Colors swirled and danced around me in fast-forward. Warped sound assaulted my ears. Then, before I knew it, my soul crashed back into my body like a comet. The impact forced a gasp from my lungs. My eyes flew open. A scream ripped from my chest, “David!”
Cool liquid splashed over my raw vocal cords, soothing the heat left from my impression of a B-grade horror actress. With each breath, the herbal-fresh-purple scent of the lavender oil Rhea applied to my temples slowed my pulse. But as much as I appreciated the aromatherapy and the water, what I really wanted was to be alone. To have some time to gather my thoughts and weigh options. To collect myself before I had to talk. But judging from the eager stares pressing in on me and the tension thickening the air, privacy was a luxury I couldn’t afford.
When the final drop of water hit my tongue, Rhea took the glass away. Before the meager mouthful worked its way to the back of my throat, the questions had begun. I tried to keep my tone even and relay everything I remembered with cool detachment. It wasn’t easy, though, and before long the strain of little sleep, exposure to the sun earlier that day, astral projection, emotional upheaval, and good old-fashioned stress caught up with me. By the time I finished, my throat was hoarse and clogged with unshed tears.
Adam took my palm and squeezed it. “She’s going to be all right, Sabina. We’ll get her back.”
Giguhl patted my back. He’d come in after Zen asked her voodoo pals to give us some privacy. “You did good, Red.”
Pussy Willow walked in with the map Zen asked her to fetch. She handed it to me with a small smile. Shadows under her eyes hinted at fatigue, but I was glad to see she’d emerged from her rooms.
I unfolded the map with clumsy, shaking hands. Finally, I managed to spread it across the floor between Adam and me.
“The cemetery is right next to City Park.” I ran my finger over the map, trying to retrace my path in two dimensions. I circled an area. “Somewhere in here.”
Zen lifted the map to get a closer look. “There are six cemeteries within a mile of the park.” She pointed to a spot on the map. “We can rule out Metairie Cemetery, because that’s across the interstate. And this here,” she moved her finger, “is Holt Cemetery.”
Remembering the name from our visit there, I shook my head. “Definitely wasn’t that place. All the tombs were aboveground.” Then I remembered the detail I’d forgotten to mention. “There’s a large building set at one end, like it’s connected somehow. Looked kind of like a government building.”
PW frowned. “Did it have a dome?”
“I’ll be damned,” Zen breathed.
“What is it?” Rhea asked. Everyone leaned in, eager to hear Zen’s answer.
She waved the map in the air triumphantly. “They’ve got her in the Guild Society Cemetery.”
On the heels of that announcement, several different reactions filtered through the room. Giguhl and PW highfived each other, Zen crossed herself, and Adam and I shared a confused look.
“I hate to be a downer, but are you sure?” Adam asked.
Zen nodded eagerly. “Yes, the Guild Temple of Philosophy and Art has a cemetery behind it for members and their families.”
“Why would the Brotherhood use a cemetery owned by another secret society to hide a prisoner?” he continued. “Alodius acted like they didn’t think too highly of other fraternal orders.”
“Unless,” Giguhl said, “The BBEM and this Guild Society are one and the same?”
The room fell silent as we all pondered the possibility. “But I know some of the members of that lodge,” Zen said finally. “They do all sorts of charity work. After Katrina hit, they raised a ton of money for displaced families.”
“Yeah, and Alodius seemed like a great guy on the surface,” I said. “Face it, Zen, people have all sorts of secrets. Especially, I would imagine, people who join secret societies.”
“Look,” Zen said, “that might be true, but does it really matter? We know where Maisie is now.”
“Actually, it matters a lot if Guild Society sects throughout the world are all working with the Caste,” Adam replied.
“You sound like one of those wacko conspiracy theorists,” Zen said.
“Zenobia, a secret Brotherhood trashed your property and almost killed your friend. Do you really deny that some serious conspiracy is afoot here?”
She pursed her lips. “You have a point.”
“Okay, I think it’s time to table the theories for now and focus on next steps,” Rhea said. “We need to take all of this information to Orpheus and the Queen.”
I’d known this moment would come, but that didn’t make it any easier to swallow. “There’s no time. We need to go in tonight.”
Adam’s gaze shot toward me. “Why tonight?”
“David said that Lavinia wanted us to show up after she’d summoned Cain. If we wait too long, he’ll already be here when we go in.”
Rhea shook her head. “Not possible. Too many logistics need to be sorted out first. And as much as I know you hate asking for permission, Orpheus and the Queen deserve to have a say in the decision.”
“Besides,” Giguhl said. “No offense, Red, but you look like warmed-over death.”
I frowned at my minion. “Thanks, G.”
“Just sayin’.” He shrugged.
The stubborn set to Zen’s chin told me that arguing would only make her dig in more. So I switched tactics. “Is there any way to talk to them without going back to court? Some sort of magical conference call that would speed this up?”
PW spoke up. “Or we could, you know, use computers like the good Lord intended.”
Adam stood and helped me up. “Rhea, call Orpheus and tell him to get himself and the Queen in front of a computer STAT.”
* * *
Thirty minutes later, Rhea wrapped up her debriefing of the situation to Orpheus and the Queen. Adam sat next to his aunt, occasionally clarifying points or answering questions. I stood behind Adam like a spectator. We’d agreed, given the Queen’s dislike of me, that it would be best for the mages to take point on the discussion.
“Judging from the evidence you’ve presented,” Orpheus began. He stood next to the Queen, who sat in a throne at the head of a conference table made from burled wood. Apparently the treehouse court had state-of-the-art conferencing and computer systems, because it took no time for them to pop up on Zen’s computer. “The best course of action would be for you to sit tight tonight. We will send a contingent of Pythian Guards and Fae Knights to assist you in the attack tomorrow at midnight.”