We loved Libba Bray’s 2012 bestseller The Diviners, a 1920’s-set New York City crime thriller laced with paranormal and occult happenings. Bray’s highly anticipated sequel, Lair of Dreams, is finally on the brink of arrival, hitting shelves Aug. 25. Lair of Dreams picks up with flapper Evie O’Neill, who has not only revealed herself as a Diviner after battling a serial killer, but has become a media sensation. Meanwhile, a strange sleeping sickness spreads across New York, and the Diviners—including Henry Dubois and Ling Chan, who can walk in dreams—must figure out how to save the city.
To tide you over until August, EW brings you an exclusive excerpt from Lair of Dreams. For more information on the Diviners Series, head to its website.
LAIR OF DREAMS by Libba Bray
I cannot be awake for nothing looks to me as it did before, Or else I am awake for the first time, and all before has been a mean sleep.
— Walt Whitman
To believe in one’s dreams is to spend all one’s life asleep.
— Chinese proverb
THE SWEETHEART SEER
“. . . Miss Evie O’Neill!”
The announcer, a tall man with a thin mustache, lowered his script. Behind the glass of the control booth, an engineer pointed to a quartet of male singers back in the studio, who crooned into their microphone:
“She’s the apple of the Big Apple’s eye.
She’s finer—Diviner—and we know why.
She’s the Sweetheart Seer of W . . . G . . . I. . . .”
“Yes, gifted with talents from beyond,” the announcer purred over the soft hum of the quartet. “A Diviner, she calls herself, like those soothsayers of old, but a modern girl, through and through. Who knew that such gifts lived in the heart of Manhattan—and in the heavenly form of a pretty pixie of a girl?”
“Oh, Evie, won’t you tell us true?
What would fate have us do?
Whether watch or hat or band,
You hold our secrets in your hand.
Revealing mysteries, pulled from the sky!
You’re the Sweetheart Seer of W . . . G . . . I!”
The orchestra rested. Script in hand, Evie stepped up to her microphone and chirped into it: “Hello, everyone. This is Evie O’Neill, the Sweetheart Seer, ready to gaze into the great beyond and tell you your deepest secrets. So I certainly hope you’ve got something pos‑i‑tute‑ly scandalous for me tonight!”
“Why, Miss O’Neill!” the announcer sputtered.
The audience chuckled, covering the sound of Evie and Mr. Forman turning the pages of their scripts.
“Oh, now, don’t you cast a kitten, Mr. Forman,” Evie reassured him in her upbeat tone. “For if anything can clear away the dirt of scandal, it’s Pears soap. Why, no soap on earth is finer for cleaning up a mess than Pears!”
“On that we can agree, Miss O’Neill. If you value your complexion, Pears soap is the only soap you will ever need. It’s—”
“Gee, are you going to talk all night, Mr. Forman? Or can I do a little divining for these fine folks?” Evie teased.
The audience chuckled again, right on cue.
“Very well, Miss O’Neill. Let’s take our first guest, shall we? Mrs. Charles Rutherford, I believe you have something you wish to share?”
“Yes, I do!” Mrs. Rutherford rose from her seat, smoothing her dress on her way to Evie, though there was no one to see it beyond those in the small room. “I’ve brought this money clip.”
“Welcome, Mrs. Rutherford. Thank you for coming on the Pears Soap Hour with the Sweetheart Seer—Pears, the soap of purity. Now, Mrs. Rutherford, tell Miss O’Neill nothing of yourobject. She will divine your secrets using her talents from beyond the veil.”
“So if there’s anything you haven’t told Mr. Rutherford, you might want to let him know now,” Evie joked. It was a little naughty, but naughty kept people listening.
“Oh, dear,” Mrs. Rutherford tittered.
“And to whom does that money clip belong?” Evie asked.
Mrs. Rutherford blushed. “This . . . well, it . . . it’s my husband’s.”
Evie didn’t have to be a Diviner to know that. Married women almost always wanted to know about their husbands and whether they were stepping out.
“Now, Mrs. Rutherford, one doll to another: What’s the story?”
“Well, you see, Charles has been so very busy lately, at the office every night with only his secretary for company, and I, I worry that . . .”
