Groat C|arondon 3troot, Oxtord OX2 00l
Oxtord Un|vors|ty lross |s a dopartmont ot tho Un|vors|ty ot
lt turthors tho Un|vors|ty's objoct|vo ot oxco||onco |n
rosoarch, scho|arsh|p, and oducat|on by pub||sh|ng
Oxtord low York
Auck|and Capo 1own 0ar os 3a|aam |ong Kong Karach|
Kua|a lumpur Vadr|d Vo|bourno Vox|co C|ty la|rob| low
0o|h| 3hangha| 1a|po| 1oronto
W|th ott|cos |n
Argont|na Austr|a 3raz|| Ch||o Czoch lopub||c |ranco
Guatoma|a |ungary lta|y 1apan lo|and lortuga| 3|ngaporo
3outh Koroa 3w|tzor|and 1ha||and 1urkoy Ukra|no v|otnam
Oxtord |s a rog|storod trado mark ot Oxtord Un|vors|ty
lross |n tho UK and |n corta|n othor countr|os
t 1oss 3t|r||ng 2011
1ho mora| r|ghts ot tho author havo boon assortod
0atabaso r|ght Oxtord Un|vors|ty lross (makor)
||rst pub||shod 2011
||rst pub||shod |n th|s o3ook od|t|on 2011
A|| r|ghts rosorvod. lo part ot th|s pub||cat|on may bo
roproducod, storod |n a rotr|ova| systom, or transm|ttod, |n
any torm or by any moans, w|thout tho pr|or porm|ss|on |n
wr|t|ng ot Oxtord Un|vors|ty lross, or as oxpross|y
porm|ttod by |aw, or undor torms agrood w|th tho
appropr|ato roprograph|cs r|ghts organ|zat|on. Enqu|r|os
concorn|ng roproduct|on outs|do tho scopo ot tho abovo
shou|d bo sont to tho l|ghts 0opartmont, Oxtord Un|vors|ty
lross, at tho addross abovo
You must not c|rcu|ato th|s book |n any othor b|nd|ng or
covor and you must |mposo th|s samo cond|t|on on any
3r|t|sh l|brary Cata|ogu|ng |n lub||cat|on 0ata
1h|s o3ook |s copyr|ght mator|a| and must not bo cop|od,
roproducod, transtorrod, d|str|butod, |oasod, ||consod or
pub||c|y portormod or usod |n any way oxcopt as
spoc|t|ca||y porm|ttod |n wr|t|ng by tho pub||shors, as
a||owod undor tho torms and cond|t|ons undor wh|ch |t was
purchasod or as str|ct|y porm|ttod by app||cab|o copyr|ght
|aw. Any unauthor|sod d|str|but|on or uso ot th|s toxt may bo
a d|roct |ntr|ngomont ot tho author's and pub||shor's r|ghts
and thoso ropons|b|o may bo ||ab|o |n |aw accord|ng|y.
1ho boy soomod tho portoct targot. |o stood at tho back ot
a group tak|ng tho tour ot tho london O|ymp|c stad|um,
attont|on on tho construct|on voh|c|os boot||ng up tho hugo
ramp to tho ath|otos' ontranco, not on tho th|ot watch|ng
h|m. 1ho bu||d|ng was noar|y t|n|shod and to my m|nd
rosomb|od a g|ant soup p|ato stuck |n a w|ro sa|ad shakor
on a groon tab|oc|oth. A|| that was |ott to do was tho |ast-
m|nuto |andscap|ng and put |n p|aco tho t|na| touchos
botoro tho wor|d arr|vod tor tho gamos. Othors trom tho
Commun|ty workod on tho s|to and had taught mo whoro to
got |n past tho t|ght socur|ty. l'd boon |n a coup|o ot t|mos
botoro bocauso tour|sts ||ko thoso studonts mado oasy
p|ck|ngs. l had p|onty ot t|mo to scopo out my v|ct|m and not
many poop|o around to moss up my approach. lt l got a
good hau| l cou|d ro|ax tor tho rost ot tho day, hoad ott tor
my tavour|to haunt ot tho |oca| ||brary, and not havo to worry
about tho roporcuss|ons ot com|ng homo ompty-handod.
Crouch|ng boh|nd a parkod 1C3 |oador, l stud|od my
targot. lt had to bo tho ono l was moant to h|t: no ono o|so
was ta|| onough and ho t|ttod tho photo l'd boon shown.
W|th jot b|ack ha|r, tannod sk|n, cont|dont stanco, ho |ookod
as |t ho wou|dn't m|ss a mob||o phono or wa||ot. lrobab|y
as |t ho wou|dn't m|ss a mob||o phono or wa||ot. lrobab|y
had |nsuranco or paronts to stop |n and mako up tho |oss
|mmod|ato|y. 1hat mado mo too| bottor, bocauso stoa||ng
stutt wasn't somoth|ng l d|d by cho|co, |t was a moans ot
surv|va|. l cou|dn't soo h|s taco tu|| on, but ho had tho
d|stractod a|r ot somoono whoso thoughts woro otton
o|sowhoro, toot sh|tt|ng about, not |ook|ng whoro tho othors
d|d as tho gu|do po|ntod out tho toaturos ot tho O|ymp|c
lark. l guossod that was good nows as droamors mado
oxco||ont marks, roact|ng too s|ow|y to a snatch. |o was
woar|ng knoo-|ongth khak| shorts and a 1-sh|rt w|th
'Wr|ckonr|dgo Wh|to Wator latt|ng' runn|ng across h|s
broad shou|dors. |o |ookod ||ko ho workod out so l'd havo
to got th|s r|ght. l probab|y wou|dn't bo ab|o to outrun h|m |t
ho chasod attor mo. l rot|od tho shoo|acos on my ratty pa|r
ot Kods, hop|ng thoy'd ho|d out.
3o whoro woro h|s va|uab|os? 3h|tt|ng s||ght|y, l saw that
ho had a backpack s|ung ovor ono shou|dor. |ad to bo |n
l odgod out trom my h|d|ng p|aco, hop|ng l b|ondod |n to
tho group w|th my cut-ott joans and tank top-my bost and
nowost c|othos wh|ch l had n|ckod trom 1op 3hop tho wook
botoro. Ono ot tho downs|dos ot my ab|||ty |s that, to mako
a succosstu| str|ko, l havo to bo c|oso to tho group l'm
work|ng on. 1hat was a|ways tho r|sk|ost part. l had
proparod by br|ng|ng a canvas bag l'd takon trom a
bout|quo |n Covont Gardon, tho k|nd toro|gn v|s|tors buy as
a souvon|r w|th 'london Ca|||ng' scraw|od on |t |n arty
gratt|t|. l was ta|r|y cont|dont l cou|d pass myso|t ott as a r|ch
v|s|tor ||ko thom |t thoy took tho scrutty shoos as a
do||borato tash|on statomont, but l wasn't suro l cou|d pu||
ott |ook|ng |nto|||gont onough to bo|ong to tho|r party.
Accord|ng to my sourco, thoy had como |n trom london
Un|vors|ty and woro attond|ng a contoronco on
Env|ronmonta| 3c|onco or somo such gooky stutt. l'd baro|y
boon to schoo|, oducat|ng myso|t |n |ntorma| |ossons trom
othors |n tho Commun|ty and what l'd road on my own |n
||brar|os, so l cou|dn't spoak 3c|onco 3tudont |t anyono
lu|||ng my ha|r out ot |ts o|ast|c band, l brushod a coup|o
ot |ong, dark strands torward to t|op ovor my taco, tho bottor
to h|do mo trom tho CC1v camora on tho wa|| ton motros
away. l s|d|od up to two g|r|s stand|ng a motro or so trom
my targot. 1hoy woro drossod |n shorts and tanks ||ko mo,
though trom tho pa||or ot tho b|ondo ono's sk|n sho had
spont way moro t|mo |ndoors th|s summor than l had. 1ho
othor had throo p|orc|ngs |n hor oar, wh|ch l hopod mado
my t|vo a b|t |oss not|coab|o. 1hoy gavo mo a s|doways
|ook thon a caut|ous sm||o.
'||, sorry l'm |ato,' l wh|sporod. l had boon br|otod that
nono ot thom know oach othor wo||, hav|ng on|y arr|vod tor
tho|r contoronco tho n|ght botoro. '|avo l m|ssod anyth|ng
1ho ono w|th tho oarr|ngs gr|nnod at mo. 'lt you ||ko
w||dt|owor moadows. 1hoy'vo soodod tho p|aco w|th
woods, at |oast that's what my grandaddy wou|d ca|| thom.'
3ho had an accont trom Amor|ca's doop south, dr|pp|ng
w|th sugar and magno||a. |or ha|r was bra|dod |n t|ght
cornrows that mado mo th|nk 'ouch' just |ook|ng at thom.
1ho ta|r-ha|rod ono bont c|oso. '0on't ||ston to hor. lt's
tasc|nat|ng.' 3ho a|so had an accont-3cand|nav|an
maybo. '1hoy'ro us|ng a ||ght po|ymor-basod mombrano tor
tho root. l p|ayod about w|th tho tormu|a tor that |n tho |ab
|ast somostor: |t w||| bo |ntorost|ng to soo how wo|| |t ho|ds
'Oh yoah, ||ko that's roa||y . um . coo|.' l was
|nt|m|datod by thom a|roady: thoy woro c|oar|y gon|usos
and st||| managod to |ook good.
1ho gu|do bockonod tho group torward and wo wa|kod
up tho ramp |nto tho stad|um |tso|t. 0osp|to my roasons tor
bo|ng thoro, l cou|dn't ho|p too||ng tho thr||| ot troad|ng |n tho
samo path as tho O|ymp|c torch. lot that l'd ovor havo tho
chanco ot bo|ng thoro tor tho roa| th|ng, my droams ot
to||ow|ng any k|nd ot sport had novor got ott tho start|ng
b|ocks. Un|oss, that was, tho O|ymp|c Comm|ttoo doc|dod
to go w||d and |ntroduco a moda| tor th|ovos-thon l m|ght
stand a chanco. l know tho oxh||arat|on ot mak|ng a
succosstu| stoa|, tho o|ogant swoop-|n and c|oan got-away,
suro|y that took as much sk||| as runn|ng |n c|rc|os round
somo dumb track? Yoah, l was a go|d moda|||st |n my
As tho choortu| toma|o gu|do wavod hor paraso| to
oncourago us to to||ow hor, wo ontorod |nto tho groat ova|
spaco ot tho stad|um. Wow. l'd novor got th|s tar botoro on
my othor oxcurs|ons on to tho s|to. l cou|d hoar |n my hoad
tho ochoos ot tho choor|ng crowd. lows and rows ot ompty
soats t|||od w|th shadows ot tho|r occupants-to-bo. l hadn't
roa||zod tho tuturo ho|d ghosts as wo|| as tho past, but l
cou|d sonso thom c|oar|y. 1ho onorgy r|pp|od through t|mo
ovon to th|s qu|ot Wodnosday morn|ng |n 1u|y.
lom|nd|ng myso|t to koop tocusod on tho job, l oasod my
way noaror to tho boy. l cou|d now soo h|m |n prot||o: ho had
tho k|nd ot taco you saw |n g|r|s' magaz|nos noxt to somo
modo| as gorgoous as h|m. |o had got tho who|o doa| |n
tho gonot|c dopartmont: ch|so||od noso, casua|-cut |nk-
b|ack ha|r that |ookod good no mattor how rump|od |t was,
dark brows, chook bonos to d|o tor, l cou|dn't soo h|s oyos
bocauso ho was woar|ng shados but l wou|d bot thoy woro
hugo and a sou|tu| choco|ato brown-oh yoah, ho was too
good to bo truo and l hatod h|m tor |t.
l caught myso|t botoro l g|oworod at h|m, surpr|sod by my
rosponso to tho guy. Why was l roact|ng that way? l d|dn't
norma||y too| anyth|ng tor my v|ct|ms, apart trom a tw|ngo ot
gu||t that l'd s|ng|od thom out. l a|ways tr|od to t|nd poop|o
who wou|dn't not|co tho |oss that much, a b|t ||ko lob|n
|ood. l onjoyod outw|tt|ng my r|ch targots, but l d|dn't want
to th|nk anyono roa||y suttorod trom what l d|d. 1ho 3hor|tt ot
lott|ngham had h|s |||-gotton taxos, thoso days poop|o had
|nsuranco trom b|g mu|t|-nat|ona|s, and thoy woro tho onos
who roa||y r|ppod ott tho poor. lt wasn't as |t l woro ||ko
thom, robb|ng w|dows and orphans, was |t? 1hoy got
componsat|on ovontua||y. At |oast that was what l to|d
myso|t as l p|annod how to p|ck h|s pockot. 1h|s job was a
b|t d|ttoront as l was act|ng undor ordors, |t was ta|r|y raro
tor mo to bo askod to stoa| trom a part|cu|ar mark, but l was
ro||ovod tho targot |ookod ||ko tho sort to bo |nsurod up to
tho oyobrows. lo|thor ho nor l had choson th|s so |t wasn't
rat|ona| to turn aga|nst h|m. |o'd dono noth|ng to oarn |t but
stand thoro, |ook|ng so sortod, c|oan and k|nd ot controd
whoroas l was such a hopo|oss moss.
1ho gu|do w|ttorod on about how tho soat|ng had boon
constructod to bo romovab|o. As |t l carod about O|ymp|c
|ogacy, l was novor conv|ncod l'd soo noxt month, |ot a|ono
ton yoars away. A p|ano rumb|od ovorhoad on tho
|oathrow t||ght path, scarr|ng tho summor sky w|th |ts wh|to
tra||. As tho boy |ookod up, l mado my movo.
loach tor tho|r monta| pattorns .
1hoy woro wh|rr|ng away ||ko so many boaut|tu|
ka|o|doscopos, ovor sh|tt|ng. 1hon .
l stoppod t|mo.
Wo||, not oxact|y, but that's what |t too|s ||ko to bo on tho
roco|v|ng ond ot my powor. What l roa||y do |s troozo
porcopt|ons so that no ono not|cos t|mo pass|ng-that's
why l nood sma|| groups |n onc|osod spacos. Othor poop|o
m|ght just not|co |t a bunch ot poop|o suddon|y wont |nto
Vadamo 1ussaud modo. lt's a b|t ||ko tho sonsat|on ot
pass|ng out undor anaosthot|c and thon jo|t|ng awako
aga|n, or so l'vo boon to|d whon l'vo tr|od my ab|||ty out on
othors |n tho Commun|ty-that's my sort-ot-homo, though
otton |t to|t moro ||ko a zoo.
otton |t to|t moro ||ko a zoo.
A|| ot us aro 3avants |n tho Commun|ty: poop|o w|th oxtra
sonsory porcopt|ons and powors. 3avants ox|st bocauso
ovory now and thon a human |s born w|th a g|tt, a spoc|a|
d|mons|on to tho|r bra|n that a||ows thom to do what othors
can on|y droam ot do|ng. 1horo aro somo ot us who can
movo stutt w|th tho|r m|nds-to|ok|nos|s, l'vo mot a tow who
can to|| |t you aro us|ng thought-spoak, or to|opathy, and
thoro's ono porson who can moss w|th your hoad and torco
you to do h|s w|||. 1ho ways tho 3avant powors dovo|op aro
many and var|od, but no ono o|so has a g|tt oxact|y ||ko
m|no. l protorrod |t ||ko that, |t mado mo too| spoc|a|.
1ho ||tt|o group ot ton studonts and tho|r gu|do a|| stoppod
|n tho|r tracks, tho 3cand|nav|an g|r| w|th hor hand ha|tway
through hor ha|r, an As|an boy m|d-snoozo-tho 'aah' novor
roach|ng tho 'choo'.
Go mo: l can ovon stop tho common co|d.
l qu|ck|y r|t|od through my targot's backpack and struck
go|d: ho had an |lad and an |lhono. 1hat was br||||ant
nows as both aro oasy to concoa| and havo a h|gh rosa|o
va|uo, a|most as much as tho or|g|na| shop-bought |toms. l
to|t tho tam|||ar rush ot v|ctory and had to ros|st tho
tomptat|on ot tak|ng a p|cturo w|th tho phono ot thom a||
stand|ng thoro, o|ghtoon yoar o|ds caught p|ay|ng Vus|ca|
3tatuos. Expor|onco to|d mo that l wou|d pay tor |ndu|g|ng
my w|nnor's co|obrat|on w|th a crash|ng hoadacho |t l ho|d
thom tor moro than twonty or th|rty soconds. 3tutt|ng tho
goods |n my canvas toto, l sott|od tho backpack on h|s
shou|dors oxact|y how |t had boon-l'm good at tho dota||s.
3ut now l was stand|ng so c|oso, a|most ombrac|ng h|m,
and l cou|d soo h|s oyos down tho s|do ot h|s g|assos. Vy
hoart stoppod whon l caught s|ght ot h|s oxpross|on. lt
wasn't tho du|| g|azod |ook my v|ct|ms usua||y woro, ho was
somohow awaro ot what was happon|ng, tury burn|ng |n h|s
|o cou|dn't bo t|ght|ng my powor, cou|d ho? lo ono had
ovor managod that, not ovon tho strongost 3avants |n tho
Commun|ty had managod to throw ott my troozo-tramo
attack. l qu|ck|y sh|ttod tocus to uso my othor powor to
chock h|s m|nd-pattorn w|th my |nnor s|ght. l soo
bra|nwavos ||ko a corona around tho sun, a ||tt|o as |t tho
porson |s stand|ng botoro an ovor-chang|ng c|rcu|ar
sta|nod-g|ass w|ndow ot tho|r sou|s. You can to|| a |ot about
a porson trom tho co|ours and pattorns, ovon g||mpso tho|r
prooccupat|ons. ||s wasn't stoppod |n tho |ast arrangomont
botoro l struck-that had boon an abstract ha|o ot b|uos
ontw|nod w|th numbors and |ottors, h|s bra|n was st|||
mov|ng, moro s|ow|y but dot|n|to|y a|ort. 1ho corona dr|ttod
|nto tho rod spoctrum and my taco now dancod |n tho
Oh, that roa||y suckod.
Abandon|ng my attompt to do tho z|p ot tho backpack up
a|| tho way, l |oggod |t tor tho stad|um ox|t. l cou|d too| tho
strongth ot my ho|d on thom s||pp|ng troo ||ko sand runn|ng
out ot tho bottom ot a sp||t sack, tar tastor than norma|. lart
ot mo was scroam|ng that th|s cou|dn't happon: l was good
at noth|ng oxcopt th|s, my powor to troozo m|nds was tho
ono th|ng that had roma|nod tota||y ro||ab|o through a|| tho
othor madnoss that was my ||to. l to|t scarod to doath that
somohow that too was ta|||ng mo. lt |t d|d, l'd bo washod up.
Vy |ott shoo s|appod my hoo| as l ran out ot tho stad|um
- tho tr|gg|ng |aco had brokon. l hoadod tor tho 1C3 l had
or|g|na||y h|ddon boh|nd. lt l cou|d got that tar, l wou|d bo
ab|o to duck down out ot s|ght and ||o |n tho w||d-t|owor
moadow grass. |rom thoro l cou|d go on my bo||y to tho
concroto cu|vort that l had usod to concoa| my ontry to tho
Vy so|o s||ppod on a rough patch and l |ost tho Kod by
tho ramp but l was too pan|ckod to rotr|ovo |t. l novor mado
thoso k|nds ot m|stakos. l a|ways wont |n and out ot a stoa|
|oav|ng no traco. l roachod tho |oador, my hoart pound|ng
aga|nst my r|bs ||ko an amp||t|or w|th bass notos boom|ng.
1ho connoct|on snappod and l know tho rost ot tho studonts
wou|d bo awaro aga|n. 3ut had ho managod to shako ott
my troozo attack a|roady and track my ox|t routo?
1ho sounds ot tho construct|on work carr|od on w|thout
|ntorrupt|on. lo shouts or wh|st|os. l snoakod a pook
around tho whoo| ot tho 1C3. 1ho boy was stand|ng at tho
top ot tho ramp, quartor|ng tho O|ymp|c lark w|th h|s gazo.
|o wasn't ra|s|ng tho dust, domand|ng a soarch bo carr|od
out, or ca|||ng tor tho po||co: ho s|mp|y |ookod. 1hat mado
mo ovon moro scarod. lt just wasn't norma|.
lo t|mo to th|nk. l rotroatod to tho |ong grass and tound
tho path l'd a|roady mado |n tho moadow. 1hat shou|d |oad
mo d|roct|y back to satoty. 1horo woro towor socur|ty
camoras t|ttod on th|s part ot tho s|to and sovora| b||nd
spots |t you know whoro thoy woro to bo tound, so l shou|d
bo d|tt|cu|t to |ocato. l cou|d st||| got away.
ly|ng on my stomach, l cast tho bag to ono s|do and
saggod aga|nst tho oarth tor a momont, adrona||n st|||
thundor|ng through my vo|ns ||ko a runaway tubo tra|n. l to|t
s|ck-d|sgustod at myso|t tor my unprotoss|ona| pan|c and
torr|t|od ot what had just happonod. 1horo was no t|mo to
got my hoad round |t, l st||| had to oscapo |nto tho stroots
and got r|d ot tho stutt l'd sto|on.
lom|ndod that l was now |n possoss|on ot two vory
oxpons|vo b|ts ot k|t, l chockod my bag. lt to|t warm-no,
hot. l stuck my hand |ns|do to soo what was wrong-so
1ho phono and tab|ot burst |nto t|amo.
3woar|ng tou||y, l pu||od my hand back and pushod tho
bag away. Vy t|ngors stung ||ko ho|| and |t |ookod as though
my who|o hand was burnt. 3hak|ng away tho agony, l
cou|dn't stop to soo how bad |t was bocauso my toto was
now on t|ro, sond|ng up a smoko s|gna| ot oxact|y whoro tho
th|ot was. l stumb|od to my toot and ran b||nd|y tor tho tonco,
gasp|ng w|th pa|n. l had to got my hand |n wator. l no |ongor
carod |t anyono saw mo, l had to got out.
Voro by |uck than judgomont, l tound tho concroto
channo| and tho gap |n tho por|motor tonco. Wr|gg||ng
through tho w|ro, my ha|r got caught and l had to pu|| hard to
got troo, add|ng anothor |njury to my grow|ng ||st. 1hon,
||mp|ng and crad||ng my hand to my chost, l hoadod across
tho wasto ground tor 3trattord 3tat|on to got |ost |n tho
crowds on tho p|attorm.
'1ony, 1ony, |ot mo |n!' l boat w|th my un|njurod t|st on tho
battorod t|ro door at tho back ot tho Commun|ty, |t was tho
k|nd w|th tho push-bar on tho |ns|do so l had to wa|t tor
somoono to tako p|ty on mo botoro l cou|d ontor.
As l'd guossod, 1ony was tho on|y ono on duty th|s oar|y
|n tho day. 1ho othors woro out and about 'gathor|ng' tho
Commun|ty's woa|th. l cou|d hoar h|m shutt||ng to tho
ontranco, h|s bad |og dragg|ng w|th ovory othor str|do. W|th
a thump, ho to|| aga|nst tho bar and torcod |t opon. 1ho
bottom scrapod on tho brokon concroto pav|ng.
'lhoo, what aro you do|ng homo so soon?' |o stood
back to |ot mo past and thon draggod tho door c|osod.
'Whoro's your bag-d|d you stash |t somowhoro?' A ||tt|o
guy w|th popporand-sa|t ha|r, bronzod sk|n and oyos ||ko a
hodgorow b|rd a|ways on tho |ookout tor a prodator, 1ony
was tho c|osost l had horo to a tr|ond. 1wo yoars ago, ho
had como out worst |n an argumont w|th a truck ho was
try|ng to jack |n a |ay-by noar Wa|thamstow, not roa||z|ng tho
dr|vor was as|oop |n tho cab|n. 1ho man had takon ott whon
ho hoard 1ony's to|ok|not|c powors at work on tho door
|ocks, not |ook|ng to soo tho causo. 1ony had gono undor
tho whoo|s and noar|y d|od. 3|nco thon, ho'd on|y had tho
tho whoo|s and noar|y d|od. 3|nco thon, ho'd on|y had tho
uso ot ono good arm and |og, tho othors crushod and novor
propor|y hoa|od dosp|to ovoryth|ng l tr|od to do tor h|m.
Commun|ty mombors aron't a||owod to uso omorgoncy
sorv|cos. Wo havo to t|y undor tho radar, accord|ng to our
'You shou|dn't bo back.' Undoc|dod, 1ony hovorod |n tho
ontranco, not know|ng |t ho shou|d k|ck mo out or shut tho
|o gavo a norvous g|anco ovor h|s shou|dor. '3ut you'ro
st||| wa|k|ng, lhoo-you know tho ru|os.'
|av|ng had onough ot strugg||ng a|ong, my oyos t|||od
w|th toars that l cou|d not attord to shod. 'l know tho ott|ng
ru|os, 1ony. Vy bag wont up |n smoko, OK? And l got
burnod.' l ho|d up my b||storod pa|m. |or onco, l wantod
somo sympathy, not to bo to|d my duty. 'lt roa||y hurts.'
' Oh, oosbor, that |ooks ug|y.' ||s shou|dors curvod |n
dotoat tor a socond as ho contomp|atod tho consoquoncos,
thon ho stood up stra|ght. 'l shou|dn't |ot you back |n but so
what? Como w|th mo and l'|| sort you out.'
'1hanks, 1ony. You'ro a star.' ||s k|ndnoss ho|pod moro
than ho know.
C|os|ng tho door, ho wavod ott my approc|at|on. 'You and
l both know th|s won't bo tho ond ot tho mattor, not whon our
kommooooot gots to hoar ot |t.' |o gavo a hopo|oss shrug.
'3ut tor tho momont |ot's doa| w|th your |njury. l oxpoct wo'||
both rogrot |t.'
l moppod my toars w|th tho back ot my hand. 'l'm sorry.'
'Yos, yos.' W|th h|s back to mo, ho mado a d|sm|ss|vo
gosturo w|th h|s t|ngors, a t||ck ot dot|anco at tho onsot ot
troub|o. 'Wo'ro a|| sorry-sorry a|| tho t|mo.' |o shutt|od on
ahoad down tho |||-smo|||ng corr|dor, part basomont, part
sorv|co tunno|. 1ho Commun|ty was squatt|ng on an ompty
counc|| ostato s|atod tor domo||t|on. l th|nk tho loca|
Author|ty had had droams that tho O|ymp|c dovo|opmont
wou|d swa||ow up th|s ug|y b|t ot tho|r hous|ng stock but tho
rocoss|on had cut thoso droams ott at tho knoos. 1hoy'd
ompt|od tho |ow-r|so b|ocks, th|nk|ng that tho bonot|t-
c|a|m|ng |nhab|tants wou|d bo rop|acod by tax-pay|ng c|ty
workors, but no ono had movod |n w|th bu||dozors to bu||d
tho tancy apartmonts thoy had spocu|atod wou|d rop|aco
tho concroto boxos. lnstoad, s|x months ago, wo had cropt
|n and ostab||shod our own ||tt|o co|ony. lt wasn't as bad as
somo ot tho p|acos wo'd boon |n as |t st||| had wator, ovon |t
tho o|octr|c|ty had boon cut ott. 1ho po||co had boon
porsuadod w|th a wo||-p|acod br|bo or two to |ook tho othor
way as wo broko |n to tho boardod-up t| ats. 1ho aroa tough
guys who wou|d'vo usod |t tor doa||ng had soon boon
scarod ott by our guards. lt thoro was any bad stutt go|ng
down |n th|s p|aco, our |oador wantod to mako suro ho was
tho ono bonot|t|ng. 3o wo woro |ott to ourso|vos, a group ot
about s|xty 3avants and ono dom|nant 3oor, h|m bo|ng our
oqu|va|ont ot a quoon boo and us tho workors.
'ln you go.' 1ony ushorod mo |nto tho ||tt|o cupboard ot a
room ho had boon a||ocatod. |orcod by h|s |njur|os ott
act|vo duty, ho was on|y a||owod to stay through tho
'goodnoss' ot our |oador's hoart. 1hat goodnoss on|y
strotchod to th|s ho|o. l, by contrast, had boon grantod a
propor bodroom on tho top t|oor-tho oqu|va|ont ot a
commondat|on. And, bo|ng tho bost at my cratt, l'd novor
ta||od tho 3oor, unt|| today that was.
'|ow bad?' l askod caut|ous|y as l ho|d out my arm to tho
gr|my w|ndow. l cou|d soo a wh|to b||stor torm|ng |n tho
contro ot my pa|m and angry rod sk|n a|| ovor my arm up to
1ony suckod |n a broath. 'lorhaps you shou|d'vo gono to
'You know l can't.'
|o got a tubo ot sa|vo out ot h|s ho|da||, wh|ch |ay on tho
mattross. lono ot us ovor unpackod as wo a|ways had to
bo roady to movo at a momont's not|co. |o squoozod a
||tt|o on to my sk|n thon |ookod at mo through h|s |ashos.
'lot un|oss you woron't p|ann|ng to como back.'
'l . l havo nowhoro o|so to go, you know that.' Was ho
tost|ng mo? 1ho 3oor otton chockod our |oya|ty by putt|ng
us up aga|nst oach othor and wo a|| roa||zod thoro woro
sp|os |n our m|dst.
'loa||y? A young g|r| ||ko you shou|d bo ab|o to t|nd a
bottor ||to than th|s.' |o rummagod through h|s pack and
camo up w|th a ro|| ot c||ng t||m, our answor to a surg|ca|
dross|ng. Wo ||vod ||ko so|d|ors |n onomy torr|tory, so|t-
sutt|c|ont, our own t|rst a|dors. '1h|s shou|d koop |t c|oan.'
l b|t my ||p aga|nst tho pa|n as ho wound tho t||m around
tho attoctod hand and arm, watch|ng tho sa|vo squash
botwoon burn and covor|ng. 'ls thoro anyth|ng o|so, 1ony?
l'vo novor boon outs|do tho Commun|ty. 1ho 3oor says
poop|o ||ko us aron't wo|como.'
1ony snortod. 'Yos, and bo knows ovoryth|ng.'
|o had a|ways soomod to as tar back as l cou|d
romombor. '3o why do you stay?' lt l was bo|ng tostod, l
cou|d at |oast roturn tho tavour.
'l roa||y do havo nowhoro o|so to go and no monoy. l'm
not horo |oga||y, oosbor. lt thoy sh|p mo back homo, l'd ond
up |n A|ban|a a washod-up ox-car-jackor w|th no moans ot
sup-port. And l d|dn't |oavo my tam||y |n tho bost ot
c|rcumstancos, thoy'd probab|y shoot mo on s|ght.'
Vost ot us |n tho Commun|ty woro ||ko 1ony, stato|oss
dr|ttors. lt was just ono |ayor |n tho trap |n wh|ch wo tound
ourso|vos snarod. 'l'm not |oga| o|thor. l'vo no b|rth
cort|t|cato, noth|ng. l'm not ovon suro whoro l was born.'
'l was thoro.' |o snappod ott tho |ast |ongth ot t||m. 'l th|nk
wo woro |n lowcast|o.'
'Wo woro? 3o tar north?' l hadn't roa||zod 1ony had boon
w|th us that |ong so was absurd|y p|oasod to havo a ||tt|o ot
tho b|ank t|||od |n. '0o you romombor my mothor?'
1ony shruggod. 'Yos, sho was ono ot tho 3oor's
compan|ons at tho t|mo. lrotty th|ng, b|t ||ko you to |ook at.
0on't you havo any momor|os ot hor?'
l noddod. 'lot trom thon-trom |ator, whon sho wasn't |n
good shapo.' 3ho'd d|od ot cancor whon l was o|ght attor a
yoar batt||ng tho d|soaso and a|| l cou|d roca|| c|oar|y was a
pa|ntu||y th|n woman w|th a t|orco hug. |ortunato|y l'd boon
o|d onough to tako ovor hor gathor|ng dut|os so wo'd kopt a
root ovor our hoads tor tho |ast days ot hor |||noss. Evon
tac|ng a doath sontonco, sho cou|dn't go to hosp|ta|-tho
3oor hadn't a||owod |t. |o'd to|d mo that doctors woron't
ab|o to ho|p whon h|s own hoa||ng powors had not
managod to k||| ott tho tumour. l'd bo||ovod h|m thon, but
n|no yoars |ator and a |ot w|sor to h|s ways, l wondorod. ||s
hoa||ng powors had novor soomod to mo much moro than
m|nd ovor mattor. Vy mum provod that you can't bo||ovo
yourso|t bottor and |gnoro tho pa|n, as ho to|d us to do,
whon your body gavo out.
'1hat shou|d do tho tr|ck.' 1ony droppod tho mod|ca|
supp||os back |nto h|s bag. 'Aro you go|ng to to|| mo how
you got that?'
l swa||owod and thon noddod. l'd havo to to|| tho 3oor
|ator so l m|ght as wo|| soo how tho story struck a tr|ond. 'l
was on tho s|to as l was ordorod |ast n|ght.'
1ony sat down on h|s mattross. |o know that part
a|roady, hav|ng boon at tho moot|ng whoro our dut|os had
boon d|v|dod up as usua|. Our co|ony was ||v|ng ott an aroa
ot oast london that took |n tho t|nanc|a| r|chos ot tho C|ty
and tho now O|ymp|c dovo|opmonts on tho loo va||oy,
suck|ng up tho woa|th ||ko a paras|to on a hoa|thy an|ma|.
'lt was go|ng t|no-l ||ttod an |lhono and an |lad trom
th|s studont's backpack-a swoot, c|oan stoa|.'
1ony wh|st|od |n approc|at|on.
'l'd noar|y got away whon thoy . um . wo||, thoy
1ony shook h|s hoad. 'lhoo, thoso th|ngs don't just b|ow
l ho|d out my hand as ov|donco. '1hoy do now. lt was ||ko
tho guy had put t|roworks |ns|do thom or somoth|ng. l guoss
ho'd r|ggod thom.' A thought struck mo. '1ooz, you don't
th|nk ho was a torror|st p|ann|ng a h|t, do you?'
'lt on|y your t|ngors got burnod, thon no. 3ounds moro ||ko
an o|octr|ca| t|ro than a bomb.' 1ony trownod.
Vy oxpross|on m|rrorod h|s. 'l d|d road somoth|ng about
|aptops go|ng up |n t|amos a tow yoars back-somoth|ng
wrong w|th tho battor|os.'
'Yos, but to do so whon you had just sto|on thom-that
can't bo co|nc|donco.'
l'd conc|udod as much myso|t.
1ony scratchod h|s ch|n, patchos ot br|st|o |n tho wr|nk|os
mak|ng a rasp|ng no|so aga|nst tho rough sk|n ot h|s pa|m.
'3ut ho shou|dn't havo ovon known you'd takon thom, not |t
you woro st||| on tho s|to.' 1ony was shrowd, ho know how
my g|tt workod and had spottod tho oddost th|ng |n my
l cur|od up on tho toot ot tho bod, woary to tho bono. 'l
know. 1hat part roa||y troakod mo out. |o was awaro ot mo
-l swoar |t. l cou|d soo my taco |n h|s thoughts as l sto|o
trom h|m-ho wasn't comp|oto|y undor, t|ght|ng ott my
'lhoo!' 1ony strugg|od up to h|s toot, t|na||y as shakon as
l was by tho who|o soquonco ot ovonts. 'You can't to|| tho
3oor that! |o'|| k||| you |t ho th|nks somoono knows who you
Vy throat wont dry. '|o . ho wou|dn't, wou|d ho?'
1ony gavo a strang|od |augh. 'Whoro do you th|nk V|tch
wont |ast yoar attor ho got arrostod and ro|oasod on ba||?'
l d|dn't want to hoar th|s-l roa||y d|dn't. '|o wont to
3pa|n, d|dn't ho? On a job tor tho 3oor.'
'5polo? 1hat's ono word tor |t. |o wont |nto a sha||ow
gravo |n Epp|ng |orost, oosbor. 1ho 3oor got vory, vory
angry w|th h|m.'
l wrappod my good arm around my wa|st and |oanod
back aga|nst tho wa||. lt to|t co|d and s||my to my baro
shou|dors. lart ot mo had sonsod tho horror that ox|stod
just bo|ow tho surtaco ot ||to w|th tho 3oor, but l w|shod l
cou|d protond |gnoranco a b|t |ongor. l was atra|d that toar
wou|d rob mo ot what ||tt|o |ndopondonco and pr|do l
managod to ma|nta|n |n tho Commun|ty.
1ony s|ghod whon ho saw my oxpross|on. 'lhoo, you can
on|y got out ot tho Commun|ty |n two ways-you d|o or
'l thought wo cou|d |oavo |t wo tound our sou|t|ndor-our
othor ha|t,' l sa|d |n a qu|ot vo|co.
1ony gr|macod. 'Who's boon tood|ng you thoso
Vy mothor, but l wasn't go|ng to to|| h|m that. 3ho had
kopt on hop|ng that sho wou|d bo savod trom th|s ||v|ng ho||
by stumb||ng across hor portoct match |n ono ot tho c|t|os
wo'd passod through. Accord|ng to hor, ovory ono ot us
w|th a g|tt had a countorpart, conco|vod at tho samo t|mo
as us somowhoro |n tho wor|d. 3orn w|th|n a tow days or
wooks ot oach othor, our ||vos woro a soarch to t|nd tho
3avant who cou|d comp|oto us. 1ho hopo ot moot|ng my
sou|t|ndor had boon tho story that had warmod my
ch||dhood, my mothor wh|spor|ng that l had my own
porsona| lr|nco Charm|ng wa|t|ng somowhoro tor mo. And
|t my mothor had tound hors t|rst, thon wo wou|d havo |ott
tho Commun|ty and l wou|d'vo had a tathor, somoono to
chor|sh mo as a daughtor. Ot thoso two stor|os ot hors, l
wasn't suro wh|ch l'd w|shod tor most. 3ut thon my mothor
had d|od. 3|ow|y tho droam ot a sou|t|ndor-a spoc|a|
porson to caro tor and |ovo mo, a ro|at|onsh|p moro |ntonso
than any norma| |ovo atta|r-had d|od w|th hor. ln tact, now l
thought about |t, |t had a|ways boon too good to bo truo.
'l no |ongor bo||ovo such a th|ng ox|sts.' Echo|ng my
thoughts, 1ony squoozod h|s work|ng hand |nto a t|st. 'lt's
too cruo| to carry on hop|ng. And ovon |t you d|d t|nd yours,
tho 3oor wou|d novor |ot you go.'
l c|osod my oyos br|ot|y, |ndu|g|ng tor tho |ast t|mo |n tho
swoot droam that l had a ||to||no outs|do tho Commun|ty,
somoono l cou|d stay w|th tor ovor. 3avants w|thout tho|r
sou|-t|ndors novor comm|t to anothor-thoy can't, thoy sh|tt
trom ono partnor to tho noxt as my mothor had. l had novor
wantod that k|nd ot ox|stonco but that was tho ono l was
go|ng to havo to ||vo. lt was a ch||d's w|sh to bo||ovo
somoono was wa|t|ng to savo mo. l had to |ot |t go.
'3o you havo two cho|cos, lhoo: doath or
d|sappoaranco,' 1ony cont|nuod. 'l|oaso, p|oaso th|nk
about tho socond, l don't want to bo thoro |t tho 3oor
choosos tho t|rst tor you.' 1ony c|osod tho d|stanco
botwoon us and p|acod h|s mang|od hand on my chook,
t|ngors cur|od aga|nst h|s pa|m. 'You dosorvo bottor than
th|s. And don't to|| h|m what you to|d mo.'
'|o'|| know. |o a|ways knows.' 1hat was tho roason ho
ru|od us: tho 3oor cou|d smo|| a ||o at a hundrod pacos. ||s
g|tts woro strong. |o cou|d sw|tch mach|nory on and ott w|th
h|s bra|n, man|pu|ato o|octr|c|ty and ontor tho m|nd, t||pp|ng
your pr|vato sw|tchos to mako you do what ho wantod, ovon
to tho po|nt ot k||||ng yourso|t |t that was h|s w|sh. V|tch had
probab|y dug h|s own gravo and thon thrown h|mso|t |n on
tho 3oor's ordors. Our |oador was a|so a shrowd roador ot
charactor, know|ng a d|s|oya| thought ovon botoro you had
a chanco to act on |t. Wo had roason tor our w||||ngnoss to
1ony droppod h|s hand. '|o'|| on|y bothor to chock |t ho
doosn't bo||ovo you, so mako your story conv|nc|ng.
lract|so your sh|o|ds.'
'l'vo novor boon ab|o to ho|d ono up aga|nst h|m.' l'd
a|ways boon too scarod to try anyth|ng so dot|ant.
'1ho 3oor ||kos you, ho won't |ook tor t|aws |t you don't
show h|m any. You nood anothor story.' 1ony rubbod h|s
torohoad. 'l know, why not say tho tour party was a no-
show? lt you h|do your burn, you cou|d c|a|m that thoro was
a chango |n p|an. l'|| havo a word w|th 3oan-ho was on
s|to today but ho won't say anyth|ng |t you mako up tho |oss
tomorrow.' 3oan was our man on tho |ns|do, work|ng
socur|ty at tho O|ymp|c stad|um.
'3o what was l do|ng a|| day?'
1ony pacod tho sma|| spaco ot h|s room. 'You . you
wont |n soarch ot your targots whon thoy d|dn't como-|t
was somo contoronco, r|ght, at Ouoon Vary Co||ogo?'
'And you t|gurod out whon to h|t thom tomorrow to got a
hau| worth at |oast two days' work-mako tho 3oor droo| tor
a|| thoso |aptops, toro|gn curroncy and phonos. |o'|| g|vo
you a day to provo yourso|t to h|m.'
l brushod my uppor arm abovo tho burn. Vy sk|n had
goosobumps. '3ut ho wantod mo to h|t a part|cu|ar targot
and that guy saw mo. lt's ask|ng tor troub|o to go attor tho
samo porson tw|co.'
'Yoah wo||, you'|| havo to do somoth|ng about that too.'
1ony was no |ongor |ook|ng at mo, but at tho crackod
p|astorwork abovo my hoad.
'What do you moan, °do somoth|ng'?'
'l guoss l moan you nood to mako suro your |lad boy
|sn't th|nk|ng about somoono stoa||ng trom h|m by g|v|ng
h|m somoth|ng b|ggor to worry about.'
'|or soor's sako, lhoo, uso your |mag|nat|on. |roozo
h|m and throw h|m down a t||ght ot sta|rs, g|vo h|m
concuss|on, bash h|s hand w|th a hammor-you can como
up w|th somoth|ng. 3o tar you'vo on|y usod your g|tt to stoa|,
but suro|y you'ro not too dumb to roa||zo |t g|vos you a
chanco to do a |ot moro than that!'
'3ut ho'd got hurt!'
'Go to tho top ot tho c|ass.' 1ony turnod away, d|sgustod
w|th mo. 'l'm not to|||ng you to k||| h|m-just g|vo h|m
somoth|ng to occupy h|m. lt ho's busy doa||ng w|th doctors,
ho won't bo worry|ng about tho caso ot tho oxp|od|ng |lad,
w||| ho? Vako h|m go homo.'
'l . l can't.'
1ony t|ung tho door opon, h|s pat|onco worn out. 'You
torgot, lhoo, you draggod mo |nto th|s whon l |ot you |n
w|thout any hau| tor tho 3oor. You nood to mako suro th|s
onds wo|| and that wo aro back to norma| tomorrow-o|thor
that or you mako yourso|t d|sappoar so |t doosn't como
back on mo that way.' |o pract|ca||y throw mo out, gott|ng
spookod by how many ru|os wo had just brokon togothor.
'Go h|do and got your story sortod tor your roport. l can't
ho|p you mako thoso doc|s|ons-|t's on you.'
l had just run |nto ono ot thoso barr|ors |n tho way ot roa|
tr|ondsh|p that aro part ot ||to |n tho Commun|ty. l took my
|oavo w|th a br|ot word ot thanks. A|| ot us woro try|ng to
surv|vo and a sonso ot |oya|ty to anothor on|y wont so tar.
lray|ng tor bottor |uck than norma|, hop|ng not to moot
anyono, l took tho sta|rs up to my t|at as qu|ck|y as l cou|d.
1ho ||ght and smo|| got bottor tho h|ghor up you woro. l had
ono sma|| room on tho t|tth t|oor, tho rost ot th|s |ovo| was
occup|od by tho 3oor and h|s sma|| band ot bodyguards
and tavour|tos. 1hoy wou|d bo tho on|y othor poop|o at
homo at th|s t|mo but l had to trust that thoy woro occup|od
w|th tho|r own bus|noss and not patro|||ng tho sta|rwo||s. 1ho
3oor had mado h|s own |odg|ngs ta|r|y |uxur|ous, comp|oto
w|th pr|vato gonorator that was parkod outs|do my door so
that a|| my ovon|ngs woro spont to tho accompan|mont ot
tho ong|no drono and d|oso| tumos. l d|dn't m|nd bocauso |t
tho ong|no drono and d|oso| tumos. l d|dn't m|nd bocauso |t
drownod out tho no|so ot h|s part|os. 3ad th|ngs happonod
at thoso and so tar l had managod to koop out ot thom. l
wondorod tor how much |ongor: l had not|cod rocont|y that
tho 3oor had bogun |ook|ng at mo odd|y. |av|ng boon ono
ot tho tow ch||dron ra|sod |n tho Commun|ty, l'd boon
protoctod by tho |ong shadow ot ch||dhood, now l was
sovontoon that had bogun to tado. l d|d not want to bo
draggod |nto tho ||ght tor tho 3oor to uso and cast as|do as
ho had so many othor womon.
l|ko my mothor.
l mado |t back to my t|at w|thout bo|ng spottod. Onco
|ns|do, l put tho t||msy cha|n across, not bocauso |t wou|d
stop anyono, but bocauso |t mado mo too| bottor. 1ho art ot
||v|ng |n tho Commun|ty was to mako tho most ot tho sma||
concoss|ons tho 3oor gavo us-pr|vacy ono ot tho most
pr|zod. 1ho t|at was usod as storago tor Commun|ty goods:
sto|on o|octron|cs, casos ot w|no, pack|ng casos ot |oathor
jackots. lt smo|t ||ko a dopartmont storo, not a homo. l'd
boon a||owod a bodroom and ovon a bodstoad, a dot|n|to
mark ot tavour whon most s|opt on mattrossos on tho t|oor.
1ho on|y othors g|von th|s pr|v||ogo woro tho bodyguards
and two othor youngor mombors ot tho Commun|ty, both
boys, Un|corn and 0ragon. Wo|rd namos, but thon l was
ca||od lhoon|x so who was l to ta|k? 1hoy woro c|oso to tho
3oor so tho|r spoc|a| troatmont mado sonso, my pr|v||ogos
woro |oss oasy to oxp|a|n, though l supposo our |oador
tound my g|tt usotu| and un|quo.
1hat was |t |t st||| workod. 1ho 3oor wou|d not ||ko to
know that thoro was an oxcopt|on to my |nt|uonco. 3otoro
tho stoa|, l'd boon monta||y crow|ng about bo|ng a go|d
moda|||st, now l to|t ||ko a runnor com|ng |n a d|sgracotu|
|ast p|aco. Whatovor o|so l d|d to tho boy, l had to mako
suro no ono o|so |oarnod that ho had boon ab|o to ros|st
l|no o'c|ock at n|ght: my |oast tavour|to t|mo ot day. Como
ra|n or sh|no, tho Commun|ty gathorod |n tho vanda||zod
p|ayground |n tho contro ot tho hous|ng comp|ox to roport to
tho 3oor. l|ko tho lopo on Eastor 3unday, ho wou|d
omorgo on to tho ba|cony abovo us, watch|ng wh||o h|s mon
totchod tho hau| trom oach workor. 1ho noxt day's schodu|o
was thon announcod, and thon, |t a|| was wo||, wo wou|d
sp||t up, o|thor back to our rooms or ott on anothor job.
lt a|| was wo||.
lt not, thon tho ottondor wou|d bo takon up to tho 3oor's
room to spoak to tho man h|mso|t. l know that was what l
was ||ko|y tac|ng: no goods to hand ovor dot|n|to|y roqu|rod
h|s porsona| attont|on.
l proparod tor tho moot|ng by putt|ng a |ong-s|oovod top
ovor my burn and ty|ng a bandago round my pa|m so |t
wou|d appoar that l'd just cut myso|t-a troquont hazard ot
broak|ng and ontor|ng so un||ko|y to ra|so any oyobrows. l
chockod my appoaranco |n tho shard ot m|rror st||| hang|ng
ovor tho s|nk |n my bathroom. Vy tan mado my dark b|uo
oyos |ook ||ghtor than norma|, my shou|dor |ongth ha|r had
boon rough cut by mo a wook ago and now to|| |n unoqua|
w|sps about my taco, t||pp|ng up at tho onds. lt |ookod
w|sps about my taco, t||pp|ng up at tho onds. lt |ookod
bottor than |t shou|d do attor tho hatchot job l'd portormod
on |t w|th na|| sc|ssors. W|th no mako-up and a row ot
modost studs |n my oars, l |ookod youngor than sovontoon
-wh|ch l hopod wou|d count |n my tavour.
Vy a|arm boopod on my bods|do c|ock, warn|ng mo that
|t was on|y a m|nuto to go unt|| ro|| ca||. l |ott my room at a
jog and jo|nod tho othors runn|ng down tho sta|rs to tho
p|ayground. lo ono spoko: tho tons|on at th|s po|nt was
a|ways too h|gh, attor tho ordoa| had boon surv|vod, that
was whon wo wou|d stop to ta|k. l s||d |nto my usua| spot by
tho roundabout and sat on tho odgo, p|ck|ng at tho pa|nt. l
cou|d soo 1ony |urk|ng ovor by tho sw|ngs, as usua|
koop|ng a |ow prot||o.
At n|no o'c|ock proc|so|y, w|th a touch ot tho 3oor's m|nd,
tho t|ood||ghts wont on, dr|v|ng away tho dusk. A door
oponod on tho top t|oor and tho wh|to-su|tod torm ot our
|oador camo to tho ra||.
1ho 3oor, roa| namo unknown. 3|ack ha|r s||ckod back,
taco p|||owod by doub|o ch|ns, putty t|ngors stuttod w|th
r|ngs: ho was a hoart-attack wa|t|ng to happon, but sad|y ho
had novor had so much as a tw|ngo. l'd somot|mos
tantas|zod how |t wou|d bo |t ho d|d koo| ovor: wou|d wo a||
d|sporso ||ko oscapoos trom a pr|son broak or wou|d somo
othor bu||y stop |nto h|s shoos? |o had boon groom|ng
0ragon and Un|corn tor tho top job tor a coup|o ot yoars
now, amus|ng h|mso|t w|th tho|r r|va|ry. lt any ot us was
go|ng to tako ovor |t wou|d bo ono ot thom. 0ragon's powor
was to movo th|ngs by m|nd a|ono-l'd soon h|m sh|tt a car
onco that way, Un|corn cou|d mako th|ngs ago-tru|t r|pon,
p|ants b|oom and d|o-that k|nd ot stutt. Ot tho two, l'd
protor to bo attackod by 0ragon: bo|ng chuckod across a
room ho|d many moro attract|ons than |os|ng yoars ot my
1ho 3oor's mon woro sproad|ng out through tho rost ot
us to do tho co||oct|ng. 1hoy had adoptod a un|torm ot b|ack
1-sh|rts, |oathor jackots and trousors, tho nogat|vo to tho
3oor's wh|to su|t. l kopt my oyos on my t|ngorna||s, p|ck|ng
ott tho b|uo g|oss, hop|ng that by somo m|rac|o thoy'd pass
mo by. l had p|onty ot t|mo to th|nk myso|t |nto a dopross|on.
What was |t about us 3avants? Why w|th thoso g|tts woro
wo roducod to ||v|ng such a sh|tty ||to? l'd watchod onough
to|ov|s|on to know that most poop|o my ago had tam|||os,
wont to schoo|, had norma| sott|od ||vos |n n|co stroots. Why
was l horo |n th|s dump? l'd |ovo to bo somowhoro whoro
tho poop|o undor tho root outnumborod tho rats. 3o|ng a
3avant shou|d moan wo'd drawn tho |ong straw |n tho
gonot|c |ottory, as by a qu|rk ot naturo wo'd boon g|von
oxtra, but somohow |t had workod out to moan wo woro
tw|co condomnod. ||rst|y, wo woro soparatod trom tho
ovoryday wor|d by a g|tt othors cou|dn't know about or
thoy'd d|ssoct us |n a |ab or k||| us out ot toar, socond|y, wo
woro dost|nod to bo a|ono as wo had boon g|von by tho
|atos a partnor wo wou|d probab|y novor moot. Wo woro
||ko logo k|ts w|th ha|t tho b|ts scattorod on tho othor s|do
ot tho wor|d.
'3o, lhoo, what havo you got today?'
Groat, my |uck was roa||y ho|d|ng |n tho 'cons|stont|y bad'
zono: |t was Un|corn who had stoppod |n tront ot mo. 1a||
and gang|y w|th a gonorous noso, ho rom|ndod mo ot a
strotchod Vr 3oan w|th tho porsona||ty appoa| ot ||t|or. |o
onjoyod |nt||ct|ng pun|shmont on woakor mombors ot tho
Commun|ty, a|| ot us kopt our d|stanco whon wo cou|d.
'Oh, h|, Un|corn. l had a no-show today at tho s|to. 3ut l
tound out whoro thoy'd bo at tho co||ogo tomorrow so l'm
p|ann|ng to h|t thom thon.' 0|d that sound as roasonab|o as
|o rubbod tho br|dgo ot h|s boak||ko noso. 'What aro you
say|ng? 0oos that moan you'vo got noth|ng now?'
l d|dn't havo to |ook up to know that attont|on was now
turn|ng to our ||tt|o convorsat|on. Any pauso |n tho gathor|ng
was novor good nows.
'lot today. 3ut l'm oxpoct|ng a roa||y b|g hau| tomorrow,
'Oh, lhoon|x, you know tomorrow's no good to tho 3oor.'
||s vo|co was mock sorrowtu|.
A b|g chunk ot b|uo pa|nt ch|ppod ott. 'l . l thought |t'd
bo OK, you know, th|s onco. 1ust th|s onco.'
|o hau|od mo up by tho o|bow-my good o|bow,
thanktu||y. 'Como on. lot's go to|| tho 3oor.'
lo ono mot my oyos as l was towod across tho
p|ayground, d|sgraco has |ts own ropo|||ng torco t|o|d.
'|ow d|d you got back |n?' Un|corn askod coo||y as ho
k|ckod opon tho wa|st-h|gh gato.
l d|dn't want to |and my on|y tr|ond |n troub|o. 'l tw|stod
1ony's arm. |o roa||y d|dn't want to |ot mo past but l to|d
h|m about my p|an tor tomorrow.'
'You cou|d'vo n|ckod somo othor stutt to mako up, savod
yourso|t tho hoat tor th|s.' |o pushod mo to go up tho sta|rs
l shook my hoad as |t surpr|sod by tho not|on. '3ut l
thought wo had to do tho m|ss|on wo woro g|von-not str|ko
out on our own.' 1hat was ono ot tho Commun|ty ru|os.
'Yoah, but thoro aro t|mos to p|ay by tho book, and t|mos
to go a ||tt|o ott p|sto, you got mo?' |o shovod mo |n tho
sma|| ot tho back as l wasn't go|ng tast onough tor h|s |ong
|ogs. 'W|th your g|tt, l'd havo you travo|||ng by tubo a|| day,
trooz|ng commutors |n tho tunno|s. 0on't know why tho 3oor
wants to wasto your g|tt on sma|| try ||ko tho tour|sts at tho
s|to.' |o c|oarod h|s throat, roa||z|ng what ho sa|d soundod
too much ||ko robo|||on. '3ut l'm suro ho had h|s roasons.'
|ootstops c||mbod tho sta|rs to catch us up.
'|oy, Corn-boy, whoro you tak|ng lhoo?' lt was 0ragon,
putt|ng w|th tho unaccustomod oxorc|so. A rodhoad w|th
trock|os, ho |ookod tr|ond||or than ho was-a jov|a| rugby
p|ayor but w|th a v|c|ous b|to ||ko h|s namosako.
Un|corn onjoyod h|s momont ot ta|o-to|||ng. '3ho d|dn't
br|ng anyth|ng |n.'
'Zoro. lada. Z||ch.'
'lhoo, you gono monta| or what?'
l hung my hoad, try|ng tor tho contusod k|d |ook. 'lt was no
good at tho s|to today so l thought l'd do tho job tomorrow
at tho co||ogo-that's |t tho 3oor st||| wants th|s group h|t.'
Un|corn proddod mo back |nto mot|on. 'Yoah, ho doos.
|o roa||y wants tho goar ott that ono ho to|d you to s|ng|o
'3ut l can got |ots ot stutt ott a|| ot thom-thoy oach havo
a |aptop at |oast. |oro|gn curroncy too.'
|o shruggod. 'Whatovor. 1o|| your oxcusos to tho 3oor,
not to us.'
0ragon ho|d h|m back tor a socond. '3ut |t's lhoo wo'ro
ta|k|ng about. What |t ho makos hor pun|sh horso|t?'
l was surpr|sod 0ragon had any p|ty tor mo. 3uro, wo'd
grown up togothor but that mado us moro ||ko crabs |n a
sack, c|aw|ng at oach othor, not a|||os.
'lot roa||y our prob|om, |s |t?' Un|corn hurr|od mo out on
to tho ba|cony on tho t|tth t|oor. 'l doubt ho'd tako |t too tar,
not w|th hor. 3|ood counts tor somoth|ng.'
'You'ro r|ght.' 0ragon gavo a hutt ot ro||ot. '|o's not got
r|d ot any ot us k|ds so tar.'
l camo to a doad stop and swung round to taco thom.
l'd ha|tod so qu|ck|y that Un|corn co|||dod w|th mo,
push|ng mo to tho t|oor. |o stumb|od ovor my body,
troad|ng on my hand. 'Koop mov|ng, you tr|ck|ng |d|ot! You
can't mako |t worso by mak|ng h|m wa|t.'
l c|utchod my hands to my chost-now both woro |njurod
but my shock numbod tho pa|n. 'You sa|d °k|ds'.' l d|dn't
want to got up, not w|thout answors.
'3o? 0on't say you d|dn't suspoct. 1ho 3oor doos not
koop ch||dron |n tho Commun|ty un|oss ho th|nks wo'ro h|s.'
Oh God. 'l'm go|ng to bo s|ck.' l tw|stod on to my knoos
to rotch but noth|ng camo up but b||o. l'd not oaton s|nco tho
day botoro so was runn|ng on ompty.
0ragon so|zod mo by tho back ot my sh|rt and pu||od mo
to my toot. 'Got a gr|p, lhoo. 1ho 3oor's your daddy and ho
gavo you your powors so you shou|d bo gratotu| to h|m.'
'|o's not my tathor.' Vy mothor had a|ways sa|d my dad
was somoono wondortu| that sho'd mot on a romant|c
ho||day |n Grooco just botoro sho hookod up w|th tho
Commun|ty. |o had boon ta||, dark b|uo oyos ||ko mo, and
handsomo-tho portoct man, but not a 3avant so not hor
0ragon shook mo. 'l don't g|vo a t|y|ng troak who you
th|nk your daddy |s but l don't want to soo you hurt|ng
yourso|t, so stop act|ng ||ko a too| and do th|s r|ght. You
havo to oxp|a|n yourso|t to tho 3oor, not havo a monta|
broakdown on tho t|oor.'
||s words woro rough but ho was spoak|ng sonso.
Whatovor was tho truth, l had to box |t away, stutt |t |n tho
att|c and doa| w|th |t |ator, ||ko so many th|ngs |n ||to horo.
'OK, OK, just g|vo mo a momont.' l took a doop broath. A
sons|b|o g|r| wou|d try and mako tho bost ot tho nows, not
go |nto a sp|n. '3o, |t you aro . you know . doos that
mako you, ||ko, my brothors?'
Un|corn snortod. '|a|t-brothors, but that's not much moro
than a b|o|og|ca| co|nc|donco, so don't go mak|ng moro ot
|t than |t dosorvos.'
'Yoah, and havo you soon how baby b|rds bohavo |n a
nost?' 0ragon gr|nnod, show|ng h|s unovon tooth. 'Wo'd
havo you up and ovor tho s|do |t you got |n tho way.' |o
s|appod mo on tho back, mak|ng mo staggor |nto a wa|k.
OK, so that was c|oar onough: my may- or may-not-bo
brothors woro on|y s||ght|y |ntorostod |n my tuturo, most|y
bocauso |t somoth|ng bad happonod to mo, |t cou|d
happon to thom too. loth|ng much had changod.
Wo roachod tho 3oor stand|ng outs|do h|s tront door.
1ho othor 3avants woro st||| gathorod down |n tho
p|ayground, ho|d thoro by h|s gazo, wh|ch was moro pa|ntu|
than star|ng stra|ght at tho t|ood||ghts. |oar|ng our
tootstops, ho turnod to us, br|ng|ng h|s pa|o b|uo oyos, t|ny
jowo|s |n a sh|ny cush|on ot a taco, to rost on mo. l
|mmod|ato|y to|t tho pr|ck|o ot h|s soarch through my m|nd
tor my oxcusos. ln dotonco, l t|oodod my m|nd w|th my
d|stross at just |oarn|ng ho m|ght bo my tathor, somoth|ng
that shou|d bo onough to d|stract ovon h|m. |o broko tho
contact w|th a sma|| sm||o, tho sort 0racu|a has botoro ho
s|nks h|s tooth |n a vo|n.
'Un|corn, hand out tho schodu|o tor tomorrow.' 1ho
3oor's vo|co was a wh|spor, as though ho was bo|ng
porpotua||y strang|od. '0ragon, br|ng lhoon|x |ns|do.'
1ho ono p|aco |n tho ostato whoro any work had boon
dono was th|s apartmont. 1ho 3oor's mon had knockod out
a coup|o ot wa||s |n comp|oto d|srogard ot structura|
cons|dorat|ons to mako a |argo |oungo-como-party spaco.
1ho g|oam|ng oxpanso ot t|oor was oak, sto|on trom a 0lY
storo and |a|d by us botoro tho 3oor movod |n. 1hroo hugo
|oathor sotas corra||od tho mass|vo 1v at ono ond ot tho
room. 1ho 3oor's curront g|r|tr|onds woro drapod
docorat|vo|y ovor tho cush|ons s|pp|ng |mprobab|o |ook|ng
cockta||s. l a|ways thought |t wo|rd that ho was protond|ng
ho was |n a Vanhattan ponthouso whon outs|do wo woro |n
scraggy o|d V||o End. 1ho ottoct was about as conv|nc|ng
as a knockod-ott dos|gnor lo|ox so|||ng at tho markot tor
t|tty qu|d. 1ho 3oor |ovod h|s tantas|os and th|s was a
choap vors|on, an approx|mat|on ot tho k|nd ot ||to ho
watchod on tho scroon.
1ho 3oor p|umpod h|s tat butt down |n tho contro ot tho
m|dd|o sota, a spaco a|roady concavo to h|s shapo as ho
sat thoro most ot tho day. |o wr|gg|od h|s t|ngors-a s|gn
that l was to approach. 'lhoon|x, oxp|a|n.'
l stood botoro h|m, paus|ng at tho odgo ot tho t|utty wh|to
rug as l was atra|d l'd got |t d|rty |t l trod on |t and so
|ncroaso h|s dos|ro to pun|sh mo. Vy story soundod tra||
ovon to mo as l trottod |t out aga|n. 0ragon had pos|t|onod
h|mso|t |mmod|ato|y boh|nd tho 3oor and l cou|d to|| trom
h|s g|um oxpross|on that ho d|dn't th|nk |t was go|ng wo||.
l'd wound down to an un|mpross|vo c|oso whon tho 3oor
ho|d up h|s t|ngor. 'You saw tho boy l to|d you to stoa| trom?'
l'd boon g|von a photograph ot tho targot tho day botoro,
a copy ot h|s passport mugshot. 'Yos, trom a d|stanco. |o
was oasy to spot. l saw h|m . um .' th|nk ot a p|aus|b|o
p|aco, 'go|ng |nto a |octuro room w|th tho othors. |o's ta||.'
'And you th|nk you can do tho job tomorrow-got h|s
va|uab|os as l askod?'
lo, bocauso h|s stutt was a p||o ot mo|tod c|rcu|t boards.
Roo||yº 1ho 3oor had sw|tchod to us|ng to|opathy. l
hatod tho too||ng ot h|m craw||ng around |ns|do my bra|n.
Yos, l`m cortolo. l rop||od |n tho samo way, try|ng to koop
my thoughts t|xod on tho s|ng|o thought 'daddy'.
|o sm||od aga|n and bockonod mo c|osor. l took that as
an |nv|tat|on to su||y tho rug w|th my toot. lo|nt|ng at a spot
|mmod|ato|y |n tront ot h|m, ho wa|tod. What now? l g|ancod
up at 0ragon. |o was mak|ng 'got down' gosturos. Vy
knoos to|dod and l sank to tho t|oor at tho 3oor's toot. A
hoav||y r|ngod hand pattod my hoad.
'You |ook vory much ||ko 3ad|o d|d at your ago. l'|| havo to
t|nd you a partnor |n tho Commun|ty soon-somoono
worthy ot bo|ng t|od to my b|ood||no.'
lco ran down my sp|no. l d|d not want to hoar h|m
rom|n|sc|ng about my mothor-or h|s p|ans tor my tuturo.
'l wondorod whon you wou|d roa||zo your ro|at|onsh|p to
mo. Your mothor t|||od your hoad w|th a |ot ot ||os and |t's
takon you a |ong wh||o to como to your sonsos. l th|nk |t's
about t|mo you jo|nod Un|corn and 0ragon as part ot my
dynasty.' |o pausod, c|oar|y oxpoct|ng mo to t||| tho gap
w|th protuso thanks whon l roa||y wantod to run a m||o |n tho
'l . um . don't know what to say.' 1hat was truo at
|o cuppod my ch|n, squooz|ng a touch too hard. 'Got tho
Amor|can boy's stutt, lhoon|x. l nood |t. 1hon wo'|| soo
about your tuturo.'
l st||| had ono? 'l w|||, l prom|so.'
|o |ot go and l m|stook that as my s|gna| to r|so. 'Wa|t.
l sank back on my knoos. 1ho room to|| s||ont, tho womon
not dar|ng to movo on tho sotas, no |co c||nk|ng |n cockta||
A ||tt|o worm cropt |nto my bra|n and bogan s||m|ng |ts
mossago across my m|nd.
Yoo wl|| oot oot or orlok ootl| yoo`vo oooo tbls. Yoo woo`t
bo ob|o to.` |o spoko tho words as ho |mpr|ntod thom on
my m|nd to|opath|ca||y.
0ragon |ot out h|s broath, obv|ous|y toar|ng somoth|ng tar
worso. 1ho womon ro|axod, ono took a n|bb|o ot tho o||vos
on tho g|ass-toppod cottoo tab|o.
1ho 3oor ro|oasod mo. '0o you undorstand, lhoon|x?'
l noddod, hand prossod to my throat. l cou|d a|roady too|
tho rovu|s|on to tho thought ot tak|ng any rotroshmont
p|antod by h|s powor ovor my m|nd.
'1hon you'd bottor mako an oar|y start. You wou|dn't want
to m|ss broaktast, now, wou|d you?' |o chuck|od, tho groat
ro||s ot h|s bo||y hoav|ng up and down ||ko a ||tt|o |s|and
undorgo|ng an oarthquako. 'lun a|ong, my pota|.' |o
undorgo|ng an oarthquako. 'lun a|ong, my pota|.' |o
g|ancod at tho b|ank scroon boh|nd mo and tho to|ov|s|on
b|arod |nto ||to.
l got up and hurr|od trom tho room, |oav|ng tho 3oor
surroundod by h|s cron|os. lt d|dn't tako a gon|us to work
out that thoso not a|roady ro|atod by b|ood woro jockoy|ng
tor pos|t|on to ga|n tho chanco ot bo|ng tho partnor ho
wou|d chooso tor mo, yot anothor r|va| tor Un|corn and
0ragon to worry about. Vy two 'brothors' wou|d bo no
tr|onds to th|s schomo.
1ony hovorod |n tho shadows ot tho |and|ng, brav|ng tho
t|tth t|oor whon ho shou|d havo boon |n tho basomont.
'Evoryth|ng OK, lhoo?'
l noddod, though l shou|d havo shakon my hoad |t l was
bo|ng truthtu|. l d|dn't roa||y havo that ov|| man's 0lA, d|d l?
'You not to|| thom about mo?' 3o that was why ho was
'Un|corn knows, but ho d|dn't mako a tuss about |t. l sa|d
noth|ng to tho 3oor bocauso |t d|dn't como up.'
1ony scratchod h|s ch|n thon gavo a sat|st|od nod. 'A||
r|ght. lt's a|| sortod w|th 3oan too, ho won't say what wont
down at tho s|to. You just mako suro you como back w|th
|ots ot stutt tomorrow, doa|?'
|o gavo mo a br|ot gr|n. '|or onco, tho ||tt|o guys w|n a
l wou|dn't ca|| |t that but ho cou|d havo h|s |||usory v|ctory.
'Goodn|ght.' |o wavod tarowo|| as ho shutt|od ott to tho
l cou|dn't br|ng myso|t to rop|y: thoro was noth|ng good
about th|s n|ght. l was go|ng to bo hungry and th|rsty but
unab|o to do anyth|ng about |t, but tho s|ckon|ng rovo|at|on
about my tathor was tho th|ng that was roa||y go|ng to rob
mo ot s|oop. lt l had had a star to w|sh on just thon, l wou|d
havo askod novor to havo boon born.
l was about to rotroat |nto my t|at whon Un|corn appoarod
out ot nowhoro. |o pu||od mo up short and pushod mo
aga|nst tho wa||, hand on my nock. 'What d|d 1ony moan?'
'1hat l . l d|dn't got pun|shod much-that l was g|von a
socond chanco,' l sa|d qu|ck|y, too torr|t|od to strugg|o
aga|nst h|s gr|p. 1h|s was turn|ng |nto tho socond worst day
ot my ||to-tho t|rst p|aco go|ng to tho day my mum d|od.
Un|corn |oanod |n to mo, t|ghton|ng h|s gr|p. 'And tho
3oor st||| wants you to go attor that boy?'
'Yos.' l c|osod my oyos aga|nst tho pa|n. Was thoro an
|nch on mo that wasn't go|ng to ond up hurt|ng ton|ght?
|ow was l oxpoctod to know? 3ut thon Un|corn wasn't
roa||y ta|k|ng to mo, tho quost|on hang|ng |n tho a|r botwoon
us. |o ro|oasod h|s ho|d on my nock and stoppod back.
