Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 9

Ronan put his feet down.

Gansey turned back to Adam. “Ronan told you all about the Pig, then.”

“Ronan told me nothing.”

“I told you about the pissing,” Ronan said.

Adam ignored him. “What about the car?”

Gansey glanced around at Borden House as if he expected to see that it had changed over the summer. Of course it had not: navy carpet over everything, baseboard heating on too early in the year, bookshelves crowded with elegantly tattered books in Latin and Greek and French. It was your favorite aunt who smelled when you hugged her. “Last night we went out for bread and jam and more tea in the Pig, and the power steering went out. Then the radio, the lights. Jesus. Ronan was singing that awful murder squash song the whole damn time and he only made it through half a verse before I had absolutely nothing. Had to wrestle it out of the road.”

“Alternator again,” Adam observed.

“Right, yes, yes,” Gansey said. “I opened up the hood and saw the alternator belt just hanging there ragged. We had to go get another one, and it was just an absolute zoo to find one in stock for some reason, like there was a run on this precise size. Of course, putting on the new belt by the side of the road was the fast part.”

He said it in the most offhanded way, like it was nothing to have thrown on a new belt, but once upon a not-very-long time ago, Richard Gansey III had only one automotive skill: calling a tow truck.

Adam said, “You were smart to figure it out.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Gansey replied, but it was clear he was proud. Adam felt like he had helped a bird hatch from an egg.

Thank God we’re not fighting thank God we’re not fighting thank God we’re not fighting how can I keep it from happening again—

Ronan said, “Keep it up, and you just might be a mechanic after you graduate. They’ll put that in the alumni magazine.”

“Ha and —” Gansey swiveled in his seat to watch as the new Latin teacher made his way to the front.

Every student watched him.

In his glove box, Adam kept a cutout advertisement for inspiration. The photo featured a sleek gray car made by happy Germans. A young man leaned against the vehicle in a long coat of black virgin wool, collar turned up against the wind. He was confident and snub-nosed, like a powerful child, with lots of dark hair and white teeth. His arms were crossed over his chest like a prizefighter.

That was what their new Latin teacher looked like.

Adam was badly impressed.

The new teacher swept his dark coat off as he observed Ronan’s handiwork on the whiteboard. Then he turned his gaze on the seated students with the same confidence as the man in the car advertisement.

“Well, look at you,” he said. His eyes lingered on Gansey, on Adam, on Ronan. “America’s youth. I can’t decide if you are the best or the worst thing I’ve seen this week. Whose work is this?”

Everyone knew, but no one copped to it.

He clasped his hands behind his back and took a closer look. “Vocabulary’s impressive.” He tapped a knuckle against a few of the words. He was kinetic. “But what’s going on with the grammar in here? And here? You’d want a subjunctive here in this fear clause. ‘I fear that they may believe this’— there should be a vocative here. I know what’s being said here because I already know the joke, but a native speaker would’ve just stared at you. This is not usable Latin.”

Adam didn’t have to turn his head to feel Ronan simmering.

Their new Latin teacher turned, swift and compact and keen, and again Adam felt that rush of both intimidation and awe. “Good thing, too, or I’d be out of a job. Well, you little runts. Gentlemen. I’m your Latin teacher for the year. I’m not really a fan of languages for the sake of languages. I’m only interested in how we can use them. And I’m not really a Latin teacher. I’m a historian. That means I’m really only interested in Latin as a mechanism to — to — rifle through dead men’s papers. Any questions?”

The students eyed him. This was the first period of the first day of school and nothing could make Latin class less full of Latin. This man’s fervent energy sank uselessly into moss-covered stones.

Adam put up his hand.

The man pointed at him.

“Miserere nobis,” Adam said. “Timeo nos horrendi esse. Sir.”

Have mercy on us — I’m afraid we are terrible.

The man’s smile widened at sir. But he had to know that students were to address teachers as sir or madam to show respect.