Evie nodded sympathetically. “You think he’s goofy for his secretary. Don’t you worry, Mrs. Rutherford. We’ll soon get to the bottom of this. If you would place the object in the center of my right palm, please. Thank you.” With a magician’s flair, Evie placed her left hand on top of her right and pressed down, allowing the money clip to yield its secrets to her.
“Oh, dear me,” Evie said, coming out of her light trance.
“What is it? What do you see?” Mrs. Rutherford fretted.
“I don’t know if I should say, Mrs. Rutherford,” Evie said, drawing out the tension for the radio audience.
“Please, Miss O’Neill, if there’s something I should know . . .
please do tell me.”
“Well . . .” Evie’s tone was grave. “You do know that the objects never lie.”
An anticipatory murmur spread through the studio audience.
I’ve got them! Evie thought. She lowered her head as if she were a doctor delivering grim news. “Your husband and his secretary are in cahoots all right. . . .” Head still bowed, Evie waited, counting off silently—two, three—and then she looked up, grinning triumphantly.
“To plan your birthday party!”
The audience responded with relieved laughter and thunderous
“Now it won’t be a surprise any longer, I’m afraid,” Evie said.
“You’ll have to promise me you’ll act like a Dumb Dora.”
“You have my word.”
“And that goes for all of you folks listening in!”
“Thank you! Thank you, Miss O’Neill!”
The announcer stepped up to his microphone again as Mrs. Rutherford was escorted back to her seat. “Let’s give a warm round of applause to the brave Mrs. Rutherford.”
When the noise died down, Evie welcomed her second guest.
When she’d finished with him, telling him where to find a cache of old war bonds his grandfather had hidden in the house, the man took his seat to the crest and ebb of polite applause. Evie waited for the Seer Singers to croon the Pears soap jingle, then stepped again to the microphone, the studio lights blazing in her eyes.
Evie smiled. Even though the home audience couldn’t see her, she knew from her daily elocution lessons that a smile could be communicated through the wires, so she kept hers bright.
“Ladies and gentlemen, when I finish my radio show, I love nothing more than to relax with a nice hot bath. But when I bathe, I’m not alone.”
“You’re not?” the announcer shot back, shock in his tone.
“Oh, no! I have company in my tub.”
“Why, Miss O’Neill!”
“Dear me, Mr. Forman! It’s Pears soap, of course! Pears keeps a girl’s complexion smooth and lovely even when the winter winds are howling like a jazz band. Why, it’s so pure, even I can’t see anything in it!”
“That’s pure, indeed! Choose Pears—the modern choice for you and your loved ones.” His advertising sermon complete, the announcer turned once more to Evie. “Now, Miss O’Neill, before we say good night, can you tell the fine members of our listening audience what you see?”
“I’d be happy to.” Evie let her voice take on a faraway tone.
“Yes . . . I can see into the future and I see”— she let the silence hang for a count of three—“that it’s going to be a swell evening here on WGI, so don’t dream of touching that dial! This is Evie O’Neill, America’s Sweetheart Seer, saying thank you and good night, and may all of your secrets be happy ones!”
As Evie passed down the long, Art Deco hallway of the radio station, people called out their congratulations: “Swell show, Evie!”
“Gee, that was terrific!” “You’re the berries, kid!”
Evie drank up their praise like a champagne cocktail. She stopped for a second in the foyer of a large, wood-paneled office with gleaming black-and-gold marble floors. A secretary waved to her from behind a large mahogany desk.
“Great show, Evie.”
“Thanks, Kaye!” Evie said, preening.
There were only two rules she followed on her show: One, she never went in too deep. That was what kept the headaches manageable.
And two, no bad news. Evie only told the object holder what he or she wanted to hear. People wanted entertainment, yes, but mostly they wanted hope: Tell me he still loves me. Tell me I’m not a failure. Tell me I did right by my dead mother, whom I never visited, even when she called my name at the end. Tell me it’ll be okay.
“Loved the way you played with the money clip,” the secretary continued. “I sure was nervous for that Mrs. Rutherford.”
Evie strained to see into the office just beyond the secretary, but the burnished gold doors were shut. “Did . . . did Mr. Phillips like it?”
The secretary smiled sympathetically. “Gee, honey, you know how the Big Cheese is: He only shows up for the biggest names.
