Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 35

With the men. Greenmantle got up. “I’ll come with you. I’ll convince you to come back with me along the way.”

There was no chance Piper was finding something to counteract that envelope. The only thing Piper could find was fad exercise classes and hairless dogs.

“Whatever. Put on some boots.”

Piper’s destination for that night involved meeting up with two thugs Greenmantle had hired. Actually, they were not as thuggish as Greenmantle would have expected. One of the men was named Morris, and a problem with alimony had driven him to a life of crime. The other seemed to be named Beast, and — well, actually, he was exactly as thuggish as Greenmantle had expected.

They both treated Piper as if she knew what she was talking about.

“Show me what you got,” Piper said to them.

Morris and Beast led them to a run-down farm just as the sun set. Even in the car lights, it was easy to tell that the farmhouse had seen better days. The porch sagged. Someone had tried to improve it by planting a cheery row of flowers in front.

Beast and Morris led them past the farmhouse and through a field. They had all kinds of equipment. Piper had all kinds of equipment. Greenmantle had boots. He felt like a fourth wheel on a vehicle that was not, in fact, meant to have four wheels.

He looked over his shoulder to make sure that the Gray Man, ever standing over his shoulder, was not, in fact, standing just over it.

“I’m not experienced with practical crime,” Greenmantle said as they walked across the field, “but shouldn’t we have parked the cars someplace more clandestine?” He added, “Sneakier?” for Beast.

“No one lives there,” grunted Beast. Greenmantle was both horrified and impressed by the subsonic nature of his voice.

Morris, considerably more cultured-sounding, added, “We were here earlier, checking it out.”

The two men — thugs — the thug and Morris — brought them to a stone building. Greenmantle thought it didn’t have a roof, but then after a second, his eyes adjusted and he saw that it was a stone tower extending up into the night. He wasn’t sure why he’d thought it was a ruin at first. He wasn’t sure why a tower like this would exist in the middle of redneck Virginia, either, but it was interesting at least, and he liked interesting.

“The cave’s in here,” said Morris. There was a padlock on the door, but it had already been busted open, presumably by Beast’s molars.

“And this cave seems to match the description I gave you?” Piper asked.

“Why do you have a description of a cave?” Greenmantle asked.

“Shut up before you hurt yourself,” she told him kindly.

“Yeah,” Morris said. “I didn’t see any doors like you described, but we didn’t go very far in.” He pushed open the door as Beast turned on a massive spotlight.

It illuminated an enormous man sitting at the cave entrance. He had a shotgun lying across his knees.


Piper looked at Morris and Beast. “Was this guy here the last time you came in?”

“No, ma’am,” replied Morris. “Sir, we’re headed into that cave, easy way or hard way. Right?”

This was with a glance to Piper.

“Right,” she replied. “Thanks for the warning, though.”

The man’s enormous brow furrowed. “THERE’S THINGS IN THERE YOU SHOULDN’T DISTURB.”

Greenmantle, wary of this man identifying him later on, took a tactful step back into the shadows to hide his face.

He backed directly into someone’s chest.

“Colin,” the Gray Man said. “I’m disappointed. Didn’t you read the envelope?”

“Oh, for the love of the saints,” Greenmantle wailed. “This was not my idea.”

“You,” Piper said.

“Yes,” the Gray Man agreed. He was, strangely enough, as well equipped as Piper, as if he, too, had been about to head into a cave. “Mr. Dittley, how are you?”


The Gray Man said, “It’s time for the rest of you to leave.”

“No, you know what?” Piper demanded. “I am beyond tired of you showing up and throwing your weight around. I was here first, and I had plans. Men, do man things.”

Greenmantle hadn’t the faintest idea of what that meant, but Morris and Beast headed immediately for the Gray Man as Dittley rose to his feet.

