Wit’s World: Never Was, Chapter Nine by Elizabeth Watasin

CHAPTER NINE

When Em and Buck finally broke through Dutch’s door they ran down the stairs to his apartment, only to find the young man trying to escape through a vent in the wall. He had not made it completely through due to his size. There was a coiled pile of thick extension cord among the hodgepodge of connected equipment in the room. Em grabbed it and firmly looped Dutch’s wiggling ankles. With Buck’s help and the leverage of a support post, they managed to drag Dutch out of his vent.
He cursed at them and flailed. Em secured the cord to the post while Buck checked the vent and then scrambled into it. He pulled out Dutch’s backpack and dumped the contents.
“Holy cow,” Buck said, picking up a velvet cloth bag. Inside was a shining gold admission key from the Carny Man’s era, the kind used by Gold Patrons. It was stamped with the words “WIT’S WORLD,” the Carny Man emblem laughing above it.
“Is that authentic? Wait, it has to be,” Em said as Buck gave her the Gold Key. A sensation flooded into her hand. As with Pip’s nameplate, Em felt a glow push into her body and envelop her. It was the field. She looked at Dutch and saw his frighteningly triumphant grin.
“So you felt it, huh?” he said. “That’s what it feels like when you’re accepted. With that in your hand you can get in.” His grin grew wider. “But it has only one design on it: the way in. There’s no design on these kinds of keys or on actors’ nameplates to protect you for the way out.”
“A design?” Em repeated. “You mean a code? A pattern?”
“A formula? A spell? A command?” Dutch mocked. “It’s Carny Man language. You figure it out.”
She looked down at the Gold Key in her hand. The cut of the teeth along the edge did not match Pip’s nameplate, but Em remembered what Dutch had said at the Waffle Wizard. There were several correct key patterns for the Gold Gates, not just one. She walked around to Dutch.
“You said these could unlock worlds. You knew what would happen to Pip.”
“After you see someone do something like it, you start to put things together,” Dutch said flatly. “Your sister just made the theory real.”
“Who did you see?” Buck asked.
“What is the way out?” Em said, interrupting as she hovered over Dutch. “What is the design to do it and where is that exit?”
He chuckled.
“If I knew that —”
“I think you were planning to go,” she said, putting the key safely in her messenger bag. “I doubt you wanted to exile yourself. What is the way back?”
Dutch laughed again. “Ask Wayne.”
He grabbed Buck by his belt. He threw the smaller boy into Em, sending them both falling. Dutch loosened the cord and scrambled through the vent. He was gone by the time they regained their feet.
“If he’s got any notes and stuff, I want to take them,” Buck said breathlessly, adjusting his glasses.
“Hurry.”
While Buck searched through Dutch’s shelves and tables, Em stood impatiently. For a supposedly avid collector, Em saw no evidence that Dutch stored his collection or other things of value there. The basement apartment was sparse, and looked more like a workshop with computer and electronic equipment.
“The vent gave him no trouble the second time,” she said while studying the opening.
“What?”
“Just keep looking, Buck.”
Em picked up a tool and recognized it as the kind she would use to fix the still-broken waffle machine back home. Many of the tools on the table were for automaton repair.
“Holy cow,” Buck exclaimed, staring at a black bound manuscript in his hands.
“Buck, we have to go.”
    When they were about to leave, a black car pulled up at the end of the alley. People in dark glasses and the blazers of Amazing Security emerged. Em and Buck ran back down the stairs.
They hurriedly crawled through Dutch’s escape route.
“So now Wayne Wally’s after Dutch,” Buck said while he followed Em. Her feet suddenly disappeared and to his relief, he felt her hands reach back in to help pull him out.
“I never figured him for a troublemaker,” he said when he could stand up. They were in an adjacent basement room, this one with a boiler. “Unfriendly, yeah, but what a collector! I just don’t get . . . why go through this much trouble? It was so public how Pip disappeared. Why would he want that?”
Em didn’t answer until they were up the stairs and running down another alleyway for the nearest trolley stop. No security people could be seen.
“I doubt Dutch wanted that,” Em finally answered. “But if he were doing this for someone else, that person did.”

