Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 25

The Dog did not look sorry.

Malory continued, “It is not the outside of people that bothers me, but the inside. Ever since I was a child, I have been able to see auras, or what-have-you. Personhood. And if the person —”

“Wait, did you say you could see auras?”

“Jane, I didn’t expect you to be judgmental, of all people.”

Blue was well familiar with the idea of auras — energy fields that surrounded all living objects. Orla had gone through a period in her teens of telling everyone what their auras said about them. She had told Blue that her aura had meant she was short. She had been a pretty awful teenager.

“I wasn’t judging!” she assured Malory. “I was clarifying. This relates to the Dog because …?”

“Because when people are too close to me, their auras touch me, and if too many auras touch me, it confuses me and makes me what doctors have foolishly called anxious. Doctors! Fools. I don’t know if Gansey ever told you how my mother was murdered by the British healthcare system —”

“Oh, yes,” Blue lied swiftly. She was very interested in hearing about how Malory saw auras, which was firmly in her circle of interests, and less interested in hearing about deaths of mothers, which was decidedly outside of her circle of interests.

“It’s a shocking story,” Malory said, with some relish. Then, because of Blue’s face or stature, he told her the story. He finished with, “And I could see her aura slowly vanish. So you see, this is how I know that Gwenllian belongs in a place like this.”

Blue dragged an expression back onto her face. “Hold on. What? I missed something in here.”

“Her aura is like yours — it’s blue,” he said. “The clairvoyant aura!”

“Is it?” She was going to be extremely annoyed if this was how she had gotten her name — like naming a puppy Fluffy.

“That color of aura belongs to those who can pierce the veil!”

She decided that telling him that she couldn’t, in fact, pierce the veil would only prolong the conversation.

“It’s why I was originally drawn to Gansey,” Malory continued. “Despite his mercurial personality, he has a very pleasant and neutral aura. I don’t feel like I am with another person when I am with him. He doesn’t take from me. He is a little louder now, but not very much.”

Blue had only a very limited understanding of what mercurial meant, and that limited understanding was having a very bad time of trying to apply it to Gansey. She asked, “What was he like, back then?”

“They were glorious days,” Malory replied. Then, after a pause, he added, “Except for when they weren’t. He was smaller then.”

The way he said smaller made it seem as if he wasn’t talking about height, and Blue thought she knew what he meant.

Malory continued, “He was still trying to prove that he hadn’t just hallucinated. He was still quite obsessed with the event itself. He seems to have grown out of that, fortunate for him.”

“The event — the stinging? The death, I mean?”

“Yes, Jane, the death. He puzzled it over all the time. He was always drawing bees and hornets and stuff-and-such. Got screaming nightmares over it — he had to get his own place, since I couldn’t sleep with it, as you might well imagine. Sometimes these fits would happen during the day, too. We’d just be toddling through some riding path in Leicestershire and next thing I knew he’d be on the ground clawing his face like a mental patient. I let him be, though, and he’d run his course and be fine like nothing had happened.”

“How terrible,” whispered Blue. She imagined that easy smile Gansey had learned to throw up over his true face. With shame, she recalled how she had once wondered what would have made a boy like him, a boy with everything, ever learn such a skill. How unfair she’d been to assume love and money would preclude pain and hardship. She thought of their disagreement in the car the night before with some guilt.

Malory hadn’t seemed to hear her. “Such a researcher, though. Such a keen nose for hidden things. You can’t train that! You have to be born with it.”

She heard Gansey’s voice in the cave, hollow and afraid: “Hornets.”

She shivered.

“Of course, then he just went one day,” Malory mused.

“What?” Blue focused abruptly.

“I should not have been surprised,” the professor said in an offhand voice. “I knew he was a great traveler. But we were not truly done researching, I thought. We had a bit of a toss-up, patched it up. But then, one morning, he was just gone.”

“Gone how?”

