CHAPTER SEVEN: ASYLUM (4/4)

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"Goone?" Sol said.

"Keep your voice down," whispered the detective. He approached as close as the shadows would allow, taking great care to stay within them. "Get up. We have to go."

Sol got to his feet, rubbing his finger where the ring had loosened a little. "What are you doing here?"

"I'll tell you on the way. I need you to follow me."

Sol heard a moan behind him and turned to see the bearded man stumbling to his feet like a drunk out of a speakeasy. He saw Sol and staggered into a run, tripping over his own feet in his haste to get away.

"Solomon!" whispered Goone. "Come on!" The detective retreated into the shadows and disappeared into the alleyway. Sol didn't like how mysterious the detective was being, but he did as he asked and followed after him.

The alley cut a path through the buildings all the way to the other side of the block. When they reached the end, Sol saw the same black car he'd ridden in only the night before parked waiting for them on the road. The doors flung themselves open as they approached and Goone ushered Sol into the front passenger seat while he jumped in the driver's side. Both doors closed together as the car took off at high speed.

"I didn't think you were supposed to come back here," Sol said.

Goone looked out of the windows, scanning the streets in all directions. "I'm not."

"Then what are you doing here? And what's got you so spooked?"

"I don't like how the Emperor just sent you back here without any protection. We still don't know who or what killed Pan Magal—or even where. He could have come through that arch from any other arch in the world—yours or mine. If I were the Emperor, I would've sent a small army of Warlocks here to protect you. He sent you back alone. It's almost like he doesn't want you to be protected."

The car swerved around a right bend so fast that it tipped onto two wheels. Sol had to clutch his seat with both hands to stop him from falling out. The car crashed back onto all fours and accelerated off up Fifth Avenue.

"He told me Pan Magal probably brought the ring here because it would be safer," Sol said.

"He still should've sent someone to protect you."

"Is that what you're doing here?"

"More or less. This is just a hunch, but I think whoever tried to take the ring from Pan Magal isn't going to give up now. I think someone's coming for you."

The car swerved to the left as it turned another corner, throwing Sol up against his window so hard he was surprised he didn't go flying through it.

"How do I know you're not going to try and take the ring?" Sol asked.

"If I wanted it, I would have taken it from you when I first met you on that rooftop. Believe me, there was nothing stopping me."

"Maybe you've had a change of heart. Maybe you regret not taking it when you had the chance."

Goone smiled. "Yeah, maybe."

Sol looked out of the window, watching the City race by, wondering if whoever had attacked Pan Magal was now hunting him.

The car turned one last corner before coming to a swift stop. The doors swung open and Goone jumped out, followed by Sol. The moment his feet touched the ground, the car's doors closed again and it drove off into the night. Sol looked up at the enormous building they'd arrive outside and realised with a shock where he was.

"What the hell are we doing here?" he asked.

"This is where I live," replied Goone, leading Sol towards the entrance.

It had been years since Sol had last stepped foot inside the Walfdorf-Astoria Hotel. The building had stood for years as a symbol of opulence and glamour in New York. It took up an entire block and used to be the largest hotel in the world, but its glory days had recently been swept ungracefully into the past when the land it stood on was sold to make way for yet another skyscraper dubbed the Empire State Building. Construction workers had been working non-stop since October, gutting the hotel floor by floor and dismantling it from the inside-out. Now it was just another symbol of beauty sacrificed in the name of change.

"But it's being razed!" Sol said.

"Oh really? I hadn't noticed." They came to the padlocked entrance whereupon a grey cat slinked out from behind a wooden board leaning against the wall.

"Any visitors?" asked Goone.

The cat meowed and Goone took something from his pocket and dropped it on the floor—a chunk of red meat. The cat took it in its teeth and retreated behind its board.

"Did you just talk to that cat?" Sol asked.

"Anyone can talk to a cat," said Goone. "It's listening to one that's the tricky bit." The detective removed his wand from his sleeve and touched it to the padlock. It unlocked and the door opened wide.

The two men stepped inside.

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