Jimmy glanced behind him and gnawed on his lip. The shouting was distant, but getting closer. “Are you going to will the wall go away by staring at it or something? It’s a dead-end. We’re trapped. Come on.”

Ramona reached out, grabbed him, and shushed him. She traced the mortar between the bricks with her finger and closed her eyes.

Jimmy tapped her on the shoulder. “Hate to have to disturb you, weird lady, but they’re coming.” He glanced over his shoulder at the mouth of the alley. By the sound of it, a small riot had broken out not far from them and was headed their way.

He put his hand on her shoulder to shake her, but she slapped his hand without sparing him a look. “If you don’t want to end up encased in the wall, or land in an off-world volcano, or at the bottom of a quicksilver ocean, I suggest you stop interrupting me.”

Jimmy moaned and wrung his hands together, his gaze oscillating between Ramona and the other end of the alley. Weird lady will get me killed, he thought. “Come on, come on. They’re getting -”

“There,” she said. She brought out a small metallic bundle of spheres and a tiny crystal hammer, then clinked a few of the spheres with the hammer. The spheres rang, floated to the wall, and the mortar glowed. “Take my hand and don’t let go.” She cupped his jaw and squeezed. “You don’t want to let go, understand?”

He nodded awkwardly, the way she held on to his face. Really weird lady.

She patted his cheek. “Good boy.”

The bricks vanished, and a bright light engulfed them. Something pulled at Jimmy – not only physically, but mentally – a force unlike anything he had ever felt before. At some point, Ramona’s hand burrowed into his, warm, strong, soft, radiating confidence.

“Trust me,” she said over a harrowing whistling sound, and winked at him.

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