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In the morning Dylan comes home for breakfast looking even more tired than he did the night before. He tells everyone he’s taking me to tai chi, supposedly by request of my mom (thank you, Mary), and Eilian must be feeling at least a little better because she manages to conjure up a bit of a smirk for me when she says, all sarcastic, “Of course you’re taking tai chi. Can’t believe you didn’t start on it even sooner.”

Through the whole meal, I’m pretty sure everyone’s dying to ask Dylan about the Luis Peréz case, but after the fiasco at breakfast yesterday no one dares ask their questions too directly. Aunt Nia, though, does a pretty masterful job at skirting around it quite a bit.

“It seems like you are working terribly hard, Dylan,” she says at one point, in this tone of such innocence that it’s pretty obvious what she’s about to try and do, and if Uncle Wyn doesn’t actually kick her under the table I’m pretty sure he’s seriously considering it.

She goes on anyway: “I hope you are having enough success in your investigation to make it bearable?”

As obvious as Aunt Nia’s being, I think we all want her bate to work. We all want Dylan to tell us what exactly is happening, but he doesn’t do it. Just gives her this tired, gentle little smile and says, “We’ve had some promising leads.”

She tries a couple more hints, but when it’s clear it’s not something Dylan wants to discuss right now, she lets it drop.

Before breakfast I’d texted Nando just to tell him that he was on my mind, to try to make sure he knows he doesn’t have to suffer alone. I guess I was basically doing the same thing as Aunt Nia, though. Hoping his response would tell me something about what’s going on for him. And I have about the same amount of success. When Nando finally does text back near the end of breakfast, all it says is, “Thanks, it means a lot.”

It leaves my curiosity gnawing on me, chipping away at my self control until I’m in the emvee with Dylan, headed to the train station on our way to Agni’s secret training space, and I can’t take it anymore. I’ve got to know something concrete.

“How is your investigation going?” I ask Dylan in this chipper voice like he hasn’t been avoiding this whole subject all morning.

He just lets out this weird, caustic little laugh, kind of shaking his head, and I don’t know if he’s reacting to the investigation itself or to the fact that I asked the question at all.

For the rest of the emvee ride we sit mostly in silence, and then it’s silence again when we’re on the train. But as we’re getting off, Dylan starts reminding me in a low voice of our plans for the day.

“Remember that I won’t be able to pick you up when training is over,” he says, walking real close to me so none of the other commuters can hear. “And that from now on you’ll have to get to and from by yourself. Most kids your age get around the city alone, and if I seem overly protective of you, I fear both the takers and the GIB will look at you too close.”

We come up out of the station into a neighborhood where everything seems to be under construction. On either side of the street there’s just two real long buildings, each broken up into a bunch of little shops. A clothing artisan here, an ice cream parlor there. All of them kind of run down and dingy. It’s the most strip-mall looking thing I’ve seen since coming to Daxa, and I can’t help kind of smiling as I take it in.

“It was meant to offer a Particle-Blind style shopping experience,” Dylan explains, nearly cracking a smile himself for the first time today. “Used to be a fairly popular place, but now it gets about a quarter of the traffic. Agni thought it would be perfect for the entrance to a hidden lair.”

We walk in through the third door on the right side of the road, which leads to a long hall lined with more shops. Most of them don’t have any customers right now, although, as we pass this dimly-lit little travel agency, an elderly couple does step out and walk by us back toward the street, nodding their heads at us as they go.

At the very end of the hall there’s a shop with no windows. On the door a big brass plaque says, Ms. Miranda’s School of Energy Flow: Specializing in yoga and tai chi. Another plaque under that says, By appointment only, with a number to call, which Dylan mentions is set up to go to a fake voicemail account.

The door opens at the touch of Dylan’s hand—programmed to react to either of our DNA—and the shop inside is completely empty except for one lone little wooden chair sitting in the center of the first room. Dylan leads me all the way to the back of the shop and then walks straight for one wall, stopping just before he reaches the corner and telling me to watch out.

