So it sat there with its eyebrows raised, waiting.

Finally, Blue strained forward far enough to snatch it. She read the message out loud: “ ‘Could really use you this weekend if not too much trouble. Helen can pick you up. Disregard if you have activities.’ ”


“Is this about Congress?” Adam asked.

The sound of the word Congress made Gansey sigh heavily and urged Blue to whisper in withering derision, “Congress!” It hadn’t been long since Gansey’s mother had announced she was running for office. In these early days, the campaign had yet to directly influence Gansey, but it was inevitable he’d be called upon. They all knew that clean, handsome Gansey, intrepid teen explorer and straight-A student, was a card that no hopeful politician could avoid playing.

“She can’t make me,” Gansey said.

“She doesn’t have to,” Ronan sniffed. “Mama’s boy.” “Dream me a solution.”

“Don’t have to. Nature already gave you a spine. You know what I say? Fuck Washington.”

“This is why you never have to go to things like this,” Gansey replied.

In the other lane, a car pulled up beside the Camaro. Ronan, a connoisseur of street battles, noticed it first. A flash of white paint. Then a hand outstretched, middle finger extended. The other car shot forward and then fell back, then shot forward again.

“Oh, Christ,” Gansey said. “Is that Kavinsky?”

Of course it was Joseph Kavinsky, fellow Aglionby Academy student and Henrietta’s most notorious recreational forger. Kavinsky’s infamous Mitsubishi Evo was a thing of boyish beauty, moon-white with a voracious black mouth of a grill and an immense splattered graphic of a knife on either side of the body. The Mitsubishi had just been released from a month-long stint in the police impound. The judge had told him that if he was caught racing again, they’d crush the Mitsubishi and make him watch, like they did to the rich punks’ street racers out in California. Rumor had it Kavinsky had laughed and told the judge he’d never get pulled over again.

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He probably wouldn’t. Rumor had it Kavinsky’s father had bought off Henrietta’s sheriff.

To celebrate the Mitsubishi’s release from impound, Kavinsky had just put three coats of anti-laser paint on the headlights and bought himself a new radar detector.

Rumor had it.

“I hate that prick,” Adam said.

Ronan knew he ought to hate him, too.

The driver’s side window rolled down to reveal Joseph Kavinsky, his eyes hidden behind white-rimmed sunglasses that reflected only the sky. The gold links of the chain around his neck glittered a grin. He had a refugee’s face, hollow-eyed and innocent.

He wore a lazy smile, and he mouthed something to Gansey that ended with “— unt.”

There was nothing about Kavinsky that wasn’t despicable.

Ronan’s heart surged. Muscle memory.

“Do it,” he urged. The four-lane interstate, gray and baked, stretched in front of them. The sun ignited the red-orange of the Camaro’s hood, and beneath it, the massively souped-up and tragically under-utilized engine rumbled drowsily. Everything about the situation demanded someone’s foot crushing an accelerator.

“I know you are not referring to street racing,” Gansey said tersely.

Noah gave a hoarse laugh.

Gansey didn’t make eye contact with Kavinsky or Kavinsky’s passenger, the ever-present Prokopenko. The latter had always been friendly with Kavinsky, in the sort of way that an electron was friendly with a nucleus, but lately, he seemed to have acquired official crony status.

“Come on, man,” Ronan said.

In a dismissive, sleepy voice, Adam said, “I don’t know why you think that would work out. Pig’s got a load of five people —”

“— Noah doesn’t count,” Ronan replied.

Noah said, “Hey.”

“You’re dead. You don’t weigh anything!”

Adam continued, “— we’ve got our air-co on, and he’s probably in his Evo, right? Zero-to-sixty in four seconds. What’s this do, zero-to-sixty in five? Six? Do the math.”

“I’ve beaten him,” Ronan said. There was something dreadful about seeing a race dissolving in front of him. It was right there, adrenaline waiting to happen. And Kavinsky, of all people. Every inch of Ronan’s skin tingled with useless anticipation.

“Not in that car you haven’t. Not in your BMW.”

“In that car,” countered Ronan. “In my BMW. He’s a shitty driver.”

Gansey said, “It’s irrelevant. It’s not happening. Kavinsky’s a dirtbag.”

In the other lane, Kavinsky lost patience and pulled slowly ahead. Blue caught sight of the car. She exclaimed, “Him! He’s not a dirtbag. He’s an asshole.”

For a moment, all of the boys in the Camaro were quiet, contemplating where Blue might have learned that Joseph Kavinsky was an asshole. Not that she was wrong, of course.

“You see,” Gansey said. “Jane concurs.”

Ronan caught a glimpse of Kavinsky’s face, looking back at them through his sunglasses. Judging them all cowards. Ronan’s hands felt itchy. Then Kavinsky’s white Mitsubishi charged ahead in a faint cloud of smoke. By the time the Camaro had reached the Henrietta exit, there was no sign of them. Heat rippled off the interstate, making a mirage of the memory of Kavinsky. Like he’d never been.

Ronan slumped in his seat, all the fight sucked out of him. “You never want to have any fun, old man.”

“That’s not fun,” Gansey said, putting on his turn signal. “That’s trouble.”


The Gray Man had not always intended to be a heavy.

Point of fact, the Gray Man had a graduate degree in something completely unrelated to roughing people up. At one point, he had even written a not-unsuccessful book called Fraternity in Anglo-Saxon Verse, and it had been required reading in at least seventeen college courses across the country. The Gray Man had carefully collected as many of these course reading lists as he could find and placed them in a folder along with cover flats, first-pass pages, and two appreciative letters addressed to his pen name. Whenever he required a small burst of fireworks to his heart, he would remove the folder from the bedside drawer and look at the contents while enjoying a beer or seven. He had made a mark.

However, as delightful as Anglo-Saxon poetry was to the Gray Man, it served him better as a hobby than as a career. He preferred a job he could approach with pragmatism, one that gave him the freedom to read and study at his convenience. So here he was in Henrietta.

It was, the Gray Man thought, quite an agreeable life after all. After chatting with Declan Lynch, he checked into the Pleasant Valley Bed and Breakfast just outside of town. It was quite late, but Shorty and Patty Wetzel didn’t seem to mind.

“How long will you be with us?” Patty asked, handing the Gray Man a mug with an anatomically incorrect rooster on it. She eyed his luggage on the portico: a gray duffel bag and a gray, hard-sided suitcase.

“Probably two weeks to start,” the Gray Man replied. “A fortnight in your company.” The coffee was astonishingly terrible. He shouldered off his light gray jacket to reveal a dark gray V-neck. Both of the Wetzels gazed at his suddenly revealed shoulders and chest. He asked, “Do you have anything with a hair more spine to it?”

With a giggle, Patty obligingly produced three Coronas from the fridge. “We don’t like to appear like lushes, but . . . lime?”

“Lime,” agreed the Gray Man. For a moment, there was no sound but that of three consenting adults mutually enjoying an alcoholic beverage after a long day. The three emerged from the other side of the silence firm friends.

“Two weeks?” Shorty asked. The Gray Man was endlessly fascinated by the way Shorty formed words. The most basic premise of the Henrietta accent seemed to involve combining the five vowels basic to the English language into four.

“Give or take. I’m not sure how long this contract will last.”

Shorty scratched his belly. “What do you do?”

“I’m a hit man.”

“Hard to find work these days, is it?”

The Gray Man replied, “I would’ve had an easier time in accounting.”

The Wetzels enjoyed this hugely. After a few minutes of homebaked laughter, Patty ventured, “You have such intense eyes!”

“I got them from my mother,” he lied. The only thing he’d ever gotten from his mother was an inability to tan.

“Lucky woman!” Patty said.

The Wetzels hadn’t had a boarder in several weeks, and the Gray Man allowed himself to be the focus of their intense welcome for about an hour before excusing himself with another Corona. By the time the door shut behind him, the Wetzels were decided supporters of the Gray Man.

So many of the world’s problems, he mused, were solved by sheer human decency.

The Gray Man’s new home was the entire basement of the mansion. He stalked beneath the exposed beams, peering through each open door. It was all quilts and antique cradles and dim portraits of now-dead Victorian children. It smelled like two hundred years of salt ham. The Gray Man liked the sense of past. There were a lot of roosters, however.

Returning to the first bedroom, he unzipped the duffel he’d left there. He sorted through slacks and cosmetics and stolen artifacts wrapped in boxer briefs until he got to the smaller devices he’d been using to detect the Greywaren. On the small, high window beside the bed, he set an EMF detector, an old radio, and a geophone, and then he unpacked a seismograph, a measuring receiver, and a laptop from the suitcase. All of it was provided by the professor. Left to his own devices, the Gray Man used more primitive location tools.

At the moment, the dials and read-outs twitched crazily. He’d been told the Greywaren caused energy abnormalities, but this was just . . . noise. He reset the instruments that had reset buttons and shook the ones without. The readings remained nonsensical. Perhaps it was the town itself — the entire place seemed charged. It was possible, he thought without much dismay, that the instruments would be useless.

I have time, though. The first time the professor had put him onto this job, it had sounded impossible: a relic that allowed the owner to take objects out of dreams? Of course, he’d wanted to believe in it. Magic and intrigue — the stuff of sagas. And in the time since that first meeting, the professor had acquired countless other artifacts that shouldn’t have existed.

The Gray Man tugged a folder out of his duffel and opened it on the bedspread. A course syllabus lay on top: Medieval History, Part I. Required reading: Fraternity in Anglo-Saxon Verse. Sliding on a set of headphones, he queued up a playlist of The Flaming Lips. He felt essentially happy.

Beside him, the phone rang. The Gray Man’s burst of joy fizzled. The number on the screen was not a Boston number and therefore not his older brother. So he picked it up.

“Good evening,” he said.

“Is it? I suppose.” It was Dr. Colin Greenmantle, the professor who paid his rent. The only man with eyes more intense than the Gray Man’s. “Do you know what would make calling you easier? If I knew your name, so I could say it.”

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