Home > Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(9)

Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(9)
Rysa Walker

I won't be mentioning these similarities to Kate, however. She's a bit touchy on the subject of the World's Fair. It was twelve years ago, but I remember her face in the glow of the CHRONOS medallion like it was yesterday.  I remember her leaving me with Katherine, the woman who would one day be her grandmother, and pushing both of us toward the window, away from the fire. I had nightmares for a solid year where I'd wake up screaming, the smell of smoke and death fresh and vivid in my mind. Most of all, I remember Kate going back to deal with Holmes on her own. The medallion strapped to my thigh is the one she put around my neck that night. She made me swear I wouldn't take it off, and I've never once broken that promise.

Kate remembers none of it, even though I'd swear she was younger when it happened. Katherine can't remember it either, and I know she was younger, only a few years older than I am now. Kate suspects the entire thing was a trick by Prudence and the Cyrists, and I'll admit that Prudence could pass for Kate in the eyes of a stranger. But I'm a long way from being a stranger to either of them. I could tell them apart at fifty paces. I could tell them apart in the dark. And I can't imagine why Prudence would want me to have a spare medallion.

Kate and I have long since agreed to disagree on that point. Doesn't matter. I know it was her.

The sun's been down for well over an hour when the trolley pulls into South Station. Jess's store is just a few blocks over and I'd planned to stop by and tell him about the interview, maybe grab Kate a ginger ale. But it'll keep until tomorrow, I guess. Kate will be waiting for the news. And even though she seemed pretty confident, I'm looking forward to letting her know I didn't blow it.

I take my usual shortcut through the alley to shave off a few extra minutes. About twenty feet in, I feel a sharp tug at the back of my collar. My fists are up as I wrench free and turn back toward the street. Three guys, two of them with at least twenty pounds on me.

There's barely six feet between the buildings, so there's not much room to maneuver. I focus on the two bigger opponents, saving the short guy for last.

That's a mistake, it turns out. He's the one holding the club.

My last thought as I hit the cobblestones is that I really should've stopped to get Kate that ginger ale.

"Hey, mister. You, okay?" The voice is high pitched, like those awful singers at Norumbega. It hurts my head.

When I open my eyes, a small, grimy boot is nudging my chest. I start to pull myself up and then a sharp burst of pain makes me reconsider, so I just shift my eyes toward the source of the noise. The girl staring down at me is in her teens. A boy a few years younger, most likely her brother, stands behind her.

"Yer bleedin'. You know that?" Her voice is like an ice-pick to my brain.

"I didn't." I move myself slowly into a half-sitting position, and lean back against the wall of the building behind me. "But it doesn't surprise me."

"Ain' a lot of blood. I cut my leg last summer and there was way more than that. Mama said I might even need stitches, but Papa said it was too much money to call in a doctor, so she'd have to stitch it up herself, and she didn't wanna do that. Papa said—"

I hold up my hand to cut her off. "What time is it?" I'm hesitant to ask, since it means she'll speak again and my head really can't take it, but maybe the boy will answer this time.

No such luck. "After eight-thirty. We got off work at eight. That was a while ago, so maybe nine, I don' know. You think it's nine yet, Jer?" she asks the kid, but he just shrugs. "Well, I'd say maybe closer to nine. Could be after, even. Anyhow, you okay? 'Cause we gotta get home."

Yes, please. Go! Even though I don't say it out loud, my expression must've gotten the point across, because they both give me an odd look and head back toward the street.

I lift my fingers to the side of my head and they come away sticky, but not dripping. The girl was right. It's not a lot of blood. There is, however, one hell of a lump beneath the cut.

The bag with my gear is gone, along with my jacket. I glance down and see that they've taken my dress shirt, as well, leaving me in just an undershirt and pants. My pockets are flipped inside out, so they scored maybe five dollars total, counting the buck that Easley handed me when I left Norumbega.

No shoes. No belt. No watch-chain that was clipped to the belt and therefore, no CHRONOS key. I'm guessing it will turn up in a pawn shop within the week, unless they just toss it. I can't bear thinking about that right now, as it'll mean adding one more missing key to Kate's list.

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