“It looks like it might rain. Are you sure this is a good idea right now?”
“You’re not made of sugar.”
“No, but that doesn’t mean I want to get soaked though.” As if to prove her point, a low growl of thunder rolled in the distance.
“That’s nowhere near here, we won’t get more than a drizzle. Besides, there’s plenty of cover if we need it. C’mon.”
Clara watched as Wayne Warrow strode through the amusement park gates without hesitation. He would go without her, she knew, so she hurried after him.
“It hardly looks open.”
“It hardly is.”
The fall air was heavy with moisture, cold, and windless. They cast no shadows. No, that wasn’t quite true. Everything was in shadow and theirs were swallowed before they hit the pavement. The carnival music was a dull underwater thing distorted by repetition, crummy speakers, and untrimmed bushes. Any people they passed were going in the opposite direction, hands sunk in their pockets for warmth. Wayne ignored them.
Clara wanted to ask if he was sure they needed to do this, but didn’t. Every time the words came close to escaping her lips she stopped. She knew what he would say. She knew he was right. It was hope that they’d made a mistake that kept welling up. It wasn’t something she should nurture. Not now.
They rounded a bend in the walkway, moving away from the carousel. All of the ice cream booths had been closed for the year and the food stands for the night. In the trees above them hung dozens of dark lanterns. None of them cast light. They looked like decorations, old decorations. Something the park had once run, but over time had given up on changing bulbs; a remnant of something dead and long gone. Clara knew better.
“This spot will work.” Wayne stopped walking and offered her his hand.
She didn’t hate Wayne. Not really. But she was tired of him. Of his correct hunches, his clipped tone, and his arrogance. She wasn’t impressed with the zigzag double W of his signature anymore. She was numb to his good looks. Mostly, she was upset because she knew he was tired of her too, and somewhere, it stung. She consoled herself that he likely felt the same sad ache and took his hand.
Wayne raised his voice and spoke with more formality than required. “By the authority of the Wardens I command you to show yourselves!”
Clara didn’t say anything, just added her will to his. The words were really a formality. Nothing in the prison had ears to hear. Their effort proved sufficient. One by one the lanterns began to glow with an amber luminescence as the inhabitants made themselves known. In less than a minute all of the old lanterns were painting the trees a sickly rust color. Clara felt it on her skin through her coat.
“I don’t see anything. Maybe I was wrong.” Doubt from Wayne was normally something to savor, but not this time. Not when so much was at stake.
“No,” she said, pointing to single dark box. “You weren’t. Something has escaped.”