Oh!” she said, catching herself. “Gee, I didn’t mean it like that, Evie. Your show’s very popular.”
Just not popular enough to get the full attention of WGI’s owner. Evie tried not to dwell on that fact as she grabbed her new raccoon coat and gray wool cloche from the coat-check girl and headed out front, where a small but enthusiastic crowd waited in the January drizzle. When Evie opened the door, they surged forward, their umbrellas like fat black petals of the same straining flower.
“Miss O’Neill! Miss O’Neill!”
Slips of paper and autograph books were waved at her. She signed each with a flourish before dashing down the alley toward a waiting taxicab.
“Where to, Miss?” the cabbie asked.
“The Grant Hotel, please.”
The rain was coming down; the taxi’s windshield wipers beat in time to some unseen metronome as they cleared the fogging glass. Evie peered out the taxi window at the study in smoke, fog, snow, and neon that was Manhattan’s theater district at this late hour. A lightbulb-ringed theater bill featured an illustration of a tuxedoed man in a turban holding out his hands like a soothsayer while comely chorines danced under his enchanting sway. A sash at the top read COMING SOON—THE ZIEGFIELD FOLLIES IN DIVINERS FEVER! A MAGICAL, MUSICAL REVUE!
Diviners were big and getting bigger, but so far, no Diviner was bigger than Evie O’Neill. If only James were around to see her now. Evie traced the empty space at her neck where the half-dollar pendant from her brother used to rest, a reflex.
A billboard for Marlowe Industries loomed above the jostling cab as they waited for the light to change. The billboard showed a silhouette of the great man himself, his arm gesturing to some nebulous future defined only by rays of sunshine. Marlowe Industries. The future of America.
“He’s coming to town soon, you know,” the taxi driver said.
Evie rubbed her temples to keep the headache at bay. “Who?”
“You don’t say.”
“I do say! He’s breaking ground out in Queens for that whatchamacallit—that exhibition he’s planning. Traffic’ll be murder that day. I tell ya, he’s already given us the good life—automobiles, aeroplanes, medicine, and who knows what else. Now, that’s a great American.” The cabbie cleared his throat.
“Say, uh, ain’t you the Sweetheart Seer?”
Evie sat up, thrilled to be recognized. “Guilty as charged.”
“I thought so! My wife loves your radio show! Wait’ll I tell her I drove you in my cab. She’ll have kittens!”
“Jeepers, I hope not. I’m all out of cigars.”
The light changed and the cab turned left off the arterial throughway of Broadway, following the narrow tributary of Forty-seventh Street east toward Beekman Place and the Grant.
“You’re the little lady who helped the cops catch the Pentacle
Killer.” The cabbie whistled. “The way he butchered all those people. Taking that poor girl’s eyes? Stringing that fella up in Trinity Cemetery with his tongue cut out? Skinning that chorus girl and—”
“Yes, I remember,” Evie interrupted, hoping he would take the hint.
“What kind of person does that? What’s this world coming to?” The cabbie shook his head. “It’s these foreigners coming over, bringing trouble. And disease. You hear there’s some kinda sleeping sickness now? Already got about ten people with new cases every day. Heard it started in Chinatown and spread to the Italians and Jews.” He shook his head. “Foreigners. Oughta t’row ’em all out, you want my opinion.”
I don’t, Evie thought.
“There’s talk the killer—that John Hobbes fella—
wasn’t even human. That he was some kinda ghost.” The cabbie’s eyes met hers in the rearview mirror for a moment, seeking either confirmation or dismissal.
Evie wondered what the cabbie would say if she told him the truth—that John Hobbes was most definitely not of this earth. He was worse than any demon imaginable, and she’d barely escaped with her life.
Evie looked away. “People say all sorts of things, don’t they? Oh, look. Here we are!”
The driver pulled up to the monolithic splendor that was the Grant Hotel. Through the cab window, Evie spied a scrum of reporters staked out on the hotel steps, smoking and trading gossip.
As she exited the cab, they dropped their cigarettes along with whatever gossip du jour held their fickle interest and surged forward to greet her, shouting over one another: “Miss O’Neill! Miss O’Neill! Evie, be a real sweetheart and look this way!”
Evie obliged them, posing with a smile.
