فصل 11

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فصل 11

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

The High Garda carriers clanked them away from the ruins of Oxford. It was a grim ride for Jess, even though he was given one of the padded front seats. It didn’t help that he felt isolated from his friends, who were all in the back of the carrier.

What made it worse was that he found himself riding with Wolfe and Santi. He didn’t want to talk to Wolfe.

His somewhat irrational anger had gone from a boil to a simmer, but it was still on the stove.

‘You’re quiet,’ Captain Santi said after about an hour of bone-jarring progress. Jess didn’t respond. He assumed Santi was talking to Wolfe. ‘I mean you, Brightwell.

Wolfe’s never a chatterbox when he’s on duty.’

‘I took a pain pill,’ he said, quite truthfully. Half of one, not a whole one, but enough to file the edges off the knife he could still feel sawing at his liver.‘Is it working?’ ‘Not enough.’

‘That would explain the sullen silence,’ Wolfe said.

‘Sullen?’ Jess let the anger out in half a shout, and twisted in his seat to face him, never mind the burst of pain that hissed up and down his side. ‘Don’t I have enough reasons yet? You used me, you bastard.’ Wolfe seemed completely unruffled. ‘Of course I did. I knew your family were criminals. I also knew that one of your fellow students was a Burner agent.’

Jess opened his mouth and couldn’t find anything to say.

Wolfe waited. The question finally came down to, ‘Who?’ ‘It no longer matters, but you see why knowing so

much is important. Your family business is of concern to me only as a very relative issue.’

Burner. Jess tried to fit that on each one of his classmates, but he couldn’t.

‘Portero?’ he finally guessed.

‘You only say so because you didn’t care for him much. Not Portero, poor devil.’ ‘Not Morgan.’

‘No. Morgan’s father became a Burner after she left him.’‘But—’ Jess suddenly remember that long-back conversation in the study of the Ptolemy House, when Dario had tormented Guillaume with information about his long-dead Burner ancestor. ‘Guillaume.’ Had Dario known? Or had it just been a lucky thrust? He swallowed hard. ‘Was it deliberate, then? That Translation accident?’Wolfe didn’t answer for a moment, and then he said, ‘It was either careless or immensely stupid. My plan was to allow young Danton to proceed and track his contacts. It would have given us a wealth of information. But I may have been overruled.’

‘That’s all you have to say? Someone in the Library had him killed, and you may have been overruled?’ ‘If you’re wise, that’s all you’ll say of it, too,’ Santi broke in. ‘Wolfe. Are you sure you should be telling him this?’

‘Yes,’ Wolfe said.

‘Because I want him to understand the danger in which he stands. Because this time a Burner agent was

eliminated. The son of a book smuggler might be an equally tempting target the next time someone wants to make a point.’

‘You want me to quit and go home.’

‘I want you to feel the knife at the back of your neck, because it will always be there. And I won’t always be able to protect you.’ Jess sank back against the seat. His body felt raw and full of aches, and though they were heading for London, he no longer felt that might be safety. ‘I suppose you want me to apologise for calling you a bastard.’

‘No need,’ Santi said.

‘You should hear what his friends call him.’

‘I have friends?’ Wolfe said.

‘They don’t care to admit it in public.’

‘Did it ever occur to you that I might not care to admit to them either?’

Santi cast him an odd look, which Wolfe avoided to stare out towards the road.

They were almost at the train depot, where they’d catch the carriage on to London.

Jess said, ‘You put restraints on Morgan.’ ‘Yes,’ Wolfe said.

‘We’re out of the Welsh camp. When are you going to take them off?’ Wolfe braced himself against a particularly hard jolt. ‘I’m not.’

‘Then I won’t apologise for calling you a bastard.

Since you well deserve it.’ ‘Brightwell,’ Santi said, in a quietly warning voice, but Wolfe held up a hand to stop him.

‘He’s right, I am,’ he said.

‘In far more ways than I hope you’ll ever know, postulant.

But believe me when I tell you that I am on the side of my students. Always.’

Jess didn’t.

There was no chance for Morgan to escape before they reached London.

But she tried anyway. And they caught her.

The train into London was almost a luxury, after the kidney-rattling progress of their Library transportation, and Jess found himself napping, lulled by the clacking wheels. It felt like he imagined it would feel to fly.

But they arrived quickly, and falling back into harsh, hurting reality was less pleasant, especially the long underground tunnel from King’s Cross to St Pancras, and then to the main boarding area. It was all, he began to realise, surprisingly empty.

