“How did you do that?” Newton asked. I stayed silent. His power surged. “Answer me.”
“Fuck you,” I said. It was a response, but not what he wanted to hear.
“Answer my questions honestly and in detail. How did you get your friends out against my orders?” He asked. He was pressing a piece of cloth into the palm of his hand to stop the bleeding.
“I didn’t. My familiar shadow-stepped them out of the room,” I said.
“I didn’t see an animal,” Newton said. “Is it invisible?”
“What is it then?”
“A living shadow.”
“That’s interesting. Is it a danger to me?” he asked.
“Do you have a means of containing it?”
“Show me,” he ordered. I took the small golden orb from my pocket and held it up for him to see. “As soon as it comes back, you will trap it in there. It will come back for you, won’t it?”
“Yes.” I wanted so badly to be wrong, but I knew Umbra wouldn’t leave me behind. Neither would Clark.
“With or without the others?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Come with me,” he commanded.
I followed him through the destruction that Clark and Eli caused, trying to get to me. He didn’t show concern for any of his fallen people. Clark wouldn’t have been trying to kill any of them, but I knew he would if it came to that. Eli’s ethics seemed to rely on what others expected of him, so he’d have followed Clark’s lead. Still, these men were in terrible shape. They’d need a healer or at least to go to the hospital. Now that I understood what it was like to be under Newton’s control, I couldn’t help sympathizing with them. I pulled the burner phone from my pocket, dialed 911, and dropped it, hoping that the operator could use the phone’s GPS to send help. It was good to know that as long as I followed his directions, the cerebremancy didn’t stop me from acting on my own impulses. I followed him out the front door, and Ruby’s car was waiting for us with the doors open. Ruby looked broken.
“I’m so sorry, Milo. I—”
“That’s enough, Ruby,” Newton said. He got into the front seat. “Take us to the market.”
She stopped talking and faced the road again. It was for the best. She hadn’t really betrayed me. She’d never been my friend, and logically I couldn’t blame her any more than a fish could blame a worm for the hook in its mouth. That’s what I told myself, but it still felt like a knife to the gut to see her waiting for Newton like this. The only relief I felt was that Umbra knew it wasn’t safe to bring Clark and Eli back to her. I held on to that small piece of hope as we headed into the city. I tried to remember the exact phrasing of each order Newton gave me so far to look for workarounds. Answering his questions in detail allowed for yes or no responses, so long as they answered the question entirely. ‘Come with me’ was very open-ended, but so far, it only seemed to entail following him. The one that concerned me was to kill Clark. I didn’t know if it would wear off. Ruby had been with me for weeks, and Newton’s commands still led her here.
“Ruby, what have you learned since you found him?”
“He’s not the killer you were hoping for,” she said.
“That can be changed,” Newton said.
“He’s kind, and he believes in second chances.”
“Not particularly useful,” Newton dismissed.
“He’s in love,” she said.
“Did you learn anything the least bit useful?” he asked.
“He’s quick on his feet, an adaptive fighter, and clever.”
“Better, but still nothing we hadn’t guessed from his file,” he said. “Come on, Ruby, you’re not losing your touch, are you?”
“He relies more on enchantments and his affinity for shadow magic than spells,” she said.
“That’s interesting. Why is that, Milo?”
“It’s faster. No chanting or invocations needed.” I said. “If you need a break to get the right spell against a Coven witch, you’re already dead.”
“A fair point. I love their shortcuts. I’ll have to see if there are any new ones you can teach me. None of my current Coven witches were trained by Vincent Tanner.”
“He wasn’t a man to admire,” I said. It didn’t matter much if he liked what I had to say, so I may as well speak my mind while I could.
“I’ve heard otherwise. The coven grew more under his training program than ever before. This year will break that record, but I think what he accomplished was impressive given his limitations. Imagine what he could have done if his life hadn’t been cut short,” Newton said. He loved to hear himself talk. That speech certainly wasn’t for my or Ruby’s benefit. “Why did you kill him?”
“Ruby didn’t tell you?” I asked. The cerebremancy didn’t let me stop there as I wanted to. “He killed my mother. I’m guessing I’m not the only one considering the statistics you’re so interested in.”
“Oh, I like you, Milo. So selfish. The education of an entire generation of Coven witches risked for one boy’s vengeance. Tell me, was it worth it?”
“Yes,” I said. He laughed.
“Zero regret. We’re more alike than you want to admit.”
Ruby turned the car and drove straight at the wall of a building. We passed through the wall as if it weren’t there. A parking garage hid on the other side. Ruby followed the turns until pulling up to the elevator. Newton got out and started walking. It was only a few seconds before his magic pulled at me, and I got out of the car, too. Ruby didn’t join us. She reversed and went to find a place to park. I wished she was coming with us. Even if Newton orchestrated our friendship, she was familiar, and now we were in the same situation. Despite knowing the truth, I didn’t want to believe it was all an act. I had more significant problems, though. I needed to break free of Newton’s control before I saw Clark again.