Lights flashing in a row. Blackness between. Wind—broken glass underfoot.
Stumbling, dodging around poles. Fire.
“The subway.” Zerihun’s voice was resigned. “It will be in the subway. Or at least they will be.”
They were in the hotel’s shabby conference room. They still wore their disguises: Justin as a young South American—Francisco’s son, Francisco as a rather dapper mustachioed ex-military man from the same area, Buncombe as his butler, and Amber as Francisco’s wife.
The Thin Places stretched above them, connecting their minds. The wolves formed insubstantial bodies of blue light, stalking around the room. Limbering up for the presumed battle. They were magnificent…and neon.
“If this is about their Ruler…why would he be on a subway? It’s small, confined…deep underground. It could be a death trap.” Justin didn’t get it. It wasn’t making sense.
“It will be a death trap. For him.”
Justin shivered. Killing. He wasn’t sure he approved. But he wasn’t in charge. And Connor was trying to kill them. Apparently.
Buncombe’s eyes were fiery. “He won’t be expecting it. When I followed him—”
“You’ve been stalking him?” Justin interrupted.
Buncombe sniffed. “’Course. Until you and your problems got me recalled from the city and back out to the bloody wilderness. I know everything there is to know about ‘em. His favorite restaurants, chauffeurs, flats…”
“Is that the UK version?”
Buncombe sighed, like he had the conversation before. “No. It’s English. We made it up first. That’s the reason it’s called English. Then you Americans had to go flippin’ mad and screw it up.”
Amber tapped the table with her knuckle. “Are we really having this conversation right now?”
Justin looked down, but Buncombe had one final salvo. “Did the same bloody thing with football…”
“Didn’t know you liked the Patriots…”
“Wrong football, twit! We had it first! Go Chelsea!”
Amber growled, the sounds rumbling through the room and making the tall glasses on the refreshment table shiver.
The two arguing men looked at her.
“Enough,” she said. “Thanks Iridess.”
“I’ve heard Buncombe go through that a thousand times. Ever since the whole Webster incident.” Iridess’ voice was amused.
“Oy! He was—”
Justin looked at Buncombe. “Let’s move on.”
With those words a shiver seemed to run through the blue permeating light of the Thin Places.
Buncombe’s mouth was still open. He was working it soundlessly, trying to speak. But he couldn’t. His eyebrows furrowed into an angry line. He glared at Justin. And clenched his teeth.
A line, like a blue laser, seemed to grow from midair, connecting Justin’s mind and Buncombe’s. It shivered, dancing. Justin didn’t know what it was. What he was doing. He glared back. The line jumped thinning at his end and thickening towards Buncombe.
Then, without flash or fanfare or applaud, it disappeared.
Buncombe looked resigned on the outside—but on the inside it was obvious he was seething. His eyes were pure murder. Justin shuddered internally. Whatever peace Buncombe’s apology had made was obviously gone.
“Buncombe…” Justin began, his hands twitched nervously, tapping the table in rhythm. A number rhythm. OCD…again?
“We should move on.” Buncombe spoke flatly. “I know what subway Connor is most likely to ride on—there’s one that runs almost directly from his campaign office to his nearest penthouse.”
Buncombe stood, and swept off his top hat. “He must be trying to avoid attention and move incognito—to avoid attention, the media, and all his bloomin’ fans. He might be in disguise—like you’ve learned from me, he could have learned from his pack’s Watcher.”
Pulling a thin file from his long coat, Buncombe slid four photos across the table. A man Justin recognized as Connor Halling from the TV commercials. A man, older and stern—labeled Hiram Retland. Sarai Olgin, a tan woman of Middle Eastern origin. And Tobias Tory, a pale green-eyed Norwegian.
“Memorize their faces.” Buncombe looked serious. Not angry now, just focused. “They will attack—and kill—on sight. You must do the same. But we are not here to attract attention. You all have your weapons?”
The three other humans at the table nodded, hand’s tapping their respective fire arms. Justin had to hold himself back from touching it three times. He felt Daldion’s comforting presence and relaxed…a little.
“You may not be able to use them,” Zerihun said at a nod from Buncombe. “When we meet, especially if there are more than two of us, the Thin Places will make using anything besides our bodies as weapons difficult. It is a pure place—where things of the fallen world are rejected.”
Justin raised a hand. “So what exactly is the plan? We wait on a subway until someone comes and then we kill him? What should I do?”
Buncombe’s fire returned. “I suggest you stay out of my way, peep.”
Amber broke the tension—and Justin’s unconscious counting—with a slap on the table. “Shall we?”