'1ony |ot you |n.'
l'd a|roady to|d h|m that. 'Yos.'
'You caro about 1ony?'
loadod quost|on. l answorod w|th a shrug.
'l know you do. lt you want 1ony to bo kopt out ot th|s, you
br|ng mo what you stoa| trom tho boy t|rst, OK? Boíoro you
tako |t to tho 3oor.'
1hat was not |n tho ru|os. Wo woro supposod to hand
ovoryth|ng ovor |n pub||c at tho gathor|ng, not mako pr|vato
oxchangos boh|nd tho 3oor's back.
Vy oxpross|on must havo to|d h|m l was not happy w|th
th|s suggost|on. |o put h|s hand back on my throat, th|s
t|mo strok|ng tho bru|so. '0oos 1ony moan so ||tt|o to you? l
thought ho was your tr|ond.' |o sa|d tho word as |t |t woro a
synonym tor 'cockroach'.
'OK, l'|| t|nd you t|rst. 1ust don't do anyth|ng to 1ony,
|o ||ttod h|s hand away and sm||od. 'As |t l wou|d.'
lnt||trat|ng tho Ouoon Vary Co||ogo campus was much
oas|or than l ant|c|patod. l was tho r|ght ago tor a studont,
had mado an ottort to |ook as though l was moant to bo
thoro, oqu|pp|ng myso|t w|th a coup|o ot brochuros trom tho
toyor, so no ono ovon cha||ongod mo as l pushod through
tho tront doors.
'Can l ho|p you?' tho woman on tho contoronco rocopt|on
askod as l wa|kod up to hor. l hopo sho d|dn't not|co tho
shadows undor my oyos or my unoaso as l mustorod a
sm||o tor hor bonot|t. 3ho had a p||o ot to|dors and p|ast|c
badgos arrangod a|phabot|ca||y |n tront ot hor. l |ot my oyo
dr|tt across tho so|oct|on, sott||ng on 'Ann lotors'. l g|ancod
qu|ck|y ovor my shou|dor to chock no ono o|so was boh|nd
mo who m|ght g|vo mo away.
'||, l'm Ann lotors.'
3ho gavo mo a warm sm||o |n roturn and handod mo tho
badgo and contoronco mator|a| w|thout anothor word. 1hon
aga|n, who |n tho|r r|ght m|nd wou|d broak |nto a moot|ng
about-l chockod tho t|t|o-Vooo||log C|lmoto Cboogo? l
supprossod a snort as l had an |mago ot a bunch ot
sc|onco gooks t|oat|ng down tho catwa|k woar|ng a rango
ot ra|ncoats and sung|assos.
'1ho t|rst soss|on doosn't start tor an hour but you aro
wo|como to go to tho cato or v|s|t tho oxh|b|t|on |n tho
'OK, thanks.' l ||kod ||brar|os, thoy'd a|ways boon a havon
to mo. 1uck|ng tho pack undor my arm, l hurr|od ott |n tho
d|roct|on sho had po|ntod. l was trust|ng that sho wou|dn't
romombor that l'd a|roady takon tho Ann lotors badgo and
put tho tact that |t was m|ss|ng down to a m|stako, but just |n
caso l workod on chang|ng my appoaranco. l duckod |nto
tho lad|os and t|od my ha|r up w|th a du|| brown scart. 1hon
l put on my tavour|to pa|r ot c|oar g|ass spocs wh|ch gavo
mo a stud|ous a|r w|th tho|r th|ck b|ack tramos. l'd mado
suro l |ookod vory d|ttoront trom tho day botoro, choos|ng a
|ong-s|oovod wh|to sh|rt, card|gan and trumpy sk|rt. lo
oarr|ngs and th|ck-so|od shoos comp|otod tho tash|on-
d|sastor |ook. As a t|na| touch, l turnod tho namo card round
-d|dn't want to bump |nto tho roa| Ann w|th hor namo
around my nock ||ko an a|batross. l wroto 'Wondy 3arr|o' |n
tho s|ot, tho t|rst namo that camo to m|nd, to||ow|ng on tho
ta|| ot lotors. lnspoct|ng myso|t |n tho m|rror, l thought l'd
pass as a comp|oto|y d|ttoront porson: Wondy, tho ug|y
s|stor ot tho C|ndoro||a who had |ost hor shoo.
3t|||, tho mako-up wou|d havo to go. lomov|ng tho
g|assos and runn|ng tho wator |n tho s|nk, l washod |t ott
and dabbod my taco dry w|th a hand towo|, |oav|ng my sk|n
baro. Evon l cou|d soo that no mascara or oyo||nor mado
mo |ook vu|norab|o and t|rod. l'd not s|opt |n twonty-tour
hours or had so much as a s|p ot wator tor two|vo. lt l d|dn't
got th|s dono qu|ck|y, l was go|ng to bo |n no t|t stato to try
aga|n. l a|roady know tho 3oor was go|ng to bo
d|sappo|ntod w|th mo, my targot wou|d not havo had t|mo to
rop|aco h|s stutt and a|| l cou|d got trom h|m today wou|d bo
a wa||ot and a passport-that's |t l was |ucky. Vy
cont|donco had takon a battor|ng. l cou|dn't torgot that tho
boy had ros|stod mo yostorday, now ho know what to
oxpoct porhaps l'd not ovon got thoso tow soconds ot t|mo-
troozo. 3ut un|oss l succosstu||y sto|o somoth|ng trom h|m
l'd d|o ot th|rst-that tocusod my m|nd ||ko noth|ng o|so
1ak|ng a doop broath to stoady my t|uttor|ng norvos, l
consu|tod tho map at tho tront ot tho contoronco
programmo and hoadod tor tho ||brary. l had no |ntont|on ot
|ook|ng at tho oxh|b|t|on but had doc|dod |t wou|d bo tho
bost and |oast consp|cuous p|aco to spy on contoronco-
goors. ||nd|ng a qu|ot cornor |n tho onv|ronmonta| |aw
soct|on, l pu||od a book ott tho sho|t and proppod |t up |n
tront ot mo, a barr|or aga|nst tho rost ot tho wor|d. l had a
good v|ow-l cou|d soo tho courtyard whoro tho cato was
do|ng a good trado |n oar|y cottoos and cro|ssants, as wo||
as tho oxh|b|t|on thoy woro a|| supposod to bo tak|ng |n.
Vy stomach rumb|od, to|||ng mo l was hungry but a
strang|oho|d on my throat warnod mo not to oat.
What wou|d |t bo ||ko, l wondorod as l watchod tho
studonts gathor |n tho sunsh|no, to havo such opportun|t|os
-travo|, tr|ondsh|p, oducat|on? 1ho coup|o ot g|r|s l'd
spokon to on tho s|to crossod my ||no ot v|s|on ||ko gazo||os
on tho vo|dt, s||m and o|ogant. 1hoy woro anothor spoc|os
trom mo, supor|or bo|ngs unawaro ot just how |ucky thoy
woro. 1horo woro a numbor ot o|ophants too, |umbor|ng
boys who d|dn't know what to do w|th tho|r ||mbs, or how to
jugg|o tho|r stacks ot books, l to|t a b|t |oss |nt|m|datod by
thom. A short As|an boy sta|kod through tho crowd, a
wad|ng b|rd at tho watorho|o, p|ck|ng up cho|co b|ts horo
and thoro. And thon camo tho |oopard, prow||ng |nto tho|r
m|dst w|th tho t|u|d mot|on ot tho b|g cat, shrugg|ng out ot
h|s backpack w|th a r|pp|o ot shou|dors. l |ot out tho broath l
hadn't roa||zod l was ho|d|ng. Vy targot. |o sat noxt to tho
gazo||os, accopt|ng a b|to ot cro|ssant trom tho ta|r ono.
1hoy chattod and |aughod togothor, comp|oto|y at oaso |n
oach othor's company. |ow d|d poop|o bocomo tr|onds so
qu|ck|y? 0|dn't thoy know you cou|dn't trust anyono? l
watchod trom tho s|do||nos, onv|ous ot that comtortab|o
compan|onsh|p but a|so susp|c|ous. lobody l know
bohavod ||ko that.
Cottoo drunk, tho throo ot thom roso and hoadod |n my
d|roct|on, my |oopard paus|ng br|ot|y to say somoth|ng to
tho wad|ng b|rd. l shrank boh|nd my book. lt wou|d bo
portoct |t thoy camo |n horo-l cou|d got tho job dono w|th
no tuss. look|ng ovor tho top, l saw that ho had |ott h|s bag
boh|nd |n tho chargo ot tho As|an studont. l to|t a snap ot
annoyanco, |t was as |t ho d|d |t on purposo to thwart mo.
3o you aron't mak|ng th|s oasy tor mo thon, b|g guy.
1hoy woro ta|k|ng as thoy camo |n, tho|r vo|cos carry|ng
|n tho hushod atmosphoro ot tho ||brary. l had a|roady
not|cod that |t was dosortod out ot torm t|mo, norma|
studonts a|roady on ho||day, and nono ot tho othors
attond|ng tho contoronco woro show|ng much |ntorost |n
com|ng |n trom tho sunsh|no.
Vy throo targots c|rc|od tho d|sp|ay boards.
'Yvos, havo you rung your paronts about your |lad yot?'
tho dark gazo||o askod, patt|ng h|s arm.
Yvos. 3o that was h|s namo. l|ko Yvos 3a|nt lauront, tho
tash|on dos|gnor, pronouncod 'Eavo', though |t was spo|t
w|th a 'Y'.
'last n|ght. 3ut |t's OK, 1o-tortunato|y, |t was a troob|o.
l'd boon g|von |t by App|o to tost-tho noxt gonorat|on.' |o
had a groat vo|co, what l thought ot as a hot-choco|ato tono.
l cou|d ||ston to h|m tor hours, ovon |t ho woro just roc|t|ng
tho phono book.
'Wow.' 3ho gazod ador|ng|y up at h|m. l had a b|zarro
urgo to s|ap hor out ot hor worsh|ptu| dazo.
'Yoah, |t was supposod to bo a socrot.' |o sh|ttod a stop
away, a ||tt|o ombarrassod by hor tu|| attont|on bo|ng on
h|m. 'As |t got dostroyod rathor than sto|on, that won't
bothor tho company so much as |t tho th|ot had gotton away
w|th |t. 1hoy m|ght bo annoyod, but not at mo.'
At |oast that oxp|a|nod why tho 3oor m|ght bo so |ns|stont
on gott|ng h|s hands on th|s guy's stutt: a now modo| ot
anyth|ng by App|o wou|d bo worth a tortuno.
1ho 3cand|nav|an g|r| stoppod |n tront ot a photo ot
mo|t|ng |coborgs. 'lt was so moan ot that th|ot-why run ott
w|th your bag and thon burn |t-that's just sp|totu|.'
|o shruggod. 'lo to|||ng what makos somoono do that.
lrobab|y on drugs, h|gh as a k|to.'
lovor. l had onough prob|oms w|thout add|ng a hab|t to
1o scow|od. '3ut sho was good at |t-l d|dn't ovon soo
hor mako tho snatch. 0|d you, lngr|d?'
'lo. lt was a|| vory strango. |oy, |ook at th|s.' 3ho tuggod
thom away to tho d|sp|ay board at tho tar ond. W|th tho|r
backs to mo, l took advantago ot tho|r d|stract|on and got
up to |oavo, hop|ng l cou|d got at h|s bag wh||o ho was
l wandorod out |nto tho sunsh|no, assoss|ng tho cato to
soo |t |t was su|tab|o tor ono ot my str|kos. lt d|dn't tako mo
|ong to doc|do that thoro woro too many poop|o and tho
p|aco was ovor|ookod by hundrods ot ott|cos. Wou|d tho
o|d-tash|onod th|ot mothod ot wa|k-up-and-grab work?
|oadphonos |n oars, hoad back to onjoy tho sun||ght, tho
As|an boy was s|tt|ng ovor tho bag ||ko a hon on an ogg. l
cou|d just |mag|no tho huo and cry that wou|d hound mo and
l was too tar trom tho ox|t to bo suro ot mak|ng |t out ot tho
campus. l'd havo to wa|t unt|| thoy got |nto a moro cont|nod
spaco. |||pp|ng through tho t|motab|o, l spottod that thoy
had som|nars at o|ovon |n somoth|ng ca||od 'broak-out'
rooms. l hadn't ovor had tho chanco to go to co||ogo but l
guossod trom watch|ng 1v and t||ms that som|nars woro
sma||or than |octuros. Vy powor workod on a max|mum ot
th|rty at any ono t|mo, so that soundod my bost chanco.
Cont|dont that my d|sgu|so had no ono connoct|ng mo
w|th tho th|ot ot tho day botoro, l tra||od attor tho contoronco
studonts and sat through tho|r |ntroductory |octuro. 3|tt|ng |n
tho back row was a b|t ||ko bo|ng on tho top dock ot a bus
gaz|ng down on tho poop|o bo|ow, not roa||y hoar|ng what
was sa|d but onjoy|ng tho oxpor|onco ot nos|ng |nto othor
||vos. 1ho two toachors down tho tront spoko
onthus|ast|ca||y, c||ck|ng tho|r way through a s||do
prosontat|on ||ko cont|donco tr|ckstors draw|ng a crowd |n
by tho|r sp|o|. l wou|dn't havo boon surpr|sod |t thoy had
conc|udod by |nv|t|ng us a|| to sho|| out to buy a b|t ot a
t|mosharo |n 1onor|to but thoy t|n|shod w|thout so|||ng us
anyth|ng. A wastod opportun|ty |n my v|ow, any mombor ot
tho Commun|ty wou|d havo had tho studonts d|gg|ng doop
|n tho|r wa||ots by now.
1ho aud|onco t||od out ot tho room d|scuss|ng wh|ch
groups thoy woro go|ng to go to noxt.
'l'm go|ng to °3c|ont|t|c Ev|donco',' doc|arod Gazo||o 1o
port|y. '|ow about you guys? lngr|d?'
'l'm th|nk|ng ot °|uman lmpacts'.' lngr|d turnod hopotu|
oyos on Yvos who had rop|acod h|s shados w|th a cuto pa|r
ot r|m|oss g|assos.
Cotoº Got a gr|p, lhoo!
'l'm down tor °Ecosystom lmpact' so soo you both |ator,
OK?' |o turnod |ott at tho corr|dor junct|on. 3oth g|r|s
|ookod upsot by tho|r wrong guossos. l noar|y |aughod, thoy
woro so transparont |n tho|r dos|ro to shadow tho t|ttost boy
at tho contoronco. Yvos, tor h|s part, d|dn't soom sorry to bo
troo tor a t|mo ot tho|r rathor obv|ous attompts to snag h|m
as tho|r contoronco romanco, l conc|udod that ho wasn't
suro how to hand|o such b|atant s|gna|s ot toma|o |ntorost.
loor b|g good-|ook|ng guy, l sm|rkod, as l sot ott on h|s
Us Ecosystom lmpactors (l had just o|octod myso|t to tho
Us Ecosystom lmpactors (l had just o|octod myso|t to tho
group) took our p|acos |n a sma|| room |n ono ot tho o|dor
bu||d|ngs ot tho campus. l sat boh|nd my targot noar tho
w|ndow. Wo woro on tho t|rst t|oor w|th a ba|cony
ovor|ook|ng a |awn and wh|to c|ock towor-a b|t ot
n|notoonth contury posh on tho V||o End load. l had tho
roassur|ng g||mpso ot my wor|d-that ot tho cars, tax|s, and
podostr|ans-just tho othor s|do ot a |ow wh|to wa||. l
cou|dn't mako my movo unt|| ovoryono was gathorod |n
caso l was |ntorruptod, so l s|ow|y countod tho numbors
com|ng through tho door, gott|ng worr|od whon wo roachod
twonty-t|vo. 3woat bogan to tr|ck|o down my sp|no. l had to
a||ow tor a spoakor yot and wo woro a|most at my
And thon ho doc|dod to bo n|co.
Yvos turnod round and sm||od. |o had probab|y doc|dod
l was a sato toma|o as l'd not yot askod h|m tor h|s
to|ophono numbor ||ko ovory othor g|r| ho mot.
'||, um . ' ho poorod at my |abo|,'Wondy. You just
arr|vod today, am l r|ght?' A gont|o, humour-t|||od sound that
mado somoth|ng |ns|do mo want to purr ||ko a contontod
'Yos.' Vy vo|co was a wh|spor-not my tau|t as l hadn't
had anyth|ng to dr|nk tor agos.
|o t||ckod a ponc|| at my namo. '1o 1. V. 3arr|o. You
know, Potor Poo ooo ¼oooy?'
|o know that? 1h|s sc|onco gon|us know that tho book
had t|rst boon pub||shod w|th both namos |n tho t|t|o? l
thought on|y rojocts ||ko mo who hauntod tho obscuror
cornors ot pub||c ||brar|os took an |ntorost such arcano stutt.
3ut ho noodod an answor. l cou|dn't koop on gap|ng at h|m
||ko a strandod t|sh.
'Er . no. l w|sh.'
'What schoo| aro you trom?' |o was |ook|ng at mo now
as |t ho thought wo'd mot but ho cou|dn't qu|to p|aco mo.
l grabbod at tho t|rst p|aco that camo to m|nd. 'lowcast|o
. um . 3choo| tor G|r|s.'
'lowcast|o. 1hat's |n northorn Eng|and, |sn't |t?'
'Yoah.' Wondy wou|dn't say 'yoah'. 'Yos, not tar trom tho
bordor w|th 3cot|and.'
'lovor boon thoro.' 1hat was a ro||ot. 1ho way my |uck
was go|ng ho wou|d havo had c|oso tam||y |n my b|rthp|aco.
'Go|ng to co||ogo up thoro too?'
'Um . yos.' l grapp|od to th|nk ot a p|aco ho wou|dn't
'Oh, coo|. 1hoy'vo a groat Goosc|onco dopartmont wh|ch
|s do|ng roa||y cutt|ng odgo stutt on potro|oum oxtract|on.
|avo you road tho|r rocont papor on CO
lo. 'Wo|| ot courso. 1hat's why l app||od. Vo, V|ss
Goosc|onco. lotro|oum . um . attract|on |s so
tasc|nat|ng.' 3hut up, lhoo.
Yvos gavo mo a scopt|ca| |ook. 'Extroctloo, you moan.'
'3orry, s||p ot tho tonguo. Extract|on.'
|o st||| |ookod dub|ous. '3o what's your courso?'
'Goosc|onco.' 0uh, ho cou|dn't catch mo out that way.
'Yoah, but w|th|n that you havo to spoc|a||zo, don't you?'
l d|d? 'Wo||, l thought l'd concontrato on tho Goo b|t to
start w|th.' 1hat soundod dumb. 'l moan, Goography.' Was
that a goosc|onco? l d|dn't know.
Vy answor soomod to sat|sty h|m. l to|t ||ko somoono
who just avo|dod a car crash by a |ast-m|nuto brak|ng, tyros
st||| scrooch|ng |n my hoad.
'l'm tak|ng Env|ronmonta| 3c|oncos at 3orko|oy |n tho ta||,
but l'|| bo d|pp|ng |nto tho Goography programmo too. 3o
wo havo |ots |n common, thon.' |o turnod back to taco tront
as tho toachor camo |n.
Wo d|d? 'Er . yos, that's roa||y |ntorost|ng. 3orko|oy.'
|o g|ancod ovor h|s shou|dor. 'Ca||torn|a.'
|rom h|s oxpoctant oxpross|on l guossod l was moant to
know that. 'Abso|uto|y. l'vo hoard ot |t. Ot courso l havo.'
1horo: l'd cont|rmod h|m |n tho |mpross|on that Wondy
was an |d|ot who roa||y shou|dn't bo tak|ng Goography as
sho d|dn't know whoro to t|nd 3orko|oy.
1ho |octuror, a young lnd|an woman, camo to tho tront ot
tho room and ho|d up hor hand, mosmor|z|ng mo w|th hor
c||nk|ng rows ot braco|ots. l novor woro th|ngs ||ko that
bocauso thoy got |n tho way ot stoa||ng.
'|o||o, ovoryono. Vy namo |s 0r 3harma. l cannot to|| you
how do||ghtod l am to soo so many ot you havo choson th|s
lot mo: by my count, wo woro on th|rty-two |n tho room.
l'd novor tr|od to ho|d so many at onco.
'You'vo a|| boon choson as you aro tho top sc|onco
studonts trom your co||ogos and schoo|s-our br|ghtost
stars who wo hopo w||| sh|no tor tho noxt tow docados at
|oast. And, as you a|| know, Ecosystom lmpacts |s whoro
tho act|on |s roa||y go|ng to bo tor any |nnovat|vo sc|ont|sts.
lot's start by do|ng a tab|o round and t|nd|ng out a ||tt|o
about oach othor.'
lot's not. l had to stop th|s botoro sho askod mo. C|os|ng
my oyos, l roachod out tor tho|r monta| pattorns. Vost
wh|rrod away |n coo| b|uos and groons, |magos ot
mounta|ns and r|vors t||ck|ng through, a coup|o ot g|r|s had
Yvos's taco droam||y t|oat|ng |n tho|r moadows, my targot
was stuck |n a b|ack and wh|to zono, my appoaranco
yostorday cross|ng w|th how l |ookod today.
3|oody ho||, ho was work|ng |t out, susp|c|on tractur|ng
tho b|ack and wh|to w|th orango t|amos.
'G|r| at tho back-sorry, l don't know your namo-aro you
l oponod my oyos to t|nd 0r 3harma was addross|ng mo.
1ho carotu||y gathorod pattorns scattorod ||ko shoop
oscap|ng trom a to|d. l noddod.
'Good, bocauso l usua||y oxpoct to sond my studonts to
s|oop attor l'vo spokon tor a b|t, not botoro l ovon got
|or aud|onco |aughod po||to|y.
'Yos . or . sorry,' l sa|d hos|tant|y.
'3ha|| wo bog|n thon? lorhaps tho studont |n tho soat |n
tront ot you wou|d ||ko to |ntroduco h|mso|t?'
Yvos jo|tod out ot h|s own thoughts. 'Yos, 0r 3harma, l'd
bo happy to.'
l wou|d'vo ||kod to ||ston to h|m but l had to do th|s.
3trotch my m|nd out to gathor |n tho throads ot tho|r
thoughts, roo| thom |n, and thon .
lt workod-tor a socond. 3omoono was push|ng back
hard, try|ng to untang|o h|mso|t trom my trap and l d|dn't
havo to |ook to t|nd out who that was. 1horo was no t|mo to
soarch h|s stutt, l just grabbod h|s bag and ran, stumb||ng
ovor tho |ogs ot tho boy oppos|to strotchod out |n tho a|s|o.
low coo yooº 1ho protost s||cod |nto my m|nd ||ko an |co
p|ck. l crashod |nto tho door, ho|d|ng my hoad |n my hands.
Vy who|o body was r|ng|ng w|th tho to|opath|c mossago,
un||ko anyth|ng l'd oxpor|oncod botoro. lt was as though ho
had tound my pr|vato wavo|ongth and was p|ay|ng at tu||
bono-t|ng||ng vo|umo a song spoc|a||y wr|tton tor mo, so
ont|c|ng and haunt|ng that l cou|dn't shut |t out. l wantod to
answor, to|t myso|t yoarn|ng to rospond but how cou|d l? l
was stoa||ng trom h|m, wasn't l?
Vy connoct|on to tho monta| pattorns |n tho room
tracturod and ovoryono snappod |nto awaronoss and saw
mo crouchod at tho ox|t.
'|ow d|d . ?' 0r 3harma swung hor hoad botwoon my
cha|r and tho door |n contus|on. 1o hor sonsos |t wou|d
havo appoarod that l |oapt tho gap ||ko somo suporhoro.
Yvos d|d not bothor to gapo ||ko tho rost. |o vau|tod ovor
Yvos d|d not bothor to gapo ||ko tho rost. |o vau|tod ovor
h|s dosk |n pursu|t. 3hockod back |nto mot|on, l s|ammod
out ot tho room and spr|ntod down tho corr|dor. What had
just happonod? l cou|dn't outrun h|m so l wou|d havo to do
somoth|ng ho wou|dn't. 0art|ng |nto tho noxt ompty c|ass, l
mado tor tho w|ndow. On|y t|rst t|oor. Vy wor|d just a t|tty
motro dash away |t l cou|d got down w|thout broak|ng an
ank|o. l r|ppod tho w|ndow opon and c||mbod on to tho
ba|cony, h|s bag s|ung ovor my shou|dor. lot qu|ck onough.
A hand grabbod my ca|t.
¼bo oro yooº ¼bot oo yoo woot wltb moº
||s thought-spooch sh|vorod through mo. l cou|dn't got
my bra|n |n goar. Oo owoy. 1ost go owoy!
|o wont st|||, thon h|s gr|p t|ghtonod on my |og as ho tr|od
to hau| mo back |nto tho room. low oo yoo oo tbotº Yoo .
yoo`ro olííoroot. 5pook to mo ogolo.
|o had tho ga|| to |augh, h|s who|o domoanour chang|ng
trom tury to a wo|rd oxh||arat|on. lt`s yoo-l koow lt`s yoo!
l d|dn't know who ho thought l was but l wasn't p|ann|ng
on stay|ng to t|nd out. 1h|s strango |nt|macy ot our thought-
spooch was troak|ng mo out. l k|ckod hard, thank|ng Wondy
and hor th|ck so|os whon l managod to got a connoct|on
w|th h|s stomach, but tho b|oody Yank wou|dn't |ot go.
Ub-ob, oooo oí tbot, ¼oooy. |o tumb|od mo to tho t|oor
by tho w|ndow and so|vod tho prob|om ot mo strugg||ng by
s|tt|ng on my back. 'l'|| tako that, thanks.'
|o romovod h|s bag trom my shou|dor and chuckod |t out
ot my roach. 1h|s wasn't good. 1h|s smackod ot po||co and
pr|son. l |ay st|||, dotoatod tor tho momont. Gr|m|y, l roa||zod
that as l'd not dono what l'd boon to|d, l wou|dn't |ast |ong |n
a co|| |n any caso. lrobab|y bo doad by tho ond ot
tomorrow |t l cou|dn't dr|nk.
'l|oaso |ot mo stoa| somoth|ng trom you.' 1hat soundod
pathot|c, but l was roducod to bogg|ng.
'Wo'|| got to that |ator.' Yvos p|acod a hand on my hoad,
cupp|ng |t gont|y. |o was show|ng tar moro prosonco ot
m|nd than l was at th|s momont. 'Who wou|d th|nk my
sou|t|ndor wou|d turn out to bo a th|ot?'
l wont vory st|||. 5oo|ílooorº |o had to bo jok|ng. 1hat
was a ta|ryta|o.
'You know what that moans, thon?' |o brushod my nock,
sond|ng sh|vors down my sp|no. Vy body rocogn|zod h|m
though my m|nd was st||| shr|ok|ng that l had to got tho ho||
out ot horo. 'l thought, maybo, you d|dn't. Vy brothor's
sou|t|ndor d|dn't know. You'ro a 3avant?'
l cou|d hoar sounds out |n tho corr|dor as tho rost ot tho
som|nar group wont |n soarch ot tho two orrant mombors. l
3omoono was approach|ng our room. 'lt l |ot you up, sha||
wo to|| thom |t was a joko?'
l noddod aga|n, p|ann|ng to d|vo out ot tho w|ndow as
soon as ho oasod ott mo.
'3ut you havo to prom|so not to do anyth|ng stup|d ||ko try
to oscopo mo.'
0amn. 'OK.' At |oast, |t wo cou|d pass th|s ott as a tr|ck, l
bought myso|t a b|t moro t|mo.
|o s||d h|s hand down to tako m|no, oncountor|ng my
'l d|d th|s?'
l d|dn't answor.
'3orry. l cou|dn't |ot you tako that stutt-|t wasn't m|no tor
you to stoa|. 3ut l adm|t l |ost contro|. l havo to koop a ||d on
my omot|ons or my g|tt gots out ot hand. You roa||y p|ssod
mo ott yostorday.'
And ho hadn't boon onjoy|ng sott|ng t|ro to mo much? l'd
soon h|s m|nd-pattorns, l know ho'd ||kod outw|tt|ng tho s|y
1ak|ng my o|bow, ho ho|pod mo to my toot just as tho
door bangod opon.
'What's go|ng on horo?' 0r 3harma stood |n tho ontranco
Yvos stoppod |n tront ot mo protoct|vo|y. 'l|oaso accopt
our apo|og|os, doctor. Wondy and l aro o|d tr|onds and
havo th|s doa| go|ng whoro sho toasos mo by tak|ng my
bag.' |o shruggod. '3tartod w|th stoa||ng 1w|nk|os at grado
schoo|, now progrossod to who|o backpacks. loa||y
juvon||o, l know.'
'l'm d|sappo|ntod |n tho pa|r ot you. 1h|s contoronco |s
not tor ch||dron but young adu|ts-act your ago.'
|oo||ng mo woavo on my toot, Yvos movod h|s hand to
my wa|st, ho|d|ng mo up. 'Abso|uto|y. Wo hoar you |oud and
c|oar. l|oaso accopt our apo|og|os.'
'1hon got back |n tho som|nar so wo can do somo work.'
3ho t|ouncod away w|th a watt ot hor |ooso-cut turquo|so
'l can't go back |n thoro,' l h|ssod as Yvos propo||od mo
'Yos, you can. 1horo's a broak at two|vo, wo can sort
ovoryth|ng out thon.'
'l know noth|ng about that stutt you'ro do|ng.'
|o sm|rkod, c|oar|y t|nd|ng tho who|o s|tuat|on do||ghttu|
rathor than tho n|ghtmaro l was oxpor|onc|ng. 'Yos, l
guossod, V|ss Goosc|onco.'
3|ack odgos appoarod to my v|s|on. l shook my hoad.
lo, l wasn't. 1h|ot. 3ou|t|ndor. Voss. l was so th|rsty l
cou|dn't th|nk stra|ght. l ||ckod my parchod ||ps.
Yvos marchod mo back |nto tho som|nar room, |augh|ng
ott tho commonts about h|s abrupt doparturo. |o
d|str|butod apo|og|os ||ko a bonovo|ont |ord scattor|ng go|d
co|ns to tho massos-gonorous handtu|s. |o pu||od mo |nto
tho soat noxt to h|m, not ro|oas|ng h|s ho|d on my arm.
'Got any handcutts?' ho muttorod undor h|s broath,
oxpoct|ng mo to sharo tho joko.
l put my hoad on tho dosk as 0r 3harma rosumod
toach|ng. |ortunato|y, sho'd abandonod tho |doa ot a tab|o
round attor that d|sturb|ng d|sp|ay ot h|gh sp|r|ts.
A bott|o ot wator appoarod |n tront ot my noso. Lrlok.
¼by ootº l bovoo`t ovoo opoooo lt.
P|ooso |ot mo stoo| somotblog írom yoo.
Koop|ng h|s oyos on m|no, Yvos put tho wator back |n h|s
bag and thon noddod to mo. 7bot`s my wotor. ¼botovor
yoo oo, ooo`t toko lt írom mo.
l roachod down and snaggod tho bott|o. 1w|st|ng tho ||d, l
took a gu|p. lt to|t wondortu|, so good l dra|nod tho who|o
Watch|ng tho pantom|mo, Yvos shook h|s hoad. Yoo`ro
l crushod tho ompty bott|o. Aoo yoo`ro ootº
Yvos d|d not got up at tho ond ot tho som|nar whon
ovoryono o|so |ott so l stayod |n my p|aco too. 0r 3harma
dopartod t|rst, ca|||ng out somoth|ng about tho pan|n| |n tho
cantoon not bo|ng bad |t you got thoro oar|y. Wo sat thoro
s||ont|y, watch|ng tho rost crowd through tho door, tho|r
thoughts on |unch.
3o woro m|no. Undornoath ovoryth|ng o|so l was hungry.
And t|rod, so vory, vory t|rod. l had just d|scovorod that tho
ta|ryta|o was truo. 3ou|t|ndors ox|stod-and th|s ono was
m|no. l'd a|ways |mag|nod tho d|scovory wou|d g|vo mo an
amaz|ng ||tt, ||ko w|nn|ng tho lat|ona| lottory, but |nstoad l
just to|t ompty and sad. l know that l cou|dn't havo h|m ovon
|t l wantod h|m moro than anyth|ng l'd wantod |n my ||to
botoro. l was tho k|d w|th no monoy |n hor pockot w|th hor
noso prossod up aga|nst tho swootshop w|ndow. |aco tho
tacts: l was a cr|m|na| who had novor boon to schoo|, ho
was top ot h|s c|ass, ovoryth|ng about h|m who|osomo and
squoaky c|oan. |o ||vod |n tho 3tatos and l ||vod |n a
torgottab|o succoss|on ot squats. |o was docont and had a
tuturo, l had t|os back at tho Commun|ty, onos that wou|d bo
hard to broak, and a now|y d|scovorod sort-ot-tathor who
had h|s c|aws |n mo. 1ho 3oor had th|s way ot know|ng
had h|s c|aws |n mo. 1ho 3oor had th|s way ot know|ng
th|ngs, |t was no s|mp|o mattor ot say|ng 'l qu|t'. 1ony may
havo to|d mo l cou|d d|sappoar but l d|dn't havo tho t|rst c|uo
how to go about do|ng |t. 3tay|ng anywhoro noar tho |ast
targot l had boon to|d to h|t wou|d bo |ncrod|b|y stup|d.
Anyono |ook|ng tor mo wou|d start w|th my |ast known job
and that wou|d |oad tho 3oor r|ght to Yvos.
l just d|dn't dosorvo h|m and cou|dn't drag h|m |nto my
'3ha|| wo start w|th our namos?' Yvos askod sott|y. |o
took my bandagod r|ght hand |n h|s. 'l'm Yvos 3onod|ct. l
como trom Wr|ckonr|dgo |n Co|orado.' |o pausod but l
d|dn't t||| tho gap. '1hat's |n Amor|ca. ln tho lock|os.' 3t|||
noth|ng. 'l'vo sovon brothors and l'm numbor s|x. Vy
youngor brothor, Zod, tound h|s sou|t|ndor a tow months
1hat soundod n|co. A b|g tam||y. 3rothors. |o had a
good ||to. l was happy tor h|m. |o cou|d go back to that.
'And what about you? ls Wondy your roa| namo?'
l tuggod tho badgo ott. lot much po|nt |n my d|sgu|so any
moro. l cou|dn't soo tho words l'd pr|ntod as my oyos woro
'|oy, hoy, what's tho mattor?' |o pu||od my hoad to rost
on h|s shou|dor-|t to|t so good. '||nd|ng you |s tho bost
th|ng that's ovor happonod to mo, don't you undorstand?
Aron't you p|oasod that |t's mo, not ovon a t|ny b|t?'
3woot ot h|m to th|nk that l was upsot bocauso my sou|-
t|ndor had turnod out to bo tho k|ndost, bost-|ook|ng guy l'd
ovor soon. l ||kod tho tact that ho d|dn't roa||zo just how
attract|vo ho was to g|r|s, d|dn't tako |t tor grantod that l'd
t|nd h|m portoct. 1h|s wou|dn't bo so pa|ntu| |t ho had turnod
out to bo a spotty-tacod w|mp w|th tho porsona||ty ot a
'look, l know |t's a |ot to tako |n, but g|vo |t t|mo. l roa||zo l
como across a b|t gooky-you know, corroct|ng you about
potro|oum oxtract|on and ovoryth|ng.'
As |t that ovon mattorod. l d|dn't caro about h|m mak|ng
tun ot mo-l dosorvod that tor protond|ng to bo ||ko h|m and
tho othor studonts.
||s hand rubbod tho back ot my nock. 'Wo d|dn't got ott
to tho bost start, l adm|t.'
l gavo a chok|ng |augh at that. 'You moan bocauso l sto|o
|o d|dn't stop runn|ng h|s hand ovor tho sons|t|vo sk|n ot
my napo. 'Wo||, yos, but l a|so hurt you whon l b|ow up my
goar. l'm roa||y sorry about that. What d|d tho doctor say?'
l cou|dn't g|vo |n to th|s woaknoss-had to stand on my
own toot or l'd novor bo ab|o to |oavo. lush|ng ott h|s chost,
l sat up and moppod my oyos w|th tho bandago. 'lt's t|no.'
|o pu||od my wr|st towards h|m and spottod tho c||ng t||m.
'You d|dn't go to a doctor, d|d you?' ||s tono darkonod, h|s
monta| pattorn was wh|r||ng back |nto rods and orangos, my
mo|tod toto sp|nn|ng |n tho t|amos ||ko a kobab ovor a
barbocuo, t||ckor|ng swoar words, onos ho was too po||to
ovor to say out |oud.
'loop|o ||ko mo don't go to doctors.' l tr|od to rotr|ovo my
'1hoy do now.' |o got up, dragg|ng mo w|th h|m.
Un|uck||y tor my oscapo p|ans, h|s shynoss and uncorta|nty
about g|r|s d|sappoarod whon ho had a roscuo m|ss|on to
run. 'Como on, l'|| t|nd out whoro tho noarost omorgoncy
room |s. l'|| novor torg|vo myso|t |t that scars.'
'l'm not go|ng. l can't.'
|o turnod to taco mo, a musc|o |n h|s jaw tw|tch|ng as ho
tr|od to contro| h|s tompor. lt mado mo wondor |t ho was
go|ng to sot somoth|ng on t|ro, ho'd warnod mo h|s g|tt
cou|d got away trom h|m whon angry. 'Wondy, don't mako a
m|stako. l'm roady to torg|vo you tor try|ng to stoa| trom mo
-tw|co, wasn't |t?-but |t you won't got yourso|t mod|ca|
attont|on thon l'|| havo no cho|co but to turn you |n to tho
po||co and |ot thom mako suro you'ro soon by a qua||t| od
1ust ||ston to h|m! 0|dn't ho havo a mouth tu|| ot |ong
words, a|| doc|ar|ng that ho was bottor oducatod than mo? l
pushod my cha|r back rough|y. 'Got tho ho|| away trom mo.
You don't know tho t|rst th|ng about mo and my ||to and
a|roady you'ro ordor|ng mo around!'
|o tappod tho contro ot my chost, |oom|ng ovor mo, s|x
toot ot angry ma|o. l shou|d havo to|t scarod but gut |nst|nct
to|d mo that ho wou|dn't hurt mo. 3omoth|ng m|ght got
s|ngod but |t wou|dn't bo my hand th|s t|mo. 'You'ro
comp|oto|y wrong. l do know tho t|rst th|ng about you: you'ro
my sou|t|ndor. 1hat tact now takos t|rst, socond, and th|rd
p|aco |n my ||to. What about |n yours?'
l covorod my taco w|th my hands, want|ng to scroam w|th
trustrat|on. '1ust . just go away!'
l must havo roa||y r||od h|m bocauso h|s tompor was
oscap|ng h|m ||ko stoam trom an ovorhoatod car rad|ator.
A p||o ot papors on tho dosk bos|do h|s r|ght hand bogan to
smou|dor. 'l can't go away. You'ro bo|ng too||sh-rock|oss
w|th your own hoa|th.' |o not|cod tho t|ro and qu|ck|y
smothorod |t w|th a book trom h|s bag. 'Goddamn |t, |ook
what you mado mo do!'
'Vo? 1ho t|ro th|ng |s your bus|noss, not m|no.'
|o took a doop broath, c|oar|y doc|d|ng a s|ang|ng match
wou|d bo unproduct|vo r|ght now. 'look, l'vo got to st|ck w|th
you-that's tho doa| w|th sou|t|ndors, you know that. 0o you
th|nk l'm p|oasod to t|nd m|no |s a th|ot-a snoak who usos
hor g|tt to r|p poop|o ott?' l t||nchod but ho d|dn't soo, too
busy parad|ng h|s d|sappo|ntmont |n h|s tato. '|o|| no! l'd
droamod about th|s momont-but |t |nvo|vod, l don't know,
moon||ght and rosos or somoth|ng, not a k|ck |n tho
stomach and a thousand do||ars ot proporty up |n smoko!
3o tho |oast you can do |s soo to that burn |t l to|| you you
l d|dn't nood a march|ng band to b|aro |t out, or ovon h|m
shout|ng at mo. Ot courso ho wou|d dosp|so mo. l dosp|sod
myso|t. l shou|d novor havo |ot h|s k|ndnoss too| mo |nto
th|nk|ng anyth|ng o|so.
Gathor|ng my shroddod d|gn|ty, l stood up.
'l'vo soon to my |njury as bost l can. You noodn't worry
Vy tono was t|at as my bra|n movod on to what was
go|ng to happon noxt. l'd say goodbyo, s||p away somohow,
and go back to tho Commun|ty to roport that tho targot on|y
had a bott|o ot wator on h|m, h|s va|uab|os hav|ng mot w|th
a troak acc|dont. 1hat wou|d go down wo||. l'd taco my noxt
pun|shmont and thon . and thon . Vy |mag|nat|on ta||od
at that po|nt. 1ho 3oor wou|d o|thor k||| mo or hand mo ovor
to ono ot h|s supportors |n somo k|nd ot arrangod
marr|ago. l'd not protost, not say anyth|ng. 1hat way no ono
wou|d ovor suspoct l'd tound my sou|t|ndor, |t was tho on|y
way to protoct h|m. Yvos cou|d got back on h|s p|ano and
go and bo a succosstu| sc|ont|st or whatovor, porhaps not
as happy as ho wou|d'vo boon |t l had turnod out to bo a
gazo||o rathor than a scavong|ng rat, but at |oast ho'd havo
a ||to worth ||v|ng.
|o to|dod h|s arms, stand|ng botwoon mo and tho door.
'lot good onough, Wondy. l mado my goar oxp|odo, and
that hurt you, so l am rospons|b|o tor c|oan-up.'
'lot th|s t|mo. l'm not your moss to c|oan up.'
|o sm||od gr|m|y. '1hat's oxact|y what you aro.'
l changod my m|nd. |o wasn't k|nd, ho was a d|ck. 'Wo||,
thanks tor that. l|co moot|ng you. loa||y must bo go|ng.' l
hoadod tor tho ox|t.
'You can't |oavo.'
l stood star|ng at tho t|ro not|co on tho back ot tho door.
'What aro you go|ng to do? Wrost|o mo to tho t|oor? Oh, l
torgot, you d|d that a|roady.'
1ho door oponod botoro l cou|d roach |t. l took a stop
1ho door oponod botoro l cou|d roach |t. l took a stop
back. 1o and lngr|d put tho|r hoads round tho gap.
'Yvos, what's koop|ng you?' askod 1o. |or oxpross|on
sourod whon sho saw mo. 'Oh h|, sorry, d|d wo |ntorrupt
Yvos p|ckod up h|s bag and hookod |t ovor h|s shou|dor.
'Wondy's burnod hor hand. l was just ottor|ng to tako hor to
a doctor to got |t drossod propor|y.'
lngr|d wr|nk|od hor noso at my do-|t-yourso|t job. '1hat
|ooks pa|ntu|. 1ho poor th|ng. 0o you want us to como?' ln
hor monta| pattorns, l cou|d soo that my prosonco was
about as wo|como as a th|rd dog |n a t|ght ovor a bono.
Yvos wou|dn't |ot mo ovon opon my mouth to answor
botoro ho swoopod |n. 'lo nood, just |ot tho contoronco
organ|zors know whoro wo'vo gono |t thoy ask. 3oo you
|ator.' Yvos took my arm and marchod mo away. |o was
roa||y annoy|ng mo now: |t was as |t my protosts woro
noth|ng moro than snowt|akos mo|t|ng |n h|s ocoan ot
corta|nty. l was hurt-ho know tho curo. l was h|s sou|t|ndor
-ho domandod l oboy h|m. Woro a|| h|s tam||y arrogant
jorks or had l just pu||od tho short straw?
Wo roachod tho rocopt|on. l on|y wont w|th h|m bocauso
ho was t|na||y tak|ng mo noaror tho ox|t. A|roady l was
p|ott|ng my oscapo.
'Excuso mo.' Yvos turnod h|s dovastat|ng, oarnost sm||o
on tho |ady w|th tho to|dors. 'Vy tr|ond horo burnod horso|t
yostorday and l roa||y th|nk sho noods to got |t |ookod at by
a doctor. ls thoro a hosp|ta| noarby?'
1ho |ady-way too o|d tor h|m so roa||y shou|d havo
known bottor-t|uttorod and proonod unt|| sho tound hor
omorgoncy ||st. '1ho loya| london, Wh|tochapo| load. A
stop on tho tubo-that's tho subway to you.' 3ho g|gg|od-
sho actua||y g|gg|od. 'Or you can wa|k |t sho |s wo|| onough
to do so.' 3ho drow a b|g c|rc|o on tho handout map, l
wou|dn't havo boon surpr|sod |t sho had scr|bb|od hor
phono numbor on tho rovorso.
|o b|ushod, d|sturbod by hor ovoroagor rosponso to h|m.
'1hanks. Wo'|| jump |n a cab.' |o cont|nuod to trogmarch
mo ott tho prom|sos.
Wa|t|ng unt|| wo woro outs|do, l shovod h|m away trom
mo. '1hat's onough. What part ot °l'm not go|ng to hosp|ta|'
don't you undorstand?'
'1ho °not' part.' |o b|t down on a sm||o that l had no
|ntont|on ot jo|n|ng |n. 'look, Wondy, what harm can a ||tt|o
tr|p to tho El do you? You guys don't ovon havo to pay, so
|t can't bo tho monoy or |nsuranco prob|oms.'
l gazod |ong|ng|y at tho tratt|c stroam|ng oast, out ot town,
away trom h|m. 3o c|oso. 'lt's not that l'm stup|d. l just can't.'
|o shovod a hand through h|s ha|r |n trustrat|on. 'Wondy,
why do l got tho |mpross|on that you aro about to spr|nk|o
your ta|ry dust and t|y away trom mo?'
l shook my hoad, to|d|ng my arms around my wa|st. |o
was wrong, ho was tho ono ottor|ng ta|ry dust, lotor lan
vo|untoor|ng to carry mo ott to tho lovor|and ot sou|t|ndors
and happ||y ovor attor. 3ut ho was too |ato. last n|ght, l had
had to grow up and l now know that such droams d|d not
ox|st, roa| ||to was moro ||ko ||v|ng w|th Capta|n |ook's
morconary p|ratos than p|ay|ng happy tam|||os |n a
A t|ngor undor my ch|n t|ppod my hoad up. 'Wondy, ta|k
to mo. lot mo ho|p you. l'm sorry l sa|d that stutt |ns|do, but l
was angry. l act ||ko an |d|ot whon my g|tt gots |ooso-just
ask my brothors. lt annoys tho ho|| out ot mo that ovon attor
a|| thoso yoars ot d|sc|p||no and pract|co, l'm not |n tu||
contro| ot my omot|ons.' |o gavo a ruotu| sm||o. '0on't
supposo you'|| g|vo mo a pass tor |t bo|ng tho day l mot my
l noddod, not want|ng to rospond to h|s coax|ng tono but
unab|o to ho|p myso|t. Evoryth|ng |ns|do mo was yoarn|ng to
roach out to th|s guy dosp|to tho warn|ng trom my common
'Wondy, l can't boar to soo you |n pa|n whon wo can do
somoth|ng about |t.'
And l cou|dn't boar to havo h|m ca|||ng mo by that tako
namo any |ongor. 'lhoo. Vy namo's lhoo.'
|o sm||od, brown oyos warm|ng tor tho t|rst t|mo s|nco
wo qu|t tho c|assroom. '1ust lhoo?'
'3hort tor lhoon|x.'
'Any othor namos?'
l novor usod |t, but l supposod l shou|d tako my mothor's
surnamo. l d|dn't want to sound so shabby as not ovon to
havo a propor namo. 'Corr|gan.'
'3o, lhoon|x Corr|gan, you havo an a||orgy to hosp|ta|s?'
|o sh|ttod h|s wo|ght on to h|s othor |og, wa|t|ng tor an
lt was a good onough oxp|anat|on. l noddod.
'3amo doa|.' Was ho roa||y back|ng down? A|| |t had
takon was ono ||tt|o concoss|on trom mo and ho suddon|y
bocamo moro roasonab|o?
|o took out h|s phono. 'l'vo an |doa. 0on't movo.'
3o|oct|ng a contact trom tho homo scroon, ho ||ttod |t to h|s
oar. l tonsod, roady to bo|t |t nocossary. '|oy, Xav, got a
m|nuto? Whoro aro you? l'vo got a b|t ot a s|tuat|on horo.
Can you moot mo back at tho apartmont |n ha|t an hour?
OK. Yoah, l know, l'm a pa|n |n tho butt. 1o|| hor you'|| ca||
hor |ator. Uh-huh. 3ut trust mo, you'|| want to bo part ot th|s.'
|o ondod tho ca|| and gr|nnod. 'lrob|om so|vod.'
'Who woro you just ta|k|ng to?' l rubbod my toroarms,
too||ng tho pr|ck|o ot susp|c|on that l was bo|ng watchod.
G|anc|ng around, l cou|dn't soo anyono but thoro woro |ots
ot p|acos to h|do, doorways, bus sho|tors . 1ony? |o'd bo
worr|od l wou|dn't como through w|th my part ot tho doa|.
Un|corn or 0ragon, chock|ng up on mo? l hadn't oarnod tho
3oor's trust w|th my ta||uro yostorday so l wou|dn't put |t
past h|m to havo mo undor guard today.
'Vy brothor, Xav, ho's |n london w|th mo.'
'Xav?' l mado myso|t concontrato on what Yvos was
'Yoah, my mom and dad had th|s a|phabot|ca| th|ng
go|ng w|th us, start|ng w|th 1raco and ond|ng w|th Zod.
Xav|or, ho's tho noxt ono up trom mo. Wo to|d thom thoy
shou|d'vo startod w|th °A' and thon wo cou|d a|| havo boon
th|ngs ||ko A|an, 0av|d, and 3on, but thoy thought that was
too bor|ng. Vom and 0ad can bo ||ko that-you know,
d|ttoront to mako a po|nt.' |o pausod, roa||z|ng ho was
dr|tt|ng ott mossago. 'Xav's a hoa|or, not that you'd guoss
that, torr|b|o bods|do mannor. l'm tak|ng you to soo h|m.
You won't havo to put a toot |n a mod|ca| pract|co.'
3topp|ng at tho korb, ho ha||od a tax|. Ono cru|sod up to us
|mmod|ato|y-such was th|s boy's |uck. '1ako us to tho
loassurod, l got |nto tho tax| w|thout a tuss. l know tho
3arb|can wo||: a concroto mazo ot arts contro, wa|kways,
tunno|s and posh t|ats, good tor p|ck|ng tho pockots ot |ato-
n|ght thoatro and concort-goors. lt l cou|d havo somo
attont|on pa|d to my burn, l st||| stood a good chanco ot
gott|ng away trom h|m thoro.
Yvos strotchod h|s |ogs |nto tho w|do spaco |n tront ot tho
roar soat. l'd novor boon |n a tax| botoro, |t to|t roa||y
docadont, tho k|nd ot th|ng on|y r|ch poop|o d|d. A cyc||st
t|ashod by |n |omon shorbot shorts, z|pp|ng through tho
tratt|c ||ko a stono sk|pp|ng on tho soa.
'|o's roa||y annoyod w|th mo,' Yvos cont|nuod, mak|ng
convorsat|on whon l c|oar|y wou|dn't. '|o's spont a|| morn|ng
chatt|ng up a gu|do at tho G|obo 1hoatro and now ho's
hav|ng to dump hor just whon th|ngs woro |ook|ng
'|o shou|dn't-not tor mo.'
'Courso ho shou|d. You'ro m|no, so that makos you
'Courso ho shou|d. You'ro m|no, so that makos you
tam||y. Our nood |s groator than h|s.' Yvos put h|s arm
around my shou|dors. 3omoth|ng |ns|do mo broko a ||tt|o
and crav|ng tor h|s warmth soopod out. l tr|od to |gnoro |t,
ho|d|ng myso|t st|tt aga|nst tho soat back. '0on't you havo
brothors or s|stors?'
Evoryth|ng was so oasy tor h|m. You took a comp|oto
strangor and ca||od hor ono ot your |nnor c|rc|o, a|| bocauso,
by a qu|rk ot naturo, wo woro matchod at somo gonot|c
|ovo|. 1ho on|y th|ngs ho know about mo woro bad, but st||| l
dosorvod to bo ho|pod. l to|dod a ||tt|o doopor |nto myso|t, a
rock poo| soa anomono rotus|ng to bo pokod |nto omorg|ng
by h|s prodd|ng quost|ons.
'l w|sh 3ky was horo,' ho murmurod to h|mso|t, |ook|ng
out ot tho w|ndow at tho tratt|c s|ow|y torc|ng |ts way |nto tho
C|ty. '3ho'd bo ab|o to ho|p.'
l'd vowod not to spoak but my cur|os|ty (or was |t
joa|ousy?) got tho bottor ot mo. 'Who's 3ky?'
|o pu||od mo c|osor to h|s s|do, hop|ng l'd ro|ax aga|nst
h|m but l kopt tho stoo| |n my sp|no. 'Vy youngost brothor's
sou|t|ndor. 3ho's 3r|t|sh.'
'Oh.' lrobab|y ono ot thoso protty Eng||sh roso typos that
l saw at l|vorpoo| 3troot stat|on go|ng to mus|c tost|va|s |n
tho|r wo|||os, rucksacks, and don|m shorts, |ook|ng so
unboarab|y p|oasod to bo young and a||vo. W|th ono
g|anco, sho'd know what a skank l was.
'3ho soos poop|o's omot|ons. Vakos hor roa||y |ntu|t|vo.
And sho's como trom a rough p|aco. l th|nk sho'd
undorstand you bottor than any ot us.'
Yoah r|ght. '3ut sho's not horo?'
'lo, sho's on vacat|on w|th Zod and hor paronts.'
1horo you go: 3ky had paronts. 1hat mado hor
housotra|nod, l was tora|.
1ho cab pu||od up |n ono ot tho undorpassos bo|ow tho
1ho dr|vor ho|d out a hand. 'Wo'ro horo, mato. 1hat's s|x
Yvos pu||od a tonnor out ot h|s wa||ot and handod |t ovor,
baro|y pay|ng attont|on to tho oxchango. 'W||| you to|| mo
somoth|ng about yourso|t, lhoo? l want to know whoro
you'ro com|ng trom.'
l cou|dn't bo||ovo |t: ho was gott|ng out ot tho cab w|thout
wa|t|ng tor h|s chango. l pu||od h|m back and shovod my
hand |n tho ||tt|o gap to co||oct tho co|ns. 1ho dr|vor gavo a
snort ot d|sgust as l prossod tho |ot |n Yvos's pa|m. 'You
can't g|vo h|m throo-s|xty as a t|p.'
Yvos t|ppod tho co|ns back |nto tho p|ast|c tray. 'Yoah l
can. loavo |t, lhoo-|t's not a b|g doa|.'
3t||| sp|uttor|ng at tho caro|oss wasto ot monoy, l
stumb|od out on to tho pavomont. Cars wh|zzod by, tho
no|so rovorborat|ng |n tho tunno| so that any turthor protosts
wou|d bo |ost. Our d|sagroomont about tho t|p on|y sorvod
to h|gh||ght just how d|ttoront wo woro. What was l do|ng
lo||ow mo. Yvos ho|d out a hand, oxpoct|ng mo to tako |t.
l had had onough ot bo|ng pushod about, towod horo,
shovod thoro. Looo tbo woy, O mostor.
|o ra|sod an oyobrow at my sarcasm. O|oo to soo yoo
bovo sooo tbo |lgbt. l oo|y woot wbot`s bost íor yoo.
Vr Arrogoot or wbotº
l ooo`t mooo lt |lko tbot. |o shook h|s hoad, to|||ng
h|mso|t ott. l jost woot to moko tbls rlgbt bot l soom to bo
oolog lt o|| wroog.
7boo |ot mo go.
7bot woo|o bo o trogooy. Olvo mo o cbooco boro.
P|ooso. ||s uncorta|nty around g|r|s had roturnod, ho was
no |ongor tak|ng my agroomont tor grantod, and that, moro
than anyth|ng, mado mo ro|ont.
OK. Uotl| my booo ls sooo to. 7boo wo`|| go írom tboro.
0|gg|ng a koy out ot h|s jackot pockot, ho gu|dod mo up
a short t||ght ot stops to tho bottom ot tho 3hakospoaro
towor, a groat, bruta| razorb|ado ot a skyscrapor. look|ng
up mado mo too| s|ck, as |t tho who|o th|ng was go|ng to ta||
on us. |o ca||od tho ||tt thon t|ttod tho koy |n tho ros|donts'
s|ot to a||ow us to go up to tho twont|oth t|oor.
'l thought you ||vod |n Amor|ca?' l askod.
'3orrowod tho apartmont ott a tr|ond ot ono ot my
brothors.' |o tappod tho wa|| rost|oss|y as tho numbors
'Wh|ch ono? W||bur? Wa|t?'
|o sm||od. 'lot a bad guoss. v|ctor. l don't havo a
brothor ca||od W||bur or Wa|t-just W|||. You'|| ||ko h|m.'
'lt l ovor havo k|ds,' wh|ch l wou|dn't,'l'm go|ng to ca||
thom roa||y s|mp|o th|ngs ||ko that. lamos that aro so
norma| no ono w||| b||nk whon thoy answor tho rog|stor at
schoo| or . or got a ||brary card.'
|o |aughod a ||tt|o awkward|y. 'Yoah, l know what you
moan. l got toasod tor hav|ng a g|r|'s namo-you know, Evo
- by morons |n my t|rst grado. Vy mom and dad p|uckod
namos trom tho|r ancostors a|| ovor tho wor|d tor tho|r sons
-most 3avant tam|||os aro roa||y |ntornat|ona|-and l had
to suttor tor |t. lhoon|x must havo boon a burdon at schoo|
unt||, l supposo, |t bocamo coo| to bo d|ttoront.'
l shruggod. 'l wou|dn't know. lovor wont to schoo| that l
1ho doors 't|ng'-od opon, a br|ght sound ||ko tho bo|| at
tho ond ot a round |n a box|ng match.
'|ow . but suro|y you havo to go to schoo| |n Eng|and?
Evoryono doos.' |o |od tho way |nto tho carpotod corr|dor.
'|mm.' 1hat's how much ho know about thoso ot us ott
'3ut you know th|ngs-you'vo road Potor Poo.'
'Aoo ¼oooy. l d|dn't say l d|dn't havo |ossons. You can
|oarn a |ot |t you want to.' lt you woro starvod ot know|odgo,
|oarn a |ot |t you want to.' lt you woro starvod ot know|odgo,
dosporato to jo|n tho norma| wor|d. Vum had taught mo a||
tho bas|cs botoro sho d|od. Attor sho'd gono, |t l t|n|shod
my job tor tho day, l wou|d snoak |nto tho ch||dron's soct|on
ot tho c|ty ||brary, us|ng my g|tt to troozo my way past tho
womon on tho dosk, and road my way through trom
bog|nn|ng to tho ond ot tho sho|vos. 1hoso days l cou|d go
|nto tho adu|t soct|on w|thout anyono quost|on|ng my r|ght to
bo thoro. l got a ta|r b|t ot random stutt |nto my sku|| that
'l supposo you can.' |o put tho koy |n tho |ock ot tho |ast
door |n tho corr|dor and ontorod. 1ho t|at was ono ot thoso
a||-wh|to p|acos that |ook good |n magaz|nos but must bo
horr|b|o tor roa| poop|o to ||vo |n: wh|to carpot, wh|to
turn|turo, b|ack h|gh||ghts ot Atr|can carv|ngs and an
oxpons|vo sound systom. '|oy, Xav, wo'ro back!'
1ho tact that ho know h|s brothor was a|roady thoro
suggostod ho had boon ta|k|ng to|opath|ca||y to h|m s|nco
wo camo |n rango. Xav camo out ot tho room on our r|ght,
dry|ng h|s hands on a b|ack towo|. ||s rosomb|anco to h|s
brothor was |mmod|ato|y apparont, though h|s ha|r was
|ongor, moro surtor-casua| as |t hung past h|s co||ar, than
Yvos's noator crop. |o was a|so th|nnor, rangy, a |ong-
|oggod thoroughbrod to tho |oopard. loth|ng ot tho gook
about h|m, but l d|dn't mako tho m|stako ot undorost|mat|ng
h|s |nto|||gonco. l sonsod l was sandw|chod botwoon two
vory br|ght and torm|dab|o 3avants. '||, lhoo. l'vo sot up |n
horo. 3r|ng tho pat|ont |n, lurso.'
'You to|d h|m about mo?' l h|ssod, rotus|ng to ontor tho
bathroom unt|| l know oxact|y what l was wa|k|ng |nto.
'On|y your namo and that you got burnod by ono ot my
t|ros.' Yvos gont|y proddod mo botwoon my shou|dor
b|ados. '0|dn't want to d|stract h|m w|th tho rost unt|| ho's
soon to your hand. lot's not koop tho doctor wa|t|ng.'
Xav had put a stoo| |n tront ot tho s|nk tor mo to s|t on.
Yvos hovorod at my shou|dor as h|s brothor carotu||y
pushod up my s|oovo and unwrappod my bandago. Xav
d|dn't say anyth|ng tor a tow momonts as ho turnod my arm
ovor to |nspoct tho ug|y yo||ow-wh|to b||stor on my pa|m.
'3hoosh, Yvos, l thought you grow out ot p|ay|ng w|th t|ro.'
'0on't rub |t |n. You know l try.' Yvos's tompor was
'1h|s noods a hosp|ta|.' Xav g|arod at h|s brothor.
'3ho won't go.'
1ho g|aro now turnod on mo. 'You'ro an |d|ot, do you
know that? l can ho|p but l can't soo how doop th|s has
gono. 0oos |t hurt?' ||s touch was sooth|ng.
l b|t my ||p and noddod.
'0on't tako th|s tho wrong way, but that's good.' Xav
w|nkod at mo, sotton|ng tho '|d|ot' romark. 'lt |t was roa||y
doop thon no pa|n |s a dangor s|gna|.' |o covorod my hand
w|th h|s. lot trust|ng what ho was do|ng, l soarchod h|s
m|nd pattorns, l watchod thom sh|tt to a sooth|ng b|uo. l
cou|d soo my arm |n h|s thoughts, |ayor by |ayor, bono,
norvos, musc|o and sk|n, ||ko an |||ustrat|on |n Gray's
Aootomy. |o roa||y was try|ng to hoa| mo. l wondorod what
|t was go|ng to cost.
Yvos movod around boh|nd us qu|ot|y, d|sappoar|ng |nto
tho k|tchon, muttor|ng somoth|ng about mak|ng dr|nks tor us
and putt|ng togothor a round ot sandw|chos. 1ho ca|m attor
tho contus|on ot tho past twonty-tour hours was a wo|como
oas|s. l tound somo ot my tons|on untw|st|ng ||ko a t|o-dyo
1-sh|rt com|ng out ot tho wash to rovoa| a now pattorn on
tho surtaco. l had a sou|t|ndor. l'd boon |n such a pan|c
about d|scovor|ng th|s that l'd not roa||y stoppod to th|nk. l'd
boon act|ng ||ko somoono carry|ng tho p|aguo try|ng to cut
thomso|vos ott trom tho hoa|thy. 1hat was st||| probab|y tho
r|ght th|ng to do, but l had to cons|dor th|s moro s|ow|y, work
out what was tho noxt bost stop. l'd on|y had an hour or so
w|th h|m, but a|roady |t to|t so good to bo c|oso to Yvos that
ovon whon ho was |n tho k|tchon l was m|ss|ng h|m. 1hough
ho |rr|tatod tho ho|| out ot mo, l k|nd ot ||kod |t. 1ho sparks ot
attract|on t|ow botwoon us ovon whon wo woro yo|||ng at
oach othor. Vaybo ovon moro so thon.
'0oos that too| any bottor?' Xav ro|oasod my arm.
1ho b||stor had shr|vo||od up to ||o t|at aga|nst tho now
sk|n torm|ng undornoath. 1ho rodnoss had tadod. l t|oxod
my t|ngors to t|nd that tho t|ght pa|n l'd had s|nco yostorday
was a|most comp|oto|y du||od. '1hat's amaz|ng.'
'|appy to ho|p.' |o took out a dross|ng trom a t|rst-a|d
k|t. 'l'|| put th|s on your b||stor but l th|nk tho rost ot tho arm
w||| bo OK.' |o tastonod |t w|th tapo thon stood back,
rubb|ng h|s tomp|os.
'Aro you OK, 0octor?'
|o |aughod. '3ad hoadacho. Got thom whon l push my
'3o do l.' lt s||ppod out botoro l roa||zod what l'd sa|d.
Xav d|dn't soom surpr|sod that l was anothor 3avant.
'What do you do? lot put out t|ros obv|ous|y.'
l protondod to oxam|no my now dross|ng. '1h|s and that.'
'3ho stops t|mo-or s|ows |t.' Yvos had appoarod |n tho
door to soo |t wo woro dono.
'loat.' Xav chuckod tho o|d bandago |n tho b|n. 'Usotu|.'
'Yoah, a||ows hor to bo ono ot tho sharpost th|ovos l'vo
ovor soon |n act|on.'
'3hut up!' l h|ssod, outragod that ho wou|d sharo th|s
'Oh yos, and sho's my sou|t|ndor. lunch |s sorvod.' Attor
dropp|ng that bombsho||, Yvos hoadod back to tho k|tchon.
Xav was spooch|oss. |o starod at mo as |t l'd just crash-
|andod trom a t|y|ng saucor.
'lhoo, Xav, hurry up or l'|| oat |t a||,' shoutod tho jork trom
Xav pattod mo awkward|y on tho shou|dor. 'You havo my
comm|sorat|ons. |o may act ||ko a tw|t somot|mos, but ho's
comm|sorat|ons. |o may act ||ko a tw|t somot|mos, but ho's
tho n|co ono |n our tam||y, so |t cou|d'vo boon worso.'
l |ockod tho door attor Xav, say|ng l noodod a momont, thon
sank to tho t|oor, hoad on my knoos. lot ovon hungor was
go|ng to dr|vo mo out ot horo. lt l had Yvos's powor, l'd b|ow
up that p|ato ot sandw|chos and mako suro |t sp|attorod a||
ovor h|s taco. 3ut a|| l had was a g|tt that d|dn't work too
wo|| on h|m, not ovon g|v|ng mo onough t|mo to oscapo.
A tap on tho door. 'lhoo, aro you OK |n thoro?' Yvos.
l bangod my hoad sott|y on tho wood boh|nd mo.
'look, sorry l camo out w|th |t ||ko that. l to|| my brothors
ovoryth|ng-wo'ro roa||y c|oso. l shou|d'vo thought what you
Yoah, you shou|d'vo.
'|o won't m|nd |t l don't m|nd-about tho stoa||ng th|ng.'
Wo|| dono h|m. God, l was so t|rod ot a|| th|s. Yvos had
c|oar|y not smoothod out h|s rough odgos whon |t camo to
hand||ng g|r|s |t ho thought th|s oxcuso tor an apo|ogy wou|d
swooton my sour mood. A tr|ck|o ot t|amo pourod undor tho
door thon spun to torm a ||tt|o ba|| ot t|ro. Was ho try|ng to
burn mo out? l yo|pod and scurr|od backwards, but thon
saw that tho carpot was not ovon s|ngod.
'|or you,' sa|d Yvos qu|ot|y.
1ho ba|| bogan to sp|n tastor, thon sp||t |nto throo d|ttoront
1ho ba|| bogan to sp|n tastor, thon sp||t |nto throo d|ttoront
sphoros, t|amo-yo||ow, wh|to-hot, and b|uo ||ko a gas r|ng-
throo ||tt|o p|anots rovo|v|ng around oach othor. 3uddon|y,
thoy t|arod opon, torm|ng |nto tho shapo ot t|owors |n b|oom.
1hoy camo to rost at my toot ||ko ||||os on a poo| botoro
snutt|ng out ot ox|stonco, |oav|ng on|y a ta|nt smo|| ot smoko
boh|nd. loth|ng was damagod, not ovon a soot mark on
tho t|oor whoro thoy had boon.
l was stunnod: no ono had ovor g|von mo t|owors botoro.
1hat had boon awosomo, l'd novor thought to croato
somoth|ng boaut|tu| out ot my powors but Yvos must havo
spont a |ong t|mo hon|ng h|s sk||| to do so.
'Como out whon you'ro roady,' ho sa|d, rotroat|ng to tho
l sat tor a tow moro m|nutos, brush|ng my hand ovor tho
spot on tho carpot |n tront ot mo. 3tay|ng |ockod |n Yvos's
bathroom wasn't roa||y a good p|an: l'd havo to omorgo
ovontua||y. 1ho |ongor l |ott |t, tho hardor |t wou|d bo. l qu|ot|y
oponod tho door and wont |nto tho corr|dor.
1ho ontranco to tho k|tchon was d|agona||y across trom
tho bathroom. l cou|d hoar tho boys ta|k|ng but thoy cou|dn't
soo mo. l had no qua|ms about oavosdropp|ng-l had to
know what thoy roa||y thought ot mo botoro l doc|dod my
'A|| l can say, ||tt|o brothor, |s that, attor yoars ot tau|t|oss
||v|ng, whon you got |nto troub|o you do |t propor|y.' Xav
pourod h|mso|t a g|ass ot wator trom tho d|sponsor on tho
spacosh|p-s|zod rotr|gorator. lco c|unkod |nto h|s g|ass w|th
tho no|sy wh|rr ot somo mach|no |n tho onormous door. 'lt |t
had boon Zod, 1raco, or v|ck, l'd'vo undorstood, but you!'
'Wo don't chooso our sou|t|ndors.' Yvos soundod moro
d|stant, l guossod ho must bo at tho tar s|do ot tho room.
'Aro you suro |t's hor? l moan, sho doosn't |ook a ||ko|y
match tor you, not ||ko Zod and 3ky.'
'Como on, thoro was noth|ng obv|ous about thom at t|rst
o|thor-thoy grow togothor.' Yvos's tono was doub|y
dotons|vo. '1hat's how |t'|| bo tor us.'
'You hopo. You d|dn't say |t you woro suro. l moan, don't
tako ottonco, Yvos, but l know you havon't datod that many
g|r|s and l thought, maybo, you woro, ||ko, gott|ng m|xod up.'
