The Raven Boys(8)

By: Maggie Stiefvater

Ronan traded the fuel can for the digital recorder. “He wants to do it tonight because he knows I have class.”

The fuel-tank lid for the Camaro was located behind the spring-loaded license plate, and Ronan watched silently as Gansey simultaneously wrestled with the lid, the gas can, and the license plate.

“You could have done this,” Gansey told him. “Since you don’t care about crapping up your shirt.”

Unsympathetic, Ronan scratched at an old, brown scab beneath the five knotted leather bands he wore around his wrist. Last week, he and Adam had taken turns dragging each other on a moving dolly behind the BMW, and they both still had the marks to show it.

“Ask me if I found something,” Gansey said.

Sighing, Ronan twitched the recorder toward Gansey. “Did you find anything?”

Ronan didn’t sound very interested, but that was part of the Ronan Lynch brand. It was impossible to tell how deep his disinterest truly was.

Fuel was leeching slowly into Gansey’s expensive chinos, the second pair he’d ruined in a month. It wasn’t that he meant to be careless — as Adam told him again and again, “Things cost money, Gansey” — it was just that he never seemed to realize the consequences of his actions until too late. “Something. I recorded about four hours of audio and there’s — something. But I don’t know what it means.” He gestured to the recorder. “Give it a whirl.”

Turning to stare out over the interstate, Ronan pressed PLAY. For a moment there was merely silence, broken only by icy-sounding shrills of crickets. Then, Gansey’s voice:

“Gansey,” it said.

There was a long pause. Gansey rubbed a finger slowly along the pocked chrome of the Camaro’s bumper. It was still strange to hear himself on the recording, with no memory of saying the words.

Then, as if from very far away, a female voice, the words hard to make out: “Is that all?”

Ronan’s eyes darted to Gansey, wary.

Gansey lifted his finger: Wait. Murmured voices, quieter than before, hissed from the recorder, nothing clear about them except the cadence: questions and answers. And then his disembodied voice spoke out of the recorder again:

“That’s all there is.”

Ronan cast a glance back over to Gansey beside the car, doing what Gansey thought of as his smoker breath: long inhale through flared nostrils, slow exhale through parted lips.

Ronan did not smoke. He preferred his habits with hangovers.

He stopped the recorder and said, “You’re dripping gas on your pants, geezer.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me what was happening when I recorded that?”

Ronan didn’t ask. He just kept looking at Gansey, which was the same thing.

“Nothing was happening. That’s what. I was staring at a parking lot full of bugs that shouldn’t be alive when it’s this cold overnight, and there was nothing.”

Gansey hadn’t really been sure if he’d pick up anything in the parking lot, even if he was in the right place. According to the ley hunters he’d spoken to, the ley line sometimes transmitted voices across its length, throwing sounds hundreds of miles and dozens of years from when they’d first been heard. A sort of audio haunting, an unpredictable radio transmission where nearly anything on the ley line could be a receiver: a recorder, a stereo, a pair of well-tuned human ears. Lacking any psychic ability, Gansey had brought the recorder, as the noises were often only audible when played back. The strange thing in all this was not the other voices on the player. The strange thing was Gansey’s voice: Gansey was quite certain he was not a spirit.

“I didn’t say anything, Ronan. All night long, I didn’t say anything. So what’s my voice doing on the recorder?”

“How did you know it was there?”

“I was listening to what I’d recorded while I was driving back. Nothing, nothing, nothing, and then: my voice. Then the Pig stopped.”

“Coincidence?” Ronan asked. “I think not.”

It was meant to be sarcastic. Gansey had said I don’t believe in coincidences so often that he no longer needed to.

Gansey asked, “Well, what do you think?”

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