Jill and I walked along quietly until the noises of the Burning Pit were behind us. Unfortunately, the smell stuck with us. You can’t have it all.
As we reached the edge of the impromptu carnival, I was struck by how quiet it was there. I didn’t like it. Quiet meant that people had left.
Maybe some of the people I’d seen earlier were now ashes in the Burning Pit, but there had been far more people at the carnival than there had been people jumping into the fire. That could only mean that people had gone home. They’d gone home because it was time to go home. It was late. How late, I didn’t know.
I looked down at my right hand holding Jill’s left hand. She had a watch on her wrist. I lifted our hands and looked at her watch. 6:00am. Damn. That wasn’t good. It would soon be daylight. We were almost out of people time and almost into the time ruled by the giant birds.
“Where’s Lexington?” It was the first thing Jill had said to me. Her voice sounded creaky and unused. It sounded like she’d been smoking five packs a day. It sounded beautiful to me.
“Mike has Lex, honey,” I replied.
“Where is Mike?,” she asked.
I couldn’t answer that question. I didn’t know where Mike was. I didn’t even know if Mike and Moira had managed to stay together, or if they still had the pets. I hadn’t seen them at the Burning Pit, and I’d kind of assumed that we’d all be reunited there.
“Mike and Moira are waiting for us,” I said. Thank God she didn’t ask me where they were waiting. She just accepted my statement silently.
Jill and I wound our way through the abandoned booths. The rickety wooden and metal skeletons of the booths were left, but all of the decorations and anything of value had been ripped down and taken away. Garbage littered the ground.
The only complete structure that remained was the witch hunter’s platform. I saw it looming ahead of us, and I remembered Kat and Kate. If no one else had, maybe we could cut them loose, give them a fighting chance to find some shelter for the day.
“Jill, there might be some friends of mine over there. We need to make sure they are OK. Then we’ll go to Mike’s apartment.”
“OK,” she said. “But we need to hurry. I miss Lex.” Tears tracked through the dirt and soot on her face.
Kat and Kate were still bound to the posts. The hoods were back on their heads. They looked asleep to me. Or dead. I assumed they were alive, because there were two people who seemed to be standing guard over them. I was too far away to see the Mickey Mouse badges, but they were dressed a lot like Trish had been. I supposed they were charged with making sure that Kat and Kate stayed put until the birds came.
The guards were facing west, so they hadn’t seen us coming. They were holding long things that were probably weapons. I had absolutely no idea how we could overpower them. Jill wasn’t up to joining me in luring them away. We had the element of surprise on our sides, but that’s all we had.
I stopped and let go of Jill’s hand. She looked at me like I’d slapped her. I put a finger to my lips in a “shush” and stripped off my shoes and socks. I reached into my backpack to get two cans of Spam. Lynn had at least cold cocked Trish with her Spam Sock Mace. She might have even killed Trish. I didn’t relish the idea of getting close enough to the guards to try to bash their heads in, but I didn’t have anything else remotely like a weapon. Then, my hand touched something else in the backpack, and I suddenly had a better idea.