London Garda blocked each tunnel they passed, each entrance, and there was not a single fellow traveller in sight. Once they’d mounted the steps, he thought that he’d never seen the vast arc of St Pancras so empty … no, no, he had. The day that he’d left for the Library.

The day the Burner hadincinerated himself.

That made Jess extremely uneasy, and he looked towards the spot where the smear of the Burner’s suicide had been. No sign of it now.

The floor was clean, and – perhaps fittingly – a new massive bronze statue had been added of two librarians standing back to back, male and female, jointly holding up a book above their heads like a torch. The base was inscribed all around with bas-reliefs of the locations of English daughter libraries, and with a pang, Jess recognised the Bodelian Library in Oxford. Most likely gone now.

Being here made him feel disoriented, and unexpectedly sad, as if he’d visited his childhood home and found it razed to the ground.‘Why is no one here?’ Khalila asked Wolfe. ‘Isn’t this one of the busiest stations in England?’

‘It is,’ he said. ‘But they’ve been asked to keep it clear.’

‘For us,’ Santi said. ‘In case word’s travelled. We’re still carrying valuable books with us.’

True, and Jess thought his father would have been very pleased to have seeded the King’s Cross station with thieves and roughnecks if he could have got away with a volume or two from the

Library’s grasp. But of course, Wolfe would have thought of that. Hence, their exclusive passage.

Morgan was next to Jess, and the back of her hand brushed his – by accident, he thought, but then he glanced at her and realised that she was still trying to think of a way out. Yes, of course she was. She’d counted on this as being her opportunity to slip away, but there was no crowd here. No way to lose herself.

She was just as trapped here, in the middle of a vast, sprawling city, as she had been inside an army’s camp.

He took her hand and squeezed it, and she smiled a little. ‘Don’t panic,’ he said, with his lips close to her hair.

It brushed like silk against his cheek. ‘There’ll be another chance. There always is.’ Wolfe led them through a vacant, echoing tunnel that seemed to go on forever. The arched form began to seem to Jess like a throat, swallowing them whole, with the white tile gleaming like a lining of unnatural teeth. He felt smothered and – suddenly – as filthy as he actually was.

He longed for a hot shower to wash the grime and stink of Oxford away, and looking at his companions (even Wolfe, who had managed to clean himself up) he could tell they all felt the same. They needed rest.

But the tunnel stretched on, and he had to put every ounce of concentration into the long, long walk.

It finally widened into a larger area that breached off into other tunnels, all empty; the Garda were present in force here as well, all the way up a short flight of steps and around a right turn through yet another set of archways.

And then they were in a different place altogether. The ornate brickwork on the left was for a booking office, with cathedral-window ticket booths. No one manned them.

‘Sir,’ a man dressed in an extra-sharp London Garda uniform said, and pointed the way with an arm as straight as a ruler. ‘Up there and to the right. Your train’s waiting.’

Thank God, Jess thought, because he didn’t think he could bear much more walking. His side felt as if it had been dipped in acid.

They rounded the corner, and there sat the Alexandrian Express.

It was gold. Not real gold, of course, though it had the sheen of it; some kind of paint that streaked brilliant lines from the gold-washed engine down the sides of the sleek, rounded carriages. It looked fast. Very fast. Even the engine had the shape of something predatory and quick. It was hissing ever so slightly, but if it was steam powered, it lacked the billowing white clouds Jess was used to seeing on the more square, serviceable trains that were common throughout the world.

There were only four carriages attached to this engine. Wolfe headed for the first, but he stopped by the side and waited for them all to gather. It didn’t take long.

‘The sensors will read your bracelets,’ he said. ‘I’ll enter the code that will allow you aboard. There is a lounge, dining car, and bedroom carriages. Your names are on the doors. Each compartment has its own shower, toilet, and bed.’ ‘Dinner?’ Dario asked.

‘Served in two hours. Our journey will carry us overnight. We’ll arrive in Alexandria by noon tomorrow.’

That seemed impossibly fast, and Jess struggled to calculate the speed at which they’d have to run, but his mind was as exhausted as his body, and anyway, he’d never been especially clever at maths. He didn’t even know the route, really.But Thomas did, and he said, in a hushed voice, ‘We will move at four hundred and eighty kilometres per hour.’

