Kitty's Big Trouble Page 26

“You knew the risks,” she said.

The risks being that something completely unexpected and bizarre would happen? Okay, then. “‘It’s Roman, he’s taking over the world,’ you said. ‘Okay, I’m on the way,’ like I’m some kind of superhero. When am I going to learn?” I started marching, following the wall. It couldn’t go on forever. “There’s got to be a way out of here.”

“Kitty,” Ben called, and I stopped. That was all he had to say. Taking a breath, I calmed myself.

Anastasia sounded tired when she said, “I called you because I don’t have anyone else to turn to. Not anymore.” She was supposed to have her protégé and her servant, Gemma and Dorian. But she’d led them into a trap and gotten them killed.

She’d done the smart thing, bringing a guide here to make sure we had a way into and out of whatever magical cubbyhole this was. I was the one who’d chased Grace off—for her own good, of course. From a certain point of view this was my fault.

Pointing fingers wasn’t going to get us out of here.

A few paces behind us, Cormac had set down the lantern and by its light was drawing on the floor with a piece of chalk. Along with the amulets and charms, he evidently carried chalk in his pockets now, too.

I crept closer for a better look; the white lines of the chalk drawing stood out in the semidarkness, almost as if they glowed.

“Stay back,” he said, and I stopped. He had drawn a quick design, arrows and arcs, a couple of letters. It looked like scribbling.

“Will that help us find Grace?” I said.

“I don’t much care about Grace. I’m just trying to find a way out of here.”

“How long is this going to take?”

He ignored me and kept working. I started pacing because what else could I do? I looked back and forth down the corridor, wondering what was going to jump out at us. Ben was doing the same thing nearby. Our anxiety sparked across the space to each other, feeding each other. We were caged wolves.

“Kitty, calm down,” Anastasia said.

“We’re not safe here.”

“We killed them. They’re not coming back.”

“But what else is down here? Another one of those nine-tailed foxes? Or those guys could come back as zombie werewolves. What’ll we do then?”

“I hadn’t thought of zombie werewolves,” Ben muttered.

“There’s no such thing as zombie werewolves,” Anastasia said, and if you couldn’t believe an eight-hundred-year-old vampire about something like that, who could you believe?

“Says you,” Cormac said. I stopped and looked.

He set one of his silver daggers in the middle of the chalk design, stood back, and waited. After a breath or two, it trembled, all on its own, metal scraping against concrete. Slowly it turned, like a compass needle. The dagger’s tip passed one marking, then another. We gathered closer, watching to see where it rested—and if that would point to the way out. But it never rested. It rotated a full circle, wavered, reversed course and did the same in the opposite direction. Almost as if confused, it turned one way and the other, rattling harder, making more noise as it skittered on the hard floor. It seemed sentient, the way it searched and grew more erratic when it didn’t find its goal.

Corman finally stepped on it, trapping it. “It’s not working.”

I paced again. Cormac picked up the knife, dusted it off, and scuffed out the chalk marking with his boot.

“Now what?” Anastasia said.

“This was supposed to be your party, why don’t you come up with something?” Ben said.

“I just wanted the pearl. Chen was supposed to be here, the pearl was supposed to be here, I didn’t count on any of this.” She shook her head, squaring her shoulders and resettling her dignity. “We should wait for Chen. She’ll return to find us.”

“Not if she’s smart.” I stalked away from them, down the straightaway. “Even if we can’t find the same door there’s got to be another way out of here. We can’t just sit still and be targets.”

Ben and the others followed a few paces behind. I could sense them, the sound of their footsteps and the odor of their sweat, their anxiety. Anastasia had returned to her usual composure—cool, detached. I couldn’t read her at all.

Ahead, the corridor branched. I stopped at the intersection and waited for the others to catch up. “Well?” I said. “Left or right?”

“We could toss a coin,” Ben said.

“It hardly matters,” Anastasia said.

“Left,” Cormac said.

I glanced back at him. “Is this some kind of magical hunch?”

“Just a hunch,” he said. “The regular kind.”

“Why not right?”

“Turn right if you want to, doesn’t make a difference to me,” he said, expressionless as always. He held the lantern low in his hand. The light shadowed his face so it looked like a skull.

I kind of wanted to keep poking him until he got angry. Just out of curiosity, to see what he would do. Instead, I turned right and kept walking. When I glanced over my shoulder to see if the others followed, Ben smirked at me, the expression he used when he thought I was being irrational. But if it didn’t matter, it didn’t matter, right?

And how had I ended up in the lead?

These tunnels seemed to go on an awfully long time without turning, breaking, or revealing any features. We were under San Francisco, there ought to be underground cables, water pipes, sewer lines. As long as we’d been walking we should have been under the bay by now. I shouldn’t have felt like I was in the stone dungeon of a medieval castle. I caught a faint whiff of incense. I tried to follow the trace of the scent, thinking it would lead us to a door, a room, anything but the maze of tunnels.

A break in the stone wall revealed a smooth plywood door. It didn’t have a lock.

Like other doors we’d encountered, this one also had a sign on it, a vertical length of paper with Chinese characters.

“What’s it say?” I said, looking back at Anastasia.

She studied it a moment. “It’s a warning.” As if she hadn’t expected anything different.

I snorted a short laugh. Of course it was a warning.

It was a pocket door, the kind that slid sideways into the wall, but it seemed to be spring loaded, or stuck, because I couldn’t get it open. I grabbed the fingerhold carved into one side and shook—it rattled in its frame as if jammed. Maybe I could wrench it loose.

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