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To: Cornelius Agricola <[email protected]>
From: Edgar Weem <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Jason
Cornelius, don't worry about anything! You did the right thing, letting them go. The boy needs to follow the path I've set for him to truly achieve his full potential. He is remarkable. You're right.
For this reason, I don't worry about him. There's not a situation on earth he can't get himself out of. He's proved this over and over.
The guards weren't at the doors. They were inside, staring at Grandma Hoyt.
"It was an accident," Chance was saying. "She fell down the steps."
I was still at the top of the steps, my hand at my mouth. I was shaking.
But the guards weren't at the doors. It was my only chance.
I vaulted down the steps, carefully avoiding the body, and I shot through the front door. Chance called after me, but I didn't stop. I just kept going.
When I was about five blocks away, approaching a bus station, I realized that I should have stopped and gotten some money or a car or something. I walked to the bus station, wondering what I should do. Should I go back to the house? But no, I didn't think so. There would probably be police and ambulances. They would ask questions. And I couldn't answer them. Besides, I could think of a place that I could go to get money. And a passport, which I was going to need.
There were two people at the bus station. One was a man in a business suit, carrying a briefcase. The other was an elderly lady with a scarf over her head. She saw me immediately, taking me in. I was still wearing the nightgown my grandmother had forced me to wear. I wasn't sure how I looked.
"Are you crying, sweetheart?" asked the woman.
Was I? I touched my face. Oh God. I was. I looked at the woman and blurted, "My grandmother," I said. "She's dead. I just ran out of the house, and I don't have money for bus fare, and I need to go into the city."
"Oh my," said the lady. "You poor dear." She opened her purse and gave me a ten dollar bill. "That should get you into the city. I'm so sorry about your grandmother."
"Thank you," I said, breaking out into fresh sobs.
As I settled into a seat on the bus, I mused that it wasn't true what people said. There were kind people on earth still. Of course, if that woman had known it was my fault that my grandmother had fallen down the steps to her death, she might not have been as nice.
The bus deposited me at the train station, where I boarded a train bound for New York City. I spent what seemed like hours studying the map of New York City in the train, trying to figure out where I was supposed to get off. I finally decided that I would get off at the 33rd Street and 6th Avenue stop because it looked close to Penn Station, and that was where Jason and I had gotten off the bus the last time we'd been in New York, last fall.
Once off the train, I was overwhelmed by the city again. I hadn't been back since our short visit back in November, and it seemed the same as ever. Tall buildings, tons of people, movement everywhere. It had been a long time ago, and I hadn't paid a lot of attention to where Jason was taking me, but I knew that we had walked from here. I found my way to Penn Station and to the place where the bus had dropped us off. This looked familiar.
What had we done after this?
Jason had gone to a payphone. I looked up at down the street until I located it. I went to the phone. Now. Where had we gone from here? Had we walked further up this street or had we turned and gone the other way? I tried as best as I could to hone in on my memory of the situation. To remember Jason's movements. We'd walked up this street. I was almost certain of it.
I walked up the street, to the edge of the block. Had we crossed the street?
I remembered that we'd walked for a long time, and that Jason had been walking really fast. I remembered that I'd gotten out of breath. But I had no idea what turns we'd taken. I'd paid no attention to the names of the streets. I hadn't thought I'd ever need to retrace our steps. I sighed. I didn't think we'd crossed the street here.
But I resolved to remember each of my paths, so that I could come back to Penn Station and try each route, taking different turns, until I found the right one. How many possible combinations could there be? I remembered there was a formula for figuring that out. But I didn't remember the formula, and maybe it was a blessing, because I didn't want to know how hopeless this was.
It was getting dark, and I wandered through the streets of New York City in my white lace nightgown. (The only good thing was that no one gave me a second glance. There were tons of weirdly dressed people on the streets of New York City.) Nothing looked familiar. I tried walking straight for as far as I could. After about a half an hour, I decided that I must have gone the wrong way, and I walked back to Penn Station. I started off again, this time crossing the street.