* * *

They rode the trolley back to the Waffle Wizard. Buck couldn’t think of anyone for whom Dutch might have been working. Em’s observation made sense, however. Whoever orchestrated Pip’s vanishing act had gotten Wayne Wally’s attention for sure, which brought the question back to who would want that. Em didn’t speculate with Buck, so he gave the matter a rest.
Buck retrieved the manuscript from Em’s messenger bag and flipped through it during the trolley ride. He couldn’t believe it when he saw it on Dutch’s desk because the book was one of those rare facsimiles that the Amazing Company would love to keep away from collectors. It was a copy of one of the Carny Man’s secret notebooks.
The copy he was thumbing through was known by park enthusiasts to be the only one existing; all the other notebooks were presumed lost. Buck had a few photocopies of brief excerpts from the fabled manuscript but he had never seen a complete version before. Some parts were blacked out and censored as they were in the original. He leafed through to a page Dutch had bookmarked. It was an entry about that fateful night when the Carny Man made his park appear on the edges of Silver City. Buck scanned the page.
“Holy cow,” he said.
He looked over at Em. While he had been valiantly hugging a pole in order to read the manuscript with both hands, Em had stood poised next to him. She held on and swayed with the pauses and jerks the trolley made as it rumbled along the streets. Her eyes were closed in meditation.
“Em,” Buck said. “I know I said that Pip’s idea about being in another dimension sounded really crazy, but . . . well, there’s that group of Carny Man followers who said he dabbled in the dark arts, which I also wasn’t going to believe. But it can’t be denied that lots of the Carny Man’s tricks and illusions looked like that kind of magic.
“One of the legends said that the Carny Man raised his park by drawing in chalk on the ground,” Buck continued. “When I was little I really wanted to believe it. You used to draw in chalk on the sidewalk for me and Pip and we’d pretend it all became real, remember? So now I’m thinking, why not? I can almost believe it. Look at this. Wit Wally, Sr. himself wrote it.” He handed the manuscript to her.
She opened her eyes and looked at him. When hard things happened to Em she would become more and more remote, or even stop speaking. Buck understood that. She had just lost Pip and Buck himself was trying not to think about how he might never see his friend again. The least he could do was believe in the other dimension and help Em get Pip back.
Em accepted the notebook.
“‘Our world is not alone,’” she read. “‘We stand within ourselves, possibilities upon possibilities, even now. She has opened one of these worlds to me and I have taken to it. In return I’ve made her the Heart of It All that can realize thought into being. In there I create what could be or not be. I call it Never Was.’”
“It’s the Wit’s World that Pip is in,” Buck said. “Just like she described, in black and white.”
“Who do you think the ‘she’ is?” Em asked.
“I think the Carny Man’s wife, Evelyn Wally.”
Em would have easily figured that out for herself, but Buck could tell she was playing the skeptic in order to hear the same conclusions said out loud.
“Wit, Sr.’s wife Evelyn was reputed to be the serious practitioner of the mystical,” she said in agreement. “But the Carny Man was a trickster. Why should he call upon the arcane except as yet another act? It’s no more supernatural than what my grandpapa did; reading minds and summoning apparitions.”
“Em, as much as I don’t like thinking of the Carny Man as some occultist I can’t ignore that this manuscript is heavily censored. I’m pretty sure the excised parts had to do with his supernatural activities, which the Wally family and Amazing would love to keep from the public. When he disappeared he was last seen spending time with witch doctors living in the Bermuda Triangle. There’s photographic evidence. If that’s not proof of him dabbling in something, I don’t know what is.”
“And this other dimension?” Em said. “Wit, Sr. is writing passionately here. It could all be metaphorical, not literal.”
“Well, science already says there are additional dimensions, invisible, parallel, and probably unattainable to people like us —”
“There are fourteen dimensions recognized so far,” Em said. A small smile almost appeared on her lips. “But there’s really an infinite number. They’re most likely attainable, we just can’t survive in them.”
“Oh, okay,” Buck agreed. He felt like he was in one of Em’s tutoring sessions. “So back to the dimension of Never Was, which Pip can survive in. When you think about it, the Carny Man was a really cunning guy. Look at what he accomplished. He could top any illusionist of his time and baffle any science enthusiast out to debunk him. Combine all that with, well, supernatural knowledge, the really serious kind that gets results. The Carny Man didn’t make his wife Queen of Carny and Night for nothing; she was a snake charmer and was called a sorceress back in their time. With Evelyn helping, it’s possible he could have lucked out, crossed over, and done what no one could. I can believe what he writes there, Em. He found something. He had a real, alternate universe somewhere and it has a version of his park.”
“And now it has Pip,” Em said. “I’m going to her, Buck.”
He nodded. They had a Gold admission key. He didn’t want to lose Em either, but it was a foregone decision. He saw the tears that Em had held back, welling in her eyes.
“Thank you, Buck,” she said.

