The Passage Page 67

"Did something happen to your dad, Jacob? Is he okay?"

A frown creased the boy's damp face. "Oh. He died."

"Gabe's dead?"

Jacob's tone was disturbingly matter-of-fact; he might have been telling Michael what the weather was. "He died and he won't wake up anymore."

"Flyers, Jacob. I'm sorry."

That was when Michael saw Mar hurrying down the path. He felt a gush of relief.

"Jacob, where have you been?" The woman stopped before them. "How many times do I have to tell you? You can't run off like that, you can't."

The boy backed away, his long arms flailing. "I have to find Sara!"


Her voice seemed to hit him like an arrow: he froze where he stood, though his face was still animated by a strange, unknowable dread. His mouth was open and he was breathing fast. Mar moved toward him cautiously, as if she were approaching some large, unpredictable animal.

"Jacob, look at me."


"Hush now. No more talk. Look at me." She reached up to his face, placing a hand on each of his cheeks, focusing her eyes on his face.

"I saw her, Mama."

"I know you did. But it was just a dream, Jacob, that's all. Don't you remember? We went back to the house and I put you to bed and you were sleeping."

"I was?"

"Yes, honey, you were. It was nothing, just a dream." Jacob was breathing more easily now, his body stilling beneath his mother's touch. "I want you to go home now and wait for me there. No more looking for Sara. Can you do that for me?"

"But, Mama-"

"No buts, Jacob. Can you do as I ask?"

Reluctantly, Jacob nodded.

"That's my good boy." Mar stepped back, releasing him. "Straight home, now."

The boy looked at Michael once, a quick, furtive glance, and jogged away.

Finally Mar turned to Michael. "It always works when he gets like this," she said with a weary shrug. "It's the only thing that does."

"I heard about Gabe," he managed. "I'm sorry."

Mar's eyes looked as if she had cried so much there were no tears left in her at all. "Thank you, Michael. I think Jacob wanted to see Sara because she was there, at the end. She was a good friend. To all of us." Mar halted a moment, a look of pain skittering across her face. But she shook her head, as if to ward this thought away. "If you can get her a message, tell her we're all thinking of her. I don't think I had a chance to properly thank her. Will you do that?"

"I'm sure she's around here someplace. Did you check the Infirmary?"

"Of course she's in the Infirmary. That was the first place Jacob went."

"I don't understand. If Sara's in the Infirmary, why didn't he find her?"

Mar was looking at him strangely. "Because of the quarantine, of course."


Mar's face fell. "Michael, where have you been?"


Alicia didn't find him, after all; it was the other way around. Peter knew just where she'd be.

She was sitting in a wedge of shade outside the Colonel's hut, her back braced against a stack of wood, knees pulled to her chest. At the sound of Peter's approach, she looked up, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

"Oh, damn, damn," she said.

He took a seat beside her on the ground. "It's okay."

Alicia sighed bitterly. "No it isn't. You tell anyone you saw me like this I will blade you, Peter."

They sat in silence for a while. The day was cloudy, cast with a pale and smoky light, carrying with it a strong, acrid odor-the body detail, burning the corpses outside the Wall.

"You know, I always wondered something," Peter said. "Why did we call him the Colonel?"

"Because that was his name. He didn't have another one."

"Why do you think he went out there? He didn't seem like the type. To, you know, let it go like that."

But Alicia didn't respond. Her relationship with the Colonel was something she rarely spoke of, and never in detail. It was a region of her life, perhaps the one region, that she withheld from Peter's view. And yet its presence was something he was always aware of. He did not believe she thought of the Colonel as a father-Peter had never detected any trace of that kind of warmth between them. On those rare occasions when his name arose, or he appeared on the catwalk at night, Peter felt a rigidity come into her, a cold distance. It was nothing overt, and probably he was the only person who would have noticed. But whatever the Colonel had been to her, their bond was a fact; he understood that her tears were for him.

