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The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Author:Sarah Penner
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Park Row Books
Published: 2020-12-11T18:33:36+00:00


18

Caroline

Present day, Tuesday

That evening, after dark, I exited the hotel room as quietly as I could, careful not to wake James as he slept soundly on the sofa. I left a short note next to the TV—Gone out for late dinner. C—and hoped he wouldn’t wake to find the note anytime soon.

I closed the door softly behind me, waited impatiently for the empty elevator and hurried across the hotel lobby. Beneath me, the marble floors shone like a mirror, polished and bright. I chased after my own reflection, my face alight with a daring excitement I hadn’t felt in years. I grabbed an apple and a complimentary bottle of water from a table in the lobby and stuffed them into my crossbody bag, but I didn’t bother with pulling out my phone or a map; I’d walked this route once before.

Given the late hour, the streets were nowhere near as busy as yesterday; there were few cars and even fewer pedestrians. I made my way quickly into Bear Alley once again, the evening air calm and cool around me as I passed the same garbage cans and fast-food containers that I’d seen early this morning, each object frozen in time as though not even the breeze had ruffled it since my last visit.

Head down, I made my way to the end of the alley, and I found myself almost surprised to see it again: the steel gate flanked on either side by stone pillars, the overgrown clearing, and—I stretched my neck to see over the gate—yes, the door. It had taken on new importance already, given my time spent perusing the old maps with Gaynor at the British Library. I felt like I knew secrets about the area: that nearby, there once existed a tiny walkway called Back Alley; and just down the way was a place called Fleet Prison; and even Farringdon Street, the main avenue a few steps away, used to be called something different. Did everything reinvent itself over time? It was beginning to seem like every person, every place, carried an untold story with long-buried truths resting just beneath the surface.

This morning, I’d been grateful for the windows of the buildings surrounding Bear Alley, in case the plumber decided to come too close. But now, I didn’t want to be seen, which was why I’d left the hotel after dark. The sky now was a charcoal gray, only a hint of the sun’s last rays glowing from the west. A few windows of the surrounding buildings were lit, and inside one building I could see desks and computers and a stock ticker with bright red letters flicking across its screen. Thankfully, no late workers milled about within.

I looked down. At the base of the locked gate was a small red-and-white sign that I hadn’t seen this morning: NO TRESPASSING. ORD. 739-B. The back of my neck prickled with nerves.

I let a minute pass; there was no sound or movement other than a pair of sparrows flitting by.



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