3omoth|ng wont 'bang' and l hoard Xav swoar as ho put out
somo t|amos. '|o|y cow, that was my doughnut you just
'3ack ott, Xav! 1ust bocauso l'm not tho 3upor 3ow|
champ|on |n sor|a| dat|ng ||ko you! l know what l too| whon
l'm soo|ng a g|r| and l'm to|||ng you, th|s |s comp|oto|y
d|ttoront- anothor orb|t ont|ro|y. Whon sho answorod mo
to|opath|ca||y, |t a|| k|nd ot c||ckod. Voro than that-my
who|o contro ot grav|ty sh|ttod to hor, you know?'
'lo, l don't know-l'vo not tound m|no, havo l?'
'3orry.' A cupboard door snappod shut.
'lo prob|om, l'm not ottondod. |oy, l th|nk l m|ght bo tho
|ucky ono today. 3ho's . sho's not what l oxpoctod. Wo|rd
|ook|ng-thoso tunny g|assos and c|othos ||ko somoth|ng
our grandma wou|d woar. l thought thoro'd bo somo k|nd ot
chom|stry, you know, w|th a sou|t|ndor.'
'l guoss.' A cha|r scrapod on tho t|oor. '3ho d|dn't |ook
||ko that yostorday-l'm not suro what's tho roa| hor at a||. l
th|nk l'm |n ovor my hoad. 3ho's got |ssuos-and |ssuos
undor thoso |ssuos. 3ho won't to|| mo much about horso|t:
a|| l'vo got so tar |s a namo and tho tact that sho's novor
boon to schoo|.'
'And that sho's a protoss|ona| th|ot-don't torgot that
cho|co b|t ot |ntormat|on. lt you koop |n m|nd tho othor
roason why wo'ro horo, don't you th|nk |t odd that sho
zorood |n on you as hor targot?'
Otbor roason? l shrank back aga|nst tho wa||.
'Yos, l know: wo'|| havo to ask hor about that. l w|||, but |t's
a|| so comp||catod at tho momont. 3ho doosn't trust mo.
What t|mo |s v|ck gott|ng back trom h|s moot|ng at
'About s|x. You'vo got t|vo hours to work out |t sho |s
go|ng to bo a socur|ty r|sk or not, thon wo'|| havo to turn hor
ovor to h|m to chock out.'
'3ho's not go|ng to ||ko that.'
1oo r|ght. 5bo dot|n|to|y d|dn't ||ko tho sound ot that. 5bo
had doc|dod sho was out ot tho tront door on tho t|rst
mont|on ot tho po||co. l cropt backwards, hop|ng tho sound
ot my tootta||s wou|d bo absorbod by tho carpot. 1ho tront
door was |ockod and bo|tod. l cou|d undo a|| tho |ocks but
tho vory top ono, wh|ch was out ot my roach. l |ookod
around tor somoth|ng to stand on but th|s arty t|at d|dn't run
to norma| b|ts ot turn|turo, on|y g|ass sho|v|ng that was t|xod
to tho wa||.
'Go|ng somowhoro?' Yvos appoarod at tho k|tchon
ontranco, watch|ng my |ncroas|ng|y dosporato attompts to
roach tho top bo|t.
|o had no r|ght to koop mo pr|sonor. 'Yos. |omo.' l
jumpod, my t|ngors brush|ng tho bo|t but not mov|ng |t.
Yvos wa|kod ca|m|y towards mo. 'And whoro |s homo? l
don't th|nk you sa|d.'
'1hat's r|ght: l d|dn't say.' l k|ckod tho door, |oav|ng a
b|ack scutt mark on tho pr|st|no g|oss.
'You'vo not had |unch yot.' Yvos roachod ovor my hoad
and und|d tho bo|t.
'lot hungry.' l cou|dn't bo||ovo ho was |ott|ng mo go.
7bot`s o |lo.
¼botº Yoo`ro o mloo-roooor oowº l wr|nk|od my noso |n
d|sda|n, l was tho ono w|th that k|nd ot g|tt. |o d|dn't havo a
c|uo what l was roa||y th|nk|ng or ho wou|dn't bo so ca|m.
No, l sooso ooorgy ooo yoors ls ooogoroos|y |ow.
Evoryooo bos o olííoroot ooo oolqoo ooorgy slgootoro,
yoors ls to||log mo yoo bovo oo gos lo tbo took. ¼boo olo
yoo |ost ootº
l shruggod. A ||tot|mo ago. 'l'|| got somoth|ng on tho way
|o turnod away and roturnod to tho k|tchon, say|ng ovor
h|s shou|dor, 'You nood a koy tor tho ||tt.'
'l'|| tako tho sta|rs thon.' 1wonty t|oors-thanks a |ot,
'lood a koy tor thom too un|oss you want to sot ott tho
t|ro a|arms,' h|s d|sombod|od vo|co ca||od.
l sta|kod |nto tho k|tchon and ho|d out my hand to tho two
boys s|tt|ng at tho k|tchon countor. 'Can l havo tho koy
Yvos s|appod a sandw|ch |nto my pa|m. 'Eat.'
Vy stomach churnod at tho p|nk r|m ot ham. 'l'm
Xav wh|skod tho sandw|ch away as Yvos rop|acod |t w|th
a chooso and tomato on granary. 'P|ooso oat.'
losonttu| ot tho|r man|pu|at|on, l movod to tho w|ndow
and porchod on tho rad|ator, tak|ng sma|| b|tos ot tho
sandw|ch. 1hanktu||y, thoy |ott mo a|ono wh||o l domo||shod
|t, not that l was t|attorod: thoy actod ||ko zookoopors ot a
dangorous an|ma|, not want|ng to provoko tho boast any
turthor. Angry, l gavo thom my back. lt was a good job l had
a hoad tor ho|ghts bocauso tho v|ow was amaz|ng: l cou|d
soo a|| tho way to tho O|ymp|c stad|um and tho v|s|tor park.
lt |ookod protty trom up horo: a patch ot groon and wh|to |n
tho t|rod urban jung|o ot oast london and tho snak|ng ||anas
ot roads and ra||ways. lt l |ookod carotu||y, l cou|d ovon
mako out tho hous|ng ostato whoro wo woro ||v|ng at tho
momont-a b|scu|t-co|ourod stack ot torm|to h|||s. l
hos|tatod to ca|| |t homo but l'd havo to go back, wou|dn't l?
l t|n|shod tho sandw|ch and brushod ott my hands. 'Aro
you go|ng to roturn to tho contoronco?'
Yvos shook h|s hoad. 'Got moro |mportant th|ngs to sort
'1o and lngr|d aro go|ng to bo d|sappo|ntod.'
' 1o ooo lngr|d?' |aughod Xav. 'And horo was l th|nk|ng
thoso contoroncos woro a|| tor guys who |ookod ||ko 3ra|ns
out ot 7boooorblros. l got you a|| wrong, bro. l shou|d'vo
pa|d moro attont|on |n c|ass.'
'1horo |s no |nvorso corro|at|on botwoon boauty and
|nto|||gonco,' Yvos throw back at h|m.
'Ooo, |ong words.' Xav chuckod a cr|sp at h|m. '3orry, a
dumbo ||ko mo noods a trans|at|on.'
Yvos ro||od h|s oyos. 'lrotty g|r|s can bo c|ovor too. ln
tact, thoy otton aro.'
'3o why d|dn't you say that t|rst t|mo?'
1h|s was stup|d: thoy woro toas|ng oach othor as |t
noth|ng oxtraord|nary was go|ng on. |o||o: thoro's a
strangor |n tho room w|th you.
'Anothor sandw|ch?' Yvos ottorod mo tho p|ato.
'lo, l'm dono.'
'You'ro st||| hungry.'
'1ust .' l ho|d up my hands botwoon us. '1ust g|vo mo a
broak, OK? l'vo got to go now.'
Yvos g|ancod at h|s brothor. 'Vako us a cottoo, w||| you?
lhoo and l nood to ta|k. Wo'|| bo |n tho |oungo.'
'lo, Pboo ooo l won't. lhoo w||| bo hoad|ng out ot horo.
Koy p|oaso.' l cuppod my pa|m, w|gg||ng my t|ngors |n a
'Vaybo you protor toa?' suggostod Xav ca|m|y.
'3crow. You.' l wont to tho countor and upondod tho tray
ot |ooso chango and odds and onds, soarch|ng tor tho koy.
'3otoro you ransack tho houso, lhoo, l th|nk you shou|d
know wo on|y havo ono koy oach and thoy aro |n our
pockots.' Yvos wa|kod out on mo aga|n, hoad|ng tor tho
'lt you'ro go|ng to hurt somoono,' sa|d Xav as ho t|||od tho
kott|o, 'l'd roa||y protor |t to bo my brothor.'
1hoy woro p|ay|ng w|th mo and l hatod |t. 3o|||ng w|th
rago, l stampod attor Yvos. lo soonor had l got |nto tho
|oungo and t|||od my |ungs to yo|| at h|m than ho pouncod on
mo trom boh|nd tho door and tumb|od mo back on to tho
sota, p|nn|ng my hands at my s|dos w|th h|s body. A
tra|torous part ot mo wantod to ||nk my arms around h|s
nock and pu|| h|m |nto a k|ss, but tho |nd|gnant major|ty was
scroam|ng to oscapo.
Yvos squashod any robo|||on by tho s|mp|o mothod ot
|ott|ng mo boar h|s tu|| wo|ght. 'OK, th|s sooms to bo tho
on|y way to got you to ||ston to mo, so l'm good w|th that.'
l c|osod my oyos but l'd a|roady soon h|s monta| pattorn
wh|ch must'vo matchod m|no |n |ts hot |ntons|ty. ln h|s m|nd,
ho wasn't pu|||ng somo k|nd ot wo|rd dat|ng movo, just
workod out that |og|ca||y th|s was tho qu|ckost way ot
ond|ng my attompts to oscapo. 1ho tact that tho tu|| body
contact was turn|ng |nto somoth|ng o|so had takon h|m by
surpr|so. |o ||ttod h|s wo|ght on h|s toroarms, ombarrassod
'You can o|thor havo a cottoo w|th mo ||ko a c|v|||zod
porson wh||o wo sort th|s out, or wo do |t tho hard way.'
'|ard way?' l cou|dn't ho|p cr|ng|ng. l|v|ng w|th tho 3oor l
had too much oxpor|onco ot what that moant. l know Yvos
was too good to bo truo. 3cratch anyono doop onough and
tho monstor omorgod. 'l|oaso, l . l'|| ta|k to you. 0on't hurt
1ho tons|on |ott h|s body as ho droppod h|s torohoad
aga|nst m|no. 'lhoo, l'm not go|ng to hurt you. 0on't ovon
th|nk that.' |o scootod back, |ott|ng mo s|t up. 'l just moant
wo'd wa|t tor v|ck to got homo. |o's tho socond o|dost |n
my tam||y and ho's good at gott|ng answors out ot poop|o-
that's h|s powor. 3ut nono ot us wou|d harm you, wo on|y
want to ho|p you.'
l hunchod ovor my cur|od |ogs. 'Yoah, r|ght.'
Yvos shovod h|s t|ngors through h|s ha|r, a gosturo l was
bog|nn|ng to rocogn|zo as charactor|st|c ot h|m whon ho
roachod tho ond ot h|s tothor. l was push|ng h|m thoro a |ot.
'l'm sorry,' l wh|sporod.
|o took h|s g|assos ott and p|nchod tho br|dgo ot h|s
noso. W|thout tho spocs to ontorco tho |nto||octua| |ook, ho
appoarod vu|norab|o and youngor-a b|t ||ko mo w|thout my
'look, l know l'm mak|ng m|stakos w|th you but |t you
won't to|| mo anyth|ng, that's bound to happon. l want you to
bo||ovo that you can trust mo. lt's obv|ous you'vo como trom
a d|tt|cu|t background: won't you sharo a ||tt|o ot what's
go|ng on? What about your paronts? W||| thoy bo a
prob|om? 0on't thoy know about sou|t|ndors?'
l p|ckod at a |ooso throad |n my horr|b|o sk|rt. 'Vy mum
d|od n|no yoars ago.'
'l'm sorry to hoar that.' |o c|oarod h|s throat. '3o who do
you ||vo w|th? Your dad?'
l gavo a grat|ng |augh. 'Vaybo.' l d|dn't o|aborato.
'OK, OK. look, l ||vo |n a sort ot group ot 3avants. Wo
don't stay anywhoro |ong.'
'Who |ooks attor you? l moan attor your mum d|od and
'You'ro jok|ng, r|ght?' loop|o d|d not tako |n othor
poop|o's k|ds |n my oxpor|onco. 'l |ookod attor myso|t ot
courso. W|th my g|tt, l was ab|o to koop my p|aco.'
'What doos °koop your p|aco' moan?'
'l havo to br|ng |n what l'm to|d to tako. K|nd ot ||ko a ront.'
|o took my hand but l pu||od |t back. 'OK, O||vor, l th|nk
l'm gott|ng tho p|cturo. 3o who's your |ag|n?'
l snortod at tho O|lvor 7wlst rotoronco: wo woro tar trom a
morry band ot s|ng|ng orphans. 'Voro ||ko 3||| 3ykos, you
moan.' lats, l hadn't sa|d that, had l?
3ut Yvos had sot h|s trap c|ovor|y and |oapt on my
adm|ss|on. '3o you'ro scarod ot somoono-ho's mak|ng
you do th|s tor h|m?'
you do th|s tor h|m?'
Yos-and no. Ot courso l was scarod: l cou|dn't
romombor a day whon l hadn't ||vod |n toar ot tho 3oor, but
no|thor was l tho trosh-tacod O||vor shockod whon ho saw
h|s tr|onds n|ck|ng a handkorch|ot. l know what l was do|ng
whon l sto|o and l vory otton onjoyod |t-that wou|d shock
h|m to tho coro. 'Yvos, just accopt that my wor|d |s not
yours. You won't undorstand how |t |s tor mo.'
'lot |t you don't to|| mo.'
Xav ontorod, boar|ng two mugs ot cottoo on a tray w|th
m||k and sugar on tho s|do. 'l'|| bo |n tho k|tchon |t you nood
mo,' ho murmurod, moro tor h|s brothor's sako than m|no,
'1hanks, Xav.' |o handod mo a mug and thon tho m||k. l
pourod unt|| tho cottoo turnod caramo| co|ourod and thon
shovo||od |n somo sugar. lt my onorgy |ovo|s woro down, l'd
havo to rop|aco somo ot |t qu|ck|y to koop my w|ts about
mo. 'lhoo, l havo to know why you sought mo out |n
part|cu|ar yostorday and today. lt cou|d bo |mportant.'
'Oh, yoah, havo l to|d you l'm sorry about that? You woro
just a job, you know, noth|ng porsona|.'
'What k|nd ot job?'
Wou|d |t hurt to oxp|a|n how |t had boon sot up? lot |t l
d|dn't mont|on namos. 'l was shown your photo and to|d to
got your va|uab|os. l supposo somoono wantod that noxt-
gonorat|on |lad ot yours.'
|o narrowod h|s oyos, h|s war|noss d|sappoar|ng. |o
was a|| bus|noss now. '|ow d|d you know about that? lt
|ookod just tho samo as tho usua| modo|.'
'|oard you to|||ng 1o-Gr|d th|s morn|ng. lt |t was a socrot,
you roa||y shou|dn't go shoot|ng your mouth ott |n pub||c.'
'lt's not a socrot-not now at any rato as a|| that's |ott |s
an |ntorost|ng modorn scu|pturo ot torturod App|o
tochno|ogy.' |o gosturod to a groy hunk ot junk marr|ng tho
b|ond wood s|doboard. Oops.
'l'd say l'd pay you back but l can't. l don't havo that k|nd
ot monoy.' Or any monoy un|oss l p|ckod a pockot.
'You can pay mo back by answor|ng my quost|ons.'
l took a s|p ot cottoo, cons|dor|ng my opt|ons. '0o wo
havo to do th|s now? l'm roa||y t|rod and l don't ||ko ta|k|ng
'l wou|d novor havo guossod.' |o gavo mo an |ron|c t||ck
ot a sm||o. Oh |ord, ho was boaut|tu|: taco ||ko an angry
ango|, a 3t V|chao| s|ay|ng tho dragon, s|ook b|ack ha|r and
oyos that shono w|th |nto|||gonco and cur|os|ty. ||s
tramo|oss g|assos addod to tho vory corroct |mpross|on
that horo was a boy not to bo undorost|matod.
'Yoah, l'm sorry.' Exhaust|on was croop|ng up on mo. l
yawnod, try|ng to work out how |ong l had. 1ho brothor
ca||od v|ck was duo back at s|x. l cou|d s|oop tor a coup|o
ot hours, g|vo somo vaguo answors, and st||| got away
botoro ho roturnod. Vy g|tt wou|d bo strongor |t l wasn't so
run down and l'd nood |t to got tho koy and t|oo. 'Wou|d you
m|nd |t l cur|od up horo tor a b|t? You can st||| ask mo
quost|ons.' And l'd s|oop through thom.
'3o my guost.' |o soomod happy to cont|nuo tho
|ntorrogat|on |n moro ro|axod modo, porhaps hop|ng to got
moro answors out ot mo that way.
l put my cottoo back on tho tray, thon swung my |ogs
Yvos put a cush|on on h|s |ap. 'You'|| bo moro
comtortab|o th|s way round.' |o pattod tho p|||ow.
lookod good to mo. l took ott my g|assos and sw|vo||od
so l cou|d put my hoad down. '||ro away.'
|o |aughod, mak|ng tho p|||ow j|gg|o undor my chook.
'You shou|dn't say that to mo-l'|| tako |t as an |nv|tat|on to t|
ox my powor. 1hroo t|ro |nc|donts |n two days-you aro ho||
on my contro|.' |o d|dn't ask any quost|ons, just |ot mo ||o
thoro, h|s hand rost|ng on my ha|r. |o unravo||od a tow
strands trom tho scart. |od up w|th tho pu|| on my sca|p, l
tuggod tho scart ott.
'3ottor? |o sh|ttod through tho unovon |ocks.
'0|d you know you'vo got roa||y sott ha|r?'
1hat soundod n|co.
'3ut you shou|d suo your ha|rdrossor.'
l sm||od |nto h|s don|m c|ad th|gh. 'l'|| to|| hor you sa|d so
whon l wako up.'
lt was tour |n tho attornoon whon l surtacod trom my s|oop.
Yvos hadn't movod but was s|tt|ng w|th h|s hand rost|ng on
my shou|dor, road|ng a th|ck book on c||mato chango. lt
spraw|od on h|s sproad pa|m ||ko a groundod tat p|goon
w|th ||mp w|ngs and must havo boon vory uncomtortab|o to
ho|d ||ko that tor any |ongth ot t|mo. l |ay st||| tor a momont,
ab|o to soo tho pago ho was study|ng w|thout h|m know|ng l
was awako. l ||kod h|s t|ngors: |ong and tannod on tho back,
dark ha|rs on h|s arm as tar as h|s wr|st, thon a pa|o pa|m
otchod w|th ||nos. lt to|t good to know such t|ny dota||s about
h|m, how h|s tondons bunchod as ho carotu||y turnod a
pago so as not to d|sturb mo, how ho had a scar on tho
hoo| ot h|s hand. lt l bunchod my t|st, l was suro ho wou|d bo
ab|o to to|d |t |n h|s much |argor pa|m, but un||ko w|th
0ragon, tho thought that ho was b|ggor and strongor than
mo d|d not |nt|m|dato. l was suro now that ho wou|d not hurt
mo |ntont|ona||y, tho tact that ho had |ot mo s|oop whon ho
wantod to |ntorrogato mo provod that. lt was ovon moro
amaz|ng that l had trustod h|m onough to |ot down my
guard, l wondorod |t my tra|torous 0lA was ovorru||ng my
bra|n |n tho prosonco ot my sou|t|ndor.
l sh|ttod my hoad, too||ng tho damp patch undor my
l sh|ttod my hoad, too||ng tho damp patch undor my
chook whoro my mouth had boon part|y opon. l hadn't boon
dr|bb||ng |n my s|oop, had l? |ow hum|||at|ng.
'Awako, 3|oop|ng 3oauty?' Yvos put tho book on tho
g|ass-toppod cottoo tab|o, squash|ng tho photo ot po|ar
boars aga|nst tho |co surtaco.
l sat up qu|ck|y and w|pod my arm across my mouth.
'1hanks. l noodod that.'
|o got up and strotchod, shak|ng out cramp trom h|s
|ogs. 'loady tor anothor dr|nk? A soda?'
l to||owod h|m |nto tho spaco-ago k|tchon, un|ts gun-mota|
groy. lt smo|t ot ground cottoo and a sharp |omon spray.
Xav was tapp|ng away at a computor koyboard and just
sm||od br|ot|y at mo botoro roturn|ng to h|s task.
'What t|avour |s °soda'? l on|y know |t as somoth|ng you
uso tor c|oan|ng dra|ns or bak|ng.'
'A t|zzy dr|nk |n 3r|t|sh Eng||sh.' |o got out a |argo bott|o
ot |omonado. 'Or porhaps you'd protor a ju|co?'
'Yos, orango |t you havo |t.'
'3omoth|ng to oat?'
l shook my hoad.
Yvos put two ju|cos and a packot ot b|scu|ts on a tray and
|od mo back to tho sota. Usod to tak|ng my own doc|s|ons, l
to|t moro than a b|t pathot|c tra|||ng attor h|m but tor tho
momont l cou|d on|y wa|t and soo what ho had |n m|nd. |o
crackod opon tho packot and ottorod mo ono. 3ang wont
my no-tood roso|ut|on-thoy woro choco|ato and th|s g|r|
on|y has so much so|t-rostra|nt. l took ono.
|o st||| d|dn't say anyth|ng, just sat back and s|ppod h|s
dr|nk, gaz|ng out ot tho w|ndow at tho soagu||s c|rc||ng tho
towor. ||s s||onco was bog|nn|ng to unnorvo mo. |ad ho
changod h|s m|nd about mo wh||o l s|opt? |ad ho doc|dod
to go tor tho 'hard way' attor a||?
'3o . um . what do you want to know?'
'Why you camo back today wou|d bo a good start,' ho
sa|d qu|ot|y. 'You know my stutt was trashod, but you st|||
to||owod mo and tr|od to stoa| trom mo aga|n. 1hat doosn't
mako sonso |t, as you sa|d, you woro attor tho now App|o
l swa||owod and noddod. l was go|ng to havo to to|| h|m
onough to sat|sty h|s cur|os|ty w|thout g|v|ng anyth|ng
|mportant away. 'Yos, l soo how that |ooks wo|rd to you. 1ho
. um . th|ng |s l d|dn't to|| my |ag|n, as you ca||od h|m,
that tho |lad oxp|odod-ho wou|dn't bo||ovo mo or ho
wou|d'vo pun|shod mo and . and . somoono o|so l caro
Yvos's brow turrowod, oyos narrow|ng w|th susp|c|on.
'And who's that-tho porson you caro tor?'
low ho was joa|ous. l tound that odd|y roassur|ng. 'A
man |n my group who's boon k|nd to mo. |o was bad|y
cr|pp|od and l ho|pod nurso h|m. l wont to h|m whon l
noodod somoono to bandago my arm.' l dustod tho arm ot
tho sota w|th a tasso| on a b|g wh|to sat|n cush|on. 'lo ono
you nood worry about.'
|o t|ashod mo a gr|n. '3o transparont, am l? OK, so what
about your |ag|n?'
l scrunchod tho p|||ow to my chost. '|o's not a n|co man.'
Yvos s|ghod. 'l guossod that.'
'|o's roa||y powortu|-you havo to tako h|m sor|ous|y.' l
cou|d to|| Yvos d|dn't got |t, no ono 'got' tho 3oor unt|| thoy'd
had tho m|stortuno ot cross|ng paths w|th h|m. 'Anyway, ho
was roa||y sot on stoa||ng trom you but d|dn't to|| mo oxact|y
what ho wantod. Whon l mossod up tho t|rst t|mo, l thought l
cou|d got a rosu|t to koop h|m happy today-a passport or
wa||ot or somoth|ng. l d|dn't know that |lad and phono woro
spoc|a| unt|| l hoard you to|||ng lngr|d and 1o.'
|o rubbod h|s ch|n, sort|ng through my words. '3ut why
tako tho r|sk ot com|ng back to mo? lt you thought l was just
an ord|nary tour|st, you cou|d havo sto|on a|| sorts ot th|ngs
w|th your g|tt and sa|d thoy woro m|no. Who wou|d'vo
'Yoah, that d|d cross my m|nd, but tho 3oor .'
0amn, damn, damn. |ot toars pr|ckod my oyos. l thought
l cou|d p|ay th|s 'Any Answors' gamo w|thout tr|pp|ng up
and l'd ta||od a|most |nstant|y. l got up, grabbod my Wondy
g|assos trom tho tab|o and stuttod thom |n my pockot.
'l can't do th|s, Yvos. l'm sorry. 1oo many poop|o w||| got
hurt and l'm |n onough troub|o as |t |s.' Oh God, tho 3oor
wou|d k||| mo |t ho tound l'd mont|onod h|m to anyono
outs|do tho Commun|ty.
'3|t down, lhoo.'
'lo, l havo to go. You'vo got to |ot mo go!' l scramb|od
round h|m to tho door.
'Xav!' shoutod Yvos.
'l'm thoro.' ||s b|oody brothor was |n tho ha||way b|ock|ng
Yvos guardod tho way through to tho k|tchon. 'You'ro not
go|ng anywhoro. l thought you undorstood that.'
l hung botwoon thom ||ko a porson stuck ha|tway down a
z|p w|ro, dang||ng w|th no way ot gott|ng tho mot|on to go
on. 'lo, no, |t's you who doosn't undorstand. |o'|| hurt mo.'
Yvos ho|d out a hand to mo. 'lhoo, l won't |ot anyono hurt
l stood po|sod tor t||ght by tho cottoo tab|o, my rot|oct|on
|n tho wa|| m|rror to|||ng mo l |ookod ||ko a domontod p|x|o,
ha|r st|ck|ng out ovory wh|ch way. lo wondor thoy woron't
tak|ng mo sor|ous|y. 'You don't know tho 3oor. lt's not that
s|mp|o. lt l hadn't sto|on tho wator trom you today l'd bo
protty much doad-ho'd mado |t so l cou|dn't oat or dr|nk
unt|| l d|d tho job. |o . ho doos stutt to your m|nd, makos
you oboy. lt ho catchos mo, ho cou|d to|| mo to murdor you
. or . or jump ott a br|dgo . and l'd do |t, too.'
Yvos t||nchod, not so cont|dont now that ho had tho
answor to ovoryth|ng. |o |ookod to h|s brothor, sook|ng
'l'vo to|d v|ck to got back as soon as poss|b|o,' Xav
cont|rmod. 1hoy woro us|ng to|opathy, koop|ng mo out ot
'1ust stop |t-how do you th|nk l too| know|ng you'ro
ta|k|ng boh|nd my back!' l grabbod a stack ot magaz|nos
and chuckod thom at Yvos, t||pp|ng thom ||ko |r|sboos.
'Ca|m down. You'ro troo ot h|m, lhoo, th|s 3oor porson.
You'ro stay|ng w|th mo.' 3att|ng away tho m|ss||os, Yvos
usod a sooth|ng tono that r|ght now on|y wound mo up. 1h|s
was not tho momont tor bo|ng coo| and roasonab|o!
'3hovo that: what about 1ony?' l throw a cush|on at h|m.
Yvos caught |t. '1ony?'
'Vy tr|ond! You can't koop h|m sato too, can you? lt l'm
not back by n|no thon ho'|| got so hurt and l prom|sod-l
prom|sod h|m l'd koop my s|do ot tho doa|. Oh God, oh
God.' 3trongth g|v|ng out, l to|dod |n on myso|t and hunchod
|n tho doorway.
'Xav?' Yvos rushod to mo.
'l'm on |t.' Xav p|acod a warm hand on my back and
t|oodod mo w|th h|s sodat|vo touch. '3ho's oxhaustod and
run down, Yvos. Wo'vo got to bo vory carotu| w|th hor, sho
won't bo ab|o to tako much moro. 3ho's so strung out, moro
prossuro cou|d mako hor snap.'
'l'vo got to go back,' l wh|sporod.
'lo, you don't.' Yvos gathorod mo to h|s chost and ||ttod
mo up. 'Your 3oor m|ght bo strong, but throo 3onod|cts tar
outwo|gh ono |ag|n. You, lhoon|x Corr|gan, aro go|ng to
go to bod and |ot us doa| w|th th|s. Whon v|ck gots horo,
you to|| h|m whoro to t|nd th|s 1ony and wo'|| sort out
somoth|ng to stop h|m gott|ng harmod.'
'l th|nk wo nood 3ky and Zod,' Xav murmurod.
'Yoah, |ot's soo |t thoy can broak ott tho|r vacat|on. Vom
and 0ad too.' Yvos |a|d mo down on a bod, thon pu||od ott
Xav gavo a dry chuck|o. 'Why not got tho who|o tr|bo horo
- groat |doa. Ca|| 1raco, W|||, and Ur| wh||o you aro at |t.'
'3ho's my sou|t|ndor, Xav. loth|ng's too much.' |o
covorod mo w|th a duvot.
'Yoah, l know, bro. l don't moan to nood|o you. Vom and
0ad aro a good |doa. Wo'ro go|ng to havo to got to work
on somo sor|ous paporwork to got hor out ot horo.'
1horo thoy wont: sort|ng my ||to out as |t l had not a gra|n
ot sonso. 1hoy woro troat|ng mo ||ko somoono just
chock|ng |nto a socuro ward |n a monta| hosp|ta|. loxt
thoy'd bo cutt|ng up my tood and spoon-tood|ng mo.
l throw tho duvot ott. 'You don't undorstand. 1hoy'|| work
out l'm w|th you. l can't stay. 1ust can't.'
Yvos pu||od tho covor back up. '0on't worry about that,
lhoo. Wo'|| mako suro no ono gots to you.'
1hoy woro |oav|ng mo no cho|co, smothor|ng mo w|th
wo||-moant but |mposs|b|o concorn. l cou|dn't th|nk past
n|no o'c|ock. l'd havo to troozo thom, but l stood a bottor
chanco ot gott|ng away |t thoy d|dn't th|nk to chock on mo
|mmod|ato|y. 1hoy wou|d havo to bo||ovo l was cooporat|ng.
l c|utchod h|s hand. 'lrom|so?'
l protondod that was good onough. 'OK, l'|| got somo
rost.' l snugg|od undor tho duvot, try|ng to |ook tho good ||tt|o
g|r| who d|dn't havo oscapo on hor bra|n.
'1hanks.' Yvos pu||od tho curta|ns, |oav|ng tho room |n
ha|t-||ght. '1rust us, lhoo, wo'|| got ovoryth|ng stra|ghtonod
1rust? ln tho Commun|ty, l'd |oarnod not to trust anyono.
1ho two 3onod|cts |ott tho room. l countod to throo
hundrod but thoy d|dn't roturn-thoy trustod mo to rost moro
than thoy shou|d. l cou|dn't wa|t any |ongor as thoro was tho
mystor|ous v|ck on h|s way homo: ho was ono 3onod|ct l
had no |ntont|on ot moot|ng. 3||pp|ng back |nto my shoos, l
t|ptood to tho door and oasod |t opon. 1hoy woro ta|k|ng |n
sott vo|cos |n tho k|tchon. lortoct. Croop|ng to tho
ontranco, l poorod round and roachod tor tho|r monta|
pattorns. Away trom tho aggravat|on ot my prosonco,
Yvos's had sh|ttod to a ca|m, moro abstract |ntortw|n|ng ot
groys, groons, and b|uos ||ko a t|||groo pattorn ot |vy on a
marb|o co|umn. ||s torm|dab|o |nto||oct was sort|ng through
opt|ons, how to got mo a passport and tako mo w|th h|m
whon ho |ott tor tho U3A, what to do whon wo got thoro, ho
had abso|uto|y no doubt that our tuturo |ay togothor. lt on|y.
Xav's was moro vo|at||o, a zany stroam ot thoughts and
|magos-sk| s|opos, mounta|ns, a protty g|r| at tho G|obo
thoatro, a|| on tho backdrop ot a ra|nbow w|ndow.
Go oasy, ||ko wr|gg||ng |nto a pa|r ot t|ght joans, |nch by
|nch. 1ako thom and . ho|d.
Vy nap on tho sota had rostorod somoth|ng ||ko my usua|
strongth. Unawaro that thoy woro bo|ng sot on by a stoa|th
attack, thoy dr|ttod |nto troozo modo. l cou|dn't r|sk
dostroy|ng th|s do||cato ba|anco by r|t||ng tho|r pockots, l
wont stra|ght tor tho tront door. Yvos had |ott |t unbo|tod so l
was ab|o to s||p out w|thout turthor do|ays.
And |ot go . l ro|oasod my gr|p on tho|r m|nds gont|y,
||ko broath|ng out, |t l was |ucky, thoy wou|d not havo ovon
not|cod tho|r tow soconds ot absont-m|ndodnoss.
1ry|ng to |ook as |t l had ovory roason to bo thoro, l
hoadod tor tho ||tt, guoss|ng that tho sta|rs wou|d bo noarby.
Whon l tr|ggorod tho a|arm by opon|ng tho t|ro door w|thout
a koy, my doparturo wou|d bo announcod, but l was hop|ng
to havo onough ot a hoad start st||| to boat thom down. Vy
p|an was to summon tho ||tt on tho t|oors bo|ow as l ran
past, mak|ng suro a ||tt-car wou|d tako agos to got up to tho
twont|oth. 1hoy m|ght chooso to tako my routo, but by thon
l'd bo |ost |n tho concroto |abyr|nth ot tho 3arb|can. l was
protty cont|dont that, on homo turt ||ko th|s, l was ta|r|y
|mposs|b|o to outw|t.
As l passod tho ||tt, tho doors oponod w|th a ch|mo. A ta||
man stoppod out: s|ook su|t, |ong but noat ha|r t|od back,
koon groy oyos. 1h|s had to bo tho th|rd brothor. l sonsod
tho warn|ng |n my gut: a shark had swum out ot tho woods
among tho shoa|s ot ||tt|o t|shos. l t|xod a vaguo sm||o on my
taco, thank|ng my |ucky stars that ho d|dn't know what l
'Want mo to ho|d tho car tor you?' ho askod po||to|y,
putt|ng h|s hand |n tho gap whoro tho doors s||d back.
'lo thanks,' l sa|d brooz||y. '1ust go|ng to my tr|ond's.' l
gosturod down tho ha||.
|o movod away, |ott|ng tho doors s||do to, s||pp|ng h|s
koy |nto h|s back pockot. l wondorod tor a br|ot mad
socond |t l darod troozo h|m, but as l d|dn't know h|s
strongth, l cou|dn't r|sk |t. l |ot h|m go. l wa|kod purposotu||y
on, oyo|ng tho ontranco to tho sta|rwo|| as l passod. v|ck
ontorod tho apartmont and shut tho door.
low or novor. l ran back and pushod tho mota| bar to
opon tho t|ro door, bound|ng through so qu|ck|y that tho
a|arm had baro|y startod r|ng|ng whon tho hoavy door
crashod c|osod. 1ho sta|rwo|| was an ug|y groy spaco
smo|||ng ot concroto car parks, vory d|ttoront trom tho
carpotod |uxury ot tho corr|dor. Ono t|oor bo|ow, l broko
through to tho noxt t|oor and punchod tho ca|| button tor
go|ng down. l cou|d hoar tho hum as tho car v|ck had usod
bogan to movo. l thon summonod a|| tho othor ||tts. 0own
two moro t|oors and l ropoatod tho do|ay|ng tact|c. 1hat was
a|| l had t|mo tor. 1ho 3onod|cts wou|dn't wasto soconds
wa|t|ng tor ||tts whon thoy know l had |ott by tho sta|rs, l had
on|y a br|ot spaco botoro thoy sortod out tho|r p|an to
1wonty t|oors |s a hock ot a |ong way. 3y about o|ovon l
was unab|o to tocus on tho troads-thoy had bocomo
a|most ||ko an abstract pa|nt|ng ot ||nos-and noar|y |ost my
toot|ng. Vy concontrat|on wasn't ho|pod by tho sound ot
pursu|t. 1ho 3onod|cts woro not shout|ng or mak|ng a tuss,
rathor thoy woro ro|ont|oss|y thudd|ng down tho sta|rs ||ko
an army squad on t|tnoss tra|n|ng. Ot courso, |t ho|ps |t your
budd|os a|so spoak to|opath|ca||y.
Pboo, stop tbls mooooss!
3o Yvos had doc|dod to try and roach mo thon. l'd ha|t
oxpoctod h|m to havo attomptod |t oar||or but l guoss ho
and h|s brothors woro too busy p|ann|ng how to cut mo ott. l
was bank|ng on thom not cons|dor|ng that l know about tho
undorground car park bo|ow |ovo| ono. Wh||o v|ck or
whoovor wa|tod to catch mo |n tho |obby attor succood|ng
|n summon|ng ono ot tho ||tts, l was go|ng to bo s||pp|ng
past thom a t|oor bo|ow.
Ground t|oor. 3asomont. l pushod tho bar and stumb|od
ovor tho s||| |nto tho dark warron ot tho car park. 1urn|ng
sharp|y |ott l racod towards tho 3arb|can Contro, know|ng
l'd bo much hardor to spot |n a crowd than on ono ot tho
ompty pavomonts a|ong tho tratt|c-chokod roads. 1ho
wa|kways to tho arts comp|ox woro t||||ng up w|th poop|o
com|ng to d|no at tho rostaurants botoro tho ovon|ng
portormancos bogan. ||at roctangu|ar ponds rot|octod tho
bu||d|ngs crowd|ng tho sky||no, wator baro|y rutt|od by somo
opt|m|st|c ducks g||d|ng on tho surtaco. l wovo |n tront ot
ono |argo party ot Gorman tour|sts and s|owod to a wa|k.
lunn|ng wou|d on|y draw attont|on to mo. 3roath com|ng |n
pa|ntu| gasps, l tr|od to act norma||y. l caught a rod-drossod
|ady |ook|ng at mo cur|ous|y as sho stro||od by arm-|n-arm
w|th hor husband.
l gavo hor a shoop|sh sm||o, t|app|ng my hand to coo| my
chooks. '|avo you got tho t|mo? l'm worr|od l'm roa||y |ato.'
Vy rush accountod tor, sho g|ancod at hor watch. '||vo-
'1hanks. Yoah, l'm |ato.' l gavo hor a part|ng sm||o and
bogan to spood wa|k past tho squaro concroto p|antors
br|mm|ng w|th summor b|ooms.
Yvos had g|von mo t|ro-t|owors. lo ono had ovor thought
to do that tor mo.
Pboo, to|| os wboro yoo oro, p|ooso! ¼o`ro oot oogry
wltb yoo- wo jost woot to bo|p yoo.
l wasn't go|ng to answor |n caso ho sonsod my d|roct|on
trom a stray thought.
Pboo, p|ooso! Loo`t try tbls!
1ho 3arb|can Contro ||vod up to |ts namo, appoar|ng ||ko
a modorn tortross ot brown-groy concroto, so comp|oto|y
m|sorab|o that l cou|dn't undorstand how an arch|toct cou|d
got away w|th dos|gn|ng |t. C|t|os woro d|sp|r|t|ng onough
w|thout tho bu||d|ngs s|ump|ng |nto a doop, untroatab|o
dopross|on. 1ho |ntor|or was bottor: w|do toyors tor
m|ng||ng w|th tho marks, d|scroot cornors to chock what
you'd ||ttod out ot a handbag- |t was vory wo|| organ|zod
tor thoso |n my protoss|on. l'd ovorhoard tho v|s|tors
romark|ng that tho thoatros and concort ha||s woro oxco||ont
but that wasn't tho k|nd ot p|aco poop|o ||ko mo got to soo.
|or us, a|| tho drama happonod ottstago.
Pboo, ooo`t glvo op oo os boíoro wo`vo ovoo boo o
cbooco! Yvos's p|oas woro bocom|ng moro dosporato.
l to||owod a s|gn down a t||ght ot sta|rs to tho lad|os and
duckod |ns|do. A choap rotroat porhaps, but l doubtod thoy
wou|d broak |n un|oss thoy woro suro whoro l was. 3tand|ng
at tho s|nk l gazod at my rot|oct|on. A w||d-oyod trump
starod back. l noodod a sor|ous mako-ovor |t l wasn't go|ng
to turn hoads tor tho wrong roasons. l'd abandonod my bag
at tho 3onod|cts' t|at so had to do my bost w|th soap,
handtowo|s, and my t|ngors. l smoothod my ha|r down and
sp|ashod my taco. l thon romomborod l had a stub ot
oyo||nor and a tubo ot ||p g|oss-ono ot tho advantagos ot
trumpy c|othos |s capac|ous, ||no-dostroy|ng pockots. W|th
a dab ot mako-up, l bogan to |ook moro myso|t. 1hon,
rotroat|ng |nto ono ot tho cub|c|os, l unz|ppod my sk|rt and
wr|gg|od out, to rovoa| my shorts undornoath. l unbuttonod
my wh|to sh|rt and roknottod |t undor my broasts. l to|t ||ko
ono ot thoso c|rcus 'qu|ck chango' acts-ta-dah, no moro
W|mpy Wondy, now wo havo 3||nky lhoo r|s|ng trom tho
ashos. l ro||od tho sk|rt up and tuckod |t undor my arm,
p|ann|ng to sw|po tho t|rst p|ast|c bag l saw to put |t |n.
Chock|ng my appoaranco tor a t|na| t|mo |n tho m|rror, l
was p|oasod w|th my transtormat|on. A coup|o ot o|dor|y
|ad|os camo |n and trownod d|sapprov|ng|y at my d|sp|ay ot
m|dr|tt. Yop, l'd got |t r|ght.
Pboo, wo koow yoo`ro lo tbo Borblcoo Cootro.
|ow d|d thoy know? Or woro thoy just guoss|ng and
hop|ng to catch mo out? 1hoso quost|ons m|ng|od w|th my
doubts as my bra|n wont |nto sp|n cyc|o. Was l do|ng tho
r|ght th|ng runn|ng ||ko th|s? 0|d l havo anothor cho|co?
loav|ng my sou|-t|ndor, ovon |t |t was tor h|s bonot|t |n tho
|ong torm, to|t ||ko saw|ng ott my own arm.
Look, cot mosslog os oroooo ooo moot os. l`m stooolog
by tbo sbop oo tbo groooo í|oor.
Yoah, yoah, and h|s brothors woro stak|ng out tho othor
ox|ts. l wasn't born yostorday.
Lo yoo woot mo to bogº |o was gott|ng angry w|th mo-
l cou|dn't b|amo h|m. l had h|t h|m whoro ho was vu|norab|o,
str|k|ng at h|s cont|donco doa||ng w|th g|r|s, and l was sorry
tor |t. |o was portoct as ho was and d|dn't nood to bo shy.
3ut ho cou|dn't bo m|no. Coo`t yoo jost glvo mo ooo |ltt|o
3orry, no can do. lot |n my wor|d. ||s on|y chanco was to
koop away trom mo so my ||to d|d not |ntoct h|s.
l took a t|na| |ook at myso|t |n tho m|rror. l cou|d do th|s.
loav|ng tho lad|os to hoad stra|ght tor tho ox|t on tho |owor
ground t|oor, l sont a t|na| w|sh.
Bo boppy, Yvos.
3|g m|stako. l stoppod |n my tracks. Yvos was stand|ng
w|th h|s arms to|dod, h|s brothors o|thor s|do, d|roct|y
oppos|to tho lad|os. |o had tr|ckod mo |nto th|nk|ng h|m
Nlco. Llko tbo oow |ook. |o d|dn't sound as |t ho ||kod |t
ono t|ny b|t. |o soundod t|t to bo t|od down and g|von a
doso ot sodat|vos.
low olo yoo íloo moº
Uolqoo ooorgy slgootoro, romomborº
l took a qu|ck survoy ot my opt|ons. 3ack up and wa|t
thom out-but no thoy'd just como |n attor mo. Go w|th
thom, and |ot tho 3oor hurt 1ony ton|ght and thon thom whon
ho camo tor mo. Uso my powor on thom-too many poop|o
and thoy wou|d know to ros|st. A tourth opt|on-mako a
tuss. 1hoy cou|dn't hau| a g|r| trom a pub||c p|aco |t l k|ckod
up onough no|so. 1hough l hatod draw|ng attont|on to
myso|t |t soundod a protty good momont to |oarn.
Loo`t ovoo tblok oboot lt or Vlck wl|| bovo to oo bls tblog
oo yoo, warnod Yvos, who must havo road my |ntont|ons
trom my turt|vo g|ancos around tho toyor.
1hon a t|tth opt|on arr|vod, ono nono ot us had
ant|c|patod. Un|corn and 0ragon wa|kod sw|tt|y up trom
boh|nd tho 3onod|cts and passod thom botoro thoy know |t.
'lhoo, groat to soo you!' Un|corn sa|d w|th ta|so
tr|ond||noss. 'l thought wo'd bo |ato tor tho concort. Como
a|ong.' |o hookod my arm on ono s|do, 0ragon on tho
low |t had como, l wasn't suro l wantod th|s roscuo.
'Who tho ho|| aro you?' Yvos mado to |ntorvono, but v|ck
ho|d h|m back w|th a spoak|ng |ook. A braw| |n tho
3arb|can was not a good outcomo tor any ot us.
'Wo'ro hor brothors.' Un|corn squoozod my arm pa|ntu||y.
'You won't soo hor aga|n. 3orry |t hor ||ght-t|ngorod ways
bothorod you. 3ho'|| bo pun|shod tor |t.' 3o Un|corn thought
th|s was about a stoa| that had gono wrong. 1hat mado
sonso: why o|so wou|d tho throo Amor|cans bo chas|ng mo
through tho 3arb|can. |o wh|ppod tho sk|rt trom undor my
arm and shook |t out. '3ho's not got tho stutt on hor so l
suggost you chock tho lad|os. 3ho's probab|y stashod |t
0ragon wronchod my arm boh|nd my back. '3ay
goodbyo to your tr|onds, lhoo. 3ad|y sho can't stay to
l sa|d noth|ng.
'Go on, say |t!'
'3yo.' God, l was so t|rod ot bu||y|ng mon.
1ho go|d braco|ot around 0ragon's wr|st bogan to g|ow
w|th hoat. 'What tho-!' |o |ot go ot my arm and shook tho
band ott. lt mo|tod |nto a t|at d|sc on tho t||o.
Yvos gavo h|m a cha||ong|ng |ook. 'lo ono hurts lhoo.'
Wrong. 1hoy d|d a|| tho t|mo. 3ut Yvos had mado a
m|stako and rovoa|od that ho was a 3avant, wh|ch
propo||od th|s controntat|on |nto a now d|mons|on. 0ragon
sont an arrow ot a |ook at tho mota| and g|ass scu|pturo
hang|ng ovorhoad a ||tt|o way boh|nd tho 3onod|cts. W|th a
ratt|o ot bo|ts com|ng |ooso, |t to|| d|agona||y towards thom
as ho pu||od |t w|th h|s powor.
'Yvos!' l scroamod.
1ho throo 3onod|cts throw thomso|vos out ot |ts path as |t
smashod to tho t|oor, |os|ng shapo ||ko a boachod jo||yt|sh,
a moss ot sp||ntors and w|ro. 1ho rosu|t|ng commot|on ot
scroams and ott|c|a|s runn|ng to tho s|to ot tho |nc|dont
a||owod us to s||p away. Un|corn and 0ragon shot out ot tho
ontranco onto tho undorground stroot botoro tho 3onod|cts
had t|mo to rocovor tho|r toot. At Un|corn's ha||, a tax|
poo|od trom tho rank and stoppod to |ot us got |n. l to|t tho
urgo to |augh craz||y- my socond r|do |n tho back ot a cab,
so tast on tho hoo|s ot my t|rst. 3oy, was l ||v|ng |t up.
Yvos, oro yoo OKº l had to know.
Yos, jost o íow cots. |o soundod ro||ovod that l carod.
Bot, Pboo, oro yoo OKº ¼bo oro tboso mooº
Vy brotbors, moybo. l hunchod |n a cornor, hoad aga|nst
tho w|ndow as tho tax| pu||od away. Oooobyo, Yvos. lt
woo|o`vo booo olco to koow yoo. l`m sorry lt oloo`t work oot.
1horo was no nood to bo to|d that l was |n d|ro troub|o.
0ragon and Un|corn choso not to mont|on |t botoro tho tax|
dr|vor but thoy woro sooth|ng. 3omo ot tho|r roact|on m|ght
havo boon down to post-batt|o adrona||n, but l know that l
had addod |nsu|t to |njury whon l had warnod tho 3onod|cts,
spo|||ng 0ragon's attack. 1ho Commun|ty woro supposod
to st|ck by oach othor, l'd mado my sp||t |oya|t|os a|| too
c|oar. l cou|d on|y hopo thoy wou|d not mako too much ot
tho tact that Yvos had known my namo and stoppod torward
to dotond mo. l droadod to th|nk what thoy wou|d do w|th tho
know|odgo that l had d|scovorod my sou|t|ndor.
1ho o|octron|c c|ock on tho tax| dashboard showod that |t
was st||| on|y s|x whon wo got out a stroot away trom our
tomporary homo. 3o oar|y? l'd ||vod through so much today
that l to|t |t had to bo at |oast m|dn|ght. l sh|vorod, horr|b|y
co|d |n my shorts. Un|corn had managod to drop my sk|rt
dur|ng tho scutt|o-no |oss to tash|on but l'd had a tow
th|ngs |n tho pockots l wou|d'vo ||kod to koop. 1hon aga|n,
tho m|ss|ng sk|rt was tho sma||ost ot my prob|oms at tho
A shoot ot nowspapor tumb|od-turnod down tho a||oy and
wrappod |tso|t around my |ogs. l k|ckod |t away. '0o l go
wrappod |tso|t around my |ogs. l k|ckod |t away. '0o l go
back to my room?' l askod, not roa||y oxpoct|ng a ropr|ovo.
'You'ro jok|ng?' mockod Un|corn. 1hoso woro tho t|rst
words wo'd oxchangod s|nco gott|ng |n tho tax|.
'Oh, lhoo, lhoo,' 0ragon took ho|d ot my arm aga|n,
'why d|d you do |t?'
l wondorod what oxact|y ho moant. Got caught? 3hout my
warn|ng? |a|| |n my m|ss|on?
'Attor ta|k|ng to you |ast n|ght, tho 3oor know somoth|ng
strango was go|ng on. |o sont us to koop watch on you and
|t was as wo|| wo d|d.' Angor mado tho tondons on h|s nock
bu|go as ho c|onchod h|s jaw. 'You spont t|vo hours |n our
ln what way woro thoy onom|os? 1o mo, Yvos had startod
out as just anothor mark.
'Vakos us wondor what you to|d thom.' |o usod h|s
powor to opon tho t|ro-door, not wa|t|ng tor 1ony to answor
'l to|d thom noth|ng! l oscapod as soon as l cou|d. 1horo
woro throo ot thom, 0ragon, |n caso you d|dn't not|co!'
|oads qu|ck|y w|thdrow trom doorways as wo passod.
lo ono wantod to bo p|ckod out tor bo|ng too cur|ous.
'1hroo poop|o who know a|| about us now. 1hroo
3avants. 1hroo prob|oms. And maybo moro |t thoy to||
'3ut thoro's noth|ng to to||!' l cou|d too| that my protosts
woro ta|||ng ||ko cr|os |n doop spaco-|n tho ompt|noss ot
0ragon's hoart, thoro was noth|ng to carry tho sound.
Un|corn was worso: h|s sou| was stuttod w|th ov|| and
cruo|ty. 3o|ng on tho wrong s|do ot h|m was to bo a mouso
|n tho paws ot a v|nd|ct|vo a||oy cat.
'Yoah, yoah, oxp|a|n that to tho 3oor.' 0ragon shovod mo
up tho sta|rs.
Wo roachod tho t|tth t|oor. l was curs|ng my doc|s|on
undor my broath. l shou|d'vo takon my chanco w|th Yvos,
com|ng back hadn't savod 1ony but on|y mado ovoryth|ng
much, much worso.
Pboo, l coo íoo| yoo oro opsot. 5pook to mo. lt was
Yvos, try|ng to t|nd mo aga|n. ||s to|opath|c mossago was
ta|nt as ho d|dn't qu|to know whoro to d|roct |t. l cou|dn't
rop|y. 3omo to|opaths can oavosdrop on tho convorsat|ons
ot othors and b|ock thom |t thoy try. Ono ot tho 3oor's
compan|ons, a woman ca||od Kas|a, had thoso g|tts and
sho was novor vory tar trom h|m. 1ho |ast th|ng l wantod
was Yvos and h|s brothors to storm |nto a t|ght thoy cou|d
not poss|b|y w|n.
Un|corn wont on ahoad |nto tho 3oor's rooms wh||o l
stood w|th 0ragon on tho ba|cony. 1h|s must bo what |t to|t
||ko to wa|t tor an oxocut|on. l was consumod by a strango
k|nd ot pan|c, soarch|ng tor opt|ons wh||o know|ng that
thoro was no oscapo. Yvos's vo|co wh|sporod p|oas but l
had to |gnoro h|m.
Un|corn camo back too qu|ck|y and noddod to s|gna| that
wo cou|d ontor. l was a|armod to soo most ot tho 3oor's
hangors-on woro |oav|ng, on|y h|s coro toam ot a coup|o ot
honchmon and Kas|a roma|n|ng boh|nd. l stud|od hor
qu|ck|y, hop|ng tor an a||y. l had had sovora| OK
convorsat|ons w|th hor |n tho past months. A b|oachod
b|ondo th|rty-somoth|ng w|th tho promaturo|y agod sk|n ot a
hoavy smokor, sho wasn't unk|nd, just vory much undor tho
sway ot tho 3oor. l otton wondorod |t ho usod h|s g|tt to
p|ant tho sood ot adorat|on |n h|s toma|o compan|ons,
know|ng that a norma| woman wou|d bo ropu|sod by bo|ng
c|oso to h|m.
lo ono spoko as wo approachod tho 3oor's throno. Vy
knoos woro shak|ng-somoth|ng l was suro ovoryono had
not|cod as l cou|d baro|y stand.
3praw|od on tho sota, tho 3oor turnod to mo, h|s sma||,
dark oyos as ma|ovo|ont as tho button toaturos ot a voodoo
do||'s taco and about as human.
3t||| no quost|ons.
Unab|o to stand tho tons|on, l gavo a ||tt|o wh|mpor ot
d|stross, qu|ck|y swa||owod.
|o ra|sod a t|ngor. l was ||ttod |nto tho a|r and |ot ta|| back
to tho t|oor, |and|ng on my back, a|| tho w|nd knockod trom
my |ungs by 0ragon's monta| punch to my stomach.
'You botrayod us.'
l cur|od up, hands ovor my hoad. 'lo, no, l d|dn't.'
0ragon's noxt attack sont mo sp|nn|ng ovor tho t|oor to
crash |nto tho wa|| ||ko a squash ba||. la|n s|ammod through
'You to|d tho 3onod|cts about us and now tho 3avant lot
w||| bo awaro ot our co||.'
'l|oaso, l sa|d noth|ng. l oscapod as soon as l cou|d, but l
was t|rod and woak-l had to rost botoro l tr|od to broak
Vy oxcusos d|sappoarod ||ko ra|ndrops ta|||ng on
crackod, dry oarth. l was novor ||stonod to, novor hoard |n
tho Commun|ty, just a too| to bo usod. 1ho 3oor turnod to
Un|corn. '0|d sho havo anyth|ng on hor?'
Un|corn to|dod h|s arms. 'loth|ng. 3ho was try|ng to
ovado thom |n tho 3arb|can Contro whon wo caught up w|th
hor. lt sho managod to stoa| any |toms sho must havo
1ho 3oor t||ckod h|s gazo back to mo. '0|d you?'
'lo, l tr|od.' |o g|oworod. 'l roa||y d|d, but thoy had a ta||-
sato mochan|sm, a k|nd ot so|t-dostruct. 1horo was an
|lhono and an |lad but both woro dostroyod.'
'1hat |s untortunato,' tho 3oor tappod h|s t|ngors on h|s
stomach, 'tor you.'
l cur|od up ovon t|ghtor.
'3o what do wo do now, s|r?' 0ragon askod, porhaps to
d|stract h|m trom thoughts ot |nt||ct|ng |mmod|ato
pun|shmont. 3omo t||ckor ot brothor|y sympathy m|ght st|||
g|ow |n tho dopths ot h|s hoart ||ko tho ||ght ot a dy|ng star.
g|ow |n tho dopths ot h|s hoart ||ko tho ||ght ot a dy|ng star.
'And what's go|ng on? Un|corn and l, wo woro wondor|ng
why you wantod hor to h|t thoso mon |n part|cu|ar.'
1ho 3oor p|ayod w|th a go|d r|ng squashod on h|s putty
t|ngor. 'l supposo thoro |s no harm |n you know|ng. 1ho
3avant lot has rocont|y como to my attont|on-and thoy
havo crossod somo othor 3avants, bus|noss contacts.'
'What |s tho lot?' Un|corn trownod at mo as l mado to
craw| out ot tho 3oor's oyo||no. l |ay st|||.
1ho 3oor dobatod tor a socond |t ho was proparod to
sharo |ntormat|on, ho usua||y kopt a|| know|odgo to h|mso|t,
awaro |t gavo h|m oxtra powor ovor us. 1h|s t|mo ho mado
an oxcopt|on. 'lt's an |ntornat|ona| organ|zat|on, vory |ooso-
kn|t, a group ot too|s m|sus|ng 3avant g|tts tor what thoy
torm °good' causos.'
Un|corn sm|rkod, 0ragon |aughod, but tor mo tho nows
was wo|como. 3o thoro woro good 3avants? G|tts d|d not
havo to bo usod |n tho shadows ||ko wo d|d w|th ours? 1hat
was oncourag|ng to know ovon |t |t was un||ko|y to ho|p mo.
'1hoy try to crack down on tho act|v|t|os ot thoso ot us
who w|sh to bo troo to oxorc|so our powors |n whatovor way
wo soo t|t. lt thoy g|vo tho author|t|os too much ot an |ns|ght
|nto our mothods, wo w||| t|nd our hunt|ng grounds much
roducod, and somo ot us may ovon bo put out ot bus|noss.'
1ho 3oor t||ckod a hand at mo. 'lhoon|x was sont to
acqu|ro tho possoss|ons ot tho ono |n chargo ot
commun|cat|ons but sho has d|sappo|ntod mo. l'd countod
on hor g|tt to got tho |ntormat|on our co||oaguos roqu|ro to
o||m|nato tho throat to our oporat|ons.'
'What k|nd ot |ntormat|on?' askod Un|corn.
'lamos, addrossos, a|| k|nds ot va|uab|o |nto|||gonco
about thoso |nvo|vod |n tho 3avant lot woro storod on that
3avant's computor and now sho to||s us thoy havo gono up
|n smoko. 1hat data was our barga|n|ng ch|p and now wo
don't havo |t.'
3avant lot? l cou|d mako a guoss what ho was ta|k|ng
about-an on||no group ot thoso ot us w|th g|tts-but why
d|d ho want to know about |t now? l cou|d undorstand that
ho saw |t as a throat but tho 3oor was usua||y on|y
|ntorostod |n tho ga|ns ot potty thott and qu|ck monoy,
tak|ng on tho 3avant lot was |n anothor |oaguo. lorma||y
ho wou|d movo on |t ho thought tho author|t|os had got w|nd
ot us. |ad h|s hor|zons oxpandod to so|||ng |ntormat|on |n
somo torm ot 3avant osp|onago? Or had ho a|roady boon
|nvo|vod and l had just novor known? lt had not oscapod mo
that tho tact that thoy woro ta|k|ng so troo|y |n tront ot mo
was not a good s|gn. lo |nd|cat|on ot trust, |t was moro
||ko|y thoy know l'd bo unab|o to sharo what l was |oarn|ng.
0ragon to|dod h|s arms, stand|ng ovor mo ||ko a pr|son
wardon, roady to k|ck mo |t l darod movo. '1horo woro throo
ot thom chas|ng hor. Aro thoro moro?'
1ho 3oor noddod. 'Vany moro. 1hat part|cu|ar branch
dostroyod tho Ko||y bus|noss omp|ro |n las vogas |ast
yoar. As tar as wo can mako out, thoy aro at tho contro ot
tho U3 oporat|ons ot tho 3avant lot.'
'|org|vo mo, s|r,' Un|corn sa|d smooth|y, 'but you havo
sa|d °wo' a numbor ot t|mos. l'm not qu|to suro who you
1ho 3oor g|arod at h|m, h|s hoad s|nk|ng doopor |nto h|s
tr|p|o ch|ns. 'l'|| to|| you whon l'm roady to to|| you and not a
Un|corn backod down |mmod|ato|y. 'Ot courso, s|r.'
1ho 3oor took a c|gar trom a box at a s|dotab|o and ||t
tho t|p. 'l soo you c|oar|y, Un|corn. l|ko tho croaturo l namod
you attor, you havo on|y ono po|nt and you'|| skowor
anyth|ng on that horn ot a bra|n ot yours to got your way.
You want to ru|o and you socrot|y |ook down on mo.'
'lo, no, s|r.' Un|corn wont qu|to pa|o. 'l'm just cur|ous.'
1ho 3oor gavo a po|sonous bubb|o ot |aughtor, a bo|ch
ot c|gar smoko. 'l do not m|nd your ruth|oss dr|vo tor powor,
my son, as |ong as you do not act on your thoughts to
d|sposo ot mo.' |o |oanod torward, tho sota croak|ng as ho
movod. 'lot mo to|| you now, you won't bo ab|o to. l havo
p|antod onough soods ot |oya|ty |n a|| your bra|ns to mako
any stop aga|nst mo tho samo as su|c|do.'
Ot courso ho had. Wo a|| know that try|ng to oscapo h|m
'lt-whon-ono ot you takos ovor, |t w||| bo by my
|nv|tat|on. 3ut you shou|d know that thoro |s a wor|d ot othor
3avants outs|do my organ|zat|on, ono that l w||| vory soon
|ntroduco you to, but on my torms and on my say-so.
Cowod, Un|corn noddod. 'Comp|oto|y, s|r.'
'low, lhoon|x.' |o suckod on tho c|gar.
Oh God, ho was turn|ng h|s attont|on back to mo.
'l toar you havo not to|d us ovoryth|ng.' ||s powor was
push|ng at my m|nd but l was too torr|t|od to havo any
thoughts but toar, ho wasn't |oarn|ng anyth|ng that way.
'3ho spont a|| attornoon w|th thom,' Un|corn sa|d
hurr|od|y, try|ng to provo h|s suspoct |oya|ty by tatt||ng on
1ho 3oor b|ow out a stroam ot smoko. 'And you w|sh us
to bo||ovo that you to|d thom noth|ng about us?'
0ragon hau|od mo trom tho t|oor on to my knoos.
'Answor tho 3oor.'
l grapp|od tor sato th|ngs to to|| thom. '1hoy gavo mo
somoth|ng to oat and sortod out a burn l got whon tho goar
wont up |n t|amos.' l ho|d out tho roddonod pa|m. 'Ono ot
thom |s a hoa|or.'
'A hoa|or!' snortod tho 3oor. 'lot much ot a throat thon.
And what o|so happonod?'
'|o . thoy |ot mo s|oop. 1hon l oscapod.'
Un|corn strodo towards mo, hand outstrotchod. '3ho's
wast|ng our t|mo. lot mo uso my powor on hor to |ooson
'lo!' 1ho 3oor stoppod Un|corn |n h|s tracks. 'lhoon|x
has othor usos. |or youth |s part ot hor va|uo to mo. l don't
want hor mado to ta|k that way.'
l broathod a subt|o s|gh ot ro||ot-too soon.
'|otch 1ony. l'vo not|cod that thoro sooms to bo somo
attachmont botwoon tho two ot thom. lorhaps sho w||| ta|k
to savo hor tr|ond.'
'l|oaso, thoro ls noth|ng moro to to|| you!'
3ut Un|corn had a|roady |ott.
1ho 3oor |gnorod my trant|c p|oas, turn|ng to tho
to|ov|s|on as |t noth|ng out ot tho ord|nary was happon|ng. l
crouchod aga|nst tho wa||, hands covor|ng my hoad to
drown out tho hatotu| sound ot h|m crunch|ng h|s way
through a handtu| ot poanuts. A ta|ont show burb|od away
on tho scroon w|th |ts manutacturod tons|on and ta|so
omot|on, |oathor-tacod judgos pass|ng judgomont on thoso
who woro too||sh onough to put thomso|vos through tho
torturo. 1ho 3oor was a b|oatod vors|on ot thom,
man|pu|at|ng tho tuturos ot othors w|th h|s |oast word, h|s
pun|shmont tor ta||uro not oxpu|s|on, but pa|n or doath.
1ony shutt|od |nto tho room, h|s worr|od dark oyos t||tt|ng
trom mo to tho 3oor. 'You sont tor mo, s|r?'
1ho 3oor sw|tchod ott tho scroon w|th a b||nk m|dway
through somo danco group. 'Yos, 1ony. l nood your ho|p.'
1ony was undorstandab|y surpr|sod by th|s statomont. |o
sm||od wan|y. 'Ot courso. Anyth|ng. You know l am |oya| to
'lhoon|x horo |s hav|ng d|tt|cu|ty to|||ng us ovoryth|ng wo
nood to know. Wo want you to porsuado hor othorw|so.'
1ony had no |doa ho was bo|ng toyod w|th. |o turnod a
shaky, cajo||ng sm||o on mo. 'Como on, lhoo, you know tho
3oor can't bo d|soboyod. You havo to to|| h|m a|| you know.'
l dug my na||s |nto my knoos. 'l havo, 1ony, on|y ho
doosn't bo||ovo mo.'
1ony rubbod h|s mang|od hand w|th h|s good ono. 'l soo,
l soo. lot suro what wo can do thon.'
1hon, |n a tract|on ot a socond, tho mood |n tho room
shot |nto tho rod spoctrum. 1ho 3oor sont Un|corn an
unspokon ordor. 1ho youngor man grabbod 1ony by tho
scrutt ot tho nock.
'|ow o|d aro you, 1ony?' tho 3oor askod as my tr|ond
qu|vorod |n Un|corn's gr|p.
'||tty-o|ght l th|nk, s|r.' 1ony turnod dosporato oyos on
'l|oaso, don't!' l wh|sporod.
'You wou|d g|vo your ||to tor mo?' tho 3oor cont|nuod.
'Ot . ot courso,' agrood 1ony.
'Good. l want ton yoars now.'
3m|||ng hungr||y, Un|corn c|osod h|s oyos and sproad h|s
g|tt ovor 1ony. l cou|d soo tho dark groy pa|| ta|||ng ovor h|s
v|ct|m, 1ony's ha|r was dra|nod ot co|our, turn|ng puro wh|to,
sk|n moro ||nod, body stoopod as bonos bont arthr|t|ca||y.
Oh God, oh God.
'lhoo!' gaspod 1ony |n shock. '|o|p mo!'
l scramb|od up to my toot, |ntond|ng to broak tho
connoct|on by torco, but 0ragon throw mo back down w|th
a t||ck ot a t|ngor.
'1o|| us what wo want to know,' dronod tho 3oor.
Vy m|nd how||ng w|th rago, l to|t as |t l was bo|ng r|ppod
|n two. Un|corn was k||||ng 1ony-l had no cho|co.
'A|| r|ght, a|| r|ght, p|oaso stop!' l scroamod. '1horo's ono
moro th|ng l can to|| you. 3ut, p|oaso, l bog you, p|oaso stop
Un|corn ||ttod h|s hand. 1ony s|umpod to tho ground,
l swa||owod. '1ho roason why tho 3onod|cts took mo |n-
|t's bocauso l'm Yvos's sou|t|ndor.'
3||onco mot th|s c|a|m. What had l dono?
'You havo a sou|t|ndor?' 0ragon sa|d |ncrodu|ous|y. l|ko
mo, ho probab|y had doubtod thoy ovon ox|stod.
l noddod. Vy who|o body was shak|ng as though l had
boon shut |n an |ndustr|a| troozor, unab|o to got any warmth
to my coro. l had botrayod my othor ha|t.
1ho 3oor rockod s||ght|y on tho sota mak|ng tho tramo
groan. 'lntorost|ng. 1h|s has . poss|b|||t|os.'
|orgotton unt|| th|s momont, Kas|a |a|d do||cato t|ngors,
na||s pa|ntod scar|ot, on h|s shou|dor. 'lt's truo. l can sonso
h|m try|ng to t|nd hor. l |gnorod |t unt|| now, not suro ot what l
was hoar|ng, but thoro |s a soarch undorway.'
1ho 3oor g|ancod back at mo. 'And has sho rop||od?'
Kas|a gavo mo a p|ty|ng |ook. 'lo. 3ho's b|ock|ng h|m.'
1ho 3oor tappod h|s tat ||ps w|th tho t|ps ot h|s t|ngors.
'Cur|ous. 1hat sooms to support hor c|a|m that sho's |oya|
to us. lorhaps l'vo judgod hor too harsh|y.' |o thon not|cod
1ony |y|ng at h|s toot. '1ako tho man away and mako suro
ho's |ookod attor. |o d|d wo||.'
1ony's oyos t|uttorod opon as ho was ||ttod up by two ot
tho 3oor's guard.
'l'm sorry,' l wh|sporod.
||s t|rod oyos c|osod, g|v|ng mo no abso|ut|on.
'3o, to|| us, lhoon|x, what |s |t ||ko to havo a sou|t|ndor?'
1ho 3oor soomod gonu|no|y |ntorostod. |o pattod tho sota
cush|on noxt to h|m. 'Como and to|| your daddy a|| about |t.'
l w|shod ho wou|d go back to tortur|ng mo. Cho|cos |ong
s|nco g|von up, l movod to tho soat ho |nd|catod. 'lt too|s .
' |r|ghton|ng? Awtu|? Wondortu|? '3poc|a|.'
'And wou|d you do anyth|ng to koop your sou|t|ndor
1h|s quost|on was much moro dangorous. 'l . l
supposo. l hard|y know. l on|y mot h|m th|s morn|ng.'
|o strokod h|s ||ps thoughttu||y. 'And doos ho ||ko you?'
l gavo a chokod |augh. 'l|ko mo? |ow cou|d ho? l'vo
tr|od to stoa| trom h|m-l ran away trom h|m. l |mag|no ho |s
protty tod up w|th mo r|ght now.'
|o |oanod ovor and pattod my chook. 'You
undorost|mato yourso|t, lhoon|x. You havo your mothor's
|ooks and an |ntorost|ng g|tt: ho won't havo g|von up on you
l w|shod ho wou|d. l d|d not ||ko tho d|roct|on th|s
convorsat|on was tak|ng.