“How was the show tonight, Miss O’Neill?” one asked. “You tell me, Daddy.”
“Find out anything interesting?”
“Oh, lots of things. But a lady never tells—unless
it’s on the radio for money,” Evie said, making them laugh.
One smirking reporter leaning against the side of the hotel called out to Evie: “Whaddaya think about all these Diviners coming forward now that you let the cat out of the bag on your own talents?”
Evie gave the reporter a tight smile. “I think it’s swell, Mr. Woodhouse.”
T. S. Woodhouse raised an eyebrow. “Do you?”
Evie fixed him with a stare. “Sure. Perhaps we’ll start our own nightclub—hoofers and hocus-pocus. If you’re nice, we’ll even let you in.”
“Maybe you’ll have your own union,” another reporter joked.
“There are some folks who say the Diviners are no better than circus freaks. That they’re dangerous. Un‑American,” T. S. Woodhouse pressed.
“I’m as American as apple pie and bribery,” Evie cooed to more laughter.
“Love this Sheba,” the second reporter murmured, jotting it down. “She makes my job easy.”
Woodhouse wasn’t giving up. “Sarah Snow, who shares the radio with you, called Diviners ‘a symptom of a nation that’s turned away from God and American values.’ What do you say to that, Miss O’Neill?”
Sarah Snow. That small-time, Blue Nose pain in the neck, always looking down at Diviners in general and Evie in particular. She’d like to give that two-bit Bible thumper a kick in the backside.
But that kind of publicity Evie didn’t need. And she wasn’t about to give it to Sarah Snow for free by starting a war.
“Oh, does Sarah Snow have a radio show? I hadn’t noticed,” Evie said, batting her lashes. “Come to think of it, no one else has, either.”
As Evie bounded up the steps, T. S. Woodhouse sidled up next to her. “You went after me a little hard there, Woody,” Evie sniffed.
“Keeps things interesting, Sheba. Also keeps anybody from suspecting our arrangement. Speaking of, my wallet’s feeling a little light these days, if you catch my drift.”
With a careful glance at the other reporters, Evie slipped Woodhouse a dollar. Woodhouse held the bill up to the light.
“Just making sure you’re not printing your own these days,” he said. Satisfied, he pocketed the bill and tipped his hat. “Pleasure doing business with you, Sweetheart Seer.”
“Be a good boy, Woody, and go type something swell about me, will ya?” Evie said.
With a little backward wave, she flitted past, letting the bellhop open the gilded door for her while the reporters continued to shout her name.
THE TIPPY-TOP OF THE WORLD
The lobby of the Grant Hotel was festive chaos. Partygoers of all sorts—flappers, hoofers, gold diggers, Wall Street boys, and aspiring movie stars—draped themselves over every available inch of furniture while baffled hotel guests wondered if they’d wandered into a traveling circus by mistake. On the far side of the lobby, the angry hotel manager wiggled his fingers up high, trying to get Evie’s attention.
“Horsefeathers!” Evie hissed. Turning the other way, she squeezed through the tourniquet of revelers on her way toward the Overland Room, where she spied Henry and Theta in a corner. As she shimmied sideways through the swells, past a sad-eyed accordion player singing something doleful in Italian, people turned and pressed closer to her.
“Say, I’ve got to talk with you, sweetheart,” a good-looking boy in a cowboy hat purred. “See, there’s a little interest in an oil speculation out in Oklahoma, and I want to know if it’s going to pay off. . . .”
“I can’t see the future, only the past,” Evie demurred, pushing on.
“Evie, DAAAARLING!” drawled a redhead in a long silver cape trimmed in peacock feathers. Evie had never seen the woman before in her life. “We simply MUST talk! It’s URGENT, my dove.”
“Why, then, I’d best go put on my urgent shoes,” Evie called back without stopping, bumping headlong into someone. “Pardon me, I . . .” Evie’s eyes narrowed. “Sam Lloyd.”
“Hiya, Baby Vamp,” he said, ever-ready smirk in place. “Miss me?”
Evie put her hands on her hips. “What crime have I committed that has landed you on my doorstep?”
“Just lucky, I guess.” He stole a canape from a passing waiter’s tray and shoved it in his mouth, rolling his eyes in rapture. “Caviar. Boy, do I love caviar.”
