Kitty's Big Trouble Page 51

“Ran,” Cormac said. “Let’s go that way.” He pointed to the opposite doorway from where Roman had been.

The smoke cleared some, drifting out of the doorways. The monster held his wounded head in his hands, groaning as he crashed into the walls, looking for a doorway, trying to escape. Again and again, he slammed against the stone, rattling the room. Sun Wukong stood back, holding his staff defensively in front of him, watching.

“Go,” he said. “I’ll be fine, really!”

Who was I to argue?

More debris rained on us.

Coughing through the dust and smoke, Ben and I made our way to Grace and Anastasia. Henry still lay near the wall. His clothing seemed scorched by the fireworks, but he seemed otherwise okay. I pulled the chain with Roman’s coin over his head and threw it away.

“We’re going,” I called, and Ben and I took charge of Henry, grabbing his arms and pulling them over our shoulders. He seemed much lighter than he should have. We hauled him across the room after Cormac, who led the way, jacket and stakes in hand. Grace and Anastasia were right behind us. The vampire was looking ashen. Like the sky outside, if we had a window to look out.

As the room cleared, the blinded monster’s senses seemed to come to focus, and he turned to Sun and roared. The Monkey King faced him, staff in hand.

We fled down yet another brick and stone corridor. I had Henry on one arm and the bag with the Dragon’s Pearl on the other.

Chapter 16


Henry didn’t twitch a muscle. I was hoping he’d wake up after Ben and I bounced him around in our efforts to keep from dropping him. But no, he was dead weight. No pun intended. Since I was a little shorter than Ben, Henry’s head kept flopping toward me. He smelled like himself—not any more ill or damaged than I would have expected. Maybe charred from smoke and firecrackers.

Behind me, Anastasia stumbled. She recovered quickly, putting a hand on the wall to steady herself. But she should never have stumbled in the first place.

“Anastasia?” I said, trying to glance over my shoulder at her. “How close to dawn is it?”

“Very,” she said, with astonishing calm. “The sun is rising.”

“At least that means Roman’s not likely to come back,” Ben said. He had a point.

“Grace,” I said. “We need to get back to Xiwangmu.”

“There’s no time,” Anastasia said.

“Okay, then we have to get to a room, someplace with just one door and no windows, no access to sunlight.”

“And defensible,” Cormac added.

“I can’t just find a room like that instantly,” she said. “I’m not Sun Wukong.”

Anastasia slumped against the wall. “I need to rest, just for a moment.”

“Just a few more steps,” I said blithely, staving off panic.

If she collapsed here, we could stop and try to protect her. At least there wouldn’t be any sunlight—I hoped. I didn’t see any vents or storm drains. But in the open corridor, anything could find us. We’d already been awake all night, and we hadn’t been completely rested when we started. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to guard anything for another eight-plus hours. The monster’s grumbles still echoed down the corridor.

Ahead, Cormac stopped. A narrow wooden door was set into the wall. Grace pushed forward, fumbled in her bag for a moment, and drew out a ring of keys, which she began fitting, one by one, into a rusted lock. Her hands were shaking.

“Take your time, Grace,” I murmured.

“I wasn’t ready for any of this, I didn’t agree to any of this, my ancestors didn’t agree to any of this, they had no right—”

“Careful, girl,” Anastasia said. “They’re watching.”

Grace’s shoulders slouched. “I’m sure they knew what they were doing. But—times are different, it’s not like I have Mongol hordes to battle, it’s just me. I run a video store. I’m not strong enough.”

“You are, and you honor them,” she said.

After pausing a moment to draw breath and maybe say a prayer, Grace returned to trying the dozen keys on the chain.

Meanwhile, Anastasia slumped against the wall and slid to the floor.

I helped Ben prop up Henry and knelt at her side, hand on her shoulder. “Anastasia—”

She shook her head weakly. “I really didn’t think I’d go out like this.”

So, she agreed that if we stopped here we were done for. “It’s not over yet.”

“I should have let the pearl go. It isn’t worth all of this. All of you. Kitty—thank you. For what’s left of my life. Thank you.”

Maybe we should have all cut and run a long time ago. Like, at sunset. Momentum had carried us all night long.

“Anastasia, we got the pearl back, it’s going to be okay.”

“Li Hua now, I think…”

The door popped inward with a high-pitched squeak of rusting hinges. A cloud of dust rattled loose from the frame. Cormac pushed past Grace and entered the room. He held up the quartz crystal from his pocket, which glowed, blinding. The candle lantern was long gone.

“Everyone in,” he said, stepping back out a moment later.

“You got him?” I said to Ben. He grunted an affirmative as he pulled Henry over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. I drew Anastasia’s arm over my shoulder. She tried to pull away, attempting to stand on her own while propping herself against the wall.

“You called me asking for help, let me help,” I grumbled at her. That she didn’t grumble back worried me.

I glanced back down the corridor; Sun Wukong still had not joined us.

“I wouldn’t worry about him,” Cormac said.

“Because he’s a god?” I muttered, saying it like it was a joke.

“Because he’s a hell of a fighter. Get in.”

All six of us were in the room. Cormac closed the door behind, and Grace locked it with the key.

Our only light was the glow of the quartz crystal, which he had muted with a handkerchief. That was a good thing, I told myself. It meant no sunlight would creep in. But I could really have used some sunlight right about then. The crystal’s light was fading.


“I’m all right,” she whispered, but she was slipping, her head lolling, like a child fighting sleep and failing. Ben had settled Henry against the far wall. I lowered Anastasia to the floor next to him. She was gone, her skin cold as ice, no different from a dead body. I had to tell myself she wasn’t dead, not really.

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