Remembering the lion’s advice, I stayed as close to the reality I was in as I could. I didn’t make an effort to let sound reach my ears, and so I floated through the wall in an eerie silence.
I happened to check the other side of the wall as I floated through. The cheap, fake wood paneling turned out to be just as fake as I’d guessed. Wooden beams and plywood held it up. The real, concrete basement walls were three feet further back, and between them sat machines. Maybe my brother would have been able to name each one instantly, but I couldn’t.
On the other hand, maybe Nick wouldn’t have been able to recognize them either. They didn’t look high end. Improvised would have been a kind word for it. Think computer desktops without the covers, and circuit boards with wires soldered on and leading from the boards across the floor and into the wood paneled walls.
I recognized the electrical outlets at least. Every plug was filled, and each electrical cord led to a surge protector filled with a spaghetti mess of more extension cords.
For a second, I thought about pulling them, but didn’t. I knew it couldn’t be that simple.
Some of the wires from the circuit boards led into gas cans wrapped in duct tape. I tried not to think about that. For just a second when I’d been leaning against the wall, I’d thought I’d smelled gas. I’d never imagined we were surrounded by it.
The next time I got captured by slavers, I’d go higher end.
Not wanting to waste any more time, I flew through the concrete, finding myself in the stairwell.
I’d turned invisible on the way through the wall and that was good. Julie stood at the bottom of the stairs.
She was shouting something at the door to our holding room, but of course I didn’t know what.
A metal access panel hung open on the wall. It looked like the house’s breaker box. Knowing what I’d just seen in the walls, I guessed it had to be the room’s makeshift control panel.
She moved her right hand away from the board, and that’s when I moved, flying out of the stairway, and punching her in the back of her head. For a moment, it seemed like I wasn’t going to hit her. She’d stumbled, and her head dipped. It would have been a glancing blow, but she recovered her balance enough to move her head back where it was supposed to be. I hit solidly.
I’d only phased my hand back into reality, but that was enough. She fell forward, hitting the door, and falling to the concrete floor.
She didn’t move.
I bent over and held my hand a couple inches from her mouth. She was still breathing. Good. I hadn’t intended to kill her. On the other hand, when I considered what she was doing with her life, I think I could have lived with it.
What did she think the Blues were going to do with Tara? Julie had to know they were going to kill her.
How many other people had Julie sold, and who—men, women, children? At that thought, I could have kicked her, but didn’t.
I stood up, and looked through the window on the door. Travis and the rest had blank expressions on their faces. They stood, staring at the spot where I’d phased into the wall.
Julie had told them to pull my fingers out of my ears or something, but hadn’t told them what do if I completely disappeared.
On the off-chance that she’d told them what to do if I reappeared, I couldn’t let them out.
Fuck. What could I have been I thinking? Not telling them what I was doing had seemed to make sense. She would have noticed if we’d all put fingers in our ears. And you know she’d have had a plan for that.
Still, if I’d told everybody, maybe we could have done something better.
Shaking my head, I decided to stop worrying about it. What’s done was done.
Finding a knife in her purse, I cut a sleeve off her shirt (she wore a long sleeve shirt under her suit coat). Then I gagged her with it. I used the other sleeve to tie her hands behind her back.
Now I just had to wait until they came to their senses.
A minute passed—or something like that. I switched between watching if Julie had woken up to checking the expressions of everyone in the room. Nothing changed.
There has to be some kind of cosmic law dictating that anything you watch stays the same, but the things that you lose track of will bite you in the ass before you have time to think.
Or maybe that just happens to me.
I was looking through the door’s window when someone knocked on door at the top of the stairs—the one to the outside. Whoever it was knocked hard. “What’s going on in there? I thought you said this would be quick.”
I didn’t have time to think. I shouted back, “Give me a second. I’m having trouble disarming the bombs!”
The voice on the other side of the door said, “Damn it. Take the time you need.”
Mentally congratulating myself for that one, I looked through the window, and found Travis staring back at me. In a low voice, he said, “Rachel? Are you back there?”
Behind him, Tara said, “Please be there.”
I turned visible, and said, “Yes.”
Below me, Julie muttered, “Mrff.”