Home > Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(10)

Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(10)
Rysa Walker

Dragging myself to my feet, I brace against the wall, fighting down a wave of dizziness. It's most of a mile to my place, but Jess's house is maybe two blocks in the other direction. Looks like Kate will get that ginger ale after all. Or more likely, she's already had it. I'm at least an hour late, judging from the estimate of my shrill angel of mercy, and Jess's store is the first place Kate would look.

I pass the darkened windows of John Jessup Fine Tobaccos and Sundries a few minutes later and work my way up the staircase to Jess and Amelia's apartment. When I reach the top, I'm still a bit disoriented, so I pause for a moment before knocking.

They're early risers, so they could easily be asleep already. During the months that I lived in the storeroom downstairs, I learned that breakfast was likely to be a cold one if you slept much past dawn.

I knock again, and finally hear Amelia's voice. "Who on earth at this hour…"

"It's Kiernan Dunne, Mrs. Jessup. Sorry, but I need to see Jess…"

The door opens a crack. She peers out at me, dark eyes widening when she sees the blood. Her gray hair, which is usually up in a knot, now hangs down in long thick braids with light blue ribbons at the end. The braids, along with the dim light of the lantern, make her seem much younger than her seventy-odd years.

"Little wonder you're in trouble, out roaming the streets at night." Her mouth tightens, but she opens the door, stepping aside to let me in. "Get inside, you fool boy."

Amelia hides a soft heart behind a shrew's tongue. When I started work at the shop last year, she carried on something awful about how Jess didn't need to be hiring anyone when there was barely work or money for the two of them. But she made sure I had a comfortable spot to sleep in the storeroom and I don't think I've eaten better since I left the Cyrist Farm. Even though she'll give Jess all kinds of hell about some little thing he's forgotten to do, her eyes always soften when he comes into the room. And her brow creases with worry when he struggles with tasks around the store that were a lot easier when he was thirty-five than they are four decades later when his hands are twisted with rheumatism.

She shakes her head as she looks me up and down. "I'll get Jess up and we'll see what can be done with you. Stay there on the mat."

She's still muttering something under her breath when she comes back out of the bedroom a few seconds later, heading into the kitchen.

Jess is right behind her. He's a tall man—he may even have been taller than I am when he was young—but the years have hunched him over. What little hair he has left is pure silver. It's standing up in odd little tufts on his head right now, a very different look from the meticulously groomed, dapper man who stands behind his tobacco counter during the day.

He pushes his glasses onto his face and gives me a long look. His blue eyes are concerned, but he laughs. "I suppose you're gonna tell me the other fellow looks worse?"

"No. All three of them got away without so much as a scratch. The club the short bastard was swinging might have cracked when it met my skull, though."

He snorts and shakes his head. "You need to sit down—no, no, not there. Amelia'll kill us both if you get blood on her sofa. Come into the kitchen. She's not gonna be satisfied until we get you bandaged up."


"Was here just before the store closed up at eight. She thought you might've stopped by to let me know about the job and lost track of time. That was more than an hour ago, so I imagine she's plenty worried by now. Where did this happen?"

"An alley off of Harrison. Just after dark."

"Hmmm…surprised Kate didn't see you on her way home."

"Yeah, well, unlike me, Kate's smart enough not to take a shortcut through the alley." That's likely true, although not the full truth. Kate didn't have to walk more than twenty feet to get to the store, since she set up a stable point out back months ago.

"Well, least they left you your pants, boy. How much money were you carrying?"

"More than I wanted to lose. But they also got my gear and my dad's medallion." The sinking feeling hits the pit of my stomach again as I think about the CHRONOS key.

Jess tsks once and tips my head to the side a bit so that he can see the knot.

Amelia appears beside him, holding a bottle of whiskey and a dampened handkerchief. I hiss as the cloth touches the cut.

"Oh, stop being such a baby," she says, but she moves her hand so that she's dabbing the cloth around the edges of the cut now, rather than dead against it. She motions with her head toward the collection of photographs carefully arranged on the mantel and on the bookshelves in the parlor. "I tended to three sons and five grandsons and several girls who managed to get into as many scrapes as the boys. I think I know what I'm doing. You've got gravel or glass or something in there. It's hard to see for all that hair. And you might as well take off those britches and let me see if I can salvage them. They're likely ruined, but I'll do what I can about that tear tomorrow and try to get the blood out."

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