I stare at him awhile longer, still unable to speak. My mind screams at me to collect my thoughts. The boy returns my look. Then he smiles, as if he knows what sort of effect he has, and turns away. I begin breathing again.
That’s when I see a gesture which jolts my mind completely back into place: before he lies down to sleep, he grabs at something around his neck. It’s such an unconscious movement that I doubt he even realizes he did it. I stare at his neck but see nothing hanging around it. He had grabbed at the ghost of a necklace, the ghost of some trinket or thread.
And that’s when I remember, with a nauseating feeling, the pendant in my pocket. Day’s pendant.
WHEN THE GIRL HAS FINALLY FALLEN ASLEEP, I LEAVE her with Tess and head off to visit my family again. The cooler air clears my head. Once I’m a fair distance from the alley, I take a deep breath and quicken my pace. I shouldn’t have done it, I tell myself. I shouldn’t have kissed her. I especially shouldn’t be glad that I did it. But I am. I can still feel her lips against mine, the smooth, soft skin of her face and arms, the slight trembling of her hands. I’ve kissed plenty of beautiful girls before, but not like this one. I’d wanted more. I can’t believe I managed to pull away.
So much for warning myself against falling for people on the streets.
Now I force myself to concentrate on meeting up with John. I try to ignore the strange X on my family’s door and make my way directly to the floorboards lining the side of the porch. Candles flicker by the shuttered bedroom window. My mother must be up late watching Eden. I crouch in the darkness for a while, look over my shoulder at the empty streets, then push aside the board and fall to my knees.
Something stirs in the shadows across the street. I pause for a second and squint into the night. Nothing. When I don’t see anything else, I lower my head and crawl under the porch.
John’s warming some sort of soup in the kitchen. I utter a trio of low whistles that sounds like a cricket; it takes a few tries before John hears it and turns around. Then I leave the porch and head around to the house’s back door, where I meet my brother in the darkness.
“I’ve got sixteen hundred Notes,” I whisper. I show him the pouch. “Almost enough for cures. How’s Eden?”
John shakes his head. The anxiety on his face unnerves me, because I always expect him to be the strongest of us. “Not good,” he says. “He’s lost more weight. But he’s still alert, and he recognizes us. I think he has a few more weeks.”
I nod quietly. I don’t want to think about the possibility of losing Eden. “I promise I’ll have the money soon. All I need is one more lucky break, and I’ll be there, and we’ll have it for him.”
“You’re being careful, right?” he asks. In the dark, we can pass for twins. Same hair, same eyes. Same expression. “I don’t want you putting yourself in unnecessary danger. If there’s any way for me to help you, I’ll do it. Maybe I can sneak out with you sometimes and—”
I scowl. “Don’t be stupid. If the soldiers catch you, you’ll all die. You know that.” John’s frustrated expression makes me feel guilty for dismissing his help so quickly. “I’m faster this way. Seriously. Better that only one of us is out there hunting for the money. You won’t do Mom any good if you’re dead.”
John nods, although I can tell he wants to say more. I avoid it by turning away. “I’ve got to go,” I say. “I’ll see you soon.”
DAY MUST HAVE THOUGHT I’D FALLEN ASLEEP. BUT I SEE him get up and leave in the middle of the night, so I follow him. He breaks into a quarantine zone, enters a house marked with a three-lined X, and reappears several minutes later.
It’s all I need to know.
I climb to the roof of a nearby building. Once there, I crouch in the shadows of a chimney and turn my mike on. I’m so angry with myself that I can’t stop my voice from shaking. I’d let myself get carried away with the last person I ever wanted to like. That I ever wanted to ache for.
Maybe Day didn’t kill Metias, I tell myself. Maybe it was someone else. God—am I making excuses to protect this boy now?
I’ve acted like an idiot in front of Metias’s murderer. Have the streets of Lake turned me into some simpleminded girl? Have I just shamed the memory of my brother?
“Thomas,” I whisper, “I found him.”
A full minute of static passes before I hear Thomas answer me. When he does, he sounds oddly detached. “Can you repeat that, Ms. Iparis?”
My temper rises. “I said I found him. Day. He just visited a house in one of Lake’s quarantine zones, a house with a three-lined X on its door. Corner of Figueroa and Watson.”
“Are you sure?” Thomas sounds more alert now. “You’re absolutely sure.”
I take the pendant out of my pocket. “Yes. No doubt about it.”
Some commotion on the other side. His voice grows excited. “Corner of Figueroa and Watson. That’s the special plague case we’re meant to investigate tomorrow morning. You’re sure it’s Day?” he asks again.
“Medic trucks will be at the house tomorrow. We’re to take the inhabitants to the Central Hospital.”
“Then send for extra troops. I want backup when Day shows up to protect his family.” I remember the way Day had crawled under the floorboards. “He’ll have no time to get them out, so he’ll probably hide them somewhere in the house. We should take them to Batalla Hall’s hospital wing. No one’s to be hurt. I want them there for questioning.”