‘You’ll hardly notice, unless you look out the windows. If you do, I advise you to look to the horizon to avoid dizziness.’ Wolfe slapped a hand on a button that was hardly visible on the side of the carriage, and an equally disguised door slid open with barely a sound. ‘As you enter, pause until you hear the chime. If you do not hear a chime, hold still.’ ‘Or what happens?’ Jess asked.

‘It’s the Archivist Magister’s personal conveyance; given that, I assure you, you don’t want to know.’

Somehow, after that, no one wanted to go first, so with a sigh, Jess stepped forward and paused in the doorway. A pleasant chime sounded, and he limped forward, into a world where everything was right and orderly and beautiful, and in which he felt completely out of place. A graceful young lady in a perfectly tailored Library uniform was standing a few feet away, and she gave him a smile that made him almost believe he was welcome.

‘This way, Mr Brightwell,’ she said. ‘I expect you’ll want to clean up first before you enjoy the other amenities.’

He couldn’t stop a bleak laugh. ‘I expect,’ he said, and limped after her down the clean little aisle, past tables and chairs, through an elegant dining car, and then into another hallway with

gleaming wood all along one rounded side. She paused three doors down and opened one that had a blank inserted in it that had his name written in exquisite cursive writing.

‘Thanks … what’s your name?’ he asked, as he edged inside. Her smile took on a slightly brittle quality.

‘It’s Gretel, sir. Should you need anything, please ring the bell. You’ll find soap and toiletries in the shower for you.’

Gretel was pretty, but he could read the revulsion in her hiding just beneath the surface. He didn’t blame her.

She must see powerful people here. Catering to some half maimed, filthy students of no real repute must have been beneath her.He shut the door and leant against it for a moment, then opened his eyes and looked around. The bed was soft and tempting, but he needed cleaning far worse. The muck caked in his hair was driving him mad.

Though the Welsh doctor had assured him the waterproofing on his wounds would hold, and the healing had already advanced quite far, he was careful in the shower. The violent blue-black bruises circling his side and back, he realised, looked so frightful that if elegant Gretel had seen them, she’d have run screaming. The bruises seemed far worse than the relatively small stab wound.

The posh train had robes, thick fluffy ones, and once he was clean he donned one and stretched out on top of the bed. The cool air drifted over him, and he felt, for the first time, as if he could really rest.

It didn’t occur to him to lock the door.

He fell asleep, predictably enough, and woke up when his door clapped open with too much energy, and Morgan stepped inside to say, ‘I’m told to bring you to dinner— Oh. Sorry.’

‘No, it’s all right,’ he said, and tried to sit up, but the brief nap had stiffened his sore muscles, and it was a clumsy process. He grabbed at the robe to keep it more or less closed. It was mostly a failed attempt, and it exposed the livid black-and-blue of his side. She took in a breath, and came to help him rise. He yanked the robe back together and tied it shut.

‘Don’t apologise,’ she said. ‘I’ve seen worse.’ ‘You mean the bruises, I hope.’

‘What else would I be talking about?’ She sat next to him in quiet harmony for a moment. She’d washed herself, too; her brown hair flowed loose, and it crackled with energy when she push edit back with one hand. ‘I won’t go to the Iron Tower, Jess. I’m not asking you to help me, because … because I know they won’t stop coming for me, and I can’t put you in the middle. But I wanted you to know that I’ll do whatever I have to do.’ ‘The train’s already moving,’ he said. ‘You’d kill yourself trying to escape.’ ‘I know that.’‘Once you get to Alexandria, you’ll never get out of that tower.’

‘I know that, too.’

‘So?’ She shrugged.

Wasn’t looking at him. He felt sick. ‘Tell me you’re not thinking of killing yourself.

Just tell me that much.’ She turned and met his eyes. ‘I’m not thinking of killing myself.’

He’d told her that she ought to become a better liar, and he was afraid that she’d taken his advice, because he couldn’t tell what she was thinking at all.

‘Hand me my clothes,’ he said. ‘I’m starving.’ Dinner was a quiet affair, since he and Morgan were the only ones left who hadn’t ordered; they sat together, and both had beefsteak. He needed it. He’d lost so much blood that he craved red meat like oxygen.

They ate without much conversation, though Morgan’s golden-brown gaze kept skimming up and over him. They didn’t speak much, but then, there wasn’t a lot of conversation among the other few left in the dining car, either. They were all too tired, he thought. Too relieved to still be alive.

When they were alone, and his plate nearly empty, he said, ‘Do you think Wolfe will help you?’