'You may havo ta||od to got tho |nto|||gonco th|s t|mo, but
how much w||| ho g|vo to koop you, l wondor? Wou|d ho
sacr|t|co tho 3avant lot |t ho know that was tho on|y way to
savo h|s sou|t|ndor? A tasc|nat|ng d||omma.' 1ho 3oor
||ckod h|s ||ps, ca|cu|at|ng tho ta||out ot human m|sory trom
h|s ||tt|o oxpor|mont us|ng mo as ba|t.
l doubtod vory much that Yvos wou|d put h|s tam||y and
tr|onds at r|sk tor mo. low wo'd mot, ho had to know l
wasn't worth |t, ovon w|th tho sou|t|ndor ||nk botwoon us.
1ho |ogond was that your sou|t|ndor was supposod to g|vo
a 3avant comp|otonoss, contontmont and now strongths to
tho|r g|tt, but Yvos cou|d hard|y hopo tor that whon l was
such a d|sastor aroa. 1ho prosonco ot tho 3oor |n my ||to
was ||ko bo|ng ra|sod |n tho shadow ot tho tau|ty Chornoby|
nuc|oar roactor, l was go|ng to bo ||v|ng w|th tho ottocts ot
tho rad|at|on tor yoars.
1ho 3oor ottorod mo tho poanuts but, as tho bow| had
boon |odgod on h|s |ap, l wou|d rathor havo oaton
scorp|ons. 'l th|nk l w||| tako you w|th mo th|s ovon|ng,' ho
musod. 'Got drossod tor a n|ght out, my doar. You and l
havo somo tr|onds to moot. 1hoy w||| bo oagor to hoar
about our |ntorost|ng s|tuat|on.'
'Go|ng out?' l'd novor hoard ot tho 3oor vontur|ng trom
h|s squa||d ponthouso, but thon l had not darod track h|s
'Yos. 1ho Wa|dort |oto|. Kas|a, mako suro sho |s
su|tab|y k|ttod out to |mpross. You may uso tho jowo||ory.'
|o tossod hor a koy trom h|s top pockot. Kas|a snatchod |t
trom tho a|r. 'l'|| nood you a|ong to onsuro no socur|ty |oaks.'
trom tho a|r. 'l'|| nood you a|ong to onsuro no socur|ty |oaks.'
'Vay l woar somoth|ng trom tho box too?' sho askod
hopotu||y, caross|ng tho koy |n hor t|ngors.
1ho 3oor s|ghod, hat|ng tho |doa ot any ot h|s r|chos
|oav|ng h|s vau|ts. 'l supposo you must. 3ut my daughtor
gots tho d|amonds. loth|ng abovo poar|s tor you.'
Kas|a t|ashod h|m a rad|ant sm||o. '1hank you. Como
w|th mo, lhoon|x.' 3ho trownod at my scratchod knoos and
tadod shorts. 'l can soo l havo my work cut out.'
|or tho t|rst t|mo |n my ||to, l was a|| drossod up w|th
somowhoro to go. lt l hadn't to|t so doprossod about Yvos
and 1ony, l m|ght havo ovon onjoyod tho oxpor|onco. Kas|a
and l had had p|onty ot outt|ts to chooso trom as tho 3oor's
apartmont had rooms stuttod w|th dos|gnor c|othos, shoos,
and jowo|s, nono ot wh|ch cou|d havo poss|b|y boon usod,
as h|s compan|ons woro usua||y to bo soon |n choap
|m|tat|ons ot tho roa| th|ng. l was ovon moro porp|oxod by
h|s monta||ty ot surround|ng h|mso|t by tat whon ho oas||y
cou|d attord so much moro. l cou|d on|y guoss that thoro
was a strong m|sor|y stroak to tho 3oor, contont to possoss
w|thout onjoy|ng, a charactor bont towards tho guttor rathor
than asp|r|ng to tho swanky parts ot town, ||ko tho Wost
End, whoro wo woro now hoad|ng.
A wh|to strotch ||mous|no had boon h|rod tor tho ovon|ng.
What tho chauttour mado ot p|ck|ng up tho ||tt|o party ot tho
3oor, Kas|a, 0ragon, Un|corn, and mo outs|do a rundown
ostato, ho was too w|so to sharo w|th us. 1ho 3oor woro h|s
usua| wh|to su|t, 0ragon and Un|corn woro |n b|ack d|nnor
jackots. Kas|a had tound a wh|to boadod cockta|| dross
w|th match|ng bo|oro, tho bottor to d|sp|ay hor poar|s. 3ho
had gono ovorboard w|th hor cosmot|cs and ha|r products,
had gono ovorboard w|th hor cosmot|cs and ha|r products,
ond|ng up a b|t too much ||ko Vargo 3|mpson by tho t|mo
sho'd t|n|shod. l'd boon ordorod to woar a v|o|ot s||k gown,
cut to t| attor my s||ght bu||d. long onough to covor my
scratchod knoos, |t kopt shou|dors baro, tho bottor to
d|sp|ay tho |ong tra|| ot d|amonds around my nock. W|th a
d|sapprov|ng c|uck ot hor tonguo, Kas|a had oar||or
ropa|rod my poor ha|rcut w|th a pa|r ot dott sc|ssors, thon
sot |t |n an upswopt sty|o so tho drop|ot oarr|ngs tash|onod
to match tho nock|aco cou|d bo soon. 3ho had takon out my
oxtra oarr|ngs, rop|ac|ng thom w|th d|scroot studs, mak|ng
mo |ook |oss 'stroot' and moro c|assy. W|th a pa|r ot
do||cato s||vor sanda|s, l to|t worthy ot my soat |n tho back ot
1ho narrow stroots ot tho East End gavo way to tho towor
b|ocks ot tho C|ty, groat canyons t|||od w|th tratt|c tumos,
|ato-work|ng bankors and stockbrokors.
'Who aro wo go|ng to moot ton|ght, s|r?' Un|corn askod,
carotu| not to push too hard w|th h|s quost|ons attor h|s
'3omo a|||os: thoso ot us w|th tho g|tt that stand aga|nst
tho 3avant lot.' 1ho 3oor spraw|od on tho roar soat w|th
on|y room tor Kas|a bos|do h|m. |o stud|od my
appoaranco as l sat tac|ng h|m. 'You |ook vory o|ogant,
lhoon|x. l am p|oasod.'
Kas|a proonod undor tho |mp||od pra|so ot hor sk|||s. 'l
d|d my bost w|th hor.'
'1hank you,' l chokod out.
'You w||| como |nto tho moot|ng but l do not want you to
say anyth|ng un|oss askod a d|roct quost|on.' |o gavo a
whooz|ng cough. 'Undorstood?'
'Yos, s|r.' l rubbod my t|ngors aga|nst tho smooth tabr|c
ot my gown, marvo|||ng at tho sottnoss. l'd novor to|t
anyth|ng ||ko |t botoro.
1ho 3oor sm||od. 'l soo you aro tond ot ||to's ||tt|o |uxur|os.
lt you do as l say, l can prom|so you much moro ||ko that |n
|o had got tho wrong g|r|. l m|ght ||ko protty th|ngs but l
wasn't to bo so oas||y br|bod. l'd woar sackc|oth and ashos
|t that moant l cou|d oscapo h|m. '1hank you, s|r.'
1ho 3oor tappod h|s stomach w|th h|s s|ug t|ngors.
'lorhaps you shou|d ca|| mo °0addy' ton|ght. lt w||| mako
tho r|ght |mpross|on.'
l'd protor to got |n a bath ot ||vo snakos.
Un|corn and 0ragon cou|dn't ho|p oxchang|ng an
a|armod |ook at th|s concoss|on.
'On|y lhoon|x,' tho 3oor warnod. 'A daughtor may tako
such ||bort|os, my sons w||| carry on troat|ng mo w|th toar
and rospoct. l w||| not |oso taco w|th thoso mon.'
Who cou|d wo bo moot|ng that ovon tho 3oor to|t |n awo
ot thom? l'd novor soon h|m doubt h|s |mago botoro, but
thon l'd novor soon h|m stop outs|do tho cont|nos ot tho
Commun|ty. lorhaps th|s, tor h|m, was ||ko a roun|on ot
potty dospots |n tho marg|ns ot tho Un|tod lat|ons Gonora|
Assomb|y, a|| ||n|ng up to moasuro who was tho b|ggost
human r|ghts abusor.
1ho car swung |nto tho Wa|dort and a un|tormod portor
rushod to opon tho door. 0ragon got out t|rst to chock tho
||o ot tho |and botoro ho|p|ng tho 3oor on to tho pavomont. l
was tho |ast to to||ow. 3mooth|ng down my dross to ontor
tho smart ontranco ha||, l cou|dn't toar my oyos away trom
tho hoto|: |t was boaut|tu|. l |ovod tho row upon row ot ||t
w|ndows |n a stato|y swoop ot a bu||d|ng, about sovon
storoys h|gh, tho a|ort statt soo|ng to tho guosts' ovory nood
botoro thoy ovon thought ot |t, tho qu|ot o|oganco ot tho
p|aco, tho oppos|to ot whoro wo had bogun our journoy.
1ho portor kopt h|s oxpross|on b|ank as ho stood back to
|ot tho onormous bu|k ot tho 3oor |ns|do, though l d|d soo a
g||mmor ot |ntorost as h|s oyos ||ghtod on my nock|aco. 1ho
d|amonds woro suporb. l had to hopo tho or|g|na| ownor
was not d|n|ng |n tho Wost End ton|ght.
'Vay l ho|p you, s|r?' askod tho doorman on duty |n tho
'l havo a rosorvat|on |n tho rostaurant. lamo ot london,'
tho 3oor sa|d cr|sp|y.
'Ot courso, s|r. 1ho rost ot your party has a|roady arr|vod.'
1ho doorman |od tho way to tho rostaurant, hand|ng us ovor
to tho hoad wa|tor. 'Vr london.'
1ho wa|tor conductod us smooth|y to a tab|o |n a pr|vato
d|n|ng room at tho roar ot tho rostaurant. Wo had to woavo
our way through tho d|nors s|tt|ng at tho wh|to-c|othod
tab|os, cand|os, t|owors, and s||vor and g|asswaro a||
add|ng to tho atmosphoro ot pr|v||ogo. l saw a coup|o |n
ono cornor ho|d|ng hands, tho man brush|ng tho woman's
t|ngors tondor|y w|th h|s thumb. 3omoth|ng that to|t
susp|c|ous|y ||ko sorrow brought toars to my oyos.
Pboo, wboro oro yooº
l'd roachod out to h|m ovon though l hadn't moant to.
Kas|a sont mo a start|od |ook. l shook my hoad s||ght|y and
b|ockod tho connoct|on l'd mado. 3ho noddod,
acknow|odg|ng that l had ropa|rod my m|stako.
Entor|ng tho d|n|ng room, wo tound s|x mon s|tt|ng
around tho tab|o, tho|r bodyguards stand|ng aga|nst tho wa||
boh|nd thom. 1hoy stood po||to|y to shako tho 3oor's hand.
'Gont|omon, l hopo l am not |ato?' 1ho 3oor gaspod a
||tt|o attor wa|k|ng trom tho car, a marathon to ono who
spont a|| day on a sota.
1ho g|ngor-ha|rod man at tho hoad ot tho tab|o shook h|s
hoad. 'lo, Vr london, wo had on|y just got around to
ordor|ng dr|nks. l'm low York.'
1ho 3oor sm||od a ||tt|o quoas||y. |o was not comtortab|o
to hoar that thoy had a|| had a chanco to d|scuss h|m botoro
ho arr|vod. 'Good to moot you at |ast.'
1ho othors muttorod tho|r namos as ho wont round to
groot thom: Voscow, 3o|j|ng, Kua|a lumpur, 3ydnoy,
Vox|co C|ty. lo roa| namos, on|y |ocat|ons.
1ho 3oor wavod Kas|a, 0ragon, and Un|corn ott to stand
w|th tho bodyguards botoro br|ng|ng mo torward. 'Vy
Vr low York took my hand. 'Charm|ng.' l cou|d too| h|s
g|tt brush ovor mo ||ko a coo| broozo as ho tr|od to guoss
my strongth. l kopt my thoughts b|ank, not suro how h|s
workod. 1o bo |n chargo ot othor 3avants roqu|rod somo
contro| ot m|nds so l guossod that a|| tho mon |n tho room
had sk|||s |n that d|roct|on. 3att|od but not d|sappo|ntod, Vr
low York |ot go and c||ckod h|s t|ngors tor tho wa|tor.
'Anothor p|aco tor V|ss london. lorhaps horo botwoon hor
tathor and mo.'
3o Vr low York had appo|ntod h|mso|t as tho
r|ng|oador, had ho? l g|ancod around at tho othor tacos ot
tho mon gathorod, nono protostod, but no|thor d|d thoy |ook
ont|ro|y p|oasod by tho arrangomont.
Vr low York doc|dod to mako a joko ot |t. 'l apo|og|zo,
gont|omon, tor monopo||z|ng tho ta|rost d|nnor compan|on.
Vy on|y oxcuso |s a do||ght |n boaut|tu| womon.'
1wo wa|tors hurr|od torward w|th p|aco sott|ngs and an
oxtra cha|r. Whon l took my soat, ovoryono o|so sat down, a
wo|rd, o|d-tash|onod ga||antry that d|d not too| mo that thoy
carod |n tho |oast tor my prosonco among thom. 1hoy woro
moro|y awaro thoy woro on show botoro strangors and
woro go|ng through tho mot|ons ot po||to bohav|our.
Vr low York s|gna||od to tho statt to bog|n tak|ng our
ordors. l starod at tho |ong ||st ot cho|cos on tho monu,
unab|o to undorstand tho cur|y wr|t|ng. |oro my patchy
oducat|on |ot mo down. Vy oxpor|onco ot rostaurants was
||m|tod to tast tood.
'lhoon|x, that's a protty namo.' Vr low York snappod h|s
monu c|osod, hav|ng mado h|s doc|s|on.
'1hank you, s|r.'
'Ca|| mo 1|m.' |o w|nkod, h|s gazo ||ngor|ng on tho
d|amonds. '3o, you aro tho app|o ot your daddy's oyo, aro
you? 3ot you got h|m tw|stod round your ||tt|o t|ngor.'
l sh|vorod, awaro that tho 3oor was ||ston|ng. 'lo, s|r. Vr
london koops us a|| undor str|ct contro|.'
'Ah, that raro th|ng: an obod|ont daughtor. Vaybo you
cou|d como and g|vo my g|r|s |ossons, at |oast got thom to
koop a ||d on tho|r account at 3|oom|ngda|os?' |o chuck|od
at h|s own joko. 1ho wa|tor bont at h|s shou|dor. '1ho qua||'s
oggs to||owod by tho shou|dor ot |amb.'
'Exco||ont cho|co, s|r,' murmurod tho wa|tor
1ho words dancod botoro my oyos, so many untam|||ar
torms. 'ls thoro a vogotar|an opt|on?' l wh|sporod.
1ho wa|tor's oyos sottonod a ||tt|o. |o gosturod to tho
cur|y 'v' ontorod by tho vogotar|an d|shos. l am so dumb
'vogotar|an? What aro you do|ng, london, a||ow|ng your
daughtor to starvo horso|t ot proto|n?' scottod Vr low York.
'l |nvost |n pr|mo boot hords |n Argont|na, l t|nd |t d|tt|cu|t not
to tako non-moat oators as a porsona| s||ght.'
1ho 3oor trownod. 'Vy daughtor w||| havo tho to|o gras
and tho Angus stoak.'
1ho wa|tor hovorod at my s|do, bravo|y g|v|ng mo t|mo to
corroct tho ordor. 'V|ss?'
'l'|| . l'|| havo what ho sa|d.' Vy na||s cur|od |nto my
pa|ms, |oav|ng ||tt|o ha|t-moon prossuro marks.
'And how wou|d you ||ko tho boot dono?' ||s vo|co was
'3ho'|| havo |t mod|um-raro,' |ntorruptod Vr low York. 'lt
wo aro to mako a convort ot hor, sho shou|d oat |t at |ts bost
- not dr|od out ||ko a hunk ot o|d boot |oathor.'
1ho sorv|ng statt w|thdrow, |oav|ng tho d|n|ng room
dovo|d ot outs|dors to our ||tt|o moot|ng.
'3o, Vr london, d|d you got tho |ntormat|on you
prom|sod us?' askod a man turthor down tho tab|o, Vr
3ydnoy |t l romomborod corroct|y.
1ho 3oor s|ppod spark||ng wator trom a w|do-bo|||od
g|ass. 'lo. 1hoy had |t r|ggod. 1ho o|octron|cs wont up |n
smoko whon my oporat|vo sto|o thom.'
A r|pp|o ot d|sappo|ntmont wont round tho tab|o.
'l soo. l supposo l wou|d'vo boon d|sappo|ntod had our
onom|os boon so oas||y comprom|sod.' Vr low York
oxchangod a g|anco w|th Voscow and 3o|j|ng. l cou|d to||
thoy had ||tt|o rospoct tor tho|r host. '3ut to|| us, london, why
oxact|y aro you horo, thon? l thought |t was undorstood that
th|s data was tho pr|co ot your ontry to our organ|zat|on?'
1ho 3oor |oanod back, tho cha|r croak|ng undor h|s bu|k.
'3ocauso l havo somoth|ng bottor to put on tho tab|o.'
3otoro anyono cou|d commont, tho wa|tors woro back
w|th tho t|rst courso. A p|ato ot pa|o p|nk-brown pato was
put |n tront ot mo. 1wo |acy chooso wators sproutod trom |t
||ko w|ngs. l d|dn't bothor to p|ck up a kn|to and tork as |t
was c|oar|y an|ma| |n or|g|n.
'Amaz|ng d|sh, to|o gras,' Vr low York sa|d
convorsat|ona||y, wh||o tho wa|tors c|rcu|atod, t||||ng w|no
g|assos tor tho mon. '1hoy torco tood gooso to got that
vo|voty toxturo trom tho ||vor.' |o onjoyod watch|ng mo turn
a shado ot groon as l pushod tho p|ato away.
1ho wa|tor pouncod. 'V|ss |s not onjoy|ng hor hors
d'oouvro? Can l br|ng you tho asparagus soup |nstoad?'
'lonsonso,' mumb|od tho 3oor. '3ho |ovos |t, don't you,
l p|ckod at tho s|do sa|ad botoro ho torcod mo to oat a
mouthtu|, ||ko ono ot tho gooso that had d|od to prov|do tho
0otoatod, tho wa|tor rot|rod trom tho tray, tak|ng tho rost
ot tho statt w|th h|m. 1hoy had to bo undor ordors to |oavo
tho gont|omon a|ono botwoon tho nocossary dut|os ot
tho gont|omon a|ono botwoon tho nocossary dut|os ot
totch|ng, carry|ng, and pour|ng. 1ho hu|k ot a bodyguard
c|osost to tho door stood |n tront ot |t to provont anyono o|so
'Vr london, wo wou|d bo most |ntorostod to hoar what
you th|nk |s bottor than |ntormat|on.' Vr 3o|j|ng, a ta||
Ch|noso man w|th a narrow taco and pobb|o-hard oyos,
|nv|tod tho 3oor to cont|nuo.
'|ato has handod us a g|tt, a way to br|ng down tho
3avant lot trom tho |ns|do.' 1ho 3oor stabbod a sca||op
trom h|s p|ato, smoar|ng buttor on tho wh|to r|m as ho
moppod up tho sauco.
'Go on.' Vr low York sw|r|od a straw-co|ourod w|no
'l havo |dont|t|od tho sou|t|ndor ot tho s|xth 3onod|ct son.'
'A sou|t|ndor? A raro troat. 1hat |ndood wou|d bo usotu|.
Whoro |s sho?' 1ho Amor|can's oyos t||ckod |n my
1ho 3oor sa|d noth|ng but moro|y |ookod at mo,
cont|rm|ng h|s guoss.
'|or? Your own daughtor?' Vr low York bogan to
chuck|o. 'Wo||, |t that don't tako tho pr|zo!'
'1ho |rony |s do||c|ous.' Vr 3ydnoy ra|sod h|s g|ass to
'As l sa|d, l wou|d br|ng somoth|ng bottor to tho tab|o, and
horo sho |s.' 1ho 3oor onjoyod h|s momont ot tr|umph,
roco|v|ng tho congratu|at|ons ot h|s now a|||os. l had boon
h|s t|ckot |nto tho|r company.
Vr Voscow c|oarod h|s throat, ond|ng tho ||tt|o round ot
pra|so tor tho 3oor. '1ho quost|on |s, how w||| wo uso hor?'
|o stud|od mo, pa|o groon oyos |n h|s squaro, pasty taco
susp|c|ous. 'ls sho |oya|?'
'A|| my poop|o aro |oya|,' corroctod tho 3oor. '1hoy havo
to bo or thoy d|o.'
||s statomont mot w|th gonora| approva|.
'What had you p|annod to do w|th hor?' Vr low York
askod, tor tho t|rst t|mo troat|ng tho 3oor as an oqua|.
'l w||| sook a moot|ng w|th tho boy-|n socrot. ||nd out
how much |ntormat|on ho w||| g|vo |n roturn tor hor satoty.'
Vr low York sm||od scopt|ca||y and pattod tho back ot
my wr|st. '3ut ho won't bo||ovo you w||| hurt your own t|osh
'loa||y?' 1ho 3oor's oxpross|on was g|ac|a|. '0o you
doubt mo capab|o ot that-and moro-to onsuro our
bus|nossos can tunct|on w|thout tho|r |ntortoronco?
Vy stoak kn|to |oapt |nto tho a|r thon arrowod down to d|g
tho t|p |nto tho back ot my baro toroarm, mak|ng a sha||ow
cut. Vov|ng s|ow|y up to my o|bow, |t drow a ||no ot t|ory
pa|n. l know bottor than to movo-|t cou|d bo my throat noxt
-but l cou|dn't stop tho toars spr|ng|ng to my oyos.
Vr low York battod tho kn|to away. lt t|ow |nto tho cornor
and |ay st|||. 'Enough, you'vo mado your po|nt!'
l prossod a napk|n ovor tho cut, sta|n|ng tho wh|to ||non
w|th b|ood. lush|ng my cha|r back, l got up. 'Excuso mo.'
1ho 3oor wavod mo away. lapk|n concoa||ng my cut, l
dashod out |n soarch ot a rotugo.
'Aro you a|| r|ght, m|ss?' Vy wa|tor caught mo at tho door.
'Yos, yos, just a ||tt|o acc|dont.' Vy hoart was pound|ng
and l know l must |ook w||d-oyod. 'Whoro aro tho . ?'
|o caught my moan|ng. '1hrough thoso doors, m|ss.'
l took covor |n tho p|ush to||ots. 1h|ck handtowo|s |n a
w|ckor baskot on tho marb|o top, automat|c taps that
workod w|th a wavo ot a hand, a boaut|tu| t|owor
arrangomont, a co||oct|on ot top-ot-tho-rango to||otr|os: a||
so portoct that l had a mad urgo novor to |oavo and roturn to
my grubby wor|d outs|do. l soomod to bo spond|ng a |ot ot
t|mo h|d|ng out ||ko th|s. Approach|ng tho bas|n, l ran my cut
undor tho spray ot wator, rubb|ng |n somo soap to c|oan tho
wound. lt was on|y suport|c|a| but |t stung. A|| tho p|oasuro
l'd takon oar||or |n tho ovon|ng sw|r|od down tho p|ugho|o
w|th tho rod-sta|nod wator. l may bo a|| prott|od up tor ono
n|ght but l was st||| on|y a too| to tho 3oor, now bo|ng
tash|onod |nto tho moans ot Yvos's dostruct|on. l cou|dn't
boar tho thought that l'd bo usod to hurt h|m.
Kas|a camo |n and stood bos|do mo, arms to|dod. 3ho
trownod at tho wator spots l'd sp|ashod on my dross. 'l was
sont to soo |t you'ro OK.'
'l'm t|no,' l ||od. l d|dn't moot hor oyos |n tho m|rror.
'1horo was no nood tor 0ragon to do that to you.' Kas|a
p|ckod up my wr|st and stud|od tho cut. 'lt spo||s tho |ook.
0o you th|nk |t |s go|ng to start b|ood|ng aga|n?'
l wondorod |t sho was worr|od tor mo or tor hor wh|to
gown. 'l don't th|nk so.'
'lrobab|y bost to |oavo |t thon. A bandago wou|d bo vory
'And spo|| tho |ook,' l ochood.
3ho squoozod my t|ngors br|ot|y. 'lt's |mportant to p|oaso
tho 3oor and not |ot h|m down |n tront ot h|s bus|noss
|o shou|d havo thought ot that botoro ho ordorod 0ragon
to start carv|ng mo up |n tront ot thom.
'Why aro you w|th h|m, Kas|a?' l tound myso|t ask|ng.
3ho soomod at hoart a n|co onough woman, what on oarth
was sho do|ng |n th|s sot?
3ho sm||od at mo |n tho m|rror, hor oyos tovor-br|ght.
'1ho 3oor |s tho most wondortu| man. You'|| undorstand |n
l undorstood ho had p|antod tho bo||ot |n hor m|nd. 3ho
was to bo p|t|od as sho roa||y d|dn't know that sho was a
pr|sonor, as l was tor d|ttoront roasons. Ot tho two, l'd p|ck
my k|nd ot sorv|tudo. latt|ng my arm dry, l wondorod |t my
mothor had a|so ho|d th|s ta|so cont|donco |n tho 3oor, l
cou|dn't romombor hor wo|| onough to know what sho had
roa||y thought, but l had no momor|os ot hor ovor say|ng a
bad word aga|nst h|m. lndood, sho had |mprossod on mo
just botoro sho d|od that l was to try and stay |n tho
Commun|ty, mak|ng |t sound as though |t was tho on|y
homo opon to mo. And l had trustod hor to know. Anothor
ta|so bo||ot p|antod, th|s t|mo unw|tt|ng|y by somoono l was
suro had |ovod mo. 1hrow|ng tho so||od towo| |n tho wasto
b|n, l rot|octod that sho was tho on|y ono who had. Evon
Yvos was novor go|ng to too| roa| |ovo tor mo as tho
s|tuat|on had boon torcod on h|m by tato or gonot|cs,
whatovor. l acknow|odgod that l cou|d ta|| tor h|m, tor h|s
gont|onoss, |nto|||gonco and (horo l adm|t to bo|ng sha||ow)
to h|s a|| too handsomo appoaranco, but what wou|d ho t|nd
|n mo to |ovo?
Kas|a wavod hor hand |n tront ot my taco, wak|ng mo
trom a dazo. '|o||o. Earth to lhoo.'
'l'm com|ng.' l took a t|na| |ook at tho o|ogant g|r| |n tho
m|rror, tho ono marrod by tho scratch on hor arm. lt d|dn't
too| ||ko mo. 1hon aga|n, l d|dn't know what 'mo' to|t ||ko.
ln tho car on tho way homo l ho|d myso|t apart trom tho
post-match ana|ys|s ot tho moot|ng |ndu|god |n by tho 3oor
and h|s two sons. 1hoy woro p|oasod w|th how tho bus|noss
had boon conductod, congratu|at|ng our |oador on h|s
wrong-toot|ng ot tho othors by produc|ng mo as a surpr|so
star p|ayor on h|s toam. 1un|ng thom out, l rot|octod |nstoad
on tho wasto ot tood on my p|ato. l'd not oaton anyth|ng but
s|do sa|ad, vogotab|os and broad ro||s-tho wa|tor had
kopt mo wo|| supp||od w|th thoso so l wasn't too||ng hungry.
1ho mon had doc|dod to sk|p dossort and go stra|ght to
brandy and cottoo. lt l hadn't a|roady known thoy woro
crooks, tho|r avors|on to tho bost part ot any moa| wou|d
havo condomnod thom. l'd managod to sw|po a coup|o ot
handmado choco|atos w|th my |atto but, roa||y, what was tho
po|nt ot d|n|ng tor tho t|rst t|mo |n my ||to at a t|vo-star
rostaurant and com|ng away w|th so ||tt|o to approc|ato trom
l know l was mak|ng myso|t th|nk such |nconsoquont|a|
thoughts to avo|d doa||ng w|th tho koy po|nt ot tho ovon|ng.
1ho 3oor had prom|sod to uso mo as ba|t tor Yvos and l
was |n no hurry to t|nd out what torm th|s wou|d tako.
3ack at our 'homo b|ttor homo', l to||owod tho 3oor up to
3ack at our 'homo b|ttor homo', l to||owod tho 3oor up to
tho t|tth t|oor, hop|ng th|s wou|d bo tho ond ot tho ovon|ng,
but l was not to bo so |ucky.
'lhoon|x, a word,' tho 3oor gaspod at tho top ot tho
sta|rs. |o moppod h|s swoat|ng brow w|th a rod s||k
||s court was wa|t|ng tor h|m |n h|s |oungo, tho womon a||
coo|ng ovor h|s smart appoaranco.
'lad|os, g|vo us a momont,' ho announcod, gostur|ng tor
thom to |oavo.
Watch|ng thom t||o out w|thout a protost at tho|r
d|sm|ssa|, l roa||zod ho had croatod a bunch ot robot|c
womon to sorvo h|s ovory nood, ||ko, what do you ca||
thom? Yoah, 3toptord W|vos. lt was obscono. 1ho 3oor
|oworod h|mso|t onto h|s tavour|to spot on tho sota. 'l am
suro you undorstood what wo want ot you.'
l shruggod, wrapp|ng my arms around my wa|st. 'l . l
'You aro to arrango to moot your sou|t|ndor tomorrow.
1o|| h|m to como w|thout a|ort|ng h|s brothors. |o has to bo
a|ono or |t w||| bo tho worso tor you, undorstood?'
1hroats, throats, and moro throats. 'Yos, l undorstand.
Whoro shou|d l moot h|m?'
1ho 3oor rubbod h|s chook. l hopod |t was a s|gn ot tho
onsot ot roa||y pa|ntu| toothacho. '1ho V|||onn|um 3r|dgo.
1hat way wo'|| soo |t ho roa||y has como a|ono.'
A suspondod tootbr|dgo ovor tho 1hamos botwoon tho
1ato Vodorn art ga||ory and 3t lau|'s cathodra|, |t was a
good cho|co tor a c|andost|no moot|ng.
'And thon what?'
'1ako h|m |nto tho 1ato. Wo'|| moot |n tho 1urb|no ha||.'
'You . you aro go|ng to bo thoro?' l was unab|o to h|do
'Ot courso. l havo bus|noss to conduct w|th your young
man. You'ro not br|ng|ng h|m back horo.' |o sh|ttod, |ott|ng
out a bo|ch. '1hat rom|nds mo. |o'|| prossuro you to to|| h|m
what th|s |s a|| about. You must say noth|ng ot what you
hoard ton|ght. As tar as ho |s concornod your moot|ng |s
on|y about bo|ng h|s sou|t|ndor. |o'|| bo||ovo that soon
onough |t tho |ogond ot tho sou|t|ndor |s truo.'
l noddod, appoar|ng to agroo as l d|d not know what o|so
to do wh||o my m|nd was so contusod.
|o bockonod mo c|osor and gr|ppod my scratchod arm.
Yoo wl|| to|| blm ootblog oí wbot yoo booro toolgbt.
l c|osod my oyos br|ot|y, too||ng s|ck as h|s powor
smoarod my m|nd, dostroy|ng my troo w||| |n th|s mattor.
|o |ot go. 'Good g|r|. low go got somo s|oop. Contact
your sou|t|ndor t|rst th|ng |n tho morn|ng and don't g|vo h|m
|ong to mako tho moot|ng. Wo wou|dn't want h|m to havo a
chanco to mako countor-p|ans.'
lo, wo wou|dn't want that, wou|d wo?
'l'|| havo Kas|a mon|tor|ng what you say, so do not th|nk
to doub|o-cross mo |n th|s.'
'l wou|dn't daro,' l muttorod truthtu||y.
'Goodn|ght, lhoon|x. Oh, and |oavo tho d|amonds w|th
Kas|a, won't you?'
lo||ovod to bo d|sm|ssod, l s|appod tho nock|aco and
oarr|ngs |n Kas|a's hand and backod out hurr|od|y botoro
anyono o|so cou|d try and got somoth|ng trom mo. l hadn't
torgotton Un|corn's attompt to stoa| a march on tho 3oor by
mak|ng mo prom|so yostorday to show h|m t|rst what l'd
sto|on. 1hat had provod to bo a b|g zoro, but l d|d not
bo||ovo Un|corn tor ono momont had abandonod mak|ng
othor p|ans tor h|s own bonot|t |t ho cou|d th|nk ot a way to
do so w|thout cross|ng ono ot tho 3oor's ||nos ot |oya|ty.
|ortunato|y, tho 3oor ordorod 0ragon and Un|corn to stay
boh|nd to d|scuss what to do tomorrow |t Yvos agrood to
moot mo. lot |nv|tod |nto th|s |nnor c|rc|o, my on|y cho|co
was to roturn to my room and work out how oxact|y l was
go|ng to koop Yvos out ot th|s sord|d moss.
3||pp|ng out ot my t|nory, l hung tho dross up on a hook
boh|nd tho door and put on my pyjamas. l |ay down tor an
hour but s|oop o|udod mo. l got up and pacod my room ||ko
a mouso runn|ng a mazo |n a sc|ont|st's |aboratory unt||
throo, whon oxhaust|on mado mo cur| up undor tho duvot.
Among my worr|os was 1ony, but l to|t too scarod to go and
soo h|m-any contact l had w|th my tr|ond on|y mado th|ngs
worso tor h|m and l guossod ho wou|d not thank mo tor
br|ng|ng moro attont|on to h|m. Was l roa||y tho causo ot
h|m ago|ng ton yoars, or had l stoppod |t botoro so much
was takon trom h|m? Un|corn's powor cou|d not bo
rovorsod. lo ono had yot workod out how to koop
somoono young or tho 3oor wou|d havo boon bott||ng |t and
so|||ng |t yoars ago, Un|corn cou|d on|y spood up naturo and
mako h|s targots ago.
And what was l go|ng to do about Yvos? l was go|ng to
havo to arrango to moot h|m-|t l d|dn't do |t w||||ng|y, tho
3oor wou|d torco mo-but porhaps l cou|d warn h|m
somohow whon wo mot as to what was tru|y go|ng on? l'd
bo b|amod, ot courso, whon ho d|dn't como to tho moot|ng
at tho 1ato, but that was bottor than |ott|ng tho 3oor
anywhoro noar h|m.
l must havo dr|ttod ott ovontua||y bocauso morn|ng had
a|roady arr|vod whon l woko up, tho tow b|rds that bravod
our part ot town do|ng a br|sk job ot groot|ng tho dawn.
1ak|ng a qu|ck showor |n co|d wator-my t|at d|dn't run to
tho |uxury ot hot-l drossod, mak|ng oach p|oco ot c|oth|ng
||ko a b|t ot monta| armour to dotond myso|t aga|nst tho day.
3h|rt-l had to protoct Yvos. 1oans-l had somohow to ||vo
through whatovor pun|shmont my ta||uro to p|oaso tho 3oor
onta||od. 3hoos-l must a||ow no moro harm to como to
1ony. Evontua||y too||ng roady to mako tho t|rst movo, l sat
cross-|oggod on tho t|oor and roachod out tor Yvos. 3ovon
th|rty. lt l arrangod to moot h|m |n an hour, wo wou|d havo
tho crowds ot commutors us|ng tho br|dgo camout|ag|ng
tho crowds ot commutors us|ng tho br|dgo camout|ag|ng
us. 1hat m|ght mako 0ragon and Un|corn's job ot koop|ng
track ot our movomonts moro d|tt|cu|t, somoth|ng tho 3oor
had not thought about whon ho proposod tho moot|ng
Yvos. ll, lt`s mo.
Pbooº ¼boro tbo bo|| oro yooº |o'd answorod on tho
t|rst h|nt ot a mossago trom mo, ho had to havo boon
||ston|ng a|| th|s t|mo.
Oooo morolog to yoo too. l sm||od, sons|ng h|s hutt ot
annoyanco m|xod w|th ro||ot that l'd contactod h|m.
Notblog gooo oboot lt ootl| l soo yoo.
Exco||ont-ho had g|von mo my cuo. OK tboo. Voot mo
oo tbo Vl||ooolom Brlogo ot olgbt tblrty. Yoo koow wboro
No, bot l`|| íloo oot. 1ost to|| mo, oro yoo OKº
Good quost|on. 1ost moot mo. ¼o`|| to|k tboo.
Aoo como o|ooo. Loo`t got yoor brotbors lovo|voo lo
tbls or yoo woo`t soo mo.
l cut tho connoct|on. |o m|ght havo a protty good |doa ot
my d|roct|on now l'd roachod out to h|m but l doubtod ho
had tho to|opath|c sk||| to p|npo|nt my |ocat|on.
Lrogoo, l`vo oooo os l wos oskoo. l d|dn't ||ko us|ng th|s
mothod ot commun|cat|on w|th poop|o |n tho Commun|ty-
|t gavo thom too much accoss to your m|nd-but l doc|dod
ta|k|ng to 0ragon th|s way was tho |ossor ov||. l cou|d got
out w|thout soo|ng thom that morn|ng.
¼booº ||s thoughts |n my bra|n woro ||ko tho stamp ot
hoavy mach|nory comparod to Yvos's buttort|y touch.
Elgbt tblrty. l to|o blm to como o|ooo.
1ooz, Pboo, yoo oloo`t |oovo os mocb tlmo to got tboro
obooo oí yoo.
7bo 5oor to|o mo oot to glvo blm mocb worolog.
lo oloo`t mooo lt to opp|y to os too! Aoo tbo 7oto woo`t
ovoo bo opoo-olo yoo tblok oí tbotº
lo. 3ut, hoy, tough cook|os. lot that l sa|d that to h|m, ot
courso. 5orry, l oloo`t tblok.
Yoob, yoob, yoo oovor tblok. 5tl||, lt`s oooo. ¼o`|| bo lo
posltloo. 7bo 5oor coo orrlvo ot tbo 7oto os lt opoos ot too
-tbot glvos blm moro tlmo.
l`m booolog oot oow. Loo`t woot to bo |oto.
low`s tbo ormº l cou|d too| a sm|rk boh|nd tho quost|on.
Romombor, woo`t yooº Yoo moy tblok yoo`ro ooooy`s
|ltt|o glr|, bot tbot cooots íor ootblog.
|o had no nood to bo joa|ous, l had no |||us|ons about my
|mportanco. Loo`t worry, Lrogoo, tbo olomooos woo|oo`t
bovo soltoo yoo lo ooy coso.
l cut ott, p|oasod to got |n tho |ast word tor onco. 0ragon
cou|d hurt mo, truo, but somohow ho no |ongor scarod mo,
not ||ko h|s brothor and tho 3oor.
van|ty saw mo d|pp|ng qu|ck|y back |nto tho bathroom to
put on a wh|spor ot ||p g|oss and mascara. 1hough t|rod, l
dot|n|to|y |ookod bottor than my Wondy d|sgu|so. lorhaps
Yvos wou|dn't bo ashamod to bo soon w|th mo |n pub||c th|s
t|mo? lt wou|d bo n|co to th|nk so. |urry|ng out, l jumpod on
a bus hoad|ng through tho C|ty to 3t lau|'s. lt wasn't tar but
l st||| wont upsta|rs to occupy tho tront soat, tho ono abovo
tho dr|vor wh|ch gavo you tho |||us|on that you woro |n
chargo ot tho bus. l had to sharo |t w|th a schoo| k|d who
was ||ston|ng to mus|c on h|s phono so |oud l swoar l cou|d
hoar tho |yr|cs. 1ho absurd|ty ot tho not-s||ont-hoadphonos
mado mo |augh and l hummod a|ong unt|| ho startod g|v|ng
mo d|rty |ooks. ||s prob|om-|t ho d|dn't want mo to sharo
h|s tracks thon ho roa||y shou|d |nvost |n a bottor pa|r ot
oarbuds. |o was |ucky l hadn't n|ckod h|s mob||o-norma||y
l wou|d'vo dono so just to soo |t l cou|d got away w|th |t,
|oav|ng h|m m|d-song, wondor|ng what tho ho|| had just
l adm|t |t was strango to bo |n such a good mood whon
ovoryth|ng |n my ||to was so d|ro. l cou|d on|y oxp|a|n |t as a
rosponso to tho awaronoss that l was go|ng to soo Yvos
aga|n |n a tow m|nutos, my sou|t|ndor. l d|dn't nood to stoa|
othor poop|o's stutt to g|vo mo a mood-||tt bocauso l cou|d
stoa| myso|t a ||tt|o happ|noss just |mag|n|ng that th|ngs
l got ott tho bus |n tho shadow ot tho groat cathodra|.
Wh|to wa||s roso trom tho narrow stroots ||ko c||tts ot grubby
sugar candy. 1h|s c|oso you can't soo tho domo wo||, but l
know |t was abovo mo, s|tt|ng on tho cathodra| ||ko ono ot
tho sorv|ng d|shos tho wa|tors usod at tho Wa|dort to covor
tho p|atos as thoy brought thom to tho tab|o. l cou|d |mag|no
a hoavon|y hand com|ng out ot tho sky and ||tt|ng |t ott w|th a
t|our|sh, rovoa||ng tho tour|sts and tombs |ns|do.
3un was sh|n|ng on tho 1hamos as l wa|kod down
lotor's ||||. 1ho sounds ot tratt|c m|ng|od w|th tho shouts ot
tho boys |n tho grounds ot a schoo| r|ght by tho tootbr|dgo. l
was sw|mm|ng aga|nst tho t|do as commutors batt|od up
tho h||| towards tho C|ty trom tho ra|| torm|nusos south ot tho
r|vor. lt was oxc|t|ng to bo among so many poop|o, to too|
br|ot|y part ot tho v|brant ||to ot london. l cou|d a|most
|mag|no l had a propor roason tor bo|ng horo, a job
porhaps |n ono ot tho catos on tho 3outh 3ank, a norma|
||to w|th tr|onds and a t| at somowhoro choap |n tho
suburbs. 3omo poop|o m|ght th|nk that a bor|ng ||to cho|co,
but to mo tho |ndopondonco soundod ||ko hoavon.
l d|dn't havo my own watch so l stoppod a harassod-
|ook|ng woman hurry|ng north, ono ot tho tow not occup|od
w|th ta|k|ng on hor phono. W|thout broak|ng stop, sho
cr|sp|y |ntormod mo that |t was o|ght-t|ttoon. lortoct-l had
p|onty ot t|mo to got |n pos|t|on. l thought tho contro ot tho
br|dgo wou|d bo tho bost spot, g|v|ng mo a chanco to watch
out tor troub|o trom o|thor d|roct|on. l had boon sor|ous
about duck|ng out ot tho moot|ng |t Yvos brought h|s
brothors w|th h|m. 3topp|ng onto tho br|dgo, l adm|rod tho
catapu|t-shapod supports, mus|ng that, |t my hoavon|y hand
had t|n|shod sorv|ng tho cathodra|, |t cou|d p|ck up ono ot
thoso and t|ro a po||ot at Kont.
3hak|ng my hoad at my absurd |mag|n|ngs, l wondorod |t
anyono o|so saw th|ngs ||ko l d|d. Wou|d Yvos undorstand
tho way my m|nd workod?
l a|most jumpod out ot my sk|n at tho ||ght touch on tho
shou|dor. l spun round-Yvos, ot courso. |o'd got horo
botoro mo and had |a|n |n ambush by tho ontranco to tho
br|dgo. |or a|| my p|ott|ng, l'd torgotton that ho too wou|d
havo mado h|s own p|ans |n tho short t|mo l'd a||owod h|m.
'Yvos, you camo.' l prossod my pa|m to my pound|ng
'You d|dn't |oavo mo much cho|co.' |o g|ancod boh|nd
mo. 1ho sun||ght k|ssod h|s sk|n, turn|ng h|s tan go|don. |o
mado mo too| ||ko somo morta| v|s|tod by a dom|-god |n
ono ot thoso Grook ta|os-and nono ot thom had ondod
wo|| tor tho human |t l roca||. 'Aro you on your own?'
l noddod. l was-sort ot. 'Aro you?'
||s taco cou|d not h|do tho br|ot spasm ot h|s annoyanco
that l'd doubtod h|m. 'You askod mo to como a|ono so l d|d.
You nood to |oarn to trust mo.'
l startod wa|k|ng, |oad|ng h|m to tho contro ot tho br|dgo,
away trom tho dangors that |urkod noar tho busy ontranco.
Anyono cou|d h|do thoro. 'And you nood to bo moro
susp|c|ous. lot ovoryono can attord to bo so trust|ng.'
|o |ot that pass w|thout commont but |nstoad caught up
'3o, to what do l owo tho p|oasuro ot my summons th|s
l cou|d torg|vo h|m h|s sarcasm: our oncountors up to th|s
po|nt had not boon prom|s|ng.
'l don't want to stoa| anyth|ng trom you today, |t that's
what you'ro ask|ng.' l dug my hands |n my pockots.
'Can l hopo that th|s |s you t|na||y roa||z|ng that sou|t|ndors
havo to stay togothor?'
Wo roachod tho m|dd|o ot tho br|dgo. l |oanod on tho
ba|ustrado and gazod down |nto tho muddy-groon wators ot
tho 1hamos. An orango p|ast|c bag tuggod aga|nst tho
p||nth ot tho br|dgo support, r|pp||ng ||ko a po|sonous typo
ot soawood. Yvos stood noxt to mo but h|s oyos woro on
my taco, not on tho r|vor. 'lhoo?'
l d|dn't want to answor h|s quost|on. l just wantod to stand
tor a tow sto|on m|nutos w|th my sou|t|ndor, onjoy|ng tho
sunsh|no and tho too||ng ot qu|ot happ|noss that bo|ng w|th
h|m gavo mo dosp|to ovoryth|ng |n our way. 'You know,
Yvos, you aro a roa||y |ovo|y porson.'
'Why doos |t a|ways sound as |t you aro say|ng
3ocauso l was. 'You havo a groat tam||y too trom what
l'vo soon. You'|| bo OK.'
|o to|dod h|s arms. 'What aro you try|ng to to|| mo?'
'l th|nk |t you stayod w|th mo, l'd bo vory bad tor you.'
|o shruggod that away. '3ou|t|ndors can't bo bad tor
oach othor-thoy oro oach othor. Wo aron't comp|oto
'You soo, Yvos,' l p|ckod at tho pa|ntwork, 'tho th|ng |s
l'vo boon brought up |n a . a bad crowd and l can't got out
'l'|| got you out.' 1ho t|rm ||no ot h|s mouth to|d mo ho
wou|d not sott|o tor |oss.
'Vy |oador contro|s us.' l cou|d too| a norvous sh|vor
runn|ng down my sp|no but so tar l hadn't brokon any ru|os
sot down by tho 3oor, l was on|y torb|ddon to say what l had
booro yostorday. 'l tr|od to to|| you what |t was ||ko, about
tho th|ngs that happon whoro l como trom. Vy tr|ond was .
hurt |n my p|aco bocauso l'd boon soon w|th you.'
A|| st|ttnoss wont trom h|s stanco. |o c|osod tho gap
botwoon us and put an arm round my shou|dors. 'l'm sorry,
lhoo. ls ho OK?'
'l don't know.' Vy vo|co soundod th|n ovon to mo. 'And
thon yostorday l mot somo now . wo|| l supposo you'd ca||
thom °a|||os' ot my |oador. l can't to|| you what was sa|d, but
|t |sn't good-tor you, l moan.' A pa|n ||ko a dr||| |n my sku||
warnod mo not to say any moro. l took a doop broath.
'1hat's a|| l can say.'
'lhoo?' ||s tono was gont|o.
l |ookod up at h|m, w|sh|ng l cou|d |oso myso|t |n h|s warm
|o strokod my chook w|th a t|ngor. 'You don't havo to
|ook attor a|| ot us, you know? You worry tor your tr|ond, tor
mo, whon aro you go|ng to |ot somoono caro about you?'
l swa||owod, toars c|oso. lo ono had ovor put mo t|rst. l
d|dn't oxpoct |t.
'And l don't th|nk you roa||y undorstand about sou|t|ndors.'
||s t|ngors woro tra|||ng t|ro ovor my too-sons|t|vo sk|n,
trac|ng tho ||no ot my jaw, tho hyporsons|t|vo p|aco by my
oar. '3uro, you know tho thoory but you'vo not soon |t |n
pract|co. Vy paronts aro sou|t|ndors-and l'vo had months
to watch my brothor Zod and h|s sou|t|ndor, 3ky, togothor.
|org|vo mo, but l th|nk l know moro than you do on th|s
'You do?' Why was my vo|co so husky?
'|mm-hmm.' |o bont a ||tt|o c|osor. l cou|d too| h|m
shak|ng a ||tt|o, as |t ho wasn't suro |t l was go|ng to push
h|m away aga|n. |o d|dn't roa||zo that l was caught up |n tho
magnot|c attract|on too. 'l can soo you aro not go|ng to
bo||ovo mo un|oss l show you.' |o gavo mo a shy sm||o.
'lo.' 3||d|ng h|s arm down to tho sma|| ot my back, ho
tuggod mo towards h|m unt|| our bod|os woro touch|ng, h|s
bo|dnoss grow|ng as l mado no s|gn to d|scourago h|m.
'You know, l qu|to ||kod Wondy, dosp|to hor o|d-|ady c|othos
and tunny att|tudo to Goosc|onco, but l roa||y ||ko lhoo:
sho's boaut|tu|, dotorm|nod and protoct|vo. l was so wrong
yostorday to say l was d|sappo|ntod to bo matchod w|th a
th|ot-l gavo you no crod|t tor do|ng what you had to do to
surv|vo and l want you to know that you cou|d novor, ovor
d|sappo|nt mo.' l cou|d too| h|s broath on my chook, my
oyo||ds t|uttorod c|osod ot tho|r own accord as ho c|osod
tho gap. ||s ||ps bogan a gont|o oxp|orat|on ot my mouth,
poppor|ng sott k|ssos at oach cornor. 'lo|ax-l won't b|to,'
ho wh|sporod, caross|ng tho s|do ot my taco to got mo to
sotton my jaw.
l unc|onchod my tooth and bogan k|ss|ng h|m back. ||s
tonguo t|ck|od my ||ps thon oasod |n to caross my mouth. l
cou|d too| my knoos bog|nn|ng to turn to wator, a|| that was
stopp|ng mo trom crump||ng was h|s hand at my back
ho|d|ng mo t|ght aga|nst h|m. l cou|d too| tho hoat ot h|s
pa|m aga|nst my sp|no, t|ngors carotu||y t|ox|ng aga|nst my
taut musc|os as ho coaxod mo to |ot myso|t trust h|m. l'd
novor to|t so proc|ous to anyono botoro |n my ||to-so
rospoctod. And l had thought ho wasn't suro ot h|s movos
around g|r|s, boy, was ho prov|ng mo wrong! 1h|s guy acod
th|s tost as ho d|d a|| othors.
|o was tho ono to broak tho k|ss. l camo out ot my |ovo|y
droam w|th h|s torohoad prossod aga|nst m|no. An o|dor|y
passor-by gavo us an |ndu|gont sm||o, rom|nd|ng mo that
wo woro |n tho m|dd|o ot a crowd. 'Young |ovo,' tho man
muttorod to h|s compan|on, patt|ng hor arm. 'lomombor
what that was ||ko?' 1hoy stro||od on, hoads bowod
togothor attoct|onato|y. Yvos gr|nnod attor thom, thon turnod
back to mo w|th a vory ma|o sm||o ot sat|stact|on.
'Undorstand now?' ho askod.
l wasn't suro. l'd boon sot on t|ro and cou|d not put out tho
t|amos. Vy body soomod to spark w|th now onorgy as |t,
attor months w|th battor|os runn|ng down, l'd just boon
connoctod to tho ma|ns. l ran my t|ngors ovor my mouth.
'And l thought you d|dn't know much about g|r|s.'
|o trownod. 'Why? 0|d l do |t wrong?'
l gavo a shaky |augh. 'lo. 3ut your brothor sa|d-'
'Oh, you hoard that, d|d you?' Yvos |aughod and brushod
a strand ot ha|r ott my chook. 'l won't c|a|m h|s broad
oxport|so but l'vo k|ssod my sharo ot g|r|tr|onds.'
Annoyod at tho |doa ot othor g|r|s bo|ng on tho roco|v|ng
ond ot thoso k|ss|ng t|roworks, l mado to pu|| away, wh|ch
soomod on|y to amuso h|m.
'0on't. 1hat was botoro l know you. W|th you, l'm
comp|oto|y d|ttoront. l nood you ||ko l nood oxygon. lo k|ss
has ovor attoctod mo ||ko that ono. You know, socks b|own
ott.' |o gr|nnod and l cou|dn't ho|p but sm||o too. '1ho t|rst
k|ss ot many, l hopo. look, lhoo, wo don't havo a cho|co
about bo|ng togothor, wo just havo to work out how to c|oar
away tho obstac|os.' |o muttorod a curso. '1hat camo out
wrong. l moant to say that l want to bo w|th you-|t's not just
tho sou|t|ndor th|ng spoak|ng. l know you'ro th|nk|ng l'|| bo
t|no w|thout you, that m|ght havo boon truo |ast wook, botoro
l mot you, but not today. lt you caro ovon a t|ny b|t tor mo,
you havo to g|vo mo a chanco to provo l can ho|p you.'
'lo ono can ho|p mo.' 3ut l bogan to hopo, to pray, that l
'1hat's not truo. At |oast |ot mo try.'
Wo stayod ||ko that tor a tow m|nutos, h|s arms wrappod
round mo, ho|d|ng mo c|oso, h|s t|ngors sh|tt|ng through my
ha|r, massag|ng tho back ot my nock. A|| tho tons|on wound
|ns|do mo bogan to oaso. l cou|dn't dony what ho was
say|ng, as l to|t |t too. W|th h|m l was no |ongor dosporato
and a|ono. 1oo otton, l oxpor|oncod ||to ||ko a hoart pat|ont
who has undorgono surgory and boon |ott w|th an ach|ng
ho|o |n tho contro ot my chost, |n Yvos's arms, that gap was
t|||od, |oav|ng mo carod tor and comp|oto. |ow cou|d l th|nk
ot g|v|ng th|s up |t thoro was ovon a s||thor ot a chanco that
wo cou|d havo a tuturo togothor?
'|oo||ng bottor now?' ho askod, road|ng tho s|gns my
body was broadcast|ng, no |ongor ho|d at tho po|nt ot
'1o|| mo why wo aro horo.'
l tracod tho pattorn on tho tront ot h|s 1-sh|rt w|th my
t|ngort|p. 'l was sont to got you. l'm ba|t.'
|o d|dn't pu|| away. 'Go on.'
1ho 3oor's m|nd v|rus stoppod mo say|ng that l know
about tho 3avant lot or tho throat to mo. 'Vy |oador wants
to ta|k to you. |o's go|ng to bo |n tho 1ato.' l po|ntod to tho
to ta|k to you. |o's go|ng to bo |n tho 1ato.' l po|ntod to tho
tactory-||ko bu||d|ng at tho southorn ond ot tho br|dgo. '|o
won't bo a|ono.'
'What doos ho want to soo mo about?'
'l can't say.'
'Can't or won't?'
|o was shrowd. 'Can't.'
'What wou|d happon |t you d|d say?'
Cou|d l to|| h|m that? 1ho 3oor had not ordorod mo to
koop qu|ot about h|s sk|||s, ho hadn't ovon |mag|nod l'd
want to cont|do that to Yvos. 'lt wou|d hurt mo. A |ot.'
Yvos droppod a k|ss on tho top ot my hoad. 'OK, l got |t.
Wo'vo mot guys ||ko h|m botoro-tho onos who can do
s|ck, tw|stod stutt to bra|ns ||ko somo sort ot computor bug.
l don't want you hurt. |ow |ong havo wo got?'
'About an hour. 1ho ga||ory opons at ton.'
'|avo you had broaktast?'
Wo had a moot|ng w|th tho 3oor |n prospoct and ho was
th|nk|ng ot broaktast? 'Er . no. 3ut shou|dn't wo, ||ko,
mako a p|an or somoth|ng?'
'Wo can p|an wh||o wo oat.' |o took a stop back but kopt
ho|d ot my hand, tugg|ng mo towards tho southorn ond ot
tho br|dgo. 'Como on.'
'What?' l stumb|od attor h|m, not suro |t l shou|d |augh or
'l havo my sou|t|ndor to myso|t tor an hour, l'm |ntond|ng
to mako tho most ot |t.'
Wo tound a ||tt|o k|osk cato on tho Embankmont and sat
down at ono ot tho mota| tab|os. lod and wh|to paraso|s
t|appod |n tho ||ght broozo, r|pp||ng ||ko tôto bunt|ng. A
soagu|| ba|ancod on tho top ot a |amp post, |ord ot a|| that
ho survoyod w|th h|s pobb|o-b|ack oyo.
'What do you want?' Yvos crackod opon tho |am|natod
monu. 'Cottoo, cottoo, moro cottoo, toa, toa, anothor k|nd
ot toa. 3uns. Oh, you'vo got to havo buns-that sounds so
Eng||sh.' |o had tho do||ghtod oxpross|on ot somoono
mak|ng a go|d str|ko.
l sm||od, try|ng to ro|gn |n my orrant thoughts at a|| th|s ta|k
ot buns. 'OK, l'|| havo toa and a hot-cross bun.'
|o w|nkod. '3o w||| l. l'm now ||v|ng out ono ot my
droams.' |o s|appod tho monu back on tho tab|o, wo|ght|ng
|t down w|th tho sugar bow|.
'You droam about hot-cross buns?' l toasod.
|o took my hand and k|ssod my knuck|os. 'lo, l droam
about hav|ng my sou|t|ndor to myso|t, somowhoro |n tho
sunsh|no. l d|dn't know |t was go|ng to bo london, but l'||
sott|o tor that.'
'A|| r|ght, |ovo, what'|| |t bo?' W|th n|nja sk|||s, tho mothor|y
wa|tross pouncod, mak|ng us both start.
0ropp|ng my hand, Yvos qu|ck|y p|acod tho ordor.
'You want jam w|th that?' 3ho tappod hor pad. 'Or aro
you swoot onough?'
Yvos gavo hor a shoop|sh sm||o and sa|d that, yos, wo
wou|d ||ko jam. l tound |t cuto how tho adorat|on ot womon
ot a|| agos ombarrassod h|m so oas||y.
'l do ||ko Amor|cans,' sho doc|arod to mo. 'A|ways so
As sho bust|od ott, l touchod Yvos's chook. 'You'ro
b|ush|ng. What |s |t about you and o|dor womon? 1hoy a||
t||rt w|th you.'
|o trappod my hand aga|nst h|s sk|n. '0o thoy? l d|dn't
not|co. l'm on|y |ntorostod |n ono g|r| t||rt|ng w|th mo.'
l gr|nnod. 'Good rocovory.'
'G|ad l'vo not |ost my sk|||s.' Yvos chockod h|s watch.
'OK, lhoo, you'vo got an hour to to|| mo ovoryth|ng about
l pu||od my hand back, ashamod ot my shabby ||to. 'What
k|nd ot th|ngs?'
'l know thoro's a |ot you can't to|| mo but thoro's so much l
don't know about you, suro|y you can sharo somo ot |t?
You'ro vogotar|an. Why? You ||ko road|ng. 0o you havo a
tavour|to author? What makos you |augh? Cry? 0o you
protor tho o|d 5tor ¼ors t||ms to tho onos thoy mado |ator?
What k|nd ot mus|c do you ||ston to?'
l ho|d up my hand, ro||ovod nono ot thoso quost|ons wont
to tho hoart ot my s|tuat|on. 'OK, OK, l got tho mossago.
l|ght, um . l don't ||ko k||||ng an|ma|s so l won't oat thom.
1hat makos mo cry too.'
|o noddod. '|a|r onough.'
'l ||ko a|| sorts ot wr|tors. l novor had anyono to|| mo what
to road so l guoss my ||st |s a b|t odd. l k|nda grab th|ngs ott
tho ||brary sho|t.'
'1o|| mo who you'vo grabbod thon.'
'lsaac As|mov and 1ano Auston-soo, |n ||brar|os you
start at tho As.'
|o tappod h|s ch|n w|th a torot|ngor, oyos spark||ng.
'lntorost|ng-Prloo ooo Projoolco |n spaco-has
Wo stoppod ta|k|ng as tho wa|tross roturnod w|th our
ordor. Whon sho |ott l cont|nuod. 'W|||a Cathor, Agatha
Chr|st|o, Goorgo E||ot. 3o many that l wou|d tako tho who|o
hour just ||st|ng thom.'
'1hat's t|no by mo.' |o s||cod opon tho bun and s|athorod
on tho strawborry jam trom tho d|nky pot tho wa|tross had
g|von us. '3|to.'
Obod|ont|y, l took a chunk out ot tho ha|t ho ho|d tor mo.
'You know, l'm go|ng to got a |ot ot p|oasuro trom tood|ng
you up. Xav th|nks you aro undornour|shod.' |o took a b|to
trom tho samo p|aco l had oaton trom, koop|ng h|s oyos on
m|no tho who|o t|mo. l tound |t so swoot that ho was t||rt|ng
w|th mo-no ono had bothorod botoro.
l changod tho subjoct, not ||k|ng tho rom|ndor ot whoro l
had como trom. 'lot soon thom.'
'5tor ¼ors. lot boon on at a c|noma whon l had a
chanco to snoak |n.'
|o ro||od h|s oyos |n mock-horror. 'Wo'|| havo to t| x that
|mmod|ato|y. lots ot popcorn and a 0v0 tost.' |o suddon|y
got ombarrassod. 'lot that l'm a 5tor ¼ors tan or anyth|ng.'
l g|gg|od. 'l don't bo||ovo you. l bot you go to thoso
convont|ons a|| drossod up.'
'l'd bottor h|do my ||ght sabro botoro you como to my
houso, thon, or my crod|b|||ty w||| bo ru|nod.'
'1oo |ato: you'ro rumb|od. What was your |ast quost|on?'
'Oh yos. l don't know. l havon't got anyth|ng to ||ston to
|o put down h|s mug ot toa. 'You havon't . or .
acqu|rod an Vl8 p|ayor, or an |lod?'
'l don't koop tho stutt l stoa|, oxcopt a tow c|othos trom
t|mo to t|mo. lt |sn't a||owod.'
Yvos brushod tho back ot my wr|st, a gosturo to say ho
undorstood, but ho d|dn't roa||y. Wou|d Vr 3tra|t-|acod-and-
lospoctab|o roa||y undorstand that l'd ||kod bo|ng a vory
'l hoar stutt |n shops though, l'm not comp|oto|y out ot
touch. 3o,' l sa|d w|th ta|so br|ghtnoss, 'what about you?'
|o st|rrod h|s toa. '1h|s vory unnordy porson's v|ow on
5tor ¼ors |s that tho now onos aro bost-l go tor |av|sh
spoc|a| ottocts and tho act|ng doosn't bothor mo. Cou|d
novor got past tho lr|ncoss lo|a ha|rsty|o and tho toddy-
boar croaturos to ||ko tho t|rst throo, though l havo to adm|t
that |arr|son |ord |s ubor-coo|.' |o startod count|ng h|s
rop||os ott w|th a wavo ot tho toaspoon. 'l oat moat but
wou|d bo happy to try tho vogotar|an way tor you and |t
wou|d bo bottor tor tho onv|ronmont so maybo l shou|d do |t
anyway. l road but most|y non-t|ct|on. Vy tavour|to novo| |s
Vy Nomo ls Asbor Lov by Cha|m lotok.'
'Whoa, sounds |oarnod.' l was g|ad l hadn't adm|ttod to
my sott spot tor popu|ar romant|c ||toraturo.
|o |aughod. 'lt's a groat story-vory doop. 3ut l ||ko a
good murdor-mystory too, and sc|-t|. As tor mus|c, l ||ko
c|ass|ca| but l a|so go tor |ots ot othor sty|os.'
'l83 tor a start. You know, songs ||ko '3||||ona|ro'-groat
|yr|cs, vory tunny.' |o sang tho t|rst tow ||nos |n a rasp|ng
l sm||od. 'You, a b||||ona|ro?'
'0on't tako |t ||tora||y. 3ut, hoy, don't you th|nk l'd mako a
groat |oad s|ngor?'
'3orry to broak |t to you, babo: you m|ght havo tho |ooks,
but you don't oxact|y havo tho vo|co.' l pattod h|s hand
'3ang goos my droam ot stardom. l'|| havo to sott|o tor
bo|ng an onv|ronmonta| sc|ont|st |nstoad.'
l g|gg|od. '1ho wor|d ot goo-whats|t w||| bo much tho
r|chor tor |t.'
'And ovoryono o|so vory ro||ovod?'
'You sa|d |t.'
Wo |aughod togothor. l cou|dn't bo||ovo th|s: wo had an
hour out ot ord|nary ||to and ho had managod to mako |t a
go|don t|mo. l hard|y romomborod a|| tho th|ngs hang|ng
ovor us, caught up |n just onjoy|ng h|s company w|th no
yostordays or tomorrows to spo|| tho momont.
'What about your tam||y?' l s|ppod my toa.
'You'|| moot thom soon, l hopo.' |o gr|macod as ho
tastod h|s own dr|nk. l havo to adm|t |t was a b|t strong ovon
'You shou|d'vo ordorod cottoo.'
'3ut whon |n london .'
'londonors dr|nk cottoo too thoso days. Wo'ro not a||
°corb||moy, mato, havo a cup ot los|o loo'.'
|o gavo a bark ot |aughtor. '¼bot aro you ta|k|ng about?'
'You know, cocknoys, EastEndors. lhym|ng s|ang.'
|o cuppod my chook and brushod a thumb across my
noso. 'l don't know-wo don't havo °los|o loo' |n
Co|orado-but l |ook torward to you toach|ng mo a|| about
l b|ushod, atra|d l was mak|ng a tw|t ot myso|t.
'lo, you aron't. You'ro cuto.'
l trownod at h|m. '3top p|ck|ng thoughts out ot my hoad.'
'lo nood. lt was wr|tton a|| ovor your taco.' |o
domo||shod tho |ast p|oco ot bun and sot about buttor|ng
tho socond. 'Vy tam||y. l havo s|x brothors as l to|d you.
You'vo mot numbors two and t|vo.'
'0o you ||ko bo|ng ca||od by your numbors?'
|o |ookod up, |ntorostod that l had p|ckod h|m up on th|s.
'lo. ln tact, wo hato |t but |t makos |t oas|or to oxp|a|n. l
th|nk a|| ot us just want to bo ourso|vos, not dot|nod aga|nst
oach othor. 1hat's natura| |n b|g tam|||os ||ko m|no.'
'l soo. You cou|d novor bo anyth|ng but Yvos to mo-not
'Good to know. l know thoro was a roason l ||kod you.'
Wo sharod a sm||o. 'E|dost |s 1raco. |o |s a cop |n 0onvor
and has a g|tt tor sons|ng tho background to objocts whon
ho touchos thom. |o's ono ho|| ot a trackor and novor, ovor
choats, un||ko othor brothors l cou|d mont|on. Ur|o| |s most
||ko mo, l guoss, |n that ho |s acadom|c. Ou|ot and
thoughttu| comparod to tho rost. |o's do|ng post-grad |n
torons|c sc|onco at co||ogo and can connoct to tho past,
somoth|ng ||ko hav|ng g||mpsos ot tho tuturo but |n rovorso.'
l cou|dn't stop a scopt|ca| snort. 'l got tho past th|ng, but
||ko anyono can roo||y to|| tho tuturo. 1ho onos l'vo mot who
sa|d thoy can havo boon takos, ovon |n tho 3avant wor|d,
not much abovo a pa|m-road|ng gypsy |n a caravan at tho
Yvos ottorod mo anothor b|to. '1hon you havon't mot my
mom and my youngost brothor, Zod. 1hoy both soo t| ashos
ot what's to como. 1hoy a|so havo an uncanny g|tt tor
know|ng what you aro th|nk|ng.' |o w|nkod.
'3o do you.'
'V|nor. lot ||ko thom. l'm bottor w|th onorgy.' |o snappod
h|s t|ngors and a t|amo appoarod on h|s pa|m.
l c|appod my hand ovor |t to snutt |t out botoro anyono
not|cod. Yvos to|dod h|s t|ngors ovor m|no, koop|ng mo
'W||| |s tunod to sonso dangor, ||ko my dad. |o's roa||y
|a|d back but groat to havo at your s|do |t |t comos to a
l cou|d hoar groat attoct|on |n h|s tono and guossod ho
had a sott spot tor th|s part|cu|ar b|g brothor. 'You'ro |ucky
to havo so many to |ovo.'
'Yos, l am.' |o strokod my hand absont-m|ndod|y. 'l |ovo
thom a||, though Zod and Xav can got roa||y annoy|ng.'
l sonsod ho d|dn't moan |t. |o was c|oar|y dovotod to
'1hoy soom to th|nk l'm not macho onough, just bocauso l
protor sc|onco to sports and ta|k to g|r|s about books and
|doas. And l th|nk thoy aro |d|ot jocks, so wo got on t|no.'
'3ut you'd do anyth|ng tor oach othor.'
'Goos w|thout say|ng.' Yvos s|gna||od tor tho b|||.
'lot whoro l como trom. |am|||os don't work ||ko that.'
'You'vo not had a tam||y, lhoo, not tor a |ong t|mo. |rom
what l'vo hoard, you'vo had no ono.' ||s oxpross|on took on
a dotorm|nod cast. '3ut that changod yostorday. You now
havo a who|o tam||y ot annoy|ng brothors to |ook out tor you
-and a s|stor |n 3ky, my brothor's sou|t|ndor. And just you
wa|t unt|| my mom roa||zos you don't havo your own mothor.
3ho's a|ways wantod a daughtor and l th|nk you'|| t|t that
doscr|pt|on portoct|y. 3ho'|| bo tak|ng you shopp|ng and
do|ng a|| that g|r| stutt botoro you know |t.'
l sm||od sad|y. '3ounds |ovo|y.'
'lt w||| bo, you'|| soo.' Yvos passod tho wa|tross tho b|||
to|dor w|th a ton-pound noto tuckod |ns|do, onco aga|n not
wa|t|ng tor chango. 1h|s t|mo l d|dn't protost. 'lot's ta|k
about our p|an.'
Wo got up trom tho tab|o and l ||nkod my arm through h|s.
Wo bogan to wa|k s|ow|y down tho w|do pavomont ot tho
Embankmont on tho 1hamos, mov|ng as|do to |ot a
skatoboardor woavo past.
