Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc. #3)


“Okay. There are a lot of places for lunch back toward Times Square.”

We hadn’t made it half a block before I saw another familiar face, and this time it was someone I’d been looking for rather than someone I was trying to avoid. A fairy with curly blond hair wove her way through the crowds on the sidewalk across the street from us. I gripped Owen’s arm. “Don’t make any sudden moves, but Ari’s across the street from us.”

He kept walking but slowed his pace ever so slightly as he cast his eyes in that direction. “I don’t see her, but she’s probably disguised. Let’s follow her and see where she goes.”

“But won’t she see us?”

“Two can play that game. Stick to me and she won’t see a thing.” With that, he reversed direction and took off. “Tell me which way she turns.”

It was a challenge keeping up with Owen’s brisk pace while not taking my eyes off Ari. I’d expected her to head straight to the store, but she turned in the opposite direction. I tugged on his arm to steer him the right way, feeling kind of like Rocky telling Rollo when to brake or hit the gas. “Do you think she might be heading to their secret headquarters?” I asked.

“We can only hope. Is she the one making a rude gesture at that cab she just stepped out in front of?”

“Yeah, that would be our girl.”

“Okay, then, I’ve got her in my sights, too.”

And that was a good thing, because I then spotted Ethelinda heading toward us, and it was all I could do to keep track of both of them. I wasn’t sure how I could manage to avoid a fairy godmother while tracking an evil fairy. Fortunately, Ethelinda didn’t seem to have much interest in contacting me. She just seemed to be following and watching, which meant she must have been able to see us. I supposed Owen was targeting his spell strictly to Ari. That made sense. You could get trampled walking down a crowded city sidewalk when you were visible. Going totally invisible would have been practically suicidal.

“Looks like she’s heading to Grand Central,” Owen remarked, speeding his pace.

“Maybe their secret headquarters is out of town. That would explain why we’ve been having trouble finding them.”

“Somehow, I have trouble imagining a magic spell with ‘Made in Yonkers’ on the label.”

“That’s why it’s such a brilliant hiding place.”

“Okay, she’s definitely going into the station.” He picked up his pace, which put me at almost a run. “We’ll have to get closer because it’ll be easier for her to lose us in there, even if she doesn’t know we’re following.”

And he was right. In the cavernous main concourse, there were too many people moving in too many different directions with no clear-cut pathways for it to be easy to track any one person. Fortunately, there weren’t that many people with wings, which made it a little easier for me. I wasn’t sure how Owen was doing it, unless he’d locked in on the sense of her magic or was using his precognitive abilities to anticipate her moves. Meanwhile, I completely lost track of Ethelinda. Even in Grand Central Station, I should have been able to spot a fairy godmother wearing a bad 1980s prom dress.

Ari headed down one of the side passageways that lead toward both tracks and retail shops. I’d be really annoyed if she was just going to a bookstore after we went to all that effort to follow her, but she turned in the opposite direction, which seemed to lead to train tracks. I lost sight of her for a split second, then Owen pulled my arm. “Come on, this way,” he said.

“Are you sure? I thought I saw her turning the other way.”

“No, she went right down toward this platform.”

As he pulled me in that direction, I looked back over my shoulder, but I didn’t see any wings, so I gave in and followed him. He was probably right. Except, there was no train waiting at either of the tracks along the platform we were on. “She kept on going. See, there she is ahead.”

“I don’t see anything.” Or did I? There was a hint of movement at the far end of the platform. “Are we supposed to be down here?”

“Relax, I fixed it so nobody can see us. We won’t get in trouble.”

We reached the end of the platform, and he stepped off onto the ground below, pausing to help me down. At this point, there were only the dimmest of lights. I supposed that was good because the bright light of an oncoming train wasn’t what we wanted to see. The tracks led into a cavelike area where railroad supplies were stacked up against brick pillars. It was all very spooky. I halfway expected to come upon a candlelit underground lake with the Phantom of the Opera rowing himself across while singing love songs to a spellbound soprano.