The Thirteenth Skull

Page 58

I didn’t give him a direct answer. That’s an Op Nine quality. I said, “I’ll need a trainer.”

He nodded. “Most definitely.”

“Someone who knows the ropes. Someone who’s been there. Someone who can show me the way between doing the-thing-that-must-be-done and doing the right thing.”

“A narrow path full of pitfalls and hazards.”

“Because the right thing still matters.”

“The right thing will always matter.”

I thought about it. I thought about what he said and what I said and what had happened and what might happen. I thought about the golden door and the smell of my mother’s hair and the empty sockets where my father’s eyes had been and even ol’ Mr. Weasel, licking my blood from his fingertips. Life shouldn’t be what happens while you’re running from your own shadow. Maybe that’s why the angel pulled me back: I didn’t want to die because I loved the world so bad my death was the only way to save it. I wanted to die for the same reason I struck the deal with Nueve in Knoxville: I thought it was the only way to hide from the shadow with my name on it. The problem was you can’t run from it and you can’t hide from it, so what are you supposed to do about it?

I didn’t know, but I thought I knew how to start. I patted his knee with the hand I cut open to heal Jourdain, to heal Ashley, to heal him.

“I forgive you, Sam,” I said.

“And that matters most of all,” he said.

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