Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 10

Handing Calla her drink, the Gray Man wiped his palms on his slacks. The excellent teeth had vanished. “Colin Greenmantle was my employer.”

“He’s our new Latin teacher.”

“Oh, dear,” said Persephone. “Would you like a drink?”

Gansey realized she was talking to him. “Oh, no, thank you.”

“I need another one,” she said. “I’m making one for you, too, Mr. Gray.”

The Gray Man crossed to the window. His car, an unsubtle white Mitsubishi with an enormous spoiler, was parked outside, and both he and Ronan studied it pensively. After a very long moment, the Gray Man said, “He’s the man who asked me to kill Ronan’s father.”

Gansey knew that he could not be hurt by the casualness of the statement — Mr. Gray was a hit man, Niall Lynch had been his mark, he had not known Ronan then, and ethically Mr. Gray’s profession was probably no worse than a professional mercenary — but it did not change that Ronan’s father was dead. He reminded himself that the Gray Man had merely been the uncaring weapon. Greenmantle was the hand that wielded it.

Ronan, silent to this point, said, “I’m going to kill him.”

Gansey had a sudden, terrible vision of it: Ronan’s hands painted with blood, his eyes blank and unknowable, a corpse at his feet. It was a savage and unshakeable image, made worse because Gansey had seen enough of the pieces separately to know accurately how they’d appear added together.

The Gray Man turned swiftly.

“You will not,” he said, with as much force as Gansey had ever heard from him. “Do you hear me? You cannot.”

“Oh, can’t I?” Ronan asked. His voice was low and dangerous; infinitely more threatening than if he’d snarled his response.

“Colin Greenmantle is untouchable,” the Gray Man said. He spread his fingers wide, hand hanging in the air. “He is a spider clinging in a web. Every leg touches a thread, and if anything happens to the spider, hell rains down.”

Ronan said, “I already lived through hell.”

“You have no idea what hell is,” the Gray Man said, but not unkindly. “Do you think you’re the first son to want revenge? Do you think your father was the first he had killed? And yet Greenmantle is alive and untouched. Because we all know how it works. Before coming down here from Boston, he would have attached sixteen little threads to people like me, to computer programs, to bank accounts. The spider dies, the web twitches, suddenly your accounts are wiped clean, your younger brother becomes an amputee, your older brother dies behind the wheel of a car in D.C., Mrs. Gansey’s campaign immolates over faked scandalous photos, Adam’s scholarship vanishes, Blue loses an eye —”

“Stop,” Gansey said. He thought he might throw up. “Jesus, please stop.”

“I just want Ronan to understand that he cannot do anything stupid,” the Gray Man said. “To kill Greenmantle is to end your lives as you know it. And what good will revenge do you?”

“Says the killer,” Ronan said. Now his snarl was back, which meant he was hurting.

“Says the killer, yes, but I’m good at it,” Mr. Gray replied. “Even if he was not a spider in a dazzling web, would you be willing to go to prison for the satisfaction of killing him?”

Without a word, Ronan departed through the front door, slamming it. Gansey didn’t follow. He was torn between the impulse to mitigate Ronan’s pain and the one to let him stay hurt but cautious. Violence was a disease Gansey didn’t think he could catch. But all around him, his friends were slowly infected.

Persephone brought the Gray Man a drink; she had another one of her own. They knocked them back in unison.

“Want this?” Blue asked Gansey. She tipped the yogurt container to him so he could see that all that was left was the fruit in the bottom. He didn’t nod, but she brought it to him anyway, giving him her spoon. It had a grounding effect — the shocking slime of the blueberries, the sugar hitting his stomach, empty from school, the knowledge that her mouth had been the last thing to touch the spoon.

Blue watched him take the first bite and then turned quickly to Mr. Gray. “He’s the one who came for a reading last night, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” Mr. Gray said. “As I thought. And now he is teaching Latin to the boys.”

“Why?” Gansey asked. “Why us?”