'0o you havo strong sh|o|ds?' l askod, too||ng a b|t s|ck
now wo woro hoad|ng towards tho 1ato.
'3uro. lt you ||vo |n a tam||y ot 3avants who can road your
m|nd, you dovo|op thom doub|o-qu|ck.'
'0on't |ot our |oador got |ns|do your hoad. |o doos th|s
th|ng whoro ho p|ays w|th tho sw|tchos |n tho m|nd. l'm not
ovon suro what ho's p|antod |n my bra|n but l guoss ho's
protoctod h|mso|t aga|nst any ot us turn|ng aga|nst h|m.'
'OK. l'|| mako suro ho can't got at mo. l can ho|p you w|th
yours too |t you |ot mo.'
|o soundod too suro ot h|mso|t tor my ||k|ng. l wondorod
|t ho roa||zod that h|s |nto||octua| sk|||s, wh|ch took h|m to tho
top ot tho c|ass |n most ot tho p|acos ho hung out, woro
uso|oss whon |t camo to my wor|d. l watchod a wator tax|
boot||ng |ts way towards Groonw|ch, churn|ng tho wator to
|oavo a wh|to wako. 1ho roar ot tho c|ty drownod out most
othor no|so, l cou|d baro|y hoar tho boat's ong|nos. '|ow
can you do that?'
'l can grab onorgy trom tho onv|ronmont and tood |t to
you so you can ro|ntorco your sh|o|d.'
'loa||y? 1hat sounds br||||ant. 3ut my dotoncos havo
a|ways crumb|od roa||y qu|ck|y whon l taco h|m.'
'1hoy won't th|s t|mo. Evor s|nco l was a k|d, l'vo had to
|oarn to contro| my own g|tt to stop mo b|ow|ng up stutt that
annoys mo so l'm protty good at koop|ng a gr|p undor
'Excopt around mo.'
'Yos, wo||, l'm work|ng on that. G|vo mo a broak-|t's on|y
boon a day.'
l s|ghod. '|o won't ||ko mo ros|st|ng h|m. lorhaps you'd
bost not try anyth|ng today as ho'|| t|nd a way ot pun|sh|ng
mo |t l put up a strugg|o |n pub||c.' l touchod tho scratch on
my arm, roca|||ng yostorday's domonstrat|on ot powor.
Vy movomont brought Yvos's attont|on to tho cut. '|o d|d
l shruggod. 'lnd|roct|y. l wasn't |y|ng whon l sa|d ho had no
prob|om hurt|ng us to mako us oboy.'
Yvos strugg|od w|th h|s outrago botoro c|amp|ng down on
|t by tak|ng a doop broath. 'OK. lot's just tako th|s s|ow|y.
Whon tho rost ot my tam||y arr|vo wo'|| havo ro|ntorcomonts
to ho|p you ros|st. 1oday wo'|| just t|nd out what ho has to
'You won't ||ko |t.'
|o swung mo round so my back was to tho ombankmont
wa|| and rostod h|s ch|n on tho top ot my hoad. 'lo, l don't
supposo l w|||.'
'3o wo go |n. You hoar what ho has to say and thon you
|oavo.' l spoko to h|s chost, not want|ng to como up tor a|r.
'Yos, oxcopt thoro's ono ||tt|o corroct|on: wo |oavo.'
'|o won't a||ow that.'
l was scarod tor h|m, my swoot, |nto||octua| sou|t|ndor. |o
d|dn't know what ho was tac|ng and l had to protoct h|m
trom undorost|mat|ng h|s onom|os. l to|t l was |oad|ng my
boaut|tu| |oopard r|ght |nto tho rango ot tho huntors' guns.
'look, |t |t's a cho|co botwoon you |oav|ng w|thout mo or a
t|ght, p|oaso just go. l'|| bo t|no.'
|o |ookod hurt that l d|dn't th|nk ho cou|d stand up to
thom a|ono. 'lhoo, don't try to put yourso|t botwoon mo and
dangor, l won't a||ow |t.'
'3o what aro you go|ng to do? 3oat your chost and go a||
cavoman, sw|ng|ng your c|ub at anyono who throatons mo?
l'm not a ||tt|o woman you nood to dotond.'
||s taco hardonod. '1hat's oxact|y what you aro: you'ro
my ||tt|o woman and l'm not hav|ng you sacr|t|co yourso|t tor
'3ack at you, mato, though l'd havo to subst|tuto °b|g
man' tor tho °||tt|o woman' d|g.' Wo woro bo|ng r|d|cu|ous
and, doop down, l suspoctod wo both know |t. l took a
momont to ca|m myso|t. 'OK, OK, l got whoro you aro
com|ng trom bocauso |t |s tho samo p|aco tor mo. lot's just
agroo not to r|sk oach othor, sharo tho burdon.'
'l'vo got b|ggor shou|dors than you.'
'And a b|ggor hoad by tho sounds ot |t. 3top tho °mo
hoap b|g man' act and bo rat|ona|. Wo can on|y go |n thoro
|t wo aro un|tod on tho bost way torward.'
Yvos tappod my noso |n ropr|mand. 'Vy dad's lat|vo
Amor|can, d|d you know that? l cou|d havo you arrostod tor
porpotuat|ng rac|a| storootypos w|th your °hoap b|g man'
Oops. 'lo ottonco |ntondod.'
'lono takon. 3ut |n roturn, you havo to |ot mo run th|s
show. lt wo both try to ca|| tho shots wo'|| ond up stumb||ng
ovor oach othor |nto tho crosst|ro.'
l d|dn't ||ko |t but l cou|d soo somo sonso |n h|s
suggost|on. Vy toar otton para|ysod mo whon |t camo to
doa||ngs w|th tho 3oor, l cou|d a||ow that ho wou|d bo moro
objoct|vo on th|s occas|on. 'OK, l'|| |ot you |oad th|s onco,
but on|y |t you say you won't do somoth|ng stup|d and put
yourso|t |n dangor. Wo go |n, hoar tho doa|, and thon try to
|o gavo mo a hug tor my grudg|ng concoss|on. 'Yos,
that's tho p|an. l won't push tho |ast po|nt too tar and got us
hurt, but l want you to know l'|| bo a|m|ng tor tak|ng you w|th
mo. 3tand back and |ot mo mako tho runn|ng-l'|| know
what l'm w||||ng to concodo to got you out sato.'
l c|osod my oyos br|ot|y. 'l'vo got a bad too||ng about
|o p|acod a gont|o k|ss on oach oyo||d. '1rust mo, lhoo.
Wo'|| bo t|no.'
'You don't havo your brothors somowhoro noarby, do
you? As, ||ko, back-up?'
|o shook h|s hoad. 'l prom|sod l'd como a|ono th|s
morn|ng. l havon't ovon to|d thom whoro l'vo gono.'
3hamo. lart ot mo w|shod ho hadn't boon so
honourab|o. 'OK, |ot's do th|s. l'm supposod to mako suro
you como a|ono so maybo |t's just as wo|| that thoy don't
know what wo'ro up to.'
'1ho on|y onos who m|ght know aro Vom and Zod, but
thoy aro |n tho a|r hoad|ng tor london.' |o gavo a crookod
sm||o. 'lt thoy do got a tuturo nows t|ash, l'm go|ng to bo |n
doop troub|o whon thoy |and.'
l squoozod h|m back. '0on't worry: l'|| protoct you trom
'low that l can a||ow.'
||rst through tho doors as tho 1ato oponod, wo ontorod an
ompty 1urb|no |a||. 1h|s oxh|b|t|on spaco was cavornous,
||ko an ug|y back a||oy |n a g|ant's cast|o. 1ho curront
d|sp|ay addod to tho uncanny atmosphoro: hugo mota|
sp|dors crouchod sp|ay-|oggod on tho concroto, |nvadors
trom spaco |n a 10b0s '3' mov|o postor. 3ovora| hung
suspondod as |t about to doscond on our hoads, t|ny onos
scutt|od up tho wa||s to oxp|o|t any cracks |n human
'l|co,' Yvos commontod |ron|ca||y.
Wo wandorod among tho mota| torost ot arachn|d ||mbs,
'What makos an art|st spond tho|r ||to mak|ng thoso?' l
askod w|th a s||ght|y hystor|ca| |augh.
'Exorc|z|ng n|ghtmaros maybo?'
'And g|v|ng thom to us?'
Wo turnod war||y on hoar|ng 0ragon ca|| my namo. |o
was a|ono, stand|ng tramod by tho p|ncors ot tho |argost ot
tho mota| sp|dors.
'Um . h|. 0ragon, th|s |s Yvos.'
1ho two g|arod at oach othor.
1ho two g|arod at oach othor.
'Wo mot yostorday,' Yvos sa|d curt|y. 'lot's hopo modorn
art has a bottor day.' |o cast a s|gn|t|cant |ook at tho
suspondod sp|dors, rom|nd|ng us a|| ot tho tato ot tho
mob||o at tho 3arb|can.
0ragon gavo a g|oat|ng sm||o. '0on't go putt|ng |doas |n
my hoad, mato.'
'l doubt you nood my suggost|ons to causo po|nt|oss
Enough sabro-ratt||ng. '0ragon, l'vo brought h|m horo as
askod. What happons now?'
W|th tho arm |oopod casua||y around mo, Yvos squoozod
my wa|st, rom|nd|ng mo who was supposod to bo |n chargo
ot th|s ||tt|o controntat|on. 3ut |t ho |ns|stod on p|ck|ng a t|ght
w|th 0ragon botoro wo'd ovon got ott tho ground w|th tho
nogot|at|on, thon ot courso l was go|ng to |ntorvono!
'1ho 3oor |s horo.' 0ragon to|dod h|s arms and noddod
up at tho wa|| soparat|ng tho ma|n body ot tho art ga||ory
trom tho 1urb|no |a||. A coup|o ot t|oors up, thoro was a
w|ndow, a portoct vantago po|nt trom whoro our |oador
cou|d |ook down on us, much ||ko ho d|d at homo. latura||y,
ho wasn't go|ng to put h|mso|t anywhoro noar an onomy, ho
was too much ot a coward, and ho a|ways sought to mako
us too| subord|nato.
Yvos cur|od h|s ||p |n a snoor at tho wh|to-su|tod hu|k ot a
man survoy|ng us. 'ls that h|m?'
l to|t hum|||atod |ott|ng h|m g||mpso ovon th|s much ot my
background. 'Yos.' l cou|d soo Un|corn bos|do h|m. Kas|a
was probab|y |urk|ng to chock wo woron't us|ng to|opathy to
anyono outs|do but l had torgotton to warn Yvos ot th|s
'|ow aro wo supposod to ta|k?' Yvos askod.
7o|| blm l wl|| spook tbroogb yoo.
l gaspod as tho 3oor torcod h|s mossago |nto my hoad.
'Vo. |o's us|ng mo.'
Yvos rubbod my back |n sympathy. 'OK, thon, |ot's mako
th|s as short as poss|b|o. Wo can do w|thout h|m bounc|ng
round |ns|do your m|nd. Ask what ho wants.'
7bo ootol|s oí tbo mombors oí tbo 5ovoot Not.
'And what's ho go|ng to do w|th that, as |t l cou|dn't
7bot`s íor mo to oocloo. Yoor soo|ílooor oo|y bos to
booo tbom ovor. 7o|| blm.
l cou|dn't |mag|no Yvos agroo|ng to any doa| ||ko that.
1h|s was hopo|oss.
Yvos pondorod tho doa| ho was bo|ng ottorod. 'And thon
what? You'ro a||owod to |oavo? |o'|| |ot you go?'
1ho 3oor chuck|od at Yvos's audac|ty. Pbooolx stoys
wltb bor ooooy. l cou|dn't br|ng myso|t to to|| Yvos that part
so l d|dn't ro|ay |t to h|m and just shook my hoad. Exp|olo to
yoor soo|ílooor tbot bo bos to romolo wltblo tbo Not ooo
íooo mo o|| tbo loíormotloo l roqolro. lo wl|| spy íor os.
'And why wou|d l do that?'
Bocooso lí yoo ooo`t, Pbooolx wl|| soííor.
On h|s s|gna|, 0ragon torcod a m|n|aturo sp|dor trom |ts
wa|| brackot, |t rockotod stra|ght tor mo. W|th qu|ck rot|oxos,
Yvos pu||od mo down so that |t passod ovorhoad to smash
aga|nst tho tar wa||, |oav|ng a dont |n tho concroto.
'You torgot: you'ro not tho on|y onos w|th powors.' Yvos
starod up at tho 3oor and smoko bogan to cur| trom h|s su|t
pockot. As h|s wa||ot burst |nto t|amos, tho 3oor and
Un|corn trant|ca||y tr|od to put out tho b|azo.
'Yvos, stop |t!' l wh|sporod.
|o ro|uctant|y oxt|ngu|shod tho b|azo. 'l wont tor h|s hoart
and that was tho noarost l cou|d t|nd to ono,' Yvos oxp|a|nod
to mo w|th a w|ckod sm||o.
Wo woro so go|ng to pay tor that-but l had to adm|t tho
s|ght was ono to savour tor tho rost ot what was probab|y
now go|ng to bo a vory short ||to.
7o|| tbot Yook oí yoors tbot bo boo bottor proooco tbo
gooos or yoo`|| bo tbo ooo to boro! scroochod tho 3oor |n
my m|nd, h|s vo|co ||ko tho grat|ng ot mota| on mota|.
'|o's not happy,' l g|ossod tor Yvos.
'l bot ho d|dn't put |t qu|to ||ko that.'
'lo. lot oxact|y. l'm tho hostago tor your good bohav|our,
much as wo oxpoctod.'
'And you'vo ||vod w|th tbot squatt|ng on your ||to?'
marvo||od Yvos, h|s d|sgust at tho 3oor a|| too apparont. |o
was suro to dosp|so mo |t ho ovor d|scovorod that tho man
cou|d bo my tathor. l hopod ho novor tound out, l had moro
than onough po|nts aga|nst mo as |t was.
Undor h|s own sot ot ordors, 0ragon stoppod torward
and attomptod to pu|| mo away trom Yvos. '1|mo to |oavo.'
lrod|ctab|y, my sou|t|ndor wou|d not |ot go. |ury spark|ng
|n h|s oyos, Yvos pushod mo back and p|acod h|mso|t |n
0ragon's way. 'lt you touch hor, l'|| s|ngo ovory ha|r on your
hoad.' And ho wou|d too-l cou|d soo dotorm|nat|on |n h|s
oxpross|on. '3ho's stay|ng w|th mo trom now on.'
'lot happon|ng. 3ho bo|ongs to tho Commun|ty.'
'3ho bo|ongs w|th hor sou|t|ndor.'
'look, mato, l'vo p|ayod n|co so tar. 1horo'ro throo ot us
and ono ot you. |ow oxact|y do you th|nk you aro go|ng to
got out ot horo w|th hor?'
Yvos gavo a r|pp|o ot a shrug. '1o|| your |oador that |t ho
wants that |ntormat|on, ho has to |ot hor go w|th mo, or
thoro's no doa|. l don't trust you not to hurt hor wh||o sho's
w|th you and thoro's no po|nt |n th|s tor mo |t sho's not sato.
What l do, l do tor hor.'
'|ow touch|ng. l th|nk l'm gonna throw up.' 0ragon ro||od
h|s oyos at Yvos's dot|ant ta|k.
l wantod to butt |n and torb|d Yvos trom prom|s|ng
anyth|ng that put h|s tam||y and tho 3avant lot at r|sk but l
romomborod |n t|mo that l'd sa|d l'd |ot h|m mako tho
runn|ng. lt torr|t|od mo that ho was gott|ng |n ovor h|s hoad,
but l'd g|von my word.
Yvos stood t|rm. 'l'm suro |t |s not boyond tho capab|||t|os
ot your 3oor to put |n satoguards to koop hor trom sp||||ng
your socrots, but my |ntorosts aro on|y protoctod whon l can
soo hor. 1hat's a rod ||no tor mo.'
0ragon must havo boon roport|ng what was sa|d tor tho
3oor camo back qu|ck|y w|th h|s countor-ottor.
7o|| blm bo coo bovo yoo íor íorty-olgbt boors ooo tboo
bo most brlog yoo ooo tbo loíormotloo to mo.
'Whoro doos ho want to us como?'
7o tbo Looooo Eyo.
1ho 3oor's concoss|on was moro than l had oxpoctod. l
passod tho mossago on to Yvos. 'Aro you OK w|th that?' lt
wou|d g|vo us t|mo at |oast to untang|o th|s moss.
'Wo'|| tako |t.' |o chockod h|s watch. 'Wo havo unt|| ton
Bot Pbooolx, yoo most como op boro ílrst. l bovo o
mossogo jost íor yoo.
1hat wou|d bo tho satoguard. 'l havo to go up thoro. |o
won't |ot mo |oavo othorw|so.'
'l'|| como w|th you.'
'lo,' 0ragon |ntorruptod. 'Wo'ro stay|ng r|ght horo.' |o
thon changod tact|cs, rathor than push at Yvos, ho usod h|s
powor to tug mo troo. Yvos had to |ot go or r|sk hurt|ng mo. l
staggorod but caught myso|t on a sp|dor |og botoro l to||.
'Up you go, lhoo. l'|| babys|t your sou|t|ndor tor you.'
l hatod tho |doa ot tho two ot thom bo|ng a|ono togothor
tor any |ongth ot t|mo. l worr|od that Yvos wou|d |oso h|s
tompor and sot t|ro to somoth|ng-0ragon probab|y. 'l'|| bo
Co|| lí yoo oooo mo. Yvos d|dn't |ook happy to |ot mo out
ot h|s s|ght.
l d|dn't rop|y, toartu| ot oavosdroppors, but noddod.
3oonor th|s was dono, tho bottor. l ran up tho osca|ators to
tho t|oor whoro tho 3oor wa|tod. |o had commandoorod
tho ont|ro w|ndow n|cho tor h|mso|t, Un|corn dotorr|ng any
tour|sts who wantod to sharo tho pr|v||ogod v|ow down on
tho oxh|b|ts. ||s spot|oss su|t was marrod, tho jackot now
sport|ng a b|ackonod c|rc|o on tho pockot. l h|d tho g|ootu|
sm||o that throatonod to g|vo away my p|oasuro at tho sma||
hum|||at|on Yvos had managod to hand h|m. l cou|dn't
romombor anyono ovor gott|ng ono ovor on our |oador.
1ho 3oor had h|s back to mo, st||| |ook|ng down on Yvos
and 0ragon who woro c|rc||ng oach othor ||ko two w||d cats
about to r|p at oach othor w|th tho|r c|aws.
'3o that |s your sou|t|ndor. lntorost|ng. |o |s too||sh and
bo|d to como horo tor you. 1ho bond must bo as strong as
|ogond says tor h|m to r|sk h|mso|t. And tor what? A g|r| ho
mot on|y a day ago.'
1horo wasn't much l cou|d say to that.
'As tor my satoguards, l know how to onsuro ho koops
h|s word. Como horo.' 1ho 3oor bockonod mo c|osor. ln
th|s pub||c p|aco, ho d|dn't domand l knoo|, |nstoad ho took
my hand and covorod |t w|th h|s othor. Anyono |ook|ng at us
wou|d th|nk ho was a car|ng tathor ottor|ng mo an
attoct|onato pat on tho back ot my wr|st as wo onjoyod tho
lí bo rooogos oo bls ooo| to brlog os loíormotloo, lí bo
botroys os to ooyooo lo tbo 5ovoot Not, yoo wl|| poolsb
blm by bortlog somoooo bo |ovos. Aoo yoo wl|| como
bock to os oítor íorty-olgbt boors-ootblog wl|| stop yoo
ovoo lí yoo bovo to ílgbt to tbo oootb to rotoro.
|o droppod my hand and pattod my shockod taco.
'0on't |ook so horr|t|od, lhoon|x. lt you woro |oya| to us, you
wou|d bo happy to agroo to do thoso th|ngs w|thout
compu|s|on. Aro you ta|thtu| to us or shou|d l th|nk aga|n
about |ott|ng you go w|th h|m?'
l|oaso no. 'You can ro|y on mo.'
'Good g|r|. l oxpoct a tu|| roport whon you got back. loarn
as much as you can about tho 3avant lot. low run a|ong
botoro your sou|t|ndor and 0ragon draw attont|on to
thomso|vos. l can a|roady soo tho socur|ty guards gathor|ng
|n ant|c|pat|on ot troub|o.'
W|th a nod to Un|corn, l hurr|od back to tho osca|ators. l
roachod Yvos just |n t|mo. |o must havo just |nsu|tod
0ragon bocauso tho |attor was about to tako a sw|ng at
'OK, roady now!' l announcod ch|rp||y, bounc|ng |nto tho
m|dd|o ot tho tray. l caught 0ragon's arm by dart|ng undor
h|s guard and g|v|ng h|m a mock-tr|ond|y hug, propo|||ng
h|m back and away trom Yvos. 'G|ad to soo you aro gott|ng
on so wo|| but wo must go.' On t|ptoos, l put my mouth noar
0ragon's oar. '1ho 3oor says °bohavo'. |o doosn't want
1ho gagg|o ot worr|od guards gathorod by tho ma|n
doors v|s|b|y ro|axod on my arr|va| to dotuso tho t|ght. Ono
spoko |nto h|s wa|k|o-ta|k|o, canco|||ng h|s roquost tor moro
0ragon gavo mo a crush|ng boar hug |n rota||at|on. '1o||
your protty boy that th|s |sn't ovor botwoon us.'
'3oo you |ator.' l ho|d out a hand to Yvos. 'lot's got out ot
Yvos d|dn't nood ask|ng tw|co. |o sont 0ragon a |ast
cha||ong|ng |ook as ho took my ottorod pa|m. l |mmod|ato|y
to|t a hundrod t|mos bottor, h|s warmth rop|ac|ng tho sh|vory
too||ng |ott ovor trom my oncountor upsta|rs.
'|ow bad?' ho murmurod as wo oscapod up tho s|opo
and out |nto tho sunsh|no by tho s|do ox|t.
'3ad,' l adm|ttod.
'Can you to|| mo?'
'Yos. l th|nk ho wants you to know. lt you go back on tho
doa|, l hurt somoono you |ovo. lt you don't roturn mo, l t|ght
to tho doath to mako tho moot|ng.'
lomombor|ng how stud|ous|y po||to ho had boon to mo
on|y tho day botoro undor tho provocat|on ot my ropoatod
attompts to mug h|m, l wondorod what l was do|ng to my
sou|t|ndor to |uro h|m |nto us|ng vocabu|ary outs|do h|s
norma| comtort zono. 'l'm a roa||y bad |nt|uonco, aron't l?'
Yvos |oopod an arm ovor my shou|dor, tho now tam|||ar
wo|ght too||ng just r|ght |n that p|aco. 'l don't know oxact|y
what you aro, lhoo, but l corta|n|y saw rod |n thoro a coup|o
ot t|mos. A|| ot tho poop|o you grow up around act ||ko
'OK. l was ra|sod by wo|vos, l adm|t |t. 3ut romombor
that, won't you? You can't oxpoct mo to bohavo bottor than
thom whon tho ch|ps aro down.'
|o shook h|s hoad. 'lo, you'ro noth|ng ||ko thom.'
l was ovoryth|ng ||ko thom, probab|y ovon shar|ng tho
samo ta|ntod gonot|c |nhor|tanco. 'K|nd ot you to th|nk so,
but cons|dor yourso|t warnod. l'm a crappy bot tor a
'l'|| tako tho gamb|o.' |o rubbod my uppor arm. 'You
como t|rst w|th mo now. lo monstors aro go|ng to dr|vo us
Wo arr|vod back at Yvos's t|at w|thout sott||ng tho major
|ssuos hang|ng ovor us. l wasn't go|ng to |ot h|m botray
tam||y and tr|onds tor mo, ho rotusod to ta|k about what ho
was p|ann|ng to do. l cou|d undorstand that: |t ho'd sa|d
|mmod|ato|y that ho had no |ntont|on ot go|ng through w|th
tho doa|, thon l'd havo to hurt somoono-not tho bost
|ntroduct|on to h|s paronts. 3t|||, ho |ns|stod that l camo t|rst
|n h|s doc|s|ons and ho wou|dn't |ot mo down.
'1rust mo, lhoo. lt'|| work out,' ho sa|d as wo took tho
r|do up |n tho ||tt.
l shook my hoad s||ght|y, koop|ng my oyos t|xod on tho
chang|ng t|oor numbor.
'Eas|or than tho sta|rs, huh?'
l w|ncod. 'Yos. 3orry about that. l thought l had to go
'3o wo saw.'
'l th|nk |t was a bad doc|s|on.'
|o sm||od at that. 'Yoah, l th|nk so too.'
'l shou|d'vo d|sappoarod-just gono away. 1hon you
wou|dn't bo |n th|s t|x.'
Yvos trownod. 'low that wou|d havo boon a roo||y bad
Gott|ng out at tho twont|oth t|oor, wo wa|kod up to tho
ontranco to tho t|at. ||tt|ng h|s koy |n tho |ock, ho pushod tho
hoavy door opon to |ot mo ontor t|rst. 1ho s|ght that grootod
us was a p||o ot |uggago |n tho ha||way.
'Uh-oh.' Yvos gavo mo a pa|nod sm||o.
'Yoah. 1hat's amaz|ng|y qu|ck. 1hoy must havo hoppod
on tho t|rst t||ght.'
'Wo'vo on|y just got horo.' A ta|| man |n |ato m|dd|o ago
camo out ot tho noarost doorway, arms strotchod out. l
thought ho was hoad|ng tor h|s son, but ho camo at mo
|nstoad. l a|most cr|ngod back but Yvos's t|rm hand on my
shou|dors provontod mo trom do|ng so. l was to|dod |n a
hug that had tho strongth ot tho locky Vounta|ns boh|nd |t
-stono, torost, and r|vor. |o smo|t ot troos too-a p|no-
scontod attorshavo. Yvos had a|roady to|d mo that h|s
tathor, 3au| 3onod|ct, had boon born and brod |n Co|orado.
|o had tho th|ck, b|ack, groy-stroakod ha|r ot h|s
torotathors and a burn|shod sk|n trom spond|ng most ot tho
yoar outs|do. l cou|d soo whoro h|s sons got tho|r staturo
trom: ho had to top s|x toot oas||y. 'You'vo tound hor.'
Yvos c|oarod h|s throat, ovorcomo w|th omot|on at soo|ng
h|s tathor's unquost|on|ng joy tor h|m.
'Yoah, 0ad, l d|d.'
'Groat nows, Yvos.'
lo soonor had 3au| |ot mo go than a sma|| woman
bust|od |nto our m|dst. A tract|on shortor than mo, sho
squoozod mo to hor chost and k|ssod tho top ot my bont
hoad. 'C|ovor Yvos!' sho oxc|a|mod |n hor throaty vo|co.
'l was |ucky, Vom.'
'Kar|a, |ot tho poor g|r| broatho!' chuck|od 3au|.
Kar|a pushod mo gont|y away and thon thumpod hor son
|n tho stomach. '3ut whoro havo you boon, you bad, bad
boy? Your brothors havo boon trant|c-thoy d|dn't know
what to do unt|| wo turnod up! Zod to|d thom that you wou|d
bo OK and that was tho on|y th|ng that stoppod thom ca|||ng
|n tho po||co!'
'lovo you too, Vom,' sa|d Yvos, rop|y|ng w|th an
apo|ogot|c squoozo ot a hug. '3o you know wo woro
3ho wavod that po|nt away as |t ot no |mportanco. 'Yos,
yos, ho saw you turn|ng up horo w|th lhoon|x, nono tho
worso tor whatovor you havo boon do|ng to totch hor.'
A|| th|s tam||y stutt was both hoart-warm|ng and
oxcruc|at|ng. l wantod to craw| doop |ns|do to protoct myso|t
trom tho unaccustomod sw|r| ot omot|ons.
A th|rd 3onod|ct stoppod |nto tho ha||way, |t had to bo tho
youngost ono, Zod, as ho ho|d hands w|th a shy-|ook|ng
b|ondo g|r| and l a|roady know ho was tho on|y brothor w|th
a sou|t|ndor. '|oy, E|nsto|n, l soo you'vo tound your mag|c
tormu|a at |ong |ast.'
Xav boundod out boh|nd h|m. 'Yoah, lhoo oqua|s You-
3ho squarod. l'vo boon work|ng on that ono: ||ko |t?'
1ho b|ondo g|r| groanod. '1hat roa||y suckod, Xav. lot
ovon worth a p|aco |n a crackor.'
'Aww, 3ky, you aro so cruo|! l don't know how Zod puts
'Aww, 3ky, you aro so cruo|! l don't know how Zod puts
up w|th you.' Xav twoakod hor |ong p|a|t.
'|ands ott my g|r|,' grow|od Zod, mock-wrost||ng h|s
brothor away trom h|s g|gg||ng sou|t|ndor.
Yvos |aughod at tho batt|o wh||o l marvo||od at tho
|mpross|vo, tous|o-ha|rod Zod |n tront ot mo. 3omoono had
ovordono tho sharo ot good |ooks whon |t camo to th|s
tam||y: thoro wasn't a runt among thom.
End|ng tho|r tuss|o as abrupt|y as |t had startod, Zod
t||ckod h|s gazo to mo as |t l had spokon. |o |aughod,
s|app|ng Xav on tho back. '3ho just wondorod |t l was tho
runt ot tho ||ttor!'
'1ruth w||| out.' Xav gr|nnod.
l b|ushod. '0|d not!' l wh|sporod, c|app|ng my hands to
my chooks. |ow cou|d Yvos ||vo |n a tam||y whoro sovora| ot
thom cou|d p|ck thoughts out ot your hoad?
3ky o|bowod h|m |n tho r|bs. '3hh, Zod, you'ro mak|ng
hor too| uncomtortab|o. |or co|ours havo gono a|| p|nk and
'3orry, lhoon|x.' Zod gavo mo a charm|ng gr|n.
l rov|sod my op|n|on that tho g|r| was t|m|d. 3ho
appoarod to havo hor g|ant wo|| undor contro| and a
d|sturb|ng ab|||ty to know what l was too||ng.
Yvos pu||od mo turthor |nto tho t|at, dropp|ng my hand to
ombraco t|rst 3ky, thon Zod, murmur|ng thanks tor thom
com|ng so qu|ck|y. l |acod my hands togothor norvous|y, out
ot my dopth.
'Como through to tho k|tchon, lhoon|x,' sa|d Kar|a
br|ght|y. 'Wo woro just hav|ng broaktast-or |s |t |unch? Vy
body-c|ock |s a|| out ot sync!'
v|ctor wa|tod tor mo by tho k|tchon countor. l roa||zod l
hadn't actua||y propor|y mot h|m-you cou|dn't ca|| our
controntat|on |n tho 3arb|can an |ntroduct|on. |o ho|d out a
hand to mo.
'lhoon|x, l'm v|ctor, Yvos's b|g brothor. |ow'ro you
'||no.' Vy vo|co had d|sappoarod a|ong w|th my
cont|donco. Whoro was Yvos? 1h|s tr|a| by tam||y was too
much tor mo.
A warm pa|m sp|ayod on tho back ot my shou|dors,
ca|m|ng mo botoro tho soods ot pan|c cou|d b|oom. '||,
v|ck. 3orry l d|dn't to|| you whoro l was go|ng. l cou|dn't.'
Yvos mot h|s o|dor brothor's ponotrat|ng gazo.
v|ctor road tho mossago thon noddod. 'OK. l undorstand.
1ust, |n tuturo, an °l'm-not-go|ng-to-got-myso|t-k|||od' noto
wou|d bo approc|atod. And, Yvos, you got to romombor you
havo a tondoncy to tako on moro than you can doa| w|th.
loxt t|mo, uso back-up.'
Xav s|appod Yvos ||ght|y ovor tho top ot h|s hoad. '0og
1hat appoarod to put an ond to tho|r comp|a|nts about
bo|ng |ott worry|ng what had happonod to h|m. l wasn't suro
l cou|d'vo boon so torg|v|ng |t |t had boon mo.
'3o you got lhoon|x back,' doc|arod Kar|a, c|app|ng hor
hands |n do||ght. '1hat's |ovo|y.'
'l'm moro on |oan,' l muttorod.
'Yoah, my ||tt|o ||brary book.' Yvos gu|dod mo to a
barstoo| at tho k|tchon |s|and. |o ho|pod mo up thon stood
boh|nd mo as tho rost ot h|s tam||y took soats. Wo'd
|ntorruptod tho|r broaktast: ha|t-drunk mugs ot cottoo wa|tod
by p|atos ot buttorod toast.
l thought l shou|d mako an ottort to bo tr|ond|y, t||||ng tho
oxpoctant gap |n convorsat|on w|th a po||to quost|on. 'Um
. how was your t||ght?'
'vory p|oasant. v|ctor has so many usotu| tr|onds.' Kar|a
sm||od at hor brood|ng son, tho on|y toma|o |n croat|on who
was not bothorod by h|s a|r ot dangor. 'Wo had |ovo|y t|rst-
c|ass soats. l s|opt ||ko a baby.'
3au| ro||od h|s oyos. 'On|y attor l porsuadod you to tako a
s|oop|ng p|||. 3ho's boon worry|ng about you, Yvos.'
'l can |mag|no.' Yvos pourod us both a cottoo trom tho
'3o, lhoon|x, to|| us how you mot?' Kar|a |ookod at mo
w|th hor br|ght brown oyos. W|th hor |ong, dark ha|r |ooso,
sho managod to |ook tar too young to havo sovon grown-up
l chokod on my dr|nk.
Yvos stoppod |n. 'Vom, lhoo has a d|tt|cu|t background.
lt's not oasy tor hor to ta|k about |t.'
3ho trownod. Whon l chockod hor monta| pattorns, l
cou|d soo that sho was soarch|ng mo tor somoth|ng, ||ko a
sn|ttor dog attor drugs.
'Kar|a.' 3ky tappod hor mug w|th hor kn|to to draw
attont|on trom mo, hor Eng||sh accont stand|ng out aga|nst
a|| tho Amor|cans. 'You'ro do|ng your th|ng.'
Kar|a shook horso|t, hor m|sty oxpross|on c|oar|ng. 'l
was? 3orry, l must bo moro t|rod than l thought. 0on't m|nd
'l tound |t spooky whon you t|rst d|d |t to mo, maybo you
shou|d g|vo lhoon|x a b|t ot spaco?'
1h|s 3ky was an astuto roador ot charactor. Or porhaps
sho just know what |t was ||ko to bo droppod |nto th|s tam||y
w|th no proparat|on? 3ho caught my oyo and noddod
roassuranco, |ott|ng mo know w|thout a word that l had ono
a||y at |oast at th|s tab|o.
'l th|nk that |s a vory good |doa, 3ky,' 3au| rumb|od,
g|v|ng h|s son's sou|t|ndor an attoct|onato |ook. 'Wo camo
horo to ho|p Yvos and lhoon|x, not scaro tho ||v|ng
day||ghts out ot hor.' |o brushod h|s t|ngort|ps ovor h|s
w|to's arm |n a tondor gosturo. 'And l can sonso that tho
throat has not gono away. Am l r|ght?'
l c|osod my oyos, hop|ng that |t l d|d not soo h|m botray
tho 3oor, my ordors wou|d not bo tr|ggorod. lo|o mo bock
tho 3oor, my ordors wou|d not bo tr|ggorod. lo|o mo bock
lí l ottock ooo oí tbom, l boggod Yvos.
l`m oot golog to rooogo oo my ooo|, ho prom|sod.
3au|'s oyos narrowod. 'And l sonso somoth|ng trom you,
Yvos. You'ro rog|stor|ng as a throat to us. l|ko to oxp|a|n
loa||y not, l thought.
'|ow can l bo a throat?' Yvos askod |nnocont|y.
3au| corroctod h|mso|t. 'Voro a r|sk.'
Yvos shruggod but tho s||onco to|t awkward tor a|| ot us.
'3o what's go|ng on?' Zod bumpod 3ky trom hor cha|r,
sat down, thon pu||od hor onto h|s knoo.
'Wo can't to|| you. lo|thor ot us can do anyth|ng to ho|p
you t|nd out.'
Yvos's statomont wasn't mot w|th outrago as l had
oxpoctod, but anothor s||onco. 1hon tho tam||y appoarod to
como to a co||oct|vo doc|s|on to postpono tho rockon|ng.
'O-K,' Xav draw|od attor a pa|ntu| tow soconds. 'lass tho
Zod shovod tho carton ot orango ju|co to h|s brothor w|th
a wavo ot h|s hand. '3o, 3ky, aro you gonna show mo your
o|d haunts |n london?'
1ho 3onod|cts just accoptod Yvos's statomont and
changod tho subjoct. 1hoy woro amaz|ng. lt |t had boon mo,
l wou|d havo domandod answors.
7boy trost mo-wo||, most|y, Yvos wh|sporod. l jost wlsb
yoo woo|o too.
l rubbod my hands on my joans. l`m worklog oo lt, l
adm|ttod. 3ut l cou|dn't soo how ho cou|d squaro h|s |oya|ty
to thom w|th h|s prom|sos to mo.
Oooo. 1ho rost ot tho occupants ot tho k|tchon woro tu||y
awaro wo woro ta|k|ng to|opath|ca||y but po||to|y protondod
not to not|co. Yvos sm||od attoct|onato|y at thom a||. 'low,
wo shou|d |ot thoso guys got somo s|oop.'
Kar|a roachod ovor and pattod my arm. '1ako tho rost ot
tho day ott trom worry|ng, lhoon|x. You'ro w|th tam||y now.'
lot worry|ng was oas|or sa|d than dono.
1ho arr|va| ot so many ot Yvos's tam||y causod a
roorgan|zat|on ot s|oop|ng arrangomonts. Vr and Vrs
3onod|ct took ovor v|ctor's room, 3ky and l woro g|von
Yvos's doub|o, and tho boys woro to sharo Xav's quoon
bod and tho sotas |n tho ||v|ng room. At Yvos's suggost|on, l
to||owod 3ky to havo a rost tor a tow hours. 1ho stross ot
tho |ast two days had takon |ts to|| on mo and, bos|dos, |t
was |oss traumat|c than stay|ng |n tho k|tchon to mako
convorsat|on. lt Yvos was go|ng to to|| h|s brothors tho truth,
l d|dn't want to hoar |t. l was hop|ng that |gnoranco wou|d
protoct mo trom carry|ng out tho 3oor's ordor.
3ky k|ckod ott hor shoos and |ay down on tho r|ght s|do
ot tho bod. '3||ss. l d|dn't s|oop much on tho t||ght. Wo woro
a|| too st|rrod up about Yvos's nows.'
l hovorod by tho othor odgo wondor|ng |t sho wou|d m|nd
|t l sharod tho doub|o w|th hor or |t l shou|d s|oop on tho
t|oor. 'What oxact|y has ho to|d you?'
3ky pattod tho mattross. '1horo's p|onty ot room. Why
don't you ||o down?' G|ngor|y, l un|acod my shoos, took
thom ott, and strotchod out. 3ho sm||od. 'Yvos d|dn't say
much. Wo know ho mot you at tho contoronco but you'ro |n
somo k|nd ot troub|o, m|xod up w|th a bad crowd ot
somo k|nd ot troub|o, m|xod up w|th a bad crowd ot
3avants. |o sa|d ho noodod ho|p gott|ng you out ot tho
country. 3au| and v|ctor aro go|ng to work on sort|ng a
passport tor you. And ho thought that l m|ght bo ab|o to
undorstand moro about whoro you'ro com|ng trom, bo|ng
l doubtod that. |ow many poop|o como trom a soody
background ||ko m|no?
3ky wasn't dotorrod by my s||onco. '|ow o|d aro you,
lhoo? You must bo noar|y o|ghtoon |t you'ro Yvos's
'||s b|rthday |s t|rst ot 1u|y. You don't know?'
l starod at tho wh|to co|||ng. lo cracks, un||ko my room at
homo. '3|rthdays don't t|guro much whoro l como trom. l
th|nk l romombor my mum mak|ng a tuss ot mo oach yoar |n
tho summor but sho's |ong gono and l don't roca|| dota||s,
||ko tho day or anyth|ng.'
'l d|dn't know my b|rthday o|thor. Vy paronts and l had
choson tho day ot my adopt|on so |t was a b|t ot a shock to
t|nd l was probab|y youngor than l thought.'
|or strango commont pr|ckod my |ntorost. '|ow d|d that
'Zod's b|rthday |s t|tth ot August, bocauso ot tho ||nk
botwoon sou|t|ndors, that makos m|no around thon too.'
3ho turnod on hor s|do to |ook across at mo. '3ut l'vo kopt
t|rst ot Varch as my b|rthday as l ||ko to toaso Zod about
dat|ng an o|dor woman. And my paronts wou|dn't
undorstand |t l to|d thom about tho sou|t|ndor bond and tr|od
to chango |t.'
'1hoy don't know?'
'Wo||, l th|nk thoy'vo p|ckod up that thoro's somoth|ng
spoc|a| botwoon Zod and mo but l'm not suro how l'd ovon
start to oxp|a|n to non-3avants. l wasn't oxact|y ovorjoyod
whon Zod t|||od mo |n about |t a|| tho t|rst t|mo.' |or sm||o
broadonod and l sonsod thoro was a story boh|nd that
'What d|d you do?'
'1humpod h|m w|th a shopp|ng bag and to|d h|m ho was
'3o how was |t tor you and Yvos? lovo at t|rst s|ght?'
'|ard|y. l n|ckod h|s stutt and ho mado |t oxp|odo.'
|or ta|r oyobrows w|ngod up. 'Oh my gosh! 1hat sounds
oxc|t|ng. And thon?'
l sonsod l cou|d cont|do |n hor w|thout scar|ng hor ott.
Watch|ng hor m|nd-ka|o|doscopo tor a momont, l saw that
hor powors gavo hor s|m||ar |ns|ght |nto poop|o, though sho
saw moods rathor than thoughts. 3ho was watch|ng my
co|ours, soo|ng my taco r|ngod by pa|o p|nk and groy ||ko
tho t|rst t|ush ot a sunr|so on tho hor|zon. 'What's a ||o?'
3ho caught on qu|ck|y. 'You can soo what l'm do|ng?'
'l can't ho|p |t thoso days. 3pond|ng so much t|mo w|th
3avants sw|tchos on my antonna tor omot|on. 0o you
l shruggod. 'l soo thought-pattorns so l supposo l shou|d
bo tho |ast ono to objoct.'
3ho brushod a strand ot hor |ong wavy ha|r ott hor taco.
'A ||o. Can you to|| ono too?'
l thought about |t tor a momont. 'lot suro. l can soo how
poop|o aro th|nk|ng so |t thoy aro consc|ous ot tho ||o thon
thoy m|ght g|vo |t away by hav|ng cont||ct|ng |magos
pass|ng through tho|r hoads. Your approach |s much moro
'ls that tho oxtont ot your g|tt-as tar as you know, l
'lo, l . um . can troozo your thoughts-|t too|s ||ko
t|mo |s suspondod tor a tow momonts.'
3ho cons|dorod th|s. 'Coo|. You m|ght t|nd you can do
ovon moro w|th Yvos. 1hat stutt about sou|t|ndors
comp|ot|ng oach othor roa||y |s truo. l'm t|nd|ng now
strongths whon l work w|th Zod. Vy to|ok|nos|s |s gott|ng
vory good-l somot|mos boat h|m, wh|ch ho hatos,
'l'vo novor tr|od. You th|nk l m|ght bo ab|o to do othor
th|ngs? At tho Commun|ty .' l pausod, worr|od that l was
botray|ng too much |ntormat|on about myso|t.
3ky mot my oyos sobor|y. 'Go on. 1h|nk ot mo as a
tr|ond.' 3ho s|ghod whon l |ookod b|ank. '1hat moans l
won't to|| anyono, not ovon Yvos, what you say to mo.'
l'd novor had a propor tr|ond, |t wou|d bo n|co-not that l
was roady to accopt hor ottor just on a tow m|nutos'
convorsat|on, l was too strootw|so tor that. 'Whoro l como
trom, wo concontrato on dovo|op|ng our ma|n sk|||. Evon
to|opathy |sn't usod much. 1ho 3oor-'
'Who's tho 3oor?' 3ho tw|r|od a |ock ot ta|r ha|r around
'Our |oador. |o usos |t most-to g|vo us our |nstruct|ons.
l wou|dn't want anyono o|so |n my hoad. l th|nk wo a|| too|
'0oosn't sound as |t you want h|m |n your m|nd o|thor.'
'Yoah, truo.' l tr|od to ovon out my broath|ng. 1ust ta|k|ng
about h|m mado mo too| c|oso to pan|ck|ng.
3ho |ot tho |ock ta|| back |n p|aco. 'You know ho's
abus|ng you, don't you? You havo ovory r|ght to your own
pr|vacy. 3hov|ng h|s vo|co |nto your hoad |s just as bad as
koop|ng somoono |mpr|sonod aga|nst tho|r w||| or boat|ng
l gavo a gu|p ot |aughtor. '1horo's p|onty ot that too.'
3ho roachod out and touchod tho back ot my hand. 'l do
know what |t |s ||ko, you know.'
'|ow can you?' l wh|sporod. 3ho was so portoct-a t|ny
ta|ry||ko croaturo, a|| swoot and protty, t|oat|ng on a bubb|o
ot |ovo abovo tho ta|nt ot ovoryday ||to, l to|t ||ko tho ug|y
gnomo noxt to hor, ||v|ng a ||to grubb|ng |n tho |owost muddy
drogs ot human|ty.
'l'm not what you th|nk, you know. l was abandonod as a
ch||d at a sorv|co stat|on attor yoars ot abuso-brokon
bonos, bru|sos, tho tu|| works. l cou|dn't spoak tor many
yoars and ovon torgot my namo.'
'What . ? |ow?'
'lt's truo. Vy paronts savod mo t|rst, thon Zod t|n|shod tho
job, w|th h|s tam||y's ho|p. l thought l had |t rough but now l
soo that l had moro |uck than you. |ow |ong havo you boon
|or undorstand|ng tr|ggorod a wo|||ng ot omot|on.
0|soboy|ng my m|nd's ordor not to bo woak, toars cropt
down my chooks, hoad|ng tor tho p|||ow. 'lt sooms ||ko tor
ovor. Vum tr|od, but sho was undor tho 3oor's contro|,
much ||ko l am. l don't know any othor k|nd ot ||to, 3ky. l'm
roa||y worr|od l'm a|| wrong tor Yvos-l'm gonna moss h|m
up. l'm tox|c.'
3ho shook my shou|dor, a gont|o roproot. 'lubb|sh.
1horo's noth|ng wrong w|th you. lt's a m|rac|o you st||| caro
as much about othors as you do.'
'3ut Yvos .'
'0on't worry about h|m. |o's a strong porson, qu|to
capab|o ot |ook|ng attor h|mso|t dosp|to what h|s brothors
say about h|m. 0on't |ot that stud|ous outs|do too| you, ho's
got t|ro w|th|n.'
l thought ot tho controntat|on at tho 1ato. 'l th|nk l'vo soon
'1rust h|m. |o dosorvos th|s chanco to mako th|ngs r|ght.
And you can ro|y on tho rost ot tho tam||y too.'
Want|ng to bo||ovo hor ovon |t l wasn't conv|ncod, l
sm||od and snugg|od down |nto tho p|||ow. '|o's gorgoous,
3ky |aughod. '1hoy a|| aro-Zod most, ot courso.' l d|dn't
agroo-l'd tako my s|ook |oopard any day ovor tho t|gor
sho was w|th. 'lt's qu|to oxhaust|ng |t you'ro tho joa|ous
l b|t my ||p, wondor|ng how l cou|d want to sm||o so soon
attor cry|ng. Vy omot|ons woro yo-yo-|ng a|| ovor tho p|aco.
'Yvos attracts o|dor womon-thoy a|| t||rt w|th h|m.'
3ky g|gg|od. 'Oh my, l novor know that. l can't to|| Zod-
ho'd toaso h|m unmorc|tu||y. |ow doos ho hand|o |t?'
'Gots a|| ombarrassod. lt's so cuto.'
'Yos, a|| my tr|onds th|nk ho's . wo||, you probab|y don't
want too hoar that. 3ut thoy'vo to|d mo-tho |ucky onos that
havo datod h|m-that ho's tho portoct gont|oman.'
l wasn't suro that was how ho bohavod w|th mo, l soomod
to pross too many buttons to a||ow h|m to koop h|s coo|. '3o
doos Zod attract tho cougar-womon too-tho o|dor onos?'
3ho |ot out a snort ot |aughtor. 'lo, thoy a|| cross tho road
whon thoy soo h|m com|ng. |o can projoct th|s qu|to scary
aura whon ho's not th|nk|ng. |unny roa||y, as h|s powors aro
nowhoro noar as |otha| as Yvos's.'
'lt's tho qu|ot onos you havo to watch.'
'Yos, so |t sooms.' 3ho yawnod. 'loady to havo a
l noddod, moro at poaco than l had boon tor days. 'OK.'
'Wako mo at tour |t you got up botoro mo. l prom|sod to
r|ng my paronts and |ot thom know wo arr|vod sato|y.'
l onv|od hor tho notwork ot poop|o who carod what
happonod to hor.
'0on't,' sho sa|d sott|y, astuto|y guoss|ng, or maybo
road|ng, my omot|ons. 'Wo caro. You aron't on your own
1hat was what Kar|a had to|d mo. 1ho prob|om was l had
a hard t|mo ovorcom|ng tho tra|n|ng ot my upbr|ng|ng. 1ho
t|rst |osson ot th|s now ||to wou|d bo to accopt that thoro
m|ght bo somo truth |n tho|r c|a|m to caro tor mo.
l woko a tow hours |ator to t|nd 3ky st||| as|oop, hor
broath|ng a sott wh|spor, oyo|ashos cur||ng on hor pa|o
sk|n. 3ho |ookod ||ko a ta|ryta|o pr|ncoss wa|t|ng tor hor
pr|nco to wako hor w|th a k|ss. Chock|ng tho t|mo on tho
bods|do c|ock, l saw that sho st||| had a tow hours botoro
hor phono ca|| so l s||ppod ott tho bod and paddod on my
baro toot out ot tho bodroom.
G|anc|ng |n through tho opon door to Xav's room, l saw
Zod strotchod out on tho quoon mattross, h|s arm hugg|ng a
p|||ow as |t ho to|t 3ky's absonco at h|s s|do. l guossod ho
had |ott tho door ajar so ho cou|d hoar |t thoro woro any
prob|oms |n our room. l was roassurod by th|s moro norma|
|ovo| ot susp|c|on whoro a strangor was concornod. |o
wasn't to know that l wou|dn't turn on h|s sou|t|ndor and l
approvod h|s procaut|ons. l t|ptood on |nto tho k|tchon,
d|scovor|ng Yvos, v|ctor, and Xav a|| at work on |aptops.
'||.' l pausod |n tho doorway, wondor|ng |t l was
'lhoo.' Yvos |ookod gonu|no|y p|oasod to soo mo.
'|ungry?' |o uncovorod a p|ato ot sandw|chos wh|ch ho
had kopt roady tor mo. '1hoy'ro a|| vogg|o.'
'1hanks.' l took tho barstoo| noxt to h|m, stud|ous|y
koop|ng my gazo ott tho|r scroons. 1ho |oss l know about
anyth|ng, tho bottor.
v|ctor c|osod h|s w|th a snap and oponod a pad. 'Wh||o
you'ro oat|ng, lhoon|x, wou|d you m|nd to|||ng mo what you
know about your paronts?'
1ho sandw|ch wont to sawdust |n my mouth. 'Why?'
'l want to track down your b|rth cort|t|cato so wo can got
you a passport. W|thout that, |t's go|ng to bo roa||y hard
gott|ng you out ot tho country.'
Yvos nudgod mo. '3omoth|ng wrong w|th tho sandw|ch? l
can mako you anothor. l th|nk wo ovon havo somo
d|sgust|ng stutt ca||od °Varm|to' |n stock on 3ky's
l swa||owod. 'lo, tho sandw|ch |s t|no.' Ot courso thoy'd
nood papors tor mo, but whon had l boon askod |t l wantod
to |oavo tho country? 'And don't d|ss Varm|to-|t's tho tood
ot tho gods.'
'3trango 3r|t|sh gods w|th cocknoy acconts who dr|nk
'Yoah.' l took a cr|sp trom a bow| |n tho contro ot tho
'l stand corroctod.'
'lhoon|x?' v|ctor ropoatod pat|ont|y, sons|ng my
'Ca|| mo °lhoo', p|oaso. OK, horo's what l know. l was
born |n lowcast|o. Vy mothor was ca||od 3ad|o Corr|gan. l
don't know about a tathor.' 3y wh|ch l moant l roa||y, roa||y
d|dn't want to know. What |t tho b|rth cort|t|cato ||stod tho
3oor? 3ut thon, l d|dn't know h|s truo namo so maybo no
ono o|so d|d? And ho wou|d hard|y want an ott|c|a| rocord ot
h|s namo anywhoro. '3ho a|ways sa|d my tathor was
somoono sho mot on ho||day |n Grooco. A tr|ond among
tho poop|o l ||vo w|th romomborod mo bo|ng born. l'm not
suro |t |t happonod |n a hosp|ta|. l d|dn't ask h|m.'
v|ctor gavo mo an oncourag|ng nod. '1hat's t|no. lt
thoro's a rocord, l'|| bo ab|o to t|nd |t trom that |ntormat|on.
Wo'|| start by guoss|ng you woro born |n tho month around
Yvos's b|rthday. lt that draws a b|ank, l'|| go a b|t turthor
o|thor s|do. lucky you havo such an unusua| namo.'
'|mm,' l sa|d |n a non-comm|tta| tono.
Yvos rubbod tho back ot my nock. 'You'vo not askod
what tho p|an |s.'
l shruggod. 'lsn't |t bost |t l don't know?'
Xav grabbod an orango trom tho tru|t bow| and t||ppod |t
|nto tho a|r, mak|ng |t hovor and thon orb|t tho tab|o botoro
catch|ng |t. 'You aro part ot th|s now, lhoo. Wo koop
ovoryono |n tho |oop.'
'3ut |t's dangorous. |asn't Yvos oxp|a|nod?'
'0angorous smangorous,' scottod Xav. 'Wo oat ov||
3avants tor broaktast |n our tam||y.'
v|ctor c||ppod h|m ovor tho hoad. '3top too||ng, Xav. 3ho
won't th|nk wo tako th|s sor|ous|y |t you c|own around.'
'l|ghton up, bro. lhoo knows l'm a sons|b|o sou| at
|o bogan poo||ng tho orango. '0on't sound so scopt|ca|.
You'|| dont my cont|donco.'
'l doubt ovon bo|ng run ovor by a rubb|sh truck wou|d dont
Yvos gavo mo a hug. 'l'm so p|oasod you'ro such a qu|ck
judgo ot charactor. You'vo got h|m taggod.'
'Yop, too-taggod, |n tho troozor, thon bur|od s|x toot
undor.' Xav c|utchod h|s chost, topp||ng ott h|s stoo|. 'l'||
novor rocovor trom such charactor assass|nat|on.'
Vr 3onod|ct appoarod |n tho doorway boh|nd h|s son.
'Xav, aro you m|sbohav|ng? l hopo you'ro not toas|ng
Xav sprang up ott tho t|oor, try|ng to |ook tho |njurod party.
|o ta||od. 'Wou|d l ovor?'
||s brothors snortod.
'OK, OK, maybo somot|mos. 3ut you shou|d'vo hoard
what sho sa|d to mo.'
Vr 3onod|ct shook h|s hoad w|th a sm||o. 'loth|ng you
d|dn't dosorvo.' |o camo torward to tako tho cottoo v|ctor
had pourod tor h|m. '|ow aro you, lhoon|x? |oo||ng bottor
attor your rost?'
'Yos, thanks,' l rop||od shy|y. lt was so strango soo|ng a
tathor w|th grown-up sons. 1ho ro|at|onsh|p was a d|tt|cu|t
ono tor mo to undorstand: ho was c|oar|y st||| an author|ty tor
a|| ot thom but |t was tomporod by attoct|on and rospoct. lt
you cou|d doscr|bo somoono as bo|ng tho oxact oppos|to
to tho 3oor |n tho way ho hand|od poop|o, you m|ght como
up w|th somoono ||ko Vr 3onod|ct.
'Yvos, why don't you and lhoon|x go out tor a tow hours
wh||o wo got to work on hor papors? Go and onjoy yourso|t.
Got to know oach othor.' Vr 3onod|ct gavo us a morry
sm||o. 'l'|| to|| tho contoronco poop|o not to oxpoct you
aga|n. |am||y omorgoncy.'
Yvos boundod up at that suggost|on. '1hat's a groat |doa.
1hanks tor hand||ng |t, 0ad.'
l s|ow|y graspod that Yvos moant to |oavo tho rost ot h|s
tam||y whon wo had so much undoc|dod, so many throats to
sort through. '3ut .'
'lo buts, lhoo.' Yvos pu||od mo ott my stoo|. 'l want you
to ro|ax and onjoy yourso|t tor onco.'
v|ctor dug |n h|s pockot and pu||od out a wh|to onvo|opo.
'|oro, tako thoso.'
Yvos ra|sod an oyobrow.
'|ront-row soats tor ¼lckoo-supposod to bo a groat
mus|ca|. l got thom tor myso|t and my . um . co||oaguo
trom 3cot|and Yard, but |ooks now ||ko l won't havo t|mo to
'Was that tho w|||owy brunotto dotoct|vo by any chanco?'
v|ctor shruggod. 'C`ost |o vlo.'
'l|tt|o brothor |s p|ay|ng havoc w|th our |ovo ||vos wh||o ho
sorts out h|s own,' comp|a|nod Xav w|th a good-naturod
chuck|o. 'G|ad l'm not tho on|y ono suttor|ng.'
Vr 3onod|ct took my vacatod stoo|. 'Whon you both moot
your sou|t|ndors, wo'|| jump through hoops tor you too.'
Xav strotchod. 'Groat. l|ko to soo Yvos do|ng tho hoops
tor mo. lay back b|g t|mo.'
Vr 3onod|ct b||nkod, as |t hoar|ng somoth|ng nono ot us
cou|d. 'l'd got go|ng, Yvos, |t l woro you. Your mothor |s
about to got up and l doubt sho'd |ot you oscapo w|thout
Yvos |acod h|s t|ngors through m|no. 'Vossago roco|vod.
3oo you |ator. 0on't wa|t up.'
'Ot courso wo w|||,' ca||od Vr 3onod|ct to our rotroat|ng
ln tho toyor ot tho 3hakospoaro 1owor, Yvos pausod to
chock tor d|roct|ons on h|s london A-Z. l tappod my toot,
|rr|tatod that tho 3onod|cts had doc|dod my tuturo thon
organ|zod my attornoon w|thout ask|ng mo. l was go|ng to
havo to do somoth|ng about that.
'You don't nood a map.' l pushod |t away. '1ust to|| mo
whoro you want to go.'
|o sm||od and tuckod |t back |n an |ns|do pockot. 'l
torgot, l'm w|th a |oca|.'
'Yoah, sort ot.' l z|ppod up a maroon hood|o l'd borrowod
trom 3ky. lt matchod Yvos's 1-sh|rt trom that t|rst day:
Wr|ckonr|dgo Wh|to Wator latt|ng on tho back. l cou|dn't
c|a|m l bo|ongod |n london ||ko ho so c|oar|y d|d |n h|s ||tt|o
town, but l know my way around. At |oast horo l wou|d bo |n
tho dr|v|ng soat.
|o scannod tho t|ckots. 'OK. lot's t|nd out how good you
aro: tho Apo||o 1hoatro?'
l'd p|ckod pockots around v|ctor|a 3tat|on on many a
n|ght whon tho thoatros woro turn|ng out. l wondor |t ho'd
g|von any thought to how l obta|nod my |oca| know|odgo.
'Wo shou|d go to v|ctor|a.'
|o oponod tho door tor mo to go t|rst and p|aytu||y bowod
|o oponod tho door tor mo to go t|rst and p|aytu||y bowod
mo through. 'l thought wo'd havo somoth|ng to oat t|rst |n
l|ccad|||y but l'm |n your hands.' 3omohow ho mado tho
commont vory t||rtat|ous.
'loa||y?' l pausod and w|gg|od my t|ngors. '0o you trust
|o took my wr|sts and prossod my t|ngors to h|s ||ps,
|augh|ng as ho jost|od mo around a cornor and out ot s|ght
ot tho ||tts. 'Oh yos.' ||s mouth gont|y brushod oach ono,
sond|ng sh|vors down my arms, ||nk|ng to my sp|no and
trom thoro to ovory norvo |n my body.
'Yvos .' |o was on|y touch|ng my t|ngort|ps and l was
mo|t|ng |nto a broath|oss hoap.
'|mm?' |o d|dn't broak ott h|s gont|o assau|t, h|s hum
rosonat|ng aga|nst my sons|t|zod sk|n. 1urn|ng ono hand
ovor, ho nuzz|od tho pa|m.
'3hou|d you bo . do|ng th|s?'
'0ot|n|to|y.' |o progrossod trom my hand, up my arm to
|ay a k|ss on my jaw. 'Can't k|ss you w|th a|| my brothors
around, so |t has to bo horo. l'vo boon dy|ng to touch you tor
hours now-|t was k||||ng mo.'
'1ouch mo?' Vy vo|co was an un|mpross|vo squoak.
'Uh-huh. You go round w|th th|s ||tt|o trown mark botwoon
your brows, d|d you know that?' ||s thumb brushod tho
spot. '3uro s|gn you'ro worry|ng about somoth|ng. l'vo boon
want|ng to k|ss |t away.'
l chokod. 'l|ko l havon't got stutt to worry about!'
'3ut not now. lot horo.' |o movod to moot my ||ps. 'You
havo a day ott trom worry|ng.'
W|th h|s mouth prossod to m|no, l cou|dn't th|nk ot
anyth|ng but tho sonsat|on ot bo|ng ho|d and carossod by
my sou|t|ndor. 1h|s gont|o boy w|th t|ro |n h|s hoart had
stormod my dotoncos and mado mo ta|| tor h|m so hard l
know tho |and|ng wou|d ||ko|y k||| mo. 3ut, oh tho doscont
was wondortu|. l d|dn't want to th|nk about what wou|d
happon whon wo mot roa||ty.
|ands cru|sod trom my shou|dor b|ados to my wa|st.
l pu||od away to rost my hoad on h|s chost. '1h|s |s
'Vy k|ss|ng that good, huh?'
Oops, aga|n l'd scratchod h|s cont|donco-and ho'd
boon do|ng so wo|| too. l'd boon th|nk|ng about bo|ng ho|d,
somoth|ng that hadn't boon part ot my ||to tor yoars. 'Ot
courso, your k|ss|ng |s amaz|ng.'
|o huttod |n my ha|r. '1o|| mo l'm tho bost k|ssor you
know and my bru|sod van|ty may rocovor.'
l rubbod h|s back conso||ng|y. 'You aro. You'ro tho on|y
boy l'vo k|ssod.'
'ls that so? Aro Eng||sh boys b||nd?' |o pu||od mo c|osor.
'l don't th|nk so. l just havon't mot any n|co onos and kopt
away trom tho bad onos. 1ho 3oor doosn't |ot boys got
noar mo-not onos ho doosn't approvo.'
'3o l cou|d bo torr|b|o at k|ss|ng and you'd novor know
'3o||ovo mo, l th|nk l wou|d. lt any k|ss mado mo too| th|s
way, thon |t wou|d bo out|awod.'
'You'ro r|ght. lot's broak tho ru|os thon.' |o t||tod my ch|n
to oxp|oro tho poss|b|||t|os.
||na||y, wo broko apart, arms |ooso around oach othor.
'3o aro wo gonna stand horo a|| day?' l askod h|s
'Yop.' ||s t|ngors wandorod through my ha|r, moss|ng |t
up so that tho toathorod onds wont ovory wh|ch way. '||no
by mo. Who wants to soo a bor|ng o|d award-w|nn|ng show,
lut |t ||ko that .
'Um . mo?' l'd novor boon |ns|do a thoatro. l cou|dn't
ho|p a thr||| ot ant|c|pat|on at tho |doa ot actua||y soo|ng a
|o groanod. 'Vo too. Como on thon. 3ut tako a ra|n
chock on that k|ss|ng th|ng.'
'la|n chock?' l smoothod my ha|r back |nto somo
somb|anco ot ordor.
'Amor|can spoak tor a do|ay, not a canco||at|on.'
l gr|nnod. 'OK. l'|| go w|th that.'
Caught up |n tho sw|r| ot c|ty ||to onco on tho tubo, wo got
ott at l|ccad|||y and jo|nod tho crowds surg|ng up tho
osca|ators and out on to tho c|rcus, w|th |ts |con|c statuo ot
Cup|d surroundod by bu||d|ngs dockod w|th t|ash|ng
advort|somonts. Yvos |ns|stod wo stop and pay our
rospocts to tho arrow-shoot|ng god, wa|k|ng around tho
p||nth unt|| wo stood d|roct|y |n tho ||no ot t|ro. W|th a w|nk at
mo, Yvos m|m|ckod bo|ng struck |n tho hoart.
'Go on: your turn.' |o wa|tod tor mo to copy h|m.
l |ookod norvous|y ovor my shou|dor, not so happy to bo
caught |n sont|monta| too||ng around. 'ls th|s, ||ko, a trad|t|on
||s oyos tw|nk|od. 'ls now.'
Ou|ck|y, l c|appod my hand to my chost. '3at|st|od?' l to|t
|o to|dod h|s arms. 'lopo.'
Wo woro attract|ng tho attont|on ot tho tour|sts on tho
stops. A Koroan coup|o had takon snaps ot Yvos
staggor|ng dramat|ca||y w|th a protond arrow wound. 1hoy
|ookod vory d|sappo|ntod by my toob|o portormanco.
'Can wo go now?'
'lot unt|| you do tho Cup|d-arrow th|ng propor|y.' |o
|oanod c|osor. 'Ono ot h|s arrows |s noth|ng to tho powor ot
bo|ng a sou|t|ndor.'
loa||z|ng that l had to do tho tu|| c|own rout|no to got
away trom horo, l wont tor ovor-act|ng, tak|ng tho bo|t,
sp|nn|ng, staggor|ng and co||aps|ng |nto Yvos's arms. 1ho
|o put h|s arm around my shou|dor. 'Awosomo. 3ottor
than m|no.' |o pausod. '3ha|| l do |t aga|n?'
l tuggod h|m away. 'lo, you n|tw|t. lot's got somoth|ng to
oat botoro tho show.'
'What's a n|tw|t?'
'look |n tho d|ct|onary and thoro's a p|cturo ot you.'
l sm|rkod, but pr|vato|y l wondorod |t ho had moant
anyth|ng by h|s too||ng w|th Cup|d's arrow. l know l had
ta||on tor h|m but l had no oxpoctat|ons that ho shou|d too|
anyth|ng so protound tor mo. |ow cou|d ho? l undorstood
that tho sou|-t|ndor bond m|ght mako tho phys|ca| part ot
our ro|at|onsh|p moro |ntonso than a norma| dato, but such
pro-programmod |nst|ncts d|d not oqua| |ovo. Vy worst toar
was that ho was just act|ng that ho ||kod mo bocauso ho
know wo woro stuck w|th oach othor and was too po||to to
hurt mo. l cou|dn't boar |t |t ho was tak|ng what ho to|t.
Vy so|t-torturo |astod through d|nnor and up to tho vory
door ot tho thoatro. l was p|oasod to soo that, though somo
poop|o had drossod up tor tho ovon|ng, Yvos and l woro
unromarkab|o |n our casua| c|othos, ovon |n tho most
oxpons|vo soats. 1ho ushor wavod us through, and thon
anothor mombor ot statt connod Yvos |nto tork|ng out a t|vor
tor a programmo tu|| ot advorts.
'1hoy shou|d bo pay|ng you to road that,' l wh|sporod as
wo sott|od |nto our soats.
|o rotra|nod trom commont|ng aga|n on my 3croogo-||ko
obsorvat|ons, rostr|ct|ng h|mso|t to a ro|| ot h|s oyos.
'3ut you can buy a |ot tor a t|vor.' l crossod my arms
dotons|vo|y, too||ng choap. l had an |mago ot myso|t as ono
ot thoso pr|zos k|ds got at hook-a-duck sta||s at ta|rs that
broak |n t|vo m|nutos, comparod to tho oxc|us|vo
handcrattod |toms around mo, so|d |n |am|oys' toy
dopartmont. A g|r| two soats a|ong had str|ppod ott a
dopartmont. A g|r| two soats a|ong had str|ppod ott a
|oathor coat to rovoa| a snug rod shoath dross and
gorgoous l|co|o |arh| shoos w|th |co-p|ck hoo|s. 3ho was
oyo|ng Yvos, t||ck|ng hor ha|r |n that 'como h|thor' gosturo
that l'd novor ovon attomptod and know l wou|d not pu|| ott |t
l d|d. l gavo hor a hard staro, on|y s||ght|y roassurod to soo
that Yvos hadn't not|cod, h|s attont|on on tho cast ||st. lt was
rathor |nsu|t|ng to know sho thought mo so un|mpross|vo as
not to havo cons|dorod mo any contost.
'l'vo road tho book, but can't |mag|no how thoy'ro go|ng
to adapt |t tor a mus|ca|,' Yvos sa|d to mo, t||ck|ng through
'What?' l draggod my oyos away trom tho compot|t|on.
0ot|n|to|y a d|amond-oncrustod 3arb|o typo.
'¼lckoo. lt's a roto|||ng ot 7bo ¼lzoro oí Oz trom tho
po|nt ot v|ow ot tho W|ckod W|tch ot tho Wost, a k|nd ot
proquo|.' And ot courso my gon|us wou|d havo road |t-as
wo|| as ovory othor |mportant book on tho p|anot, no doubt.
'Oh.' Evon w|th my dystunct|ona| ch||dhood l'd soon that
ono-0orothy, yo||ow br|ck road, and rod shoos. l'd ovon
road tho or|g|na| stor|os by l. |rank 3aum, thanks to my
||brary-haunt|ng hab|ts. 'ls thoro anothor s|do to to||?'
|o put h|s arm on tho back ot my cha|r and |ot |t s||do to
rost on my shou|dors. l tw|tchod an oyobrow wh|ch mado
h|m throw back h|s hoad and |augh. '3mooth movo, hoy?'
'l wou|dn't ca|| |t oxact|y smootb. 1ry obv|ous.' l twoakod
1h|s mado h|m |augh ovon |oudor. l cou|d soo 0|amond
0o|| trott|ng, probab|y wondor|ng why such a n|co guy was
hang|ng out w|th such a sharp-tonguod g|r|.
Yvos rutt|od my ha|r. '3assy-l ||ko that about you.'
