We arrive at the Greek columns outside of Geoffrey’s hangout and find the doors have been taken off their hinges by what appears to be some sort of battering ram. With my heart in my throat, we run into the building and see Geoffrey in a heap against the far wall.
“Geoffrey!” I scream as I run to him, sliding against the slick marble floor as I make it to his side.
A faint groan escapes his lips as I near.
“Oh, thank God you’re still alive!” I exclaim.
“Young madam,” Geoffrey says, a forced smile upon his lips.
“What happened?” Griff asks, looking around the room for any danger.
Geoffrey’s eyes close.
“Geoffrey!” I yell.
His eyes reopen, but they seem have difficulty focusing on me.
“Griff!” I say urgently.
He runs to my side. “Hey there, guy, no going out on us now. We need your help.”
Geoffrey groans again and his eyes close.
“Geoff, pal.” Griff shakes the old man. “Where do we find a doctor around here?” he yells as he continues shaking. “Geoff!”
“Wait,” I say, remembering my earlier walk. “I think I saw a hospital earlier today.”
“Great! How far is it?”
“Almost all the way to where I picked up the horse.”
“We can’t get him all the way out there like this. Do you think medieval doctors do house calls?”
“We’ve got Molly,” I offer. “Do you think you can get him on the horse?”
A louder groan escapes Geoffrey’s lips and he slumps over. Griff grabs his wrist and places his ear next to the man’s mouth.
“I think it’s too late, kid. Unless they’ve got a defibrillator unit around here somewhere.”
I barely notice my jaw dropping as my eyes return to the old man’s face.
“Crap.” Griff uses his fingers to close the man’s eyelids.
I’m speechless. I’ve never even seen a dead body before, much less have one become dead right in front of me. He seemed so lively just yesterday. I suppose he was. This wasn’t a man dying from old age, I realize as I notice the blood and bruises all over his exposed skin. Someone did this to him.
“Crap!” Griff repeats.
I slowly awaken to Griff pacing behind me.
“Who could do something like this?” I ask softly.
“Who do you think?” Griff asks, the anger seething through his bared teeth.
“The Wizard?” I ask, not believing the question.
“Who else? He obviously knew we were here yesterday. He must have come to figure out what Geoff knew about us and ended up killing him over it.”
“Geoffrey was killed because of us?”
“Yeah,” Griff says roughly, then, noticing the tears welling up in my eyes, he kneels beside me and softens his tone. “Technically yes, but Geoff was already treading a fine line. He told us himself. That library of his, the whole harboring new folks thing, he wasn’t exactly a model citizen, at least in The Wizard’s eyes.”
“But,” I stammer, “but, he’s dead. He’s dead because of us.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Chelle. There’s nothing we could have done to stop this.”
“We could have not come here at all,” I blurt out as the tears start falling on my cheeks.
“It’s not like we planned on traveling through time, kid. We didn’t even know we had until after we had met the guy.”
“That doesn’t make us any less responsible!”
“But that’s the thing, Chelle. We’re not responsible. That rotten Wizard is.”
I look to Griff through my drenched eyelids, sobs escaping without abandon. Rage builds through me as his words reach my brain. He’s right. It may be our fault he was a target, but we weren’t the ones who beat him to death. We weren’t the ones who considered him nothing more than another piece of necessary collateral damage.
“What do we do?” I ask him.
“At this point, nothing,” Griff answers. “If he’s willing to do this to find us, we’re going to have to keep our heads low to make sure he doesn’t do this to anyone else. Or to us for that matter.”
“But what about the swindle?”
“The swindle’s off, kid. We’re playing with fire here. Rule # 22, ‘Never invest more into a grift than you’re willing to lose.’ This investment could mean lives.”
“What about rule 12?”
“Plan B? Plan B is to get out alive.”
“But we have to get this Wizard out of here, we have to take him down. For Geoffrey.”
“We’ll talk about that later. For now, we’ve gotta get out of here. I’d be surprised if The Wizard didn’t keep anyone behind to watch for us.”
“Okay,” I say, turning to look at Geoffrey one last time. “I’m sorry,” I say, the tears flowing faster now. “I’m so, so, sorry.”
“Chelle,” Griff says softly. “Come on.”
“Okay,” I say as I stand, my eyes never leaving Geoffrey’s face. “We’ll get him for you, Geoffrey. I’ll get him.”
“We’ll both get him, alright kid?”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Nine