Assassin of Truths(9)

By: Brenda Drake

“A lookout?” I checked the time. “No. It’s a little after ten here. That means it’s around four in the afternoon in New York. The library’s still open. Someone will see you.”

“As if you won’t look suspicious with all that on.” She waved her hand at me.

“You’re right.” I searched for my trench coat.

Aetnae followed me, bouncing a little unsteadily on the air. The coat had been blown up against one of the globe stands. I snatched it, and a square piece of paper dropped from the pocket and floated to the floor.

“I’ve got it.” Obviously recovered, Aetnae zipped down and grabbed it. She flew it over to me. “Directions to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Is that where you’re going?”

“Yes,” I said, putting on my coat and tying the belt in a knot. I removed my helmet and shoved it in my bag.

“That bulky bag looks awfully suspicious,” Aetnae said.

She was right. The helmet bulged out as if I were hiding a volleyball inside. I removed it and placed it on the globe. I’d have to retrieve it later.

“Better?” I asked.

“Guess so. I don’t know why I can’t go with you. At least to the library.” The pout on her face made me smile. The kids I used to babysit would make the same one after I’d announced it was bedtime.

“Next time, okay?” I said, giving her a reassuring smile.

Since the New York Public Library was still open, I couldn’t collect the Chiave, not with a crowd around. So I decided to investigate Gian’s prayer card. But first, I had to do that thing for Jaran. Strolling down the middle aisle flanked by rows of desks, I looked for an unattended cell phone. Preferably belonging to someone immersed in a book or work. And one without a passcode.

The teens in the room never let go of their phones. They didn’t even glance up from them as I passed. Then I saw it. My target. A flip phone sat on the table beside a man with a beard, outdated clothes, and Birkenstocks. Perfect. The phone was ancient, and most of them didn’t require a password or a fingerprint. And definitely not face recognition.

I’d gotten good at phone snatching, but still my stomach shifted uneasily. What would I do if caught? I picked up an abandoned stack of books from one of the tables and headed for the man, pretending to stumble when I reached him. The books shot from my arms and tumbled onto the table and floor.

The man jumped in his seat.

“I’m so sorry.” I feigned embarrassment.

“You should watch where you’re going.” He didn’t say that very nicely before bending over to pick up the books on the floor.

I gathered the ones spilled over the table, along with the phone.

He stood and put the books in his hands on top of the stack in my arms.

“Thank you,” I said.

He grunted.

How rude. It’s not as if he knew I meant to toss all those books at him. Of course, I’d just borrowed his phone without asking, but he didn’t know that. And hopefully never would.

I abandoned the books on a table at the end of the row then searched for somewhere to use the phone. The bathroom was my best option, so I found one and went in.

An Italian-looking woman wearing gray plaid pants, a white shirt, and a red scarf came in after me. I ducked into a stall and didn’t come out until she left.

After pulling out the slip of paper Jaran had given me, I dialed the number on it.

Cole answered his cell on the first ring. “Hello,” he said, sounding anxious.

“Hi, Cole, this is Gia. Do you remember me?” The door to the restroom banged open. I paused and peered through the crack between the stalls. A woman with red hair, wearing all black except for the floral scarf around her neck, went into the last cubicle.

“I know who you are,” Cole said. “You’re Jaran’s friend. Do you know where he is? The home for the foreign exchange students is empty. They’re all gone.” His disappointment tugged at my heartstrings and tied them into knots. He missed Jaran.

“Their funding fell through,” I said. “Listen, I don’t have much time. Jaran is visiting relatives in Africa. He wanted me to let you know. Said he’d contact you soon.”

“Did he say anything else?” There was hope in his voice this time.

“Oh, yeah, I almost forgot.” Jaran would shish kabob me with his sword for what I was about to say. “He said he loved you.”

“Really?” Now he sounded excited. “If you talk to him again, can you tell him I feel the same, and that I’ll wait for him? Tell him to email or text me when he can.”

He loves him. Aww…

“I sure will.”

“Great,” he said. “And thank you for calling.”

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