* * *

They came home to a busy Saturday at the Waffle Wizard. The Darings had not yet returned from Amazing World in their battle to hold someone accountable for their daughter’s disappearance. They were dragging out the altercation as long as possible and this suited Em because she needed time to prepare. Em phoned their parents and June was very unhappy to learn that Pip was cut off from them. Em shared what she learned from Dutch and Pip with her father but didn’t mention that she had acquired a working admission key. Unlike Pip, Em was not very good at being devious and it took a great effort for her not to just tell her dad everything.
“Another dimension,” Daniel said.
“Yes, Daddy.”
“Huh . . . one with ageless men, simultaneous day and night, trains that change, a bigger-than-life fantasy park, and a possible man-made star.”
“Yes.”
“Sounds like a wish fulfillment dimension,” he said in bemusement.
Em was relieved that her dad was so open minded that he could help them. She felt terrible that she was going to betray her parents by leaving.
“And Pip is with some man who calls himself Wit, Junior,” Daniel then said in a hard tone. “This is not going to go over well with your mother.”
“You’ll explain it to her?”
“Honey, she’ll take it better coming from you.”
“No, Daddy, you tell her.”
Her dad muttered something under his breath.
“What?” Em asked.
“The phones,” he said with a sigh. “She’ll ask why Pip can call us when she’s in another dimension.”
“That’s easy. In the Carny Man’s words, ‘We stand within ourselves, possibilities within possibilities.’ Pip is still here. Whether right beside us in the closest slice of dimension possible, or above or below. Or even in our own shoes —”
“Yes, I agree,” Daniel said.
“That’s why Pip can call us.”
Daniel was silent.
“Tell Mama it’s because of the star. The star is a satellite,” Em said.
“That’s good, honey. I’ll do that.”

* * *

Support staff ran the Waffle Wizard that evening and everyone was concerned for the Daring family, giving Em what comfort they could. Before Em could retreat to their attic room, Thorn knocked on the back door. She was alone. She held an arrangement of flowers.
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Thorn said as she and Em hugged. “Has anyone found a way to get Pip back?”
“Yes,” Em said. “She’s trapped in a Wit’s World that’s in another dimension. I’m going to go in there to get her back.”
Thorn looked from Em to Buck, who was seated at the kitchen nook. He shrugged. She looked back again. Em looked at her expectantly.
“Let’s go up to your room and catch up,” Thorn finally said.
While climbing the stairs, Em briefly explained the particulars of what happened to Pip and the qualities of this other dimension.
“Em,” Thorn said thoughtfully when they reached the attic room, “did you ever meet Shade’s sister?”
Em looked at her with astonishment. “You know about Wila?”
“Then you’ve met her?”
“No. Shade only told me about her before he left for Europe. He swore me to secrecy. How did you know?”
“She went to the same private school as my brother. Remember that school I refused to go to? Perfect for the over-protected.” Em nodded in agreement. “We met by accident over there and we became friends. . . . Well, as much as a person could be friends with a secret Wally. Then Wila was sent to live with her dad in Europe about two years ago.”
Thorn weighed her next words. When she looked at Em, her gaze was grave.
“Wila would mention things like what you’re talking about now,” she said. “You should get in touch with her.”
Em started. Even Thorn did not know about Wila’s death.
“What she talked about sounded like family secrets, no matter how silly or unbelievable,” Thorn continued. “I didn’t want her to confide in me if that was the case. You’re a very practical person. Hearing you talk about these things means you’re taking this seriously.”
“I have to. Pip is involved.”
“Then get Shade’s help to talk to Wila. She said her great-grandmother was a real sorceress, not pretend. She wanted so much to be a witch herself and I never put much into it, but I guess I will now.”
“Thorn, I . . .”
Em looked at her concerned friend and realized she was in a very difficult position. It was not her place to let Thorn know about Wila.
“Shade is such a jerk!” Em said with quiet fury.
Thorn’s eyes lit up with mischief. “More Wally secrets?”
“Yes,” Em answered miserably. “You’ll have to ask him. So you don’t know anything more than what I’ve shared with you?”
“I’m sorry, that’s all I know.”
“Is that why you stopped going to Spook Town’s annual Dark Day with us?” She remembered her and the other Dark Victorians’ disappointment when Thorn declined the day trips. “For two years, you wouldn’t go. Did Wila spook you?”
Thorn looked at her solemnly. “Yes. She did. Be careful, Em.”