I repeated this process about four times, taking different streets. I didn't see anything familiar. My feet hurt from walking. I was only wearing a pair of slippers which my grandmother had given me. I was exhausted. It had to be after midnight, and I was freaked out about being in New York City this late at night. Was I going to be robbed at gunpoint? I snorted. I only had a few bucks. No, I didn't think that anyone would try to rob a chick in a nightgown. I didn't look like I had any money.
This had been a really stupid idea. How was I supposed to find an apartment when I remembered next to nothing about how I'd gotten there in the first place? I really should have planned this whole excursion out a little better. But I hadn't had much time to think about what I was doing or where I was going. It only made it worse knowing that Jason was stuck in the Sons headquarters and was probably going to be executed. I didn't know how much time I had, but here I was wasting it wandering around in New York City. I needed money. I needed a passport. I needed a plane ticket.
And then once I was in England, I didn't even know where I was going to go.
Wait. I'd written down a number for Father Gerald and put it in my pocket. I dug in my pocket. Yes. It was still there.
Maybe if I could get in touch with Hallam, as I'd been thinking, I could get some kind of help. Maybe Hallam could . . .
I was back at Penn Station after my last failed attempt to find the apartment. I trudged over the payphone that Jason had used all those months ago. Sliding some coins into it, I dialed Father Gerald's number. It rang and rang. I realized it was late, and he was probably asleep. I waited for the answering machine to pick up.
But then there was a sleepy, "Hello?"
"Father Gerald?" I said.
"Yes. Who is this?"
"It's Azazel Jones. You might remember me from"
"I remember you. What is it now?"
He sounded a little annoyed. I guess he knew if I was calling, it meant trouble. "Do you have a number for Hallam?" I asked.
"Of course," Father Gerald sighed. He gave me the number. Of course, I didn't have a pen or pencil, so I had to memorize it.
I hung up, put more money in the phone and dialed the number Father Gerald had given me. It too, rang and rang and rang. Then went to voicemail. Dammit! The voicemail identified the number as Hallam's cell phone. It beeped. I took a deep breath. "Hallam, it's Azazel. I-I'm in trouble. Jason's in trouble. The Sons have him. I think they're going to kill him. I need . . . Oh, it doesn't matter. I don't have a phone. You can't call me back. But if there's anything you can do to help him . . . " Jason had told Hallam that if he saw Hallam again, he would kill him. I hung up the phone. I didn't even remember the number anymore.
I slumped against the phone. What was I going to do? There wasn't anyone else I could think of who might know any of these locations. Wait. I dialed Father Gerald again.
"Didn't the number work?" Father Gerald wanted to know.
"It went to voicemail," I said. "I wonder if you have another number. Sutherland?"
"You want the phone number for Liam Sutherland?" Father Gerald said, like he didn't believe me.
"I'm desperate," I said.
"Where are you?"
"New York City."
Father Gerald sighed. He gave me another number. I memorized it again. And I used the last of my change to dial the number for Sutherland. Just the thought of him gave me shivers. He wasn't a very nice person. He was a rapist and murderer, but he had also helped Jason and I get to Rome.
The phone only rang once. "Sutherland," said the voice on the other end, brisk, British, and alert.
"It's Azazel Jones," I said.
"Azazel!" Sutherland sounded delighted to hear from me. "What can I do for you?"
"I want to know the location of the Sons headquarters in England," I said.
"Can't help you. I don't know. I've never been able to figure that out," he said.
Fuck. Why was this so, so hard? I wanted to cry. I considered hanging up the phone.
"You used to follow Jason around, didn't you?" I said. "When you were trying to find out information on him?"
"So, do you happen to know where his ID contact Marlena lives?"
"Actually, there I can help you," said Sutherland. "But I'll want to trade."
"I don't know anything!" I said.
"Perhaps we can trade for something else, then," he said, sounding eager. Oh. Gross. Sutherland was so disgusting. "Where are you? In New York?"
"Wait," I said. "Maybe I do have some information." And I began blurting out everything I'd learned over the past few weeks, from the fact that Edgar Weem was descended from King Arthur to Cornelius Agricola training Brothers, to my grandmother's story. In the middle, a recording interrupted me to tell me I needed to put in more coins. I didn't have anymore.
"Call me back collect," said Sutherland, giving me his number again.
