“There are no guarantees,” he said. “You know that.”
“And the girl? What will happen to her?”
“She makes the choice. She consents. She dies.”
It was a risk. But I would take it for my daughter’s sake. I flew to London with the professor the next day.
HE’S HERE!” DANIEL SHOUTED. “HE’S in New York!”
I lifted my head up from the kitchen table, wincing at the stiffness in my neck. Had I fallen asleep?
“What time is it?” I asked hoarsely.
“Wake-up time,” my brother said cheerily. He was neatly dressed in jeans and a henley shirt, standing next to Stella. She was also annoyingly alert, and freshly clothed.
“I thought about waking you to go to bed,” Stella said, then sipped from a glass of orange juice. “But Daniel said not to.”
“You looked pretty pitiful,” my brother added.
I couldn’t muster up an equally irritating response, but I didn’t have to because Jamie appeared in the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Who’s in New York?” he asked.
“Lukumi! Whoever! He’s giving a lecture at Columbia.” Daniel flipped around his laptop to show me an online announcement for the Columbia Department of Comparative Literature, and he read it aloud as I read it silently: The Final Girl: Jungian Archetypes in Pop Culture, a lecture presented by Dr. A. Lukumi, MD, PhD. Contact the Columbia Student Affairs office for tickets.
Jamie stood in front of the fridge. “Are you finished speaking?”
Daniel narrowed his eyes. “Yes.”
“Can someone tell me why there’s no cream cheese in the house?”
Daniel ignored him. “It’s today,” Daniel said. “I’m leaving at four.”
I looked at the clock. That was in two hours. I felt a jolt of energy and stood up. I had time to change, maybe even shower. I wasn’t going to miss this.
“What are you doing?” my brother asked.
“I am going to get less gross,” I said, “And then I am going to go with you, obviously.”
Daniel shook his head. “That’s what he’ll be expecting. He knows who you are, Mara—he was in your hospital room, on the train platform. He’s been following you, right?”
“Right . . .”
“Then he’ll know if you show up.”
“He’ll know who you are too,” I said to my brother. “Haven’t you been paying attention? He’s calling us out. He knows everything, about all of us, about our whole family. He definitely knows what you look like.”
“Maybe, but I don’t plan on being seen. And if I am seen, so what? I’m visiting colleges, after all. It’s only natural that I’d be—”
“Auditing a lecture?” Jamie snorted. “I wouldn’t describe that as natural.”
“Natural for Daniel,” I said as I took a bagel from a bag on the counter. “Is there any peanut butter?” I asked Jamie.
Jamie made a face. “Peanut butter on a bagel?”
“Who are you, Mara Dyer?”
I ignored him. “And what exactly is your big plan, then?” I said to my brother before taking a too-big bite of my peanut buttered bagel. “Are you going to bum-rush him at the podium?”
“I’m going to go to the lecture and then follow him. I want to know where he’s staying, where he lives, everything about him.”
“And then, after your Scooby-Doo mission is complete?”
“Then I’ll force him to tell me how to fix you,” Daniel said.
His words brought me up short. I’d wanted that, once upon a time. To be fixed. To be saved. I’d begged Noah to do it. He couldn’t, he’d said, because I wasn’t broken.
I turned to Stella, who had been noticeably quiet during this entire conversation. “Stella? What say you?”
“I want to see him,” she said firmly. “I want him to fix me, too.”
Hmm. Back to Daniel. “How do you think you’re going to be able to force Lukumi to do anything? He holds all the cards.”
“If he’s really behind all of this, then he has gone to great lengths to keep his identity a secret. We’ll threaten to splash his face, his name—”
“His fake name,” I corrected him.
“Everywhere,” Daniel continued. “We’ll publish all of this.” He swept his arm around the kitchen island, where stacks of files and notebooks were piled high. “What happened to you, what was done to you, what he was responsible for—and then he won’t be able to hide anymore. I’ll need to snap a picture of him at the podium and match it up to something else. I haven’t been able to find any of him online anywhere.”
“There’s that photo from McCarthy’s office,” Jamie said, whipping out his phone.
Daniel looked confused. “Let me see?”
Jamie handed him the phone.
“Wait, that’s him?” Daniel asked. “He looks familiar.”
Goose bumps rose on my arms.
“I can’t place him, but I feel like I’ve seen him before.”
Maybe you have, I almost said.
Daniel shook his head as if to clear it. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “What matters is that we have to follow him, find out as much as we can about him so we can find out who he really is—his real name, his real identity, so we can connect him to all of this, so you can have a normal life,” Daniel said to me.
In fact, almost everything he had said was to me. For me. I was the one who needed Lukumi more than anyone else in that room. I was the only one of us who wasn’t innocent.
“What do you think he’s hiding from?” Jamie asked quietly, but no one answered. None of us could guess.
“We’re going to have to talk to a lawyer,” my brother said, head cocked to the side. “You know that, right?”
I hadn’t thought about it, but he was right.
“The things you’ve—” He stopped himself before continuing. “The things that have happened to you, and what happened at Horizons—we need to get them out in the open, deal with them, make sure we can establish that you were tortured, that it was self-defense—”
Not always. But I bit my tongue.
“And then, once he tells us how to fix you guys, we’ll go public anyway.”
“Stop saying that,” Jamie said.