* * *

Em gave Thorn the Tragedy In Death tickets. After she left, Em focused on her mission and prepared for her trip through the Gold Gate. She would not leave Pip alone in another world and she truly believed there was a way back. Buck was committed to doing all he could and her parents would also never give up. Even if it took a few years, the trick would be solved and Em and Pip would come back.
She wrote a letter to her mother to be placed on their parents’ dresser. Though her sibling was not present, she had also signed Pip’s name to the letter. She packed her messenger bag and hid a few things on her person: the silver throwing dagger inscribed with her aunt’s name was in her boot, the lock pick was in her sleeve, a magician’s flash device was against one wrist, and her mace was hidden away at her side in her skirt’s waistband. The Gold Key hung by a band from the wrist of her right hand. She flicked it out from her hand like a playing card. Another sleight of hand and it was gone. She picked up her camera, unfocused the lenses, and stared through the viewfinder at her blurred reflection in the mirror. The white field that had surrounded Pip was now surrounding her. She posed before the mirror with the Gold Key upheld. She took the picture, rewound and removed the film, and sealed it in an envelope addressed to her father. She laid it on top of her mother’s letter and the black bound manuscript.
When she felt that everything was situated she placed a small ear piece firmly in her ear and plugged it into her phone. She attached the phone to her belt. Then she called Buck.
“HQ,” he said when he answered. The staff manning the Waffle Wizard’s kitchen could be heard in the background.
“Test,” Em said. She chose a lipstick and gently touched the edges of her lips and shaped the black color.
“Hear you loud and clear, Em. How does the ear piece feel?”
“Perfect. What more have you found out from Dutch’s stuff?”
Buck had been going through the additional papers he had taken from Dutch’s apartment. He sighed. “As far as I can tell from his notes, your and Pip’s keys will not let you back into our world. It’s a one-way deal by design. But, there’s a private door somewhere that’s a ‘Wally-only’ door. It’s built to be a stable entrance like the Gold Gate. It’s a back-and-forth kind of portal. You just need the right key, the one with the right design. I got a drawing here of the door and some emblem that goes on it. Dutch draws like a two-year-old, by the way.”
“Wayne Wally must know about this door.”
“Yeah, exactly. And so this is my theory. Wait a minute. Hey, Wit the Fourth, you’re not allowed up there!”
Em heard Shade’s steps just as Buck shouted in her ear. She went to her bedroom door, automatically turning in profile.
“Wit, you know the rules,” she said. Shade stared up from the stairs.
“Em, if you have your rapier . . . don’t use it on me,” Shade said. “I just needed to see how you are.”
“Better. I’ve lost contact with Pip.” Shade looked away.
“About the fake park thing . . .” he began.
“There’s nothing to it, is there?”
Shade let out a breath. “I’m sorry. I checked myself. It’s just not big enough underground for what she described. I took your parents through practically every inch. Pip would have found an exit long before now.”
“We know where she is. Let’s join Buck in the kitchen.”
When Shade heard the story of the alternate dimension, of a Wit’s World that never was, he decided his family had to be the most insane in the universe, in whatever dimension.
“I’m . . . not sure about this,” he finally said.
Em watched Shade across the kitchen table and wondered what his twin Wila had been like. Unlike Shade, who willfully ignored anything having to do with his family, Wila had been curious enough to pay attention. Em was certain that had she and Pip been Wallys, no secret would have remained so for very long.
“This is my theory,” Buck said as he ate waffles. “Wayne is the greedy twin. He uses the Carny Man Trap to imprison his very creative brother in the magical world where Wit, Jr. can make his fantastic ideas a reality. It’s cost-effective, see. Wayne then travels between the worlds, periodically stealing Wit, Jr.’s secrets and improving his Amazing park, making it more and more successful—”
“Travels how? By plane?” Shade said.
“Fourth, just listen. When Wit, Jr. disappeared, three of his best Builders also did. Why? Edward Dently, the architect of Dark Town, Ray Buster Higgs, Wit, Jr.’s right hand man for Astraopolis —”
“Wait,” Shade interrupted.
“All these guys,” Buck continued, “just gone, at the same time. People thought maybe Wit, Jr. and his team staged a vanishing act and were in hiding somewhere, working on stuff in secret, but on this planet and not in some other dimension.”
“This is crazy,” Shade said, shaking his head. Em quietly pulled Dutch’s drawing of the door. She showed it to Shade.
“Have you ever seen this?” she asked.
“That’s your Uncle Wayne’s magic door. That’s how he travels, not by plane,” Buck said. It was a heavy, well-crafted door. Next to the large ornate door handle was a circle with arrows turning in a clockwise motion.
“No,” Shade said. “I haven’t. But the design drawn over here, it looks like what’s on our family rings. We all have them.”
“Can you look for this door?” Em asked.
Magic doors, other dimensions, disappeared men; Shade sat back in bewilderment and wondered why the feel of the moment seemed familiar, though not the circumstance. In his mind he could replace Em sitting across the table from him with Wila. He remembered his sister’s excited eyes. “Do you know what our family is capable of?” she had whispered to him conspiratorially, her precious notebook beneath her hand. “Do you know what we can do?”
“Wit?” Em asked softly.
“Em,” Shade said, returning his attention to their problem. “I know you believe Pip. It’s just too weird for her to make up, so I’ll believe her, too. My grand-uncle Wayne is a tyrant. He has to control everything. The only place this kind of door could be is in his inner offices. Those suites used to belong to my great-grandfather, too.”
“Jackpot,” Buck said.
“Do you think you can find it tonight?” Em said. “I don’t want Pip in that other place any longer.”
Shade grinned and got up from the table. Taking the paper with the drawing of the door, he folded it and stuffed it into his back pocket. He winked at Em.
When Shade left, Buck turned to Em. “You’re good,” he said.
“I thought he’d never leave.” Em sighed. “Pip needs me. I can’t wait for him. If the door is real, help him open it on this side. Whether our keys have the right design for returning or not, I’ll push Pip through.”
“Pip’ll toss you through. You’ll have to do this all over again.”
She smiled. “It’s time.”
“I know,” he said. “Em, the Wit’s World you are entering will be nothing like the ones you or I know of. I’ll guide you as best as I can. And tell Pip I expect her back because she’s not weaseling out of my first juggling lesson.”

