Home > Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)

Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)
Rysa Walker

Boston

July 11, 1905

Kate's breath is soft against my shoulder when the chirping sound finally wakes me. I fumble in the semidarkness for the alarm, but the cell phone has fallen off the tobacco crate I use as a nightstand. Kate rolls toward the wall, pulling her pillow over her head, just as I locate the phone under the bed and turn it off.

It's a bit after noon now, and this is probably the most sleep Kate's had all week. While there aren't many benefits to a room facing the alley, at least the sun doesn't jolt you awake at the crack of dawn after a rough night.

I’d much rather stay here and enjoy a few more hours of shut-eye myself, but I need to get this job.

It's not the money. I placed a bet on Marvin Hart for the 1905 heavyweight boxing title a few weeks back. Although the odds against Hart were high, when you have the advantage of seeing the newspaper a day in advance, like I do, a long shot becomes a sure thing. That investment brought in eighty-five bucks, more than enough money for me to hide out in this dump for a year.

I don't want the job for the fame, such as it is. That just makes it more likely that the Cyrists will decide I'm enough of an annoyance to hunt me down. And if I'm bored during the times Kate is away, I can always find something that needs doing around Jess's store.

No, landing the job at Norumbega Park is just the one thing I can do to help Kate without traveling too far out of my own timeline. I'm sick of watching her take all the risks.

I drag myself to the door and down the hallway to the shower. Luckily, there's no line this late in the day. Most of the neighbors are off before sunrise. We're four stories up and the water barely trickles from the spigot, so I have to use an old tin cup in the corner of the stall to collect enough water to rinse the soap off. Kate doesn't shower here, and I don't blame her. I'd opt for hot water and a massaging shower head, too, given the choice.

One of the Blake kids, maybe five years old, is in the hallway when I come out. She gives me a grin, her fingers tugging at a tangled lock of hair.

“Got any candy today, mister?”

I could have predicted the question the second I saw her. Helping at Jess’s store means I usually have a few sticks of peppermint, butterscotch or hoarhound stashed in my pockets—the only payment I take these days. Kate says I just like playing Willy Wonka. I'm not entirely sure that's a compliment. Judging from the book she gave me, Wonka was a bit of an ass. I do, however, remember being a kid with parents who could never spare a penny for sweets.

I smile and tweak her freckled nose. “And where would I be hiding your candy dressed only in a towel, missy? Check back when I'm wearing britches.”

The Blake girl giggles and skips down to the end of the hallway, where her brother and sister are crouched in their usual spot at the top of the landing, ready to bounce their rubber ball down the stairs at the first sound of footsteps. I’ve caught that bloody ball smack in the head twice and threatened to tell their mum, but they probably know I never would. She’d take it away and God knows they don’t have much else to occupy their time in the summer.

When I get back to the room, Kate is sprawled out in her usual way on the bed, snoring gently. I won't be mentioning that to her, however, since I'm sure I’d get a solid punch in the arm if I did. Reaching under the bed, I pry loose the wooden plank and feel around in the space under the floorboards until I find another bandage and the small portable shaver Kate brought back after watching me use a straight razor one afternoon. I still use the blade when she’s not here, but I must admit this little gadget is less likely to slice an ear off when the light is dim.

After shaving, I remove the puckered bandage from my thigh and use a fresh square of adhesive to tack the glowing green disc to my leg. Then I pull on my drawers, a garment that Kate finds funny because they come most of the way to my knees. She jokes that I should “go commando” or else let her bring me some boxer briefs. But these are what I’m used to and they also provide another layer to shield the light of the spare key, should I happen to run into anyone else with the CHRONOS gene. The medallion that I keep in my pocket, attached to my belt by a watch chain, is Cyrist-approved. The back-up key strapped to my leg is not.

I draw back the red curtain Kate tacked up in one corner of the room and take the new suit from its hook. In this heat, the shirt will be limp and sweaty by the time I get to Newton. Hopefully, the coat and tie will make me presentable enough for the audition. I fold the jacket carefully and stash it in the drawstring bag that already holds my gear for the small tricks, along with three sets of handcuffs, a pair of leg cuffs, a ring of keys to those cuffs, and one spanking new collapsible top hat.

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