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Chapter 17...... Waiting is Torture

George was having the worst time trying to keep Faye from bolting out the door. He was worried about Silas, too, but at least he had the sense to realize they were in over their heads. Shifty books? Masked men following them? Attacked by police? Phony police, that is.

At least, he thought so. Gosh, he hoped they weren’t real police. That would be bad if they were.

No, it was definitely best for them to lay low a while. Mr. Lawrence had far more resources than they did. He’d find Silas soon enough and clear it all up. The real trick was getting Faye to understand that. He gave it a good try. It didn’t go well. She was about ready to run out the door before he convinced her they at least needed to eat breakfast first or he was liable to pass out. He let her do the cooking to keep herself busy, and when she was finished, they all ate together. Skander was busy being his usual gloomy, silent self, and George had to carry the whole conversation on his shoulders because Faye wasn’t in the mood either.

Lord, he was exhausted. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept more than a couple hours. Even last night he’d stayed by the window on watch for most of it. He hadn’t told the others, but there had been someone outside the boarding house yesterday. When he first noticed the man standing at the street corner, he’d thought nothing of it, but an hour later when he saw him out the window still standing on that street corner, he’d kept closer watch. The man hadn’t left the street corner until 1 in the morning.

His eyes burned with fury and he fought to keep them open. He got up to walk around, trying to keep himself awake, and looked out the window. The man was back again, wearing a black hat tipped low over his eyes and leaned against the brick wall reading a newspaper. George narrowed his eyes in thought, watched him for a while, then turned on his heel and paced back, going on about some nonsense he’d picked up from a magazine somewhere.

The conversation inevitably turned back to Silas and Faye went silent, staring at the wooden table and tapping her knee up and down and up and down. Skander wandered off – oh, who knows where he’d gone. He was like a ghost who could disappear into thin air when things got difficult. Faye grew more and more restless until finally she jumped from her chair and started towards the door, snatching her coat from the hook it was hanging on.

“Faye, wait!” George squeaked. “You can’t run all over town right now! It’s not safe for any of us!”

“I don’t care if it’s safe!” Faye huffed. “I can’t just sit here. It’s killing me!”

“So don’t just sit here,” said George. “The book’s what started all of this. I say we give it another read-through and see if we can find any more clues. That will get us farther than trying to look under every pebble in Boston.”

Faye hesitated and lowered her coat. Thank God.

“Come on, you know I’m right,” George pushed.

Faye sighed and dropped her coat on the floor, shuffling over to the couch and collapsing onto it. “Fine,” she said. “Maybe you should read it this time.”

“No, thank you,” George made a face. “Not unless you want to hear snarky proverbs for an hour.”

“I suppose I will, then,” Faye said.

George felt exultant.

She took the book and opened to the first chapter, leaning back and putting her feet up on the coffee table. “In a land both strange and fair, in a time both beautiful and terrible, there lived a bard whose name was Po.”

George fought to keep his eyes open, but Faye had only read half a chapter before he fell asleep. He woke with a start some time later to the door opening. Faye was walking out of the room.

“Faye, wait!” he shouted, jumping to his feet. “I told you. It’s not safe right now.”

“It’s not safe for Silas, either,” Faye bit back. “And I’ve had it with –”

“You don’t know about Silas – he could be perfectly fine. But we do know that four phony police officers and four people wearing masks are out there who know who we are, and at least some of them are looking for you.”

“Let them find me, then. They said they would take me to Silas.”

“You don’t know that.”

“It would be better than waiting here.”

“I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t,” George said. He looked behind him and saw Skander standing behind him. “Are you just going to stand there? Help me convince her to be reasonable!”

“Faye,” Skander said. “Please don’t go out and endanger yourself.”

“Thank you,” George said under his breath.

“You two don’t understand,” said Faye, her shoulders slumping. George reached behind her and shut the door, turning the lock. She leaned against it and covered her eyes. “You have no idea what it’s like, not being able to do anything. Just waiting.”

“I do,” said Skander. “You know I do.”

Faye’s brows furrowed. “Of course, I… I’m sorry.”

“Despite everything, I’m still waiting,” Skander gave a sad laugh. “What if Sarah just ran away to the south, met a beau, and got married? Eventually, a sister would think fondly of home and come to visit, then we’d all laugh about how worried we were.” He swallowed. “I know Sarah isn’t coming back, but Silas will. I’m sure of it. I have a good feeling. I know waiting is hard, believe me. But it’s what’s best for now.”