Evie tried to go around Sam, but he moved with her.
“Could you move aside, please?” she asked.
“Aww, doll. Are you still sore because I told the Daily News that my sleuthing helped you catch the Pentacle Killer and that the reason you never come to the Creepy Crawly is that you’re so crazy about me you have to stay away?”
Evie put her hands on her hips. “Yes, Sam. I am sore about that.”
Sam spread his arms wide in a gesture of apology. “It was a charitable act!”
Evie raised an eyebrow.
“The museum needed the press, and that story gave us a little razzle-dazzle. It also got me a date with a chorus girl. A blond named Sylvia. You would not believe what that girl can do with—”
“Good-bye, Sam.” Evie tried to push her way through the crowd but got stuck again. Sam followed her.
“Aww, c’mon, doll. Let’s let bygones be bygones. Did I get mad when you told them I was . . . how’d ya put it again?”
“A liar, a cheat, and the sort of scum the other pond scum tries to swim away from?”
“That was it.” Sam looked up at her with big peepers. “Great to see you again, Sheba. Say, why don’t we find some little corner and catch up over a sloe gin fizz?”
“Holy smokes!” Eyes wide, Evie pointed across the room. “Is that Buster Keaton?”
Sam whirled around. “Where?”
Quickly, Evie ducked past him and pressed through the throng. Behind her, she could hear Sam calling: “Was that nice?”
At last, Evie collapsed into a seat beside Theta, who blew smoke from a cigarette perched at the end of a long ebony holder. “Well, if it isn’t the Sweetheart Seer herself. Was that Sam?” Theta asked.
“Yes. Every time I run into him, I have to remind myself that murder is a crime.”
“I don’t know, Evil. He sure is handsome,” Henry teased.
Evie glowered. “He’s trouble. And he still owes me twenty clams.”
“Say,” Henry asked, “how about that party you went to last week at the Egyptian Palace Room? On the level: Do they really have live seals in the lobby fountain?”
“Occasionally. When the residents don’t steal them for their own bathtubs. Oh, daaarlings, next time there’s a party there, you must come!”
“Daaahlings, you maahhst cahhhme,” Theta mimicked. “Those elocution lessons are turning you into a regular princess, Evil.”
Evie bristled. “Well, I can’t very well be on the radio sounding like a hick from Ohio.”
“Don’t get sore, Evil. I’d like you even if it sounded like you’d swallowed a whole bag of marbles. Just don’t forget who your friends are.”
Evie put her hand on Theta’s. “Never.”
There was a loud crash as a monkey trailing a leash knocked a vase off a table. It leaped from the bald head of a very surprised man and onto a drapery panel, where it now clung, screeching. A girl wearing a puffy feather boa pleaded with the animal in some European tongue, but the monkey would not be wooed. It held tight, squawking and hissing at the crowd.
“Where’d they come from?” Henry asked.
Evie shot her eyes heavenward, trying to remember. “I think they’re with a circus from Budapest. I met them in Times Square and invited them along. Say, did you hear what Sarah Snow said about Diviners?”
“Who’s Sarah Snow?” Theta said on a stream of cigarette smoke.
“Exactly my point,” Evie said, triumphant. “Well, anyway, she said Diviners were un‑American is what.”
“I wouldn’t let it bother you, darlin’,” Henry said. “You’ve got bigger problems.”
“What do you mean?”
Henry jerked his head in the direction of the scowling hotel manager walking briskly toward their table.
Quickly, Evie slipped her flask back into her garter. “Oh, applesauce. Here comes Mr. Killjoy.”
“Miss O’Neill! What is going on here?” the hotel manager thundered.
Evie smiled brightly. “Why, it’s a party, honey! Don’t you just adore parties?”
The manager’s lip twitched. “My name is not Honey, Miss O’Neill. It is Mr. Gillian. As the manager of the Grant Hotel, what I adore—nay, demand—is an end to this nightly chaos. You have made a mockery of a venerable New York institution, Miss O’Neill. There are reporters camped outside the premises every night just to see what fresh madness will erupt—”
“Isn’t it mahhh-velous?” Evie drew the word out. “Think of how much publicity the hotel’s getting for free!”
