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These Ruthless Deeds, страница 1


These Ruthless Deeds

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These Ruthless Deeds

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  Table of Contents

  About the Author

  Copyright Page

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  For indomitable spirits.


  THE DOOR WAS locked. The door was always locked, no matter what room she woke up in. But she tried the handle anyway, jiggling it as quietly as possible, trying desperately not to disturb her captors.

  She sighed. At least there was no foul-smelling fabric stuffed in her mouth this time. No ropes tying her to the small room’s dingy little bed.

  And this time she was in a room with a window that one could, perhaps, escape through. She crossed the room with halting, uncoordinated steps—something was wrong. It was almost as if she were learning how to walk again, with no knowledge of where her limbs ended. But no matter—escape was her first and only priority.

  She looked out the window and frowned. Surely it was London, but there was something … strange about the view. The buildings appeared a bit newer, neater. The roads wider. The carriages different. She’d never been to this part of the city before.

  She listened hard; no sounds came from the rest of the house. Slowly she pushed on the windows, which softly squeaked open. The street noise made her cringe, and her heart pounded. She sent up a quick prayer that no one inside would hear. She climbed onto the sill, slid outside onto the ledge, and closed the panes behind her.

  Ah yes, the drop. It wasn’t too high but high enough to worry about broken limbs. Fortunately, below the sill was the overhang of the ground-floor window, jutting out just far enough to step onto.

  Delicately, she gripped the sill and dipped her body slowly downward. One of her slippers slid off and fell to the street, but her toes just managed the next ledge. Her feet tested her weight, and then she let go and sank down into a crouch, afraid to trust her balance standing tall. Goodness. Was it to be this easy? Would she simply be able to find a carriage and get back to her family—to her home?

  She looked down. Getting around the ground floor window was more terrifying than falling. She couldn’t risk her captors seeing her from inside—not when she was this close to escaping. Gathering her courage (how little she seemed to possess!), she leaped off to the side of the window, falling the few feet to the hard ground, scraping her knee upon landing. She let out a hiss and contemplated her dirtied skirt. A small laugh escaped her as she realized a musty skirt might now be the worst of her problems.

  The girl began to walk purposefully, still unsure of her steps, but winding up and down the streets, farther and farther from the house she escaped from, looking for anything the least bit familiar. Bills and advertisements for strange products were posted outside one pharmacy. A young boy shouted about the day’s events and tried to sell a newspaper she’d never heard of, The Sun. The city smelled different than she remembered. And when she glanced inside a bank, searching for a clue, movement in the corner of her eye stopped her dead in her tracks.

  Staring at her was a black-haired woman with a few pockmarks dotting her skin and a Mediterranean look about her. The strange woman was a few inches taller and a little thinner. The curiosity in her gaze matched the girl’s own—as did the subsequent look of understanding and horror when the girl realized there wasn’t a woman on the other side of that glass window. It was her own image being reflected. And she looked nothing like herself.

  Her stomach twisted, hands began to shake. Was any of this real? Had she even escaped? What if she was still trapped somewhere, drugged and sleeping? She was on the verge of breaking down, turning around, and asking the newspaper boy where she was, what year it was, and whether she was dreaming. But as she desperately searched around for something to calm her panicked questions, the answer hit her in the form of a building across the street.

  Or rather its sign, which said NEW YORK CITY POSTAL OFFICE.

  As unbelievable as that was, it did solve some mysteries. Why an advertisement said an elixir was “the best in America.” Why the boy was shouting news about a factory fire in San Francisco. Why she felt so lost. Somehow, she’d been transported across the Atlantic without noticing. How many days had she been asleep?

  It didn’t explain what had happened to her, but when she saw the signs advertising trans-American and worldwide telegraph services, nothing mattered more than getting home.



  She hurried across the street toward the postal office. She didn’t have any money, but she might beg the operator to send the shortest message to her family. Then she could go to the police, safe in their presence, until her family arrived. A giddy smile overtook her face as she thought about her sister, who would surely find her way here without even waiting for their parents.

  As she opened the door to the postal office and heard a voice she’d hoped she’d never hear again, her stomach dropped. “Tsk, tsk—you know you can’t be wandering around like this. What if they found you?” he scolded.

  She had been so close. She tried to run but her first step didn’t even reach the ground. A wail left her throat as a crackle rent the air, her stomach lurched, and the floor opened up, swallowing her whole.

  Chapter 1



  “THIS WAS A terrible plan.”

  “Evelyn, it’s your plan.”

  “Yes, but you’ve escaped from far more asylums than I have. Why wouldn’t we choose your plan?”

  “Because yours was better. There’s no need to worry yet. He hasn’t even been inside for more than five minutes.”

  Miss Grey was right. But her reassurances didn’t make me feel any less responsible for Oliver Myles, our slippery new friend. Since he was the only one with a useful power for a secretive rescue, we’d saddled him with every difficult task. He had to memorize Miss Grey’s complicated map of the asylum (which was somewhat vague, being from memory), steal the keys from a nurse, find Emily Kane’s quarters, and sneak her out a side door, where we’d be waiting, doing absolutely nothing to help. If his powers failed him, he could easily get caught by a guard, get stuck in a locked room, or fall down through the floor toward the center of the earth and we wouldn’t be any the wiser.

