Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 38

She put the handle of her switchblade between her teeth, feeling slightly heroic, and used the soft handle of the light to tie his hands behind his back. He didn’t protest, and his eyebrows softened in something like gratitude. Now that he couldn’t open the door, he sank onto his knees, shoulders slumped, and let out a shaky sigh.

How long had Maura and this man been down here, resisting the call of whatever slept behind that door? This entire time?

“Are you Artemus?” Blue asked him.

He peered up at her in haggard acknowledgment.

So that was why he was familiar. She didn’t have the long face or deep crow’s feet, but his mouth and eyes were the ones she’d seen looking back in the mirror her entire life.

Huh. Hi, Dad. Then she thought, Really, with these genetics, I should be taller.

She looked back to the other opening, the one at the top of the wall. It was not the most welcoming sort of hole, but her mother had no climbing experience that Blue knew of, so it could not be any worse than the way she had already come.

She didn’t have time for further pondering. Still bent, she shuffled toward the tunnel opening she’d entered by. She called into the darkness: “Ronan?”

Her voice spread and softened in the space, eaten by the black.

A pause. Somewhere, water dripped. Then: “Sargent?”

“I found her! There’s another way out! Can you manage to get out the way we came?”

Another pause. “Yeah.”

“Then go!”


“Yeah, there’s no point if you can’t cross!” It was more dangerous for him to be there in the dark and unknown, and she wouldn’t be able to take her mother and Artemus back that way.

My parents, she thought. I can’t take my parents back that way.

This made her frown.

She returned to Maura. “Come on. You can move without opening the door. We’re going to leave.”

But Maura didn’t seem to be listening anymore. She was gazing at the door once more, frowning.

Artemus’s voice sounded in the dim, surprising her. “How are you able to bear it?”

His voice was — accented. She wasn’t sure why she was surprised. It was something like British, but clipped, as if English was not his native language.

Blue considered other options for tying her mother’s hands; she wondered if she could force her to leave. It would be horrific if she had to fight her. “I’m a mirror, I guess. I’ve just turned it back on itself.”

“But that’s not possible,” Artemus said.

“Okay,” she replied. “Well, then, that’s probably not what I’m doing and you know better. Now if you don’t mind, I’m trying to figure out how to get my mother out of this cavern.”

“But she can’t be your mother.”

Blue was taking less of a shine to her father than she’d hoped all these years. “You, sir, have a lot of suppositions that you’re considering fact, and I think, in a better time, you should take a long think about everything you’re sure is true. But for now, tell me if I can drag her out of this place and up that hole. That is the way out, right?”

He twisted his hands so the light showed on her a bit better. “You do, in fact, look a little like her.”

“Good God, man,” Blue said. “Are you still on that? Do you know who else I look a little like? Your face. Have a think on that and I’ll just figure this out myself.”

Artemus fell silent, sitting with his arms tied behind him, expression thoughtful. Blue wasn’t sure if he was indeed having a think on what her face looked like or if he was falling back into the thrall of the third sleeper.

Blue took her mother’s arm and gave an experimental tug. “Let’s go.”

Her mother’s arm went rigid, resisting not Blue, but the concept of moving at all. Then, when Blue released her, Maura immediately stretched out a hand to the door.

Blue slapped it. She turned to the door. “Let her go!”

The voice tried to creep in around her defenses. Open the door and you’ll all go free, and with a favor. Surely you want to save that boy’s life.

The third sleeper was good at what it did.

Even though Blue knew there was no chance that she would open the door or accept its help, she felt the offer chisel its way into her heart.

She wondered what it whispered to her mother.

Blue slid off her sweater. She took Maura’s hands — Maura resisted — and then tied them as well as she could by twisting the sweater arms around them. She tried not to care about how the sweater was surely ruined and stretched out now, but Persephone had made it for her, and that felt as dire as everything else. Every concern and every joy had become equal, priority erased by terror.

