Boundless Page 56

They move swiftly toward the door, giving Christian only seconds to drag me down the stairs before we’re seen. There’s not enough time to make it across the lobby and out into the street. He pulls me inside the auditorium, moving us blindly into the dark.

For a few minutes I stand in the blackness, quaking, my eyes going in and out of focus, my stomach cramping, yet at the same time I feel strangely disconnected from my body, like I’m seeing myself from a distance. From a vision, maybe. My vision.

Anna is dead. Angela is being taken to hell. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

The group comes down the stairs, Phen first, from the little I can see through the two-inch slit in the velvet curtains, then Angela being flanked by two identically dressed dark-haired girls. I don’t see their faces, but something about them strikes me as young, about my own age, maybe even younger. Angela’s face as she passes is shocked; tears gleam on her cheeks. She keeps her eyes down. Then a guy I’ve never seen before saunters by—the one called Desmond, I assume—and finally a man in a black suit who looks enough like Samjeeza that from a distance I doubt I could tell them apart. He raises a hand, and everybody stops in the middle of the lobby.

“You two,” he says. “I want you to stay and clean up.”

“Clean up?” repeats one of the girls in almost a whine. “But Father—”

“Burn the place,” he says.

“But how are we supposed to get back?” asks the other.

“Just take care of it,” he says irritably.

Desmond snickers, and one of the girls hits him hard in the chest. He lifts his fist to retaliate, but Asael stops him, laying a hand on his shoulder in a paternal manner, then turns to Angela and grabs her gently at the back of the neck. He smiles. Leans close to her ear. Whispers, “This, my child, is where you must abandon all hope.”

They vanish.

The first girl makes a disgusted sound, kicks a booted foot against one of the brass poles that holds up a line of velvet rope. It topples to the floor with a resounding crash. “Why do we always get the crap jobs?”

I expect Phen to disappear too, now that his dirty work is done, but he stays. He comes to the theater entrance and pulls back the curtain, forcing Christian and me to slink even farther into the belly of the auditorium, deeper in shadows, crouching among the seats.

“All the world’s a stage,” Phen says absently, like he’s talking to himself. “And all the men and women merely players.”

“What are you talking about?” one of the girls asks him. Their voices are exactly the same, like they’re twins or something, although one of them is wearing a bunch of glinting silver bracelets that occasionally jangle together when she moves. From the sound of it they’re breaking open the cash register at the refreshments counter and scooping out the change.

“I think Father’s done with you,” she says to Phen. “You can go back to your little hidey-hole in Rome. Unless you’d give us a ride home? Would you? That would be so sweet of you.”

“All the world’s a stage,” he murmurs, seeming not to hear her. “A stage.”

He turns, letting the curtain drop, and we’re plunged back into utter darkness.

“Oh, come on,” the girl purrs, “we’ll make it worth your while.”

No answer. He’s gone.

“Jerk,” Evil Twin One mutters. “Where’s the next train station? Like five hundred miles from here, I bet. Dumb hick town.”

“You have to admit, though, Phen’s sexy,” teases Evil Twin Two. “I wouldn’t have minded doing him a favor.”

“Just because he’s in a hot body doesn’t mean he’s not an old man inside,” Evil Twin One retorts.

“That’s right; I forgot,” says Evil Twin Two, obviously chewing on something, probably candy from under the counter. “You only go for younger guys.”

“Shut up. Come on, let’s get this over with,” Evil Twin One says.

It’s quiet for a minute. My heart drums in my ears, hard and fast. Then I catch the first whiff of smoke in the air.

This is it.

I know how this is going to happen. I’ve seen it too many times to count. But even so, in the real-life moment, knowing all that I do, I hold on to the hope that they’ll just leave now. I hear them jangling toward the door, and I think, They’ll leave this time, and then we can get out of this black hole that’s got us. I’ll run upstairs, and Anna will still be alive, and I’ll heal her. We’ll find Web. Everything will be okay, somehow.

But then, as always happens, there’s the high-pitched cry, muffled and frightened. And I remember.

Web’s in here with us. Somewhere in this darkness.

Behind me I feel Christian tense like a coiled spring.

“What’s that?” one of the twins says. “Shh. Be quiet.”

As if on cue, the crying abruptly stops. The silence in its wake is deafening. I hold my breath.

Then the curtains part, sending a beam of light down the middle of the auditorium.

“Something’s in there. Get the light.” They scuffle along the wall.

“I can’t find the stupid switch.”

The first one laughs. “Watch this.”

The fireball arcs over my head and strikes the back edge of the left wall, which ignites instantly. I’m blinded by the light.

Christian doesn’t wait for them to see us. “Get down!” he yells, his glory sword like a flare in his hand. I dive for the aisle, which is awkward since it’s slanted. I bang my chin hard and then lie flat as Christian leaps over me, bringing his blade down hard on an evil twin’s black dagger. The sorrow blade crackles and splits, but the girl has another one in her hand before the first has fully disintegrated. She lunges down at him, swiping at his legs, but he moves aside. The other girl hisses and tries to move in on his flank.

“Who are you?” She darts in, and he easily deflects her blow, shatters her dagger.

“Concerned. Citizen,” he gets out between lunges.

They haven’t even seen me.

I scramble backward until my back hits a chair. I watch Christian dodge another strike from the second twin, moving faster than I’ve ever seen him move. Suddenly he veers sideways into the first twin and turns and hurls her into the second one. They stagger but recover quickly, advancing. One hops over a row of seats, then another, attempting to get behind him, but he retreats, keeping them in front of him. They remind me of snakes, I think dazedly, their movements fluid, purposeful, synchronized.

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