“Nihil timeo,” he replied. “Solvitur ambulando.”

The nuances of his first statement — I fear nothing! — escaped most of the class, and the second statement — an idiom embracing the merit of practice, blew by the rest.

Ronan smiled lazily. Without raising his hand, he said, “Heh. Noli prohicere maccaritas ad porcos.”

Don’t throw pearls before swine.

He did not add sir.

“Are you pigs, then?” the man asked. “Or are you men?”

Adam wasn’t eager to watch either Ronan or their new Latin teacher run out to the end of their respective ropes. He asked quickly, “Quod nomen est tibi, sir?”

“My name” — the man swept out a big swath of Ronan’s bad grammar with the edge of an eraser and used the space to replace it with efficient letters of his own — “is Colin Greenmantle.”


Here we are, living among the provincials!” Colin Greenmantle leaned out the window. Down below, a herd of cows looked up at him. “Piper, come look at these cows. This one ass**le is looking right at me. ‘Colin,’ says this cow, ‘you are really living among the provincials now.’ ”

Piper said, “I’m in the bath.”

Her voice was coming from the kitchen, though. His wife (although he didn’t like to use that word, wife, because it made him think that he was now over thirty, which he was, but still, he didn’t need to be reminded, and anyway, he still had his boyish good looks; in fact, the cashier at the grocery store had flirted with him just last night, and even though it could have been the fact that he was overawingly overdressed for a cheese-cracker run, he thought it was probably his aquamarine eyes because she had been virtually swimming in them) was taking the move to Henrietta better than he had expected. So far, the only act of rebellion Piper had performed had been to wreck the rental car by driving it aggressively through a shopping center sign to demonstrate just how unsuited she was for living in a place where she couldn’t walk to shops. It was possible she hadn’t done it on purpose, but there was very little Piper did by accident.

“They are basically monsters,” Greenmantle said, although now he was thinking less of the cows and more of his new pupils. “Accepting handouts all day long, but they’d eat you in a second, if they had the right teeth for it.”

They’d only just moved into their “historic” rental on a cattle farm. Greenmantle, who had made plenty of history, doubted the farmhouse’s historic claim, but it was charming enough. He liked the idea of farming; in the most basic linguistic sense, he was now a farmer.

“They’ll be here for your blood on Friday,” Piper called.

The cows lowed curiously. Greenmantle experimentally flipped them off; their expressions didn’t change. “They’re here now.”

“Not the cows. I’m getting more life insurance for you and they need your blood. Friday. Be here.”

He ducked back inside and creaked down to the kitchen. Piper stood at the counter in a pink bra and underwear, chopping a mango. Her blond hair was a curtain around her head. She didn’t look up.

“I’m teaching Friday,” he said. “Think of the children. How much life insurance do we need?”

“I have certain standards of living I want to maintain if something terrible happens to you in the middle of the night.” She stabbed at him with the knife as he stole a piece of mango. He avoided a wound only because of his speed, not her lack of intention. “Just come right back after class. Don’t fritter around like you’ve been doing.”

“I’m not frittering,” Greenmantle said. “I am being quite purposeful.”

“Yes, I know, getting revenge, having testicles, whatnot.”

“You can help, if you want. You’re so much better with directions and things.”

She couldn’t quite hide that the appeal to her ego pleased her. “I can’t until Sunday. I have eyebrows on Wednesday. Bikini line on Thursday. Don’t come home on Saturday. Fritter on Saturday. I’m having people come sage the house.”

Greenmantle swiped another piece of mango; the knife came a little closer this time. “What does that mean?”

“I saw a flier. It’s getting rid of the bad energy in a place. This house is full of it.”

“That’s just you.”

She tossed the knife into the sink, where it would remain until it died. Piper was not much for housework. She had a very narrow skill set. She drifted toward the bedroom, on her way to have a bath or take a nap or start a war. “Don’t get us killed.”