‘No,’ Morgan said. ‘He left the tracker on.’ She held up her wrist. The restraints delicately criss-crossed there, with the seal in the middle, and it did look like an ornament.

‘Maybe he forgot.’She didn’t dignify that with an answer as she forked more steak into her mouth.

‘All right, maybe he didn’t forget. Check and mate.’ ‘I’m glad you think my life is a game.’

‘It is, though. Winning, losing, doesn’t matter. You can’t give up, because whether you win or lose, you just set up the board and keep playing.’She let out an annoyed rush of breath. ‘Stop. You’re very bad at this.’

‘At what?’

‘Trying to comfort me.’ ‘I wasn’t,’ he said. ‘You deserve better than that.’ ‘I’m just tired,’ she said.

‘You don’t understand how tired I am.’ He saw something flicker in her eyes, spark, and flare … and go out. She started to get up.‘Wait. Morgan, wait.

Don’t. You can survive this.’ ‘I know I can,’ she said.

‘That’s not the problem.’ ‘Then tell me what is.’ She glared at him. ‘You!

Your stupid questions!’ She slid her chair back and walked away towards the bedroom carriages. He got up, quickly.

Glossy Gretel stepped in his way, with her manufactured smile. She offered him a menu. ‘Dessert, Mr Brightwell? I recommend the sticky toffee pudding.’ ‘Then you should have some,’ he said, and moved her out of his way.

Morgan was already out of sight.

She wasn’t in her bedroom in the carriage. He knocked, and when she didn’t answer, he tried the door. It was open.

There was no sign of her, except for the disturbed sheets on the bed. He put his hand on them. They were cold.

She hadn’t come back.

He tried all the other rooms. One by one, his friends answered. They hadn’t seen her. I have to tell Wolfe, he thought. The idea that Morgan might do something drastic, that he might stand by and let it happen … he couldn’t face that.

Wolfe didn’t answer his knock, either, and when Jess tried the knob, it also swung open.

Empty.

He slammed the cabin door.

‘Looking for something?’ Santi was leaning out the doorway of the next cabin down, stripped to the waist.

‘I need to find Scholar Wolfe—’ Jess’s words died in his mouth, because behind Santi, Scholar Wolfe stepped out of Santi’s cabin door.

Also half-dressed. Jess’s brain went blank as all his assumptions tumbled and tried to fit together again.

Santi just looked amused.

Wolfe … looked like Wolfe.Annoyed and impatient. He pulled a white shirt on over his head. ‘Well?’ he said.

‘You’ve found me. Speak.’ ‘I can’t find Morgan,’ Jess said.

‘You couldn’t find me, and I was one door down.

What business is it of yours where she is? She can’t leave the train.’

Jess sucked in a deep breath and said, ‘She’s not going to let you just hand her over to the Obscurists, either.

She told me that.’

He wasn’t saying what he was afraid of, but Wolfe didn’t miss it, either. He froze for a second, then turned and grabbed his Codex. He flipped pages. ‘Her tracker is still active,’ he said. ‘Still on the train.’

‘Then where is she?’ ‘In the back.’ Wolfe tossed Santi a shirt. ‘Come on.’

‘She can’t get out. It’s suicide.’

‘She’s an Obscurist, she can get out,’ Wolfe said.

‘And I hope to God it’s not.’ Jess followed them as the two men moved through the rest of the carriage. Santi turned on him at the door to the next section. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Go back. We’ll find her.’ ‘I want to—’

‘Jess.’ Santi grabbed him by the shoulders and held his gaze. ‘Just go back. All right?

I promise to tell you.’ Before he could tell Santi to go to hell, the man stepped back and slammed the compartment door between them. Jess grabbed for the knob.

It felt like grabbing a sharp knife, and he was knocked back as if something invisible had punched him hard in the chest. He couldn’t get his breath. When his eyes cleared again, he saw that the entire door pulsed red, like a beating heart.

He was locked out. The more he battered at the door, the more he shouted, the less it helped; Dario came stumbling out of his room,and Thomas, and Khalila.

Glain. He didn’t answer any of their questions.

Gretel finally came, still sleek and perfectly composed, and pushed her way through to where Jess stood. ‘Sir,’ she said. ‘That area is secured. You can’t enter.’

‘Open it.’

‘Perhaps you should go back to your cabin—’‘Open it!’ When she didn’t, he grabbed for her wrist, pulled her forward, and put her hand on the compartment door.

The red warning light continued to flash. Gretel pulled free.

‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘Only the highest-ranking person on the train can open it now.Scholar Wolfe.’

Jess wanted to hit her, but that wouldn’t do any good either, and so he hit the door again. Hard. The material looked like wood, but it felt like steel.

‘Jess!’ Thomas grabbed his arms and held him back.

‘Stop! What’s wrong with you?’

‘Morgan,’ Jess panted.

‘Morgan’s in there. She’s—’ The red light stopped pulsing, and the door’s handle turned.

Wolfe and Santi stepped through. One look at their faces, and Jess knew.

Santi was holding a thin, gold figure of eight of wire, sealed in the middle. Jess stared at it until his eyes ached.

‘She managed to open one of the doors,’ Wolfe said quietly. ‘She left this behind.’ ‘She jumped?’ Khalila’s voice sounded puzzled, as if she couldn’t work it out. ‘But how could she survive at this speed? We’re going so … so fast …’

Jess heard the change in her voice, the sudden tremor, as it hit her. Hit them all.

‘I’m sorry,’ Wolfe said again.

‘You’re sorry.’ Glain’s voice sounded icy with contempt. ‘Again.’Jess didn’t turn to look, but he heard her walk away and slam her cabin door.

Khalila had turned away, and Jess thought that she’d found comfort, again, in Dario’s arms.

Thomas tried to talk to him. Jess just pushed past him.

Reset the board and keep playing.

He wanted to laugh at himself for being so stupid.

He wanted to scream until his throat bled.

As he opened the door of his cabin, he heard Wolfe tell Santi, ‘Make sure he’s all right. He’ll take it better from you.’

Wolfe was wrong about that. Jess wouldn’t take it from anyone. He’d had enough of these people. All of them.Before Santi could get to him, he stepped inside and shut the door, then locked it.

It was dark inside, but he didn’t want lights. He wanted the black. The silence. He remembered where the bed was, on his left, and walked over to sink down on it.

‘Jess.’

It was barely a whisper, and for a second he thought it was in his head. That he’d gone that mad, that he was imagining her voice now.

‘Jess.’

Something inside him went very, very still. He wasn’t imagining it. He couldn’t be. ‘Morgan?’ ‘I tried to make them think I jumped,’ she whispered.

She was sitting on the bed, curled up in the corner. He could feel the warmth of her now. Smell the lavender of the soap she’d used in the shower. ‘Did it work?’ The relief came in a rush, and hard on the heels of it, the grim understanding.

She’d used him. She’d led a trail for him, hinted at ending it all, pointed him at Wolfe to deliver the message. ‘Oh yes.

Worked a treat. They think you’re a smear of blood on the tracks. So did I.’ ‘Jess—’‘How’d you get the restraints off?’

‘It took some time, but I figured out how to get into the formula,’ she said. ‘The door wasn’t hard, once I knew how to do that.’

‘And then you hid in the one place you knew I wouldn’t come looking for you. You needed me to be desperate so Wolfe would believe it. You wanted me to think you were dead.’ ‘Jess!’

‘It’s all right,’ he said. He knew she’d believe him, because he was a very good liar. ‘You can stay here. Once we’re all off the train, you can find some way off. Just keep running. You must be good at it by now.’ He swallowed hard, and said exactly what had hurt him the most. ‘You used me.’‘Jess!’ He stopped. He sat in silence, in the dark, and listened to her breath. It sounded fast, raw, and wounded. When her hand touched him, he flinched, as if she’d burnt him. He shut his eyes, like a scared child in the dark, trying to shut her out, but he already knew he couldn’t do it, no matter how much he wanted.It had hurt so much when he’d thought she was gone, and so much more when she realised how she’d played him for a fool.

But he wanted her to touch him so badly his whole body ached for it. Stupid, stupid, because he shouldn’t feel that way. She’d done the same thing to him every other person he’d begun to care about in his life had done:used him for their own purposes. His da, running him on the streets. His brother, using him as cover. He’d had to trade a book to his cousin for his life. Even Wolfe had only really wanted him for his family connections.

Somehow, he hadn’t expected it from her. Should have, though. He should hate her. He should want to walk away. Why can’t I walk away from her?

Her fingers touched his cheek, and traced warmth on his skin. Behind his eyes, gold flashes sparked and flared and spun, and he felt his heart running fast, like an animal trying to escape.

