“Until what’s over?” I said. “What’s going on, Knox? Why was Augusta keeping a file on me? What’s in it that makes me so important that you have to babysit me even after you’ve had me arrested?”
He shook his head. “I’m keeping you safe for the same reason you were chosen to replace Lila in the first place. But this is bigger than you, Kitty, and right now, all you need to know is that you’re my excuse to be here.”
“Why? Because it gives you the perfect opportunity to betray the Blackcoats a second time and make yourself look good in front of Daxton?”
He eyed me. “Who told you?”
I clenched my jaw. As angry as I was at Scotia, I couldn’t betray her and the Blackcoats here, not to Knox. “You answer me first. What’s going on? What plan is so huge that it’s worth Benjy’s life?”
Knox shook his head. “I want to show you something.”
I snorted and wiped my nose with my sleeve. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Yes, you are.” He fished a tissue from his black wool coat and offered it to me. “Just because you’re here doesn’t give you the right to act like anything less than a Hart.”
“I’m not a Hart, or have you forgotten?” I shot, snatching the tissue from him. Instead of using it, I stuffed it in my pocket.
“You’re more of a Hart than the rest of them combined,” he said. “Now come on. This won’t wait forever.”
To my surprise, he took my hand, his grip like iron around my fingers, but not tight enough to hurt. Just tight enough to make it impossible for me to wriggle away. I briefly considered causing a fuss, but he was clearly a visitor, and I still wore the red jumpsuit that marked me a prisoner. There was no way I was going to win that war.
Instead of leading me toward the bunkhouses, Knox made a sharp right toward the edge of Elsewhere, where I’d met Elliott the night before. It was a short walk to the fence, and he led me down the length of it to the nearest guard tower. It was made of stone and metal, rising above the rest of Elsewhere to give the guards patrolling along the perimeter a clear view of everything that was happening.
“I’m sure it’s no prettier up here than it is down there,” I said as Knox led me up the winding staircase.
“You’d be surprised,” he said mildly. When we reached the door that opened onto the top of the tower, he paused. “Everything I do is for the greater good, Kitty. I hope you understand that, because I need you to trust me.”
“Then I guess you’re shit out of luck, because if you think I’m ever going to trust you again, you’re delusional,” I said. He shrugged.
“Maybe so, but I’d like you to keep an open mind regardless.”
He pushed open the door before I could reply. Despite the heavy clouds, the light hurt my eyes, and I blinked.
And then I blinked again.
And a third time.
“What?” I said breathlessly, and this time there was no holding back the flood of tears.
Standing on the circular platform, wearing an orange jumpsuit, was Benjy.
I didn’t remember crossing the platform. One second I was standing in the doorway beside Knox, and the next I was in Benjy’s arms, sobbing into his shoulder.
“Shh, you’re okay. It’s okay,” he murmured in my hair. “I’m right here. Everything’s going to be fine.”
Hearing his voice again was enough to make up for everything that had happened the past two days, and suddenly the part of me that had gone numb the moment Knox had put that bullet into Benjy came alive again, flooding me with a rush of uncontrollable emotions I couldn’t begin to sort. Relief—elation—terror he would be taken from me again—and the crushing reality that Benjy was here, in Elsewhere, and didn’t have the face of a Hart to protect him.
“What—what’s going on?” I managed to choke out half a minute later. I didn’t pull away from Benjy, but I did glance to the side where Knox stood. “How is this even possible? I saw you kill him. I saw it.”
“What you saw was a plan we concocted months ago, in case Daxton decided to get rid of you permanently,” said Knox. “I knew the only thing he would accept in place of your death was making you watch Benjy die and having to live with that memory.”
“I’m sorry,” said Benjy, his warm arms wrapped so tightly around me that I could barely breathe, but I would’ve rather had him over oxygen any day. “We had no other choice.”
Knowing Benjy had been in on it lessened my anger only slightly, and I glared at Knox. “You could’ve told me.”
“No, I couldn’t have,” he said. “Your reaction had to be authentic. If I’d told you, you would have given it away even if you hadn’t meant to. I tried to tell you earlier—I’d hoped you would be with the Mercers when I arrived, but of course you were too stubborn to listen to them.”
I shook my head, clutching Benjy and inhaling his scent. Even here, he still smelled like home. “Why did you side with Daxton if you were going to save me and Benjy?”
“Because Daxton needs to believe someone is on his side,” said Knox, leaning against the rail. “I’m the best candidate. He trusts me, and that trust is invaluable. It could mean the difference between losing and winning this war.”
“But you betrayed the Blackcoats,” I said.