“No one’s going to kill us,” Greenmantle said with certainty. “The Gray Man knows the rules. And the others …” He rinsed the knife and put it back in the knife block.

“The others what?”

He hadn’t realized she was still in the room. “Oh, I was just thinking about how I saw one of Niall Lynch’s sons today.”

“Was he a bastard, too?” Piper asked. Niall Lynch had been responsible for seven moderately unpleasant and four extremely unpleasant months in their collective lives.

“Probably. God, but he looked just like that f**ker. I can’t wait to fail him. I wonder if he knows who I am. I wonder if I should tell him.”

“You are such a sadist,” she said carelessly.

He knocked his knuckles on the counter. “I’m going to go see which jaw those cows have teeth on.”

“Bottom. I saw it on Animal Planet.”

“I’m going anyway.”

As he tried to remember which door led to the mudroom, he heard her say something to him, but he didn’t catch it. He’d already dialed the number of a Belgian contact who was supposed to be looking into a fifteenth-century belt buckle that gave the wearer bad dreams. It was taking this guy forever to run it down. Too bad he couldn’t put the Gray Man on it; he’d been the best. Right up until he’d betrayed Greenmantle, of course.

He wondered how long it would take the Gray Man to come to him.


When Gansey and Ronan arrived at 300 Fox Way after school, Calla was being attacked in the living room by a man dressed entirely in gray. Blue, Persephone, and the furniture lurked against the walls. The man stood in perfect fighting form, legs a little wider than his shoulders, one foot forward. He had a solid grip on one of her hands. In Calla’s other hand she held a Manhattan, which she was trying not to spill.

The Gray Man was smiling thinly. He had extraordinary teeth.

The boys had entered without knocking, familiarly, and now Gansey eased his messenger bag to the old buckled floorboards and stood in the doorway to the living room. He wasn’t sure if the situation required intervention. The Gray Man was a (possibly retired) hit man. Nothing to be trifled with.

But still, if Calla wanted help, surely she would’ve put her drink down. Surely Blue would not be merely eating yogurt.

“Show me again,” Calla said. “I didn’t see it, I don’t think.”

“I’ll do it a little harder,” Mr. Gray replied, “but I don’t want to actually break your arm.”

“You were nowhere close,” she assured him. “Put your back into it.”

She sipped her Manhattan. He clasped her hand and wrist again, his skin pale against hers, and swiftly turned her entire arm. Her shoulder tipped downward sharply; she snatched at her drink and cackled. “That one I felt.”

“Now do it to me,” Mr. Gray said. “I’ll hold your drink.”

Putting his hands in his pockets, Gansey leaned against the doorjamb, watching. He knew instinctively that the dreadful news he carried was the sort of burden that would only get heavier once shared. He allowed himself a moment before the storm, letting the atmosphere of the house do its usual work on him. Unlike Monmouth Manufacturing, 300 Fox Way was cramped with extraneous people and whimsical objects. It hummed with conversation, music, telephones, old appliances. It was impossible to forget that all of these women were plugged into the past and tapped into the future, connected to everything in the world and to one another.

Gansey didn’t so much visit as get absorbed.

He loved it. He wanted to be a part of this world, even though he understood there were endless reasons why he could never be. Blue was the natural result of a home like this: confident, strange, credulous, curious. And here he was: neurotic, rarified, the product of something else entirely.

“What else?” Calla asked.

“I can show you how to unhinge my jaw, if you like,” Mr. Gray said kindly.

“Oh, yes, that — well, there is Richard Gansey the Third,” Calla said, catching sight of him. “And the snake. Where is Coca-Cola?”

“Work,” Gansey said. “He couldn’t get off.”

Persephone waved vaguely from behind a tall, light pink drink. Blue didn’t wave. She had seen Gansey’s expression.

“Does the name Colin Greenmantle mean anything to you?” Gansey asked Mr. Gray, though he already knew the answer.

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