The Dog had climbed onto Malory’s chest and now licked his chin. Malory didn’t push him away. “Oh, gone. His things, his bags. He left much of it behind, what he didn’t need. But he never returned. It was months before he called me again, like nothing had happened.”

It was hard to imagine Gansey abandoning anything that way. All around him were things he clung to ferociously. “He didn’t leave a note, or anything?”

“Just gone,” Malory said. “After that, his family called me sometimes, trying to find out where he’d gone.”

“His family?” She felt like she was being told a story about a different person.

“Yes, I told them what I could, of course. But I didn’t really know. It was Mexico before he came to me, then Iceland after, I think, before the States. I doubt I know the half of it still. He picked himself up and moved so easily, so quickly. He had done it so many times before England, Jane, and it was old hat to him.”

Past conversations were slowly realigning in Blue’s head, taking on new shades of meaning as they did. She recalled one charged night on the side of a mountain, looking down at Henrietta lit like a fairy village. Home, he’d said, like it pained him. Like he couldn’t believe it.

It wasn’t exactly like the story Malory had just told conflicted with the Gansey she knew. It was more like the Gansey she’d seen was a partial truth.

“It was cowardice and stupidity,” Gansey said from the doorway. He leaned on the doorjamb, hands in pockets, as he often did. “I didn’t like good-byes, so I just abstained, and I didn’t think about the consequences.”

Blue and Malory both peered at him. It was impossible to tell how long he’d been standing there.

“It’s very decent of you,” he continued, “to not say anything about it to me. It’s more than I deserved. But know that I’ve regretted it, a lot.”

“Well,” said Malory. He seemed profoundly uncomfortable. The Dog looked away. “Well. What is the verdict on your cavewoman?”

Gansey put a mint leaf in his mouth; it was impossible to not think of the night before, when he’d put one in hers. “She stays here, for now. That wasn’t me, that was Persephone. I offered to fix the first floor of Monmouth. That might still end up being what happens.”

“Who is she?” Blue asked. She tried the name: “Gwenllian.” She wasn’t saying it right — the double lls were not said anything like they looked.

“Glendower had ten children with his wife, Margaret. And at least four … not with her.” Gansey said this part with distaste; it was clear that he didn’t find this fitting for his hero. “Gwenllian is one of the four illegitimate on record. It’s a patriotic name. There were two other very famous Gwenllians who were associated with Welsh freedom.”

There was something else he wanted to say, but he didn’t. It meant it was unpleasant or ugly. Blue said, “Spit it out, Gansey. What is it?”

He said, “The way she was buried — the tomb door had Glendower on it, and so did the coffin lid. Not an image of her. We can ask her, though getting real information out of her is quite a thing, but it seems likely to me that she was buried in a shill grave.”

“What’s that?”

“Sometimes when there’s a very rich grave, or a very important one, they’ll put a duplicate grave somewhere nearby, but easier to find, to give grave robbers something to find.”

Blue was scandalized. “His own daughter?”

“Illegitimate,” Gansey said, but he was unhappy as he did. “You heard her. As punishment for something. It is all so distasteful. I am starving. Where did Par — Adam and Ronan go?”

“To get supplies for Gwenllian.”

He looked at his enormous and handsome watch with an enormous and puzzled frown. “Has it been long?”

She made a face. “Ish?”

“What do we do now?” Gansey asked.

From the other room, Calla bellowed, “GO BUY US PIZZA. WITH EXTRA CHEESE, RICHIE RICH.”

Blue said, “I think she’s starting to like you.”


Ronan drove back to St. Agnes. Adam thought he meant to go to Adam’s apartment above the church office, but when they got out at the street, Ronan veered off and headed to the main entrance of the church itself.

Although Adam lived above the church, he had not been inside it since he’d moved into his apartment. The Parrishes had never been churchgoers, and although Adam himself suspected there might be a God, he also suspected it didn’t matter.

