Star Cursed - Page 71/73

“Cate!” Mélisande lopes down the hall in her trousers, her boots clapping against the floorboards. “Elena says there’s a nurse missing.”

I bite my lip. I was counting on the fact that they’d all followed some sort of procedure for the fire bell, and we had them all locked up in the uncooperative ward. If one escapes—well, Harwood is desolate enough that she’d have to walk quite a ways to find help. But we were hoping that no one would notice anything amiss until tomorrow morning, when the day nurses report for work. By then all the patients will be far away.

“Is Elena sure?” I ask.

Mélisande nods. “We’ve got to try and find her.”

Blast. “Did anyone check the matron’s office? If I were trying to hide, I’d go down to the first floor—somewhere without patients running amok. Zara, can you help Vi finish up here?”

Zara shakes her head, black curls flying. “I’ll come with you. Livvy, can you help manage this wing? See to it that everyone’s out and help them all downstairs.”

Livvy nods, and the three of us hurry down to the first floor. The front hall is bedlam. Edith is shouting out names, and half a dozen of the convent girls are trying to stop patients at the front door to give them instructions. As I watch, several women push right past them. In their haste to flee, some are none too gentle; Maud’s already holding a handkerchief to her bloody nose. Brenna, Sachi, and Rory are standing with Parvati and a thinner, taller version of Lucy Wheeler who must be her sister Grace.

I spare a smile as I turn into the south wing. It’s working.

Mélisande investigates the nurses’ sitting room, but it’s empty. Zara and I peer into the matron’s office. Thinking of my own subterfuge, I’m careful to check beneath the desk. But the room is silent and still. Zara follows along at my elbow, so close she trips over my skirt once. We look into the dining hall and the water closet, but there’s no one left.

“No one’s here except the mice,” Mélisande decides.

I catch only the smallest movement—a flutter of white out of the corner of my eye. The sheet hanging over the construction exit ripples, as if blown by a sudden gust of wind.

There’s a loud crack, and Mélisande cries out and stumbles back.

The gun fires again.

Zara is so close she knocks into my elbow when the bullet pierces her.

Intransito, I think, and the nurse is frozen. She falls through the sheet, ripping it down around her like a child pretending to be a ghost. The gun clatters to the floor, and the nurse smashes down face-first with a thud. She’s a tall woman with a red birthmark on her cheek—I’ve seen her before.

Mélisande pushes herself up, eyes scrunched in pain, hand clamped over her shoulder. Scarlet seeps between her fingers.

But Zara—Zara is lying still at my feet. A red patch blooms over the stomach of her white blouse.

I kneel next to her. “Zara?”

“Cate.” Her voice is threadbare, husky, as though it hurts to speak. “I’m sorry.”

“Why should you be sorry? You didn’t ask to get shot.”

Zara presses one hand against her stomach. Blood bubbles up.

She reaches for the locket at her throat and grimaces. “I don’t think I’ll be coming back to the convent, Cate.”

I shake my head. “Don’t be silly. Of course you will. I’ll heal you.”

Zara’s face twists in alarm, her eyes fastened on something behind me. She gives a hoarse cry. I twist around, nerves jangling, but it’s only Finn.

“It’s all right,” I say. “He’s with us.”


“A spy for the Sisterhood,” I clarify as Finn kneels next to me. “Zara, this is Finn Belastra, my fiancé. Finn, this is my godmother.”

Zara’s lips quirk upward. “Marianne’s boy.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Finn swears beneath his breath as he looks at Zara.

“And you’ll look after Cate?”

He manages a crooked grin. “We look after each other.”

“Good,” Zara says emphatically, before a coughing fit overtakes her. Finn takes a handkerchief from his pocket. It’s white, embroidered with the letter B. He hands it to me; I pass it to Zara; she presses it to her mouth. Even in the flickering candlelight, I can see that it comes away stained with blood.

I turn to Finn, taking comfort from his presence.

“I’m going to heal her, but I’ll need your help to carry her out of here,” I explain. Over his shoulder, I can see Sophia helping Mélisande to her feet.

“What should we do with the nurse?” Finn asks, his face grim.

“Take her upstairs with the others. Tell Elena to erase her memory—but leave her frozen like that,” I say, vengeful, as I look down at Zara. The hall smells coppery, like old pennies. Like blood.

I touch her hand, tentatively, and then flinch away as her pain bites through me. Zara is in agony. Like Sister Cora, she feels closer to death than life.

Can I do this? I may not be able to walk out myself afterward.

Zara raises her head, her voice barely audible. “I don’t want you to heal me, Cate. You can’t, and trying will only make you ill.”

I frown. “How do you know what I’m capable of?”

“Tess,” Zara whispers. “Her vision in my room. She saw this, too.”

That’s why she was so upset. Why she cried and hugged Zara when they said their good-byes, as if she’d never see her again.

She knew she wouldn’t.

No. I shake my head so hard my hair flies loose from its braid. “I won’t give up on you. I won’t just leave you like this for the Brothers to find.” It could take hours for her to lose consciousness. If they find her, they’ll torture her for information. She has to know that.

“There’s only one thing you can do for me, Cate.” She covers my hand with her own, her golden skin sticky with blood. Her pain cuts through me, piercing.

“I don’t understand,” I confess, leaning down. My blond hair touches her cheek. Does she want us to take her to the Sisterhood? I don’t think she would survive the jostling of the journey; I daresay it would be excruciating. “What can I do? Tell me.”

“Healing and death. You can do both. Two sides of the same coin.”

I yank my arm away. “No!”

“I’m dying anyway. Help me do it quickly, without suffering. Without them here to take pleasure in my pain. Let me have this last bit of dignity.”

Is this what I would want, in her place?

I barely have to think about it. Yes. I wouldn’t want to give the Brotherhood the satisfaction of seeing my death. I wouldn’t want to linger, in pain.

I close my eyes to shut her out, but she won’t let me. “I want to see Anna again. I’ll tell her—what a brave girl you are,” she wheezes.

You’ll bring death.

The prophecies always come true.

I lean down low, resting my forehead against Zara’s, letting her pain touch me, envelop me, until I can feel the full, excruciating extent of her injuries. I can feel her fluid-filled lungs shudder as she struggles to breathe, and the agony of the gunshot wound, and the steady, sluggish beat of her heart as it battles to keep beating.