Excerpts from | Book One | Book Two | Book Three | Book Four | Book Five |

Book Three - Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant

A police car screamed past me as I veered off Fifth Avenue and into an alley. Sirens came from every direction on their way to the museum. I ran until I was sure no one was pursuing me and slid into the shadows of a doorway to assess the damage. A small cry of panic tore from my throat when I saw the ravaged costume, spotted with blood. I had been shot so many times, it was a miracle I hadn’t been cut in half.

"No, no, no, no," I chanted, worming a trembling finger into a bullet hole. Due to the hardness of my skin, I couldn´t feel anything through my numbed fingertips, so I ripped away the costume and lifted the black tank underneath, exposing my stomach, which was peppered with bullets. They reminded me of corks lodged in wine bottles. Small amounts of blood burbled up around the bullets, as if they plugged a dam.

Tears of relief smarted my eyes. This was one of those rare occasions when I was grateful to be a mutant.

"It´s going to be okay. These can be removed. I´ll heal." I dried my eyes with my forearm and suddenly realized I couldn´t hear Emery in the earpiece, nor the background noise of the coffeehouse. We had somehow lost our phone connection. I retrieved my phone and punched the speed dial.

"Are you all right?" Emery answered. The sounds of sirens, the museum´s alarm, talking, shouting, and a police officer on a megaphone flowed through the receiver along with his voice. "Cassidy," he said again when I didn’t answer.

"I don’t know what to do." I wiped back a sudden flood of tears with the tattered sleeve of my mummy costume. "My head´s scrambled. I can´t think straight."

"Do you know where you are?"

"Yeah." I glanced around. "No. I´m not sure. It´s weird that I can´t feel any pain. I should feel pain."

"Cassidy, listen carefully," Emery said slowly and calmly, which meant he wasn´t calm at all. "You´re only four blocks from Riley´s office — "

"How do you know — " I began to ask, then remembered GPS. I struck my forehead with my palm in an attempt to clear the haze.

"You´ll be fine," Emery soothed. "I´ll take care of you. Please concentrate."

He explained how to get to the back of Riley´s building through alleys, avoiding the main streets. I would have known this if I could think properly.

"There are a lot of people on the streets now, so take care not to be seen. I´m only two blocks away from Riley’s office. I’ll let you in through the emergency exit in back. Everything will be fine, Cassidy. This is almost over. Repeat back to me everything I just told you."

I tried but couldn´t. The bullets felt heavy in my stomach. A horrifying thought struck me: What if my skin suddenly softens and the bullets get swallowed up in my flesh?

"Hurry, Emery." I disconnected the call and shot toward the street. We need to get these bullets out of me!

At the street, I looked around, recognizing where I was — or believing I did. Spying an alley, I ran across the street toward it, leaping over a parked car. I saw two men and a woman in the alley ahead. One man held a switch blade to the other man´s throat while the woman riffled through his pockets. I moved so fast, none of them saw me until the mugger with the switch blade was yanked off his feet by the back of his jacket collar.

"Help!" he screamed as I dragged him behind me, arms flailing, boot heels bumping along the asphalt.

I emerged from the alley into a street bustling with activity and flung the mugger toward an oncoming police car. Lights flashing, siren blaring, the police car screeched to a halt and the mugger hit the hood, tumbling over it with the switch blade still gripped in his hand.

I jammed the cell phone between my teeth and took a flying leap at the nearest building, catching a window sill on the second floor. I scaled the protruding bricks as swiftly as a spider scurrying up a wall and heaved myself over the ledge and onto the roof. Pausing to catch my breath, I spat the phone into my hand and looked down. A small crowd had gathered below to gape at me.

The dazed mugger, sprawled atop the police car, dropped his switch blade, which clattered across the hood and onto the asphalt. The officer in the passenger´s seat stared up at me with a radio microphone to his mouth, but his lips weren’t moving, as if he were at a loss about how to call in what he had just witnessed.