Home > Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(8)

Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(8)
Rysa Walker

I blink to lock in the location and hear her muffled "ow" before my eyes open. She pulls her arm out from under my neck and rolls toward the wall.  I nudge her with my elbow.

"Hey, sleepyhead." I nudge her again. "Wake up and grab the keys, okay? These cuffs aren't as comfortable as they look. And I want to get back so I can get this over with."

She yawns and stretches, then climbs over me to grab the key ring. Her brow creases as she slips the first key into the lock. "Why are they on so tight? Your arm is all red."

"Easley is a world-class jerk. But I think the job's in the bag. The last guy quit without notice."

"Yes." She smiles, unfastening the second set. "Clive the Debonair is now performing at a theater in Woonsocket. A six-month contract. It pays surprising well for such a small venue."

I should have known.

"I'll bet it does." I sigh and slide my hands out of the cuffs on my forearms, as Kate removes the ankle cuffs. "You couldn't have told me this?"

"Didn't want you to go in too cocky." She scoops the cuffs off the floor and hands them to me. "And I did say that you'd get the job, didn't I?"

Kate starts to get back on the bed, but I put my hand on her shoulder. "Might as well stay put on the floor," I say, tossing her one of the pillows. "He's going to want to see this at least twice. You don't want to get squished again, do you?"

"Not unless you're going to stick around long enough to do it properly this time."

I grin at her and lie back down, holding the cuffs in one hand as I activate the medallion with the other. "Patience, my love. You need to learn patience."

Easley is staring up at me from the orchestra pit. Standing in the pit makes him seem even shorter—from up here, I can count the few remaining strands of hair plastered to the top of his skull. This is the fifth angle he's chosen to view my finale. In addition to his initial vantage point near the front, he's watched from stage right, stage left, halfway back in the audience, and now, from the pit. I wonder if he's planning to climb up and view the act from the bloody rafters above the auditorium next.

I truly hope not, because I doubt I can make another jump. If these weren't short, local hops, I'd already be tapped out. It took three tries for me to get back to the coffin on the last attempt and now I'm wishing I'd taken Kate's advice and waited there for a few hours to, as she puts it, "recharge my batteries." But I really want to get this over with.

After a moment of standing there, saying nothing, Easley disappears around the side of the pit. I hear his feet tapping up a small flight of stairs, and then he walks over from stage right.

"Eliza! Daisy!" He snaps his fingers as he says each name, as though he has magical powers and can make them appear before him at will. They do appear—Daisy scurrying like a mouse and Eliza taking her own sweet time about it.

"Bring the damn cuffs! I want him to do it again. Out here in the open this time, where I can see."

Daisy is already scuttling back to grab the cuffs before I can answer.

"No, sir. With all due respect, that's a trade secret."

He doesn't look convinced, so I add. "It's part of my agreement with Mr. Houdini. If I break it, you and I both land in court."

Easley thinks about that for a minute, and then waves a hand at Daisy, shooing her away like a fly. "Be here Friday. By three so you can get familiar with the girls."

I'm tempted to note that getting familiar with the girls appears to be his specialty. Since that seems unwise under the circumstances, I just nod and stick out my hand to shake on it.

There's a grease stain from the handcuffs on my shirt, a few inches above the wrist. Easley's eyes flit over it and down to my outstretched hand for a second. Then he reaches into his pocket and slaps a dollar bill into my palm. "An advance. Get a haircut. And clean your shirt. You look like a bum."

Easley starts to follow the girls backstage, but the sound of raised female voices from the wings apparently makes him think better of it. He turns on his heel, heading for the exit.

"Yes sir, Mr. Easley. I'll see you on Friday. At three."

"I said by three," he shouts over his shoulder. "Not at three."

It takes a lot of gall from him to dig at me about timeliness when he kept me waiting half the afternoon, but I just shove the gear into my bag. I need to get out of here before the Little General changes his mind.

∞3∞

Anyone can see where the developers for Norumbega Park got most of their ideas. The park opened in 1897, just four years after the Exposition in Chicago. There's even a fountain in the center of the park that's a cheap copy of one of the fountains at the World's Fair. While it's a puny imitation of the Expo, Norumbega has the advantage of being permanent—at least until 1963. It will be here long after the trolley lines that provide the park with electricity are replaced by cars and buses. The Expo, on the other hand, was torn down six months after the fair ended, and except for those with a CHRONOS key, if you missed it, you missed it.

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