Gwen rounded the next curve, then slowed to a stop as the traffic light switched from yellow to red. Around them, the glowing window fronts of bars and businesses grew fewer and farther between. The number of pedestrians plodding along began to dwindle as well.

“While you seem to underestimate my abilities concerning self-preservation,” Gwen said, making a point to press down on her door’s locking mechanism, “I think you also over estimate my creativity. So sorry if I couldn’t think of a good New York–related activity that might accurately compare to scouting a creepy fan-freak-filled cemetery. Did you know there was a guy in there actually dressed as a raven? At least I think it was a guy. Not to mention that I was a little busy trying to explain how I’d found my way into the catacombs when they did the five-man sweep to clear the grounds before locking the place up!”

“Wait,” Isobel said. “Did you say catacombs?”

“Yeah,” Gwen said, “I did. But it’s not underground like you’d think. Not really. Turns out the whole church was built on top of a huge portion of the graveyard. I found them by slipping in through one of the gated doors on the side of the church.”

Isobel yanked off her shoes as she listened. She dug to the bottom of her backpack, took out the hiking boots, and pulled them on. Next, she rifled through the pile of clothes and took out the black hoodie she’d borrowed from Danny’s closet. She drew it on over her head and tugged it down, grateful for the fleece lining. Finally she went to unroll Varen’s jacket.

“I thought the door led to a cellar where we could hide,” Gwen went on, “but guess again. Now, I can’t say it’s the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, but at least it cuts down on the wind. I figured it’s as good a place as any to lie low. At least until midnight.”

Isobel brought Varen’s jacket carefully into her lap and smoothed her hands across the silhouette of the upside-down bird. She let her fingers trail the rolled edge of the patch of white cloth safety-pinned to the thicker green material.

An image of the long black coat she’d seen Varen wearing in her dream of the bookstore flashed in her mind. It was not lost on her that in addition to being reversed, the bird on that coat had been white.

Slowly Isobel lifted the green mechanic’s jacket from her lap. She threaded her arms through the stiff material and allowed it to settle onto her shoulders, heavier somehow than she remembered.

“We’re here,” she heard Gwen say.

Isobel glanced toward her window, noticing immediately how it was quieter in this area, the road narrower, the atmosphere darker, with fewer lampposts to offer relief amid the accumulating shadows.


The Cadillac slowed to a crawl as they rolled past a set of tall iron-gate doors. Isobel slid into the opposite passenger’s seat for a better view. Through the window, she saw that the metal bars of the gate were knotted together in the center by a snakelike coil of silver chains. Through the iron rungs, Isobel glimpsed a smattering of what looked like squat stone houses. Tombs, she thought. There were traditional gravestones, too. Slanted and flat-faced, they stood crooked amid patches of grass.

The stones slid out of sight behind a wall as the car continued to move forward.

Gwen steered the Cadillac around the next corner, making a right onto Fayette Street. Here the brick wall gave way to pure iron, each tall bar tipped in a wicked spike. Isobel squinted through the window as Gwen rolled to a complete stop beside the front gates of the cemetery. There she idled, and the car hummed a soft and steady note while the exhaust fumes gathered behind them. The wind blew the steaming billows toward the gate, creating the illusion of fog.

“I’d tell you it’s more pleasant in the daytime but I don’t like to lie,” Gwen said.

Through the row of black iron bars, the large stone monument that marked Poe’s grave stood like a sentinel, a guardian of the gate, each of its four sides illuminated by small display lights embedded in the brick walkway.

Above them, the enormous church, Westminster Hall, loomed like a disapproving sentry. Its bell tower, topped with four hornlike spires, stretched to meet with the black cloud-filled sky.

The car began to roll forward again, and Isobel had to stoop low in order to crane her neck and take in the full extent of the church’s Gothic facade through the front windshield.

Gwen angled the Cadillac toward the curb, sliding it behind a row of cars parked next to the church’s front entrance—a pair of windowless double doors. She switched off the engine and yanked the keys from the ignition. Immediately the heat snapped off. The coldness that waited for them outside crept closer, pressing in on the thin barrier of their windows.

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