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5.

Lilah worked out how to order some lunch, and this turned out to be cucumber sandwiches and a plate of fruit: unidentifiable, but quite decent. Then she and Rob sat around in the front room and talked to not much effect while George and Annelise and Zinnia took to George’s work room. The most important thing Lilah and Rob figured out was that Marius had taken his cat with him.

“What does that mean?” asked Rob. “He’s coming back, surely.”

“Surely,” said Lilah. “I mean, he said he was. He said he was gonna be back in a few days. I pressed him on it and he actually said, two to six days. Two to six.”

“Seriously,” Rob replied.

“Fortunately for everyone, I figured out how to use the, um, phone.”

“The contact item, you mean? He called it a phone?”

“I’m old school,” said Lilah, “but Marius is old schooler.”

“You think you could find the way to that restaurant on the roof? Hey, does ‘the city’ have some decent night life? We should—!” He stopped because of her look. “What?”

Lilah shook her head. “I am not leaving this place after dark without a very good reason,” she said. “Marius as much as said: things walk the night, and with the feel this whole place has, I don’t want to meet those things.”

“You’re afraid of anything at all?” asked Rob. “You?”

“Me. I’m bleepin’ afraid of my bleepin’ shadow.”

He leaned forward and asked, “Are you remembering more stuff from before?”

“Yeah,” she said. “A lot of little things. I remember my friends pretty well. They’re all dead, by the way,” she added lightly but a bit loud. Rob didn’t say anything. Lilah added, “I also remember my son, and I remember his father.”

“Your—his—? You have a son. And the father was—?”

“My son’s name is Leonard,” said Lilah. “He’s, well, you know, time travel stuff, but last time we were together for the holidays, he was living with his girlfriend and doing some engineering work, he’s a bit of an alchemist himself actually. In Padva, which is where I grew up. Hey, next time I go visit him, I could be a grandma. Can you picture that?”

“Not even a little,” said Rob. “So he’s at Padva. People aren’t trying to kill him?”

“Champ, no one was actively trying to kill me till I left Padva on my second job. And don’t ask me what my second job was, because I don’t remember. I just remember who I worked with, and Gods, I’d cut my hand off to have a couple of them back.”

“Better than what you got now to work with, huh?”

“Don’t joke. You remind me of those guys. Annelise does too. You’re not any of them, and yeah, you’re kind of young, you have some growing into it to do, but you’d fit right in with Garik and Neal and Inez and the rest of them. Gregoria, she was the one with the long dark hair, hey, I remembered another one!”

“Congratulations,” said Rob.

“But the thing is,” said Lilah, “they’re all dead. All, dead.” She reached out and gave his face a playful push to the side. “So let’s not try and be just like them.”

“Okay,” said Rob. “What about Leonard—Leonard, right? What about his father?”

Lilah’s face soured. “Elio? Elio’s his name. He’s still alive, as far as I know.”

“For now?” asked Rob with a small laugh.

“If he stays out of my way, he’ll probably be fine. Or, he’ll annoy someone else bigger than him and they won’t give him as many chances as I did. Stupid me. But let’s just say, since we broke up, we’ve had a couple run-ins. He was working for someone weird last time I saw him. He wanted me to work for them too, and it was not my thing, and yeah, he should have known, but he never knew me at all even though we lived together for at least ten years because, you know, he spent a lot of time checking himself in the mirror that would have been better spent trying to work out what makes me tick.”

“He tried to get you to work for the dark side?”

“I guess.” Lilah sighed, then shook her head. “I nearly killed him then. I could have followed through and really ended that boy, but I’m not the sort. I see him again, I will be that sort.”

Rob sipped his coffee—lunch had come with another samovar of coffee. He said, “I think you’re scary. I think you could be that sort.”

“Not to just anyone,” she replied. “Only to Elio.”

The hall door opened and George came out. “We’re almost ready to try a ritual,” he said. “Where do you think?”

“Ah, right here’s good, don’t you think?” Lilah looked at Rob. “Listen, Robert, can you get this space ready for a sit on the floor ritual? George, come with me and we’ll see if we can find a room for Zinnia to lay her head down in later.”

“Okay, boss,” said Rob, as she and George headed back through the hall door.

They went back up the narrow hallway and through a door on the right at the far end. It was indeed an unoccupied room with a single made bed and an empty bookshelf. “What do you think?” Lilah asked.

“It’ll work,” said George.

“George. Can we trust Zinnia?”

He laughed. “You trust me enough to ask if we can trust her?”

“Well yeah. George. I trust you as much as I trust anybody. Which is a phrase I use these days pretty freely, but I don’t know. I trust you. You think I shouldn’t?”

“No. No, you should. I trust you.” He looked around, then met her brown eyes with his again and said, “Zinnia Rose is as genuine as they get. She has had tons of things happen to her, but she has no secrets.”

“She’ll keep our secrets?”

“That, you’ll have to take up with her. Me, I will keep your secrets.”

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