I did. I picked up where I left off, telling Sutherland everything. He might be able to do all kinds of terrible things with this information. After all, he sold it to the highest bidder. But I didn't care. I just cared about Jason.
When I'd finished, Sutherland was extremely happy. "This is wonderful, Azazel," he said. "There's so much I can do with this, especially to the Hoyts." Then regretfully, he added, "I'm afraid you've given me more information than the location of Marlena Cross is worth. I could tell you something else, though, in addition. I do know where Edgar Weem is holing up. He's in Kildare, Ireland. I'm sure if you went to him, he could tell you the location of the Sons' headquarters."
"Deal," I said wearily.
Marlena still had a mat in front of her door. I still thought it was silly. There wasn't any reason to wipe my feet on it. I knocked, exhausted and sagging against her door frame. After an eternity passed, I knocked again. Maybe she wasn't home. After the third knock with no answer, I slid down the wall, curled up, and fell asleep.
I woke up to someone kicking me. "Wake up, you filthy bum," a British accent was saying.
My eyes fluttered open. "Marlena," I said, struggling to my feet.
"You can't sleep in here," she was saying. "There's a shelter just a few streets down."
"No," I said. "Marlena, it's me. Azazel."
"How do you know my name?" she demanded. She still looked really pretty, with her flawless dark skin. But she didn't have her hair in braids anymore. Instead, it was cut short. It clung to her head in tiny black ringlets.
"I'm Jason's girlfriend," I said.
Her eyes widened in recognition. "You look awful!" she exclaimed, fitting her key to the lock of her apartment and ushering me inside.
"Thanks," I said.
Marlena hung her keys up on the wall near the door. "Well, I didn't mean it like that," she said. She was wearing a jacket, which she shed and threw over one of her couches. Her apartment looked the same, incense and tapestries. I breathed it in. I remembered how the first time I'd been here, I'd found the place frightening and disturbing. Now it just seemed comforting. "Why don't you sit down?" She gestured at her couches.
Gratefully, I settled on a couch. It was soft. I felt as if it hugged my body. I relaxed into it, sighing. I hadn't realized how sore my body was from walking all over New York City.
"Would you like some coffee?" she asked me.
I sat up. "That would be awesome," I said. I did need to wake up. Who knows how much time I'd lost? I had to get to Jason as soon as possible.
Marlena disappeared into the kitchen. I heard the noise of water coming from a faucet. The click of a coffee maker switching on. "So what are you doing here?" she asked. "Where's Jason?"
"Jason's in England," I said. "They're going to kill him."
Marlena rushed back into the living room. "What did you say?"
"I've got to get there," I said. "I've got to stop them."
She sat down on the couch beside me. "You back up," she said. "And you tell me everything. Who's got Jason? What are they going to do to him?"
I explained as best as I could. While I was talking, the coffee finished brewing and Marlena brought us both a cup. We filled them with packets of sugar and single serving creamers. Marlena stole them from fast food restaurants. The coffee was strong, but I made it sweet with about four packets of sugar. As the hot liquid coursed through my body, I could feel myself becoming more alert. I sped through the rest of my explanation.
Marlena was upset. She paced in the living room, holding her cup of coffee. "So you think this Weem person has Jason's exact location?"
"I'm pretty sure."
She took a long drink of coffee. "We're going to need passports," she said. "And a credit card with a pretty high limit. But I think I have one."
"We?" I said.
"I'm coming with you," she said. "You think I'm going to let Jason be offed by those prigs that have been chasing him all this time? Jason is like the little brother I never had. I won't let anything happen to him."
Well. I'd seen Marlena load a rifle once. She seemed like she could handle herself in a fight. I didn't think she'd slow me down. "Okay," I said. "You can come with me."
"You don't have to give me permission," she said. "I wasn't asking for it."
I considered. "What about guns? Can you get us guns?"
Marlena hesitated. "Well, I know someone who can." She set her coffee down on the coffee table and went back down the hall. She came back with a credit card, which she handed to me. "I'm going out," she said. "I'll be back with passports and guns. You book the tickets. Book them for this afternoon. And use the name on the credit card for the tickets. And for yours, give yourself the same last name and, I don't know, what do you want to be called?"
"Wait," I said. "If we have the same last name, that would mean we're related."
