The Last of August

Page 60

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“Holmes. August is talking to his brother again, and I don’t care if he thinks he’s doing us—me—a favor, it’s incredibly stupid. What did he do, wander into his consulting rooms dressed like a bookseller? Surprise, I’m not dead, and oh look! We’re re-creating history—”

“Shut up, Watson. Just get out. Look, we’re at a red light—I’m sure you could find your way home. Do you have reception to call a cab?” She glanced again into the rearview mirror. The driver didn’t look back. “Do you need me to come with and hold your hand?”

I set my jaw. She was coming at me like a bulldog, in the back of a town car that smelled like puke and was taking us to God knows where, but there was no way I’d let her get a rise out of me.

Holmes glanced again out the back, then at the driver.

“Why do you keep looking out the window?”

“We’re passing the Berlin Wall. Are you completely helpless with geography, or do you really not know where we are?”

“I—”

“Look it up. We’re not far from Greystone HQ.”

She was flustered now. Scattered. The car was going faster. I waited a second before I asked, “Are you feeling all right? Do you need—”

“I am clearly not physically ill over something that you have done to me. You might be dense, but right now you’re being extraordinarily stupid.”

I knew her well enough to know when she was pissing me off on purpose, but this had a different feel than usual. Usually, when she went after me with teeth and nails, it was because something else had frustrated her and I happened to be in the same room. She liked to have something concrete to fight with. It wasn’t my favorite thing about her, but it wasn’t the worst, either, and she normally ran through her rages in a minute or two.

And yes, we’d had a heart-wrenching fight earlier, and yes, it might’ve been something we couldn’t come back from, but when Holmes was truly angry with me, she didn’t throw out petty insults or tell me to look up the Berlin Wall on my phone.

The last time she went after me with this kind of viciousness, it was to chase me out of her lab before we were both killed by an explosion.

It couldn’t be true. I turned to stare out the back window of the car. It was dark, and I didn’t know the city, but I also didn’t think I remembered the giant industrial buildings we were passing now. We were going deeper into whatever neighborhood we’d been in. We definitely weren’t on our way back to Greystone.

Holmes was staring at me. Look at your phone, she’d said. So I did.

It was back in service. She’d been texting me this whole time.

THIS ISN’T A GREYSTONE CAR

GET OUT

I SENT AN SOS TO AUGUST AND MILO THEY’LL COME FOR ME

GO

GO NOW

Before I could begin to form a plan, or say, No, I’m not leaving you, we’ll get ourselves out of this, the car came to a crashing halt. Even though I was buckled in, I slammed forward into the divider.

“Get out,” Holmes said hoarsely, not bothering to whisper. “They’re not interested in you.”

What is happening? I wanted to ask, and Why is this happening now? The driver climbed out and slowly rounded the back of the car.

I reached out for her hand.

“Jesus, Watson,” she said, and her face was clear and shining. “This is going to get ugly.”

“I know,” I told her. “I’m not going anywhere,” and the black-clad driver yanked me out of the car with his massive fists and shoved me up against the windshield.

I put up a good fight. That was my job, wasn’t it, to be the brawler? I was playing my role. He had a normal face, the face of a dry cleaner or a dog walker or an old friend of my mother’s, but he was some stranger, someone I’d never seen before, and he was punching me in the face. It was stupid to be so surprised at it. All we did was lurk around the edges of this kind of danger, so why was it such a shock to be hauled into the center of it by my shirt and then have my nose broken?

“Run,” I yelled. Where was Holmes? I couldn’t see her anywhere. I was trying to buy her time. This man had a hundred pounds of muscle on me, and I wasn’t a skinny kid. When he hit me in the jaw, I heard something splinter. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, and it wasn’t because of the blood streaming down my face. It was because I was furious.

I hooked my leg around his and took him down. Thank God for rugby, I thought with some bitter, distant irony, because I had him on his back now. He was scrabbling against me, ready to fling me off, and I knew nothing about street fighting, when it came down to it, but I did know to jam my fingers into his eyes. With his forearms, he flung me backward and lumbered back up to his feet.

Through the blood in my eyes I saw Holmes behind him. What had she been doing? Why hadn’t she run, gotten help? But she was here, wrenching the driver’s arm behind his back. With her cool, calm efficiency, she kicked out his knees with her sharp-heeled boots, but she was calling for help all the while.

He turned and gave her a shove that sent her sprawling on the ground.

I shouted her name. I shouted it again. Was this the warehouse district? I listened for cars, sirens, any sign of human life, and then I stopped listening, because all I could hear was the driver’s grunts as he slammed his fist into my stomach. I tried to heave him off me, but I couldn’t. It was like I was being beaten up underwater: time was moving that slowly. It was so impersonal. I’d never known that fighting for your life was so invasive and so cold. Had it been five minutes? An hour? On the pavement behind him, Holmes groaned and sat up, her face scratched red with gravel, and I couldn’t look anymore because he was punching me in the mouth.

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