Isobel closed her eyes. She pressed her thumb to the band of her championship ring, which suddenly felt too heavy for her hand. Even though the ring had helped her to seem convincing, Isobel wished she could take it off. She wanted so much to throw it away someplace where she’d never have to look at it again. Because that was the only reason she’d ever put it on to begin with. Not to honor something she’d accomplished, but so she could persuade the world—her parents and teachers, fellow squad members, and classmates—that she hadn’t changed. That a single kiss from a boy who knew how to walk through dreams, who himself now seemed to be a dream, hadn’t irrevocably altered her.

Dropping her hand, Isobel opened her eyes.

Mechanically, she reached for her sandwich, but unable to force herself to take even one bite, she abandoned it for her soda.

Needless to say, the meeting with her English teacher hadn’t left her with much of an appetite. She even felt nauseated, as though all the lies she’d told him had followed her out here and were now trying to claw their way back inside her.

With trembling hands, Isobel popped the tab on her soda.

The sound cracked through the vacant courtyard, startling a nearby group of pigeons. They took off in a flurry, their frenzied flapping causing her to shrink into herself with a shudder.

She took a hurried sip of the soda.

In a way, she was glad Mr. Swanson had asked her to stay after class. If he hadn’t, she might never have found out about the special security setup at the graveyard on the eve of Poe’s birthday, or the hordes of people who gathered to watch. Or that there happened to be two gravestones.

That Reynolds actually had a legion of fans (she wasn’t sure what else to call them) only served to intensify the sickened feeling that continued to roil in the pit of her empty stomach. It grew more intense when she thought of the committee Mr. Swanson had also mentioned, the group apparently dedicated to protecting him.

All of it was certainly going to make her venture into the graveyard that much more difficult. Maybe even impossible.

Despite the combined mixture of anger and panic that the existence of both groups aroused within her, Isobel knew she had no right to blame either for their actions.


Unlike her, they didn’t know what they were dealing with.

Deep down, Isobel knew that every one of them must assume that after the night was over, this dark figure, like them, just went back to being a regular person from somewhere normal like New York City or Pittsburgh or even just down the street. The mystery and the drama, the chance to be a part of the moment itself, was what they sought.

And like the good performer that he was, Reynolds was giving them everything they wanted.

That’s why they protected him.

Up until now, Isobel hadn’t even begun to realize how difficult it was going to be just getting to the graveyard, let alone inside. She’d been so caught up in trying to find a way to Baltimore itself that she hadn’t stopped to consider that the ritual might actually be a tourist attraction.

It made her wonder what time people started gathering. Since Reynolds wouldn’t arrive until after midnight, spectators would probably only begin to accumulate at the gates after dark. And then there was the group inside the church to worry about too.

How was she supposed to slip past them? And how would she even get in to begin with?

Suddenly Isobel found herself wishing Gwen hadn’t cut lunch to meet up with Mikey. She needed to talk right then. She needed Gwen.

Lowering the faux-fur-lined hood of her parka, Isobel risked a quick glance behind her toward the congested and brightly lit cafeteria.

As far as she could tell, no one seemed to notice she was out here.

She saw Mr. Nott, the cafeteria monitor, drifting between the tables, his hands clasped behind his back like a drill sergeant patrolling a mess hall.

Bending to reach into the front pocket of her backpack, Isobel groped for her phone. She had turned it off earlier that morning, but she knew that Gwen, unable to bear being out of the loop for even a moment regarding anything, usually kept hers on silent.

Isobel decided to send her a quick Mayday text to let her know something was up. Then maybe she could get a hall pass and they could meet in the library sometime next period.

Isobel drew her cell into her lap, using her body to shield the action.

She flipped open the phone, her thumb drifting toward the power button, but she stopped cold, arrested by the face reflected in the cell’s darkened LCD screen.

He stood just behind her, peering down over her left shoulder.

His eyes, black, met hers through the screen, their gaze piercing, cold.

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