“The floor here is an illusion barrier,” he says. “Anyone else walking across it would feel solid ground beneath their feet, but if you or I does it—”   

He takes a little step into the corner now and his foot just disappears, dipping right into the floor about halfway up his calf.

“There are some stone stairs here, so tread with care.”

It’s strange to watch myself disappearing straight into the ground. Strange to feel the tickle of the barrier’s energy as it swallows more of my body with every step I take. Rises above my elbows, my shoulders, my chin, my eyes.

The stairs are narrow—lined with stone walls that are dotted with little electric lights that buzz to life as we approach them—and they go on and on. It’s just starting to feel like we’re headed to the center of the earth itself, when we finally step out into this huge cavern. And this thing is like a wormhole leading straight into outer space or something.

I mean, the place is huge—so much bigger than any of the rooms in the Lucas house—but, more than that, it looks like something totally out of this world, with all these weird, neony sort of lights etching out patterns in the ceiling, the walls, even the floor. As if the lights were spread there by an artist with a brush full of fireworks.

All across the cavern, there are stalactites and stalagmites reaching toward each other from floor to ceiling, covered in their own swirls of light just like everything else in the room. And hanging from the top of the cavern between the stalactites are these viney plants that drape down in graceful arcs of living curtain, falling low enough in one corner of the cavern to create a sort of a room where Dylan says Agni and Ona will be meeting us shortly.

It’s kind of trippy, trying to walk across a floor that looks pretty much the exact same as the walls and the ceiling. It’s like being caught in a slow-motion Wile E. Coyote fall or something. Like every step’s putting me right out into thin air.

There’s a table and chairs in the little curtained room area. A bunch of benches along the edge of it and this raised platform that’s littered in vivid-colored, embroidered pillows. Off to one side, there’s a little pool of water too, with floating lilies etched in their own share of the cave’s neon bright lights.

“Ona designed all of this,” Dylan says, as I bend down to touch a finger to the glowing edge of one of the lilies. “She’s an architect and interior designer. Designed the bird building downtown, as well as others.”

“It’s organic!” I say, probing the plant-like particle pattern of the neon lights. “As in, alive.”

Dylan kind of smiles and nods. “The lights are all bioluminescent. They keep the air from growing stale down here.”

I stand up again and look around me, kind of newly appreciative of everything I see, but also starting to feel a little restless. A little nervous, maybe. Kind of worried about meeting this Ona person who thought up a place like this. Feeling, too, like it’s been years since I last saw Agni rather than just barely over a week.

When he and Ona do step through the hanging vines, I feel my heart do a little leap toward my throat. I mean, the two of them look like the lead couple in some big-budget Hollywood film from the 70s or something. Him in this real well-tailored powder blue suit and her in a flowing dress that flutters dreamlike around her ankles.

These are not people I can possibly have anything to do with. They’re extraordinary. Unapproachable. But then Agni sees me and Dylan standing there, and his face breaks into a grin—that same grandfatherly smile that I know so well, just in a slightly younger-looking man’s face— and everything feels comfortable again. Comforting.

He practically bounds forward to give me and Dylan ramu, and then Ona gives ramu to both of us as well, which is both totally gratifying and kind of disarming at the same time. I mean, even Aunt Nia didn’t give me ramu until, like, the third day I was living in their house.

Ona reminds me a little bit of Aunt Nia. The way she takes my hands and steps back to look me over with this whole bounty of affection in her face, as if I’m a kid she already knows and loves that she just hasn’t seen in a long time.

“I’m so pleased to finally meet you,” she says in a voice like melted butter. “It has been a true hardship to have had to wait this long.”

She laughs at her own little joke and pulls me into another hug, enveloping me in an interesting scent of fresh-cut lumber and exotic spices.

“The place looks stunning,” Dylan says to her, and I’m quick to agree.

“Yeah, seriously. Thank you. I couldn’t have imagined anything better.”

She smiles kind of proud and gracious—this straight-from-the-heart, radiating sort of a thing. I catch Agni watching her right then, and man, I’d pretty much die if a guy I liked looked at me that way.

“We have much to discuss,” he says, his eyes still sort of lingering on her. “Shall we debrief?”

He gestures toward the little table in the center of the room.

