The Copper Gauntlet (Magisterium #2)(7)

Havoc gave a whine, his ear cocked. Call couldn’t hear anything, but that didn’t mean Alastair wasn’t waking up. Call shoved down his wayward thoughts, grabbed Havoc by the ruff, and crept quietly out of the house.

The streets of the town were empty in early-morning darkness but Call stuck to the shadows anyway, in case Alastair decided to drive around looking for him. The sun would be rising soon.

About twenty minutes into his escape, his phone rang. He nearly leaped out of his skin before he managed to silence it.

The caller ID said it was coming from the house. Alastair was definitely awake and had made it out of the basement. The relief Call felt quickly turned to fresh fear. Alastair called again. And again.

Call turned off his phone and threw it away, in case his dad could trace his whereabouts through it like detectives did on TV.

He needed to decide where he was headed — and fast. Classes at the Magisterium didn’t start for two weeks, but there was always someone around. He was sure Master Rufus would let him bunk down in his old room until Tamara and Aaron showed up — and would protect him from his father, if it came to that.

Then Call imagined himself with just Havoc and Master Rufus to keep him company, rattling around the echoing caverns of the school. It seemed depressing. Anyway, he wasn’t sure how he could get all the way to a remote cave system in Virginia on his own. It had been a long, dusty drive home to North Carolina in Alastair’s antique Rolls-Royce at the beginning of the summer, a trip he had no idea how to retrace.

He’d texted back and forth with his friends, but he didn’t know where Aaron stayed when he wasn’t at school; Aaron had been cagey about his location. Tamara’s family lived right outside of DC, though, and Call was sure that more buses ran to DC than to anywhere near the Magisterium.

He already missed his phone.

Tamara had sent him a present for his upcoming birthday — a leather dog collar and leash for Havoc — and it had come with her return address on it. He remembered the address because her house had a name — the Gables — and Alastair had laughed and said that was what really rich people did, name their houses.

Call could go there.

With more purpose than he’d felt in weeks, Call started toward the bus station. It was a little building with two benches outside and an air-conditioned box where an elderly lady sat and doled out tickets from behind the glass. An old man was already sitting on one of the benches, hat tipped over his face like he was napping.

Mosquitoes buzzed in the air as Call approached the old woman.

“Um,” he said. “I need a one-way bus ticket to Arlington.”

She gave him a long look, pursing coral-painted lips. “How old are you?” she asked.

“Eighteen,” he told her, hoping he sounded confident. It seemed very possible that she wouldn’t believe him, but sometimes old people weren’t good at judging age. He tried to stand up in a way that made him seem extra tall.

“Mmm,” she said finally. “Forty dollars for one adult nonrefundable ticket. You’re in luck — your bus leaves in a half hour. But there’s no dogs, unless that’s a service animal.”

“Oh, yeah,” Call said, with a quick look down at Havoc. “He’s totally a service dog. He was in the service — the navy, actually.”

The woman’s eyebrows went up.

“He saved a man,” Call said, trying out the story as he counted the cash and pushed it through the slot. “From drowning. And sharks. Well, just the one shark, but it was a pretty big one. He’s got a medal and everything.”

She stared at him for a long moment, then her gaze went to the way Call was standing. “So you need a service dog for your leg, huh?” she said. “You should have just said.” She slid his ticket across to him.

Embarrassed, Call grabbed the paper and turned away without answering. The purchase had taken almost all his money, leaving him with only a dollar and some change. With that, he bought himself two candy bars at the vending machine and settled down to wait for the bus. Havoc flopped near his feet.

As soon as he got to Tamara’s house, he promised himself, things were going to get better. Things were going to be just fine.

ON THE BUS, Call dozed on and off with his face pressed against the window. Havoc had curled up at his feet, which was cozy, and also kept anyone from trying to sit next to him.

Restless dreams flitted through Call’s mind as he slept. He dreamed about snow and ice and the dead bodies of mages scattered across a glacier. He dreamed he was looking in the mirror at his own face, but it wasn’t his face anymore, it was Constantine Madden’s. He dreamed he was bound to a wall in shackles, with Alastair about to cut out his heart.

He woke with a shout, only to find himself blinking at the bus conductor, who was leaning over him, his lined face concerned. “We’re in Arlington, kid,” he said. “Everyone else is already off the bus. Is there someone here to pick you up?”

Call muttered something like “Sure” and stumbled off the bus, Havoc at his heels.

There was a pay phone on the corner. Call stared at it. He had the vague idea that you could use them to call information and get people’s numbers, but he had no idea how. He’d always used the Internet for that sort of thing. He was about to start toward the phone when a red-and-black taxi pulled up to the curb, depositing a bunch of rowdy kids from a fraternity onto the pavement. The driver got out, unloading their luggage from the trunk.

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