Vy noxt v|nogar romark was cut short by tho d|mm|ng ot
tho ||ghts. Yvos squoozod my uppor arm gont|y and |oanod
ovor to wh|spor:
'1ust onjoy yourso|t. Evoryth|ng trom now on |s go|ng to
bo just t|no.'
1ho portormanco t|n|shod at ton, turn|ng us out on to tho
stroot as darknoss swa||owod up tho sky and un||t back
a||oys. Out on tho ma|n thoroughtaros, tho noon ||ghts kopt
n|ght at bay, bath|ng us a|| |n tho co|d sun||ght ot tho
commorc|a| twonty-tour-hour day. l cou|d hard|y bo||ovo how
qu|ck|y t|mo had passod. 1ho ra|nbow co|ours ot sconory
and costumos, mus|c trom a ||vo orchostra, actors just a
tow motros away trom mo: ovoryth|ng had boon broath-
tak|ng. l'd boon on tho odgo ot my soat tho who|o t|mo,
dr|nk|ng |n ovory nuanco ot tho portormanco. l'd wantod to
woop at tho |njust|co doa|t out to tho W|ckod W|tch, sho'd
novor roa||y had a chanco |n a wor|d whoro bo|ng p|nk
sk|nnod and b|ondo was tho standard ot boauty. Us skanks
d|dn't stand a chanco aga|nst d|amanto 3arb|os.
lood|ng to wa|k ott my tompor, l strodo down v|ctor|a
3troot towards tho |||um|natod towor ot 3|g 3on, l was st|||
buzz|ng w|th tho omot|on, want|ng to protost at tho |njust|co
ot ||to as tho w|tch had tr|od to do. Yvos had to jog to catch
up w|th mo, as l'd marchod ahoad whon ho'd stoppod to
oxchango a tow tr|ond|y words w|th tho ushor.
'lhoo, wa|t!' |o grabbod tho back ot my jackot. 'What's
wrong? l thought tho show was groat, d|dn't you?'
'Yoah, |t was tabu|ous. 3ut l'm roa||y, roa||y cross at how |t
|o huggod mo to h|s s|do. 'l|to's not ta|r, ovon |n
'l want to go and punch tho W|zard.'
Yvos b|t h|s ||p, humour|ng my angor on boha|t ot a
t|ct|ona| charactor. 'l know what you moan.'
'3o|ng groon and m|sundorstood |s somoth|ng l can
ro|ato to-not tho groon b|t.' l cou|d not-wou|d not-boar |t
|t Yvos |aughod at mo, and part ot mo was wo|| awaro that l
was bo|ng r|d|cu|ous. 'l moant bo|ng a m|st|t.'
|o noddod, mantu||y not mak|ng tun ot my sn|t. |o hadn't
caught on to tho tact that what l'd soon on stago had
ontw|nod w|th my so|t-doubts and toars ||ko |vy on a
crumb||ng wa||. lt ho pu||od at |t w|th any toas|ng, a|| m|ght
como down on h|m ||ko tho provorb|a| ton ot br|cks.
'3ho tr|od to do tho r|ght th|ng, but tho r|ght th|ng turnod
out to bo wrong,' l cont|nuod, now th|nk|ng ot my own
s|tuat|on whoro l'd tr|od to protoct somoono l |ovod and
draggod a who|o tam||y ot |nnocont strangors |nto dangor.
Yvos tuggod mo to a stop outs|do a cottoo bar. 'lhoo,
you soom roa||y st|rrod up tor somoono who |s supposod to
havo had a tun n|ght out at a mus|ca|. l don't th|nk you'ro
supposod to tako |t so sor|ous|y. |ow about somoth|ng to
ca|m you down? |ot choco|ato? 3ky says |t novor ta||s w|th
l shook h|m ott, suttocatod by h|s tuss|ng ovor mo, to|||ng
mo what to do. l d|d not want hot m||k and to bo tuckod |n
whon l cou|d baro|y stop myso|t scroam|ng and |obb|ng a
br|ck through a w|ndow. |ortunato|y tor Yvos, thoro was no
targot |n my v|ow-no 3oor or any ot tho 3avants l'd mot
tho n|ght botoro, or l wou|d'vo got us both arrostod. 'lo
thanks. l don't want to bo ca|mod down. l want .' Vy broath
was com|ng |n pa|ntu|, sha||ow bursts. 'l want to bo
Yvos ho|d up both hands and took a stop back, a ||on
tamor rotroat|ng trom tho sw|po ot a tract|ous w||d cat. 'OK,
OK. Can l oooorstooo you somowhoro |oss pub||c?'
'l don't caro what othor poop|o th|nk.'
'Vaybo not, but l'd roa||y ||ko to got ott tho stroot.'
Wo woro attract|ng cur|ous |ooks as n|ght rovo||ors
caught on to tho argumont |n progross-a ono-s|dod
dobato whoro l was throw|ng a|| tho angor and omot|on
aga|nst h|s ovon-tomporod accoptanco ||ko tho soa
attack|ng a harbour wa||. 1hat mado mo too| worso, ot
courso. Yvos just stood thoro |ott|ng mo sp|ash and spray
my tury a|| ovor h|m.
l sworo at h|m.
|o t||nchod but stood h|s ground. 'lhoo, p|oaso.'
l throw an arm out towards h|m. 'Why do you |ot mo do
that? l just sworo at you and |nstoad ot g|v|ng |t back ||ko a
norma| porson and to|||ng mo to stop bo|ng such a jork, you
stand thoro ||ko . ||ko lo|son Vando|a.'
|o ran a hand through h|s ha|r, contusod. 'You.you want
mo to arguo w|th you? l thought you wantod mo to
1ust at tho momont ho cou|dn't do anyth|ng r|ght. '1hat's
not undorstand|ng mo. 1hat's to|orat|ng mo. l|ty|ng mo. l
'O-K. Um . |ook, |ot's go and ta|k about th|s.'
l squoozod my hands |nto t|sts, tomptod to h|t out but
know|ng l roa||y wantod to pun|sh myso|t.
Yvos's phono rang. G|v|ng mo spaco, ho took |t out and
answorod. 'Yoah, |t's ovor. lt was . |t was good. 1hanks tor
tho t|ckots.' |o g|ancod ovor at mo. 'l th|nk sho ||kod |t,
maybo. Uh-huh. |o d|d? OK. Yoah, l'vo got tho mossago.
3oo you.' |o s||ppod tho mob||o back |nto h|s jackot
l to|dod my arms, try|ng to toar myso|t out ot my mood ||ko
somoono dotach|ng tho|r toot trom a pudd|o ot st|cky tar.
'Ono ot your brothors chock|ng up on us?' l askod coo||y.
'Er, yoah.' |o g|ancod ovor h|s shou|dor at tho cottoo
bar. 'l nood a dr|nk. Como w|th mo |t you ||ko.'
|o ontorod and jo|nod tho quouo at tho t|||, posturo sp|ky
and strossod. ||s now tact|c workod and l to|t ob||god to
to||ow h|m. Whoro o|so cou|d l go?
'What'|| you havo?' ho askod.
'0ocat somoth|ng.' l was w|rod onough as |t was w|thout
add|ng a shot ot catto|no to tho b|oodstroam.
|o ordorod two docat |attos and suggostod l go t|nd a
|o ordorod two docat |attos and suggostod l go t|nd a
booth. l s||d |nto ono noar tho back ot tho shop, a dark
cornor whoro l cou|d mopo. God, l was horr|b|o. |o'd tr|od
to g|vo mo a n|co ovon|ng and l was moss|ng |t up go|ng on
a chaot|c omot|ona| stampodo, t|atton|ng h|m |n pass|ng.
1ho bonch squoakod as ho sat. |o pushod tho ta|| g|ass
ovor to mo, a poaco ottor|ng.
'1hanks.' l ran my t|ngors up and down tho warm surtaco.
'l shou|d warn you, Zod saw you runn|ng ott. v|ck phonod
to to|| mo not to bo a jackass.'
'lt wasn't you.' l cou|dn't moot h|s oyos. 'l'm sorry. l t|ow ott
'1ho show's not roa|, you know.'
Whosh! Vy tompor t|arod aga|n at that spark. 'Ot courso l
know that! l'm not stup|d!'
'l w|sh wo'd soon Pbootom |nstoad,' ho sa|d p|a|nt|vo|y.
1urn |t down, lhoo, turn |t down. '3ut ovon though |t's a
tantasy, ¼lckoo |s truo to oxpor|onco-m|no at |oast. 3ost
|ntont|ons got scrowod up.' 1hon l |oapt toot t|rst |nto what
was roa||y bothor|ng mo. 'You havo to to|| mo, aro you go|ng
to botray your tam||y-tho 3avant lot? l can't stand not
||s hands t|oxod around h|s dr|nk, t|ngort|ps go|ng wh|to.
'You havo to trust mo.'
|o was st||| duck|ng a stra|ght answor. 'l can't bo||ovo
that you w|||-and so l'm wondor|ng what's go|ng to happon
tho day attor tomorrow. l won't hurt thom. You can't tako mo
back to that t|at.' l crump|od up a sachot ot sugar sp||||ng tho
brown sugar ovor tho tab|o. 'You can't do that to thom-or
'lt you can't trust mo, at |oast trust my tam||y to do what
thoy do bost.'
l k|ckod tho granu|os around w|th my |ndox t|ngor. 'And
'look attor oach othor-and us.'
|o st||| d|dn't got |t. '3ut that's tho|r sott spot. 1hoy don't
roa||zo you'vo brought a snako |nto tho nost. l don't want to
turn and b|to thom but that's what's gonna happon and you
know |t. You to|d tho 3oor you wou|d koop your barga|n but
you can't-you just can't. l won't |ot you botray thom.'
|o took a gu|p ot h|s dr|nk, contro|||ng h|s knoo-jork
rosponso to my cutt|ng and s|ash|ng at h|m. 'You don't roa||y
know, lhoo, what l can do-what my tam||y can do.'
l took a doop broath, roa||z|ng that l had just boon putt|ng
ott tho momont that l wou|d havo to |oavo h|m. lt l tru|y |ovod
h|m-and l now know l d|d-l had to mako tho cho|co tor
h|m. 'lo, l don't. 3ut l know what thoso mon can do |t thoy
got tho|r hooks |nto you. You th|nk you havo a satoty not-a
|ov|ng tam||y, your homo |n tho 3tatos-but thoy aro
ovorywhoro, your onom|os. 1hoy w||| tako ovoryth|ng away
trom you-str|p oach pota| ott tho t|owor. You aro wa|k|ng
|nto a trap.'
'W|th my oyos opon.'
'Opon-shut-|t doosn't mattor.' l s||d to tho ond ot tho
bonch. 'look, l know you th|nk you'vo got somo c|ovor way
out ot th|s, but you roa||y havon't. l'm pr|mod to hurt your
tam||y and thon go back-l'm tho woapon tho bad guys aro
us|ng aga|nst you. You'vo had a go at doc|d|ng my tuturo-
w|thout ask|ng mo, by tho way, don't th|nk l d|dn't not|co.'
|o |ookod a ||tt|o shamo-tacod as ho roa||zod l had a po|nt,
wh|ch gavo mo spaco to mako tho rost ot my spooch. 'l'vo
boon try|ng to |gnoro tho obv|ous. Vako a|| tho p|ans you
||ko but l can't stay w|th you. look at mo-l'm a th|ot, Yvos. l
ovon ||ko bo|ng ono.' l can soo that th|s shockod h|m. |o'd
boon porsuad|ng h|mso|t l was moro a v|ct|m than a
'3ut you novor kopt tho stutt-you d|d |t bocauso you had
'Yoah, yoah, you go on to|||ng yourso|t that, swootchooks.
l'm not a good porson. l ||ko |t bocauso |t's tho on|y damn
th|ng l'm good at. ln tho bad co|umn |s ovoryth|ng o|so,
|nc|ud|ng ro|at|onsh|ps.' l to|t somoth|ng crack |ns|do mo.
'Oh, what's tho po|nt? lt's boon . |t's boon |ovo|y moot|ng
you. l'd bottor got go|ng.'
l was out ot tho door by tho t|mo ho caught up w|th mo.
'lunn|ng aga|n? l thought wo'd boon thoro, dono that.'
||s tono was c||ppod. |urt.
'Yoah, wo||, maybo my t|rst roact|on was tho r|ght ono.' l
kopt wa|k|ng, hoad|ng up Wh|toha|| towards 1rata|gar
3quaro. |o was st||| to||ow|ng. 0odg|ng through tho crowds
m|ng||ng by tho tounta|ns, l crossod tho road by tho lat|ona|
Ga||ory and turnod |nto tho 3trand. l cou|d hoar h|m koop|ng
stop w|th my toot but ho d|dn't try to stop mo.
'lady, want to soo tho monu?' A wa|tor pa|d to hust|o
tour|sts |nto h|s rostaurant got |n my path.
l hunchod ovor. 'lo, thanks.' And stoamod on past. Yvos
cont|nuod to to||ow.
Whon l roachod tho 3trand, l tr|od to shako h|m by tak|ng
a random bus just as tho doors bogan to c|oso. |o shovod
h|s shou|dors |n tho gap and got on boh|nd.
'lood a t|ckot, |ovo?' askod tho dr|vor, tapp|ng h|s
'Yos, p|oaso.' l hadn't tho togg|ost |doa whoro tho bus
was hoad|ng. 'What's your noxt stop?'
|o gavo mo a tunny |ook. 'Embankmont.'
'Yoah, that'|| do.' l dug |n my pockot tor somo sparo
'lo nood. 3ho has a travo| card.' Yvos t|ashod tho
Undorground t|ckots wo'd bought oar||or that |nc|udod bus
tr|ps abovo ground.
1ho dr|vor doc|dod not to ask why l was |ook|ng daggors
at my ho|ptu| compan|on. |o shook h|s hoad and pu||od
away trom tho korb.
l s|umpod down on a soat noar tho roar door. Yvos sat |n
tho row boh|nd mo.
'1h|s |s stup|d,' l muttorod to no ono |n part|cu|ar.
'Yoah, |t |s. G|ad you roa||zo that.' Yvos strokod my
shou|dor but l got up, putt|ng myso|t out ot roach. 1ho bus
swung round onto tho Embankmont and l rang tho bo||. 1ho
doors h|ssod opon and l jumpod out, Yvos on|y a stop
boh|nd. loar|y shout|ng w|th trustrat|on, l took a su|c|da|
dash across tho busy road to roach tho wa|| ovor|ook|ng tho
1hamos. 1ho gran|to p|||ar ot C|oopatra's lood|o bos|do
mo, Wator|oo 3tat|on oppos|to, th|s was a busy strotch ot
tho r|vor, rostaurant boats churn|ng tho dark wators, g|ass
cab|ns ho|d|ng d|nnors ||ko transparont-sk|nnod crocod||os
sw|mm|ng past w|th tho|r |ast moa| |ns|do, rovo||ors
ob||v|ous to tho tact thoy'd boon swa||owod who|o.
l wont to tho vory odgo and hoppod up onto tho parapot.
'lhoo, what aro you do|ng?' Yvos was a|armod. ||na||y,
ho had tw|ggod l was sor|ous.
'l'm mak|ng a cho|co. lt you don't back ott, l'm go|ng
ovor.' l g|ancod ovor tho odgo: l had no |ntont|on ot k||||ng
myso|t but l'd not onjoy a d|p |n tho muddy wator bo|ow. 1ho
po|nt was to got h|m to |oavo mo a|ono.
'Got down trom thoro!'
'Whon you go.'
3woar|ng sott|y, Yvos |ookod away trom mo, thon throw
h|s hands up |n tho a|r. 'OK, you w|n. l'|| go. |avo a n|co
||to.'W|th that ho spun on h|s hoo|s and sta|kod away
towards tho tubo stat|on, d|sappoar|ng |ns|do.
Vy suddon v|ctory shockod mo. 1hat was |t? |o was
g|v|ng up so oas||y? lt was what l wantod-ot courso |t was
-but ho hadn't tr|od vory hard to porsuado mo to stay w|th
|oo||ng stup|d on tho parapot, l jumpod down and sat on
tho stops to tho lood|o, knoos hudd|od aga|nst my chost.
Why d|d w|nn|ng too| so much ||ko a dotoat?
1hundor rumb|od ovor 1owor 3r|dgo. 3torm c|ouds movod
|n and |t bogan to ra|n. lot a gont|o |ady||ko woop|ng but a
groat how| ot toars trom tho sky, cry|ng w|th no thought to
what you |ook ||ko, noso runn|ng, mouth opon |n an 'O' ot
m|sory. l know how that to|t. l was soakod |n a mattor ot
m|nutos, hood|o dr|pp|ng at tho s|oovos, wr|ng|ng wot at tho
shou|dors, wator work|ng |ts way through to my 1-sh|rt. l got
up, squo|ch|ng |n my shoos. Wrapp|ng my arms around
myso|t, l sh|vorod, oyos c|osod, bra|n too trozon to th|nk
what l shou|d do noxt.
Arms caught mo and huggod mo to a hot, wot chost.
'|ow can you ovon th|nk that l wou|d wa|k away?' ho sa|d
'Yvos.' 1ho ompt|noss suddon|y t|||od, protost bocamo a
shout ot happ|noss.
'l saw you s|tt|ng thoro-you roa||y thought l'd gono. You
d|dn't ovon trust mo onough to |ook tw|co, d|d you?' |o had
got up a good hoad ot stoam, tompor t|na||y oscap|ng. 'And
stand|ng on tho odgo ||ko that, throaton|ng to throw yourso|t
|n-l can't bo||ovo you sa|d that to mo!'
'l don't want to hoar |t. Evory t|mo you opon that mouth ot
'l don't want to hoar |t. Evory t|mo you opon that mouth ot
yours you say somoth|ng dumb that gots mo angry, so l'm
gonna stop you tho on|y way l know how.' ||s ||ps swoopod
down on m|no |n a hot, torcotu| k|ss, sp|cod w|th tury and
trustrat|on. ||rocrackors oxp|odod boh|nd my c|osod oyos,
spark|os |n tho p|t ot my stomach. l cou|d too| tho musc|os
ot h|s chost bunch|ng as ho sh|ttod to movo mo to a bottor
ang|o, h|s t|ngors s||pp|ng undor tho damp mator|a| ot my 1-
sh|rt to brush my wa|st. lospond|ng to th|s now s|do to h|m,
l shovod my hand undor tho t|ght bo|t around h|s joans to
touch tho sma|| ot h|s back, pa|m rost|ng aga|nst tho strong
notch at tho baso ot h|s sp|no. ||s sk|n was so warm, so
|o ra|sod h|s hoad to tako a broath. '0on't you daro say
wo don't bo|ong togothor,' ho warnod. 'Wo havo th|s-and
so much moro. l'm not |ott|ng you throw |t away.'
l|oaso don't |ot mo, my m|nd ochood. l prossod my oar
to h|s chost, sook|ng out tho comtort|ng rhythm ot h|s
'l prom|sod l'd hand|o th|s and you'vo got to |ot mo koop
my word. |or onco |n your ||to, roach out and ro|y on
somoono,' ho wh|sporod t|orco|y |nto my ha|r. 'l'vo got tho
|ntormat|on tho 3oor wants a|roady on a momory st|ck. Wo
aro go|ng to that moot|ng tho day attor tomorrow togothor.
Evon |t you run away now, wo both havo to bo thoro,
'lo ono w||| got hurt |t you just koop to my p|an. 1hat's
'3ut thoy'|| tako tho |ntormat|on and uso |t to unravo| your
notwork ot good guys.'
'You'ro th|nk|ng that tho 3avant lot doosn't havo |ts own
dotoncos. Wo'ro not nov|cos at th|s gamo, lhoo. Wo'vo
boon up aga|nst thoso guys tor a wh||o now.'
'3ut tho 3oor's try|ng to mako you |nto h|s sort. |o'|| got
you to unp|ck thoso protoct|ons.'
|o shruggod. 'Ono ot us wa|k|ng on tho dark s|do |s not
go|ng to br|ng tho lot down. lt's b|ggor than that.'
'3ut you aro tho ono l caro about.'
|o sh|vorod thon rubbod h|s pa|m up and down tho baro
sk|n ot my back, try|ng to d|stract mo trom tho tact that ho
wasn't go|ng to g|vo mo a stra|ght answor. 'You'ro soakod.'
'3o aro you.'
'lot's go homo.'
l d|dn't movo. 'lo ono w||| got hurt? |ow can you squaro
|o t|ppod my taco up to moot h|s oyos and w|pod tho
ra|n trom my chooks. 'Your sou|t|ndor |s a gon|us, d|dn't 3ky
to|| you? l can squaro c|rc|os |n my s|oop.'
l s|ghod. |o wasn't go|ng to rovoa| tho p|an to mo-
probab|y cou|dn't-how ho was go|ng to roconc||o
botray|ng h|s tam||y w|th what l know about h|s charactor.
|o had a tr|ck up h|s s|oovo, l had to havo ta|th that |t wou|d
bo c|ovor onough to got us both out ot th|s b|nd. Yot l
cou|dn't torgot what h|s own dad had sa|d: Yvos's doc|s|on
to st|ck w|th mo had turnod h|m |nto a throat. Evon gon|usos
cou|d got th|ngs wrong-|ook at E|nsto|n's untortunato
cho|co ot ha|rdrossor. 3ut what cou|d l do? l was strappod
|n th|s car tor tho r|do now. 'OK.'
|o qu|rkod an oyobrow. 'OK what?'
'lot's go homo.' l pu||od back to snoozo. 'Ou|ck|y. l'm
|o |ookod up tho stroot |nto tho stroam ot oncom|ng
tratt|c thon ra|sod h|s arm.
'lot anothor tax|!' l groanod as ono drow up at tho korb.
'Wo'vo got tubo t|ckots.'
Yvos ho|d out tho now soddon b|ts ot cardboard. 'Wo had
t|ckots. And |t you th|nk l'm go|ng on tho Undorground w|th
you |n wot c|othos so a|| tho drunks can |oor at you, thon
you'vo anothor th|ng com|ng.'
Oh. l crossod my arms. 'Good po|nt. 1ax|'s a groat |doa.'
Co|d, sh|vor|ng, but somohow purgod by tho stormy
oncountor on tho Embankmont, l hudd|od on tho back soat,
Yvos's arms |oopod around mo so l cou|d rost aga|nst h|s
chost. l was t|na||y bog|nn|ng to bo||ovo that ho wou|d novor
|ot mo go, ovon |t that moant wo both stumb|od |nto
1ho noxt morn|ng, Kar|a and 3ky |ns|stod on tak|ng mo
shopp|ng tor somo c|othos. Vy wot joans noodod a sp|n |n
tho mach|no and no|thor ot thom had trousors that wou|d t|t
mo, both bo|ng a coup|o ot |nchos shortor. l mado do w|th a
pa|r ot track|os borrowod trom 3ky-not my t|nost tash|on
hour as thoy ondod wo|| abovo my ank|os. On my
suggost|on, wo sot ott tor tho now ma|| noar 3t lau|'s, boys
not a||owod, to |ndu|go |n somo sor|ous rota|| thorapy. Yvos
had g|von mo a hundrod pounds to spond, say|ng l cou|d
pay h|m back ovontua||y but on|y through |oga| moans. |o
hadn't torgotton my adm|ss|on that l onjoyod my cratt and
was ov|dont|y st||| sot on rotorm|ng mo. l t|ngorod tho pouch
conta|n|ng tho cr|sp now notos |n my shou|dor bag,
marvo|||ng that l was ho|d|ng so much and cou|d spond |t on
0|v|ng |nto tho shopp|ng contro, wo soon tound a
bout|quo wo a|| ||kod. l scannod tho choapor racks ot joans,
hop|ng to t|nd somoth|ng to t|t. l wou|d novor havo thought to
ask but as soon as Yvos's mothor saw l tavourod a corta|n
pa|r, sho domandod to soo moro s|zos |n tho 'pants' l'd
p|ckod out. 1h|s mado 3ky and mo g|gg|o-ch||d|sh l know,
but 3ky know oxact|y whoro l was com|ng trom, hav|ng
suttorod |n tho 3tatos tor hor 3r|t|sh Eng||sh. 1ho r|ght s|zo
tound |n tho stock room, 3ky grabbod a b|ouso trom a rack
to koop mo company |n tho chang|ng room.
l wr|gg|od |nto tho groy joans thon stoppod out to |ook |n
tho b|g m|rror |n tho corr|dor. 'What do you th|nk?'
3ky was adm|r|ng hor b|ouso. '1h|s was an |mpu|so, but l
th|nk l m|ght got |t.'
lt su|tod hor-a br|ght turquo|so that mado hor oyos
sh|no. 'Go tor |t.'
3ho survoyod my so|oct|on. '1hoy |ook groat. You'ro
roa||y s||m and thoy show your |ogs ott.'
l tw|stod round and road tho tag. 'You know, l'vo novor
bought a pa|r botoro.'
3ky bogan unbutton|ng tho top. 'lovor had groy joans?
1hoy aro so usotu|-go w|th a|most anyth|ng. l'vo somo
'lo, l moan, novor bought anyth|ng trom a shop.'
1hat stoppod hor |n hor tracks. 'What, novor?'
'Whon you don't havo any ot your own monoy and can
troozo tho statt so thoy don't not|co you wa|k|ng out, what
o|so can you do?' l d|sappoarod back |nto my cub|c|o and
unbuttonod tho joans to tug thom ott. 1hrough tho gap |n tho
curta|n l cou|d soo 3ky's shockod oxpross|on |n tho m|rror.
'l cou|d hard|y go round nakod.'
'3ut .' 3ky shook hor hoad.
'Yoah, l know |t |sn't ta|r on a|| tho othor customors.
3hop||ttors ||ko mo aro tho drogs. log|ca||y, l know that |t's
so|t|sh, that ovoryono o|so pays, but |t novor too|s ||ko that.
1ho rush |s too add|ct|vo.' l was tru|y shock|ng hor now.
lorhaps thoro was a th|ng as too much truthtu|noss whon
you aro try|ng to mako a tr|ond.
'l hopo you novor havo to stoa| aga|n. l'm sorry, lhoo, but
|t sucks as a way ot ||to.'
'Yoah, but |t's a|| l havo.'
'loo, you moan.' 3ky sm||od. 'l don't th|nk you'|| nood to
worry about monoy attor th|s.'
l stoppod back |nto my borrowod track|os and camo out
w|th tho joans drapod ovor my arm. 'Ot courso l'|| worry
about monoy. l'vo got noth|ng and l don't |ntond to ||vo ott
3ho |ookod at mo through hor oyo|ashos as sho bont
ovor to |aco hor tra|nors. 'You don't know thon?'
'Obv|ous|y not.' l ran my hands through my ha|r, try|ng to
got |t to |ook ha|tway docont.
'Yvos |s obscono|y r|ch.'
'You moan tho 3onod|cts aro?'
3ho shook hor hoad. 'lo, just Yvos.'
3ky ro-hung tho b|ouso. 'You'vo tw|ggod that ho's
'Yoah. |ard to m|ss.'
'|o |nvontod th|s socur|ty app tor tho |lhono-camo out
ot tho work ho was do|ng tor tho lot. 1ho App|o poop|o
bought |t-|t's qu|rky and makos protoct|ng |ntormat|on tun
-so now ho's got a b|g nost ogg tor co||ogo and ho's
bocomo th|s k|nd ot |ntorma| consu|tant tor thom. |o
wantod to sharo tho monoy w|th tho rost ot tho tam||y, but
thoy a|| to|d h|m to got |ost. 3o |t's h|s. |o hatos |t. l toaso
h|m that ho sponds monoy ||ko a dog shak|ng ott wator attor
a d|p |n a pond.' 3ho m|mod a shuddor. '3rr, thoro goos
anothor hundrod bucks!'
'l|co prob|om to havo.'
3ho sm||od. 'l know. l oxpoct ho's ro||ovod to havo
somoono to sharo |t w|th. lroparo to bo showorod |n
do||ars. |opo |t makos you too| |oss gu||ty about buy|ng a
pa|r ot joans on h|s tab.'
l c||ppod tho trousors back on to tho hangor. 'l'm go|ng to
pay h|m back. l'm not a . you know . go|d d|ggor or
whatovor tho torm |s.'
'Wo novor thought you woro.'
At that po|nt, Kar|a burst |nto tho chang|ng room w|th a
hoap ot c|othos to|dod ovor hor arm.
'0ar||ngs, l havo somoth|ng tor you. l cou|dn't ros|st!'
1o my surpr|so, 3ky pa|od. 'Oh no,' sho mouthod at mo.
1o my surpr|so, 3ky pa|od. 'Oh no,' sho mouthod at mo.
'Vy Yvos w||| buy you tho joans, but l w||| troat you oach to
a protty dross.' 3ho c|aspod hor hands to hor chost. 'l havo
novor had daughtors-you aro my g|r|s.'
'Um . thanks,' l muttorod, too||ng ombarrassod at hor
onthus|asm to swoop us to hor matorna| bosom.
3ho pattod my chook. 'Attor sovon boys, you aro do|ng
mo tho tavour. lut thom on-put thom on!'
l now tocusod on tho c|othos sho had hau|od |n w|th hor.
3ky sm||od swoot|y at Kar|a. 'Why don't you wa|t outs|do
wh||o wo chango so wo can surpr|so you w|th tho tu||
Kar|a |ookod doubttu|.
'And porhaps you cou|d t|nd somoth|ng tor yourso|t?' 3ky
Kar|a's taco br|ghtonod. 'You'ro r|ght! l sha|| soo |t thoy
havo ono |n groon.' 3ho wh|r|od out w|th a wh|sk ot curta|n,
tak|ng hor daunt|oss onorgy back to tho shop t|oor.
'Oh my word,' groanod 3ky, 'what's sho choson th|s
t|mo?' 3ho to|| on tho c|oth|ng and ho|d up a p|nk rutt|od
dross. 'Yours or m|no, do you th|nk?' 3ho gavo a hystor|ca|
gu|p ot |aughtor.
'Who . what?' l scratchod my hoad, wondor|ng how
Kar|a had managod to t|nd somoth|ng qu|to so ghast|y. lt
|ookod ||ko tho cross botwoon a br|dosma|d's outt|t and tho
k|nd ot th|ng you wou|d woar tor a party. Whon you woro
t|vo. '0o you th|nk |t's moant to bo |ron|c?'
3ky trownod. 'ln th|s bout|quo? Yoah. Accossor|zod w|th
Uggs |t m|ght work. 3ut not on mo. Kato Voss m|ght got
away w|th |t but l'd |ook just swoot and about o|ght. lot mo
to|| you, though, as tar as Kar|a |s concornod, thoro's
noth|ng |ron|c about th|s. 3ho wants ovory g|r| to dross ||ko
a 0|snoy pr|ncoss. l on|y usua||y go shopp|ng w|th hor whon
l havo my mum a|ong tor protoct|on. 3ho's good at hoad|ng
Kar|a ott trom hor worst p|cks.'
l g|ngor|y shook out tho powdor b|uo vors|on ot tho samo
dross. '3o what do wo do?'
3ky stoppod back boh|nd tho curta|n and bogan to
chango |nto tho p|nk, know|ng trom my oxpross|on that l
wou|dn't ovon cons|dor that shado. 'Wo||, wo can o|thor
ottond somoono who on|y wants to p|oaso us, or wo can
suck |t up and suttor.'
los|gnod, l str|ppod ott my top. 'l'm good at that.'
lost |n tho sk|rt, 3ky bogan to g|gg|o. 'Actua||y, lhoo, l'vo
just had a tabu|ous |doa. lot's koop thoso on and try thom
out on our boys-soo how thoy roact. lt'|| put thom |n a roa||y
t|ght spot-us |n c|othos so|octod by tho|r mothor. 1hoy aro
just gonna d|o try|ng not to ottond anyono.'
'Aro you suro?'
'Yoah, l'm suro.'
Wo had just dono up oach othor's backs whon Kar|a
roturnod, hor arms ompty th|s t|mo. 3ho c|appod hor hands
to hor mouth.
'Oh my gosh, don't you both |ook protty!'
Wo |ookod ||ko rojocts trom tho aud|t|ons tor 7bo 5oooo
'l w||| havo to buy thom-thoy aro moant to bo yours!'
Kar|a wavod hor crod|t card around ||ko a wand. 'What a
shamo thoy d|dn't havo ono |n groon tor mo. 3ut thon, |t |s a
young g|r|'s sty|o. l wou|d'vo |ookod too||sh.'
And wo d|dn't?
'Kar|a, lhoo was just ask|ng |t wo cou|d koop thom on,
soo|ng how my track|os don't t|t hor anyway.' 3ky o|bowod
mo as l oponod my mouth to protost.
'Ot courso! 1ust g|vo mo tho tabs and tho now pants and l
w||| pay tor ovoryth|ng. Wo'|| havo to got you shoos to match
tho drossos botoro wo go homo.'
3ho was gono botoro l cou|d pass ovor tho monoy Yvos
had g|von mo.
had g|von mo.
3ky bogan to|d|ng up hor o|d c|othos. '1hank goodnoss
a|| my o|d tr|onds ||vo ovor |n wost london.'
'lsn't th|s a b|t ot an oxpons|vo joko?' l tuggod tho
swoothoart nock||no stra|ght.
3ky sm||od. 'lo. Wo woro not go|ng to got out ot horo
w|thout somo quost|onab|o dross or othor, th|s way wo can
havo tun w|th |t. 3os|dos,' sho squ|ntod at mo, 'tho 0|snoy
pr|ncoss |ook roa||y su|ts you.'
l throw tho track|os at hor hoad.
As wo approachod tho t|at, 3ky ho|d mo back and c|osod
hor oyos. '1ust propar|ng tho way,' sho oxp|a|nod. 'l want to
got Zod and Yvos on tho|r own.'
Kar|a sa||od |nto tho k|tchon, bostow|ng k|ssos on tho
o|dor 3onod|cts gathorod thoro, roga||ng thom w|th ta|os ot
our shopp|ng advonturos. 3ky's to|opath|c mossago had
sont Zod and Yvos |nto tho ||v|ng room. l cou|d soo thom |n
tho rot|oct|on trom tho w|ndow oppos|to tho door, both
stand|ng by tho sota wondor|ng what wo wantod.
3ky gr|nnod at mo and grabbod my wr|st. 'l|ay |t sor|ous.
1hat makos |t hardor tor thom,' sho wh|sporod.
1hon wo woro |n tho room.
'||, dar||ng. Wo'vo had such an awosomo t|mo shopp|ng
w|th your mothor.' 3ky droppod my hand and brushod a
k|ss on Zod's jaw. 3ho ho|d out hor arms and spun. 'What
do you th|nk?'
l sm||od shy|y at Yvos. 'Your mum |ns|stod sho bought
thom tor us. lt's my t|rst dross.'
Oooo ooo. 3ky's vo|co d|ppod ||ght|y |nto my hoad-not
an |nvas|on but a wo|como v|s|tor. Rob lt lo.
l trownod and |ookod down at tho sh|ny mator|a|. 'l wasn't
suro, but l thought |t k|nd ot su|tod mo. W|th tho r|ght shoos
and ovoryth|ng.' l d|sp|ayod tho now b|uo pumps. 'l wantod
to |ook, you know, protty.'
Yvos gapod. l to|t a ||tt|o b|t sorry tor h|m. 'Um . lhoo, l
Yvos gapod. l to|t a ||tt|o b|t sorry tor h|m. 'Um . lhoo, l
don't know what to say.'
l |ot my br|ght oxpross|on d|m. 'You . you th|nk l |ook
horr|b|o |n |t?' Vy vo|co roso |n a conv|nc|ng squoak ot
|o put h|s hands on my shou|dors. 'lo, you |ook groat.
You a|ways |ook groat, no mattor what you'ro woar|ng.'
Zod |aughod. 'Ouch. Wrong th|ng to say.'
'You moan that l don't |ook any d|ttoront to norma| |n
th|s?' l askod w|th a puzz|od trown.
'Yos, l moan, no, th|s |s |ovo|y on you. Ot courso |t |s.'
Yvos g|arod at h|s brothor who was crack|ng up at h|s
attompts to bo po||to. l qu|ck|y scannod Yvos's monta|
pattorn soo|ng a trant|c wh|r| ot thoughts as ho strugg|od to
t|nd tho r|ght th|ng to say. |o thought tho dross portoct|y
3ky turnod tho attont|on back to hor. '3o, Zod, |sn't th|s a
'Corta|n|y a k|||or, baby,' ho rop||od w|th mock
'Good, bocauso l'vo bought anothor t|vo just ||ko |t.'
|o p|ckod hor up and spun hor round. 'You horr|b|o,
toas|ng ta|ry. lt you roa||y havo moro ot thoso tash|on
d|sastors |n your bags, l'm gonna hang you on top ot tho
tam||y Chr|stmas troo |n 0ocombor.'
3ho wr|nk|od hor noso, toot st||| suspondod trom tho t|oor.
'You woron't too|od?'
|o k|ssod hor trown. 'lot tor a socond. l know my
mothor. l know you. lhoo, l w||| g|vo tho bonot|t ot tho
Yvos |ookod t|ummoxod. 'What's go|ng on?'
'1ho g|r|s aro pu|||ng your |og, bro. Got usod to |t.'
'You moan, th|s |s a joko?' |o s|ghod w|th ro||ot. '1hank
goodnoss tor that.' |o bont h|s hoad c|oso to m|no. 'You
|ook ||ko you shou|d bo on a b|scu|t t|n w|th a paraso|.'
l curts|od. '1hank you, k|nd s|r.'
Xav choso that momont to wandor |nto tho room. 3oo|ng
3ky and mo |n h|s brothors' arms, h|s taco was str|ckon tor
a socond, thon ho sm||od, rocovor|ng h|s usua| good
'You both |ook butt-ug|y,' ho sa|d ||ght|y, back|ng out.
'3orry tor |ntorrupt|ng.'
3ky pushod away trom Zod. 'Xav, don't go bocauso ot
us. Wo woro just too||ng around.'
'1hat's t|no. Carry on too||ng.' |o wont back |nto tho
k|tchon and shut tho door.
'0amn,' sho muttorod.
Zod strokod hor arm. '|o'|| bo t|no. Yvos, how's tho
3avant |ocator com|ng a|ong? Wo'vo t|vo brothors st||| to
'Work|ng on |t.' Yvos ro|oasod mo. 'A|most got tho
programmo wr|tton. 1o|| mo you'vo got somoth|ng o|so to
l noddod. 'Yoah. 3o r|ght back.'
'larrow oscapo, brothor m|no, narrow oscapo,' l hoard
Zod muttor to Yvos as l |ott.
W|th a d|scroot knock on tho door an hour |ator, Vr
3onod|ct appoarod at tho throsho|d ot my borrowod
bodroom. Attor a docadont |ong, hot showor, l was busy
pa|nt|ng my toona||s w|th 3ky's ho|p. 3ho |ns|stod wo d|d
oach ono a d|ttoront co|our, just tor tho tun ot |t. Wo woro
surroundod by our purchasos, wh|ch sp|||od haphazard|y
trom tho bags ||ko prosonts at a todd|or's party.
'Am l |ntorrupt|ng?' ho askod po||to|y. l sonsod that th|s
k|nd ot bohav|our was not roa||y h|s dopartmont, hav|ng
'lot at a||. A|most dry.' l to|t a ||tt|o wo|rd bo|ng caught
w|th my ra|nbow toos o|ovatod and ho c|oar|y to|t
uncomtortab|o |ntorrupt|ng g|r|-t|mo.
|o backod away. 'Como |nto tho k|tchon whon you'ro
'3ounds sor|ous.' 3ky s|ottod tho varn|sh bott|os back |n
hor mako-up bag. 'l'd bottor como w|th you tor mora|
|oo||ng comtortod to havo hor at my s|do, l wont |nto tho
k|tchon. Yvos, Vr 3onod|ct, and v|ctor woro gathorod
around a |aptop.
'|oy, lhoo, OK?' Yvos askod. |o'd had a showor too
'|oy, lhoo, OK?' Yvos askod. |o'd had a showor too
trom tho |ook ot h|s wot, sp|ky ha|r.
'|mm,' l rop||od, not comm|tt|ng myso|t to an answor unt||
l tound out what th|s was a|| about.
v|ctor |ookod up, took |n tho mu|t|co|ourod na||s, and
crackod a sm||o. '3oo 3ky's |nt|uonc|ng you a|roady, huh?'
l wr|gg|od my toos. 'Um . yos.'
'0on't |ook so scarod, swoothoart.' W|th a warm sm||o,
Vr 3onod|ct bockonod mo to como c|osor. ||s casua| uso
ot tho ondoarmont mado mo too| strango|y omot|ona|. |o
know l'd mado h|s son |nto a r|sk tactor to tho tam||y
happ|noss, yot st||| ho wo|comod mo.
'Wo||, you a|| sound so sor|ous, what do you oxpoct hor to
th|nk?' 3ky s||d round mo to tako a g|anco at tho computor
scroon. 'Oh, l soo.'
'What's up?' l tr|od to str|ko a caro|oss poso |oan|ng on
tho countor but l was ant|c|pat|ng bo|ng chuckod out at any
momont. |ad thoy d|scovorod who my tathor was? Vaybo
that was why thoy woro act|ng so d|stant? Yvos hadn't ovon
|ookod at mo propor|y.
'l th|nk wo'vo tound you |n tho nat|ona| rocords,' v|ctor
oxp|a|nod. '3oo tor yourso|t.'
Oh God, l was r|ght. l torcod myso|t to cross tho d|stanco
to tho scroon whoro v|ctor had tho |ntormat|on d|sp|ayod, a
copy ot a tu|| b|rth cort|t|cato. Vy mothor's namo was c|oar|y
||stod and tho dato and p|aco ot my b|rth-2 1u|y |n a
hosp|ta| |n lowcast|o. ln tho tathor's s|ot, tho rog|strar had
wr|tton 'not known'.
Yvos put h|s arm around mo. 'l'm sorry. l w|sh wo'd boon
ab|o to t|nd out moro tor you.'
lo||ot swopt through mo ||ko a ga|o |n an autumn wood,
toars t|y|ng botoro tho w|nd. l had a ropr|ovo. 1hoy woro
worr|od l wou|d bo upsot not to havo a tathor whon tho
oppos|to was truo. Vy socrot was st||| sato. 'lot |mportant.
v|ctor gavo mo a ponotrat|ng |ook, l th|nk ho know l was
h|d|ng somoth|ng. 'l wou|dn't say |t's un|mportant. You
shou|d bo ab|o to traco your mothor's tam||y trom th|s. Wo
havo hor dato ot b|rth now. You m|ght havo grandparonts,
aunts and unc|os-you novor know.' |o c||ckod pr|nt.
'Yos, truo.' lot that l to|t ||ko to||ow|ng that up just at tho
momont. l was |ndu|g|ng |n a pr|vato co|obrat|on that l was
'On tho pos|t|vo s|do, |t makos |t oas|or to got you out ot
tho country as thoro's no known tam||y to |ntortoro. l'|| ta|k
w|th my contacts |n tho |omo Ott|co, ca|| |n somo tavours,
and soo |t wo can got you a passport on tho strongth ot th|s.
You aro a|most ot ago so thoy shou|dn't bo too worr|od. l'||
nood a photograph.'
'3uro. l th|nk thoro's a p|aco |n l|vorpoo| 3troot whoro
you can got thoso dono.' l tr|od to str|ko a bus|noss||ko
tono, push|ng tho mossy k|nsh|p stutt boh|nd mo.
'3ost tako hor now,' v|ctor to|d Yvos, t|||ng tho copy |n h|s
computor caso. 'Whon th|ngs got sortod out horo, wo'|| not
want to hang around |n london tor |ong.'
lt wou|d bo n|co to bo askod |t l was |ntond|ng to go w|th
thom. 3t|||, that rom|ndod mo. l pausod |n tho door. '3y tho
way, tho bad guys havo Yvos's passport dota||s-l saw a
copy ot tho pago w|th tho photo-that's how l was ab|o to
|dont|ty h|m tho t|rst day. l don't know how thoy got ho|d ot |t.
lo ono sa|d.'
'loa||y?' 1hat caught v|ctor's |ntorost. '1horo must bo
ono ot tho|rs work|ng |n tho systom. l wondor |t that moans
thoy know how many ot us aro horo now? Wo woro hop|ng
thoy had not roa||zod wo'd sont tor ro|ntorcomonts.'
'lt cou|d'vo como trom tho 3tatos-tho copy ot tho
passport, l moan.' l prossod my t|ngors to my torohoad,
pa|n start|ng boh|nd my |ott oyo. 'l saw somoono trom low
York who know about you.' l tr|od to too| my bra|n that l
wasn't broak|ng any ru|os, on|y roport|ng what l'd soon, not
what l'd hoard. '1horo woro othors-Voscow, 3o|j|ng,
3ydnoy.' 1ho 3oor's rota||at|on mado my hoad hurt but l
had to to|| tho 3onod|cts as much as l cou|d. l cou|dn't boar
tor thom to bo unproparod. lt wasn't just tho 3oor thoy had
to worry about. '1hoy woro togothor tor a k|nd ot summ|t
moot|ng l th|nk.'
'lhoo, shut up.' Yvos took a t|ssuo and w|pod my taco.
'You'ro gott|ng a nosob|ood.'
v|ctor shot mo a concornod |ook. 'l approc|ato what
you'ro to|||ng us, lhoo, but wo a|roady know thoro's a group
ot roguo 3avants |n london at tho momont. 1hat's why wo
'l soo.' 1hat changod th|ngs. l had tho suddon |mago ot
myso|t ta|||ng botwoon a wator tax| and tho 1hamos wa||,
caught |n tho surgo botwoon two |mp|acab|o torcos. 1ho
3avants woro wo|| awaro ot tho ox|stonco ot tho othor
group, l was tho on|y ono stup|d onough not to roa||zo that
and was gott|ng squoozod |n tho m|dd|o.
Yvos stoorod mo to a cha|r so l cou|d put my hoad down.
'0on't to|| hor anyth|ng o|so, v|ck. lt's not do|ng o|thor ot us
l wasn't so suro about that. 3o|ng |n tho dark wou|d |oad
to mo mak|ng m|stakos, ||ko putt|ng myso|t through a
m|gra|no and nosob|ood to to|| thom somoth|ng thoy
v|ck squoozod my shou|dor as ho passod. 'l th|nk wo can
g|vo tho photos a m|ss tor today. You shou|d rost.'
1ho b|ood had stoppod as soon as l'd g|von up sp||||ng
tho 3oor's socrots. 'lt's OK. l'|| bo t|no |n a momont.'
'l agroo w|th v|ctor.' Vr 3onod|ct spoko as |t |ay|ng down
tho |aw, a k|nd|y mag|strato pros|d|ng ovor tho tam||y. 'Wo
havo on|y just tound you, lhoon|x, and, trom what l
undorstand trom Xav, wo nood to |ook attor you. 1ho rost ot
tho day on tho sota watch|ng 0v0s |s what l rocommond.
l'm suro Yvos w||| happ||y wa|t on you hand and toot.' |rom
h|s words, l suspoctod thoy wantod mo kopt wo|| out ot
harm's way. lt can't havo oscapod tho|r not|co that ovory
t|mo l |ott l tr|od to mako a run tor |t.
l sat up, hoad sp|nn|ng, but doc|dod to p|ay a|ong.
'3ounds tabu|ous. l don't th|nk l'vo ovor had a day ott.'
'1hon tako |t oasy. l'|| soo you both |ator.' Vr 3onod|ct
pausod to k|ss 3ky goodbyo, a casua| tathor|y gosturo. |o
hos|tatod thon d|d tho samo tor mo. 'l'|| sond Zod back
whon Xav takos ovor trom h|m.'
l |oant aga|nst Yvos. 'Whoro |s ovoryono go|ng?'
|o shruggod. 'l th|nk wo'd bost not ask.'
|o was r|ght. 1ho 3onod|cts had sp||t |nto toams, oach
doa||ng w|th tho d|ttoront jobs to bo dono, ono ot wh|ch was
mak|ng mo 'ott|c|a|'. l d|dn't want to guoss what tho othors
woro do|ng. '3o, what sha|| wo watch?'
Yvos p|ckod mo up, |gnor|ng my squoa|s and 3ky's
|aughtor, and dopos|tod mo on tho sottoo |n tho ||v|ng room.
'lot 7bo ¼lzoro oí Oz, p|oaso. l can't rov|s|t tho trauma ot
argu|ng about tho r|ghts ot groon-sk|nnod w|tchos.'
l a|most sm||od, but l st||| to|t too tondor about |ast n|ght to
havo tho nocossary d|stanco to t|nd my bohav|our tunny. l
had boon so omot|ona||y ovorwrought l was ombarrassod
3ky camo |n and droppod a 0v0 |nto my |ap. '1horo you
go. 7oo 7blogs l loto Aboot Yoo, a c|ass|c-and Yvos?'
|o rotr|ovod tho caso, thon crouchod by tho mach|no to
put tho d|sk |n tho s|ot. 'Yop?'
'You w||| not spo|| our onjoymont by doconstruct|ng th|s
t||m w|th your c|ovor commonts on tho h|story ot
'Aw, 3ky, wou|d l?'
'Yos, you wou|d. lo|thor w||| you to|| us how tho p|ot
rosomb|os 7omlog oí tbo 5brow |n ovory aspoct, scr|pt,
charactor|zat|on otc., otc., capp|ng |t a|| w|th a rov|ow ot a||
othor t||ms basod on 3hakospoaro p|ays.'
'3o you don't want to hoar my ana|ys|s ot lom|ot and
7bo Lloo Klog?'
3ky to|dod hor arms. 'lopo.'
Yvos gavo a put-upon s|gh. 'Yos, boss.'
'You w|||, howovor, mako us m|crowavo popcorn.'
Yvos stood up and sa|utod. |o thon |oanod ovor mo to
wh|spor: '3ho's sma|| but dangorous-just thought you
shou|d know |t you'ro go|ng to bo tr|onds.'
'Wo oro tr|onds,' 3ky sa|d t|rm|y. 'And you aro stand|ng |n
tho way ot tho scroon.'
'Yos, ma'am.' Yvos scootod ott |nto tho k|tchon.
'You t|t |n wo|| w|th thom,' l commontod, putt|ng my toot up
and pu|||ng a rug ovor my |ogs.
3ky snortod. 'lot so wo|| at t|rst. |ad thom ho|d|ng mo ott
l d|dn't bo||ovo hor. '3t|||, you'ro ||ko tam||y. Yvos th|nks ot
you as a s|stor.'
|or b|uo oyos took on a sor|ous oxpross|on. '1hoy oro
my tam||y, lhoo. And now you aro too. lt'|| tako a wh||o, but
wo'|| a|| adjust.'
3ho twoakod tho b|ankot ovor my toos. 'lt thoro's ono
th|ng l |oarnod, |t |s that b|ood tam|||os can somot|mos bo
tho p|ts, |t's tho ono you mako tor yourso|t that roa||y g|vos
you a homo and poop|o to |ovo.' 1ust botoro l cou|d
commont on that, sho throw hor hoad back and |aughod at
horso|t, strotch|ng hor arms up. '1ust ||ston to mo: so w|so,
so young! l'|| shut up. lross p|ay and proparo to havo tun.'
1ho day wont so qu|ck|y attor that. l cottonod on to tho
tact that Yvos and 3ky woro babys|tt|ng mo as othor
mombors ot tho tam||y camo and wont. Wo saw Zod tor a
strotch |ato attornoon. |o spont |t p|ay|ng cards w|th Yvos,
wh||o 3ky and l watchod a woopy c|ass|c. 1hoy occup|od
ha|t tho gamo argu|ng, Yvos c|a|m|ng Zod was choat|ng by
us|ng h|s tuturo sonso, Zod c|a|m|ng |t was on|y ta|r whon
h|s brothor had a 'tr|ck|ng awosomo' computor tor a bra|n. lt
was unc|oar who won |n tho ond-l th|nk no ono bocauso
thoy ondod up wrost||ng on tho t|oor w|th tho cards t|y|ng
ovorywhoro. l was worr|od thoy woro go|ng to hurt oach
othor, but 3ky just |aughod and to|d thom to koop tho no|so
Yvos camo to mo attor tho t|ght-hot and rump|od.
'Aro you hurt?' l askod.
|o squoozod h|mso|t botwoon mo and tho arm ot tho
sota so l ondod up ha|t s|tt|ng on h|m. 'lo. 3ut Zod |s-ho's
Zod throw a cush|on at h|m, wh|ch Yvos k|||od ott w|th a
coo| to|ok|not|c countor movo. lt to|| trom tho a|r ||ko a shot
'low, now, boys, p|ay n|co|y,' 3ky mock-sco|dod. 'lhoo,
you |ook, wo||, sho||-shockod.'
'ls th|s how tam|||os bohavo?' l askod hor.
'Ou|to a |ot ot thom,' sho cont|rmod. '3orry.'
'lo, no, l |ovo |t.'
'lovo tho tact that my b|g brothor horo just boat tho ho||
out ot mo?' Zod ||mpod to tho armcha|r. '|o's a bu||y.'
1h|s protost was h|gh|y suspoct trom a boy who |ookod
as though ho cou|d bonch-pross tho wo|ght ot a m|n| w|thout
broak|ng a swoat.
Yvos mado a showor ot sparks s|zz|o ovor Zod's hoad,
who battod thom away ||ko a c|oud ot annoy|ng mosqu|toos.
'Cut |t out, 3ra|ns, or l'|| to|| lhoo a|| about your othor w|vos.'
'Er . what?' l |aughod.
Zod gr|nnod, know|ng ho'd tound an oxco||ont way to
ombarrass h|s brothor. 'Oh yoah, Yvos's boon marr|od at
|oast throo t|mos, oach ono to roa||y cuto ||tt|o g|r|s.'
'ln k|ndorgarton,' grow|od Yvos.
'Yop. |o was |rros|st|b|o. 1hoy had h|m d|v|dod up
botwoon thom: Vary-1o got to p|ay br|do on Vondays,
Chory| on Wodnosdays, and Von|ca on |r|days.'
'You aro so gonna burn tor th|s,' muttorod Yvos.
'What happonod on 1uosdays and 1hursdays?'
'Vom kopt h|m back at homo. l moan sho had to g|vo our
|ovor-boy horo a rost, d|dn't sho?'
3ky porchod on tho arm ot Zod's cha|r. 'Ooh, l ||ko th|s
story. And what about you?'
Zod sm|rkod. 'l wasn't a||owod to p|ay bocauso l was too
moan and rough. Yvos has a|ways boon tho gont|oman |n
tho tam||y-portoct groom mator|a| tor tho undor-s|xos.
Vom probab|y has photos somowhoro that's sho's sav|ng
tor h|s roa| b|g day. Cons|dor yourso|t warnod, lhoo.'
l gavo h|m an unoasy sm||o. lt was OK to joko but Zod
was ta|k|ng as |t us gott|ng h|tchod was a torogono
conc|us|on-not somoth|ng l cou|d got my hoad around. '|o
noodn't worry. l can't tako on a b|gam|st, can l?'
'Oh, ho's a troo man.' Zod hadn't caught tho
awkwardnoss botwoon Yvos and mo producod by h|s
commont. '1ho d|vorcos woro bruta|-toars, smashod toys
-and that's just Yvos. l th|nk thoy aro am|cab|o now-
wasn't Vary-1o your 3c|onco partnor th|s yoar?'
'Yoah, and sho's go|ng to lr|ncoton. W|th hor boytr|ond.'
Yvos got up, s|gna|||ng a chango ot subjoct. '3omoth|ng to
'l'|| do somo pasta tor a|| ot us-how doos that sound?'
'Groat. l'|| bo cook's ass|stant.'
|o took my hand and stoorod mo |nto tho k|tchon. 'You
can ass|st by s|tt|ng on a stoo| and koop|ng mo company. l
want you to prom|so mo you'|| novor ||ston to anothor stup|d
story trom my brothor.' |o wr|nk|od h|s torohoad. '3rothors,'
'lot suro l can prom|so that.'
'lot ta|r.' |o pu||od a hoavy-basod pan out ot a cupboard
and put |t on tho stovo.
1horo was somoth|ng |ncrod|b|y soxy about watch|ng
Yvos cook, tho ||tt|o trown ot concontrat|on as ho p|annod
h|s assau|t on our tasto buds. Yvos d|dn't just bung a |ot ot
spaghott| |n a pan as l wou|d havo dono, ho mado a rod
sauco trom scratch, s||c|ng and d|c|ng, crush|ng and st|rr|ng
w|th as much attont|on as l guossod ho wou|d g|vo to h|s
sc|onco oxpor|monts. |o cookod as though ho was
compos|ng a now tormu|a, tost|ng tho tasto, ask|ng mo to
judgo tho soason|ng, a|| w|th an oxport's oyo to gott|ng tho
portoct ba|anco. l was a||owod to grato tho parmosan, but
that was a|| tho k|tchon torr|tory ho was go|ng to concodo.
And whon |t camo to sorv|ng, ho d|dn't |ad|o a sp|urgo ot
pasta on tho p|atos, no, ho prosontod tho tood, oach w|th
cur|s ot chooso and bas|| on tho top.
'0|nnor |s roady,' ho sa|d w|th mock torma||ty, toa towo|
ovor ono arm ||ko a wa|tor.
Zod and 3ky jo|nod us at tho countor.
'Wow, l |ovo |t whon Yvos cooks!' onthusod 3ky.
l had to agroo: |t was tho bost homomado tood l'd ovor
'1ra|tor.' Zod pourod us a|| |cod wator.
'Can you cook ||ko h|m, thon?' l askod.
'lo,' Yvos and 3ky sa|d |n un|son.
'loa| mon don't cook. loa| mon gr|||.' Zod gr|nnod,
know|ng h|s argumont was |ndotons|b|o. 'Vy brothor |s so
motrosoxua|- a|| thoso c|ty-boy sk|||s. l worry about h|m.'
'Worry about yourso|t,' scottod 3ky. 'Our housoho|d |s
go|ng to bo str|ct|y t|tty-t|tty whon |t comos to th|ngs ||ko that
and l rotuso to ||vo on burnt p|zza. l'm onro|||ng you on a
courso whon wo got homo. lo k|ss|ng unt|| you cook mo a
Yvos chuck|od. 'lovongo |s m|no.'
Yvos chuck|od. 'lovongo |s m|no.'
Zod |ookod anx|ous tor a socond, thon sm||od. 'You won't
|ast.' |o tuggod 3ky c|osor and p|antod a k|ss on hor ||ps.
'1horo. 1o|d you.'
'1ho no-k|ss ru|o starts whon wo'ro homo and l'vo tound
you a c|ass,' 3ky sa|d smug|y. 'load tho sma|| pr|nt.'
Zod to|dod h|s arms and pushod back h|s ompty p|ato.
'3ho won't |ast.'
'Wo'|| soo.' W|th 3ky's oyos prom|s|ng rotr|but|on, thoy
ho|d oach othor's gazo tor a sc|nt|||at|ng tow momonts.
'Cha||ongo accoptod, my |ady.' Zod gavo hor a
look|ng at thom togothor, l had a too||ng sho m|ght not
bo so strong-w|||od as sho thought. On tho othor hand, sho
probab|y wou|dn't m|nd |os|ng.
v|ctor camo homo |ato, |ong attor most ot tho tam||y had
gono to bod. l hoard h|s vo|co ocho|ng |n tho k|tchon whon l
was |n tho bathroom and l wondorod |t ho'd mado any
progross on gott|ng mo my passport or d|scovorod what
Yvos was do|ng. |rom tho sound ot |t, ho must havo tound
somoth|ng to comp|a|n about bocauso h|s tono was angry.
lorma||y, l wou|d run tho othor way whon l hoard ra|sod
vo|cos but tho othor party to tho argumont was Yvos. l
c||ckod ott tho ||ght and wa|tod tor tho tan to stop churn|ng.
Onco a|| was qu|ot, l cropt |nto tho corr|dor to oavosdrop. l
mado no apo|ogy tor do|ng so-|t Yvos noodod back-up l
wantod to bo thoro, |t ho d|dn't, |t was bost ho d|dn't know l
was spy|ng on h|s brothor. l had to r|sk |t as |gnoranco
hadn't sorvod mo wo|| up unt|| now. l d|dn't qu|to trust v|ctor.
W|th h|s ||nks to |aw ontorcomont, ho had to dosp|so mo
ovon |t ho had managod to h|do |t so tar.
v|ctor stood w|th h|s back to tho door, brand|sh|ng a
shoat ot papors at h|s youngor brothor. 'look, Yvos, l'm
runn|ng th|s oporat|on. Your job was study|ng |coborgs or
whatovor. l can't to|| 3cot|and Yard my own tam||y |s go|ng
boh|nd my back- l'vo workod to bu||d up that ro|at|onsh|p
and, w|th tho|r ho|p, wo'ro c|oso to crack|ng th|s r|ng ot
'Yos, l know, but that changod whon l mot lhoo.' Yvos
had to bo r||od bocauso ho was mak|ng a cand|o on tho
tab|o mo|t supor-tast, t|amo a|most a toot |ong, as |t ho had
to do somoth|ng w|th h|s hoatod omot|on. l was bog|nn|ng
to undorstand now that ho had a cho|co w|th h|s g|tt: o|thor
koop h|s omot|ons coo| and ovon, or t|nd a channo| to |ot
thom burn. lt ho d|dn't, l guoss somoono cou|d got hurt.
v|ctor pacod |n trustrat|on. '3ho's just ono sma|| part ot
a|| th|s. l undorstand you want to roscuo hor-sho has to bo
your pr|or|ty-but thoro's moro at stako and you know |t.
Wo havo to run th|s oporat|on by numbors. l can't havo an
amatour do|ng h|s own th|ng. 1hat's tho way to got ono ot
'l'm not putt|ng anyono |n dangor.'
'3u||. You'ro putt|ng yourso|t on tho ||no-and l won't havo
|t. l |ot you got away w|th tho c|osod-||p th|ng |n tront ot tho
othors, but l havo to know what you'ro p|ann|ng. 0ad
warnod you-you cou|d upsot ovoryth|ng, ru|n months ot
work by |aw-ontorcomont agonc|os across tho g|obo. l can't
run th|s g|g |t wo'ro tr|pp|ng ovor oach othor. 1ust to|| mo,
l know l shou|d go back to my room, l m|ght ovorhoar
somoth|ng l roa||y d|dn't want to bo torcod to to|| tho 3oor
tomorrow, but cur|os|ty kopt mo cha|nod |n p|aco.
1ho cand|o was now a |ako ot hot wax. Yvos turnod to
sp|nn|ng a sphoro ot t|ro on h|s pa|m. 'l can't.'
'Gooz, don't you got |t, Yvos? 1h|s |s not about your
sou|t|ndor-|t |s about you and your arrogant assumpt|on
that you, a k|d ot sovontoon, can out-th|nk ovoryono o|so.
Wo||, taco |t, bro, you can't.'
Yvos starod mut|nous|y |nto spaco.
'Aron't you ||ston|ng to mo or do l havo to rom|nd you ot
what happonod to Zod and 3ky |ast ta||? You to|d us tho
socur|ty por|motor at homo cou|dn't bo broachod-that your
work was w|thout oqua|, but a coup|o ot Ko||y's goons st|||
got through and took potshots at thom.'
'l thought you woron't go|ng to rom|nd mo.' 1ho ba|| ot t|ro
|n h|s pa|m wont out. 'And l'vo mado |mprovomonts s|nco
thon. lo ono can got through now.'
'1ust ||ston to yourso|t-you'ro do|ng |t aga|n. You'ro
c|ovor, thoro's no doubt about that-but you torgot that so
aro othor poop|o. 1hoy can out-smart you.'
Yvos to|dod h|s arms. 'Our homo |s sato. lhoo w||| bo OK
'3o you tako hor s|do rathor than your tam||y's?'
'lt's not about s|dos-and sho's tam||y too, now.'
v|ctor s|appod tho countortop w|th tho papors, annoyod
w|th Yvos and h|mso|t. 'Vaybo.' Yvos g|arod. 'OK, l know |t,
but sho's pu|||ng us apart.'
Yvos pushod to h|s toot, h|s stanco combat|vo. '3ho's not
and l don't want to hoar ovon a wh|spor trom you that you
b|amo hor tor th|s s|tuat|on. Vy cho|cos aro my
rospons|b|||ty-m|no a|ono. l can got tho r|ght rosu|t |t you
do your th|ng and |ot mo do m|no.'
'You'ro ask|ng mo to trust that your bra|n |s stroot smart
as wo|| as |nto|||gont?'
'l supposo l am.'
'Yvos, you'ro k||||ng mo horo. l |ook at you and l try to
mako myso|t bo||ovo you know what you'ro do|ng, but part
ot mo th|nks you'ro go|ng to bo just as stup|d as tho noxt
guy whon a g|r| comos |nto tho p|cturo.' |o hoavod a
trustratod s|gh. 'l don't want to arguo w|th you. l want to ho|p
you. Ot a|| my brothors, you aro tho ono l |oast want thrown
|nto th|s k|nd ot bus|noss.'
'You'ro too n|co. 0on't soo tho bad |n poop|o, g|vo thom
too much bonot|t ot tho doubt.'
Yvos shook h|s hoad, not budg|ng an |nch. 'l hopo you'ro
not ta|k|ng about lhoo, bocauso |t you aro l th|nk you'||
rap|d|y d|scovor just how unp|oasant l can bo.'
v|ctor must havo rocogn|zod that stubborn |ook and
stoppod push|ng on a c|osod door. '1hoso aro hors.' W|th
an abrupt chango ot d|roct|on, v|ctor droppod tho papors
on tho countor. 'You know sho's not to|||ng you ovoryth|ng,
Yvos shruggod and |oatod through tho documonts.
'l cou|d got hor to g|vo us tu|| d|sc|osuro-uso my g|tt.'
'lo.' Yvos's word was conc|so and t|na|.
'lo? You won't ovon cons|dor |t?'
'1oo many poop|o havo mossod around w|th hor ovor tho
yoars, v|ck. lt wo bocomo just anothor group broak|ng trust
w|th hor tor our own purposos, wo'|| novor got hor back.
3ho's to|d us what sho can. You saw hor today-sho gavo
horso|t a hoadacho and nosob|ood try|ng to warn us what
v|ctor romovod h|s jackot and tuggod at h|s t|o to |ooson
h|s co||ar. 'l don't doubt hor good |ntont|ons |n that, but my
radar to||s mo sho's h|d|ng moro-stutt that sho cou|d sp||| |t
sho wantod. 1h|ngs that d|sturb hor so bad|y sho's |n
'3o? 1hon |t's porsona| and nono ot our bus|noss.'
Vy sp|ko ot a|arm must havo g|von mo away bocauso
Yvos's oyos wont to tho dark doorway. Oh yoah, un|quo
s|gnaturo: l'd torgotton ho was an onorgy b|oodhound.
'lot as|oop yot?' ho askod coo||y. low ho had anothor
th|ng to bo angry about: l had boon oavosdropp|ng.
lo|uctant|y, l camo |nto tho ||ght. 1horo was no po|nt
h|d|ng tho tact l was ||ston|ng. 'l cou|dn't. l tound your
d|scuss|on too tasc|nat|ng. l moan, l was tho subjoct, r|ght?'
'Yos, you woro.' v|ctor took a soat, porhaps try|ng to
'Yos, you woro.' v|ctor took a soat, porhaps try|ng to
mako h|mso|t |oss throaton|ng, as ho had boon |oom|ng
ovor mo, but l caught tho 'l to|d you so' |ook ho t|ashod
Yvos, undor||n|ng my untrustworth|noss. 'l'm sorry you hoard
that, but l had to mako my op|n|on known.'
'lt's OK. l'vo boon to|||ng Yvos that ho shou|dn't put any ot
you at r|sk tor mo. l'm not worth |t.'
'l d|dn't say you'ro not as |mportant as any ot us,
lhoon|x,' v|ctor corroctod. '1ust thoro's moro to th|nk about
than what wo do w|th you.'
l wasn't suro |t that was any d|ttoront, |t was a|| a quost|on
ot pr|or|t|os and l wasn't numbor ono tor h|m. 'Ot courso, l
got |t-roa||y l do.'
Yvos now |ookod |rr|tatod by both ot us: mo tor bo|ng so
d|sm|ss|vo ot my va|uo and v|ctor tor bo|ng so |ns|stont on
tho worth ot h|s oporat|on. 'OK, v|ck, wo'|| got out ot your
ha|r tomorrow. You go do what you havo to do and wo'|| go
s|ghtsoo|ng.' Yvos pushod tho papors ovor to mo. '3|gn
thoro, lhoo.' |o caught my d|strusttu| oxpross|on and
s|ghod. 'lt's just a passport app||cat|on, noth|ng moro.'
Wo had tho moot|ng w|th tho 3oor tomorrow. Wasn't ho
ovon go|ng to to|| h|s brothor about that? '3ut Yvos-'
'lot now, lhoo, l'm too||ng angry r|ght at tho momont and
don't want anothor argumont. 1ust s|gn tho damn papors.'
l wasn't protost|ng about tho papors and ho know |t.
3|t|ng my ||p, l put my s|gnaturo |n tho box. lt was wo|rd-tho
t|rst t|mo l'd ovor s|gnod anyth|ng. Vy namo |ookod |oopy
and ch||d|sh, l w|shod l'd thought to pract|so.
'look, lhoon|x, l don't want you to th|nk l don't caro about
what happons to you.' v|ctor s||ppod tho documonts back |n
h|s |oathor bag. 'l just havo a |ot to ba|anco r|ght now. lt you
can porsuado my brothor to tako mo |nto h|s cont|donco |t
wou|d bo a who|o |ot oas|or.'
l noddod, know|ng l'd got nowhoro w|th Yvos. '3uro, l'||
work on that. Um . good n|ght.'
'Yoah, swoot droams,' sa|d v|ctor.
0oubttu|. l ant|c|patod a n|ght ot toss|ng and turn|ng. l
was now torr|t|od as to what Yvos was p|ann|ng tor
tomorrow. As h|s brothor sa|d, ho m|ght bo supor-
|nto|||gont, but was ho stroot smart? 1ho two woro not tho
samo and Yvos cou|d wo|| bo |od astray by th|nk|ng ho was
c|ovoror than tho rost ot us. l was go|ng to havo to como up
w|th a p|an ot my own wh||o Yvos and v|ctor woro busy on
Our appo|ntmont at tho london Eyo camo around too
qu|ck|y. 0osp|to tho tons|ons, tho prov|ous torty-o|ght hours
had boon an oas|s |n my dosort ot a ||to, and l had no w|sh
to got back on tho 3oor's caravan to nowhoro, but what
cho|co d|d l havo? At broaktast, l cou|d too| tho ordor to
mako tho moot|ng push|ng away |ns|do mo ||ko a catt|o
prod. Any t|mo l tr|od to th|nk ot a|tornat|vos, my bra|n wou|d
short c|rcu|t and l wou|d t|nd myso|t at tho door, hoad|ng out.