As the four of us are sitting down there, Dylan gets a message on his palm, and almost as soon as he sees it his mouth goes all tight and tense. He doesn’t give any hint about what it might say, though. Just answers a question from Agni about how the Luis Peréz case is going along.

“Quite honestly,” he says, and I can’t tell if the renewed sense of exhaustion in his voice is about the text message or about the case. “It’s proving hard to find anything concrete. The best we’ve got is a witness who remembers a bald Caucasian man talking to Luis at the bar a few minutes before Peréz disappeared.”

“Wotan Schmid?”

Dylan gives a slow little nod. “Certainly. But we can’t bring Wotan in based on a description that could apply to any number of men walking the streets of Daxa on a given day.”

Another message springs to life on his palm, and this one seems to make him even more tense. But still, when he looks back up at Agni and the rest of us, he tries to act like nothing’s going on.

“I told you that Zanny noticed something odd about José Anjo—”

“I’ve never liked that man,” Ona interjects kind of triumphantly cheerful, and Dylan can’t help a bit of a smile himself.

“No, nor probably should you. Although I haven’t found anything concrete about him either. The worst anyone can say about him is that he’s a bit narcissistic, which we already knew. And if we needed more assurance of it, his art studio is full mostly of portraits of himself. But I do think something is going on with him. He lives by himself in a flat in the arts neighborhood near the Government District and he’s surprisingly hermetic for someone with so many friends. He’s been known to stay shut in his house for days at a time with no one else coming or going.”

“Not entirely uncommon for someone with artistic leanings,” Ona interjects again.

“Or for someone who wants to be seen as a person with artistic leanings.”

“What do you think he’s doing in there for all that time?” I ask, and Dylan does this little shrug.

“His friends say that he always reappears looking much, much refreshed.

My mind flashes back to that jittery, hungry look in Wotan’s eyes just as Ona says, suddenly real serious, “He’s performing takings.”

Dylan looks pretty grim himself.

“Most likely. But without anyone, that we know of, entering or leaving his house. So the question is, how is he managing it? Everything we know so far comes from a cursory search I did online last night, but I’m working on a way to set up real surveillance on him where no one involved knows exactly what they’re doing. That way, if Anjo is working with the Sons of Morning, the double agent—or agents—won’t be able to tip him off.”

The number of things Dylan’s having to juggle right now seems totally unmanageable to me, and as if to prove my point he gets another text message. This time whatever it says makes him look—just for a second—like he might feel actually physically ill, and I’m not the only one who notices.

“Is something wrong?” Agni asks, but Dylan just sits there staring at his palm and looking kind of stunned.

After a second, he says, “It’s just work,” trying to sound all nonchalant. “A group text,” he adds, as if that explains anything, and then he says, “It’s nearly time.”

Which makes no sense to me at all, but clearly seems to mean something to Agni and Ona.

“Ah,” Agni claps his hands together, and he and Ona look at me like I’m about to be in for a real treat.

“Time for what?” I ask kind of wary, and the smile Dylan gives me is so forced it doesn’t really help.

He pulls a black, plastic card out of his pocket. On the front it says, Yokio’s Frozen Delicacies, with the word Rewards written underneath that.

I give Dylan this look, wondering what in the world is going on right now—I mean he doesn’t exactly seem in the mood for practical jokes—but he just tells me to take the card.

As soon as it touches the skin of my palm, the thing shudders itself into the shape of a cell phone in my hand. I just about drop it out of surprise, and Ona lets out this little chime of a laugh that makes even Dylan smile for real now.

“It’s attuned to your DNA,” he tells me. “In case anyone ever finds it in my possession. I’ve arranged everything so that I’m sure it’s entirely safe to make a call right now, but I can only give you five minutes.”

I stare at that phone for a while, sort of scared to acknowledge what I think it means in case I’m wrong about it, and also thinking that with everything else Dylan’s got to deal with, it’s crazy that he took the time to arrange this for me as well.

I look up at him, kind of tentative and hopeful. “My mom?”

He gives me this quiet, gentle sort of nod, and still I’m having a hard time trusting that this is really happening.