* * *

Pip’s disappearance had caused a sensation. The park’s entrance gates drew a good number of gawkers who, since they were no longer allowed near the Gold Gate, took pictures at a designated distance. Four security hosts silently watched the Gate at the plaza entrance and four more were inside the park. Clouds gathered as evening fell, dimming the sunset and obscuring the rising moon.
Rif Walker felt the cool evening fall as people moved through the turnstiles at the park admission gates. He sat at an outdoor table at Art’s Coffee with Duke Schwartz, the owner. While he ate his chicken soup, turkey sandwich, pickle, and side of salad, Duke explained how he managed to safeguard his father’s shop and the rest of the Strip from Amazing.
“Art’s is a landmark, see,” Duke said, “but more than the others because of our notoriety. My dad was really big in the community back during the space fantasy age. He even ran for King of Silver City, which was usually won by strong men. So think of how a skinny Jewish guy is trying to compete against bodybuilders and weightlifters and you get an idea of what kind of publicity that made for the shop and how popular that made my dad.”
“So, Art’s is famous. That’s why it’s safe from a buyout,” Rif said. “And demolition.”
“Look, we’re right here in the most visited spot in Silver City,” Duke said, waving to the plaza. “Dexter’s is a favorite with everyone because a trusted family pharmacist is important. They’re generational like us; no one wants to see them leave. Woot’s over there belongs to my uncle Wootie. We’re too well known and people grew up with us.
“But I know you’re curious about the Wizard,” Duke said. “It’s from the turn of the century so it’s a lot older. It’s showing its age, too. I sponsor beauty contests like ‘Queen of Silver City,’ stuff like that. June and Daniel don’t have that kind of money. So I’m working the mainstream and being a community figure, and they’re in their magician niche being quiet folk, but quiet folk don’t get left alone. Their kids were right to try for that publicity stunt. The Wizard needs something badly.”
Rif stopped eating. He hung his head, thinking about the twins’ sacrifice.
“Hey,” Duke said.
“I gotta quit,” Rif said in a low voice. “I can’t work for my dad anymore.”
Duke gripped Rif’s shoulder in support and let go. “Do what you gotta do,” he said.
Both men stared at the park entrance with its heavily guarded Gold Gate. Rif hadn’t known the gravity of the threat to the Waffle Wizard until breakfast with Em and her family earlier that day. Pip’s publicity stunt had sounded over the top but after witnessing it on television, with Pip standing at the Gold Gate like a heroine out of books, Rif saw how she could have succeeded in publicizing the Wizard’s plight if only she hadn’t disappeared.
To his surprise, Em appeared in the plaza, emerging from the dusk. She walked slowly towards Art’s, her attention on the Gold Gate.