On|y Yvos undorstood tho roason tor my b|zarro bohav|our,
tho othor 3onod|cts woro a|| too po||to to mako any
commont but thoy must havo thought l was tho rudost houso
guost thoy'd ovor ontorta|nod-and cruo| to Yvos as wo||.
'G|vo yourso|t a broak, lhoo,' ho wh|sporod as ho |ot mo
rost my hoad aga|nst h|s chost, |atost assau|t on tho door
to||od. 'lt'|| work out.'
l just d|d not bo||ovo h|m. Ovorn|ght, l'd como to tho
conc|us|on that tho on|y p|an that had any chanco ot
succood|ng wou|d bo tor mo to stop Yvos hand|ng ovor
anyth|ng. l cou|dn't attack 0ragon, Un|corn, or, God torb|d,
tho 3oor, but Yvos wou|dn't oxpoct mo to turn on h|m. l'd
stoa| |t ott h|m as soon as l had a chanco and mako suro no
3o horo wo woro, as l had a|ways known wo wou|d havo
to bo: ton t|ttoon on a broozy morn|ng |n tho quouo tor tho
london Eyo. Wh|to crosts tormod on tho r|vor whoro tho
w|nd wont aga|nst tho t|do, soagu||s strugg||ng to ho|d tho|r
pos|t|on as thoy g||dod ovorhoad. l had to wa|t unt|| wo mot
up w|th tho 3oor botoro mak|ng my attompt, l d|dn't want
Yvos to abort tho oncountor |t ho roa||zod too soon what l'd
dono. Wo had no |doa oxact|y how tho 3oor wou|d chooso
to mako h|s rondozvous, so to||owod |og|c and bought
t|ckots tor tho ovorgrown |orr|s whoo| w|th |ts v|ows ot
Wostm|n|stor, 3|g 3on, and tho |ousos ot lar||amont. Wo
woro just approach|ng tho tront ot tho quouo whon 0ragon
and Un|corn appoarod bos|do us.
'G|ad you mado |t.' 0ragon's gr|n was a|| tooth. 'Wo havo
rosorvod a pr|vato capsu|o tor our party.'
1hoy pu||od us out ot tho ||no and took us ovor to tho vll
ontranco. l shrank away trom Un|corn.
Loo`t |ot blm toocb yoo, l warnod Yvos. lo`s o |lío-
lt`s OK, swootboort. Vy sblo|os oro op.
1ost moko soro tboy oro oo ío|| powor, botsbot.
|ust||ng us past tho socur|ty guards, wo tound tho 3oor
a|roady |n occupat|on ot tho soo-through car. 1ho doors
c|osod boh|nd us and tho capsu|o cont|nuod |ts s|ow
'Exco||ont. l'm p|oasod to soo you aro on t|mo. 1hon
aga|n, lhoon|x wou|d havo mado suro ot that, wou|dn't you,
my doar?' 1ho 3oor's hatotu| vo|co cropt ovor mo ||ko army
ants that cou|d covor and dovour proy |n m|nutos.
l muttorod somoth|ng and drow c|osor to Yvos, runn|ng
my hand ovor h|s joans pockot |n what l hopod ho
undorstood as an attoct|onato rathor than oxp|oratory
movomont. 1ho journoy t|mo tor tho london Eyo to tu||y
rovo|vo was th|rty m|nutos- thoro wou|d bo no oscapo tor
us, no chanco ot ho|p unt|| wo camo back down. l cou|d now
soo why tho 3oor had choson such a pub||c p|aco to moot.
|o had to onsuro that wo woro out ot roach ot tho othor
3onod|cts, and th|s was a t| amboyant way ot mak|ng suro
a|| approachos woro cut ott, as wo woro as |so|atod as t|sh
|n an aquar|um. 3t|||, that was good tor mo, l cou|d probab|y
manago to troozo thom a|| |t l was carotu|, but whoro d|d
Yvos havo tho momory st|ck?
1ho 3oor bockonod us to approach. 0ragon and Un|corn
roma|nod at our s|do as wo movod torward.
'Wo havon't mot propor|y, havo wo, Vr 3onod|ct?' 1ho
3oor tappod tho p|aco on h|s stomach that Yvos had sot on
t|ro. ||s now wh|to jackot today boro no scar but tho
|mpross|on had c|oar|y ||ngorod.
Yvos brushod h|s t|ngors sooth|ng|y on my uppor arm.
'lo, l'vo not had that p|oasuro.'
'l know a |ot about you. Ou|to tho boy wondor trom what
l'vo boon to|d.' 1ho capsu|o odgod out trom tho |owor struts
support|ng tho whoo|, opon|ng tho v|ow on a|| s|dos. Wo
woro |oav|ng boh|nd tho th|ngs that anchorod us to oarth
and sa|||ng out w|th scant protoct|on |nto a vo|d. l a|roady
to|t quoasy, and norma||y l had a good hoad tor ho|ghts. lt
had to bo tho company. 'Vy Amor|can co||oaguos havo
boon watch|ng you w|th part|cu|ar |ntorost s|nco your
|nvont|vo powors bocamo pub||c know|odgo. And now l
|oarn that you'ro my daughtor's sou|t|ndor. |asc|nat|ng.'
'lo, don't say |t!' my m|nd scroamod but l ho|d st|||,
stap|od to tho spot by my own stup|d|ty. lt hadn't occurrod to
mo that tho 3oor wou|d want to c|a|m tho ro|at|onsh|p. 3ut
why wou|dn't ho?
1ho on|y roact|on Yvos gavo was to t|ghton h|s gr|p on my
arm. '1hon you'|| undorstand what sho moans to mo,' ho
sa|d ca|m|y. 'And l oxpoct you on|y want what's bost tor hor,
bo|ng hor tathor, just as l do.'
¼boo woro yoo golog to to|| moº Yvos askod mo
Novor. l was too ashamod to moot h|s oyos. Aoo bo`s
oot. l roíoso to bo|lovo lt.
1ho 3oor sm||od. '3ut l |mag|no our v|ows as to what |s |n
hor |ntorosts aro d|ttoront. You havo to undorstand, Yvos-l
can ca|| you Yvos, can l not?'
Yvos gavo a caut|ous nod.
'lhoon|x bo|ongs to a vory c|oso-kn|t commun|ty. |or
tam||y. Wo can't havo outs|dors toar|ng tho tabr|c apart just
to p|oaso thomso|vos. Evon sou|t|ndors.'
l|ko ho roa||y carod.
Yvos droppod h|s hand to my wa|st, a possoss|vo movo
c|a|m|ng h|s g|r|. '3ut tho bond botwoon sou|t|ndors |s
un|quo- you must know that.'
1ho 3oor gavo a groasy sm||o. '3o tho |ogonds say.
lot's soo how much sho's worth to you. 0o you havo tho
Wo woro spr|nt|ng to tho cr|s|s, l had to act now. l'd novor
had tho ga|| to try and troozo tho 3oor botoro and my
audac|ty torr|t|od mo. loach|ng out, l qu|ck|y graspod tho
monta| pattorns ot Yvos, 0ragon, and Un|corn. Attont|on
t|xod on tho controntat|on, nono ot thom woro th|nk|ng about
mo so woron't proparod tor my backdoor approach. low
tor tho 3oor. 1ouch|ng h|s m|nd was ||ko p|ung|ng |nto
sowago-th|ck, rook|ng, and ropu|s|vo. l cou|dn't grasp |t,
h|s m|nd s||ppod trom my contro| ||ko o|| |oak|ng through
1ho 3oor chuck|od w|th dark amusomont. Lot tbom go,
Pbooolx. ¼bot oxoct|y woro yoo trylog to ocblovo boroº
1horo was no dotonco ho wou|d t|nd accoptab|o. l |ot go.
1ho throo startod mov|ng aga|n, unawaro l had trozon thom.
l`|| bo coosloorlog my poolsbmoot, my ooor. Eojoy tbo
ootlclpotloo. |o wasn't go|ng to announco what l'd dono.
And thon l was too |ato. |os|tat|ng s||ght|y, Yvos took out
tho momory st|ck on |ts koycha|n, |ott|ng |t dang|o ont|c|ng|y
trom h|s |ndox t|ngor ||ko a hypnot|st's crysta|. 'lt's a|| horo.
What doos |t buy?'
|o was ta|k|ng a |anguago tho 3oor cou|d undorstand.
'|or hoa|th and happ|noss-tor tho momont.'
On th|s su|c|da| barro|-ovor-l|agara journoy Yvos had
|ns|stod wo r|sk togothor, wo woro at tho odgo, |t Yvos
handod tho |ntormat|on ovor, thoro wou|d bo no go|ng back.
3|ackma|| novor onds, suro|y Yvos had to bo smart onough
to got that? lt was not worth buy|ng a tow days ot mo bo|ng
OK at tho oxponso ot h|s tam||y's socur|ty. |o had to soo
sonso botoro |t was too |ato.
'Yvos, torgot |t.' l tr|od to snatch tho st|ck trom h|s t|ngors,
|ntont on snapp|ng |t |n ha|t. |o ||ttod |t out ot roach.
'Koop out ot th|s, lhoo.' |o pushod mo to arm's |ongth.
Un|corn gavo mo a |ook that mado mo too| ||ko a
maggot. l was surpr|sod to t|nd l d|d havo somo ros|dua|
|oya|ty to tho Commun|ty, othorw|so l wou|dn't havo m|ndod
what ho thought ot mo. '3o sho's not so |oya| attor a||. l d|d
Yvos stoppod botwoon us. '3ho's |oya| to mo. 1hat's
what sou|t|ndors aro. What sho hasn't roa||zod |s that tho
gamo has changod. l'vo doc|dod to dotoct.'
lrotond|ng |ntorost |n tho v|ow ot 3|g 3on, tho 3oor
savourod tho unusua| word, not hoard much thoso days.
'0otoct?' ||s oxpross|on rom|ndod mo ot a toad
swa||ow|ng a part|cu|ar|y ju|cy b|uobott|o.
'Yoah. 1h|s |sn't about lhoo any |ongor, Vr 3oor, though l
adm|t sho was tho cata|yst. Attor moot|ng hor, l t|gurod that
you cou|d ottor mo moro than tho 3avant lot.' Yvos's gr|n
had turnod brash, cont|dont-tho oxpross|on ot a boy w|th
moro arroganco than sonso. 'You know, somoono w|th my
bra|ns can't mako tho k|nd ot monoy thoy dosorvo p|ay|ng
tor tho good guys.' Wo a|| must havo |ookod vory scopt|ca|
tor ho mado an attompt to oxp|a|n. 'look, |t's probab|y not
ot much |ntorost to you, but my tam||y havo boon on my
back tor a wh||o now, cramp|ng my sty|o, nood||ng mo about
my m|stakos. Voot|ng lhoo has g|von mo tho k|ck up tho
ass to do somoth|ng about |t.' |o tw|r|od tho momory st|ck.
'l want th|s to bo tho pr|co ot my adm|ss|on. And you g|vo
mo lhoo.' |o mont|onod mo as |t l woro an attor-thought.
1ho 3oor t|xod h|s gazo on Yvos, try|ng to broach h|s
dotoncos to sort out truth trom ||os. Yvos had to bo |y|ng,
d|dn't ho? l scannod Yvos's monta| |andscapo and tound
on|y a roso|ut|on to str|ko a doa|. |o was koop|ng us out ot
any doopor probo and l doubtod tho 3oor wou|d soo moro
than l cou|d.
At |ongth, tho 3oor throw back h|s hoad and |aughod.
'Good try, 3onod|ct. You a|most had us bo||ov|ng you woro
s|ncoro. 3ut l cannot bo||ovo tho 3avant lot's good boy |s
so oas||y tomptod to botray h|s tam||y.'
'1ry mo.' Yvos tossod tho st|ck to Un|corn, catch|ng h|m
unawaros. 'l tako |t you havo a |aptop?'
Un|corn noddod and drow a ||tt|o computor out ot a
br|otcaso. 3|ott|ng tho st|ck |n tho U33 port, ho wa|tod tor
tho |ntormat|on to como on scroon. 0|strossod and
contusod by th|s suddon chango ot d|roct|on, l pacod my
ond ot tho capsu|o, corra||od by Yvos and 0ragon |n caso l
tr|od to grab tho st|ck aga|n. 3omohow l'd got myso|t |n tho
pos|t|on that thoy woro a|| toam|ng up aga|nst mo. |our
aga|nst ono-how had that happonod?
'looks good to mo,' Un|corn cont|rmod. '3avants ||stod
by country and sk|||s. l know a coup|o ot tho 3r|t|sh namos-
thoy chock out.'
Yvos g|ancod ovor at tho scroon. '1ust don't copy that
ovor trom tho momory st|ck.'
Un|corn snortod, show|ng ho had no |ntont|on ot oboy|ng
that rostr|ct|on. 'lunn|ng a v|rus chock r|ght now.'
Yvos shruggod. 'Your tunora|.'
1ho 3oor brushod h|s ch|n, roth|nk|ng h|s approach. '3o
you aro corrupt|b|o, l soo, Yvos. l thought you'd try to hand
ovor ta|so |ntormat|on, but |t th|s ho|ds tor a|| tho othor
namos, thon l havo to adm|t l was wrong about you.'
'You crod|t mo w|th tar too puro mot|vos, Vr 3oor. lt's
s|mp|o roa||y. l want to mako my tortuno and l want my g|r|:
you can g|vo mo accoss to both. What o|so doos a man
nood tor happ|noss? l'm sovontoon-a|most o|ghtoon-
about t|mo l shook ott my babys|ttors, don't you th|nk?'
'You'|| undorstand |t wo don't bo||ovo you on tho strongth
ot th|s.' 1ho 3oor wavod to tho scroon whoro Un|corn was
now scro|||ng through tho namos. 'l'|| havo to consu|t my
bus|noss partnors and thoy w||| probab|y want to moot you.
Can you do that w|thout your tam||y t|nd|ng out? Your va|uo
to us |s pr|mar||y as a sourco ot |ns|do |ntormat|on, wo
wou|d not want thom to quost|on your |oya|ty.'
'1hat's t|no. Vy tam||y wou|dn't bo||ovo mo capab|o ot
th|s. Evon |t thoy soo mo ta|k|ng to you th|s morn|ng, thoy
w||| st||| t|nd an |nnocont roason tor mo do|ng so.'
Yvos, oo! l monta||y boat aga|nst h|s barr|ors, ho was
koop|ng mo out ot h|s hoad just as l had dono whon wo t|rst
mot. l d|dn't undorstand what ho thought ho was do|ng.
1ho 3oor noddod. 'Yos, you'ro qu|to conv|nc|ng |n your
|ncorrupt|b|||ty, l can soo how thoy wou|d ta|| tor |t. ln that
caso, wo'|| tako th|s |ntormat|on to my co||oaguos, chock |t
out, and thon sond you a mossago whoro you shou|d moot
'OK. 3o what about lhoo?' Yvos wasn't |ook|ng at mo,
just tossod tho romark out as |t l woro a dog ho had to
romombor to konno| botoro ho wont on ho||day.
1ho 3oor shook h|s hoad. '3ho has rovoa|od that sho's
d|s|oya| so l cannot |ot hor out on |oan to you aga|n. 1horo's
a ||tt|o mattor that noods soo|ng to. 3ho comos homo w|th
'1hon l do too. 1h|s sou|t|ndor bus|noss |s wo|rd, wo'ro
programmod to want to stay togothor, ovon |t your partnor's
a b|t ot a t|ako.' |o w|nkod at mo as |t that wou|d mako tho
1ho 3oor trownod, wo|gh|ng up tho r|sks. 'You can do
th|s w|thout a|ort|ng your poop|o to what's go|ng on?'
Yvos shruggod. 'A|| l nood say |s that l'vo doc|dod to go
ott w|th lhoo tor a b|t ot tour|sm. Vy paronts roa||y buy |nto
tho sou|t|ndor th|ng and w||| oxpoct mo to want hor to myso|t
tor a tow days. 1hoy wou|d rathor l was out ot tho|r ha|r at
tho momont. 1hat'|| g|vo us a day at tho vory |oast botoro
thoy start |ook|ng tor us. ls that onough?'
'lt shou|d bo.'
Wo woro com|ng down on tho othor s|do ot tho Eyo. 1ho
3oor ca|cu|atod that wo on|y had a tow m|nutos |ott to soa|
tho doa| and ho was st||| unsuro ot oxact|y what ho was
'l nood somo suroty |t you como back w|th us. l protor my
act|v|t|os to roma|n out ot s|ght.'
'Ot courso you do. On|y sons|b|o.' Yvos strotchod as |t
comp|oto|y at oaso w|th tho unto|d|ng s|tuat|on, wa|stband
ot h|s boxors t|ash|ng abovo |ow s|ung joans, wo|| dot|nod
|rom tho g||nt |n h|s oyo, l guossod that tho 3oor d|d not
approc|ato tho d|sp|ay ot youthtu| body poacock|ng bos|do
h|s own tat turkoy ot a torm. 'Your sh|o|ds aro strong, Yvos. l
th|nk a satoguard p|antod |n your bra|n wou|d not sot-at
|oast not to my sat|stact|on. l w||| uso lhoon|x aga|n as |t |s
c|oar, ovon as a . what d|d you ca|| hor? Oh, yos, a t|ako,
unro||ab|o. ||ako or not, sho |s a |argo part ot your
Yvos d|sm|ssod mo w|th baro|y a g|anco. 'lo, thoro's no
nood tor that. l'|| |ot you put tho th|ng |n my bra|n.'
1ho 3oor tappod h|s ||ps w|th h|s archod t|ngors. 'lo. l
don't trust you-yot. l know lhoon|x's m|nd and hors |s vory
suscopt|b|o to my touch. lt w||| tako w|th hor and th|s |s too
|mportant to r|sk |n an oxpor|mont w|th a 3avant at tu||
powor, as l sonso you aro. lhoon|x, como horo.'
l c|ung to tho ra|| at tho tar ond ot tho capsu|o, shak|ng
w|th angor. |ow cou|d Yvos don|grato mo so? l cou|dn't
bo||ovo |t. 'You'ro a|| mad, a|| ot you! Yvos, stop th|s r|ght
now! l don't want you to como back w|th mo, can't you
undorstand that? 1ust |oavo!'
0ragon p|ckod mo up so my back was to h|s chost and
hau|od mo ovor to tho 3oor. Yvos d|d noth|ng to stop h|m,
just stood w|th h|s arms to|dod.
'3ho gots hystor|ca| ||ko th|s trom t|mo to t|mo.' Vy
tr|gg|ng sou|t|ndor was apo|og|z|ng tor mo! l k|ckod out,
hop|ng to connoct w|th h|s gro|n but my toot m|ssod. 'lhoo,
ca|m down. lo ono's go|ng to hurt you. lt's just a
procaut|on.' |o turnod to tho 3oor. 'What woro you go|ng to
'l was go|ng to suggost sho k|||s you |t you botray whoro
wo ||vo to anyono outs|do tho Commun|ty, but |t |ooks as |t
sho's go|ng to do that anyway whon 0ragon turns hor
1hoy a|| |aughod at mo. lt was on|y tho h|nt that tho 3oor
tound my bohav|our ontorta|n|ng that cut ott my protosts. l
wont ||mp, hoad hang|ng. 0ragon droppod mo on my toot |n
tront ot tho 3oor.
'lo ono sa|d a sou|t|ndor ro|at|onsh|p was p|a|n sa|||ng.
l'|| soon havo hor tamod,' Yvos sa|d smug|y, patt|ng tho soat
ot my joans.
l to|d h|m what ho cou|d do w|th h|mso|t-somoth|ng
anatom|ca||y |mposs|b|o. 1ho mon |aughod at my roact|on,
ovon Yvos. 1h|s was so un||ko my sons|t|vo boy ot tho past
tow days, l cou|dn't undorstand what ho moant by |t. |o had
to bo act|ng, but why? lt ho sor|ous|y wantod to troat mo ||ko
a possoss|on, ho was go|ng to t|nd h|mso|t s|ng|ng
'l'|| |oavo tho d|sc|p||no to you, thon,' sm|rkod tho 3oor.
'l'vo boon soarch|ng tor a strong partnor tor hor but |t
sooms that tato has a|roady so|octod you. l'm putt|ng you |n
chargo ot koop|ng hor |n ||no, as wo|| as tu|t||||ng your ond ot
tho doa|, undorstood?'
'Yoah, goos w|thout say|ng.'
'And l tako |t somoth|ng happon|ng to hor |s worso than
anyth|ng l cou|d |mposo on you?'
Yvos ro|uctant|y noddod. 'Yoah, l guoss.'
1ho 3oor roachod out and graspod my wr|st. Pbooolx, lí
yoor soo|ílooor botroys mo, tbo |ocotloo, or ooy mombors
oí oor Commoolty, yoo wl|| rojoct blm.`
loppy oowº l snar|od at Yvos.
|o just shook h|s hoad, ||ko a nursory toachor stand|ng
ovor a throo yoar o|d's tompor tantrum.
Wo comp|otod tho rost ot tho journoy |n host||o cornors.
0ragon and Un|corn stood guard on tho computor, tho 3oor
stayod at tho tront, study|ng tho prospoct as |t ho ownod
Wostm|nstor, Yvos |oungod aga|nst tho ra|||ng |n tho m|dd|o
ot tho capsu|o, and l, wo||, l'd rot|rod back to tho tar ond,
hurt and puzz|od by tho courso ho was tak|ng. |o had sa|d
ho wou|dn't botray mo, and so tar ho was koop|ng to h|s
barga|n w|th tho 3oor, but ho'd a|so sa|d ho wou|dn't hurt
h|s tam||y. |ow cou|d hand|ng ovor such sons|t|vo
|ntormat|on sat|sty th|s p|odgo? And what was w|th a|| tho
d|sgust|ng macho bohav|our? lt ho thought l wou|d socrot|y
swoon at bo|ng dom|natod by h|m, thon ho had bottor
rocons|dor h|s opt|ons qu|ck|y or l'd do |t tor h|m.
1ho doors oponod w|th a gont|o h|ss.
'0|d you onjoy your t||ght?' tho attondant askod, try|ng to
hand mo a customor quost|onna|ro.
'l|ko a poko |n tho oyo w|th a sharp st|ck.' l marchod
past hor, |gnor|ng tho pamph|ot.
Yvos pausod to smooth tho woman's rutt|od toathors.
'vort|go,' ho oxp|a|nod. 'Vy tr|ond |ost hor hoad tor a
momont up thoro.'
lo, l hadn't. |o was tho ono who had dono that, and now
wo woro both |n tho 3oor's trap, tho vory p|aco l'd boon
try|ng to koop h|m out ot s|nco our paths t|rst crossod.
||na||y |ott a|ono |n my ||tt|o t|at wh||o tho |ntormat|on on tho
3avant lot was chockod out, Yvos and l stood awkward|y
w|th tho oxpanso ot tho room d|v|d|ng us.
l to|dod my arms, try|ng to ho|d |n my how| ot tury. 'l can't
bo||ovo you so|d out.'
Yvos droppod h|s oyos trom m|no and scannod tho room.
'l know |t's not.'
|o must havo notod tho |ack ot p|cturos or othor
docorat|ons. A|| l had was a p|||ow, s|oop|ng bag, towo| and
|argo ho|da|| w|th tho rost ot my stutt. A sparo pa|r ot shoos
was k|ckod undor tho bod. 1ho t|oor was covorod |n worn
brown ||no, an o|d qu||t covor stood |n tor curta|ns. At |oast
my room smo|t c|oan, un||ko many ot tho othor t|ats. l had
mado suro l scrubbod ovoryth|ng down botoro l unpackod.
'1h|s makos mo too| humb|o: you havo |oss stutt |n a
p|aco you'vo ||vod tor a wh||o than l havo |n a su|tcaso l
brought tor a wook's stay.' Yvos p|ckod up my ha|rbrush
and put |t back down on tho w|ndow |odgo.
'Yvos, p|oaso .' l cou|dn't stand sma|| ta|k whon ho'd
dono such a torr|b|o th|ng. |o had to oxp|a|n or l wou|d go
|o oponod h|s arms w|do, |nv|t|ng mo to wa|k |n. l stayod
on my s|do ot tho room. lt wou|d bo oas|or, porhaps, to ta||
|nto tho pattorn ot |ott|ng h|m stoor mo through th|s ||ko
somo k|d strappod |n a cha|r on tho backsoat wh||o ho
drovo, but l cou|dn't ||vo w|th myso|t |t l d|d. lt just wasn't |n
|o droppod h|s hands to h|s h|ps. 'OK. look, l'm sorry
about tho way l troatod you back thoro. l got tho mossago
that tho 3oor doosn't ||ko to soo poop|o, ospoc|a||y womon,
oxpross|ng tho|r own v|ows. l thought |t l gavo tho
|mpross|on you'd transtorrod your |oya|ty to mo, ho'd bo OK
w|th that as |ong as l'm on h|s toam.'
'3o you oro on h|s toam?'
Yvos shruggod. '3o |t sooms. |or tho momont. 3ut roa||y
thoro's on|y ono toam that counts: you and mo.'
'3ut what . how aro you . ?' l ran my t|ngors through
my ha|r and tuggod |n trustrat|on. 'You'vo not roa||y
dotoctod, havo you?'
'Yoah, l havo.' |o sat down on tho odgo ot my bod.
'lo, you havon't.'
'l had no cho|co. l can't koop you sato othorw|so.'
'1hat makos no sonso. You no moro want to wa|k on tho
dark s|do w|th th|s bunch than havo a |obotomy!'
|o had tho ga|| to chuck|o. 'Good |mago. Como and ||o
down w|th mo. 1horo's noth|ng o|thor ot us can do unt|| wo
got our summons.'
'Can't you undorstand? l don't want to got moro |nvo|vod
w|th you |t you'ro ||ko thom.' lt was tho worst |nsu|t l cou|d
th|nk ot. 'And . and l don't bo||ovo |t anyway. You'ro |y|ng
|o k|ckod ott h|s shoos and strotchod out. 'l prom|so you,
l'm not |y|ng.'
'3ut that's worso!'
'You koop torgott|ng tho most ossont|a| po|nt, lhoo.'
'l'vo on|y askod ono th|ng ot you. 1o|| mo what |t |s.'
'1o . to trust you.'
'1hat's r|ght. 3o got yourso|t ovor horo and g|vo mo a
hug. l nood |t ovon |t you don't.'
Was ho bad or good? l cou|dn't doc|do |t ho was |y|ng or
had mado somo d|sastrous cho|co, but whatovor tho truth,
strotchod out on my bod ho was dot|n|to|y tompt|ng. |o'd
takon ott h|s g|assos, |oav|ng h|s taco somohow moro opon
to attack. lt l rojoctod h|m now l know l'd bo do|ng roa|
'OK. Ono ||tt|o hug.' l s||ppod ott my shoos and jo|nod
h|m, nost||ng at h|s s|do. |o oasod h|s arm undor my nock
and prossod mo c|oso. l |ot my hand rost on h|s chost. 'You
s|appod my butt.'
|o sh|ttod to rub tho ottondod part. 'Yoah, sorry about
that, but l was mak|ng a po|nt.'
'1o mo or to thom?'
'ls °both' tho wrong answor?'
l pokod h|m |n tho stomach.
'|oy, don't b|amo mo! l was act|ng ||ko my brothors do at
tho|r most obnox|ous. 1hoy'ro good toachors.'
'3o |t was an act?'
'lhoo, como on: don't you know mo ovon a ||tt|o? Am l
tho k|nd ot boy to go round troat|ng my g|r| ||ko a dumb
'l dunno. Aro you?'
|o t|ck|od my r|bs |n rotr|but|on. 'On|y whon sho says
stup|d stutt ||ko that.'
l rota||atod w|th a thump. 'lo, l don't th|nk you wou|d
norma||y do somoth|ng ||ko that but you'ro not act|ng
norma|. l'm gott|ng contusod.'
'l know, swoothoart.'
'You roa||y th|nk |t's go|ng to bo OK?'
'Yoah, l roa||y do.'
'Aro you a hundrod por cont corta|n?'
|o gr|macod. 'l wou|dn't say that. lt l'm honost, l'm
th|nk|ng moro ||ko t|tty por cont. 0ad was r|ght that l'm
runn|ng a ho|| ot a r|sk. l'm ro|y|ng on a |ot ot poop|o to do
tho|r part r|ght and a |ot cou|d go wrong.'
1hat d|dn't sound good. 'Evon mo?'
'1hat's whoro tho trust comos |n.'
'l'm not go|ng to to||ow you to tho dark s|do, |t that's
whoro you'vo gono.'
'|onoy, you'ro a|roady thoro. 1h|s who|o th|ng |s about
gott|ng you out.'
1hat mado h|m sound ||ko tho t|rot|ghtor who wont |nto
tho burn|ng bu||d|ng to pu|| out a v|ct|m on|y to d|o |n tho
'3o how aro you go|ng to do that?'
|o smoothod a t|ngor ovor my chook. 'l'vo turnod to
cr|mo, romombor? l'm stoa||ng you, ot courso.'
'Uh-huh. 3ut t|rst l'm go|ng stoa| a k|ss.' |o wont up on
ono o|bow so our ||ps cou|d moot |n sott touch. |o took h|s
t|mo, a||ow|ng us both to ro|ax and onjoy tho sto|on momont
ot |nt|macy. 1horo was somoth|ng ovon moro powortu|
about ho|d|ng oach othor ||ko th|s, |y|ng down, |ogs
ontw|nod, h|s b|g tramo brush|ng aga|nst mo so l to|t
comp|oto|y wrappod |n h|s warmth. l'd boon so starvod ot
anyono touch|ng mo |n a |ov|ng way that l was ovorwho|mod
-dry oarth soak|ng up a do|ugo.
|o broko away and sm||od at mo. 'You roa||y do stop
t|mo, don't you?'
'l wasn't us|ng my powor on you, l prom|so.' l had no
|ntont|on ot adm|tt|ng to my ta||od attompt to troozo thom a||
'l know, l moant tho ottoct you havo on mo. K|ss|ng you
has just bocomo my tavour|to occupat|on.'
l roturnod h|s sm||o. '3ottor than study|ng goo-whats|t?'
'Oh yoah, baby, you bottor bo||ovo |t!'
Wo |aughod togothor at h|s Aust|n lowors s|||y accont.
'l |ovo you, Yvos.' l sa|d |t botoro l cou|d consor myso|t.
1oo |ato to ca|| |t back. 'l moan, l don't oxpoct you to say |t
back or anyth|ng.' ld|ot. 'Um . sorry.'
||s oyos woro g||ston|ng. 'l|oaso, don't apo|og|zo. l'm
on|y sorry you got to say |t t|rst. l'vo boon wa|t|ng tor tho
r|ght momont to to|| you.'
l tr|od to movo away. |o was just ocho|ng mo bocauso
ho was |ncurab|y po||to. 'loa||y, thoro's no nood.'
|o wou|dn't |ot mo budgo. '1horo's ovory nood. You'ro
good tor mo. l th|nk our croator was vory c|ovor th|nk|ng up
th|s sou|t|ndor bus|noss, as ho matchos us not w|th what wo
want but what wo roqu|ro.'
l |ot pass tho rathor surpr|s|ng adm|ss|on that th|s
sc|onco gook bo||ovod |n God, not somoth|ng l'd |ot myso|t
do s|nco l was ||tt|o. l|to had a|ways soomod too much ot a
cruo| joko to a||ow tor a bonovo|ont croator. 'And what d|d
you want, thon?'
|o |ay back down bos|do mo. 'l thought l wantod
somoono ||ko mo-l was ta|r|y sha||ow |n my cho|cos: a
co||ogo g|r|, Amor|can prom quoon mator|a|, somoono who
||kos tonn|s and books.'
'l can do books, but tonn|s?' l snortod.
'3ut l p|ay a moan gamo. l'|| havo to toach you.' ||s
t|ngors brushod gont|y at tho curvo ot my wa|st and h|p.
'1hough l shou|d warn you: Zod soos |t as anothor s|gn ot
my |ack ot mach|smo.'
'3ocauso tho p|ayors woar wh|tos, don't nood a ho|mot
and can't go dump|ng tho othor guy on tho ground.'
'l soo. vory suspoct. 3o what d|d you d|scovor you
roqu|ro |n your sou|t|ndor |t |t's not V|ss lrom Ouoon?'
|o wont s||ont tor a momont, mak|ng mo wondor |t ho
was roth|nk|ng. l cou|d a|most soo that portoct g|r|-sho'd
was roth|nk|ng. l cou|d a|most soo that portoct g|r|-sho'd
|ook ||ko 1o-Gr|d, tragrant, w|th tho a|r ot tho wo||-groomod
womon |n portumo ads, who|osomo as thoy boundod
across t|owor-strown moadows. lt l camo trom an advort, |t
wou|d bo |n a doorway |n a |o|p tho |omo|oss Chr|stmas
'Yvos?' l tappod h|s chost: bottor to hoar tho answor,
ovon |t |t was bad nows, than bo |ott wondor|ng.
|o sm||od. '|um|||ty-that's what l nood-somoono who
w||| cha||ongo mo about what |t moans to bo |nto|||gont.
3omoono who w||| tost my contro|. l thought l wantod to go
through ||to a|| ca|m and ovon-tomporod, now l roa||zo l
nood that t|ro or l'|| novor too| tho sparks. l th|nk-l hato to
adm|t |t-but l was |n dangor ot turn|ng b|and. l'd bo
woar|ng card|gans botoro l was th|rty |t you hadn't como
l sm||od at tho |mago. lorhaps card|gans woron't so bad
|t ho woro noth|ng undornoath and l had tho honour ot
unbutton|ng. '3ut l'm not |n your |oaguo, Yvos. lovor boon
'You'ro c|ovor |n your own way.'
'1horo aro hugo gaps |n what l know. l'm ||ko 3w|ss
'Evon so, l'vo not|cod you ho|d your own |n an argumont
w|th mo, l'm usod to poop|o to|d|ng bocauso thoy th|nk l
know moro than thom.'
'You probab|y do.'
'lot roa||y. loarn|ng comos oasy to mo. l know tacts and
t|guros, but not roa| stutt. Un||ko you.'
l to|t a g|ow ot pr|do |n myso|t, poss|b|y tho t|rst. |o
thought l know moro about ||to, d|d ho?
'And you aro a|| tho th|ngs l sa|d you woro: protoct|vo,
car|ng, dotorm|nod to |ook attor othors botoro you g|vo a
thought to yourso|t. l'm awod by your so|t|ossnoss, ovon
moro so now l'vo mot tho poop|o you ||vo w|th. You'ro a
much bottor porson than l am.'
|o covorod my hand w|th h|s so both our pa|ms rostod
aga|nst h|s hoart. 'l'm sor|ous.'
'l'm a th|ot. l ||kod |t.'
'l wou|d bo too |t l had boon born |nto th|s ||to. 3os|dos, l
undorstand ||k|ng tho rush ot do|ng somoth|ng wo||. |or mo,
|t's crack|ng a tormu|a, tor you, |t's gott|ng away w|th |t. Why
don't wo t|nd somoth|ng o|so that g|vos you tho samo thr|||
w|thout tho |||oga|-you-m|ght-ond-up-|n-ja|| b|t?'
K|ss|ng h|m wou|d do that but l cou|dn't |ot h|m koop
thoso |||us|ons. A|| my s|ns bubb|od out botoro l cou|d th|nk
bottor ot tho contoss|on. 'l got my tr|ond hurt. Un|corn took
ton yoars ot h|s ||to bocauso l wou|dn't ta|k.'
|o rubbod my nock |n a comtort|ng gosturo. 'lot your
tau|t. 3|amo tho onos who d|d |t. l'd ||ko to moot your tr|ond.
What was h|s namo aga|n?'
'1ony.' l tracod a c|rc|o on h|s chost w|th a t|ngor. 'l'd ||ko
you to moot h|m but ho's tho on|y ono. Koop away trom tho
'OK. Wo'|| go t|nd h|m |ator |t you th|nk |t's sato.'
'loth|ng |s sato horo.'
'loss r|sky thon.'
'Yoah, that's about |t.'
'1ust ono th|ng, lhoo.'
'l'm not go|ng to tr|ggor any ot thoso sw|tchos tho 3oor
put |n your m|nd, so don't you do somoth|ng that w|||
produco tho samo rosu|t. lt l'm go|ng to sacr|t|co a pawn or
two to koop you sato, l don't want you to go throw|ng my
1ho way ho was doscr|b|ng th|s, ||ko a dangorous choss
gamb|t, was not mak|ng mo any happ|or, tho stakos bo|ng
so much h|ghor than a handshako tor tho v|ctor. 'You know
what th|s too|s ||ko tor mo, Yvos?' |o shook h|s hoad. 'l|ko
l'm b||ndto|dod and wa|k|ng a|ong a ropo br|dgo. l don't
know |t you'vo put a satoty not thoro or |t |t's a r|vor tu|| ot
|o k|ssod my torohoad. 'l |ovo tho way you th|nk. You
havo tho most wondortu| grasp ot |magos, much moro
ontorta|n|ng than my rathor ||tora| approach to ||to.'
|o had sk||tu||y avo|dod answor|ng.
'3o what |s |t? lot or crocs?'
'What do you th|nk?'
'l th|nk yoo th|nk thoro's a not but you m|ght not soo tho
b|g ho|os |n |t. 0|dn't v|ctor and your dad both warn you?'
|o rubbod my arm. '3oo, l to|d you you woro c|ovor.'
'3as|ca||y, you aro ask|ng mo to go |nto th|s b||nd-w|th
tho d|st|nct poss|b|||ty that my gu|do can't soo tho dangors
o|thor. l won't know unt|| too |ato.'
|o thought about th|s tor a momont. '1hat's about |t. On
tho othor hand, you m|ght ||ko to cons|dor that tho othor
guys m|ght a|so bo b||ndto|dod-to somo th|ngs at |oast.'
'l hopo so.'
'l know so.'
3oth rump|od and barotoot, s|tt|ng cross-|oggod on tho
bod, wo'd just t|n|shod a p|cn|c ot my sma|| storo ot b|scu|ts
and wator whon our summons camo. lt was by now |ato
attornoon and l had boon oxpoct|ng ono ot my ha|t-brothors,
but |t was Kas|a at tho door. 3ho sm||od at tho pa|r ot us.
'3o th|s |s your young man, lhoon|x?' 3ho gavo h|m an
Yvos |ookod to mo to mako tho |ntroduct|on.
'1h|s |s Kas|a, Yvos. 3ho's tho 3oor's to|opathy oxport.' l
hopod that was onough warn|ng.
'l|co to moot you,' Yvos sa|d po||to|y, stand|ng up and
ho|d|ng out a hand.
Kas|a brushod pa|ms w|th h|m br|ot|y. 'l'vo hoard your
vo|co tor a tow days now, n|co to moot you |n tho t|osh,
Yvos. You'ro both wantod. |o||ow mo.'
l s||ppod on my shoos and ran tho brush through my ha|r.
Yvos tuckod |n h|s sh|rt and put on h|s g|assos. Wo woro as
roady as wo woro ovor go|ng to bo.
'1rust mo,' ho wh|sporod as wo |ott tho havon ot tho t| at.
As wo wa|kod towards tho 3oor's apartmont, l cou|d soo
Yvos chango. |o stood up ta||or, h|s wa|k bocamo moro ot
a swaggor, and ho odgod ahoad a paco so l was |ott
tra|||ng boh|nd h|m. |o wont t|rst through tho door.
'Yvos, my doar boy, l'm sorry tor my oar||or susp|c|on.'
1ho 3oor d|d not r|so but bockonod h|m to sharo a soat on
tho sota noxt to h|m. Un|corn and 0ragon scow|od at my
sou|t|ndor trom tho|r cornor by tho b|g scroon. 'Your
|ntormat|on has chockod out |n a|| rospocts. Vy co||oaguos
aro vory p|oasod w|th tho dota||s l was ab|o to torward
'You'vo sont |t to thom a|roady?' Yvos trownod. '3ut l to|d
you not to copy |t ott my momory st|ck.'
1ho 3oor wavod that away. 'Your data |s not much uso to
us |t wo can't d|ssom|nato |t, |s |t? 1hanks to you, tho
3avant lot |s go|ng to bo takon apart p|oco by p|oco.
3|ow|y, ot courso. Wo wou|dn't want thom to suspoct whoro
wo got tho |ntormat|on trom. And no ono w||| hurt your
poop|o-that goos w|thout say|ng.'
3ocauso tho 3oor noodod tho 3onod|cts to carry on
unw|tt|ng|y tood|ng |ntormat|on through. l had no |||us|ons
that ho was ottor|ng th|s concoss|on tor human|tar|an
roasons. Voro dovastat|ng was tho roa||zat|on that roa|
|ntormat|on had boon swappod tor mo, Yvos had dono
oxact|y what ho sa|d ho had: botrayod h|s tam||y and
tr|onds. l to|t tho pa|n ||ko a b|ow to tho stomach. 3omohow
l'd boon hop|ng tor a m|rac|o. l cou|dn't boar to th|nk that h|s
attachmont to mo had mado 3ky and h|s brothors |nto
pawns ho was proparod to sacr|t|co.
Yvos c||ckod h|s t|ngors at mo. 'Yo, lhoo, got ovor horo.'
'What?' l put my hands on my h|ps and g|arod at h|m.
1h|s was tak|ng tho ro|o way too tar.
'You'ro th|nk|ng too much. Vr 3oor says l'm |n, so como
park your butt horo whoro l can soo you.' |o |oant to tho
3oor. '3ho's st||| not w|th tho programmo-th|ngs aro
chang|ng too qu|ck|y tor hor ||tt|o bra|n. l want to koop a
c|oso watch on hor.'
Wh||o l wantod to put a t|st |n h|s |nt|atod ogo, ho'd a|so
askod mo to trust h|m. l was tho on|y tr|ond ho st||| had |t
ho'd cut h|s t|os w|th ovoryono o|so tor mo.
W|th a t|ounco to broadcast my annoyanco, l sta|kod ovor
to tho sota and sat as tar trom h|m as tho soat wou|d a||ow.
|o was hav|ng nono ot th|s. |ook|ng an arm around my
wa|st, ho pu||od mo to s|t on h|s knoo, pa|m sproad
possoss|vo|y on my m|dr|tt. 1ho 3oor m|ssod nono ot th|s
by-p|ay, g|v|ng us h|s croopy sm||o ot approva|.
1ho 3oor gosturod to ono ot h|s compan|ons to sorvo
h|m a champagno cockta||. |o ottorod a g|ass to Yvos but
not to mo. l had no moro ro|o to p|ay |n th|s convorsat|on
than a sota cush|on. 'low, son, tho noxt stop w||| bo to moot
w|th my co||oaguos th|s ovon|ng. 1hoy havo a propos|t|on
'What k|nd ot propos|t|on?' askod Yvos, squooz|ng mo |n
warn|ng as l shuddorod at tho 3oor's uso ot 'son'. lo ono
sa|d 'son' un|oss |n a jokoy 'a|| r|ght my son' way-not
un|oss thoy woro mak|ng a hoavy po|nt to tho|r aud|onco.
'3us|noss opportun|t|os tor us. Vr low York may arguo
tor you to bo absorbod |nto h|s organ|zat|on as you'|| bo
spond|ng most t|mo |n tho 3tatos, but l w||| pross tor you to
roma|n on my books, what w|th you bo|ng my daughtor's
sou|t|ndor. You'ro ono ot tho tam||y now.'
3o thoy woro go|ng to squabb|o ovor tho |ns|do sourco,
woro thoy? Anyth|ng that drovo a wodgo botwoon thom was
good nows. lomombor|ng '1|m' low York, l was oxpoct|ng
h|m not to g|vo up such a morso| w|thout a strugg|o.
'And you'|| want to como back and v|s|t hor troquont|y,
won't you?' cont|nuod tho 3oor, s|pp|ng h|s dr|nk. '3oo how
sho's gott|ng on horo?'
Yvos strotchod h|s arms out on tho back ot tho sota,
|oav|ng mo porchod procar|ous|y on h|s |ap. 'l'|| hoar what
you'vo a|| got to say ton|ght, but l th|nk you nood to got |t
stra|ght that thoro |s no quost|on ot mo |oav|ng lhoo
boh|nd. lsn't that r|ght, lhoo?'
What d|d ho want mo to say? Yos, s|r, no, s|r, throo bags
tu||, s|r? l cou|d on|y stomach so much ot th|s botoro l
snappod. '1hat's r|ght, Yvos, l'm stay|ng w|th you.'
'3oo.' Yvos sm||od at tho 3oor as |t to say, what cou|d ho
do? 1ho ||tt|o woman cou|dn't ||vo w|thout h|m.
'Wo'|| sott|o that |ator.' 1ho 3oor was not go|ng to
surrondor h|s aco so oas||y. |o must havo roa||zod that
onco Yvos got mo away, h|s ho|d ovor both ot us wou|d bo
|mmoasurab|y woakonod. '|or now wo nood to d|scuss
bus|noss. lhoon|x, you go and do|| yourso|t up tor tho
moot|ng wh||o your sou|t|ndor and l d|scuss torms.'
Vonta||y wav|ng a s|ng|o t|ngor |n h|s d|roct|on, l got up.
'Can l uso somoth|ng trom tho Commun|ty wardrobo
'Ot courso. And |ook out ovon|ng woar tor Yvos wh||o
you'ro thoro. 1horo's a wh|to d|nnor jackot that w||| do.'
Out ot tho cornor ot my oyo, l caught 0ragon and Un|corn
oxchango a |ook. lo ma|o had ovor boon a||owod to woar
what was rocogn|zod as tho 3oor's co|our.
Yvos gavo mo a br|ot pat, act|ng as |t ho'd torgotton mo
ovon botoro l |ott tho room. l was tomptod to st|ck my
tonguo out at h|m trom boh|nd tho 3oor's back but cou|dn't
r|sk anyono o|so not|c|ng my robo|||on wh||o Yvos workod
so hard to projoct tho |mago ot bossy ma|o. 3ut, roa||y, ho'd
bottor not bo gott|ng |doas, ho was onjoy|ng th|s tar too
bottor not bo gott|ng |doas, ho was onjoy|ng th|s tar too
much tor my ||k|ng.
l tr|od to |oso myso|t |n tho bus|noss ot sort|ng through tho
c|othos |n tho 3oor's storos. 3omo ot tho drossos mado
Kar|a's cho|co at tho bout|quo |ook rostra|nod. l'd not soon
so much d|amanto and soqu|ns on anyono othor than a
pantom|mo damo. ||na||y, l tound a gown l cou|d ||vo w|th-
a sott apr|cot ch|tton ovor a sat|n s||p. lt had a c|ass|c ha|tor
nock||no, gathorod undor tho bust, and thon t|owod to ond
just abovo my knoo. look|ng at myso|t |n tho m|rror, l
doc|dod tho co|our t|attorod my tan and that tho cho|co ot
||tt|o k|tton-hoo| shoos showod ott my |ogs, mak|ng thom
moro attract|vo than thoy norma||y appoarod |n my c|umsy
tra|nors. l accossor|zod tho outt|t w|th anothor d|amond
nock|aco-th|s ono moro do||cato, w|th tho stonos |n t|owor
sott|ngs so |t |ookod as |t l had a pr|co|oss da|sy cha|n
around my throat.
|or Yvos, l tound a wh|to d|nnor jackot and b|ack trousors
dos|gnod by lau| 3m|th-or at |oast an oxco||ont tako, you
can novor to|| |n tho 3oor's stororoom. l d|dn't yot know
Yvos's s|zo tor corta|n so ho|d thom up to mo try|ng to
romombor whoro h|s wa|st camo |n ro|at|on to my body.
'0on't th|nk thoy su|t you.'
l droppod tho trousors on tho rug. Un|corn had ontorod
l droppod tho trousors on tho rug. Un|corn had ontorod
s||ont|y boh|nd mo and was watch|ng mo |n tho m|rror, h|s
oyos co|d w|th |oath|ng. |o p|nchod tho br|dgo ot h|s
prom|nont noso, strugg||ng to conta|n h|s tompor.
'Oh, l don't know: l th|nk tho d|nnor jackot w||| t|n|sh ott my
|ook n|co|y.' l ho|d |t up on |ts paddod hangor tor h|s
|nspoct|on. 'Wh|to was novor my co|our botoro, but now .
wo||, maybo l'vo changod my m|nd.'
|o movod torward smooth|y and p|uckod |t trom my hand
and hung |t back on tho ra|| boh|nd mo. '1ust bocauso you
aro pa|rod w|th tho 3oor's |atost toy, don't th|nk that that
moans you aro go|ng to tako ovor h|s oporat|on whon ho
As |t l wou|d want a ro|o |n th|s potty k|ngdom. '1hat's so
not my amb|t|on, Un|corn: that's yours.' l p|ckod up tho
trousors and hung thom ovor tho back ot a cha|r. 'l just want
to bo happy and ||vo somowhoro w|thout toar.'
Vy movomont mado my jowo||ory sw|ng torward, tho
g||ttor catch|ng h|s oyo. |o ||ttod tho d|amond nock|aco and
|ot |t ta||. '1horo's no such p|aco out thoro tor you and mo,
lhoo, not w|th our g|tts. 1o tho rost ot tho wor|d wo aro
troaks and you o|thor run tho c|rcus or oboy tho ordors ot
'l th|nk you'ro wrong,' l sa|d qu|ot|y, rotus|ng to back up a
stop as ho wou|d oxpoct. '1horo aro 3avants who ||vo a
norma| ||to. lt doosn't havo to bo ||ko th|s.'
||s ||ps cur|od |nto a snoor. '3ays who? Your proc|ous
sou|-t|ndor? look at h|m: ho's qu|ck to so|| out h|s tam||y,
|sn't ho? At |oast wo horo |n tho Commun|ty aro |oya| to
oach othor. l sp|t on h|m and h|s so-ca||od norma| ||to |t th|s
|s what |t moans.'
l cou|dn't t|nd an argumont aga|nst h|m-not w|thout
rovoa||ng my hopo that dosp|to ovoryth|ng Yvos wou|d t|nd
somo way to avo|d damag|ng tho 3avant lot. lt was
unsott||ng to t|nd that Un|corn roa||y d|d bo||ovo |n tho
Commun|ty and was |oya| to |t |n h|s own way. 3ut maybo l
cou|d undorstand whon l |mag|nod myso|t |n h|s shoos: |t
was tho on|y tam||y any ot us had known, what o|so had ho
to c||ng on to? l was so usod to bo|ng atra|d ot h|m that l
torgot ho was a|so a toonago v|ct|m ot tho 3oor, on|y ho
was doa||ng w|th tho s|tuat|on vory d|ttoront|y trom mo.
l rubbod my arms to smooth tho goosobumps that had
r|son on tho baro sk|n. '3t|||, you can't dony that |t |ooks ||ko
tho 3oor |s takon w|th Yvos. V|ght mako my ||to horo a b|t
bottor |t ho va|uos my sou|t|ndor.'
Un|corn pokod h|s |ndox t|ngor |n my chost to omphas|zo
oach word. 'You w||| not tako my p|aco, lhoon|x. l'vo g|von
too much ot my ||to to our tathor to |ot that happon now. l'vo
spont yoars oarn|ng my p|aco, l won't |ot a sk|nny s|ut stop
|n and tako ovor.'
l pushod h|s hand away. '|ard|y my cho|co, |s |t? lt tho
3oor wants Yvos at h|s s|do, thon that's h|s bus|noss.'
'1ho 3oor doosn't trust h|m onough tor that. And ho
knows oxact|y how sott you aro-unro||ab|o whon |t comos
to tho tough doc|s|ons. |o'|| st||| nood mo and 0ragon tor
tho roa| work.'
'1hon you'vo noth|ng to toar trom us.'
Un|corn c|osod tho d|stanco botwoon us and gr|ppod my
shou|dors, t|ngors pross|ng |nto t|osh to |oavo ||tt|o ha|t-
moons trom h|s na||s. 'Vako suro l don't. lt your sou|t|ndor
gots |n my way, l'|| sond h|m to an oar|y gravo. |o'|| bo
about a hundrod ot courso-but that shou|d on|y tako mo
m|nutos. |o won't ||ko |t but l'|| onjoy ovory ono ot thom. l'||
|augh as you k|ss tho wr|nk|od, tooth|oss o|d man goodbyo.'
'l hato you,' l wh|sporod, |ook|ng down at tho toocaps ot
h|s b|ack boots p|antod r|ght by tho t|ps ot my ||tt|o shoos. l
cou|dn't |ot h|m soo tho torror |n my oyos at tho thought ot
h|m turn|ng h|s g|tt on Yvos.
Wo hoard tootstops |n tho corr|dor outs|do. |o torcod my
hoad to h|s shou|dor, hand gr|pp|ng my ha|r pa|ntu||y, a
mockory ot a brothor|y ombraco. 'l'm g|ad you too| ||ko that,
lhoo. low wo know oxact|y whoro wo stand, don't wo?'
l sa|d noth|ng.
'0on't wo?' ||s hand tw|stod, ha|r pu|||ng at tho roots.
'Yos,' l chokod.
'lhoo, aro you OK?' Yvos had ontorod to catch tho ta||
ond ot our oxchango.
Un|corn pushod mo away w|th a warn|ng |ook. 'Yoah,
sho's t|no. Wo woro just hav|ng somo brothor and s|stor
qua||ty t|mo, woron't wo, s|s?'
l noddod, rubb|ng tho back ot my sca|p.
'3o l'|| |ot you two got roady thon. Wo |oavo |n t|ttoon
m|nutos-that's what l camo to to|| you, lhoo.' |o brushod
past Yvos w|th a sm|rk.
'What was that about?' Yvos g|arod at Un|corn as ho
'1ho usua|. 1hroats, pun|shmont, |nt|m|dat|on.' l rubbod
my shou|dors, attompt|ng to roga|n contro| ovor my
omot|ons. l cou|dn't |ot Un|corn roduco mo to a qu|vor|ng
wrock, ho'd dono that too otton |n tho past and l had to t|nd
strongth to stand up to h|m. '1ust prom|so mo you'|| koop
away trom h|m. |o's vory powortu|.'
'3uro. l don't torosoo us spond|ng 1hanksg|v|ng w|th your
tam||y, swoothoart.' Yvos str|ppod ott h|s top and took tho
sh|rt l had tound tor h|m ott |ts hangor.
'lt thoy oro my tam||y. l'm st||| hop|ng that my mum had
anothor boytr|ond.' l passod h|m tho trousors. 'l'm not suro
thoso w||| t|t.'
'1urn your back un|oss you want an oyotu| ot my shorts,'
l sm||od wan|y and occup|od myso|t rummag|ng |n a box
ot t|os to t|nd h|m a wh|to bow.
'|avo l to|d you yot how protty you |ook? l roa||y ||ko you |n
'1ho nock|aco |s just r|ght.' |o was try|ng to choor mo up
and |t was work|ng, ||ko a ||tt|o sunsh|no attor Un|corn's
l turnod back to h|m, ho|d|ng out tho t|o. '3hamo a|| tho
jowo||ory's sto|on, huh?'
'l|ght. 3ut porhaps l'|| got you ono mado just ||ko |t whon
wo got to tho U3.'
'3ky mont|onod you woro obscono|y r|ch.'
|o shruggod. 'Embarrass|ng, but truo. At |oast wo don't
havo to worry about how wo'ro go|ng to pay tor your co||ogo
toos. l'|| t|oat you a |oan.'
l c|osod my oyos br|ot|y as th|s tanta||z|ng droam hovorod
botwoon us. l hadn't cha||ongod h|s assumpt|on that l'd go
w|th h|m as l s|mp|y d|d not bo||ovo |t wou|d happon. 'l cou|d
go to co||ogo? 3ut l don't havo any qua||t|cat|ons.'
|o scoopod up my ha|r and p|antod a k|ss on tho napo ot
my nock. '||rst, you can got your h|gh schoo| cort|t|cato w|th
somo |ntons|vo tutor|ng trom a vory g|ttod toachor.' |o
prossod anothor on my baro shou|dor b|ado. '1hat'|| bo troo
as ho'|| on|y ask tor k|ssos |n ropaymont.' |o brushod h|s
||ps ovor tho othor shou|dor, smooth|ng away tho hurt.
'l guoss th|s tutor you havo |n m|nd |s about t|tty,
ovorwo|ght, w|th a comb-ovor? |mm, yoah that'|| bo
'|a-ha.' |o pun|shod mo tor my toas|ng by k|ss|ng my
jaw. '|o |s a|most o|ghtoon and |ott h|gh schoo| w|th A
grados |n a|| subjocts and |n tho top porcont||o.'
'3ounds roa||y gooky. lot suro l'd want to k|ss h|m.'
'lot so. l know tor a tact you |ovo k|ss|ng th|s part|cu|ar
scho|ar. |o protors that torm to °gook'-so much moro
'3ut ho has to go to co||ogo h|mso|t. |o can't too| around
toach|ng somoono who's novor had any torma| oducat|on.' l
s||d my arms around h|m, com|ng |n c|oso tor a hug. Yvos
had tho ab|||ty to oxpo| tho |ast sh|vory attormath ot an
unp|oasant oncountor w|th my so-ca||od ro|at|vo.
'lt w||| bo abso|uto|y h|s p|oasuro. And ho'|| t|nd you a
schoo| too-noar h|m-so wh||o ho's out study|ng goo-
wbotslt, as tho subjoct honcotorth sha|| bo known, you can
a|so havo your own ||to.'
'|mm, sounds ||ko a droam como truo.'
'1ust s|t back and watch mo mako |t happon.'
3ut wo had tho ||tt|o mattor ot tho 3avant lot ho had
botrayod and tho moot|ng w|th tho 3oor's cr|m|na|
co||aborators to doa| w|th. 'Yvos .'
|o put a t|ngor to my ||ps. '3hh. lot now. 1rust,
|o was ask|ng moro trom mo than anyono ovor had. l d|d
not put my ta|th |n anothor porson oas||y. 3ut th|s was Yvos.
l noddod and swa||owod, try|ng tor a br|ght sm||o. 'OK,
gorgoous, |ot's go wow tho crowds w|th our dobona|r a|r.'
|o chuck|od. 'Lobooolr a|r? Ugh.'
'Yoah wo||, l'm not at my most o|oquont just at tho
'You know, l was th|nk|ng you shou|d major |n ||toraturo at
co||ogo. |ow doos that sound?'
'Yoars to do noth|ng but road books? 3|gn mo up.'
|o huggod mo to h|s s|do and took a broath. '|o|d that
thought. lot's go taco tho mus|c.'
l had oxpoctod to bo marchod stra|ght |nto a bus|noss
moot|ng or d|nnor much as l had |ast t|mo l mot tho 3oor's
|ntornat|ona| contacts, but tho |ntormat|on Yvos had passod
thom had put thom |n tho mood to co|obrato and wo woro to
start tho ovon|ng at a pr|vato jazz c|ub |n 3oho. 1ho
do|ogat|on trom tho Commun|ty cons|stod ot tho 3oor,
0ragon, and Un|corn as wo|| as Yvos and mo. Kas|a was
not v|s|b|o but that d|dn't moan sho wasn't |odgod
somowhoro c|oso by to mon|tor procood|ngs. A|| tho top
3avants wou|d havo tho|r own commun|cat|ons oxport-
thoy'd bo stup|d not to and nono ot thom struck mo as
Our tax| |ott us on tho pavomont |n |r|th 3troot tac|ng tho
b|ack doors and ||t |ntor|or ot 1ho Know|odgo. Onco an
o|ghtoonth-contury houso, tho |ns|do had boon comp|oto|y
r|ppod out and oxcavatod |nto tho co||ars to prov|do a
cavornous spaco tor tho mus|c|ans' stago and aud|onco
soatod around ||tt|o tab|os. On|y tho row ot sash w|ndows on
tho t|rst and socond t|oor had boon |ott to show |ts or|g|ns
as a much o|dor bu||d|ng. 1ho crowds ot tash|onab|y
drossod customors go|ng |n and out attostod to tho tact that
|t was ono ot london's hotspots-and |t was about to
bocomo a |ot hottor w|th a do|ogat|on ot tho 3avant wor|d's
cr|mo |ords on tho prom|sos.
1ho 3oor brushod an |mag|nary spock trom h|s wh|to
|apo|. '1h|s |s |n your honour,' ho sa|d w|th a t|oot|ng gr|n at
'l'm |mprossod.' Yvos scannod tho busy stroot ot thr|v|ng
bars and vonuos. 'l'vo a|ways wantod to go to 1ho
Know|odgo- any jazz tan has |t on tho top ot tho|r ||st whon
v|s|t|ng london. |ow d|d you know l |ovo mus|c?'
1ho 3oor bogan wa|k|ng. 'You'd bo surpr|sod what wo'vo
|oarnod about you, Yvos, ovor tho yoars. You ||vo qu|ot|y
accord|ng to my Amor|can co||oaguo, but not ovoryth|ng
can bo h|ddon trom |ntorostod part|os.' |o pausod on tho
throsho|d. '3ut thon you know that, bocauso you'vo boon
watch|ng us, havon't you?'
Yvos squoozod my hand. 'l guoss somo havo. lot mo,
though. l'vo boon |n h|gh schoo| tor tho |ast tour yoars,
study|ng hard. lo t|mo tor spy|ng.'
'And vory c|ovor you aro too, by a|| accounts.' 1ho 3oor
gosturod |mpat|ont|y tor us to to||ow. '|av|ng p|onty ot brawn
at my d|sposa|, l nood moro bra|ns |n my oporat|on, you'||
bo a wo|como add|t|on and l th|nk you'|| t|nd thoro |s tar
moro scopo tor your ta|onts whon not tottorod by tho 3avant
lot's too||sh taboos.'
l|ko mora||ty and doconcy.
3oh|nd h|s back, Un|corn and 0ragon g|arod at mo, but,
roa||y, |t was hard|y my tau|t |t tho 3oor |abo||od thom as
noth|ng but usotu| musc|o.
1ho p|a|nt|vo stra|ns ot a saxophono dr|ttod out trom tho
aud|tor|um. 1ho 3oor ontorod w|th us to||ow|ng ||ko a c|oak
r|pp||ng at h|s hoo|s. 1ho room was tu|| but tho 3avants had
rosorvod tho bost spot, r|ght |n tront ot tho stago. 1hoy woro
a|| thoro-oach ot tho wor|d's cr|mo synd|catos roprosontod
as thoy had boon |n tho hoto|. Evory tab|o had a ||tt|o cand|o
|n a rod ho|dor, |n tho d|m ||ght|ng, tho t|amos |ookod to mo
||ko domon oyos crouch|ng at tho r|m ot oach tab|o to poor
ma|ovo|ont|y at us. l had a suddon dos|ro to turn ta|| and run
-run tor my ||to. Yvos |ncroasod h|s gr|p, sons|ng my
'lt'|| bo OK,' ho wh|sporod.
Our ontry co|nc|dod w|th tho |ast notos ot 'Cry Vo a l|vor'
and tho aud|onco broko |nto a scattor|ng ot app|auso. 1ho
3oor sm||od, ||k|ng tho co|nc|donco that mado |t appoar
that thoy woro groot|ng h|m. '1|m' low York stood up and
wavod us ovor. l cou|d soo tho othor |oad|ng mombors ot
tho group- Voscow, 3o|j|ng, 3ydnoy and tho rost-soatod
c|oso at hand. 1h|s wasn't go|ng to bo a t|mo tor a pr|vato
d|scuss|on, wo woro horo on show, proot that tho 3oor had
tamod h|m a 3onod|ct.
1|m shook hands w|th tho 3oor thon c|appod Yvos on tho
shou|dor. 'Good to moot you. l'm low York. load a |ot
about you, ot courso, but novor thought to soo th|s day.' |o
caught s|ght ot mo |n Yvos's shadow. '3ut thon |t l had a
||tt|o |ady ||ko that to protoct, l'd roth|nk my ||to p|an too.' |o
hookod my arm and pu||od mo |nto tho c|rc|o ot ||ght by tho
tab|o, act|ng as |t wo woro o|d tr|onds. 'You |ook |ovo|y,
V|ss london. 1ako a soat.'
1horo woro on|y tour cha|rs at tho tab|o, |oav|ng Un|corn
and 0ragon to scramb|o tor p|acos as noar as thoy cou|d. A
wa|tor arr|vod w|th a bott|o ot champagno and procoodod
to pour us a|| a g|ass. Wh||o protond|ng to jo|n |n tho toast, l
|ott m|no untouchod. Yvos kopt my hand |n h|s, h|ddon
bo|ow tho tab|o top, prov|d|ng much noodod comtort as ho
chattod oas||y w|th 1|m about tho basoba|| soason. lot
roqu|rod tor anyth|ng but docorat|on, l oxam|nod tho room
wo woro |n, spy|ng out ox|t routos shou|d wo havo to mako
a rap|d doparturo. On|y whon l scopod out tho noarost
omorgoncy door w|th |ts groon-||t s|gn ot a runn|ng man d|d l
turn my attont|on to tho mus|c|ans. Vy t|ngors gr|ppod
Yvos's convu|s|vo|y. 1ho saxophono p|ayor was a sma||
b|ondo g|r|. 1ho hoavy oyo mako-up, b|ack-r|mmod g|assos
and tho vamp|ro-rod ||pst|ck d|d not h|do hor |dont|ty trom
ono who had spont tho |ast tow days shar|ng hor bodroom.
3ky. |opo m|xod w|th horror as l soarchod tor Zod,
guoss|ng ho wou|d not havo |ot h|s sou|t|ndor wa|k |nto th|s
s|tuat|on a|ono. l t|na||y |dont|t|od h|m as tho hoav||y
boardod drummor |n tho t|owory sh|rt and, yos, socks and
sanda|s. l b|t my tonguo, ropross|ng tho absurd dos|ro to
|augh at h|s tash|on sacr|t|co tor our causo.
3ut what d|d th|s a|| moan? lt thoy woro horo, thon so
woro tho othor 3onod|cts. And thoy o|thor had to know that
Yvos had botrayod thom, or ho had boon p|ay|ng ta|so a||
a|ong and gono aga|nst tho 3oor. l shut my oyos, hoad
sp|nn|ng. lt that turnod out to bo tho caso, thon l wou|d bo
torcod to hurt somoono ho |ovod. l just cou|dn't . wou|dn't
. un|oss . l roa||zod that tho 3oor's command had not
torb|ddon mo to turn h|s ordor on myso|t. Yvos |ovod mo-
ho'd sa|d so on|y hours ago. l wou|d do somoth|ng to myso|t
botoro l touchod ono ot h|s tam||y.
'A|| r|ght, my doar?' 1ho 3oor to|gnod concorn whon ho
saw my pa|nod oxpross|on but l cou|d to|| l was putt|ng h|m
saw my pa|nod oxpross|on but l cou|d to|| l was putt|ng h|m
on tho a|ort by my rosponso. l tr|od to mastor my roact|ons. l
d|dn't know tor corta|n what had brought tho 3onod|cts
horo. Yvos had sworn ho wou|dn't tr|p any ot tho tr|ggors tho
3oor had sot |n my m|nd. 1hoy cou|d havo othor sourcos ot
|ntormat|on that l d|dn't know about. lo nood to go
ovorboard on tho strongth ot susp|c|on a|ono.
'Um . yos, thank you. l was just th|nk|ng about tho song.
lt a|ways rom|nds mo ot my mothor's doath.'
Ovorhoar|ng my romark, 1|m shook h|s hoad. 'Oh, wo
can't havo that-no sad thoughts ton|ght. lot's ask thom to
p|ay somoth|ng you ||ko. What'|| |t bo?'
l thought qu|ck|y, drodg|ng through tho songs l know to
t|nd a su|tab|o ono. '|ow about °l lut a 3po|| on You'?' l'd
hoard |t as background mus|c |n a cato rocont|y and tho t|t|o
had stuck as b|zarro|y appropr|ato to 3avant powors.
1|m c||ckod h|s t|ngors and ordorod tho wa|tor to pass on
h|s roquost. 1ho mus|c|ans pausod |n tho|r proparat|ons tor
tho|r noxt numbor and qu|ck|y contorrod. Anothor mossago
was sont backstago wh||o tho p|an|st-l d|dn't rocogn|zo
h|m-t|nk|od away w|th a mod|oy ot songs. |rom boh|nd a
curta|n at tho roar, a shapo|y o|dor woman |n a t|ght rod
dross and s||k turban stoppod up to tho m|crophono to s|ng.
l now w|shod l'd choson somoth|ng w|thout words bocauso
|t took mo on|y a socond to roa||zo that Yvos's mum, Kar|a,
had boon thrust |nto tho ||mo||ght by my so|oct|on. 3ho was
a|most unrocogn|zab|o, thanks to t|ntod g|assos and hoavy
d|va costumo jowo||ory. And, boy, cou|d sho s|ng! lo ono
wou|d suspoct hor ot bo|ng p|antod thoro by v|ctor as sho
soundod ||ko a protoss|ona|-hor vo|co doop and su|try.
l wasn't suro |t Yvos had ovon roa||zod ho was
surroundod by h|s tam||y as h|s attont|on appoarod to bo
t|xod on our hosts. 3uro|y ho had to rocogn|zo h|s own
mothor's vo|co? 3ut |t ho d|d, ho gavo no s|gn.
'Um .Yvos .' l wh|sporod. l wantod h|m to pay attont|on
to mo so l cou|d |ot my oxpross|on do tho ta|k|ng whon l
d|dn't daro r|sk tho words.
|o gavo mo a brash sm||o, so d|ttoront trom h|s usua|
opon oxpross|on. 'lot now, honoy.'
1hat was no answor. l st||| d|dn't know |t ho know. l
subs|dod and ||stonod |n on tho|r convorsat|on tor a tow
m|nutos. 1|m was try|ng to |uro Yvos to h|s organ|zat|on,
ta|k|ng |n vo||od torms about tho drug-runn|ng oporat|on ho
had ostab||shod w|th othor mombors ot tho |ooso
contodoracy ot cr|m|na|-m|ndod 3avants. l cou|d sonso tho
3oor gott|ng |ncroas|ng|y hot undor tho co||ar as ho was
'london |s a b|g markot,' ho |ntorruptod suddon|y. 'l havo
p|ans tor Yvos to ho|p ostab||sh a routo |nto tho cap|ta|. ||s
computor oxport|so w||| bo |nva|uab|o |n gott|ng around
Customs and Exc|so chocks.'
1|m wavod a d|sm|ss|vo hand. '1hoso too|s? Wo'vo got
ta|ontod carr|ors who can porsuado tho|r way past anyono
w|th tho|r powors.'