At the back of my mind I notice Agni and Ona exchange a quick, heavy little glance as they reach across the table to take each other’s hands in a strangely bracing sort of way, but Dylan’s telling me to “Just hit the send button,” and that, “It’ll go straight to her phone.”

“She’s waiting,” he says, and I don’t have attention to spare for deciphering that weird hint of sadness in the smiles on Agni and Ona’s faces.

I stand up and walk a few feet away from the table to give myself a little privacy. When I flick my thumb over the button that says Send, it feels like it takes Mom an eternity to answer, when really it’s only about a couple of rings.

“Zanny?” she says, and the tears just erupt out of my face.

I mean, it’s like a full-on Mount Alexandra up in here, and when I try to say “Mom,” the word comes out all cramped and choking as if I can barely get it out through my throat.

On the other end, I hear her sharp little intake of breath, the tears start to fill her own voice.

“Are you all right, honey? Have they been keeping you safe?”

All I can get out is this noise like, “Mm.”

“You haven’t encountered any of those—those taker people?”

I’ve got no idea how to answer this. I don’t want to tell her anything that could make her feel afraid, but also, I don’t want to lie.

“It’s been close a couple times,” I say finally, managing to sound slightly less like a frog who’s being choked to death. “But Dylan and Agni have protected me real well.”

“Oh, Zanny.”

The pain in her voice—it’s like I feel it right in my chest.

“I’m okay, Mom. I really am.” I glance around at the others and catch Dylan watching me with this pained sort of empathy that makes my tears threaten to burst out again.

“Two minutes,” he mouths to me, all apologetic, tapping his finger against his handyphone ring.

There are so many things that I’ve been wanting to talk to Mom about—so many things I’ve been wanting to ask her—but it’s looking like most of it is going to stay unsaid.

“How’ve you been?” I turn around again and take a few more steps away from the table, wanting our last couple minutes to be a little more private. Wanting to pretend like everything’s actually normal right now. “What’ve you been doing?”

“I’m just trying to keep myself busy. You’re always on my mind.”

When we say our goodbyes to each other it takes a lot to fight back a fresh flow of tears. I stand there with the phone still up to my ear and my back to the others until I feel like I’ve got ahold of myself, and when I do turn back around I make sure not to look any of them in the eye.

Dylan stands up and comes to meet me, taking the phone from my hand and sliding it back into his pocket as it turns back into the Yokio’s rewards card.

“I have to go,” he says. “It’ll look suspicious if I stay away from work any longer. Are you sure you can find your way to Mawihl from here? You remember the directions I gave you?”

I nod, even though the prospect of traveling alone to school does seem kind of daunting. Dylan’s got enough to worry about right now, though.

“Alright,” he says, taking this little breath. “If anything seems remotely suspicious, you’ll call me, yes? We’ll meet tonight in my room like always. Now that Agni’s helping you with Painting and reading, I can start teaching you self defense.”

There’s something in his eyes that still looks kind of anxious and concerned, and as he turns to leave I surprise myself by reaching out and grabbing hold of his hand.

He turns back to look at me, curious.

“Good luck,” I say, and for a second he just stares at me like he doesn’t know how to respond. Then, with the tiniest hint of a smile, he nods his head and turns and walks away through the vines.

When I look over at Agni and Ona, they’re watching me, still holding each other’s hands with that touch of sadness in their faces. I can’t tell if it’s sympathy or something more personal to them.

“Are you ready for some tai chi?” Agni asks, and I laugh a little, thinking that he’s making a joke. “You will want to take off your shoes. It will be hard to do it in boots like those.”

I look down at my red boots—the same ones I wore my first day in Daxa—and I’m kind of confused as to how they would affect my painting, but I bend down and take them off anyway.

Agni takes off his shoes as well, and then moves over to the open space between the table and the cushion-covered platform. I watch him crouch down in this sort of lunge, spreading his arms out on either side of his body, swinging his torso around in this fluid stretch like he’s warming up for something.

“Wait a second,” I say, “are we really doing tai chi?”

Ona bursts out laughing—this bubbling, joyful sound—and Agni smiles over at me, at her.

