The horse seemed to shriek, and it strained at the straps that bound its head and body to the carriage.
The driver apologized to Mr. Grimsby. “Don’t know what’s gotten into ’er, sir.”
I reached out my hand to calm her.
Just then she reared. Her liquid black eyes rolled up into her head, showing the whites, and then without warning she bolted.
Mr. Grimsby looked in disbelief after the carriage now tearing down the crowded street, drawing shouts and screams in its wake. We heard the crash before we saw it.
Mr. Grimsby nearly forgot me and took off at a run. I was as close on his heels as my legs would allow, but then I wished I hadn’t been.
The carriage had turned over, and its wheels were spinning in the air. The horse had tried to jump an iron gate tipped with spikes.
She hadn’t made it.
My throat tightened with an ache that threatened to become a scream. I never cried. Not when Uncle had been burned, not when Sister had been stoned. But when I saw the once-perfect black body of the horse now mangled, her coat slick with blood, and I heard the gunshot that ended her pain and misery, my eyes stung as they filled with tears. I wiped them away before anyone could see.
MY EYES FLUTTERED OPEN. IT felt like I was being rocked, like I was swaying in the air.
“I am so, so sorry, Mara.” The voice was muffled, distorted. It came from a creature with huge, dark, empty eyes and a hole-punched snout. It whuffed as it leaned over me, pried open my mouth. I wanted to scream, but my lips and teeth were numb.
When I opened my eyes again, the world was white and the creature was gone. My nostrils stung, invaded by chemical smells, and the ground beneath me was hard and unyielding.
Because it wasn’t the ground, I realized as the room came into view. It was a table. A gurney. I was cold, so cold, and I couldn’t feel my limbs.
“I wish we could have avoided this.” The voice belonged to Dr. Kells, and she appeared out of the corner of my vision. I’d never seen her without makeup before. She looked startlingly young, except for the deep lines that bracketed her mouth. Wisps of hair escaped from a loose bun at the nape of her neck. She smelled like sweat and bleach.
“I wanted to fix you. I thought I could save you.” She shook her head, like she couldn’t believe she’d been so stupid. “I thought, given regular infusions of Anemosyne and Amylethe, we would eventually be able to release you back to your family. I actually thought you might be able to go back to school!” She laughed then, the sound thin and panicked. She wasn’t looking at me—I wasn’t sure if she was even talking to me. And—was she crying?
“I’m sorry I made you believe Noah was alive. I am sorry for that. I know how difficult it must have been, hearing recordings of his voice. But Jude gave me no choice, you understand? He’s . . . not well. I had no idea he would take things as far as he did at the Tamerlane. No idea. Sometimes even I can’t predict him.” She laughed again. “Claire was the only one who could. And no one can bring her back.”
Kells swiped at her red-rimmed eyes with the back of her hand. “When he let you out and you . . . What happened in the examination room, with Wayne? My God, Mara. What if something like that happened again? I know you must think I’m the villain here. No doubt you’ve killed me a thousand times in your head since you’ve been conscious, and who knows how many times while you were unconscious. But think about what you’ve done today. Think about what you’ve done before. The people you’ve hurt? The lives you’ve ended?” She stared at nothing, her eyes wide and afraid. “I tried so hard, but you’re just not safe.”
Then she moved over to a row of steel cabinets and removed something from them. I heard the click of plastic as she fitted a cap onto a syringe.
“I’m going to give you an injection that will stop your heart. I promise you, Mara, you won’t feel a thing.”
But I could feel something. I could feel my fingers, and the way the stiff fabric of the hospital gown settled and stretched over my chest. I should have been more frightened than I was. I should have been terrified. But I just felt like I was watching all of this happen to someone else.
“I’ll let your parents know, after, about what you did to Phoebe.”
But I hadn’t done anything to Phoebe.
I hadn’t done anything to Tara, either.
“You have a well-established history of violence under sedation,” she said, her cheeks wet, her nose running. “And a documented diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. It will be extremely difficult for your family to come to terms with the loss, but with time they’ll come to accept it. They’ll have to accept it.” She placed the syringe on a metal table by the gurney. I looked down and saw a drain in the floor. I looked back up, at the strange-looking metal cabinets behind her. It took me a few seconds to realize what they were, and where I was.
The room was a morgue.
“I’ve done nothing but spend years of my life trying to help teenagers like you, and you in particular. But I can’t kid myself anymore.” Her voice broke on the words. “You can’t be fixed. You can’t be saved.” She rolled the sleeve of my stained gown up to my shoulder. I felt her fingers brush my skin. A wave of sensation trailed in their wake.
My body had been numb before, but the wave crested and left my arms, my hands, and parts of my back tingling. Still nothing in my legs or feet.
I felt the scalpel, tucked into the elastic waistband of my underwear, the metal warm from my body. Either Dr. Kells didn’t know about it or she’d forgotten about it, because she was very surprised when I stabbed her in the neck.
I swung my arm with so much force that I fell off the table and crashed to the floor, knocking over the metal table with the syringes. Dr. Kells hadn’t strapped me down. Why bother if I was paralyzed? Pain speared my left shoulder, and I fought the instinct to grab it—I needed to keep the scalpel in my right hand. Kells backed up against the wall, then sank to the floor. She held her neck with both hands, her eyes wide, blood flowing freely through her fingers.
I told my legs to move, but they wouldn’t. I’d have to crawl. I glanced at the door to the morgue. I could probably reach the handle, but the door itself looked heavy. I might not be able to push it open.
I looked up when I heard his voice, Noah’s voice. And then I saw his face. Fine-boned and elegant and pale, with the sarcastic tilt to his mouth that I loved so much, and a shadow of stubble on his jaw. It was him. Just the way I remembered.