Take the Key and Lock Her Up

Page 24

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"Are we really not going to talk about this?" Megan says.
"Talk about what?" Rosie asks as she slides into the booth.
Outside, it's more dark than light now, and the countryside has all but disappeared from view. We could be anywhere. Anyone. In any time. It would be so very, very easy to get lost. But the people in this car won't let me.
I turn and stare out the window, but there is no missing Noah's reflection in the dark glass, staring back. He catches my gaze and I know he never intends to let it go.
"You disappeared, Grace," he tells me.
I look down at my hands, at the tea that's growing colder by the second. In a moment it might freeze over. "I know."
"Seven weeks," Noah says. "Seven weeks! Do you know how long that is?"
"Yes. It's just longer than six weeks-not quite as long as eight."
Noah slides into the seat across from me. The train is smooth and sleek and modern, but this car seems to vibrate with Noah's rage. "Do you know how long it is when you have no idea if your best friend is dead or alive?"
He's got a point, and I hate it.
I hate everything.
"I'm sorry, Noah. We couldn't tell anyone. We-"
"We?" he asks.
"Yes." Without meaning to, I glance at Alexei. "We."
Noah says his favorite Portuguese swearword and pushes out of the chair again. He puts his hands on top of his head, long fingers threading through jet-black hair as he paces down the aisle of the train car.
"Noah, we had to leave. No. That's not quite true. Jamie and Alexei and I … we had to run."
My voice breaks and he hears it, turns very slowly, and says, "Why?"
This is it, of course. They have the right to know. More than a right. They need to know. But I can't …
"He kinda has a point, Grace," Rosie says, as if she thinks I'm getting ready to argue. What can I say, she knows me well. Rosie shrugs her small shoulders and goes on, "You disappear for weeks and then call Megan out of the blue and the next thing we know you're acting like James Bond and having secret meetings with princesses. Not to mention that none of the stuff that Ann said on that recording made any sense."
"It makes sense. I mean, it will make sense," Alexei tries to explain.
"Grace, what happened?" Megan asks. "I mean, one moment we were all at the bonfire and then you were gone. You never came back to the embassy. Your grandfather and Ms. Chancellor wouldn't even say your name. What happened that night?"
"The Night of a Thousand Amelias?" I ask, as if there could ever be any mistake. Megan nods, and I turn back to the dark glass. Outside, the world is just a dark, blurry shadow. It's almost fitting as I say, "They stabbed Jamie."
"What?" Noah lunges back to sit across from me.
"That night. Outside the palace. Remember, you and Megan saw me, and we got separated somehow. It was so loud and crowded and … smoky. There was so much smoke. I hate the smell of smoke. I always have, ever since …"
The fire.
Mom died.
I killed her.
"I hate the smell of smoke," I say again. "But there I was. At the bonfire. And then I saw Jamie. But at first I didn't think that it was Jamie. I thought it was Spence. Or Spence's ghost," I say, then give a sad little laugh. "See? Told you I was crazy."
"You're not crazy," Rosie says. From her, it's a little of a pot-kettle situation, but I smile anyway.
"Thanks," I say. "Anyway, I saw someone who looked just like Spence, walking through the smoke and the firelight. You know how all the men were wearing masks and the women all had on those white dresses? It was …"
"Creepy," Rosie says. "It was incredibly creepy."
"Yeah. But I thought I was seeing Spence, and then when he got closer and took off his mask, I realized it was Jamie. And that's when it occurred to me that if I thought Jamie was Spence, then maybe-"
"Spence's killer thought Spence was Jamie," Megan fills in.
I nod. "Exactly."
For a second there is only silence and darkness and the smooth, swift motion of the train.
"Grace …" Noah prompts, and, finally, I find the words.
"They stabbed him. They stabbed Jamie. I mean, one minute I was trying to tell him that he looked like Spence and that maybe someone had confused the two of them-that maybe someone wanted him dead. And Jamie was looking at me like-he was looking at me like I was the world's most screwed-up little sister, and then …"
I turn and stare out the glass.
"Jamie's fine," Alexei says when Megan, Noah, and Rosie turn to him.
"Jamie is not fine," I say.
"Jamie is recovering. He will be fine." Alexei sounds so certain.
"At first, I thought maybe he'd been shot. Except I didn't hear a shot. I didn't see anyone stab him, either, but … There was so much blood. Alexei found us then, and he helped me carry Jamie to the palace."
"You took your bleeding brother to the palace?" Noah asks.
I nod. "Ann was our mom's friend. I'd just been to see her, to ask her if she knew what my mom was working on when she died."
"So you were with Ann and then a few minutes later someone tried to kill your brother?" Megan asks.

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