“Of course we are. It is, in actuality, quite helpful in improving a Painter’s particle manipulation. It strengthens the connections between your body, essence, and shadow, and it assists in the flow of energy from your mind. Come over here and let’s get started. I hope to have time for some reading practice today.”

He directs me to stand next to him and copy his stance, so I crouch down in a squatting lunge beside him, holding my arms out on either side and feeling like some strange sort of scarecrow thing. I shoot a glance at Ona, who’s watching me with a little smile on her face, and she gives another of her little laughs.

“Don’t mind me,” she says, “I’ll just be over here working.”

She expands her phone out of her ring and projects a tiny 3-D light matter building out of it, waving her hand at the model like she’s on a game show and she’s displaying the contestant’s prize.

“You’re doing fine,” Agni brings my attention back to him. “Just put your hands like this.”

I squeeze the fingers of my right hand together to point downward and stick my left hand straight up, like he’s doing.

“Yes,” he says, “now swing your arms around like this, and step around like so, nice and slow.”

I’m certain I’m going to fall right on my face, and then with the next motion I think for a second that I’m falling backward and I flail my arms a little bit for balance.

“It takes some practice,” Agni says with a smile as he twists his body around again, so smooth that it’s almost uncanny.

The way he moves it’s like martial arts mixed with dance or something, but for me—man, these motions are so unnatural. It’s hard to imagine that I will ever manage to do it well, let alone look good at it, but then Agni starts talking real quiet and authoritative like the narration on a self-help album or something, and I feel myself beginning to grow a bit more calm.

“Think less about what you are doing,” he says to me, “and focus more on your essence and your essensus. Feel the energy in each of them, and feel how they are connected to each other. Feel how the energy flows out from them and into your arms, out through your fingers as hour hands pass by each other like this. Feel the energy flow out through your toes as you slowly move your foot over like so.”

The more Agni talks the more sure I feel of the movements that I make, the more I can feel the energy flowing through me all purposeful and free. I’m aware of every little part of my body, right down to the tiniest particle. I feel powerful and capable and basically unlike anything I have ever felt before.

When Agni stands up straight and says it’s time to teach me particle reading, I’m actually kind of disappointed. I don’t want that sense of power to end, but Agni assures me it’ll still be there while we read.

“Tai chi—or any energy balancing of that sort—is simply a warm up for the real thing.”

We sit down among the cushions on the raised platform—cross-legged and facing each other—and Agni’s right, at least, that the energy flow doesn’t seem to leave.

“As you have found,” Agni begins, “sometimes sightings come to you of their own accord, but it is also possible to seek them out. In fact, that is what many readers do for a living, read sightings on behalf of others.”

He turns away slightly, plumping up some of the cushions behind his back.

“Reading ripples are clusters of what you could call particle memory, although they do not merely hold information about the past. Ripples tend to gather in objects of significance to a person.” He turns back to me, flourishing his hand a little as he gives me examples. “A favorite book, a treasured memento. Dylan says you no longer have in your possession anything of significance to you—”

I think of the locket—the same one that gave me that nightmare sighting in the first place—sitting in its hiding place in the drawer of my dresser back at Lucas House. I guess I forgot to tell Dylan it was there or even that it had anything to do with my sighting.

“For now, you may use objects of significance to me,” Agni goes on. “Since you are important to me yourself, you may find sightings that apply to both of us.”

He pulls his wedding ring off his finger and hands it to me. It’s mostly made of metal—gold, I’d say, by its particle structure—but it doesn’t really look like metal on the outside. Instead it’s this deep, rich brown with soft graining on it like wood. The surface is veined with carvings that look like some sort of ancient writing or something, and the way the light of the cavern reflects off the ring makes it look like the grooves themselves are glowing.

“This is an object of the greatest significance to me,” Agni says. “Ona made it for me herself, as is common in some Painter cultures.”

I look over at Ona, where she’s still sitting at the table, her long legs tucked up on the chair and her lip pinched into her teeth as she fiddles with her building model. Currently it looks like a tall flower, its petals bursting out the top of it and cascading back down to the earth like some sort of exploding sun.

It’s like creativity and beauty just pours out of her head or something. I mean, man, I kind of wish I had her brain.

“There should be myriad reading ripples to find in the ring,” Agni’s saying. “Shall we try?”

I’m surprised at the sudden fear that takes hold of me when he asks this—the way that the flow of energy that the tai chi opened up seems to close a little again at the thought of actively trying for another sighting. Of facing all the possibilities of what I might find in that ring, the other nightmares that might be waiting for me there.

Agni’s watching me close and he must notice the change in my demeanor.

“Dylan told me about your sighting,” he says. “The one in which someone is hurting you. It can be hard, after seeing something fearful like that, to welcome any sightings again. It is true though, that sightings—especially the fearful ones—are gifts from the universe, meant to offer you a chance to prepare, or to give you important insight. It is, in fact, the safest way to make your first encounters with the dangerous things of life, because nothing can hurt you there.”

He’s got a point. Even if my pulse doesn’t seem to believe it yet.

“And I will be with you,” he adds. “Sitting here in person, for one, but also I will try to follow you through your sightings. Guide you. It is possible, if we stay connected like so,” he presses his palms against mine in a sort of double pono, “for us as readers to see the exact same thing. Shall we try?”

I give a little nod, still feeling much less confident than I’m letting on.

“Close your eyes,” he says. “It will be easier. Now, breathe in and feel your body and your mind strengthen, then breathe out and let yourself spread away from your core. Follow the paths from one particle to another—one cluster of particles to another—deep into the recesses of the ring.”

It’s a soothing, peaceful sort of thing. Listening to Agni’s voice, following his instructions, putting all my energy and thoughts into one clear and simple purpose.

“Look for a disturbance in the particle patterns. A ripple or a knot—yes, there’s one—and reach your mind out to touch it.”

One second I’m there in the cavern, real aware of the soft sounds of Ona murmuring to herself and of the cool stone of the platform pressing against my crossed feet and legs. Then the next I’m in the middle of a sun-dimpled forest, watching a much younger version of Agni move slowly down a dirt path.

“Where could he be?” He’s asking in a voice meant for a child. “Why, he was right here a mere second ago.”

The sound of a little boy’s laughter comes from behind a nearby bush, and Agni exclaims, “Oh-ho!” and jumps at bush on the other side of the path.

“Well, I was sure I heard something,” he says, rustling around in the foliage and making a whole performance out of not finding anything. “No, not here, or here. Where did he go? Over here?”

He’s one step away from the real hiding place, when the kid—a little toddler boy with a face so much like both Ona and Agni’s that it’s kind of a shock—comes leaping out from behind his bush, shouting, “Boo!” in this tiny, growly voice.

Agni bursts out laughing, feigning fear as the boy rushes forward to give him a real vigorous hug, and then everything from the sighting just disappears again.

I’m staring at Agni where he’s sitting in front of me on the platform in the training space, and the look on his face doesn’t match the joy of that sighting at all. He looks kind of sad again—a little confused, maybe, and hurt—and I remember suddenly the way he looked back in the mountains when that happy family passed by.

“What’s wrong?” I ask him, as he throws a quick glance over at Ona, almost like he can’t help himself. “Who was that little boy—”

But before I can finish my question my brain hits against another ripple in the ring and I’m suddenly spiraling down into a murky darkness, shooting out again into a fluorescent sort of light.

I’m in another cave-like room, the walls of this one covered in faded tapestries and other ancient-looking artifacts. There are two sarcophagi—one in each of the back corners—with double encasements as if they’re meant to hold the remains of conjoined twins.

Stationed between them there’s an imposing black, wooden desk, where a man is sitting in an equally imposing chair. He’s at ease—languid even—but something about him feels dangerous.

A taller man on the other side of the desk is looming over him, talking at him in angry tones, and off to the side near one of the sarcophagi there’s a third man. He’s leaning the back of his chair against the wall like some too-cool teenager, and he’s pressing one foot to the edge of the desk to offer himself a precarious sort of balance.

