The Last of August

Page 48

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We were still ten minutes from eight o’clock, the earliest she thought he’d show. But the East Side Gallery was a mile long, and though Holmes was checking her phone to see if Milo’s grunts had caught sight of Nathaniel on their security feeds, we hadn’t spotted him yet. I was beginning to feel like we were too out in the open. There weren’t any cafés around for us to hole up in if we were spotted. The road beside us was busy and broad, and there was no cover for us to duck behind. So we kept walking.

Until, half a block ahead of us, I saw Nathaniel blowing on his hands on a street corner.

My phone buzzed. Holmes had noticed him at the same time I did. Approach him, her text read, and tell him your uncle’s sick.

This hadn’t been the plan. At all. Uh I barely escaped the last time, I typed back.

He’s early. He’s going to see us. Better we make it intentional—at least you’re here at the right time. See if he’ll take you back to his flat. We’ll follow.

And what would he do to me there? If he was working with Hadrian Moriarty, if, despite Milo’s intelligence, he knew that Leander was dead, the only thing he could be doing here tonight was baiting a trap he’d set for us. We’d hardly made it out of our lunch with Phillipa unscathed.

I had to ask myself again—what were we even doing here?

Ahead, August was saying something in Holmes’s ear. She shook her head violently, but he ignored her. Half-turned to me, and nodded.

Then he took off at a jog to meet Nathaniel Ziegler.

Holmes stopped short. I was still a few steps behind. And August had a hand on the art teacher’s back, steering him away from us, saying something to him I couldn’t quite hear.

“He’s asking Nathaniel to take him to Hadrian,” she said, turning to me. She looked ready to spit nails. “He’s buying us time.”

“For us to do what?”

“To go raid Nathaniel’s horrible house for evidence,” she said. “Come on.”

IT STARTED TO SNOW.

The trip across town took an agonizing twenty minutes in traffic. Holmes kept scrubbing fog from the window and glaring out into the road, like she could will the other cars to disappear. We didn’t know how much time we’d have. We didn’t even know if Nathaniel still lived there, in that house above the cavernous pool, the place he’d been arrested for possession.

“Did it say what kind of drugs he’d had on him?” I asked her, at length.

“Pot, I think. I don’t know how actively prosecuted it is. Someone might have had to rat him out to get the police’s attention. I’m sure his being a teacher didn’t help.” The car slowed to a halt. “Finally,” she said, and shoved a bill at the driver, pushing me out the door with her other hand.

I pulled on my gloves. The façade of the house loomed above us, a warning. “Is there a reason we aren’t taking a Greystone car?”

“My brother’s men. My brother’s cars. My brother having bugged my left shoe this morning, and the right one yesterday. My brother who thinks that he and my father are infallible and that the rest of us are imbeciles.” She barked a laugh. Her breath came out in a cloud. “Do you know that, in the footage he has, ‘Leander’ has to look down to find the doorknob to our front door? The house he grew up in. He doesn’t reach for it automatically—he looks for it. It’s not him, Jamie. Who knows how he was really dragged out of there. They could have dressed someone up like him for the cameras. Milo says I’m imagining things. He thinks he can’t make mistakes. And I play into it. I haven’t done anything for myself since I’ve been here, I’ve just relied on him, and I—”

She pivoted on her foot and made for the front door, but I caught her elbow and steered her back.

“Take a breath. Don’t look at me like that—breathe. You can’t go in there like this. Breathe.”

She glared at me. “You are not my meditation tape.”

“And you’re mad about something that isn’t Milo.”

We stared at each other, inches apart. Her pupils were blown wide. I wondered, for an awful moment, if she’d taken something or if she was just upset, and I hated myself for not knowing how to read the distinction.

“August is going to throw himself back in with them,” she said, a rush of words. She was standing too close to me. I could feel the heat of her breath. “He’s going to get himself taken down, too. I can’t—they’re monsters, Jamie, and I swear to God I’m going to prove it.” She grabbed my hand. “There’s no time, we have to go in. Look. You’re my stepbrother. I’m starting at Sieben after Christmas. We’re looking for a place to stay until then, because my mom just threw us out—”

“Stop,” I said, and brushed the snow out of my hair. For the barest second, she leaned into my hand. “I have a better idea.”

The girl who answered the door had a pierced nose and a scowl. She said something to me in German.

“English?” I asked her, and she nodded curtly. “Sorry. My friend left her camera at a party here last night. She said this guy was asking her about it—brown hair, fortyish, really loud. She thinks he teaches at the art school. Do you know who he is?”

“You think Professor Ziegler could have stolen her camera?” the girl scoffed. “No.” She started to swing the door shut.

I stuck my foot between it and the doorframe. “Sorry,” I said again. “I’m not saying he stole it, I’m just wondering if he found it. She thinks she left it by the pool.”

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