‘I’m sorry for doing that to you,’ she whispered, and she was so close now he felt her breath on his neck. ‘I’m so sorry.’When she kissed him, it felt like an endless, weightless fall. Her lips warmed and softened and parted, and he got lost in the taste of her mouth, darkly spicy and sweet. His blood was thundering through his veins, and all he wanted, all he needed was to touch more of her.

It was so dark, and so bright, and he knew it was wrong.

Somehow, he pulled back from the drowning sensation of her mouth, and sat back.

He felt her start to reach out for him, but her fingers fell away as they brushed his shirt.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said again, and he could tell that she was crying now, a broken sound.

‘I had to, Jess. Please don’t blame me for it. I want to – I want to stay, but I can’t go back. I can’t be locked away.

You can’t want that for me.’ He didn’t. God help him.

‘You can stay,’ he said. ‘I won’t tell them.’

He didn’t speak again. He stripped off his boots and stretched out on his bed, fully clothed. He left room for her.

After a long moment, she carefully laid herself down on her side behind him,feverishly warm but not touching him at all until she reached out and put a hand on his arm.

‘Thank you,’ she whispered.

He said nothing. He didn’t sleep for a long time, long after he heard her breathing change, slow, relax. Long after her body shifted and pressed against his.

Then, finally, he shut his eyes and let himself drift away.

It was still ink-dark, and Morgan was curled against him, when he opened his eyes and tested himself. This might be a dream. Just one of those dreams that make things so much worse when you wake up and find out she’s dead and this was all just your mind playing tricks.But his side ached like he’d drenched it in Greek Fire, and that, more than anything else, convinced him that he hadn’t just dreamt it.

He’d moved in his sleep, and was now on his back.

Morgan’s hair had spilt heavy over his chest, and he breathed in the scent of it. His hand stroked slowly down her arm, and he felt her wake up.

It felt comfortable … strange,but comfortable.

And a hateful little voice whispered deep inside that she’d set him to trick Wolfe, and she was doing the same thing now. Making him believe something that couldn’t be true. Making him believe she cared. Doesn’t matter, he told that part of him. If she doesn’t end up with a collar on her neck, locked in a tower, it doesn’t matter how much she lies to me. It’s all that matters. She should be free, whatever it costs.

He felt a sudden odd lurch run through the metal around them. Then another one.

Morgan raised her head.

‘Something’s wrong,’ she said. ‘Did you feel—’ The train screamed, and everything began to slide.

A red light flashed on, off,on, and in the light Jess saw that things were moving inside the cabin, moving as if gravity had stopped. Every flash of the light, the things were in a different spot, but he couldn’t really feel the motion any more.

And then, it was nothing but motion. He was weightless, tumbling off the bed and slamming into the wall, and he had to bite back a scream as pain sheeted through him. Morgan fell next to him, and braced herself with outstretched arms above his head to keep from sliding into him as the train continued to shriek.

Not the train. The brakes, Jess realised. A scream of burning metals that were never meant to burn together like this, at this speed. The train lurched, let go, lurched again. He could hear shouts from other rooms now.

With one more massive jolt, the train squealed to a halt, and he coughed as he caught a breath of acrid smoke. Something was burning underneath.

He turned his head to look for Morgan, but it had gone dark again, and he couldn’t see her, but her warmth was still beside him. He could hear her gasp for breath, and cough on it. ‘Are you all right?’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘We stopped.’

The Alexandrian Express never stopped.

One of the glows flickered on above the bed, and for the first time, Jess saw her. She looked frantic and grim.

‘Why did we stop?’

Morgan handed him the heavy, still-bloodstained boots he’d worn in Oxford.

‘No idea.’ He jammed his feet into them. Her shoes were in the corner. She was just snapping the catches shut when the train jerked hard, again, and it was good that he was sitting on the edge of the bed now and braced, because it might have thrown him even more violently than before. Morgan slid forward,and he grabbed her around the waist to brace her. She sent him a quick, all-too fleeting smile. ‘Stay here.

Stay out of sight. They still think you’re dead, so whatever you do, don’t let them see you.’

She leant her forehead against his for an instant.

‘Take care of yourself, Jess. Please. Please.’

He knew she was telling him goodbye. This was her chance. Her chance to disappear into the dark outside this train, to find a safe haven somewhere far away where the Library would never find her.

He wanted to go with her.

It was a nice dream, and he let himself have it for the length of the kiss that followed, fierce and sweet and promising things that he knew would never be.

Kisses could lie as well as words.

He turned the light off again on his way out the door.

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