Boundless Page 53

The flames lick up the side of the room, igniting the velvet curtains like tissue paper. This place is going to be an inferno in about five minutes. My heart’s hammering, but I swallow and push myself to my knees, then to my feet. I have to help Christian. I have to fight.

No, he says in my mind. You’ve got to find him. Go.

The high-pitched noise comes again, thin and reedy, frightened. Smoke chokes me, the air in here close and hot and heavy in my lungs, but inexplicably I turn away from Christian and what I think must be the exit and stumble toward the fire, coughing, my eyes watering.

I hit the edge of something hard and wooden right at chest level, hard enough to knock the wind out of me if I had any wind in me to begin with. I figure out what the barrier is at the same time that my eyes finally decide to adjust.

It’s a stage.

I look around wildly to confirm what I already know, but it’s so crazy obvious I can’t believe I never figured this out before. It all falls neatly into place: the slanted floor of the auditorium, the ghosts of white tablecloths along the front, the rows of metal-backed seats. The velvet curtains and the smell of sawdust and paint.

We’re in the Pink Garter.

And in that instant, I figure out what the noise is.

It’s a baby crying.

“Clara!”

I open my eyes. Somehow I ended up on my living room floor, and I don’t quite know how. Two sets of eyes are staring down at me, one blue and one green, both insanely worried.

“What happened?” Tucker asks.

“It was the black room,” Christian says, not a question.

“It was the Garter.” I struggle to sit up. “I need my phone. Where’s my phone?”

Tucker finds it on the coffee table and brings it to me, while Christian helps me over to the couch. I still feel out of breath.

“There’s going to be a fire,” I tell Christian.

Tucker makes a disbelieving noise. “Oh, great.”

I dial Angela’s number. It rings and rings, and each second that ticks by where she doesn’t pick up makes the sense of dread in my stomach grow stronger. But then, finally, there’s a click and a faint hello on the other end.

“Angela!” I say.

“Clara?” She sounds like she’s been sleeping.

“I just had my vision again, and the black room is the Garter, Angela, and the noise I hear—do you remember me telling you?—that noise, which is what gives us away, it’s a baby. It’s got to be Webster. You need to get out. Now.”

“Now?” she says, still half-awake. “It’s nine o’clock at night. I just got Web to sleep.”

“Ange, they’re coming.” I can’t help the frantic squeak in my voice.

“Okay, slow down, C,” Angela says. “Who’s coming?”

“I don’t know. Black Wings.”

“Do they know about Web?” she asks, starting to comprehend some of what I’m saying. “Are they coming for him? How would they know?”

“I don’t know,” I say again.

“Well, what do you know?”

“I know something terrible is going to happen there. You have to leave.”

“And go where?” she asks, still not fully getting it. “No. I can’t go anywhere tonight.”

“But Ange—”

“How long have you been having the vision? Almost a year? There’s no need to rush off all panicked and clueless. We’ll think it through.”

“The vision was different tonight. It was urgent.”

Her voice hardens. “Well, sometimes the visions are like that, aren’t they? And you think you know what they mean, but you don’t.” She sighs like she realizes that she’s taking her issues out on me, and she’s sorry. “I can’t go running off in the middle of the night on a whim, C. I have Web to think about now. We need a plan. Come to the Garter in the morning, and we’ll talk about your vision, okay? Then I’ll decide where to go from there.”

There’s a high-pitched wail in the background. The sound of it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

“Oh, great. You woke him up,” she says, annoyed. “I have to go. I’ll see you in the morning.”

She hangs up on me.

I stare at the phone for a minute.

“What was that all about?” Tucker asks from behind me. “What’s going on?”

I meet Christian’s eyes, and he knows what I’m thinking. “We can take my truck,” he says.

We start moving toward the door. “We’ll go over there and I can put my hand on her and try to show her what I see. Maybe she’ll be able to receive it. We’ll make her understand. Then we’ll pack her and the baby up and take them to a hotel.” I sling my coat over my shoulder.

“Wait, what?” Tucker follows us out onto the porch. “Hold on, Carrots. Explain this to me. What’s happening?”

“We don’t have time.” I look at Tucker over my shoulder as I’m dashing away, and I say, “I have to go; I’m sorry,” and then I climb up into Christian’s pickup and we take off, spraying the gravel in the driveway, off to Jackson, and I get the sinking feeling that the trials my dad was telling me about are really about to begin.

14

ABANDON ALL HOPE

Just before we get to town, I get a text from Angela: trp dr, it says, and I don’t know what that means, but it makes my bad feeling get worse. Then when we arrive at the Garter, we find the front door open a crack. Christian and I both stiffen at the sight. We know that Anna Zerbino keeps this place locked up extra tight in the off hours, ever since an incident last year when a group of drunken tourists broke in and stole a bunch of costumes out of the dressing rooms and went gallivanting in chaps and petticoats all over town. Christian toes the door open enough for us to pass through, and we creep into the front lobby. The room is empty. He takes a moment to inspect the door, but there’s nothing to suggest violence. The lock is intact.

I cross the lobby to the red velvet curtain that separates the front of the house from the auditorium and push it aside. The lights are off. The theater is a pit of blackness straight out of my worst fears, and I can’t look at it for more than a few seconds before I have to turn away.

Upstairs there’s the sound of a muffled voice, a dragging noise like a chair scraping across the floor.

I glance uncertainly at Christian like, What should we do?

He gestures with his head toward the back corner, where there’s a staircase that goes to the second floor. We take the stairs slowly, careful not to make any noise. At the top we stop and listen. This door is closed, a ribbon of bright light glowing beneath it.

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