Chapter 38: Vulpine

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The upper door sprang open, and Agata stood there, one of Mr. Goode's guards holding her shoulder like a vise. Mr. Goode's smile when he saw her was vulpine.

"Agata!" cried her mother.

Agata ran to her mother while Mr. Martin and three other guards stood back, their hands on something beneath their coats. Agata wrapped her arms around her mother and squeezed, taking in her scent, her soft exhale.

"Te quiero, mama," Agata whispered.

"I love you, too, Agata."

"And with that charming reunion, I ask that what is ours be

returned to us," said Mr. Goode.

One of the guards led Mr. Partridge, also cuffed, into the room. "We found him outside," the guard said.

"Good evening, friends," said Mr. Partridge. "You don't know

me, Madam, but I am a keen admirer of your husband's work." "Ah, Mr. Partridge," said Mr. Goode, "so good of you to join us." "Well, anywhere the Mytratti are I try to be. You know, to even

out the bad with the good."

"You've got your key, Goode," said Mr. Kincaid. "Give me the

money and I'm leaving. I'm done with this."

In a flash, Mr. Kincaid produced a pair of scissors. With a few

snips, the backpack was cut, its contents spilled on the granite floor—the map, a flashlight, some food, a spare shirt.

The Conductor's Key, bright gold flashing, fell out last, and Mr. Kincaid caught it in trembling hands.

"You have it, now let us go," said Agata. She turned to him. "You have what you need."

"I'll let you go. First, we need to ensure the authenticity of the product," said Mr. Goode. "You'll go free after we've completed what we came here to do. But first, we'll send you to a bit of a novelty on the Mytro lines. You'll quite enjoy it, Ernesto."

The tall men came forward to grab Agata, her mother, and Ernesto. They led them forward through a door on the far wall. She tripped as she moved through, and as she fell, she heard someone— probably Mr. Kincaid—mumble something in the distance.

"But where's the boy? He has the other key!" He's safe, thought Agata.

She fell and everything went dark.

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