“Not you,” Mr. Gray replied. “Me. Clearly, he didn’t believe my story of fleeing with the Greywaren. He came to this house looking for Maura, because he thinks she is important to me. He has infiltrated the school because he has found out that you and I are acquainted. He wants me to know he knows I am still here and he wants me to know how much he knows about my life here.”

“What do we do?” Gansey asked. He was beginning to feel like this day had been a mistake; this was not the real first day of school; he should have stayed in bed until tomorrow and tried again.

“He’s not your problem; he’s mine,” Mr. Gray said tersely.

“He’s in my school, every day. Ronan has to look at his face every day. How is that not my problem?”

Mr. Gray said, “Because it’s not you that he wants. I will address it. Your problem is to let me address it.”

Gansey sank to a crouch. He believed in Mr. Gray’s intention, but not the statement. If he had learned anything in the last year, it was that everything in this town was tangled up.

Calla took Mr. Gray’s wrist and slowly pretended to break his arm. Shaking his head a little, he traded with her, taking her palm in one hand and her wrist in the other. He turned it with slow precision. A few times, so she could see how he was doing it. There was something satisfying about watching him competently demonstrate this act of pretend violence, something controlled and beautiful, like a dance. Everything about his clean, muscled appearance and clean, intentional process said, I’ve got it under control. Where it stood for everything.

How badly Gansey wanted to let Greenmantle be the Gray Man’s problem. But again he saw that narrowing black tunnel and the pit, and at the bottom, a grave.

Calla cursed and held her shoulder.

“Sorry,” Mr. Gray said. To Gansey, “I’ll find out what he wants.”

“Don’t get killed,” Blue said immediately.

“I don’t intend to.”

Persephone finally spoke up in her tiny voice. “I think it’s good you’ve nearly found that king.”

Gansey realized she was speaking to him. “Have I?”

“Surely,” Calla said. “It’s taken you long enough.”


That night, not long after he returned from work, Adam heard a knock at his church apartment door. When he answered it, he was first surprised that the person on the other side was real, and then he was surprised that the person was Gansey and not Ronan.

“Oh,” he said. “It’s late.”

“I know.” Gansey was in his overcoat and his wireframes; he had clearly tried to sleep and failed. “I’m sorry. Have you done your calculus yet? I can’t get number four.”

He did not say the word Greenmantle. There was nothing more to say until they heard more from Mr. Gray.

“I have, but you can look at it.” Adam let Gansey in, sweeping the letter — the letter — behind the little shelf by the door as he did. Unlike Ronan, Gansey appeared out of place inside the apartment. The hipped ceiling cramped him more; the cracks in the plaster were etched more starkly; the utilitarian plastic bins containing Adam’s things seemed even more bereft of aesthetic charm. Gansey belonged with old things, but this place was not just old, but cheap.

The letter was hidden, yes? It was. Adam could feel the outline of it glowing from behind the shelf. Gansey would pity him and hire a lawyer and Adam would feel like dirt and then they would fight —

We will not fight.

Gansey tossed off his overcoat — beneath it, he was in a T-shirt and pajama pants, which was possibly the most metaphorical outfit Adam could imagine for his friend, unless he could manage to wear another overcoat beneath the T-shirt, and another set of pajamas beneath that second overcoat, so on and so on, an endless matryoshka of Ganseys — and cast himself onto the end of the bed.

“Mom called,” Gansey said. “Do I want to meet the governor the weekend after next because it would be great if I did and did I want to bring my friends? No, Mother, I would in fact not like that. Helen will be there! Yes, Mother, I assumed so but hardly consider it a plus, as I am worried she will kidnap Adam. Fine, fine, you don’t have to, I know you’re busy but oh dot dot dot et cetera et cetera. Oh, I forgot, I brought payment for my intrusion.”

He dragged his coat closer by the arm and retrieved two candy bars from the pocket. He chucked one onto Adam’s lap and peeled the other for himself.

Adam badly wanted to eat it, but he put it aside to eat during his break at work tomorrow evening. “It’ll keep me up.” He liked the notion that Gansey’s elegant older sister found him handsome. The impossibility of her rendered it merely a pleasant ego stroke. “Are you going?”

“I don’t know. If I do, will you come?”