"Can you believe it?" Alicia said miserably. "They fired me."

"Sanjay will come around. He's not stupid. It's a mistake-he'll figure it out."

But Alicia seemed to be barely listening. "No, Sanjay's right. I never should have gone over the Wall the way I did. I totally lost my head, seeing the girl out there." She shook her head hopelessly. "Not that it matters now. You saw that wound."

The girl, Peter thought. He'd never learned anything about her. Who was she? How had she survived? Were there others like her? How had she gotten away from the virals? But now it looked as if she would die, taking the answers with her.

"You had to try. I think you did the right thing. Caleb, too."

"You know, Sanjay's actually thinking of putting him out? Putting out Hightop, for godsakes."

To be put out: it was the worst fate imaginable. "That can't be right."

"I'm serious, Peter. I promise you, they're talking about it right now."

"The others would never stand for it."

"Since when do they really have a say about anything? You were in that room. People are scared. Somebody's got to take the blame for Teacher's death. Caleb's all alone. He's easy."

Peter drew a breath and held it. "Look, I know Sanjay. He can be pretty full of himself, but I really don't think he's like that. And everybody likes Caleb."

"Everybody liked Arlo. Everybody liked your brother. It doesn't mean the story won't end badly."

"You're beginning to sound like Theo."

"Maybe so." She was gazing ahead, squinting into the light. "All I know is, Caleb saved me last night. Sanjay thinks he's going to put him out, he's going to have to deal with me."

"Lish." He paused. "Be careful. Think about what you're saying."

"I have thought about it. Nobody's putting him out."

"You know I'm on your side."

"You may not want to be."

Around them, the Colony was eerily quiet, everyone still stunned by the events of the early hours of the morning. Peter wondered if this was the silence that came after something, or before. If it was the silence of blame being tallied. Alicia wasn't wrong; people were frightened.

"About the girl," Peter said. "There's something I should have told you."

The lockup was an old public bathroom in the trailer park on the east side of town. As they made their approach, Peter and Alicia heard a swell of voices on the air. They picked up the pace as they moved through the maze of tipping hulks-most had long since been stripped for parts-and arrived to find a small crowd at the entrance, about a dozen men and women gathered tightly around a single Watcher, Dale Levine.

"What the hell is going on?" Peter whispered.

Alicia's face was grim. "It's started," she said. "That's what."

Dale was not a small man, but at that moment, he seemed so. Facing the crowd, he looked like a cornered animal. He was a little hard of hearing and had a habit of turning his head slightly to the right in order to point his good ear at whoever was talking to him, giving him a slightly distracted air. But he didn't seem distracted now.

"I'm sorry, Sam," Dale was saying, "I don't know anything you don't."

The person he was addressing was Sam Chou, Old Chou's nephew-a thoroughly unassuming man whom Peter had heard speak only a few times in his life. His wife was Other Sandy; between them they had five children, three in the Sanctuary. As Peter and Alicia moved to the edge of the group, he realized what he was seeing: these were parents. Just like Ian, everyone standing outside the lockup had a child, or more than one. Patrick and Emily Phillips. Hodd and Lisa Greenberg. Grace Molyneau and Belle Ramirez and Hannah Fisher Patal.

"That boy opened the gate."

"So what do you want me to do about it? Ask your uncle if you want to know more."

Sam pointed his voice to the high windows of the lockup. "Do you hear me, Caleb Jones? We all know what you did!"

"Come on, Sam. Leave the poor kid alone."

Another man moved forward: Milo Darrell. Like his brother, Finn, Milo was a wrench, with a wrench's solid build and taciturn demeanor: tall and slope-shouldered, with a woolly beard and unkempt hair that fell in a tangle to his eyes. Behind him, dwarfed by his height, was his wife, Penny.

"You've got a kid, too, Dale," Milo said. "How can you just stand there?"