* * *

“HQ,” Em whispered into her mike.
“HQ here,” Buck answered. “I’m in the chair and ready. I’m not even going to take a pee break.” After they had parted at the Waffle Wizard, Buck returned to his parents’ apartment and readied his room. He was surrounded by books and reference material that might help Em in Never Was. He had his headset on. The mini-fridge was full of soda and astro-snacks. He turned on his monitors and cued up a documentary tape.
“Thank you, I needed to hear that,” Em whispered in a wry tone. She took a deep breath, watching the security guards. “It’s surrounded,” she told Buck.
“Nuts. It’s too bad Mr. Dangerous and Ben are still detained. I can’t believe that Amazing is trying to pin Pip’s disappearance on them. They’re doing it just to switch the blame and distract your parents.”
“Yes. Mom’s not going to buy it, though, so hopefully your friends will be released soon. I think I will wait this out. Perhaps the guards will leave when the park closes.”
“Okay, Em. That’s going to be a while. Want to cut contact?”
“Yes.”
“Then I’m going to the bathroom. Talk to you later.”
After Em hung up and removed the ear piece, she made her way to Art’s Coffee. It was a twenty-four-hour coffee shop, so Em resolved to buy something, take a seat, and sketch for a while. She saw Duke sitting with Rif outside. Rif rose at her presence and Duke laughed and did the same.
“I haven’t done that since my first wife,” Duke joked. “Em sit down so we can go back to sitting, too.”
“Thank you, Mr. Schwartz. Rif,” Em said demurely. Her dark lashes fluttered as she took a seat.
“Em,” Rif said. “What happened to Pip . . . I’m sorry.” He dropped his gaze self-consciously. He wanted to say something helpful but he didn’t know what. He had never seen siblings as close as the Darings.
Em somehow understood. After such a trying day of loss and surprises, Rif’s concern was both comforting and welcomed. “Thank you,” she said softly.
“Are you here to look for Pip some more?” Duke asked.
“Yes. I was going to wait for the guards to leave and then look.”
Duke shook his head. “They’re going to do something to that Gold Gate tonight. Maybe dismantle it. The head of security had coffee here this afternoon and told my boy they were going to take care of it so that what happened to Pip won’t happen again.”
Em started in her seat. “They can’t! Pip needs to come back!” she said.
“Better let them know quick. Looks like it’s starting,” Duke said. A small utility vehicle drove across the plaza. It stopped before the Gold Gate and the driver and his companion disembarked. They both wore coveralls. The vehicle carried large wood boards.
“Well that’s going to look ugly,” Duke said. “They’re boarding it up. I gotta complain about that.”
“Excuse me,” Em said. She stood up. “I have to go.”
Rif hastily rose, pulled some bills from his wallet, and put them on the table. He followed after Em as she walked across the plaza. Bemused, Duke also rose and ambled behind the youngsters at a distance.
“Em,” Rif said when he had caught up to her. She stopped and put in her ear piece.
“I have to go in and get Pip,” she said. Em looked to the Gold Gate and then showed Rif the Gold Key in her palm.
Rif started, staring at the old, ornate piece of metal in her hand. It was cut in a pattern along the edges and had stamped letters that said ‘Wit’s World.’ With a sinking feeling he realized what Em would do with it. He did not like the idea at all.
“Can you come back?” he asked, under his breath.