  I hated feeling this useless.

  I hated feeling the weight of this plan on my shoulders.

  A shiver escaped me along with a long-held breath, its white mist barely visible in the faint light of our covered lantern. The night sat cold and silent. There was nothing else around us for miles except the oppressive blackness of rolling hills and woods. I pulled my wool cloak tighter around my shoulders and tried to imagine where in the building Oliver would be at the moment. He should have reached Emily by now, sliding through walls as easily as I stepped through a threshold. Perhaps I could convince Miss Grey to take a quick nap, check his progress in her dream, and assuage my—

  Oliver’s head burst through the wall. I jumped, still not quite used to his head popping out of things heads shouldn’t pop out of. The rest of his body
followed and he gave us a disgruntled look.

  “What happened?” Miss Grey whispered, uncovering the lantern slightly. “Did you find Emily?”

  “I did,” Oliver said, “but she wouldn’t come.”

  “Did you tell her my name? Did you remind her about the dreams?” Miss Grey asked.

  “I tried to—she wouldn’t listen to me and when I kept trying, she said she would scream.”

  Miss Grey let out a sigh. Over the last few days she had tried to prepare Emily for this escape by entering her dreams and calming her fears. But this seemed to be just like the last time Miss Grey was here, when she had escaped the asylum herself. Emily had refused to come and Miss Grey had had no choice but to leave her behind. Judging from the dark look on my former governess’s face, she was not going to let that happen again.

  “I’ll have to speak with her,” Miss Grey said. “How many nurses have you seen in the corridors?”

  “Only one. And she’s easy to avoid because you can see her light.”

  Miss Grey turned to hand me the lantern, her face pinched and white. “Evelyn, would you wait—”

  “No,” I said firmly. “This is still my terrible plan. I’m coming with you.”

  “Very well,” she said, extinguishing the lantern’s flame entirely.

  Oliver disappeared through the locked door before realizing we could not follow. A second later, he came back with a smirk and handed us the stolen keys. “Sometimes I forget you have to deal with doors,” he said.

  “Well, you don’t have to be smug about it.”

  Miss Grey unlocked the back door, slid it open as quietly as she could, and followed Oliver into the abyss. With one hand on my governess’s back, I closed the door behind us to shut out what little guiding light remained. The pitch black was utterly disorienting, but the two of them seemed to know the way well enough. The building smelled of damp linens and pungent chemicals. I could feel Miss Grey quaking and wondered if this was conjuring up horrors from her time here before. I couldn’t get the images out of my own head and I’d only heard them from her. The stories about the nurses’ cruel treatment, the beating, the drugging, the starving, the freezing, the electrocuting, the isolating. The way they pushed patients deeper into madness to keep them here.

  I stayed close behind, concentrating on keeping my footsteps soft, steadying my breathing, and trying to quell the rising sense of fear that we’d be discovered and I’d experience those punishments firsthand. That my parents would decide to leave me here forever for our reputation’s sake. That I would fail again, fail like I had failed my sister.

  I swallowed hard, pushing down the thoughts that made my needy heart beat faster. We proceeded at a slow, methodical pace for a minute or two, taking a right turn and two lefts, pausing at one corner upon the distant echo of steps and the faint flicker of a flame. Oliver scouted ahead and waited for the corridor to descend back into complete darkness before leading us forward again. When we found ourselves at our destination, Miss Grey’s body shifted as she groped for the wall, the door, and the keyhole. With the faintest scrapings and a click, she managed to unlock the door and lead us inside.

  “Emily?” Miss Grey whispered into the darkness. “Please, don’t be alarmed. It’s me, Alice.”


  A match ignited and a thin candle seemed to materialize in midair, followed by another in Miss Grey’s lantern. Oliver blew out the match and handed me his candle. “I’ll watch the corridor,” he whispered, closing the door behind him.

  Miss Grey took a hesitant step farther into the room, raising and turning her lantern to bounce the light against the walls. It was unfurnished and tiny, making it easy to find Emily. A slim girl with ropes of dark, thick hair tumbling down over her shift was huddled on the bed, knees to her chest, staring at us from deep-set brown eyes, huge in her small, pixie-like face.

  “Emily. Do you remember me?” Miss Grey asked, shining the lantern on her own visage. “Alice. Your friend.”

  “Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice,” Emily muttered to herself as if she were reading a list in her head. Then she stiffened. “Alice! You shouldn’t be here!” Her voice had an Irish lilt.

  “Don’t worry, dear. My friends and I have come to help you escape,” Miss Grey said gently, aiming the light at me.

  At those words, Emily shook her head furiously. “But I can’t escape! I already told that boy.”

  “Why can’t you?” Miss Grey asked, eyes flicking back to the door. I felt my own nervousness grow, ready to be gone from here.