The Gray Man dispatched Beast to either the grave or the infirmary in a disappointing two seconds. It was Morris who turned out to be a better match. They fought quietly, all bruised breaths and sighed punches, as Jesse Dittley put his gun down and held Greenmantle’s wrists like a petulant child.

“Everybody drop everything,” Piper said.

She was pointing a gun at the Gray Man’s head. A silvery one. Greenmantle still didn’t think it looked as dangerous as the black ones, but the others clearly did. The Gray Man narrowed his eyes, but released Morris.

She looked pretty smug about it. To the Gray Man, she said, “Yeah, how does it feel? Great? Remember when you put one of these to my head? Yeah. An ass**le thing to do.”

The Gray Man’s expression didn’t change. It was possible he had no fear-face.

“Where did you get that?” Greenmantle asked his wife. “Did you get me one?”

Piper looked at him witheringly and jerked her chin. “You get that one.”

She meant Jesse Dittley’s shotgun, which he’d put down to hold Greenmantle at bay. It occurred to Greenmantle how pointless a virtue mercy was. If Jesse Dittley had just shot Greenmantle earlier, Greenmantle would not be holding his shotgun now.

Greenmantle pointed the shotgun at Jesse Dittley’s chest. He disliked all of this profoundly. He did not like to do things himself. He liked to hire people to do things for him. He liked to keep his fingerprints to himself. He did not like prison.

He blamed Piper for everything.

“Out of the way,” he said, then wished he’d thought of something catchier.


Greenmantle looked at Jesse Dittley. He could not believe they allowed humans to grow so tall. “You’re really making this a bigger deal than it needs to be.”

Jesse Dittley just shook his head, very slowly.

“Stand down!” Greenmantle tried. In the movies, this worked instantly. You pointed a gun at someone, they scurried out of your way. They didn’t just stand there looking at it.

Jesse Dittley said, “THIS IS NOT YOUR CAVE.”

Piper shot him.

Three times, fast, black spots appearing on his shirt and head.

By the time they looked back at her, she already had pointed her gun back at the Gray Man.

Greenmantle could not believe how unbelievably dead the giant man was. He was so very, very dead, and punctured. There were holes in him. Greenmantle couldn’t stop looking at the holes. They probably went all the way through him.

“Piper,” he said. “You just shot that man.”

“No one else was doing anything, seriously. All of this dick slinging!” Piper said. To the Gray Man, she said, “Drag him into the cave.”

“No,” the Gray Man said.

“No?” She had her shooting-people face on — which was to say, the face that she wore all the time.

“Oh, don’t shoot him,” Greenmantle said. His pulse was feeling rather jittery. All he could think about was how much more plausible the documents in that envelope were going to look when paired with the events of this evening. Didn’t Piper know that crime was supposed to involve painstaking planning and cleanup? It wasn’t the shooting that was hard, it was the getting away with it.

“I’m not going to move any bodies without gloves,” the Gray Man said in a chilly voice, demonstrating clearly why he had been good at this. “I would not have shot him without gloves, either. Prints and gunpowder residue are stupid ways to end up in prison.”

“Thanks for the advice,” Piper said. “Morris? You’re wearing gloves. Drag that dude and let’s get going.”

“What about him?” Morris asked, looking at the Gray Man.

“Tie him up. We’ll bring him with. Colin, why are you just standing there?”

“Actually,” Greenmantle said, “I think I’m going to sit this one out.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

Not only was he not kidding, he was considering vomiting. He should have stayed single. He should have stayed in Boston. He should have been single in Boston. He was part of the way toward the door; he kind of wanted to be sure that he had a bit of cover in case she got pissed and decided to shoot him, too. “I’m just going to … head back. Don’t get me wrong, I think you look fantastic with the gun, but …”

“This is just. So. Typical. You always say, ‘We’re going to do this together, you and me,’ and then who ends up always doing it? Me, while you go start some other new project. Fine. Go on back. Don’t expect me to hurry back after you, though.”

