Mirena is already gone. Pain throbs behind my eyes and I collapse back onto the couch when I try to sit up. I take several calming breaths despite the sense of urgency souring my stomach. Once the pain subsides I manage to sit and search for my cell phone, finally finding it between the couch cushions.
Somehow, the stone is with Grant. Inside Grant, if that’s possible. And Mirena knows. Does Grant? I dismiss the thought, focusing on Mirena’s intentions.; she has proven on multiple occasions that her ends justify her means. But what can I do? It’s not like I can call 911.
I check the clock on my phone; I’m not certain of the exact time Mirena pulled me under, but it must have been at least twenty minutes ago. This means Mirena purposefully rendered me unconscious – not an encouraging thought. It also means she’s probably already reached his apartment, if she knows where he lives. A detail she easily could have swiped from my head, I realize. I dial his number anyway, hoping I’m wrong and that there’s still time to warn him.
When no one answers I quickly rush to the door and throw on my shoes and coat while dialling Brie’s number. No answer there either. Shit.
I shut the door behind me, refusing to stop long enough to lock it. I press the elevator call button at least a dozen times while I consider running down all eleven flights of stairs. When I finally squeeze my way into the elevator car I’m forced to wait as it stops for people getting on and off. The other passengers glare at me as I tap my foot and cross then uncross my arms. The second we arrive at the main floor I shove the young man ahead of me out of the way and bolt through the glass doors.
I don’t bother stopping for a bus, not risking the chance that I may have to wait again. Running will be faster. I focus only on increasing the pounding rhythm of my rubber soles on the pavement. Pushing myself harder and harder as the frigid air scrapes the inside of my lungs like glass. Faster. Faster. A small voice asks what the hell I think I’m doing. I’m too late anyway, and even if I weren’t, what the hell can I do against Mirena?
Whatever I can, I tell it and it quickly shuts up, allowing me to concentrate on the length of my stride and the burning in my lungs.
My muscles seize and bile rushes into my mouth when I stop in front of Grant’s building. I force a swallow and remind myself that I’m almost there. Not much further.
I don’t bother waiting for this elevator, instead bounding up the stairs two at a time. I don’t knock when I reach Grant’s door, just open it and dash inside. I’m too out of breath to shout for anyone and luckily I don’t have to — seated across from each other at the kitchen island, staring up at me in surprise, are Mirena and Brie. There are tears in Brie’s eyes. Behind them, Grant leans over the kitchen sink with his head down.
Brie stands up and walks over to me, pausing to shoot a distrustful look at Mirena. “Selene, are you okay? Did you run the whole way here?”
“Why… the hell… didn’t you answer your phone?” I pant.
“I didn’t even think to check it,” she admits, guiding me to a seat at the island, “I mean this crazy bitch bursts in here and grabs his arm without explaining anything… and then Grant gets back all these crazy memories…”
“You didn’t know?” I ask, and I watch as Grant shakes his head, still turned away from us.
“The memory was buried deep,” Mirena states with disinterest, as if she is discussing the weather rather than the betrayal of a human being. “The stone is in his stomach. He bumped into Johannes shortly after they erased his memory. A number of Johannes’ tattoos were designed to detect magic, and I don’t think Grant had completely recovered from his memory being worked over so heavily; he must have been pretty confused if even Johannes put the pieces together.”
“Can you please not talk about me like I’m not here?” Grant’s voice is harsh and strained. I can imagine how he feels, finding out his memories have been stolen. That people have made choices for him that could change his life.
“Are you okay, Grant?” I ask, but I know it’s a stupid question. Brie walks over to him and touches his arm. He flinches until he looks up and sees that it is her. He turns and looks at me, his face softer than I expect. When he speaks it isn’t with anger, but with a sad sort of acceptance.
“It’s going to take surgery to get it out. Hunter had a contact he left with me, in case anyone ever got hurt. She’s said she’ll help,” he grabs Brie’s hand, holding it tightly, “We’ll have to act quickly. I’ll contact Yagher and set up an exchange. I’ll be in recovery for a while after the operation, so I won’t be able to go with you.”
“But if they find out you’ve been helping Hunter…”
“It doesn’t matter now. I’m done with secrets and games. Once I’m out of recovery, we’re running. I’ll book us a couple of flights out of here and go from there. I’ve used my magic for stuff like this before,” he throws me a half smile, but I can see the effort behind it, “If you get Hunter out, you can come with us.”
I smile back, “I doubt he’d go for it. He’d say we’re needed here. He probably won’t even approve of us using the stone to get him back.”
His smile fades, gone nearly as quickly as it had come, “I know.”
We arrange Grant’s surgery with a Dr. Bethany Hill. Though I am certain it is against multiple regulations, she squeezes him in only a day later. In truth, I’m thankful for her haste and I try not to think about what risks it may pose for Grant.
Less than an hour before his surgery Grant sits on the edge of a gurney, already in his hospital gown and tucked away into a private room at the General Hospital – thanks to Dr. Hill’s intervention. He dials Marle’s number on a cell phone (the call another concession made by our wonderful contact).
“We have the stone, Marle. Though I guess I’ve always had it. We want Hunter.”
Brie and I sit on hard plastic chairs in front of Grant, both leaning forward expectantly. We hope arranging the exchange as soon as possible will reduce the time that Marle has to interfere with our plans, or set a trap for us.
As expected, Marle is furious and I can hear his raised voice even if I can’t quite make out his words. When Grant hangs up, he turns to us looking both concerned and confused.
“Is it…we’re too late?” I ask before my throat tightens and the tears begin to escape. I’ve been fighting to hold them back, certain that crying is an admission that I’ve given up hope.
Grant shakes his head and I feel my shoulders drop as the tension in my muscles dissipates. Brie takes my hand.
“Marle doesn’t know where Hunter is.”