“Lynch,” he said as Ronan opened the door to the dusky sanctuary. “I thought we were going to talk.”

Ronan dipped his fingers into the holy water and touched his forehead. “It’s empty.”

But the church didn’t feel empty. It was claustrophobic with the scent of incense, vases of foreign lilies, reams of white cloth, the broken gaze of a sorrowing Christ. It bled with stories Adam didn’t know, rituals he would never do, connections he would never share. It was dense with a humming sort of history that made him feel light-headed.

Ronan hit Adam’s arm with the back of his hand. “Come on.”

He walked along the back of the dim church and opened a door to a steep staircase. At the top, Adam found himself on a hidden balcony populated by two pews and a pipe organ. A statue of Mary — probably Mary? — held its hands out to him, but that was because she didn’t know him. Then again, she entreated Ronan, too, and she probably did know him. A few small candles burned at her feet.

“The choir sits up here,” Ronan said, sitting at the organ. Without warning, he played a terrifically loud and shockingly sonorous fragment.

“Ronan!” hissed Adam. He looked at Mary, but she didn’t seem bothered.

“I told you. No one’s here.” When Ronan saw that Adam still did not believe, he explained, “It’s confession day up in Woodville, and they share our priest. This is when Matthew used to have his organ lessons because no one would be around to care how bad he sucked.”

Adam finally sat down on one of the pews. Laying his cheek against the smooth back of it, he looked at Ronan. Strangely enough, Ronan belonged here, too, just as he had at the Barns. This noisy, lush religion had created him just as much as his father’s world of dreams; it seemed impossible for all of Ronan to exist in one person. Adam was beginning to realize that he hadn’t known Ronan at all. Or rather, he had known part of him and assumed it was all of him.

The scent of Cabeswater, all trees after rain, drifted past Adam, and he realized that while he’d been looking at Ronan, Ronan had been looking at him.

“So, Greenmantle,” he said, and Ronan looked away.

“Fucker. Yeah.”

“I looked up all the public stuff that first night.” It would have been easy enough for Ronan to do it himself, but perhaps he had known that Adam would like the mind-occupying puzzle of it. “Double PhD, home in Boston, three speeding tickets in the last eighteen months, blah blah blah.”

“What about the spider-in-web stuff?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Adam replied. It had taken him only a little bit of time to get the readily available version of Colin Greenmantle’s life story. And only a little bit more time to realize that it wasn’t really the life story he needed. He didn’t need to undo the web — probably couldn’t undo the web. He needed to spin a new web.

“Of course it matters. It’s all that matters.”

“No, Ronan, look — come here.”

Adam began to write in the dust on the pew beside him. Ronan joined him, crouching to read it.

“What’s that?”

“The things we would put into place,” Adam said. He’d worked it all out in his head. Though it would have been easier to write it down, he’d thought better of it. Better to have no paper trail or electronic record. Only Cabeswater could hack into the record of Adam’s mind. “This is all of the bits of evidence you’d need to dream and how we’d need to bury them.”

Some of the things needed to be literally buried. The plan was tidy in conception but not in execution; it was filthy business framing someone, and murders required bodies. Or at least parts of bodies.

“It looks like a lot,” Adam admitted, because it did, once he had written it all down in the dust. “I guess it kind of is. But it’s mostly small things.”

Ronan finished reading Adam’s plan. He had his face slightly turned away from the horror of it, just as he had turned his face away from his dream object. He said, “But — this isn’t what happened. This isn’t what Greenmantle did.”

Ronan didn’t have to say it: This is a lie.

Adam should have known this would be a problem for him. He struggled to explain. “I know it’s not. But it’s too hard to frame him for having your father killed. It’s too subtle and it has too many pieces I don’t know. He could refute one of our pieces with a real piece, or something real, like the real timeline of what he actually did, could ruin something we’d come up with. But if I invent the crime, I can control all the pieces.”

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