“Yes.”
That would have to do. He put away the little voice telling him that this might be yet another of his bad decisions. Checking to see if Em would follow, he walked towards the Gate. Em touched her phone.
“Buck, I’m going to do it,” Em said when her call was answered. She hovered just behind Rif’s right shoulder like a little black wing.
“Already? Okay, I’m with you,” Buck said excitedly.
Rif broke into a run. Em accelerated, staying right behind him. People began to shout, realizing that something was happening. Rif let out a threatening roar to focus all of security’s attention on him. He engaged the first two, throwing one into the third guard.
Em ran past Rif’s attack. She swiftly inserted and turned the key as Pip had. The ornate gears started to rotate. A guard grabbed her by the waist and picked her up. She kicked to no avail.
“Let her go in!” Duke shouted. “Let that girl go in!”
The man loosened his grip when Duke tapped him hard to get his attention. Em twisted out of his grasp and rushed for the turnstile again. The Gold Gate was completely open. Four more guards converged on the other side. She stepped through.
Rif shoved the security hosts away just in time to see Em vanish into thin air. With an angry shout he threw one of the men over the gold turnstile. He landed on the other side and didn’t disappear. Rif knew he wouldn’t; he’d seen what happened in the attempt earlier that day. As he fled across the plaza he felt as if a big hole had been torn inside of him.
Duke stopped interfering with the security host who was gaping at the spot where Em had disappeared. He melded into the chattering crowd and quickly crossed the plaza. His sister Val stood outside the shop with several other spectators, her arms crossed as she pensively watched the gates.
Val spoke to him.
“Do you realize that’s the second girl you’ve helped through there?”
Duke ran a hand over his face.
“Look, I already said, I had no idea, not a clue, that somehow Pip was in danger of, you know, going some place else. C’mon, Val, it was an old actor’s key; nothing special about it. The kids really needed to do that stunt.”
Val stared at the gates and shook her head.
“I should have watched the shop this morning,” she said. “I wouldn’t have let them do it. You heard Dad’s stories. We grew up watching those gates, sometimes camping out here in front, wondering if one night we’d finally catch someone coming out from that unknown place Dad talked about. Now we’ve seen two girls go in.”
“To wherever that is,” Duke said. “I never thought it was dangerous. Dad heard all that from you-know-who. But you know how the Emma girl is. She needs to be with her twin.”
“The Darings are going to find out because I’m going to tell them. And they’re not going to be happy with you.”
“Eh,” Duke said, shrugging.
“God, you never think.”
The boards were hastily nailed to the Gold Gate, boxing it in. The noise carried across the plaza. Val turned away and Duke followed her into Art’s.
“I wish those girls all luck,” she said under her breath.

* * *

Buck held his breath. He had listened to the explosive battle that broke out, his heart thumping. When the sounds of struggle stopped, he managed to move his lips again.
“Em?” he asked hesitantly.
“I’m in,” she said.

end Chapter 9

This ends ACT I II

Wit’s World: Never Was ©Elizabeth Watasin 2011

WIT’S WORLD: NEVER WAS is Reader Supported. Thank You!

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