The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1)(2) by Heidi Heilig

Slate popped a thumb up. “Thanks, Kashmir!”

I stared at him as he cooed at the bird. “You risked his life for that thing.”

“Thanks a lot, Kashmir.”

“He was nearly shot, Dad!”

He shrugged. “He wasn’t, though.”

“But he could have been!”

His energy faltered for a moment, like a candle burning low. Absently, he rolled up one of the sleeves on his loose cotton shirt, exposing the blue ink crawling up his arms; unless you knew where they were, the tracks were very hard to see beneath his indigo tattoos. Then his grin returned as he nodded to the cage in his hand. “Good thing we have a cure-all, then. Come on, let’s fill those sails! Where are we going next, Nixie?”

I wanted to tell him exactly where he could go next, but I bit back the retort. This was nothing new; my father wasn’t one to reflect long on his transgressions. He left that to me. “New York, 1981,” I said. “I laid the map out this morning. On your table. Didn’t you bother to look?”

He ignored my question. “But . . . every twentieth-century map I’ve ever seen was off a printing press.”

“It’s a hobbyist’s map. Hand drawn.” I drew myself up taller. “I bought it myself last time we were there.”

He didn’t look impressed. “Fine, great. But are you sure it will work?”

“Making it work is your job, Captain,” I said. “Until you teach me how to Navigate, of course.”

Although he made no answer, he stared at me a while longer before he spun on his heel and went to his cabin. Suddenly I was aware of the eyes of the crew, but when I turned around, Bee seemed very interested in the river ahead, and Rotgut was studiously cleaning his fingernails. Only Kashmir caught my eye. “And you,” I said.

“Me? What did I do, amira?”

“I was this close to getting the bird seller to take my price,” I said, but his grin widened; I wasn’t fooling him.

“Even if that’s true, you said it yourself. The English took all the gold. I was just doing a little redistribution.”

“It’s still wrong to steal, Kashmir.”

“What else should I have done?”

“Maybe leave the bird?”

He looked at me sideways with a twinkle in his eye. “Come, amira. You were thrilled when I put it in your hands.”

“That’s because cure-alls are rare in mythology, outside of healing springs. Not because I think we’ll actually get to use it.”

“The captain thinks we will. And you know how he is.”

“And how is that?”

Kashmir pursed his lips. “Very difficult to refuse.”

I folded my arms across my chest. “No argument there,” I said softly, staring at the water of the Hooghly. It was the color of bile. “Is the cargo secure?”

“You mean the tigers?” There was a lilt in his voice.

“Yes, the tigers, in all their fearful symmetry.” The big cats had been delivered to the ship in flimsy bamboo cages; Kash and Bee had been the ones brave enough to wrestle the cages into the hold. I actually was impressed, but with Kashmir it was usually best not to let it show.

“Last I checked, they were sleeping like kittens,” he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a gold watch to check the time. Then he tilted it; water ran out from under the face. “Well. They should be fine all the way to New York.”

“Where did you get that?”

“Ah. This?” He looked at me from under his brows; if I hadn’t known better, I’d have said he was embarrassed. “He shouldn’t have called me a half-caste.”

I gritted my teeth. “You can’t blame that on the captain’s orders.”

“No, I can’t. This was just for me.”

“You know, if I had your morals, I could solve all my problems.”

He shrugged one shoulder and slipped the watch back into his pocket. “If I had your problems, I could afford to have better morals. I’m going to get another shirt. You have ten seconds to stop me. No?”

He went below, leaving me at the bow. We sailed past the tumbled ruin of Fort William, where the East India Company claimed a hundred English prisoners had perished due to Indian savagery in the dungeon called the Black Hole of Calcutta. Downstream of the city, fishermen pulled illish from the turgid river and children swam naked at the ghats. I piled my hair atop my head in an effort to cool down, but the breeze licked the back of my neck, hot as a giant’s breath.

Kashmir was right about the captain; when he wanted something, he did not stop until he had it. No matter what it cost. No matter who it hurt.

And what he wanted more than anything was to return to Honolulu, 1868. That’s why he needed the map now on offer at Christie’s auction house, and the money to win it.

The captain had never bothered investing in stocks, or betting on sports, or even opening a checking account. Slate spent much more time thinking about the past than the future, and it was always a scramble for money whenever he remembered it was useful.

So I’d plotted a route, pulling the maps from his collection. Cash for tigers was not the simplest course I might have charted, but I’d wanted to see as much as I could before the auction. After all, if Slate was right about the map of Hawaii, I might never go anywhere else again.

My mind skittered away from the thought. It was pointless—no, foolish to worry; none of his Honolulu maps had ever worked. Better to concentrate on the task—and the journey—at hand.

As it was, I planned to exchange our cargo for U.S. currency when we reached our next destination, where the leader of a Chinese gang had a soft spot in his heart—and cold hard cash in his pocket—for the big cats. According to the newspaper clippings I’d read, he’d been known for using them to dispose of rivals.

After that, Slate could easily bring us to the auction in 2016; fifty-one years prior, the captain had been born in New York, and his erstwhile home awaited him just beyond the edge of every map he Navigated. The year 2016 was long after the gang leader had been killed in a shoot-out, but with the map from 1981, it should have been a simple matter for the captain to steer the Temptation through two centuries, from the Bay of Bengal to the waters of the Atlantic off the coast of Long Island. After all, though he wouldn’t call it home, he knew the city well.

Which is why it surprised me when the map of 1981 failed.

We were sailing toward the edge of the map of Calcutta under a sky so starry it looked sugared; the night would never be as beautiful after the Industrial Revolution.

Those stars dimmed as we slipped into the Margins of the map, the slender threshold between one place and the next, where India in 1774 ran out and the next shore appeared. Mist rose around us like the souls of drowned sailors, and the only sound was the muted hollow music of waves moving along the hull. Everything seemed calm, but the seas in the Margins were unpredictable—the currents mercurial and the winds erratic—and passage was always rougher the farther afield we traveled. And, very rarely, there were ghost ships in the fog, captained by those who had found the way in, but not the way out. I rubbed some warmth into my bare arms.

“Are you all right, amira?”

I made a face and nodded toward the mist. “The Margins always reminds me of purgatory. The place between worlds.”

Kashmir’s brow wrinkled. “Isn’t purgatory supposed to be hotter?”

“That’s St. Augustine’s version. This is more like the Asphodel Meadows in Homer. Although with fewer bloodthirsty ghosts.”

Kashmir laughed. “Ah, yes, of course. I must catch up on my reading.”

“Well, I’m sure you know where my books are if you ever want to steal them.” I grinned as I turned back to the helm; just as quickly, the smile fell away. Slate had taken the wheel to steer us toward the far-off shore only he could see . . . but his face was full of frustration. He swung his head back and forth, he gripped the wheel, he leaned forward as if to get a closer look—but it was clear he couldn’t see our destination.

The ship rolled on the swells, and bronze light flickered in the fog, followed by the low grumble of thunder. Rain pelted the sails and the mist writhed in a sudden gust. In the crow’s nest above our heads, Rotgut cursed; he must have been swaying like a metronome.

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