One of the three J's, Peter realized. Little June Levine. Dale's face, Peter saw, had gone a little white.

"You think I don't know that?" Whatever wedge of authority had separated him from the crowd was dissolving. "And I'm not just standing here. Let the Household handle this."

"He should be put out."

The voice, a woman's, had risen from the center of the crowd. It was Belle Ramirez, Rey's wife. Their little girl was Jane. Peter saw that the woman's hands were trembling; she looked close to tears. Sam moved toward her and put his arm around her shoulder. "You see, Dale? You see what that boy did?"

Which was the moment Alicia shouldered her way through the crowd. Without looking at Belle, or anyone at all, she stepped up to Dale, who was gazing at the stricken Belle with an expression of utter helplessness.

"Dale, hand me your cross."

"Lish, I can't do that. Jimmy says so."

"I don't care. Just give it to me."

She didn't wait, but snatched it away. Alicia turned to face everyone, holding the cross loosely at her side-a deliberately unthreatening posture, but Alicia was Alicia. Her standing there meant something.

"Everyone, I know you're upset, and if you ask me, you have a right to be. But Caleb Jones is one of us, as much as any of you."

"That's easy for you to say." Milo was standing with Sam and Belle now. "You were the one outside."

A murmur of agreement flickered through the crowd. Alicia eyed at the man coolly, allowing the moment to pass.

"You have a point there, Milo. If not for Hightop, I'd be dead. So if you were maybe thinking about doing something to him, I'd think long and hard."

"What are you going to do?" Sam sneered. "Stick us all with that cross?"

"No." Alicia frowned, not seriously. "Just you, Sam. I thought I'd take Milo here on the blade."

A nervous laugh from a few of the men; but it just as quickly died. Milo had taken a step back. Peter, still at the edge of the crowd, realized his hand had dropped to his blade. Everything seemed to depend on what would happen next.

"I think you're bluffing," Sam said, his eyes held tightly on Alicia's face.

"Is that so? You must not know me very well."

"The Household will put him out. You wait and see."

"You could be right. But that's not for either of us to decide. Nothing's happening here except you upsetting a lot of people for no reason. I won't have it."

The crowd had grown suddenly silent. Peter felt their uncertainty; the momentum had shifted. Except for Sam, and maybe Milo, their anger had no weight. They were simply afraid.

"She's right, Sam," Milo said. "Let's get out of here."

Sam's eyes, burning with righteous anger, were still locked on Alicia's face. The cross had yet to move from Alicia's side, but it didn't have to. Peter, standing behind the two men, still had his hand on his blade. Everyone else had moved away.

"Sam," Dale said, finding his voice again, "please, just go home."

Milo reached for Sam then, meaning to take him by the elbow. But Sam jerked his arm away. He appeared rattled, as if the touch of Milo's hand had nudged him from a trance.

"All right, all right. I'm coming."

It wasn't until the two men had disappeared into the maze of trailers that Peter allowed himself to expel the breath of air he realized he'd been holding in his chest. Just a day ago, he never would have imagined that such a thing was possible, that fear could turn these people-people he knew, who did their work and went about their lives and visited their children in the Sanctuary-into an angry mob. And Sam Chou: he'd never seen the man so angry. He'd never seen him angry at all.

"What the hell, Dale?" Alicia said. "When did this start?"

"About as soon as they moved Caleb over here." Now that they were alone, the full magnitude of what had occurred, or almost occurred, could be read in Dale's face. He looked like a man who had fallen from a great height only to discover that he was, miraculously, uninjured. "Flyers, I thought I was going to have to let them in. You should have heard the things they were saying before you got here."

From inside the lockup came the sound of Caleb's voice. "Lish? Is that you?"

Alicia pointed her voice to the windows. "Just hang tight, Hightop!" She fixed her eyes on Dale again. "Go and get some other Watchers. I don't know what Jimmy was thinking, but you need at least three out here. Peter and I can stand guard till you get back."

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