“You do care,” George said, a tear in his eye, though it could have been from the fatigue. “And here I thought you were going to make me do all the work.”

“George, go swallow a lizard,” Skander snapped.

“Why on earth would I do that? It would make you happy, wouldn’t it, you sick-humored sociopath.”

“It wouldn’t make me happy, it would make you shut up. That would make me happy.”

“Well, I wish you would talk more. Where were you all of today? You disappear into thin air and then I have to do all the work of–”

“Is that all that supporting Faye means to you? A chore? A load of work you don’t want to do because you’ve put in more than your 2 hour workday quota?”

“I work more than two hours a day, and you know that. Just because I don’t work myself to death, doesn’t mean that I–”

Faye glanced at the door.

“Here, I have an idea,” George said quickly, his voice suddenly growing gentle. “Let’s make a detailed list of everything that’s happened since Saturday and see if we can find any connections or small details we missed.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Faye, her eyes lighting up.

“I know,” George nodded, keeping an eye on her as she took a piece of paper from the entryway table and strode to the couch with it. She leaned over and started scribbling. George watched her for a while to make sure she would be occupied for at least a little while, then paced back to the kitchen window and looked out again. The man in the black hat was still there, leaning against the building. He frowned and crossed his arms.

“I saw him, too,” Skander whispered beside him.

George gave a small start. He hadn’t even heard Skander walk up behind him. “Huh,” he said.

“Should we tell Faye?”

George shrugged. “Nah. Could be nothing. No use worrying her.” He cocked his head. “Maybe it would help to worry her a little. She might…” he made a face and shook his head. “No, she’d only want to run down and ask him if he’d seen Silas.” He let out a long sigh and leaned a hand against the windowsill.

“Should we leave here?” Skander asked.

“And go where? Besides, don’t you think they’d have attacked by now if it was them? Probably only someone waiting for a beaux that dumped him.”

“And if it is them?”

“First of all, which ‘them’? Could be anyone. Maybe it’s someone protecting us. Second of all, whichever ‘them’ it is, they found us here,” he shrugged, “and I’d be surprised if they couldn’t find us wherever else we went.”

George took one more look, then paced back to the living room and sat next to Faye. A few minutes later, he’d fallen asleep again.

Later, he distracted her with lunch, then with tea, then with another look at the book, then with some research on the Old Corner Bookstore from a Boston history compilation they found in Ira’s room. By the time six rolled around, he felt like he was going to collapse any minute. He wasn’t sure even standing would keep him from nodding off at this point, but as soon as he fell asleep, Faye was going to waltz right out the door into the waiting arms of… whoever was down there.

Faye threw the history book across the room and it scared George into a wakeful gasp. He put a hand over his heart and looked to the heavens for pity.

“Damn this useless piece of junk!” she cried. “It’s a joke! We need a real library, not this idiotic hobbyist’s dimwitted recollections! I’m going to the library.”

“Faye,” George begged, pulling himself off the couch and stumbling toward her as she pulled on her coat and grabbed the copy of the Text. “If you won’t stay for your own sake, stay for mine? Please?”

“George, I’ve got to do something about –”

“Look,” George said, falling to his knees and folding his hands. “I’m begging you. On my knees. With all my heart.”

“George,” Faye rolled her eyes.

George switched tactics. “We’ll lock you in Ira’s room.”

“I’d climb out the window,” Faye bit back.

“We’ll tie you to the bedpost.”

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“George,” Skander started.

“Skander agrees with me,” George insisted.

Faye straightened up to give them what certainly would have been the lecture of their lives, but before she could get very far into it, the door opened, and Ira walked in.

“Ira, thank goodness you’ve come,” George said, close to sobbing.

“This is not a joke, George!” Faye yelled.

That wasn’t fair. He wasn’t joking. Not this time at least. Sure, he could see the comedy in the situation, but he didn’t feel like laughing about it. Here he was, trying to stay awake after days of no sleep to keep his best friend safe and she was fighting him like a wild cat for doing so. What more did she want from him? And Skander wasn’t even helping! Did he want Faye to go out and get herself into who knows what sort of trouble?

“Did someone come by today?” Ira asked, ignoring everything they’d said.

“No,” Faye said and paused. “Why do you ask?”

“This piece of paper was stuck in the door just now.” She held it out to them. “Are you sure you didn’t hear anyone come by?”

Faye took the piece of paper and her face turned ashen. It was Silas’ handwriting, and it was addressed to her.


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