Somehow I can see the men both from above and real close at the same time. Always either too far or too near to actually get a sense of their features. It’s just the corner of a lip here, an eye. The shape of the thick beard on the third man’s face.

“You said this would never be traced back to me,” says the tall man on the wrong side of the desk, and I’m surprised to recognize the voice of President Hiarwar Lucas, all chilling and barely controlled. “And yet there was so very public a display. How was it, again, that so many of your specimens escaped their holding cells at the lab? How did so many of them have a chance to roam the city freely and turn public attention on me? And nefsakes, how did that woman possibly reverse your process?”

“Perhaps she was a reader of some sort,” says the man behind the desk, and with his words comes the hint of a familiar grassy scent that sends a shocking cold through my body. Turns my muscles tight and tense. “We still do not know everything about the functioning or power of reader’s minds. I might ask you, Mr. President, why it is that we cannot seem to locate this Elspeth woman now? She appears to have vacated Ms. Haddad’s residence almost immediately on reaching it after the party.”

The more the man talks, the more I find it hard to breathe. As if his hand is wrapped around my throat again, his energy boring down inside me.

“You would have preferred I had prevented her from going with Shama Haddad at all, I suppose?” says President Lucas. “And risked revealing a too-pointed interest in the woman after the things she’d just alleged? There are enough conspiracy theories out there already, and our plan relies on utmost secrecy. There can’t be any public suspicions surrounding my motives when I come out in support of the vote.”

“Let me assure you that we are as invested in achieving success as you are. We are the ones that came to you, you might remember.”

In my close-up perspective, I catch a bit of the President’s expression. That cruel twist of his smile, the subtle clenching of his jaw.

“Then perhaps you could try keeping your wild bulldog in check,” he snaps, his words like tiny daggers at the ready. “It was quite a business for me covering up his last aberration.”

With that, he spins all abrupt on his heel and walks out of the room. A heavy silence lingers there for a few minutes after he’s gone, until the third man slowly lowers himself back to the floor with this creak so loud you’d think he was making the chair do it on purpose.

“Well,” he says, a muted satire real obvious in his tone. “I’d peg him for world domination.”

The nightmare man behind the desk looks over at him, all irritated and sharp.

“At least,” the third man amends, “for as long as you allowed it.”

This time when I come out of the sighting, Agni’s ready for it. He’s watching me with his eyes kind of narrowed, kind of intense.

“Did you see that too?” I ask even though the answer is pretty obvious, and he raises one speculative, curious eyebrow.

“It seems the universe has finally decided to make our Sons of Morning mystery a little bit clearer.”

Previous: Chapter 23

Next: Chapter 25


Let me know your thoughts and feelings. Either by commenting below or emailing me here


5 thoughts on “LESSER DEMONS: CHAPTER 24

  1. naestubbs says:

    Ahhhhhh! I had taken such careful notes and comments and then I wasn’t logged in and it deleted them before I could sign in. 😦

    Okay, here’s a “summup” like Indigo.

    Tension! I mean, of course. Gruesome murder investigations do that. Poor Dylan.

    How many days has it been since the murder? Two? This is probably my bad memory coming in.

    I think there was a moment you used the word “bate” and my brain thought it should be “bait” but I’m not actually sure now that I’m thinking it over…

    Loved meeting Ona even more. Loved seeing what she creates. I also loved what Agni said about the readings being a safe place to explore pain and danger so that she could prepare.

    I thought there was some familial sadness to Agni. Her reading kinda makes me think it even more. Poor them. 😦

    Ah! More smells and bad guys! I hope that now she’s in the thick of things that Dylan and Agni won’t be quite as tight lipped about what they know/suspect. Mostly because I’m ready for Zanny to kick some Taker BUTT!

    That was a way watered-down version of my comments. I loved lots and lots of little moments. Oh! Like when she called herself Mount Alexandria. That made me smile. 🙂 I’m glad I remembered to tell you I like that.

    • Rose Card-Faux says:

      Thank you so much! I’ve already revised this chapter some because a few things just really didn’t sit well in the story for me, but I’m so glad you liked the things that did feel right and that really were the heart of it. You’re comments are, as ever, super helpful!

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