“The villagers said we were witches,” Maria whispered. “But we are not! Witches deal with evil spirits, they hurt and harm – we are not them! We just, when there is fear on us, when we are angry….”
“Things happen,” Alan finished. “Fires in wastebaskets. Stuff shorting out. Dust-devils in people’s eyes. It’s not malice. It’s accidental magic.” He shrugged, a faint smile on his face. “The… lock thing started out as that, too. I didn’t realize it was anything strange. Until I ran into Aladdin.” He looked down again. “But Mom knew. She knew, and… she never told me….”
“Alan,” Richard said softly.
“I’m – going to get a handle on that, now,” Alan got out. “Simon – Principal Cavins actually knows about this stuff. And Ja’far, and Yunan; they’ve seen magicians and magoi-users before, they can help the kids, help Maria, so they learn how to do magic on purpose. Not by accident.” He looked up. “They’ve got to learn that. Because the Shays are still out there, people like them are out there, and these kids are targets.”
Maria winced. “People like my father.”
“You’re not him.” Alan turned to look her in the eye, blazing with determination. “Maria, you’re not him. You did the best you could, you got away from him-”
“I knew he was coming! I knew he was coming for you!” Maria was shivering, rukh around her flashing gray as night storms. “I came, I came to save you – and he took Señora Anne…!”
“That wasn’t your fault.” Edna moved around the table, opened her arms so the girl could lunge at her and hold on. “You did the best you could with what you knew. That’s all you could do.” Her gaze rose to Alan’s. “That’s all any of us can do.”
Alan held that look, and nodded.
And for just a minute that made Aladdin want to burn something with fire, because it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair, the things people did to Alan, that they’d done to Alibaba, and got to walk away, because his friend didn’t believe in revenge….
“Yes; though I don’t know what Sister Thomasina thinks she knows,” Richard said bitterly. “I knew Anne. She might have made life uncomfortable for the wealthy and the corrupt, but she’d never hurt children. How could she think you would?” He rubbed his knuckles between his eyebrows. “Alan, why didn’t you come to me? Even to ask?”
“Ah, lawyer?” Alan said wryly. “You’re legally bound to report criminal actions or be disbarred. You want me to quote the statutes, or just leave it at, you have to report lawbreaking stuff? You could lose your license if you don’t.” He held up a hand, ticking off a finger at a time. “Crossing state borders as an unaccompanied minor. Airplane… I don’t know, is it ticket fraud if they didn’t know you were on it? Unlawfully stowing away on a passenger jet, whatever they hit you with for slipping TSA security, arson. Major property damage. And how. Arson. Causing a public disturbance – we did a bunch of those. Arson, unlawful entry, breaking and entering, destruction of property, arson, vandalism, endangerment of a minor, probably several minors-”
“Don’t forget possession of burglary tools,” Sarah put in, amused.
“Aaand I was hoping people would miss those…”