"Well, I don't know if people are going to believe that you and I are"
"Oh for Heaven's sake. Maybe your parents adopted a little black girl from England. You ever think about that?"
I shrugged. "Okay."
"Your name is Jane," she said. "Is that all right?"
"Sure," I said.
Edgar Weem was living in an old stone cottage opposite St. Brigid's Cathedral in County Kildare, Ireland. The little house itself looked sweet and charming, like something out of a storybook. It had window boxes with brightly colored flowers growing in them. The door was white with a quaint iron handle on it. Next to the house was a fenced in garden. I'd expected Edgar Weem to be like an evil warlord, presiding over an ancient castle with a mote or something. The little house didn't seem to fit his personality.
Marlena and I, who were still adjusting to the time change after flying across the Atlantic, had landed in Dublin. Then we'd arranged transportation to Weem's house. Our flight had taken about six hours. It had taken about an hour to get to Kildare. For us, it felt like sometime after midnight. In Ireland time, it was early in the morningaround 6:30 AM. We didnt know if Edgar Weem would be awake yet, but we didn't care.
I rapped on the door. To my surprise, the door opened immediately. Edgar Weem stood there. He was wearing his robe, holding a cup of coffee. He had a receding hairline and his hair was going gray around his temples. Butand here was the weird thinghe was definitely the same man I'd dreamed about and envisioned when I'd been talking to Agnes. I'd almost convinced myself that the whole experience with Agnes had been a dream. I thought maybe it was nothing more than a product of my subconscious. But this was definitely the same guy. Just eighteen years older.
Edgar Weem made an apologetic face. "Sorry," he said. "I don't want any." He started to close the door.
Marlena wedged her gun in the doorway, blocking the door. "We're not selling anything," she growled.
Edgar Weem opened the door wider again. He looked alarmed.
"We're coming in now," said Marlena. She pushed past Edgar. I followed her. Marlena was really super cool. We'd had a little bit of time to chat on the plane, and she'd told me stories about Jason when he was a little boy, how he'd helped her and her dad with faking car registrations. I was glad that Jason had someone like this. He'd never had a family. Having someone like Marlena was good though. I liked her.
Edgar closed the door behind us, holding one arm in the air and clutching his coffee cup with the other. "I'm afraid I don't know what's going on," he said.
"We're here about Jason," said Marlena. "You're going to help us."
"Jason?" said Edgar. He lowered his hands. "You must be Marlena. And you're Azazel, then?"
So he knew about us? Both of us? I expected him to know about me. But Marlena?
"How do you know who we are?" I wanted to know.
"Well, I've kept close tabs on Jason throughout his life. If two women with guns burst into my apartment talking about him, you two are really the only two choices I would have." He smiled at us. "It's good to meet you both at last." He offered us his hand, the one that wasn't holding his coffee.
Marlena and I looked at his proffered hand and then looked at each other. We both tucked our guns into the waist of our pants (Marlena had gotten me some clothes, so I wasn't wearing the horrid nightgown anymore) and folded our arms over our chests.
"Let's get something straight," said Marlena. "We don't like you."
"You're pretty much a shoo-in for the Worst Father in the Universe Award," I added.
"We're here for information. That's all," said Marlena.
Edgar withdrew his hand. "All right, then," he said cheerily. "Can I get the two of you some coffee?"
"No," I said. "For all we know, you'll drug it."
"I'd like some coffee," said Marlena. "I'll make it myself. You watch Weem."
"Sure," I said. "Have a seat, Edgar."
The inside of Edgar Weem's cottage was just as charming as the outside. There was a small sitting room filled with overstuffed couches and bookshelves. In the corner, there was a working fireplace, although it wasn't burning. Edgar made his way there and sat down. He threw one of his arms over the back of the couch, thoroughly at ease. "Why don't you come and sit with me, Azazel?" he said. "I'd love to get a look at you. You're a very pretty girl. I can see why Jason's so taken with you."
My eyes narrowed. I was beginning to see why both Michaela Weem and my grandmother had found Edgar Weem so charming. I didn't move. Instead, I just put my hand on the butt of my gun warningly.
"Oh, Azazel," he said with a jovial laugh. "You can relax, really. I'm on your side."
Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers