And the kitchen, and the dining room, and the living room. Kaitlyn pushed aside the living room curtains to look outside the house. Nobody playing hacki sack or Frisbee tag. Only juniper hedges and acacia trees. She couldn't even see Joyce's car.
Okay, so maybe it's a trap. But it's too good an opportunity to miss.
Heart beating in her throat, Kaitlyn crept toward the paneled hallway under the staircase.
The middle panel, she thought, with one guilty glance behind her at the French doors leading to Joyce's room. She ran her fingers over the smooth dark wood, reaching up to find the crack that was the top of the door.
Okay, she was in front of it. Now to find the place Lewis had showed her. She shut her eyes and concentrated on the images she'd gotten from Lewis. They weren't exactly visual, more like just a feeling of how she should move her hands. He'd found something around this level-and then he'd pushed with his mind. She would push with her fingers.
And then he'd moved over this way, and down, and pushed again. Kaitlyn pushed again, pressing hard.
Kaitlyn's eyes flew open. I did it! I actually did it!
Excitement bubbled up from her toes, fizzling out to fill every part of her body. She was impressed with herself.
The middle panel had disappeared, sliding to the left. Stairs led downward, illuminated only by faint reddish lights at foot-level.
The bubbles seemed to be making a fizzing in her ears now, but Kaitlyn tried to listen over it. Still, silence.
Okay. Going down.
With each step into the red dimness, she felt a little of the effervescence leaving her. This wasn't a nice place. If she'd been a few years younger, it would have made her think of trolls.
At the bottom she groped for the light switch she knew should be there-and then snatched her fingers back. Too much light wasn't good. If there was somebody in the room at the end of the hall, they might notice.
But if she didn't turn on the light, she'd have to walk the whole way in darkness. Just the thought made her knees unsteady.
There was no help for it. Tensing her muscles, she put a hand on the wall to guide her and began walking forward. In a moment she had to put the other hand out to feel for obstacles. She was blind.
Each step was hard, and she had to clench her teeth tighter and tighter to make herself keep going. The red staircase behind her began to feel more and more tempting.
Oh, God, what if somebody came and saw the panel open and closed it and locked her in here?
The thought was so terrible that she almost turned around and ran. Instead, she used the energy to force herself forward. And one more step, and one more step-Her outstretched fingers encountered a door.
Her need for light was so great that she reached automatically for the knob, without listening to see what might be on the other side. But instead of a knob, her fingers found something like a calculator built into the door.
What was it? She could feel little square bumps in a regular pattern. It really did feel like a calculator.
Oh, you idiot. You idiot. You must still be stupid from the testing this morning. It's a combination lock.
Not one of those padlock kinds; one of the fancy ones, where you punch numbers on a keypad.
And if this was the combination lock, then behind that door . . .
It was in there. That grotesque thing with the obscene crystalline growths all over it. It was squatting in there just a few feet away.
Kaitlyn was swamped by a feeling of evil.
And then-she heard noises.
From behind the door.
They were in there with it.
Oh, God, I'm so stupid, I'm so stupid. Of course, they're in there. This is where they go in the afternoons, they go to the crystal, and they're all sitting in there around it right now.
Don't panic, don't panic, she told herself, but it was too late. She was panicking. She hadn't even asked Lewis how to shut the secret panel. She was incompetent and stupid and they were right inside there and she didn't have time to get away.
Another noise sounded-very close to the door.
Suddenly Kaitlyn was moving, without thinking, without caring where she was going. With great stocking-footed leaps she was sailing down the hallway toward the red stairs. She reached the first step and began to scramble up, banging her knee, ignoring it, scrambling on. Using her hands. She got to the top of the stairs and the white light of the hallway blazed into her eyes. That light was the only thing that stopped her, kept her from running through the living room and out of the house-or up to her bedroom to hide under the bed. She was almost like an animal in her blind instinct to get under cover.
"Kaitlyn, what on earth-?"
The voice was high and light, surprised. Kaitlyn turned terrified eyes on Lydia.
"What happened? Did they do something to you?" Lydia was looking past her down the stairs.
A tiny bit of Kaitlyn's mind returned. There was a chance, just a chance for help-for salvation. Lydia knew about the panel; Lydia seemed worried about Kaitlyn.
"Oh, Lydia," she said, and her voice came out a croak. "I-I . . ."
She'd meant to lie, to say that she'd been down with the others and she'd gotten scared. But somehow what came out was, "Oh, Lydia, I know I shouldn't have gone down there. But Joyce never lets me do anything. I just wanted to see-and now Joyce is going to be furious. I don't know how to get the panel shut."
Lydia was looking at her with level green eyes.
"I just want to do the things they do," Kaitlyn said, then blurted, "I'm sorry if I was mean to you before."
There was a pause. Kaitlyn's heart was beating so hard she was dizzy. Lydia was staring down at the staircase, lower lip caught between her teeth.
Finally she looked up. "So you want to do the things they do. You're one of them. Okay." She leaned forward and touched the left wall quickly, in three different places.
The panel slid shut, concealing the gaping hole.
Kaitlyn stood, not knowing what to do. Lydia stared at the floor.
"Be careful, Kaitlyn," Lydia said, and then she hurried away before Kaitlyn could recover.
Kaitlyn stood under the spray of hot water, trying to get warm. Her legs were still wobbly and she was developing a magnificent bruise on one knee.
There was no doubt in Kaitlyn's mind. The one in the house who wasn't psychic was the one who'd found her out. Kaitlyn's lies hadn't fooled her for a minute.
So why had she helped Kaitlyn?
Oh, it didn't matter. Just please let her not tell Joyce. Kaitlyn flexed her cold hands under the flood of water.
But there was no way to ensure that. The only way
to keep safe was to leave. And Kaitlyn couldn't do that. No matter how frightened she was, she couldn't leave when she'd come so far. If she could just stick it out until Monday-and if she could get Rob to give her the shard-
-and if she could figure out the combination.
She had to, to get into that room alone.
Drying herself as she went, Kaitlyn headed for her art kit.
Last time she hadn't been concentrating on the right thing. She'd been trying to see inside the room-and heaven only knew why she'd gotten the garbage she had. Maybe Joyce kept a Christmas tree in with the crystal. Maybe there was a ship in a bottle in there. Anyway, now she knew what to think about.
Numbers. She needed numbers for that combination lock. And with her own art materials, with her beloved pastels and her faithful sketchbook, she was going to get those numbers.
Door shut tight, ceiling light off. Kaitlyn threw a T-shirt over the lamp on the nightstand to dim it Okay, that was the proper ambiance. Hair swathed in a towel, feet tucked under her, she put pastel to paper.
She had never worked so hard at blanking her mind. She threw herself down the chute into the waiting darkness. The itch and cramp took over her fingers and she felt them moving, reaching out to snatch new pastel sticks, swirling colors across the page.
A few minutes later she looked at what she'd done.
I can't believe it. I can't believe it!
It was another ship with a Christmas tree.
This time in color. The ship's sails were dove white, the planks were tinted sienna brown, the pretty curl) waves were three shades of blue. And standing proudly on the deck was a celadon green Christmas tree with poppy red garland and a yellow ocher star.
Kaitlyn wadded the paper up in a fury and threw it at the mirror.
She wanted to break things. She wanted to throw something heavier-The door burst open.
Instantly, Kaitlyn's fury disappeared and terror rushed in to fill the vacuum. Lydia had told them. They had all run up here to get her. She could hear thudding footsteps in the hall behind the figure in her doorway.
"Hey, Kait, how come it's so dark in here?" Bri shouted. Without waiting for an answer, she added,
"Come on! Get dressed!"
For what, execution? Kait wondered. She heard her own voice saying almost quietly, "Why?"
"Because we're celebrating! We're all going out to the club! Come on, get dressed, put your best duds on. Plenty of guys," Bri added slyly. "You got something to wear? I could lend you something."
"Uh-that's okay, I've got something," Kaitlyn said hastily. She could just imagine what sort of "duds" Bri might have to lend. But Bri's urgency was contagious, and Kaitlyn felt herself being propelled toward the closet. "I've got a black dress-but why are we celebrating?"
"We did a job this afternoon," Bri said, shaking her clasped hands over her head like a boxer. "An astral job, a real big job. We killed LeShan."
"I met her on the stairs. She said she had to see you," Tony's friend said. Rob, Lewis, and Anna were sitting in the tiny one-room apartment. Rob peered
behind Tony's friend at the person who had to see them.
"I've been tracking you from house to house," the girl said. She had clusters of curly yellow hair and the profile of a Grecian maiden. Despite the yellow hair, her complexion was olive and her eyes almond-shaped like Lewis's. She was very pretty.
And familiar. "I know you," Rob said. "You were- you were with the Fellowship."
"Tamsin," Anna said, before the girl could.
The girl-Tamsin-nodded at her. She looked as if she were trying to smile, but it didn't work. The smile turned into a trembling of her lips, then her head went down and she started to cry.