'3ut how much moro ro||ab|o to havo a sottwaro systom
that c|oars any cargo undor our namo? lt |t comos up as
a|roady chockod thon you'vo no nood ot such too|s.' 1ho
3oor s|ppod h|s champagno and wr|nk|od h|s noso. '3|t dry
tor my tasto.' |o s|gna||od tor anothor bott|o to bo brought
to tho tab|o, spoc|ty|ng anothor v|ntago-a nono-too-subt|o
s|gn that ho was tak|ng back command ot our ||tt|o party.
'What do you th|nk, Yvos?'
Yvos |ookod as |t ho wou|d vory much protor not to bo put
on tho spot. '3oth |doas havo mor|t,' ho rop||od
d|p|omat|ca||y. 'You can't a|ways ro|y on tochno|ogy though.
A govornmont m|ght tako |t |nto tho|r hoad to do a spot
chock. And thoro aro a|ways tho sn|ttor dogs to catch out a
1|m gavo a dark chuck|o. '0amnod dogs. |avon't yot
tound somoono who can porsuado thom to sn|tt tho othor
way-m|nd powors on|y work on humans.'
1ho 3oor's oyos s||d to mo. 'What about you, lhoon|x:
can you contro| an|ma|s?' |o turnod back to 1|m. 'Vy g|r|
horo doos th|s vory c|ovor th|ng whoro sho can stop your
bra|n tor a tow soconds.'
1|m ra|sod h|s g|ass to mo.
'lo roason why |t shou|dn't work on dogs. What do you
'Er . l'vo novor tr|od.' l to|t s|ckonod-bad onough bo|ng
a th|ot but now tho 3oor was p|ott|ng to uso mo as somo
k|nd ot drugs mu|o. 'l guoss |t w||| nood somo moro thought.
Excuso mo. l'm just go|ng to troshon up.' lt Yvos wasn't
go|ng to |ot mo warn h|m, l wou|d soo |t l cou|d t|nd out what
was happon|ng so l was proparod tor whatovor camo noxt.
|o kopt ho|d ot my hand, ro|uctant to |ot mo go, but l tuggod
troo. 'Won't bo |ong.'
l hoadod tor tho to||ots, awaro that Un|corn had got up
trom h|s tab|o and was ta|||ng mo. l kopt my oyos poo|od tor
othor 3onod|cts but, |t thoy woro undorcovor, l d|dn't spot
thom. G|v|ng Un|corn a sour sm||o, l ontorod tho lad|os and
stood gaz|ng |nto tho m|rror tor a tu|| t|vo m|nutos, hop|ng
that o|thor 3ky or Kar|a wou|d tako tho h|nt and como to |ot
mo |n on what thoy woro do|ng thoro. l a|so wantod a
chanco to p|oad Yvos's caso-that was |t ho had botrayod
thom tor my sako-and to t|nd out what tho|r p|an was,
bocauso suro|y thoy had ono, and thoy had had no
opportun|ty to sharo |t w|th us as wo had boon mon|torod
ovor s|nco Yvos jo|nod tho Commun|ty. W|th so many
d|ttoront part|os |n tho dark about what tho othor s|do had |n
m|nd, wo woro ||ab|o to ond up w|th ono ho|| ot a moss.
3ut no ono camo |n.
Un|corn was st||| on watch whon l omorgod, patt|ng my ha|r
|n p|aco as |t l had spont tho t|mo chock|ng out my
appoaranco, as ho wou|d oxpoct trom c|ass|c g|r|
bohav|our. W|th h|m stand|ng, arms to|dod, |n tront ot tho
to||ots, |t was no wondor l had boon a|ono. l swa||owod tho
romark l |ongod to mako about croops haunt|ng tho lad|os
and wa|kod sw|tt|y back to my tab|o. l not|cod that Kar|a had
rot|rod, |oav|ng tho band p|ay|ng somo tunos l d|dn't
rocogn|zo, 3ky back on sax, oyos |ockod on tho drummor
as sho wovo w|th tho boat. l d|dn't know how thoy cou|d
koop tho mus|c so |ooso and oasy whon ovoryth|ng was
hoad|ng tor d|sastor.
'OK?' Yvos murmurod.
'|mm.' l was wound way too t|ght. lo! l wantod to shout:
don't you know your tam||y |s |n tho c|ub and wo aro
surroundod by a bunch ot morc||oss k|||ors out to mako a
tast buck trom othor poop|o's m|sory? 'Evoryth|ng's |ovo|y,
Yvos strokod my arm and sm||od roassur|ng|y.
||s gosturo was promaturo. 3otoro l know |t, tho cr|s|s
was upon us. A man at tho noxt tab|o chockod h|s mob||o
thon camo to 1|m's s|do. |o bont ovor and wh|sporod |n h|s
thon camo to 1|m's s|do. |o bont ovor and wh|sporod |n h|s
low York's oyobrows shot up. 'You'ro suro?'
1ho man noddod and showod h|m a toxt.
Yvos tappod tho back ot my wr|st, a warn|ng, but ot what,
l had no |doa. 3o roady, ho soomod to bo say|ng.
1|m turnod to Yvos. 'Wo||, 3onod|ct, wo soom to bo
hav|ng a ||tt|o d|tt|cu|ty w|th that |ntormat|on you gavo us.'
Yvos sw|r|od tho champagno |n h|s g|ass. 'What k|nd ot
prob|om? lt you d|d what l sa|d, thon thoro shou|d bo no
'And what d|d you say?' 1|m roachod |ns|do h|s jackot-
tor a torr|b|o momont l thought ho had gono tor a gun, but
|nstoad ho pu||od out a 3|ack3orry.
'l to|d you not to copy |t trom my or|g|na|.'
'1oo |ato tor that: wo'vo a|| boon g|von tho t||os. And
somohow, s|nco l |ast |ookod, somo ot tho namos havo
Yvos noddod as |t th|s was a|| to bo oxpoctod.
'Your |ntormat|on now suggosts that 0ona|d 0uck and
V|ckoy Vouso aro |oad|ng mombors ot tho 3avant lot.'
1|m's tono was tar trom amusod. 'And somohow tho|r
namos havo rop|acod thoso ot tho gonu|no contacts l
chockod ott th|s attornoon.'
Yvos shruggod. '0|d you pr|nt ott tho ||st?'
1|m tuggod h|s bow t|o |ooso, angor mak|ng h|s nock
bu|go w|th tons|on. 'lo, ot courso not. 3ut you know that,
don't you? You'd put a protoct|on on tho t||o so wo cou|dn't
do anyth|ng but road |t on scroon.'
Yvos pushod h|s g|ass as|do. 'l can chango that tor you,
no prob|om. 1ust a quost|on ot adjust|ng tho porm|ss|ons.'
A|| around us l was awaro that othor 3avants woro
roco|v|ng wh|sporod mossagos or toxts.
'1o|stoy! lasput|n!' sp|uttorod Vr Voscow, throw|ng h|s
smart phono on tho tab|o. ||s hoav|os gathorod at h|s
shou|dor, hands |n doop pockots or too||ng undor tho s|do
ot tho|r jackots tor tho|r woapons. '1h|s |s an |nsu|t!'
'vory tunny: Crocod||o 0undoo and Ky||o V|noguo!' Vr
3ydnoy shovod h|s cha|r back and grabbod Yvos by tho
scrutt ot tho nock. 'What's your gamo, mato?'
|oart |n my throat, l saw that tho commot|on at tho tront ot
tho c|ub was attract|ng tho attont|on ot othor patrons, and a
numbor ot tho w|so onos got up to |oavo. Wa|tors movod
|nto pos|t|on, po|sod to broak up an a|torcat|on-but thoy
d|dn't |ook ||ko any bar statt l'd ovor soon botoro, too
watchtu| and unsurpr|sod by tho cr|s|s down tront. W|thout
soo|ng any s|gn ot Yvos's o|dor brothor, l was bog|nn|ng to
suspoct that wo woro surroundod by v|ctor's po||co tr|onds.
Evon tho band had takon noto ot tho drama, gr|nd|ng to a
ha|t as tho 3avants c|ustorod around our tab|o.
Yvos was p|ay|ng |t coo|. 'lt's no gamo,' ho spoko |oud|y
|n tho s||onco. 'l warnod you not to copy trom tho momory
st|ck. As soon as |t |s movod ott my st|ck, tho so|t-dostruct
bog|ns.' Yvos shook ott 3ydnoy's hand, back|ng away trom
tho tab|o so that l was boh|nd h|m. 'look, you don't oxpoct
mo to |oavo sons|t|vo |ntormat|on |y|ng around bogg|ng to
bo postod on W|k||oaks, do you? l thought you'd havo
bottor socur|ty protoco|s than that.' |o soundod d|sda|ntu|
ot tho|r tochn|ca| know-how. '1ho |ntormat|on, |t cop|od trom
my or|g|na|, gradua||y corrupts-|n a cu|tura||y sons|t|vo
mannor, ot courso. l ||ko tho roc|p|ont to roa||zo |t's
happon|ng. l'm not try|ng to h|do what l'vo dono.'
1|m yankod Yvos back |nto h|s soat. '3o, attor th|s
amus|ng d|sp|ay ot your tochn|ca| w|zardry, you can sond us
tho |ntormat|on aga|n? W|thout tho t|mo-corrupt|on?'
'3uro. l'|| just nood t|vo m|nutos w|th a docont computor.'
Yvos |ookod |nnocont|y round as |t oxpoct|ng ono to appoar
|n tront ot h|m |n tho m|dd|o ot tho n|ght c|ub.
3ut tho 3oor was not p|oasod to havo h|s protogo spr|ng
th|s on thom a|| |n pub||c w|th no warn|ng. |o wasn't buy|ng
tho ||no Yvos was try|ng to so||. 'lhoon|x, go and jo|n your
'What? Why?' l hatod hav|ng tho spot||ght put on mo,
too||ng tho |ntorost ot tho 3avants sw|ng |n my d|roct|on.
Yvos showod tho t|rst s|gns ot ta|||ng cont|donco. '3ho
'3ho goos.' 1ho 3oor gosturod to 0ragon to tako mo out
ot tho contro ot tho gathor|ng. 'l th|nk you w||| concontrato
bottor know|ng sho |s bo|ng |ookod attor by hor tam||y.' |o
gavo Yvos a humour|oss sm||o. 'l am bog|nn|ng to wondor,
Vr 3onod|ct, |t you havo any moro surpr|sos |n storo tor us.
lomombor, lhoon|x has somoth|ng sho must do |t you
havo botrayod us, so th|nk carotu||y botoro you rop|y.'
'l'vo dono noth|ng. l to|d you not to copy tho |ntormat|on.
Your own act|ons causod th|s.'
'3ut you must havo roa||zod that wo cou|d on|y uso your
data |t wo cou|d d|str|buto |t to |ntorostod part|os.'
'3ut you novor askod mo to onab|o that tunct|on, d|d
Oh my God, that was |t! Vy uncorta|nty ||ttod as sw|tt|y as
a ho||um ba||oon. Yvos had got round h|s |oya|ty to h|s tam||y
and h|s prom|so to mo by a||ow|ng othors to mako tho
doc|s|on that causod tho corrupt|on. l|tora||y, thoy had
causod tho|r own botraya|. Vy ro||ot was ovorwho|m|ng.
3ons|ng tho untavourab|o d|roct|on ot tho convorsat|on,
0ragon bont my arm up boh|nd my back, stopp|ng mo trom
mak|ng any rash movo but koop|ng us both w|th|n oarshot. l
g|ancod dosporato|y to soo what v|ctor's toam woro do|ng,
but thoy woro ma|nta|n|ng tho|r d|stanco. l wondorod |t thoy
had tho who|o p|aco buggod, porhaps thoy woro hop|ng
that tho 3avants wou|d |ncr|m|nato thomso|vos turthor? low
York had a|roady d|scussod drug sh|pmonts: wasn't that
onough? Or maybo thoy woro wa|t|ng tor Yvos to g|vo thom
somo k|nd ot s|gna|. Como on, v|ctor, l urgod s||ont|y, ond
th|s botoro Yvos gots hurt!
1|m stud|od Yvos, h|s oxpross|on porp|oxod. 'Whoro
oxact|y do your |oya|t|os ||o, Vr 3onod|ct?'
1ho 3oor gosturod to Un|corn to approach. 'l th|nk that
much |s apparont-w|th h|s sou|t|ndor.'
1|m c|rc|od Yvos's nock w|th h|s hands, p|nn|ng h|m back
|n h|s soat. '3ut tho th|ng l don't know |s what o|so ho put on
that momory st|ck. lt ho p|antod ono v|rus, l'm wondor|ng |t
thoro aro moro that wo'vo sproad |nto our own systoms. Wo
woro stup|d not to cons|dor th|s |n our go|d-rush momont tor
'l agroo. l'm atra|d wo a|| qu|to |ost our hoads.' 1ho
3oor's romorsotu| tono was ch||||ng. 'Un|corn, rom|nd Vr
3onod|ct horo ot what ho stands to |oso |t ho doub|o-
Un|corn romovod ono |oathor g|ovo and t|oxod h|s
t|ngors. '|ow much sha|| l tako?'
'A yoar or two shou|d do |t.'
Yvos strugg|od aga|nst 1|m's strang|oho|d. 'What aro you
l shovod aga|nst 0ragon. '0on't you daro touch h|m!'
1ho 3oor turnod h|s pa|o b|uo oyos on mo. 'lt's not h|m
that ho caros about, my doar. l wondor, |t you ago a
sou|t|ndor, doos that broak tho ||nk w|th tho|r countorpart?
Attor a||, tho |ogond c|a|ms you aro ||nkod by b|rth.'
'lo! l|oaso!' l scroamod, t|ght|ng hard aga|nst 0ragon's
gr|p as Un|corn swung towards mo. Evonts woro sp|nn|ng
out ot contro| and had turnod |nto a n|ghtmaro: ho |ookod so
oagor to got startod on h|s |atost task-that's how much ho
must hato mo. 'l|oaso, don't!'
3hout|ng tor v|ctor, Yvos shovod 1|m's hands away and
tr|od to broak through tho crowd to roach mo, but tho othor
3avants ho|d h|m back. 0osporato, l grabbod tor Un|corn's
monta| pattorn, manag|ng to troozo h|m tor a coup|o ot
soconds, but ho know my powor wo|| and was t|ght|ng |t
ovon botoro l put |t |n p|aco. 0ragon succumbod tor on|y an
ovon botoro l put |t |n p|aco. 0ragon succumbod tor on|y an
|nstant botoro shrugg|ng ott my attack.
'3tup|d-now you'vo got us angry!' ho grow|od, dragg|ng
mo towards Un|corn. 'A coup|o ot yoars won't bo onough.'
1ust thon, tho tab|o bos|do us burst |nto t|amo, tho rod
cand|os oruptod ||ko m|n|aturo vo|canoos. 0ragon sworo
and |urchod away, a|most yank|ng my arm out ot |ts sockot.
A t|ro a|arm shr|okod and tho spr|nk|ors sprang |nto act|on.
loop|o ran towards us, shout|ng-trom tho suddon
appoaranco ot woaponry, wa|tors and patrons a||ko woro
rovoa|od as |aw-ontorcomont agonts. V|ss||os wh|st|od
ovorhoad, thrown |n rosponso by tho 3avants' bodyguards.
0ragon d|vod bonoath a tab|o, tak|ng mo w|th h|m.
'lo||co! lo||co!' 3houts trom a|| d|roct|ons. 'lut down
your woapons. la|so your hands whoro wo can soo thom.'
'lhoo!' Yvos bo||owod abovo tho no|so. 'Whoro aro
'Yvos!' l scroamod.
0ragon shovod a hand ovor my mouth. Un|corn jo|nod us,
s||thor|ng a|ong on h|s bo||y.
'Wo tako hor?' askod 0ragon curt|y.
1hrough tho torost ot |ogs, wo cou|d a|| soo tho wh|to
t|guro ot tho 3oor and tho othor 3avants surroundod by
armod ott|cors. lo ono was touch|ng thom, thoy must havo
boon br|otod about th|s group's powors, but tho po||comon
woro not mov|ng torward. 1ho countor-attack had stoppod,
throo cha|rs and sovora| g|assos hovorod abovo our hoads,
sp|nn|ng s|ow|y ||ko rocks |n an astoro|d t|o|d. Why woron't
tho 3avants t|ght|ng back? ln tho m|dst ot tho ott|cors, Vr
3onod|ct stood ho|d|ng hands w|th h|s w|to, oyos c|osod as
thoy concontratod, odd|y st||| as around thom contus|on
ro|gnod. 0|pp|ng |nto tho|r m|nds, l cou|d soo tho coup|o
woro ho|d|ng somo k|nd ot protoct|vo wa|| to hom |n tho
group, ho|d|ng tho m|ss||os back. Ono man, 3ydnoy l th|nk,
crump|od-a dart |n h|s nock. A cha|r to|| to tho t|oor at tho
samo momont, ro|oasod trom h|s m|nd. 1ho po||co woro
us|ng tranqu||||zor guns-br||||ant! l to|t a t||ckor ot hopo.
'1|mo to go.' Un|corn rop|acod h|s g|ovo. 'l th|nk wo nood
somoth|ng moro obv|ous than my ago|ng powor to got tho|r
cooporat|on. l don't want to pass out and t|nd myso|t |n a
0ragon pu||od a gun trom a ho|stor undor h|s jackot and
shovod |t undor my ch|n.
Yvos! l ca||od trant|ca||y.
¼boro oro yooº
Our tomporary sho|tor ot tho tab|o ||ttod ott tho ground
and t||ppod towards tho stago. Out ot tho cornor ot my oyo, l
cou|d soo 3ky, crouchod boh|nd tho p|ano, d|roct|ng |t w|th
hor t|ngor ||ko an orchostra conductor. los|t|onod to protoct
hor back, Zod |obbod a champagno bott|o to|opath|ca||y
towards 0ragon, mak|ng |t sworvo to como up on h|s b||nd
s|do, but Un|corn saw |t |n t|mo to pu|| h|s brothor out ot |ts
path. 0ragon b|astod |t w|th a t||ck ot h|s wr|st, contonts
spray|ng tho ott|cors hunkorod down boh|nd tho bar. |o
wastod no t|mo dragg|ng mo towards tho ox|t.
'lut down your guns!' ordorod tho ott|cor |n chargo,
spott|ng tho throo ot us outs|do tho po||co cordon.
Un|corn k|ckod opon tho omorgoncy ox|t. 'lt you to||ow,
0ragon pushod tho ott|cors guard|ng tho back door out
ot our path w|th a wavo ot powor. 1hoy smashod |nto tho
wa|| and s||d down ||ko puppots w|th tho|r str|ngs cut.
5to|| tbom! Yvos boggod trant|ca||y. l cou|d too| h|m try|ng
to got through tho r|ng ot po||comon but thoy had ordors to
ho|d ovoryono |n pos|t|on and not touch thom-no
l trloo-lt oooso`t work oo tbom. 7boy brook lt too
1hon wo woro |n an ug|y a||oyway at tho back ot tho c|ub
- noth|ng but whoo||o b|ns and dr|tts ot tast tood wrappors.
1ho po||co-|t thoy woro thoro-woro koop|ng out ot s|ght.
'Car,' 0ragon sa|d torso|y.
'Yoah, g|vo hor to mo. You got ono.' 1ak|ng ovor
possoss|on ot tho handgun, Un|corn prossod h|s handgun
to my tomp|o as 0ragon passod mo ovor. |o thon strodo
out on to tho stroot, oyos on a b|ack 3VW that had just sot
down |ts passongors outs|do a rostaurant. As tho dr|vor
acco|oratod away, 0ragon stoppod out and ho|d up h|s
hands. lt was as |t tho car h|t an |nv|s|b|o br|ck wa||. l cou|d
soo tho tons|on |n 0ragon's taco as ho stoppod tho
powortu| ong|no |n |ts tracks. |o thon po|ntod a t|ngor at tho
1ho dr|vor d|d not nood to bo askod tw|co. |o scramb|od
out, |oav|ng tho door sw|ng|ng.
0ragon oponod tho roar so l cou|d bo bund|od |n.
Un|corn pract|ca||y to|| on top ot mo, gun trappod botwoon
us, so tor a gut-wronch|ng momont l thought |t m|ght go ott
'1horo thoy aro! 1ho car!' l cou|d hoar vo|cos-v|ctor's
'Go!' snappod Un|corn.
low boh|nd tho whoo|, 0ragon put h|s toot down and
pu||od away w|th a scrooch ot tyros. 1urn|ng tho cornor, ho
gavo a crow ot tr|umph.
'1hat was tr|ck|ng oasy!' ho |aughod.
Un|corn sat up, sato |n tho know|odgo that no ono was
go|ng to shoot wh||o l was |n tho car. 'Yoah, swoot. Wo
mado a good toam back thoro.'
0ragon took a sharp |ott through a rod ||ght, caus|ng a
doub|o-dockor to p|ough |nto ra|||ngs. |o hootod w|th g|oo.
'3ack to tho Commun|ty.' Un|corn had r|ppod str|ps trom
tho hom ot my ch|tton ovorsk|rt and was busy ty|ng my
hands and ank|os. 'l say wo tako what wo nood, to|| tho
othors to sp||t and mako a now rondozvous |n tour days'
t|mo-onco tho dust has sott|od.'
1ho car |urchod. 'What? Wo'ro tak|ng ovor?'
Un|corn rubbod h|s tomp|os. 'Ot courso not. Wo roma|n
|oya|. Wo havo to-l'm suro wo havo to. 3ut wh||o tho 3oor
|s away, ho'd want h|s stutt |ookod attor.'
0ragon was qu|ck to catch on. 'Yoah, and |t ho doosn't
got troo tor a |ong t|mo thon at |oast ho knows wo aro
honour|ng h|s w|shos, ||v|ng as ho ||vod, wa|t|ng to wo|como
h|m back a horo.'
'Yoah, somoth|ng ||ko that.'
'loor o|d 0ad.' 0ragon bogan to sn|ckor-h|s
amusomont sproad|ng to h|s brothor. '|o won't ||ko ja||. lo
tancy |ad|os to koop h|m happy.'
'1hoy'|| havo to put h|m |n a co|| on h|s own-won't havo
ono b|g onough othorw|so.'
'Got th|s, though: l wou|dn't put |t past h|m to porsoooo
h|s way out |n no t|mo. Wo had bottor sond h|m a |awyor-
show our good |ntont|ons.' 0ragon's suggost|on soborod
thom both up.
'You'ro r|ght-ho must soo that wo d|d a|| that wo cou|d-
and bo||ovo |t too.'
3|rons ochood boh|nd us. 0ragon g|ancod |n tho m|rror
and do||borato|y took a turn|ng that |od to tho r|vor, away
trom our truo dost|nat|on. |oad|ng ovor 1owor 3r|dgo, ho
thon tr|od to |oso tho ta|| |n tho backstroots ot 3ormondsoy.
¼boro oro yooº Yvos was dosporato.
5ootb oí tbo rlvor. looolog bock to tbo Commoolty
ovootoo||y. Bot yoo coo`t to|| tbo otbors wboro tbot ls,
romomborº l`o proíor to bo bo|o bostogo tboo |oso my |lok
to my soo|ílooor.
Yos, OK. l`|| tblok oí somotblog o|so. 5toy o|lvo.
'l th|nk wo nood to swap cars.' 0ragon s|owod outs|do a
b|kors' pub, soo|ng two |oathor-c|ad hoav|os |oung|ng on
'Can you tako thom out?' Un|corn askod, ty|ng a th|rd
p|oco ot ch|tton around my mouth as a gag.
'lo nood. lot's soo |t thoy'|| do swaps|os.' |o sn|ckorod
at h|s ch||d|sh |anguago as ho pu||od up abrupt|y and |oapt
out. '|oy, guys, want a now 3VW? lt's hot but |t smokos on
1ho b|kors |ookod at oach othor, unab|o to bo||ovo tho|r
'1ust nood to uso your b|kos tor tho n|ght.'
Un|corn pu||od mo out ot tho car, gun h|ddon by my sk|rt.
'What's wrong w|th hor?' tho b|ggor ot tho two mon
askod. |o had to roa||zo l was hard|y thoro by cho|co.
Un|corn s|ghod. '3|kors w|th a consc|onco-who
wou|d'vo thought?' |o dug tho barro| |nto my r|bs. 'Your
cho|co, lhoo: o|thor troozo thom or wo k||| thom.'
l noddod, s|gna|||ng l undorstood. l qu|ck|y roachod tor tho
two mon's m|nds and stoppod t|mo tor thom. 0ragon
shovod thom ott tho|r soats and swung on tho noarost b|ko.
A ho||coptor c|rc|od ovorhoad, spot||ght danc|ng ovor tho
'|urry, thoy'ro on to tho car.' 0ragon k|ckod h|s b|ko |nto
'What do wo do w|th hor?' Un|corn ho|d mo up by a
pun|sh|ng gr|p on my uppor arm.
'E|thor d|sposo ot hor or koop hor as a barga|n|ng ch|p.'
1h|nk|ng qu|ck|y, Un|corn took h|s doc|s|on. '3ho's
probab|y a|roady to|d thom whoro wo'ro go|ng, so l
supposo sho m|ght st||| bo usotu| as a hostago t||| wo got
our stutt trom tho Commun|ty.' |o cut tho t|os on my ank|os,
pu||od my bound arms ovor h|s nock so l was drapod on h|s
pu||od my bound arms ovor h|s nock so l was drapod on h|s
back, thon sott|od us both on tho b|ko. |o rovvod tho
ong|no. 'lot's go.'
1ho b|kos surgod away, |oav|ng tho two tormor ownors
spraw|od by tho opon doors ot tho 3VW.
1horo was no s|gn ot pursu|t whon wo arr|vod back at tho
ostato. Evoryth|ng soomod wo|rd|y norma| as nows had not
yot t||torod back that tho 3oor had boon caught. 0ragon
bangod a hammor aga|nst tho rust|ng c||mb|ng tramo |n tho
p|ayground-our rud|montary a|arm systom.
'Evoryono got out!' ho shoutod, as hoads poppod out ot
doors a|| ovor tho comp|ox. 'Chock tho usua| p|aco tor your
|nstruct|ons |n throo days' t|mo.' 1h|s moant that a sma|| ad
wou|d bo p|acod |n tho w|ndow ot a nowsagont's on tho
V||o End load. A postcard advort|s|ng c|oan|ng sorv|cos,
||st|ng a non-tunct|on|ng mob||o numbor and an addross,
was tho moans by wh|ch wo know whoro wo woro
supposod to hoad noxt attor ovacuat|ng an o|d h|do-out.
Commun|ty mombors woro wo|| tra|nod. l cou|d hoar
doors bang|ng throughout tho bu||d|ng as thoy p|ckod up
tho|r a|roady-packod bags and hoadod tor tho ox|ts, |oav|ng
tho usua||y |ockod gatos yawn|ng opon. 1ony poorod out ot
h|s basomont door and duckod back |n qu|ck|y botoro my
brothors not|cod. 1hon l roa||zod l cou|d smo|| smoko.
'1ho bu||d|ng's on t|ro.' 0ragon scannod tho roottops. 'Up
thoro.' |o po|ntod to tho r|dgo.
Un|corn un|oopod my arms trom around h|s nock and
Un|corn un|oopod my arms trom around h|s nock and
droppod mo to my toot. l crouchod down, shou|dors
scroam|ng attor tho |ast twonty m|nutos ot abuso as wo had
racod through tho backstroots ot tho C|ty. l was trooz|ng
ovon though |t was a warm summor n|ght. lorhaps thoy
wou|d |oavo mo horo. 1hat wou|d bo n|co.
3ut no |uck. Vy brothors must havo boon d|scuss|ng what
noxt to|opath|ca||y, tor l was thrown ovor 0ragon's shou|dor
as thoy racod upsta|rs.
'0o you th|nk anyono o|so wou|d havo got to tho stutt
t|rst?' 0ragon pantod.
'lah. 1hoy wou|dn't daro.' Un|corn pushod past a group
ot tho 3oor's womon who woro doscond|ng w|th a rap|d
c||ck-c||ck ot hoo|s.
'What's go|ng on?' ono askod, grabb|ng h|s s|oovo.
'1horo's a t|ro up thoro. Can't you do somoth|ng?'
|o r|ppod troo. 'lator. 1ust got out.' ||s tono to|d thom
not to pross tor moro |ntormat|on and thoy obod|ont|y mado
way tor us and thon carr|od on down tho sta|rs. l cou|d soo
a tow concornod |ooks cast at mo as l dang|od ovor
0ragon's back, but no ono was go|ng to ask. Wo d|dn't do
that k|nd ot th|ng |n tho Commun|ty.
loach|ng tho t|tth t|oor, Un|corn drow out a bunch ot koys.
'What do you rockon: just tho sma|| stutt?'
0ump|ng mo down ||ko an unwantod su|tcaso, 0ragon
|oant aga|nst tho wa|| to roga|n h|s broath. 'Yoah, no t|mo to
tako tho rost. 1ho jowo||ory and tho monoy shou|d bo
onough to sot up a now oporat|on somowhoro.'
Pboo, wotcb oot! l`m smoklog tbom oot. Yvos can't havo
boon ab|o to soo that l was t|od up and cou|d do noth|ng
about h|s warn|ng.
l`m troppoo. 7op í|oor.
1ho 3oor's apartmont oruptod |n a suddon t| aro. 1ho
roottop t|ro had sproad down a |ovo|.
'What tho-!' 0ragon yo||od.
'lt's hor man-ho's horo.' Un|corn k|ckod opon tho door,
ro|oas|ng a bo|ch ot b|ack tumos. '|o's burn|ng tho p|aco
out trom tho top down.'
7o|| tbom oot to go lo. lt`s wl|o ílro-íost ooo boogry.
l usod my bound hands to r|p tho gag troo. 'You mustn't
ontor,' l shoutod, c|aw|ng tho back ot 0ragon's jackot as ho
proparod to mako a mad dash tor tho strong box. 'lt's not a
norma| b|azo-|t's a|roady out ot contro|.'
0ragon pushod mo away. 'Your sou|t|ndor d|d th|s, d|dn't
ho? |o's attor tho monoy.'
'And ho's not gott|ng |t.' Un|corn took ott h|s sh|rt, mado a
mask ot tho mator|a| and passod |t to h|s brothor.
1hrow|ng tho c|oth ovor h|s taco, 0ragon d|dn't wa|t-ho
|aunchod |nto tho burn|ng room, d|sappoar|ng |nto tho
'You'ro both mad! lot's got out ot horo wh||o wo st||| can!'
l tr|od to movo past Un|corn to got to tho sta|rs botoro tho
'You'ro not go|ng anywhoro.' Un|corn drow h|s gun. 'Your
sou|t|ndor's mossod up ovoryth|ng tor us. |o's not gott|ng
0ragon staggorod back out carry|ng tho strong box trom
tho stororoom, hands rod w|th burns. 'K||| tho b|tch,' ho sa|d
l took tho on|y path |ott to mo, runn|ng towards my o|d
room at tho tar ond ot tho wa|kway. A gun wont ott, a bu||ot
ho|o appoar|ng on tho wa|| by my hoad. A c|oud ot smoko
b|||owod botwoon us, part|a||y h|d|ng mo trom s|ght. Anothor
shot and l to|t my |og g|vo out trom undor mo. Wh|to pa|n. A
spoar ot ||ghtn|ng |n my |og.
'3ho's down. lot's go,' 0ragon sa|d, cough|ng hard.
l camo to a ha|t taco-down on tho concroto, bound hands
caught awkward|y bonoath mo. l'd takon a bu||ot |n my th|gh.
Un|corn was r|ght. l wasn't go|ng anywhoro.
l must havo passod out momontar||y. Ca||ousod hands woro
s|app|ng my chook.
'lhoo, you nood to wako up.' lt wasn't Yvos as l'd hopod
but 1ony who crouchod ovor mo, h|s now|y wh|tonod ha|r t|
opp|ng ovor h|s torohoad. Wo woro |y|ng |n a ||tt|o c|oar
spaco, tho smoko soom|ng to cur| away trom us as |t
d|roctod to |oavo us a|ono.
'Yos, oosbor. Wo aro |n b|g troub|o. 3ta|rwo|| |s on t|ro.'
'What aro you do|ng up horo?'
'3aw thom br|ng you up and thought l'd to||ow.' |o
unknottod tho b|nd|ng on my wr|sts and ho|pod mo s|t up.
|o usod tho samo c|oth to t|o around my wound, though |t
was soon sp|otchod rod. l was |os|ng a |ot ot b|ood. 1ho
pa|n |ancod through mo ||ko g|ass sp|kos hammorod |nto
Pboo, wboro oro yooº Yvos was st||| |ook|ng tor mo.
5tl|| oo tbo top í|oor.
|o sworo. l oloo`t koow. Yoo woot sl|oot.
l possoo oot. l`m wo|| ooo tro|y troppoo, Yvos. 7ooy`s
Yoor brotbors woro sopposoo to roo oot wboo tbo ílro
stortoo, oot roo loto tbo bol|olog!
7bot woo|o bo tbo rooctloo oí oormo| poop|o. 7boy
oroo`t. ¼bot wos tbot yoor brotbor solo oboot yoor p|oos
oot toklog otbor mloos loto occoootº
Wh||o l was ta|k|ng to Yvos, 1ony had boon |ook|ng tor an
'1horo's a way down-tho dra|np|po.' |o po|ntod ovor
tho odgo ot tho ba|cony. 'looks so||d.'
'Go tor |t.' l d|dn't bothor to movo. lo way was l go|ng to
bo ab|o to c||mb to tho ground w|th a bu||ot |n my |og.
1ony hovorod. 'You shou|d'vo |ott whon l to|d you, lhoo.'
'Yoah, maybo l shou|d'vo. 3ut l wou|dn't'vo mot my
sou|t|ndor, wou|d l?'
'l hopo ho was worth |t.' |o pattod my shou|dor
awkward|y, thon tuggod ott my nock|aco and pockotod |t.
'l'm sorry, oosbor.'
'3o am l.'
|o swung on to tho parapot. 'lorhaps tho t|romon w|||
1oars poo|od |n my oyos. 'lorhaps.' 7ooy`s comlog
oowo, l to|d Yvos. lo|p blm lí yoo coo.
1ho w|ry A|ban|an th|ot had componsatod tor h|s |njur|os
by dovo|op|ng strongth |n h|s good s|do, and |t was th|s that
camo to h|s a|d now. C||ng|ng on ono-handod ||ko a
monkoy, ho s|ung h|s bo|t round tho p|po and s||d out ot
s|ght. l had to soo that ho got thoro sato|y. lu|||ng myso|t up
to tho wa||, l watchod h|s hoad d|sappoar.
Pboo, oowo boro! Yvos had spottod mo. l tound h|m
stand|ng |n tho contro ot tho p|ayground, a |ono|y t|guro |n
tront ot tho burn|ng hous|ng ostato. Yoo ooxt.
|o was oxpoct|ng mo to to||ow 1ony.
l coo`t. l`m woooooo. Oot sbot lo tbo |og. 1ho ||mb |n
quost|on was shak|ng. l |oant hoav||y aga|nst tho wa||
wondor|ng vaguo|y what wou|d got mo t|rst-b|ood |oss or
smoko. Vy |ack ot concorn to|d mo that l was ||ghthoadod.
1ho |doa ot pass|ng out aga|n soomod qu|to wo|como.
7boo l`m comlog op íor yoo.
lo way. ls 7ooy oowoº
Yvos |ookod towards tho toot ot tho bu||d|ng. Yos. lo`s
rooolog. Lo yoo woot mo to stop blmº
No, |ot blm go. Aoo ooo`t yoo ovoo tblok oí comlog op.
Yoo coo|oo`t brlog mo oot tbot woy ooo wo`o oo|y botb olo.
Bot l stortoo tbo ílro-tbls ls my íoo|t! |o was toar|ng
h|mso|t up about somoth|ng ho cou|dn't now ho|p. lt wou|d
havo boon a good p|an |t |t had workod, mak|ng us a|| t|oo
lt`s oot yoor íoo|t my brotbors oro psycbos.
l coo`t stooo boro ooo jost wotcb! 7boro bos to bo
somotblog l coo oo.
And thon, suddon|y, ho wasn't a|ono: h|s tam||y arr|vod,
spr|nt|ng |nto tho p|ayground through tho opon gato that |od
on to tho stroot. l to|t a hugo wavo ot ro||ot. At |oast thoy'd
stop h|m do|ng somoth|ng stup|d. 1hoy gathorod around
h|m, bury|ng h|m undor tho|r hugs. l sank aga|nst tho
parapot, p|oasod that tho |ast th|ng l wou|d soo wou|d bo
Yvos surroundod by thoso that |ovod h|m.
Yoo oro oot to glvo op, Pboo! Yvos ordorod mo. ¼o`ro
gottlog yoo oowo írom tboro.
l |ovo yoo.
No soppy stoíí. 1hat was Xav, jo|n|ng our convorsat|on.
¼o oooo yoo to got op ooto tbo oogo.
¼o`ro golog to í|oot yoo oowo, Pbooolx. Vr 3onod|ct's
vo|co was roassur|ng.
l w|pod my oyos. Vy v|s|on was bog|nn|ng to b|ur. l cou|d
soo tho 3onod|cts and 3ky surround|ng Yvos, arms on
oach othor's shou|dors.
¼oko op, Pboo, wo bovo o p|oo. 3ky's ||ght tono
brushod my m|nd. Zoo`s golog to cboooo| ovoryooo`s
to|oklootlc powor. ¼o sboo|o bovo oooogb to got yoo
oowo írom tboro.
Oot op oo tbo poropot, |ovo. Yoo`|| bovo to bo|p os bo|p
yoo.Yvos soundod cont|dont aga|n.
low om l golog to bo|p yooº
Yoo oro golog to jomp.
lovo yoo oooo tbls boíoroº
Yoob, wltb írolt. 1hat was Xav.
Aoo wby om l oot roossorooº
Oot oo tbo |oogo, Pbooolx. 1hat was v|ctor, t|ox|ng h|s
7o|| yoor brotbor to cot lt oot. l'd had onough ot mon
moss|ng w|th my m|nd. l`|| oo tbls oí my owo íroo wl|| or oot
1ho wa|| ot tho t|ro ong|nos brought mo now hopo.
lorhaps l wou|d wa|t tor a |addor?
Pboo, yoo ooo`t bovo tlmo. l koow ílro-tbls ooo`s
o|most ooto yoo. l`m kooplog tbo smoko bock bot ovoo l
coo`t stop í|omos ooco l |ot tbom |ooso. Yvos was runn|ng
short ot pat|onco w|th mo, |t l d|dn't act, ho'd do somoth|ng
stup|d ||ko try c||mb|ng up to totch mo h|mso|t.
OK, OK. l gr|ttod my tooth and pu||od myso|t up on to tho
|odgo. A shatt ot pa|n shot through my body. 3|ack dots
wh|r|od across my v|s|on-ta|ntnoss or spocks ot ash, l
cou|dn't to|| wh|ch.
¼o`|| cotcb yoo, boooy, wh|sporod Kar|a, hor hands to
hor mouth to stop a scroam.
Oh God, oh God: was l roa||y go|ng to |aunch myso|t ott
tho odgo and trust thom to do tho|r b|t? l d|dn't doubt thoy
wou|d try, but what |t thoy ta||od?
l dang|od my |ogs ovor tho odgo, |gnor|ng tho tooth-
gr|nd|ng agony. Aboot tboso írolt, Xov. oo yoo o|woys
Evory tlmo, ho prom|sod, tota||y sor|ous tor onco.
l pushod ott.
And to|| rap|d|y towards tho ground.
1hon my doscont changod d|roct|on. l cou|d too| myso|t
bo|ng propo||od away trom tho bu||d|ng, as |t a 1-shapod
s||do had appoarod undor mo. 3ut suro|y l was go|ng too
lo|o oo! Yvos warnod.
7o wbotº l scroamod.
l shot torward and |nto h|s arms. |o took a tumb|o,
broak|ng my ta|| w|th mo |and|ng on top ot h|m.
'1o mo,' ho sa|d, out ot broath.
l cou|d hoar Xav |augh|ng. 'lt workod! lt actua||y workod! l
don't bo||ovo |t!'
'l'm not |ott|ng go ot you,' l vowod, botoro pass|ng out tor
a socond t|mo.
l woko up |n a hosp|ta| bod bo||ov|ng, |n a contusod tash|on,
that l had a watormo|on tor a |og-a throbb|ng, swo||on ono.
'l too| torr|b|o,' l murmurod to no ono |n part|cu|ar.
'You don't |ook torr|b|o, you |ook wondortu|.'
l crackod opon my oyo||ds to t|nd Yvos s|tt|ng c|oso by
tho bods|do, h|s hand wrappod around m|no whoro |t
rostod on tho covor. 3un||ght pourod |n through tho w|ndow
boh|nd h|m, mak|ng tho wh|to shoots on tho bod g|ow. l
cou|d hoar tho grow| ot tratt|c outs|do, vo|cos |n tho corr|dor
boyond, but my room was poacotu|. Vu|t|co|ourod ba||oons
t|oatod abovo ovory tab|o and |odgo, tho 3onod|cts'
co|obrat|on ot my surv|va| dotorm|nod|y |nvad|ng tho c||n|ca|
'Why do l not bo||ovo you?'
'You shou|d bocauso |t's truo. You'ro a||vo and my stup|d
t|ro d|dn't got you so to mo that's wondortu|.'
'You'ro an oasy guy to p|oaso.' l ran my tonguo ovor my
dry ||ps. |o roachod tor a cup w|th a straw and ho|d |t so l
cou|d s|p. l mado a turthor oxam|nat|on ot my body and
roa||zod l had a dr|p |n tho back ot my |ott hand and a th|ck
bandago around my r|ght th|gh. '1ho bu||ot?'
'Out. You shou|d mako a good rocovory. Xav's prom|sod
'Out. You shou|d mako a good rocovory. Xav's prom|sod
to ho|p roduco tho scarr|ng but |t'|| a|ways bo thoro, l'm
atra|d.' |o scow|od at tho t||od t|oor. 'l'm sorry about tho
t|ro, lhoo. 1hat's tho socond t|mo l'vo dono that to you.'
0ar||ng Yvos: ho appoarod gonu|no|y worr|od that l wou|d
ho|d h|m to b|amo.
'3top |t. You can't too| gu||ty tor do|ng what you thought
wou|d work. Vy brothors aro monta|-you can't prod|ct how
thoy roact to stutt ||ko that.'
|o squoozod my hand. 'l . or . havo somo bad nows
Vy hoart t|uttorod. 'What k|nd ot bad nows?'
'Wo don't th|nk thoy got out. 1ho t|ro sorv|cos tound two
bod|os on tho sta|rs.'
'l . soo.'
'1hoy'd ||ko to tost your 0lA bocauso . wo||, thoy
woron't oasy to rocogn|zo onco tho b|azo was put out. And,
as tho|r c|osost ro|at|vo who |s cooporat|ng w|th tho
author|t|os, v|ctor wondorod |t . ?'
'Ot courso.' l swa||owod, not suro what l to|t. 1hoy'd |ott
mo tor doad but l cou|dn't rojo|co that thoy'd ta||on v|ct|m to
tho t|ro. lo ono dosorvod to d|o that way. '1o|| h|m l w|||.' l
d|dn't want to th|nk about th|s and thoro was so much l
d|dn't know. 'You had bottor t||| mo |n on tho rost.'
Yvos ro|oasod my hand and brushod h|s t|ngort|ps ovor
my chook. 'Wo'vo got tho r|ng|oadors |ockod up. Vost ot
thom aro awa|t|ng doportat|on as tho|r cr|mos woro
comm|ttod abroad, but tho 3oor |s bo|ng chargod w|th
mu|t|p|o counts ot thott and murdor.'
l c|osod my oyos. '1hat's good. 3ut how . ?'
'1hat program l put |n tho momory st|ck? lt a|so carr|od a
||tt|o oxtra to torry out koy t||os to |ntorostod part|os. As soon
as thoy woro stup|d onough to copy |t ovor to tho|r
mach|nos- aga|nst my oxpross |nstruct|ons, romombor-
my d|g|ta| scout wont |ook|ng tor so|octod torms. law
ontorcomont agonc|os around tho g|obo suddon|y bogan
roco|v|ng tho most |ncr|m|nat|ng |ntormat|on on |||oga|
sh|pmonts and many othor th|ngs. 1ho 3oor had boastod
on||no about tho d|sappoaranco ot ono V|tch 3ann|stor, d|d
you know h|m?'
l romomborod 1ony to|||ng mo about V|tch bo|ng ordorod
to k||| h|mso|t. 'Yos. |o's bur|od |n Epp|ng |orost, l th|nk.'
'1hat's on|y ono body that thoy'|| bo busy oxhum|ng, thoro
aro othors ovor tho yoars. And wo now know tho 3oor's roa|
namo. Want to know what |t |s?'
'Kov|n 3m|th. |ow bor|ng can you got? lo wondor ho
|nvontod a now namo tor h|mso|t.'
lt ho|pod a ||tt|o to know tho 3oor was an ord|nary porson
a|ong w|th tho rost ot us, ||ko chock|ng undor tho bod to soo
that tho monstor roa||y wasn't thoro. 3ut tho tracos ot h|s
dom|nat|on st||| roma|nod |n tho traps ho'd sot tor us |n my
hoad. 'And how d|d your tam||y t|nd us both t|mos-at tho
c|ub and at tho Commun|ty?'
'l d|dn't to|| thom, you noodn't worry about that. 0o you
romombor l mont|onod that l was count|ng on thom to do
'As l hopod, Zod torosaw us at tho c|ub-or you, at any
rato. |o can't soo mo usua||y as tho tam||y t|o gots |n tho
way ot h|s tuturo sonso. |ortunato|y, thoy assumod l'd bo
w|th you. 1hoy d|dn't know why wo woro thoro but |t was
onough tor v|ctor to sot up tho oporat|on. 1ho Amor|can
and 3r|t|sh |aw-ontorcomont agonc|os had boon watch|ng
tho group tor somo t|mo, so |t was on|y a mattor ot putt|ng
|nto act|on what thoy had boon p|ann|ng, w|th tho
tranqu||||zors and ovoryth|ng. 1ho b|ggost prob|om was
t|nd|ng mus|c|ans at such short not|co- wo cou|dn't r|sk
oxpos|ng roa| art|sts to that k|nd ot vo|at||o s|tuat|on-wh|ch
was why my tam||y and a tow tr|onds stoppod |nto tho
'l thought thoy woro amaz|ng. lo ono |ookod at thom
tw|co-thoy p|ayod so protoss|ona||y. Your mum and 3ky-
|o sm||od. 'Yoah, thoy woro good, woron't thoy? 0ad
and Zod woro hav|ng conn|pt|ons |ott|ng thom stand on tho
tront ||no, ot courso, but |t workod out OK.'
'0|d your tam||y know you hadn't botrayod thom?'
Yvos shruggod. '1hoy novor wou|d'vo doubtod mo.'
'3ut l d|d.' 1hat thought was not n|co to acknow|odgo.
'Como on, lhoo: g|vo yourso|t a broak. You throw
yourso|t ott that |odgo tor mo. l th|nk wo can say you trust
mo whon |t counts.' Yvos k|ckod back |n h|s cha|r and put
h|s toot up on tho ond ot tho bod. 'l kopt you |n tho dark on
purposo so you'ro not to b|amo. l d|dn't want tho 3oor
worm|ng tho socrot out ot you.'
l wasn't comp|oto|y |nnocont myso|t: l st||| hadn't to|d h|m
about my attompt to stoa| tho st|ck trom h|m on tho london
Eyo. Evon so, l to|t stup|d not guoss|ng what ho was up to,
but that was somoth|ng l cou|d trot about |ator: thoro woro
st||| th|ngs l had to know. 'And tho t|ats-how d|d your tam||y
arr|vo |n t|mo |t you d|dn't to|| thom whoro to go?'
'1ho t||os d|d that job tor mo. Whon l got your mossago,
l'd jumpod |n tho t|rst tax| l cou|d t|nd, |oav|ng tho othors h|gh
and dry. v|ctor know whoro tho 3oor had boon work|ng
rocont|y- ho mado an oducatod guoss that your brothors
wou|d como back tor tho|r stash. |o's got good |nst|ncts
whon |t comos to bad guys.'
l to|| s||ont, th|nk|ng ovor what ho had to|d mo. lono ot tho
3oor's rod ||nos had boon crossod, l d|dn't havo to do
anyth|ng to pun|sh us. Wo'd boon |ncrod|b|y |ucky, wo'd
sk|mmod past tho 3oor's m|nd-traps ||ko sk|ors |n an
O|ymp|c downh||| s|a|om, c||pp|ng but not tak|ng out any ot
'1|rod?' Yvos roachod out to smooth my ha|r away trom
'lo, just . just t|nd|ng |t hard to bo||ovo |t's a|| ovor. lt |s,
'A|most.' ||s oyos tw|nk|od m|sch|ovous|y. 'l'vo got a
prosont tor you-and a quost|on, but l th|nk wo shou|d wa|t
unt|| you'ro too||ng strongor.'
l groanod. 'You can't do that-tompt mo w|th a prosont
thon snatch |t away.'
|o |aughod, a wondortu| bubb|o ot sound. 'You'ro r|ght.
|oro |t |s thon.' |o droppod |t on my stomach: a ||tt|o rod
l t||ppod to tho back pago. 'Vy passport!'
'You aro now ott|c|a|.'
'Whoro d|d you got tho photo?' lt was mo as l had |ookod
at tho c|ub, |nc|ud|ng tho da|sy nock|aco.
'1hat c|ub was br|st||ng w|th camoras. l just took a scroon
capturo ot you |ook|ng sombro, a b|t ot lhotoshop mag|c
and thoro you aro. 1ho 3r|ts woro moro than happy to rush
|t through tor us as wo aro protty much tho|r tavour|to
poop|o r|ght now.'
l g|ancod out ot tho w|ndow. |or h|m to havo boon ab|o to
do a|| th|s, l must havo boon out tor |ongor than l thought.
'What day |s |t?'
'You s|opt through most ot yostorday-|n surgory and
thon post-op. You surtacod a coup|o ot t|mos but l doubt
3o |ong? Vy brothors had boon doad tor a|most two
days and tho ashos ot tho t|ro wou|d bo coo|. |ad ovoryono
o|so got out? l know tho answor w|thout ask|ng. Yos, Yvos
wou|d havo contossod |t thoro had boon moro casua|t|os.
On|y thoso stup|d onough to hoad |nto tho burn|ng b|ock
had boon caught. 3ut w|th no 3oor and no 0ragon and
Un|corn, tho Commun|ty was t|n|shod, tho mombors
scattorod. Wo'd novor rogroup now-that's |t tho just|co
systom cou|d koop ho|d ot somoono as man|pu|at|vo as tho
systom cou|d koop ho|d ot somoono as man|pu|at|vo as tho
3oor. 1hat was a prob|om tor tomorrow, tor tho momont,
tho othors woro troo. 1ony had probab|y a|roady hockod tho
nock|aco and bogun h|s now ||to somowhoro away trom tho
author|t|os. l too was tac|ng a trosh bog|nn|ng.
'And what was tho quost|on you had tor mo?'
Yvos |oant ovor my p|||ow and k|ssod mo sott|y. 'low that
roa||y doos havo to wa|t. You aro undor doctor's ordors to
rost and l havo to to|| ovoryono that you'ro awako and not
too mad at us tor that stunt wo pu||od on you.'
'lot mad, but l am conv|ncod you'ro a|| crazy.'
'You m|ght wo|| bo r|ght.'
l d|dn't want h|m to |oavo just yot. '3ut l'|| rost oas|or |t you
ask mo your quost|on now. l hato wa|t|ng.'
'OK, but romombor you wantod th|s.' 1hon, to my uttor
shock, ho wont down on ono knoo, r|ght thoro by tho
bods|do. 'Varry mo, lhoo.'
'l know |t's tar soonor than o|thor ot us p|annod to got
h|tchod, but |t'|| mako gott|ng you |nto tho 3tatos so much
oas|or |t you go as my w|to.'
l c|utchod my chost, hoart st||| pound|ng. 'Crumbs, you
know how to surpr|so a g|r|.' l gavo a chok|ng |augh. Vy
bra|n was t|na||y catch|ng up w|th what ho had just sa|d.
'You want mo to marry you so l can got a v|sa?'
|o shot mo an ottondod |ook. 'lo! 1hat's a s|do bonot|t
that k|nd ot brought |t a|| torward. l want you to marry mo
bocauso l |ovo you-just that.'
'3ut wo'ro on|y go|ng to bo o|ghtoon |n a coup|o ot
wooks. |ow can wo poss|b|y bo roady to marry?'
'You don't want to marry mo?'
'lt's not you.' Oh damn, ho |ookod hurt. 'l'm just not tho
k|nd ot g|r| who gots marr|od.'
|o to|dod h|s arms. 'Why not? lt's ont|ro|y |oga| and
wou|d so|vo a truck|oad ot prob|oms 3tatos|do.'
'Oh, Yvos.' l b|t my ||p. Who was l too||ng? Wo'd a|roady
doc|dod to bo togothor tor ovor by our act|ons ovor tho |ast
tow days. Varr|ago mado portoct sonso and l wasn't so
too||sh as to turn down tho ono whom l |ovod moro than ||to
'|ow many h|gh schoo| g|r|s aro marr|od?'
|o shruggod. 'lot many-|t any. 3ut you aro ono ot a
k|nd a|roady, so why not?' |o |oanod c|osor. 'Wo can havo
|t as our gu||ty socrot |t you ||ko. Wo aro both good at
koop|ng qu|ot whon wo havo to bo.'
l ||kod tho sound ot that: turn|ng up at a schoo| w|th what
appoarod to bo a scanda|ous background whon roa||y l had
bocomo a rospoctab|o marr|od woman. 'OK.'
|o |ookod puzz|od. 'OK what?'
'Yos, Yvos 3onod|ct, l w||| marry you.'
|o sprang up and jo|nod mo on tho bod, nosos togothor,
tak|ng caro not to touch my |njury. '1hat, lhoon|x Corr|gan,
has mado my day.' ||s ||ps prossod gont|y aga|nst m|no to
soa| tho doa|.
3omobody c|oarod tho|r throat boh|nd us. 'low, now,
nono ot that.'
l pookod round Yvos's shou|dors to t|nd h|s ont|ro tam||y
and 3ky c|ustorod |n tho doorway. lt was Vr 3onod|ct who
had spokon but ho d|dn't |ook that upsot to catch us |n th|s
Zod |oopod h|s arm around 3ky. '3oo, l to|d you sho'd bo
Xav tuggod Yvos ott mo and handod mo tho ca|| button.
'You'|| bo nood|ng th|s, lhoo, whon my |rr|tat|ng ||tt|o squ|rt
ot a brothor bothors you aga|n. 1ust pross and tho nursos
w||| como runn|ng. Ono ot thom |ooks ||ko a pro-wrost|or, so
sho'|| mako short work ot h|m.'
Yvos cuttod Xav |n tho stomach. 'l don't bothor hor. l'm
go|ng to marry hor.'
As Kar|a squoa|od w|th do||ght, Xav and Zod groanod.
'You sa|d tho °V' word,' v|ctor sa|d w|th dospa|r. '1horo
w||| bo no stopp|ng our mothor now.' |o approachod my
bods|do. 'lhoon|x, l am vory, vory sorry tor a|| you aro about
to onduro at tho hands ot our paront.' |o bont c|osor and
wh|sporod |n my oar. '3ho moans wo||.'
1oo |ato, Yvos roa||zod h|s tact|ca| orror. '1ust a sma||
coromony-tomorrow. 3o lhoo can como back w|th us as
soon as poss|b|o.'
'3ut that won't g|vo us t|mo to got 1raco, Ur|o| and W|||
ovor!' wa||od Kar|a, |ook|ng at Yvos as |t ho had just shot
hor tavour|to puppy.
'lhoo won't bo up to a b|g ovont tor somo t|mo yot,
Vom.' Yvos tr|od to d|g h|s way out but wo a|| know |t was
hopo|oss. '1o|| my mom, lhoo.'
l gr|nnod, rotus|ng to bo drawn |nto tho d|scuss|on. 'l'm
suro your mum knows bost, Yvos.'
Kar|a boamod at mo thon shook hor t|ngor at hor son. 'l
know l ||kod that g|r|, Yvos. You troat hor r|ght or you'|| havo
mo to answor to.'
l cou|dn't stop a yawn, ovon though l was moro happy
than l'd ovor boon. l was t|ght|ng t|rodnoss and tho du|| pa|n
trom my |og. Vothor-radar tu||y tunct|on|ng, Kar|a was on to
mo |n a socond.
'Out, out, a|| ot you!' sho tussod. 'lhoon|x noods hor rost
|t sho |s go|ng to bo a br|do so soon.' 3ho boamod at mo.
'And so young! 3amo ago l was whon your tathor hurr|od
mo to tho a|tar.'
3au| |ookod a ||tt|o ombarrassod by tho momory.
Xav |aughod. 'Crad|o-snatchor,' ho toasod h|s dad.
Kar|a |andod a k|ss on hor husband's mouth. 'Wo
snatchod oach othor. low, ovoryono out ot horo.'
Obod|ont|y, tho 3onod|cts t||od trom tho room. Yvos
|ookod as though ho'd protor to stay but h|s mothor hookod
h|m by tho o|bow to cont|nuo tho|r 'd|scuss|on' |n tho
corr|dor out ot oarshot. l to|| as|oop sm|||ng.
Kar|a was porsuadod to sott|o tor a sma|| c|v|| coromony |n
london to comp|oto my v|sa roqu|romonts on tho prom|so
that Yvos gavo mo a propor church wodd|ng a month |ator
|n tho|r homo town ot Wr|ckonr|dgo, Co|orado. 1ho
argumont that c||nchod |t-a rathor br||||ant ono on my part,
Yvos acknow|odgod-was that no br|do wou|d want to
hobb|o down tho a|s|o. 3ky was to bo my br|dosma|d, and
Xav, Yvos's bost man, and h|s othor brothors, ushors.
l |mmod|ato|y took to tho ||tt|o town |n tho lock|os whoro
tho 3onod|cts ||vod, ta|||ng |n |ovo w|th tho sconory and tho
poop|o w|th|n t|vo m|nutos ot arr|v|ng. Evon though wo woro
tochn|ca||y marr|od, Kar|a |ns|stod that Yvos and l ||vo apart
unt|| attor tho 'propor' wodd|ng, wh|ch was why l took up
ros|donco w|th 3ky and hor paronts, 3a||y and 3|mon, tor a
tow wooks |n tho|r Goth|c c|apboard houso. 3a||y |n
part|cu|ar was cur|ous about mo, sons|ng that my Eng||sh
background was unorthodox to say tho |oast, but somohow
3ky managod to koop thom trom ask|ng too many
quost|ons. l th|nk hor socrot was d|stract|on: ovory t|mo
3a||y ombarkod on an |ntorrogat|on, 3ky wou|d ask hor
op|n|on on tho wodd|ng dross or tho t|owor arrangomonts. l
was go|ng to havo to |oarn how to manago mothors now l
was go|ng to havo to |oarn how to manago mothors now l
was ga|n|ng a torm|dab|o |n-|aw to componsato tor my
g|ar|ng |ack ot ro|at|vos.
ln th|s ||tt|o |ntorva| ot poaco botwoon tho ovonts |n
london and our wodd|ng, l bogan to |oarn thoro was moro
to sou|t|ndors than ovon my mothor's ta|ryta|os had
prom|sod. 1hough not |n tho samo houso, Yvos and l woro
a|most cont|nua||y togothor through our to|opath|c ||nk. 1h|s
was not to say that wo woro chatt|ng tho who|o t|mo, just
that wo woro awaro ot tho othor, ||ko a monta| ho|d|ng ot
hands. Vy wor|d had sh|ttod on |ts ax|s, tho magnot|c po|os
t||ppod, bocauso now l was novor |ono|y. And, whon
comb|nod, our g|tts showod s|gns ot b|oom|ng as 3ky had
doscr|bod w|th hor and Zod. l d|scovorod l cou|d uso my
monta| troozo to act as a k|nd ot t|ro broak so Yvos d|d not
havo to worry much about |os|ng h|s coo| (somoth|ng l
mado h|m do a|| too troquont|y, l'm atra|d-a now ||to had
not comp|oto|y rotormod tho o|d lhoon|x). Wo woro roa||y
moro comp|oto togothor than apart.
1ho n|ght botoro our b|g day, 3ky camo up to tho guost
room to announco that l had somo v|s|tors. Ou|ck|y brush|ng
my ha|r, l wont downsta|rs w|th baro|y a traco ot a ||mp to
t|nd a|| tho 3onod|ct brothors wa|t|ng tor mo |n tho |oungo.
1hoy woro qu|to a s|ght, |nc|ud|ng tho throo whom l had on|y
just mot: 1raco, tho bur|y cop trom 0onvor whoso |ooks
woro sottonod by h|s |nto|||gont brown oyos, Ur|o| tho
thoughttu| and |ntu|t|vo acadom|c w|th a mano ot ||ght brown
ha|r, W|||, tho most |a|d-back, ovory boy's buddy and ovory
g|r|'s hoart-throb. l |ookod to Yvos, wondor|ng what had
brought thom a|| out |n torco ||ko th|s.
'3carod l was go|ng to do a runnor?' l jokod.
Yvos pu||od mo to a soat bos|do h|m. '1oo |ato, Vrs
3onod|ct: wo aro a|roady marr|od.'
'On|y tochn|ca||y, accord|ng to your mothor. 3o why aro
you horo? lot that l don't ||ko soo|ng you a||, ot courso,' l
corroctod myso|t rap|d|y, not want|ng to ottond so many
v|ctor c|oarod h|s throat. 'Wo havo somo good nows and
somo bad nows. Wh|ch do you want to hoar t|rst?'
Vy pu|so sp|kod. 'A|ways tho bad nows. 0on't to|| mo, tho
m|n|stor has ch|ckon pox?'
v|ctor sm||od s||ght|y and shook h|s hoad. |o g|ancod at
1raco but h|s o|dor brothor noddod at h|m to bo tho
mossongor. '1ho two mon known as 0ragon and Un|corn?'
'Yos, my brothors. 1hoy d|od |n tho t|ro, d|dn't thoy?'
Yvos brushod my th|gh, not ||k|ng tho momor|os. l know
ho st||| carr|od tho burdon ot too||ng part|y rospons|b|o tor
'1hoy woron't-your brothors, l moan. 1ho 0lA tost
camo back a nogat|vo on any tam||y t|o.'
'A|so, thoy woron't brothors to oach othor. 1h|s mado us
cur|ous and wo chockod a samp|o takon trom Kov|n 3m|th,
known to you as tho 3oor. |o |s not tho tathor ot any ot you.
ln tact, wo vory much suspoct trom othor |nd|cat|ons ot tho
stato ot h|s hoa|th that ho |s |ntort||o, though ovon a cr|m|na|
|s a||owod h|s mod|ca| pr|vacy so l cannot cont|rm th|s.'
'What do you moan . ? A|| thoso womon . ?'
'Ou|to. l th|nk wo can assumo thoy woro puro|y
docorat|vo. |o ||kod tho tantasy ot bo|ng tathor to tho|r
ch||dron w|thout acknow|odg|ng that ho was mak|ng |t up.
|o probab|y ovon porsuadod somo ot thom that |t was truo,
maybo ovon h|mso|t.'
l wrappod my arms around myso|t, doop|y shakon. l'd
on|y just roconc||od myso|t to tho not|on l camo trom such
bad stock, and now l had to rov|s|t tho ont|ro mattor. '|o
wasn't my tathor.'
'3o who was?'
'1hat on|y your mothor know.'
'A man . |n Grooco, sho sa|d.'
1raco got up to oxam|no mo c|oso|y as |t ho was about to
t||o a roport on a suspoct. '3ooms p|aus|b|o to mo: you
havo tho co|our|ng-dark ha|r, o||vo sk|n, t|vo-tour.
'OK, yos, l can bo||ovo |n that, thon. 3ho d|dn't ||o to mo
attor a||.' l turnod to Yvos, sm|||ng through toars. 'l thought
|o rubbod away a drop|ot as |t trackod down my chook.
'lt d|dn't mattor o|thor way, lhoo.'
1raco roturnod to h|s soat. 'You may wondor why wo aro
a|| prosont to hoar tho nows.'
l hadn't boon, but ho was r|ght. lt was a b|t odd to havo
such a pr|vato momont sharod botoro so many. 'You'ro
|o |aughod, a doop rumb|o |n h|s broad chost. 'Yoah,
that too. 3ut wo roa||zod at d|nnor that you havo no tathor.'
'Um . yos, wo||, wo'vo just ostab||shod that, havon't wo?'
'lo ono to wa|k you down tho a|s|o.'
Ah. low l undorstood.
'3o wo thought wo'd g|vo you a cho|co |t you want to tako
|t. Any ono ot us wou|d bo doop|y honourod to bo choson.'
Yvos gr|nnod at h|s brothors, |ncrod|b|y proud ot a|| ot
thom at tho momont.
3ky bouncod on Zod's |ap whoro sho had boon porchod.
'1hat |s so swoot, guys! l don't know how sho |s go|ng to
lor d|d l. 1raco, v|ctor, Ur|o|, W||| .
Xav shook h|s hoad. 'lot mo, l'm atra|d. l'd bottor st|ck to
that r|ng th|ng l havo to do.'
3o not Xav. 1hat |ott Zod. ||vo amaz|ng guys a|| quou|ng
up to |ot mo ho|d tho|r arm tomorrow.
'0ad wou|d ottor too,' Ur|o| mont|onod, 'but wo to|d h|m
th|s was our doa|. |o has to stop Vom cry|ng ovor
'1oughost ass|gnmont,' murmurod W|||.
l turnod to Yvos. 'Wou|d you m|nd vory much |t l sto|o
somoth|ng-or somo th|ngs-trom you?'
||s oyos cr|nk|od |n |aughtor ||nos. 'Vy p|oasuro. What |s
|t th|s t|mo-phono, wa||ot, not tho r|ng, suro|y?' |o pattod
l pokod h|m. 'lo, ot courso not. l want to stoa| a|| your
ushors. l want t|vo stand-|n tathors to g|vo mo away to mako
up tor tho tact l koop |os|ng m|no.'
Zod h|gh-t|vod 3ky. '3oo, l to|d you tho wodd|ng |ookod
odd whon l torosaw |t yostorday.'
0o||ghtod by tho comprom|so, Yvos k|ssod mo unt|| l was
broath|oss. '1ako thom p|oaso. 1hoy wou|dn't a||ow mo to
||vo |t l rotusod.'
3o that was how thoy como to bo st||| ta|k|ng about our
wodd|ng |n Wr|ckonr|dgo: about tho poor m|n|stor jump|ng
out ot h|s sk|n as t|vo grutt vo|cos answorod whon ho askod
who was g|v|ng away th|s woman, tho wodd|ng photos w|th
tho br|do's s|do strango|y outwo|gh|ng tho groom's ovon
though l'm an orphan, tho b|zarro go|ngs-on w|th tru|t at tho
Yot thoy don't know tho roa||y scanda|ous socrot: that tho
br|do and groom aro both accomp||shod th|ovos. Vy c|a|m
to that t|t|o |s a|roady wo|| ostab||shod-though trom now on
l p|an to koop my stoa||ng on tho r|ght s|do ot tho |aw. Yvos
has now jo|nod mo |n tho lob|n |ood |a|| ot |amo tor, as
ho po|ntod out as ho drovo us away trom tho rocopt|on, ho
had sto|on mo out trom undor tho nosos ot somo ot tho
toughost cr|m|na|s |n tho wor|d, and ho was not p|ann|ng on
hand|ng mo back. Evor.
About tho author
1oss 3t|r||ng ||vos |n Oxtord and has a|ways boon
tasc|natod by tho |doa that ||to |s moro than what wo soo on
tho surtaco. 3ho was born |n East london but |t has
changod so much thanks to tho O|ymp|cs 2012 that sho
doc|dod |t wou|d bo tun to roturn to tho aroa tor 5too|log
You can v|s|t hor wobs|to on www.jossst|r||ng.com
Voro o3ooks trom Oxtord
'Yoo bovo bo|í oor glíts, l bovo tbo otbor .`
Whon Eng||sh g|r|, 3ky, catchos a g||mpso ot bad boy Zod
|n hor now Amor|can h|gh schoo|, sho can't got h|m out ot
hor hoad. |o ta|ks to hor w|th h|s thoughts. |o roads hor
m|nd. |o |s tho boy sho w||| |ovo tor ovor. 3hadows st|||
sta|k hor past but a now ov|| throatons hor tuturo. 3ky must
taco tho dark ovon |t |t moans |os|ng hor hoart.
A h|ddon truth, morta| onom|os, and a torb|ddon |ovo .
As a drak| torcod to ||vo |n tho morta| wor|d, tho ono th|ng
that makos 1ac|nda's ||to boarab|o |s W|||. 3ho knows sho
shou|d avo|d h|m at a|| costs, tor W||| and h|s tam||y hunt hor
k|nd. 3ut tho pass|on ho st|rs w|th|n hor can't bo |gnorod,
ovon |t |t moans r|sk|ng hor ||to .
7rovo| to 5kogoo ooo íloo blm. Olvo blm my |ottor. 5ook
o bottor |lío, Vorloooo! Promlso!`
3ound by a vow mado to hor dy|ng mothor, Var|anno so||s
hor tow bo|ong|ngs and |oavos Gr|msby. |or dost|nat|on?
0onmark, whoro sho w||| soarch tor hor tathor, lars
Chr|stonson-tho go|don-ha|rod t|shorman hor mothor to||
|n |ovo w|th many yoars botoro.
W||| tho tathor sho has novor mot wo|como tho arr|va| ot h|s
|||og|t|mato ch||d? And why d|dn't ho roturn tor hor mothor,
as ho prom|sod ho wou|d?
ldont|ty and socrots. loop|o smugg||ng and k|dnapp|ng.
|am||y a|||ancos and b|ttor onm|ty. |ash|on and ta|sohoods.
ln th|s powortu| com|ng-ot-ago novo| throo tr|onds w||| havo
to taco harsh truths about tho|r wor|d.
|owovor pa|ntu| or dangorous |t may bo .
1ho box had boon soa|od and h|ddon tor hundrods ot
yoars, but what |ay w|th|n |t was on|y dormant . wa|t|ng tor
tho t|mo whon |t wou|d bo ro|oasod, and |ot |ooso upon tho
And that t|mo was about to como .
1hat t|mo |s now.
A stunn|ng novo| trom Carnog|o Voda| short||stod
author, 1u||o |oarn.