Adam felt an instinctive pang of nerves. Muscle memory, from the last time he had traveled to a Gansey political event. “Better invite Blue, too. She reamed me out for not getting invited to the last one.”

Gansey blinked up, eyes startled behind his glasses. “Because I didn’t invite her?”

“No, me. But she’ll want to go. Trust me. She was something fearful.”

“I believe you. Oh, Jesus, I just imagined her meeting the governor. I have a slideshow of her questions playing in my head.”

Adam grinned. “He deserves all of them.”

Gansey ran a pencil down his homework, checking it against Adam’s, although Adam could see that he had done number four quite adequately before he arrived. Adam eyed the candy bar and rubbed the backs of his hands. Every winter they chapped hideously despite his best efforts, and they had already begun to dry. He realized the tapping had ceased, and when he looked up, he saw that Gansey was frowning into space.

“Everyone says, Just find Glendower,” Gansey said suddenly, “but all around me the cave walls are crumbling.”

It was not the cave walls that crumbled. Now that Adam had heard Gansey’s anxiety in the cave, he was acutely attuned to its reappearance now. He looked away to give Gansey a chance to compose himself and then he asked, “What does Malory say to do next?”

“He seems enthused about Giant’s Grave for no reason I can fathom.” Gansey had indeed taken the moment Adam granted him to carefully school his tone; anxiety transubstantiated to wry deprecation in an oft-practiced ritual. “He’s talking about visual cues and energy readings and how they all point there. How he adores our ley line, he says. He’s all starry-eyed over it.”

“You were once,” Adam reminded him. They both had been. How ungrateful they’d become, how greedy for better wonders.

Gansey tapped his pencil in wordless agreement.

In the quiet, Adam heard whispers from the direction of the bathroom. From experience, he knew they came from the water that dripped from the tap and that the language was gibberish to him. Ronan might have been able to identify a word or two; he had his puzzle box that translated whatever the old language was. But Adam still listened, waiting to hear if the voices would ascend or ebb, waiting to hear if the ley line was surging or if Cabeswater was trying to communicate.

He realized Gansey was looking at him, brow furrowed. Adam wasn’t sure what his expression had been or how long he had been focused on something Gansey couldn’t hear. From Gansey’s face, a while.

“Is Malory trapped in Monmouth all day?” Adam quickly asked.

Gansey’s face cleared. “I’ve given him the Suburban to drive around in. God help us; he drives like he walks. Oh, but I can tell he doesn’t like Monmouth.”

“Treason,” said Adam, because he knew it would please Gansey, and he saw that it did. “Where’s Ronan at?”

“To the Barns, he said.”

“You believe him?”

“Probably. He took Chainsaw,” Gansey said. “I don’t think he’ll mess with Greenmantle — Mr. Gray was very persuasive. And what else would he get into? Kavinsky’s dead, so — Jesus Christ, listen to me. Jesus Christ.”

The cave walls crumbled yet more; the ritual before had been imperfect. Gansey sat back against the wall and closed his eyes. Adam watched him swallow.

Again he heard Gansey’s voice in the cave.

“It’s okay,” Adam said. He did not care that Joseph Kavinsky was dead, but he liked that Gansey did. “I know what you meant.”

“No, it’s not. It’s disgusting of me.” Gansey didn’t open his eyes. “Everything has gotten so ugly. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”

Everything had begun ugly for Adam, but he knew what Gansey meant. His noble and oblivious and optimistic friend was slowly opening his eyes and seeing the world for what it was, and it was filthy, and violent, and profane, and unfair. Adam had always thought that was what he wanted — for Gansey to know. But now he wasn’t sure. Gansey wasn’t like anyone else, and suddenly Adam wasn’t sure that he really wanted him to be.

“Here,” Adam said, standing, fetching their history text. “Do the reading. Out loud. I’ll take notes.”

An hour passed this way, Gansey reading out loud in his lovely old voice, and Adam jotting in his overambitious hand, and when Gansey reached the end of the assignment, he closed the text carefully and set it on the upside-down plastic bin Adam used as a bedside table.

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