The trio climbed two flights of stairs with Agata leading the way, past the locked doors of the other two flats in the building, and finally came to the Llorente apartment. She unlocked the door with another big key and led the others into a darkened foyer lined with shoes and coats.
The apartment was cold, and the stillness in the air unnerved Turtle. Through the door it looked like the apartment was in disarray, but it was dark and they couldn't see much. Then Agata flicked on some lights and the extent of the damage became clear.
Many of the cabinets had been ransacked, items strewn everywhere. Some of the coats that clotted the front hall had been stomped on, and the television was overturned. Pictures had been taken down from the walls, the glass broken to check behind the images. There was a whiff of vanilla and a deeper scent that reminded Turtle of the orange paella.
"Geez," said Turtle.
"They must have done this after I left," said Agata, choking back tears. Turtle led her past the living room and into the dining room then into a little hall that led to the kitchen. Here there was less damage, but it was still a mess.
"The study is up here," she said, pointing at a wrought-iron spiral staircase. She turned on a light and began climbing, her footsteps clanging on the steps.
When they reached the top, all three of them stopped. It looked
like the room had exploded. Agata began to cry, a tear rolling down her left cheek to her chin.
Books and papers lay scattered on the floor, and many of the filing cabinets had been gutted, their contents pulled out and crushed on the desk and chairs. Whoever had ransacked the place threw books from the bookshelf, leaving their spines shattered. A computer monitor lay facedown on the floor surrounded by a halo of broken glass. A huge stack of papers lay in a rainbow from the stairs down to the far end of the attic.
Agata moaned, long and softly. She turned to face Turtle and buried her face in his shoulder. "Where is he?" she asked. "Where's my father?"
Turtle looked around. The room looked like the attic of a train buff. There were pictures of old subway trains, a few printed schedules, and a whole wall covered in pinned-up train track maps from the 1970s, their colors faded and the paper turning yellow with age.
On one wall, in a huge, ornate frame, was an etching of a statue of an angel falling from the sky. Underneath it Turtle read Parque Del Buen Retiro, Madrid. In bold black letters was the word Lucifer. The devil.
Turtle shuddered and cast his gaze on the rest of the room. Certain things were immediately apparent when you knew what to look for. What train had a stop in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as one large map was marked? Why would a normal subway stop five times in the middle of Central Park, in Manhattan, where inked train lines crisscrossed the city like a spider's web? As Turtle looked more closely, none of the trains represented on the wall existed in real life. There were drawings of Mytro passenger and carrier cars featuring hand-drawn annotations showing various parts of the control panel and wheel structure. Maps covered every inch of exposed wall, carefully outlining the various stops. Many of these drawings and maps had been torn down, wisps of paper still hanging from metal thumbtacks pushed into the plaster and crumpled in a pile near the edges of the room. Someone had punched a hole in the wall, as if looking for something hidden behind it.
Turtle's foot brushed what looked like a huge, squashed bug made of electronics: someone had stepped on a computer mouse,
splaying it open. The force and anger that it must have taken to squash it like that was frightening.
Next to the desk was a plain wooden door leaning up against the wall. It was still in its frame and was reinforced with light wooden two-by-fours around the edge. The door was slightly damaged—there were scratches along the surface, and the green brass handle was slashed a few times with something sharp and hard, the corroded metal cut away to expose the brighter metal underneath. Someone had written a small numeral 13 on the wood in black marker.
Mr. Kincaid walked over to the door and tapped it once, lifting it away from the wall and then putting it back. He smiled broadly.
"Now this is a fascinating creation. It's a byproduct of the Conductor's Key. Clearly your father knew what he was doing," he said. "It takes a person with a special understanding of the Mytro to use this. It was one of the best kept secrets of the Blitz."
There was a hasp on the door, roughly screwed into the worn wood, and an open padlock hung from it. Mr. Kincaid pulled off the padlock and put it into his pocket. Then he reached out to turn the handle and, with a click, opened the door.
It looked like a magician's trick: through the door was a station— ever so gently slanted because of the angle of the door to the wall. It was complete and quite small, similar in size to the wine cellar they had used to enter the restaurant. As Mr. Kincaid held open the door, a gust of wind threatened to shut it again as the Mytro stormed down the tracks.
The sight of the Mytro through this odd door took Turtle's breath away. It was easy to imagine dragons and castles and ancient wizards, but to see magic in real life—or what Turtle imagined was magic—was something else entirely.
A moment later the train doors closed and the train was off again. The chime echoed in the attic. Mr. Kincaid closed the door before the next train roared through.
"That's amazing," muttered Turtle.
"It really is," said Agata. "I had no idea he had this. Now I know what he was doing. Some nights I'd hear that bell, that chime."
"There were a few of these made around the world, but I thought all of them had been destroyed. Your father was very good
at understanding and harnessing the technology that controlled the Mytro. Very, very good. You can be proud, Agata," said Mr. Kincaid. Looking at the door made Turtle queasy. He realized that the Mytro was nowhere, that the Mytro didn't exist in any way he could easily understand. It was a space that could hold multitudes but, in the end, wasn't really there. Mr. Kincaid placed the lock back
into the hasp, unlocked.
"Now we need to find your father's Map. Every Mytro scholar
has their own, but I'm sure your father's is much more interesting. Maybe there's a clue on there," said Mr. Kincaid.
"Who did all this damage?" asked Turtle as he picked up the fallen pages and tried to put them back into order.
"Enemies," said Mr. Kincaid.
"My father had no enemies. He was a scientist," said Agata angrily.
"Sadly, that isn't true. This is a strange world. Some people who studied the Mytro, the Mytratti, thought your father was a rebel. They asked him for his work, tried to buy it, tried to coerce him with threats. He didn't want to share his work, and he was so far advanced that it was an absolute shame. There are many who, like him, had dedicated their lives to the Mytro. They were angry he wouldn't share his knowledge."
"Maybe he had good reason," said Agata. "Maybe," said Mr. Kincaid.
YOU ARE READING
Imagine if, right now, clattering underneath your feet was a secret train system that could take you anywhere in minutes. Imagine a trip full of mystery and excitement from New York to Barcelona to the wind-swept coast of Italy to the edge of space...