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6.

Lilah took out the box. “Wait a minute,” she said. She handed the box to Rob, held her left arm out from her body, palm out, and slowly turned in place, speaking the six words of her quiet spell. Then she took back the box and said a seven-word spell which neither of the other two knew.

“What’s that?” asked Rob. Lilah just smiled around at the snowy orchard.

“No, wait,” said Annelise. “Lilah, I don’t know how you worked with your previous team. But you can’t call us a team and not tell us that spell you just used. Much less what exactly is up.”

“Listen,” said Lilah. “You don’t even start to understand. About my previous team? About what happened to us, why I don’t have them anymore? You don’t know a thing.” She laughed grimly. “I don’t even know a thing.”

“I’m happy as is,” said Rob, “but that’s just me.”

“I still want to know what that spell was,” said Annelise.

“Okay, sure,” said Lilah. “That was insurance for time travelers. The box, as you know, currently contains essence of Henry. But as I said, the only Henry currently within easy reach is this one.” She looked at Whistler Hall, on the rise above them. “I call him Henry 3. Want to know why?”

“I want to know everything,” said Annelise.

“Let me know how that works out for you,” Lilah replied. She continued in a markedly lower voice. “There was Henry 1, okay? Henry 1. He was married to Lucy 1, of course. And Andre 1 was her student, and he fell in love with her, and she must’ve kinda fallen in love with him, because once when Henry was off somewhere, she invited Andre to dinner, so she could—well, I’m not sure if she knew which way it was even going to go, going in, but in the event, she told him she couldn’t go with him. And be his terrorist freedom fighter girlfriend against the Machine.”

“Okay.”

“So he goes back in time and finds her when she’s his age and not married yet, when she’s still harboring some doubts about whether she wants to spend her life with this guy. I mean, I think we all know how that can be, right?”

“It happened to me,” said Annelise.

“Really?” asked Rob.

“Yeah, I was engaged when I was at the Institute, it was this guy who helped me out, he was really protective, and at a certain point that was great, but when I actually thought about marrying him, I mean, marrying him—!” She looked at Lilah, who had a patient look on her face. “Sorry.”

“No problem. So along comes Andre and he seduces her, and right there the timestream bifurcated.”

“And that,” said Rob, “created Lucy 1 and Lucy 2 and Henry 1 and Henry 2.”

“And sort of Andre 2,” said Annelise. “And it was Lucy 1 that came to see us? That got this whole thing started?”

“Exactly,” said Lilah. “Henry 1 had gone missing. Actually, Endweith itself went missing, in a way. Henry 3 and Lucy 3 are Lord and Lady Whistler.”

“And how did they come to be?” asked Annelise. “What fork in the time continuum made them?”

“I’m getting to that.”

“But it was Lucy 2 who was in on the bank heist,” said Rob.

“Yep. With Andre 2, if you like. But what about—?” She looked at Annelise.

“Henry 2,” said Annelise. “What about Henry 2?”

“Okay,” said Lilah Bay. “I think we’re ready to find out.”

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