“This is not the sort of notoriety the Grant wants, Miss O’Neill. This behavior is intolerable. The party in the Overland Room, as well as the one currently occupying the lobby, is now over. Do I make myself clear?”
Brows knitted together in concern, Evie nodded. “Perfectly, Mr. Kill—Mr. Honey.” She positioned two fingers between her teeth and let loose a piercing whistle. “Dolls, the lobby’s become abso-tive‑ly murder. We can’t stay here any longer, I’m afraid.”
The hotel manager nodded curtly in appreciation.
“So everybody up to my room!” Evie shouted, and the stampede began. The Hungarian girl in the feather boa handed the monkey’s leash to the hapless Mr. Gillian, who stood paralyzed as the partygoers swarmed the elevators and stairs.
“You looking to get evicted again, Evil?” Theta asked as they dashed up the gleaming wooden staircase. “What is this, hotel number two?”
“Three, but who’s counting? Besides, they won’t evict me. They love me here!”
Theta looked back down at the hotel manager, who was shouting at a bellhop who was trying to distract the screeching beast with a broom while a telephone operator frantically connected cables in search of someone, anyone, who could remove a monkey from the Grant Hotel.
Theta shook her head. “I’ve seen that look before. It ain’t love, kid.”
Evie’s room was so thick with people they propped open the door and spilled out into the elegant damask-papered hallways of the Grant’s third floor. Evie, Theta, and Henry took refuge in the bathroom’s claw-foot tub, leaning their backs against one side of it and resting their legs across the other. In the room just beyond, the accordionist launched into the same doleful number he’d played twice before.
“Not again!” Evie growled and drank from her flask. “We should get him to play one of your songs, Henry. You should write for the accordion. An entire accordion revue! It’ll be a sensation.”
“Gee, why didn’t I think of that before? Henry DuBois’s Accordion Follies! The Ins and Outs of Love . . .” Henry sighed. “That’s almost bad enough to be a Herbert Allen song.”
“Herbert Allen! I’ve heard his songs on the radio!” Evie said.
“I like the one that goes, ‘I love your hair/I love your nose/I love you from your head to toes, My daaaaarling girl!’ Or the one that goes, ‘Daaarling, you’re top banana/Baaaby, you’re my peaches and cream/Orange you gonna be my Sherbet—’”
“For the love of Pete, please stop,” Henry groaned, cradling his head in his hands. Theta poured the rest of her booze into Henry’s glass. “Herbert keeps getting his rotten songs in over Henry’s just because he’s published,” she explained. “It’s all the same song. The same horrible song.”
“Gee, they do sort of sound alike, now that you mention it,” Evie said, thinking it over.
“Every time I play something for Wally, Herbert finds a way to sabotage it,” Henry said, picking up his drink again. “I tell you, if Herbie Allen fell off an apple truck tomorrow, I wouldn’t cry.”
“Well, then we hate Herbert Allen,” Evie said. “I’m sure whatever you write will be dreamy, Hen. And then we’ll all be singing your songs in hotel bathrooms.”
Theta appraised Evie coolly through her cigarette haze. “Jericho asked after you.”
“Oh? And how is dear old Jericho?” Evie kept her voice even, though her heart beat faster.
“Tall. Blond. Serious,” Theta said. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that big lug is sweet on you. And you on him.”
“You don’t know better!” Evie mumbled. “You don’t know at all.”
“You can’t stay away from the Bennington forever, Evil.”
“I can so! May I remind you that Uncle Will wanted me to keep my talent under lock and key? Why, if I’d listened to him, I wouldn’t have any of this,” she said, throwing her arms wide and nearly knocking Henry’s drink from his hands.
“We’re in a bathtub, Evil,” Theta said.
“And snug. As. Bugs.” Evie knocked back more gin. A warm buzz was starting to take the edge off the headache from her object reading and she wanted it to stay that way. “I refuse to become morose! This is a party. Tell me something happy.”
“Flo’s calling a press conference next week announcing our new act and letting me give my first interview as Theta St. Petersburg-ski, smuggled into this country by loyal servants during Revolution,” Theta said, in an exaggerated Russian accent. She scoffed. “What a load of bunk. And I gotta sell that act to those tabloid jackals.”
“Well, it’s not like they can prove otherwise. For you all you know, you could be a Russian aristocrat. Right, Henry?”
“Right,” Henry said, staring at his drink. Evie squinted at Henry. It wasn’t like him to be so solemn.
“Henry, you’re very quiet this evening.” She put her face up to his.
“Is it because you’re an artiste? Is this what artistes do? Get sad and quiet in party bathtubs?”
“Mostly, we take baths in bathtubs.”
“You are sad. Is it because of this Herbert Sherbet fellow?”
Henry paused. He pasted on a smile. “Just beat.”
A girl and her fella stumbled into the bathroom. “When will these accommodations be available?” the girl slurred. Her date held her up. “I should like to make a resh . . . reservation.”
“I’m afraid this booth has been reserved indefinitely,” Henry said with an apologetic bow of his head. The girl peered at him through smeary eyes. “Huh?”
“Scram!” Theta yelled.
The girl pulled up the strap of her gown with as much dignity as she could muster. “I shall complain to the management,” she said and slammed the door behind her.
“I think that’s my cue,” Henry said, pushing out of the bathtub.
“Thanks for a swell party, Evie.”
“Oh, Henry! You’re not leaving yet, are you?”
“Forgive me, darlin’. I have a pressing engagement. With sleep.”
“Henry,” Theta said. Her voice carried a hint of warning. “Not too long.”
“Don’t worry about what?” Evie asked, swiveling her head from Henry to Theta and back again.
“Anything,” Henry said, giving a courtly bow. “Ladies, I’ll see you in my dreams.”
“What was that about?” Evie asked once Henry had gone.
“It’s nothing,” Theta answered.
“Uh‑oh. I know that face. That isn’t a happy Theta face. It’s this bathtub! Poor, sad bathtub,” Evie said, sitting up so suddenly she sloshed her drink onto her dress. She went for her flask and Theta took it away.
“That’s not fair,” Evie groused. “I shall report you to the authorities for the crime of gin-napping!”
“You can have it back in a sec. I got something I wanna talk about.”
Evie rolled her head left toward Theta and sighed heavily. “Oh, all right.”
“I wanna talk about what happened to us. I wanna talk about the Pentacle Killer.”
Evie pouted. “That is pos‑i‑tute‑ly the last topic I wish to discuss.”
“You say that every time I bring it up. I know you told the papers that John Hobbes was a crazed madman. But you and me, we both know that ain’t the truth. That night, when I was trapped with Hobbes in the theater, I felt something I’d never felt before.”
“What was that?”
Theta took a deep breath and let it out. “Evil.”
“Not you. I meant I felt the presence of evil.”
“Well. It’s over now,” Evie said, hoping Theta would take the hint.
“Well, sure. He’s gone,” Evie said a little defiantly. “It’s all going to be the berries from now on. Nothing but blue skies. Just like the song.”
“I don’t know about that,” Theta said, leaning her head back against the cool bathroom tiles. “You still dreaming about that eye symbol?”
“No. I’m not. My dreams are pos‑i‑tute‑ly the swellest,” Evie said, but she didn’t look at Theta when she said it.
“All these Diviners comin’ outta the woodwork now?” Theta continued. “It just seems like something’s bubbling up. Something bad.”
Evie slung an arm around her pal’s shoulders. “Darling Theta. There’s no need to worry. The future’s spinning into a glorious cocktail,” Evie said, expertly stealing her flask back from Theta.
“Do you know, in the taxi on the way here, I saw a billboard for Marlowe Industries. It said ‘The future of America.’ The future is now, and we’re on the tippy-top of the world. Our best lives are waiting for us around that next bend. We just have to reach for them. Forget bad dreams. They’re just dreams. Let’s drink to the future of America. The future of us. Long may we both reign.”
Evie clinked her flask against Theta’s glass. The bathroom blurred a bit, giving it a soft glow. Evie liked it blurry.
“There’s something else I gotta ask you,” Theta said softly. “It’s about this whole Diviners business—”
“Most of them hocus-pocus phonies,” Evie warned, holding up a finger.
“What I wanna know is, you ever hear of somebody who had a power that was dangerous?”
“Whaddaya mean?” Evie asked. “Dangerous how?”