From the doorway, Tony's friend said, "I'll catch you guys later," and left hurriedly."What is it?" Rob was trying to lead the girl to a chair. His initial excitement at seeing her had deflated like a pricked balloon. He'd thought the Fellowship had sent someone to help."I came to help," the girl choked out, as if she could hear his thought-and probably she could. The Fellowship were all psychics. "LeShan sent me.""Then what's the matter?" Anna asked quietly, putting a gentle hand on Tamsin's quivering shoulder."Nothing was the matter-until a little while ago. Then I felt it. I felt him die. LeShan is dead."Rob's skin tingled with shock. He had to swallow hard. "Are you sure?""I felt it. We thought we'd be safe from them on our new island. But they must have found him. I felt him die."She's really upset, Lewis said silently.She was, Rob thought. Not just upset but helpless- the way the people of the Fellowship tended to be when they didn't have a leader. He didn't send the thought to Lewis because he had the feeling Tamsin could hear."And now I don't know what to do," Tamsin said, almost wailing it. "LeShan was going to tell me when I got here. I came all this way and I can't help you at all."Rob looked at Anna, as if he might find something comforting to say in her face. Anna was so wise. But Anna's gaze, dark and liquid with tears, held his only a moment, then quickly dropped.Angry with himself, Rob put an arm around Tamsin. He said, "Maybe Meren-""Mereniang is dead, too," Tamsin whispered. "She died on the way to the island. There's no help anywhere, no hope!"Kaitlyn sat on Lydia's bed with the black dress on her lap. She had been reaching for it, glad that she'd brought it and that it had hung out with no wrinkles, when Bri had told her.Now she just sat. She didn't need to ask Bri any questions. She knew the whole truth.Queen Charlotte Islands. That3s what the map had said. In Canada. That must have been where the Fellowship had gone when they'd left Vancouver Island. Bri had dowsed for them with that map.And Jackal Mac had checked the furnace out. Some furnace where the Fellowship were living. Kaitlyn knew because she had a picture of it-a picture of a fireball, of a furnace exploding. And a man in the middle of it.All of them had gathered around the crystal this evening and sent out their astral forms. They'd left their bodies and gone to the Queen Charlotte Islands and then Renny had used his PK.The PassionOh, LeShan. Kaitlyn twisted the chiffon of the black dress between brutal fingers. I liked you. I really liked you. You were arrogant and angry and impatient and I really, really liked you. You were alive.Caramel-colored skin. Slanting lynx eyes. Softly curling hair that seemed to have an inner luminescence, pale and shimmering brown. And a spirit that burned like midnight fire.Dead.And now Kaitlyn had to go and celebrate. No way to get out of it. They would know if she tried to make some excuse. If she was going to be one of them, she had to hate the Fellowship as they did.Feeling very brittle, very light, and unstable, Kait went over to the mirror. She pulled off the towel and her clothes and put on the black dress. She began to mechanically run her fingers through her wet hair, when she suddenly realized something.I look like a witch.In the dim light, with her long hair falling about her shoulders, drying just enough to be a halo of red, with the black dress and her bare feet and the pallor of her face . ..I do. I look extremely witchy. Like somebody who might go walking down the street like this, barefoot, hair wild in the breeze, singing strange songs, and all the people peeping out at me from behind their curtains.The fitted spandex bodice did make her look slim as a statue, and the sheer chiffon skirt swirled from hip to midcalf. But it wasn't vanity that held her there looking. It was a new sense of her own competence, of determination.Anybody who looks this witchy must be able to calldown a curse. And that's what I'm going to do. Somehow, I'll make them all pay, LeShan. I'll avenge your death. I promise.I promise.People were calling outside. Lydia was opening the door apologetically."I just heard," she said. She looked as hangdog and slinking as Kaitlyn had ever seen her, but also bitterly satisfied, as if she'd been proved right. "I told you my father would win. He always does. You were smart to come in on this side, Kait.""Could I borrow a pair of nylons?" Kaitlyn asked.Mr. Z was in the living room when they all came downstairs. Kaitlyn supposed he'd been in the hidden room with them, directing the work. He gave Kaitlyn a courtly nod as she walked toward him in a pair of shoes borrowed from Frost.He looked amiable, but Kaitlyn could feel his savage joy. He knew she was hurting and he liked that."Have a good time, Kaitlyn," he said.Kaitlyn lifted her head, refusing to give him the satisfaction.Gabriel was there, too, handsome in dark clothes. Kaitlyn turned appraising eyes on him. He didn't look disturbed over LeShan's death-but then he had no reason to like the Fellowship. Their philosophy said they couldn't open their doors to