He met the Gray Man’s eyes. The Gray Man was in the process of having his hands tied behind him by Morris. Efficiently, with a zip tie.

The Gray Man looked at Jesse Dittley’s body and closed his eyes for a second. Unbelievably, he looked angry, so he must have possessed emotions after all.

Greenmantle hesitated.

“Piss or get off the pot,” Piper snapped.

“Just go, Colin,” the Gray Man said. “You would have spared us both a lot of trouble if you’d never come.”

Greenmantle took the opportunity to go. He got lost heading back across the field — he had such a shit sense of direction — but once in the car, he knew the way. Away. All directions were away.


Blue Sargent was afraid.

There are many good words for the opposite of afraid. Unafraid, fearless, unfrightened.

Some might suggest courageous or brave as opposites.

But Blue Sargent was brave because she was afraid.

If Persephone could die, anyone could die. Maura could die. Gansey could die. There didn’t have to be ceremony or portent.

It could happen in a moment.

They went to Cabeswater again. Calla came with, but they were sans Malory, who was still unreachable, and sans Mr. Gray, who had vanished without explanation, and sans Noah, who had appeared only as a brief whisper in Blue’s ear that morning.

Again they were prepared with safety equipment and helmets, only this time Adam and Ronan were to lead the way into the pit. This had been Adam’s idea, quickly backed up by Ronan. Cabeswater would not let Adam die because of the bargain, and it would protect Ronan for reasons unknown.

It was dark. The headlights of Ronan’s BMW and Gansey’s Camaro made it only a few feet into the mist rising from the damp field outside of Cabeswater. It seemed impossible that it was the same day Persephone had died. How did some days have so many hours in them?

Outside of the cars, Blue begged Calla, “Please stay here and keep time with Matthew.”

“No way, chicken. I’m coming with you,” Calla said. “I’m not letting you do this by yourself.”

“Please,” Blue said again. “I’m not by myself. And I can’t take it if —”

She didn’t finish. She couldn’t say if you died, too.

Calla put her hands on either side of Blue’s head, smoothing down her unsmoothable hair. Blue knew that she was feeling everything that Blue couldn’t say, but she was okay with that. Words were impossible.

Calla studied Blue’s eyes. Her fingers studied Blue’s soul.

Please trust me please stay here please trust me please stay here please don’t die

Finally, Calla said, “Grounding. I’m good for grounding. I will stay here and ground you.”

“Thank you,” Blue whispered.

Inside Cabeswater was mist and more mist. Ronan greeted the trees as he moved in a pool of muzzy light cast from the dream light he had brought from the Barns. Adam had called it the ghost light, and it seemed appropriate.

Ronan respectfully asked for safe passage.

It reminded Blue of a prayer.

The trees rustled a response, unseen leaves moving in the night.

“What did they say?” Gansey asked suddenly. “Didn’t they just say to be careful?”

Ronan said, “The third sleeper. They warned us not to wake him.”

They went into the cave.

On the way down the tunnel toward the pit, Gwenllian sang a song about proving oneself worthy for a king.

They went in deeper.

Gwenllian was still singing, now about tasks and trials and pretender knights. Adam’s hands fisted and unfisted in the moving headlamp beams.

“Please shut up,” Blue said.

“We’re here,” Ronan said.

Gwenllian shut up.

Adam joined Ronan at the edge of the precipice, both of them peering in as if they might be able to see the bottom. The light around them was curious and golden, thrown not only by the flashlights and headlamps but by the ghost light.

Adam murmured something to Ronan. Ronan shook his head.

“Still bottomless?” Gansey’s voice came from far back.

Ronan unslung the ghost light from his shoulder, where it hung like a messenger bag, and tied it to one of the safety ropes.

Blue was more afraid than before. It was easier to be unafraid when you were the one doing the fearful things.

“Lower that in,” Ronan directed Adam. “Let’s take a look around down there, right?”

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