Zorikh was still being pulled along as Theodora walked briskly westward. Her purposeful stride carried them quickly past the little shops of the West Village, with their colorful knick-knacks, leather sex toys, exotic coffees and black and white posters. Even with Zorikh’s considerable height, he was pressed to keep up with her. He wondered where they were going. “Where are we going?” he asked.
Theodora’s grip tightened around his arm. “I’ll show you soon enough. It’s easier to show than to explain.” Zorikh grimaced as she pulled him along.
“Um…you’re hurting me.” He pried at the woman’s strong fingers. She let him go instantly.
“My apologies. I was…trying to get you to the Rift before you had second thoughts about trusting me.” She spared a sideways glance at him, then stopped short. “But you’re right. You cannot be forced. Balliol wouldn’t approve of it.”
“Balliol? That’s the Face!” Zorikh snapped his fingers. So the Face had a name! “I’ve been calling him Old Toecutter all this time!”
“I’m sure he’d be flattered.” She frowned at him. “I, as you know am Theodora Hayes, I’m your contact, the one whom you wouldn’t speak to last night. Don’t apologize. At least you didn’t threaten my life.” She allowed herself a dry chuckle. “What I am and hopefully what you too will be, is a Rifter. And that…” she held a finger up to silence his unasked questions, “is something easier to show than to tell. I promise you I’ll not harm you, nor let you come to harm today. You can refuse my offer, once you have seen all there is to see. What do you say?”
Zorikh nodded. “One question?” He waited for her nod. “Where exactly is that accent from?”
“I’m from the south of Britain.” She began to walk again.
“You sound German.”
“The accent is Saxon. No more questions.” They crossed the West Side Highway and made their way to the end of a long pier. “This is a good place.” Theodora said levelly as she produced two silver-bright wristlets, three inches wide, hinged and clasped and intricately wrought with carvings that Zorikh couldn’t place. Theodora waited until a pair of joggers reached where they stood then turned back towards the shore, then handed Zorikh one of the wristlets. “Put this on when I say, and secure the clasp. No matter what happens, do not move from where you are until I tell you.”
“Got it.” Zorikh took the bracelet from her.
“Put it on.”
Zorikh undid the clasp, it opened smartly and smoothly and felt uncommonly cold around his wrist. Theodora watched intently as he brought the clasp to a close. There was a rushing roar in Zorikh’s ears, as if all the trains he’d ever ridden on had thundered past him in that instant. He folded his arms around his head and shut his eyes. When the rushing stopped, and his eyes were once again open, he was standing on a wide snowy slope.
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