Blue took Artemus’s arm by the elbow and Maura’s arm by the elbow, and she dragged them up. At least as far up as they could go in this little room. Shoving them against each other and pausing a lot to lift them back off their knees, she began to inch them away from the door and toward the hole of the cave. She didn’t care if they were all bruised and bleeding by the time they got out of here — just as long as they got out of here.

But then a mass of bodies suddenly tumbled in through their exit.


The cavern had never been large to begin with, but as Blue keeled back onto her butt, it seemed ever smaller. The population of the room had suddenly increased by three people. The person in front had glorious blond hair and a gun, and the man behind her had pinched nostrils and a gun, and the person behind him was —

“Mr. Gray,” Blue cried gladly. She was so grateful to see him that she couldn’t believe he was real.

“Blue?” the Gray Man asked. “Oh no.”

Oh no?

A second later she saw that his hands were tied behind his back.

“What?” asked the blond woman with the gun. She directed a flashlight at Blue’s face, momentarily blinding her. “Are you a real person?”

“Yes, I’m a real person!” Blue replied indignantly.

The woman pointed the gun at her.

“Piper, no!” the Gray Man said, and jostled himself so hard against the woman that her flashlight dropped from her hand. It hit the rock and went out immediately. The only light came from the ghost light that tied Artemus’s hands.

“Classy, Mr. Gray,” Piper said, blinking, eyes glancing in the direction of the ghost light and then returning to him. “I wasn’t going to shoot her. But it might be time to shoot you now. What do you think, Morris? I defer to your professional judgment.”

“Please don’t,” said Blue. “Please, really, don’t.”

“We could shoot this one, too,” Morris replied. “No one will ever make it down this far to find them.”

Behind her, a few pebbles skittered down from the ceiling, or somewhere near it. Blue wondered with dim anxiety if they had unsettled the caverns by letting a herd of animals gallop through them.

Piper pointed at Maura and Artemus, finally giving them her attention. “Are these people real, too? Why do they look like that?”

“Maura,” the Gray Man said, only now taking his gaze from Piper and Blue. There was a breathless note to his ordinarily brisk voice. “Blue — how did it come to —” He frowned, a familiar sort of frown, and Blue knew that he was hearing the third sleeper whispering doubts and promises in his head.

Another pebble dropped down onto the cavern floor.

“All right, never mind,” Piper said. Her eyes, clear and intent and certain, were on the door. There was not a doubt in Blue’s mind that she had come to wake the sleeper. “Let me think. It’s so damn claustrophobic in here. You know what, you can just go, strange girl. That’s fine. Just pretend like you never saw us.”

“I’m not leaving Mr. Gray here,” Blue said. She supposed after she said it that it was a brave thing to say, but at the time, she’d just said it because it was the truth, even if it was scary.

“It’s a touching thought, but no,” Piper replied. “He can’t go. Please don’t make me ask not nicely.”

The Gray Man was all hunched to fit in the cavern, his hands behind his back. Stones and dust shivered down the walls behind him in an ominous way. To Blue, he said, “Listen to me. Take them and go. I’ve earned this. This is how I’ve lived and this is what it’s come to. You haven’t done anything to deserve this, nor has your mother. Now is the time to be a hero.”

“Listen to the man,” Piper said. “When he says ‘earned this,’ he means that he held a gun to my head in my own kitchen, and he’s right.”

Think, Blue, think — her head felt buzzy and clouded. Probably it was the third sleeper poking round the corner of her consciousness. Maybe it was the dread of that lake creeping up the tunnel. Perhaps it was just the growing supposition that something terrible was about to happen here. A bigger rock rolled free from the tunnel the others had emerged from. This little cavern was so small already; it didn’t seem at all like a difficult thing for it to collapse entirely.

“Sorry, can you speed it up?” Piper asked. “I know no one wants to say ‘Oh, look, this particular shitty cave is collapsing,’ but I’m going to point it out to lend some urgency to the proceedings.”