  Emily turned away from us. “I don’t wish to speak with you. Please leave. Thank you.”

  “You don’t belong in here.” Miss Grey tried again. “Just think, when we get to London, you will be able to move about freely, to do whatever you please—”

  “I can’t!” Her back was shaking. “I can’t! The ghosts! They find me wherever I go.”

  “But, Emily, there are no ghosts. Believe me. There are no ghosts.” Miss Grey looked at me helplessly, but I did not understand any more than she did. Emily believed ghosts were after her?

  “Emily, my name is Evelyn Wyndham,” I said softly. “Can you tell me about the ghosts?”

  She still did not turn, but I could hear her voice clearly in the dark, little cell. “They—they do things. They hurt people.”

  “How do they hurt people?” I asked. Did she mean the nurses and guards here? Or did she really see ghosts? Was that somehow a part of her power?

  “They knock people over and they drop things and they break down walls and they ruin everything!” Her voice rose on a frantic pitch and Miss Grey rushed to the bed, shushing her quietly.

  “It’s all right, Emily. It’s all right.” Miss Grey put her hand on Emily’s shoulder and the girl jumped slightly.

  “Don’t—they’ll hurt you. P-please. Don’t make me leave,” Emily said, shivering pitifully.

  Oliver looked in through the small opening of the door. “We should go!”

  I looked down at poor Emily on the pallet and joined Miss Grey, kneeling on her other side. “I promise, there are no ghosts where we are going.”

  She shook her head repeatedly. “They make things fly and they follow me. Always.”

  Miss Grey put her hand to her mouth, stifling a small gasp as she finally realized where Emily’s fear came from. “Dear, do you mean you think there are ghosts who control the objects around you?”

  She gave a tight nod.

  “Oh, Emily!” Miss Grey was smiling in relief, happy to explain everything to the younger woman. “That’s just your special ability to manipulate the things around you—I have mine, to see into your dreams. Evelyn here can heal sick or wounded people—and oh, there are so many others. You are not alone!”

  The girl peeked at Miss Grey through a sheet of hair. “I don’t have any special ability. It’s ghosts.”

  Oliver spoke again. “Miss Grey! We have to go!”

  I exchanged worried glances with her before deciding that getting Emily out of here was more important than not lying. “Emily, please, I promise I will cure you of the ghosts.”

  At that, she finally turned uncertainly. “You can do that?”

  “I can,” I said, making a promise I did not know I could keep. “But we have to go—now.”

  Miss Grey tugged lightly on Emily’s hand and she uncurled her limbs hesitantly. We gently pulled her to standing and I squeezed her palm as she shivered against the dampness of moldy sawdust under her feet.

  “It’s all going to be all right,” I promised again.

  We crept out of the room, Miss Grey and I each holding one of Emily’s hands, and found Oliver, rapidly dimming candle in hand. Emily shrank back but Miss Grey calmed her. “This is Oliver, our friend. He is going to lead us out.”

  Oliver barely spared Emily a glance as he gestured to the blackened passage on the left. I breathed easier with every step, more and more sure of our success. Slowly we crept along, and all seemed well—until we reached
the end of a passageway and Oliver slipped through the wall to see if our next turn was free of guards.

  But Emily didn’t know that was happening. All she saw was our guide slipping through the wall. A cry erupted from her tiny frame, rumbling the floor, the walls, the entire building.

  “Oh, Emily, please, stop, that’s just his ability!” Miss Grey pleaded with the girl. “He’s not a ghost!”

  The shaking stopped.

  Emily’s screaming stopped, too, but not because of Miss Grey’s convincing explanation. Emily had fainted into our arms. We stood frozen for a moment of fragile silence, listening, hoping earthquakes were an everyday asylum occurrence.

  An alarm began clanging. At once, Miss Grey and I rushed to Oliver, Emily’s body supported between us. We passed rooms where frantic voices spoke with curious or fearful tones. Every door we passed we willed not to open upon a group of burly guards and nurses.

  “Just one more turn,” Oliver whispered back to us. But I could feel a sense of doom creeping upon us as we rounded a dark corner that looked like every other.

  This one led to a nurse whose eyes bulged at the sudden sight of us. “Stop! Stop right there!” she yelled.

  We spun around and broke out into a full run, heading in the opposite direction. Emily’s extra weight was wearing on us, slowing Miss Grey and me down. Oliver quickly passed through our bodies, making us gasp at the oddness, and he led the way, turning left down another dank corridor. The piercing sound of a whistle followed us, calling more nurses down, the light of their lanterns brightening our paths.

  Another left and we found ourselves headed straight for an intimidating woman blocking our escape. I hesitated, but Miss Grey pushed me and Emily forward, shouting desperately, “Keep going. More are behind us.”

  In a full sprint, Oliver tossed his candlestick straight at the nurse. She barely dodged it and it clanked and clattered onto the floor behind her. Oliver used the distraction to melt through the wall to his right, disappearing completely, and before she knew what was happening, he launched himself out of the wall right beside her and brought her down with a whoop and a thud, allowing us to pass.

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