They were interrupted by a sharp pounding on the hotel room’s door, followed by a gruff voice calling, “Open up. Police.”
“Horsefeathers!” Evie launched herself from the tub, poured her gin into the mouthwash tumbler, and stumbled woozily across the room, exhorting everyone to hide their booze. She spied Sam in the corner avidly kissing the Hungarian circus performer.
“No class a’tall,” Evie tutted on her way past.
She threw open the door. Two policemen flanked the hotel manager. Evie managed a big smile even though her head ached.
“Oh, hello! I hope you’ve brought ice. We’ve run out.”
The manager muscled his way in. “The party is now over, Miss O’Neill,” he said with barely suppressed fury. “Everyone out!”
Evie leaned against the door. “Golly, these poor Boy Scouts’ve got nowhere to go, Mr. Honey.”
“Out. Now. Or I’ll have you all thrown in jail.”
A boozy exhale escaped Evie’s lips, momentarily lifting a curl that immediately fell into her eyes again. “You heard Papa. Better get a wiggle on, everybody.”
Drunken party guests gathered misshapen hats, loose shoes, bow ties, and stockings, and shuffled through the door after the police. Sam left with the Hungarian circus girl in tow.
“She’s too tall for you,” Evie hissed.
“I’ll bet she can bend,” Sam shot back with a grin.
Evie kicked him in the behind.
The manager handed Evie a folded note.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“An eviction notice, Miss O’Neill. You have until eleven o’clock tomorrow morning to vacate these premises permanently.”
“Eleven o’clock? Gee. But that’s before noon!”
“I weep,” the manager said, turning on his heel. “Sleep tight, Miss O’Neill.”
Theta grabbed her wrap and headed for the door, shaking her head. “Don’t worry, pal, she’s well on her way to being tight.”
At the door, Evie grabbed Theta’s arm. “Say, Theta, what were you telling me before the cops came?”
Theta’s big brown eyes showed worry for just a second. Then she let the tough-girl mask slide back into place. “Nothing, Evil. Just hot air. Get some sleep. I’ll tell Jericho you say hello.”
When the last guest had cleared out, Evie stumbled to the window and opened it, breathing in the cold night air as she stared at the neat window squares of light and thought of all the lives taking place behind them.
Why did Theta have to mention Jericho?
Evie had petted with lots of boys. Nothing terribly earth-shattering, and she always stopped at some invisible dividing line she’d drawn for herself, a marker between “Do It Again” and “Who’s Sorry Now?” But she hadn’t felt that way with Jericho, and that was dangerous. Her world was good times. It spun like a roulette wheel. Boys were fun. Boys were playtime. Boys were distractions.
Jericho was not a boy.
Just now, with the room emptied of revelers and the prospect of the long, hollow night looming, Evie craved the comfort of another human being. It wouldn’t hurt to talk to him, would it? she reasoned as she fumbled the hotel phone from its cradle.
“Good eee‑ve‑ning,” she said to the operator, the alcohol suddenly thickening her tongue so that she had to work to sober up her speech. “I’d liiike to place a caaall to Bradford . . . eight-ohhh-five-niiine, pleeease.”
Evie wrapped the telephone cord around her index finger and let it out again. The operator made the connection and the telephone rang on the other end. Probably Jericho was sleeping, or perhaps he was out with another girl having the time of his life, not thinking about her at all. What if Uncle Will answered the phone?
What was she doing?
Evie slurred into the receiver, “Nev’r mind, op’rator. Cancel this call, please,” and quickly hung up.
A collection of spent bootleg bottles, half-spilled cups, and overflowing ashtrays covered the top of the bed. Evie was too tired to clean it up. Instead, she grabbed the silk coverlet from the chaise and curled up on the floor like a child. She’d lied to Theta about the dreams. They still came, bewildering, stained in horror.
The soldiers. The explosions. The strange eye symbol. And on the worst nights, Evie dreamed she was still trapped in that house of horrors with John Hobbes whistling down the stairs while the wraiths of Brethren poured from the walls.
“Ghosts. Hate ghosts. They are terrible . . . terrible people,” Evie mumbled sleepily, her head spinning as it rested on the rug. For a moment, her hand strayed to her neck again, searching for a comfort that was no longer there.