“You’re beginning to sound like Colin,” the Gray Man said.

“Say that again and I’ll shoot you in the nuts.” Piper gestured to Blue. “Are you going, or what?”

Blue bit her lip. “Can I — can I hug him good-bye? Please?”

She shrank her shoulders down, arms clinging round herself, looking miserable. The last part wasn’t hard.

“You want to hug him? What a zoo,” Piper said. “Fine.”

Boredly, she pointed a gun in their general direction as Blue ducked over to the Gray Man.

“Ah, Blue,” he said.

She threw her arms and hugged him tightly in a hug he couldn’t return. Leaning her cheek against his stubble, she whispered, “I wish I could remember how you said that hero bit in Old English.”

The Gray Man said it.

“Sounds like cat puke,” Piper observed. “What’s it mean?”

“ ‘A coward’s heart is no prize, but the man of valor deserves his shining helmet.’ ”

“I’m working on it,” Blue replied as she used the switchblade she had hidden in her hand to silently slice the zip ties that bound his wrists. She stepped back. He remained bowed over, with his hands behind his back, but he raised one colorless eyebrow at her.

“Okay, get out of here. Scram. Farewell,” Piper said as more of the wall moved uneasily, the uppermost surface shifting dustily to the floor. “Go be short somewhere else.”

Blue hoped fervently the Gray Man could do something now.

The problem was that Maura and Artemus were no more mobile than before, even if Blue had been willing to utterly abandon the Gray Man in the cavern. The only thing she could do was return to struggling them toward the cavern exit. It was like a fever dream, though, except instead of her own legs being turned to lead, Maura and Artemus were the hideously slow ones.

Piper permitted this for about thirty seconds before she said, “This is ridiculous” and clicked off her gun’s safety.

“Blue, down!” the Gray Man shouted. He was already moving.

He must have hit Piper, or Morris, because bodies shoved wildly against Artemus and then Blue. Did it count as falling down if you were already on your knees?

A gun blasted nearby, and for half a second, it was silent. Every sound had been smashed up against the walls of this tiny room, and when it came back, it was only ringing. Dust moved through the space from wherever the bullet had ended up or glanced off. More rocks slid precipitously. They glanced off Blue’s shoulders — it was the ceiling.

Blue couldn’t tell whose arms were whose, and if she should be ducking or punching or stabbing. All she was certain of was that someone could die in a moment here. The threat of it was thick in the murky air.

Morris was strangling the Gray Man. Blue wanted to attend to that — could she? But she saw Piper scrabbling around between shuffling legs for her gun, which she must have dropped. Blue, scouring the floor herself, spotted someone’s gun. She snatched for it and missed just as the Gray Man and Morris staggered by together. One of them kicked the gun, and it chattered crazily across the rocks and into the black of the tunnel.

The other gun went off in someone else’s hand. The sound made it impossible to think. Had someone been shot? Who was shooting? Was it going to happen again?

In that moment of stillness, Blue saw that Morris was still choking the Gray Man. She stabbed his arm, right in the meaty part. She felt considerably less bad than she had when she’d stabbed Adam.

Morris immediately released Mr. Gray, who picked him up and began bashing him against the ceiling.

“Okay, stop,” Piper said. “Or I kill her.”

Everyone turned to look. Piper had a gun pointed to Maura’s head. She tossed her head to get her blond hair out of her eyes, and then blew out her lips to remove a few strands from her mouth.

“What do you want, Piper?” the Gray Man asked. He put Morris down. Morris stayed down.

“I want what I asked for before,” Piper said. “Remember when I was letting the women and children go so I could feel good about myself? That was what I wanted. I guess none of us are getting that now.”

Behind her, Artemus blinked, which was notable because he hadn’t really been blinking before. His shoulder was bleeding in a way that seemed like he might have been shot. Every time he dripped on the cave floor, the blood ran together and trickled through the fallen rock toward the red door.

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