

We were at a stoplight, which was why both Dana and Raquel were able to turn around and stare at me. After a second, Dana said, “Hi, have we met?”

“Okay, no makeup in the car,” I said. “But we have to get a mirror.”

A quick stop at an all — night drugstore yielded one powder compact. Although I had more substance than not, getting through the packaging was difficult for me, so I let Raquel handle it. She tore at the paper and plastic, hands shaky, making way more of a mess than necessary.

“I haven’t talked to them in a long time,” she said, prying the compact out. “And now I’m just going to show up at two a.m. and be all, hey, remember that ghost you said doesn’t exist?”

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