The Veil
Page 27

 Chloe Neill

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“There a problem here?”
Liam looked back at her, smiled. “Not at all. But I think we scared the kid. I was showing my friend here the plaque,” he said, pointing to a metal square bolted to the building. It explained the history of Fabourg Marigny—and showed Liam was a very quick thinker.
But Containment agent’s gaze shifted back to the closed door. “She was using?”
Liam frowned. “Using?”
“Oh. No.” He put his hands on his hips, looked back at the door. “I mean, she’s a little kid. But I did notice you’ve got a monitor out.” He pointed to the box across the street. He was right—the light hadn’t turned green, but it also wasn’t in its “Ready Red” state, as Containment liked to call it.
The Containment agent nodded, pulled out her walkie-talkie. “Appreciate the heads-up,” she said, and walked back across the street to the monitor.
“Let’s go,” Liam whispered, putting a hand at my back. He had big hands. Warm hands.
“That was a nice thing you did,” I said when we’d put half a block of distance between us and the agent.
“Like I said, she’s just a kid,” Liam said. “Sins of the father aren’t the sins of the child. And things are always more complicated than they seem.”
“She probably didn’t even know she was doing it. It happens.”
He looked surprised. “To you?”
I nodded. “First time was how I found out I had magic. I got lucky—the monitor wasn’t signaled. But it was still terrifying—to become an enemy of the state in a snap of the fingers, and not because you did anything at all wrong.”
“Yeah,” Liam said. “I get that.”
We kept walking. I’d seen photographs of neighborhood’s in New York and Chicago during the Industrial Revolution, when everything seemed dark and gritty and horribly depressing. This was pretty much the same, right down to the color scheme.
Those old photographs had been black-and-white, and everything was gray, covered with what looked like a fine covering of dirt. I reached out, swiped a finger across a street sign, rubbed my fingertips together. The residue was dark and gritty, and left a sooty stain on my fingertips.
“Ash from the security grid,” Liam said as I wiped my fingers on my pants and glanced up at the metal web that covered the Marigny.
“It’s electrified, except when it’s not. Motes, dust get singed, fall down again as ash. Containment didn’t think about the ash when they developed it. It was freakishly expensive, as you’d imagine when you put a lid on an entire neighborhood. There wasn’t money to fix it.”
“Why bother prettying up a prison for enemy combatants?”
“That’s the theory.”
I wasn’t sure what I’d expected to feel. Probably to be scared, intimidated. To remember violence and war. Maybe even to feel hatred. To see in the things that lived here as the reason my family was gone. As the source of some of my pain. All of those complicated feelings would have been normal. They would have been expected.
And they were there, in part. So was fear, since I could feel angry and suspicious eyes on us as we walked down the street.
But so was pity. And I hadn’t expected that. Not when we’d spent so much time hating them, fighting against them, being absolutely sure they were our mortal enemies. Because they had been.
We reached another shotgun house still surrounded by a low fence. There were remnants of bright paint on the clapboards. It was “haint” blue, once one of the city’s favorite colors, a pale, chalky blue used to scare away “haints”—restless, wandering ghosts. Now the house was mostly a dingy gray.