anyone who'd taken a human life ... no matter what the circumstances.Because Gabriel had killed by accident and in self-defense, they refused to let him in. So now Gabriel wasn't upset.Everyone else was delirious with happiness.Mr. Z saw them off, and they took two cars. Kait rode in Lydia's car with Bri and Renny. Joyce took Gabriel, Frost, and Jackal Mac. Kait spent the drive plotting how to make them all pay-Gabriel, too.The club was called Dark Carnival. Kaitlyn stopped musing on revenge to stare. It was like nothing she'd ever seen before.There was a line of people waiting to get in the door. People wearing everything. Unimaginable outfits.They looked bizarre and more than a little scary.Traffic stopped the car for a while near the door and Kaitlyn was able to watch what was going on. A doorkeeper with a lip-ring and a Liverpool accent was saying who could get in immediately, who should wait, and who should just go home. Those who got in: a guy with purple glittery lipstick and silver aluminum curlicues for hair. A girl in an evening gown of black spiderweb. A chic Italian-looking girl in a white unitard and black velvet shorts-very short."He keeps out people who aren't cool enough," Bri said in Kaitlyn's ear, leaning heavily on her back."You have to be either famous or completely beautiful or-"Or dressed like a cross between a Busby Berkeley show and something from a science fiction movie, Kaitlyn thought."So how are we going to get in?" she asked quietly.She was watching the losers-the people who couldn't get in. The normal people who weren't exciting or weird enough, waiting outside behind cords, sometimes crying."We've got invitations," Lydia said in a dead voice. "My father has connections."She was right. The doorkeeper let them right in.Inside there were strobe lights, super black lights, and colored lights, all flashing in an atmosphere so full of smoke Kaitlyn could hardly see anything but the flashing rainbow.The music was loud, a throbbing beat that people had to shout over. On the dance floor a girl with long shiny hair was kicking high over her head."Isn't it great?" Bri yelled.Kaitlyn didn't know what it was. Loud. Weird. Exciting, if you were in the mood to celebrate, but surreal if you weren't.I'm going to avenge you, LeShan. I promise.She glimpsed Joyce walking toward the dance floor. Jackal Mac, the lights reflecting on his head, was giving an order to a scantily clad cocktail waitress.Where was Gabriel?Bri had disappeared. Kait was surrounded by people with wings, people dressed in cellophane, people with spikes for fingernails. Everywhere she looked were falls of Day-Glo hair. Enormous false eyelashes.Slanted eyebrows, silver-glittering eyebrows. No eyebrows. Pierced bodies.If she hadn't been so cold with anger over LeShan, Kaitlyn might have been scared. But just now nothing could touch her. A man in a leopard-skin unitard and a mask beckoned her to dance and she followed him to the floor. She didn't really know much about dancing, except what she'd done at home, watching the TV and dreaming.It was too loud to talk, and she didn't really care what the leopard-man thought of her-so it was the perfect opportunity to muse on revenge again.And that was how she solved the mystery of the combination lock.It wasn't like in books, where the faithful sidekick makes some offhand remark and then the famous detective sees all. There was no particular reason whyit came to her. But every minute or so her mind would go back to her problem.I need to get to that crystal. Which means I need to get the combination.And once when her mind went back to it, she thought, "But maybe I already have the combination. One drawing was a real prophecy. What about the other?"And then the other thought was simply there, fullblown, a question asking itself in her mind: How can a Christmas tree and a ship be eight numbers?Well, Christmas had a number, of course. A date. December the twenty-fifth, 12/25. Or 25/12 if you were thinking the twenty-fifth of December.The dark room rocked under Kaitlyn's feet. The leopard-skin man was walking away, but she didn't care. She backed up to a railing, her eyes on the flashing lights.She was trembling with excitement, her mind racing to follow this new idea to the end, like a spark running down a line of powder.The ship. The ship is another number. And what number? It could be the number of masts or the number of crew or the number of voyages it made. Or a date, a date when the ship sailed-but what kind of ship is it?A window opened in her stomach and she felt hollow with dismay. She didn't know anything about ships.How long would it take to research, to speculate?No, stop. Don't panic. The picture was drawn by your unconscious, so it can't be much smarter than you are. It couldn't take a date and make it into a ship if you didn't know the date and ship already.But I'm so stupid, Kaitlyn argued back. Rotten in history. I only know the simplest dates-like "In fourteen hundred ninety-two ..."Columbus sailed the ocean blue.That sparkly, curly blue ocean. Three colors of blue. Drawn with an excess of care.She'd found the answer.