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‘Didn’t Enora give you that?’
‘Yes, and she left me some other useful information.’ I slide open the weather files and show him the map.
He stares at the digital image, studying it. ‘Is that the compound?’
I answer with a nod. ‘Complete with coordinates. And I’ve already broken into the repository.’
Jost’s head snaps up from the screen. ‘You did what?’
‘I got into the repository,’ I say, trying to act like this is no big deal, because he’s giving me a look that says, Have you lost your mind? ‘I can find her.’
‘What’s in the room?’ he asks, keeping his eyes on me.
‘Datasets. Info on removals and alterations.’ I don’t tell him about the thin strands in the cubes or the chills they send through me. It sounds too crazy.
‘And you’ve seen them?’ he presses.
I nod and slip my hand back into my pocket. The card is still there, but I can’t bring myself to give it to him.
‘What did they say?’
‘Basic info: ID, removal dates.’ I open the first file to show him Riccard Blane’s info. ‘There’s a tracking program on here that reads the datasets.’
‘How do you think Enora got this program?’ he asks, pacing the small cell.
I shrug. ‘She must have had help.’
‘I wonder—’ he begins.
‘There’s something else I have to tell you,’ I say, jumping in before I lose my nerve.
He stops and waits.
I stare at him for a moment before speaking. I’m not sure I’ll know the Jost who comes out on the other side of this information. ‘Here,’ I say finally, thrusting the card at him.
Taking it, he looks up at me and frowns. ‘What’s this?’
‘Scan it.’ I offer him the digifile.
I hold my breath as the dataset loads, but I know as soon as it has. His brow relaxes and his mouth opens, but he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he simply drops to the ground and stares at the small pad.
‘She’s alive,’ I say in a soft voice, because he can’t find the words.
Most of the time Jost looks like a boy. Even when he hasn’t shaved or is dressed in a tailored suit, the curves of his face are soft and his smile quick. But here in the sharp relief of the handlight, his jaw is angular and the slightest of lines form as he squints, studying the screen. A moment later, when a smile creeps onto his face, it’s not the boyish grin I love, but something that bursts from a deeper part of him. He looks like a man.
‘You found her,’ he whispers, and when he looks up that unfathomable smile extends out to me.
‘She’s safe.’ For now, I add to myself.
‘She’s alive,’ he breathes, as though repeating the words will make them more real. ‘My daughter is alive.’
‘Amie’s in there, too,’ I say.
‘Can we get back in?’ he asks, unable to tear his eyes from the image.
‘I think so,’ I say. ‘But I’ll need your help.’
‘Anything,’ he promises.
‘Jost,’ I say, kneeling down to him, ‘I don’t know if we can get to her.’
He cups my face and kisses me once. A new energy pulses from his lips. His touch leaves traces of fire along my body as though he’s transferred this new vitality to me. I never knew how damaged he was by his loss until now.
‘We’ll find a way,’ he says. ‘We’ll find them both.’
I nod and gently pull the digifile from his hand. Without it, he snaps back into action, inviting me to share my plan. I explain that I’ll need his help getting back into the upper studios, but from there I can break through to the repository and find more information.
‘And then?’ he asks.
‘Then we’ll figure out what to do next,’ I say. It’s a horrible plan, but it’s the only one we have.
Jost pretends to escort me through the compound. It’s perfectly common for the head valet to chaperon a Spinster, but with Cormac on the prowl, I feel a thin veil of sweat forming across my forehead and on my palms. I do my best to look bored, but my pulse is racing and I can feel heat on my cheeks.
When we reach the security door to the upper studios, the guard runs his eyes over us. ‘Does he have clearance?’
‘Cormac’s ordered me to have an escort at all times,’ I say, willing my voice not to quaver.
‘I should clear it—’
‘Look, man,’ Jost says with a groan, pulling away from me. ‘I’d like to get to bed, so the sooner we can get Her Majesty upstairs the better.’
The guard grins; he must be used to the night shift himself.
‘She’s clear, so keep close to her,’ he orders him.
Jost nods and rolls his eyes a little to seal their camaraderie.
Once we’re through the door, I elbow him. ‘You can go to bed any time.’
‘Surest way to get around in here,’ he says with a wink. ‘Act annoyed with a Spinster.’
I feign a wounded expression, and his hand tightens around mine.
‘You are the least annoying Spinster I’ve met,’ he says in mock solemnity.
‘Watch yourself, Josten Bell,’ I warn him.
He follows me up the spiral staircase, but he keeps looking over his shoulder and nearly tripping into me.
‘We’ll never get anywhere if you don’t hurry up,’ I hiss at him.