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Chapter 16


He muttered something incoherent, his eyes drifting past me.

I swallowed the rice ball in a solid, choking clump.

He kept muttering, and gradually I realized that he wasn't muttering at me. A thin black headset stretched in front of his mouth, and his eyes had the faraway look of the homeless and the wireless. He was on a hands-free phone, and his gaze went straight through me.

With my blond hair and penguin suit, I was invisible.

I turned and took a few steps away, the tight fist of nerves in my mostly empty stomach slowly unclenching, no longer threatening to squeeze the swallowed-whole sushi back up. I continued toward the planetarium, trying to take even steps, until a hanging beach-ball-sized model of Saturn presented itself.

I ducked behind the planet and counted to ten, waiting for his bald head to appear, another five goons behind him wearing headsets and predatory smiles.

But he didn't come, and I dared a glimpse.

He stood in the same spot, still talking on his headset. He was a non-penguin, dressed in the all black of security personnel and surveying the crowd, clearly on the lookout.

For me.

I smiled. Jen's disguise had worked. He hadn't connected the new non-Hunter with the skater kid he'd seen this morning.

Still, walking back past him seemed like pushing my luck. I looked ahead for another section of the party to explore. In front of me the planetarium was admitting a steady stream of partyers into its maw. A sign announced continuous showings of the new TV ad for Poo-Sham. Inside it would be dark, and I could recover my cool in a familiar focus-group-like setting. Watching advertisements was something I was good at.

I took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the hanging planet, striding purposefully toward the planetarium. On the way I snagged a glass of champagne, straightening my cuff links and feeling very secret agent.

* * * | So Yesterday | * * *